With some damn early mornings while up here in Noosa, thanks to the bizarre refusal of Queenslanders to go the daylight savings path, and the rooster genes of my kids, I've been reflecting back on my year on the water.
Our growing business has seen us travelling extensively through the year, instructing & putting on demo days around the country, and several highlights stand out.
First & foremost, there was nothing more bizarre than sitting in a car with 5 bearded men on a lonely Tasmanian country road, in earnest discussion about how long it had been since anyone had shaved. I was feeling pretty swarthy with my bristly 6 day growth - a desperate attempt for sea kayak credibility considering I had been instructing blokes who had been paddling for almost as long as I'd been alive - but of course my own George Michael try-hard wasn't worthy of comment. The tally's started to roll in like the scores from a Sunday arvo 'round the grounds' report, 14 years, 22 years, 13 years, 18 years & I believe the winner was a razor-saving 25 years. It was beard nirvana....
And the winner is.....
A close second was the feast the night after this hair-inspiring ride, when the locals snared a sackful of abalone & fried them up for us fresh with garlic, lemon & butter, washed down with a few glasses of local red. A paddling experience from the heavens....
I had an awesome weekend with the Hunter Klanners up at Umina, with another hliarious evening topped off with an All Blacks win in the Bledisloe Cup, and a great day messing around in boats on the Sunday. The famous Rjimlad attempted to give me the spectrum of philosophical answers to the question of why the chicken crossed the road, and my head is still spinning at the possibilities in that little chestnut.
I got a rare opportunity to go for a paddle for me, and spent a memorable couple of days getting to & from Broughton Island with my mates. The highlight of that little sojourn was Rob asking my mate Stacka if he'd like to go for a walk once we'd arrived at BI, maybe check some of the wildflowers & unique geography. Stacka had done his share of towing during the afternoon, always a hoot into a 15kn headwind, and was sitting prone on the grass at Esmeralda Cove. Without even turning his head to offer the excited Mercer a glance of contempt, he hissed 'why would I want to go for a walk? I can go for a walk at home.....'
Up at Currumbin for the Sea Kayak Symposium I had a great but all-too-brief paddle with Amanda Rankin, who basically sent me back to elementary school on my forward stroke. The rule of thumb, rotation doesn't stop when your blade exits the water! All that was mising was a polite pad on the head, and a 'on your way to do some more practice, little fella...'
I led a failed insurrection against the NSWSKC, gloriously failing to rename the draconian 'President' moniker to the more nautical 'Commodore'. Despite a unanimous vote in favour of the change at the club's AGM, the tyranny of incumbency was cruelly exposed as the motion was unceremoniously squashed by a bureaucratic maneuver straight from the despot's handbook for oppression. To quote Vincent Lingiari, 'If we fall, others are rising'. The quest for a Commodore will continue in 2010.
I've been lucky enough to have a paddle in 10 new & different boat designs, including my beloved Rapier, which has fundamentally transformed the way I paddle. Add to that the Anas Acuta, Nordkapp LV, three Big Dog whitewater boats, the North Shore Atlantic, the 'holy grail' Rockpool GT, the amazing TRAK folding kayak, the uber-cult Avocet, and just in the last week or so, a racing surf ski, the Epic V10 Sport. Just yesterday on the bar up here at Noosa I had yet another one of my highlights, paddling the ski in & out of the bar break, riding the incoming NE waves against the 3kn outgoing tide, with slop & mess in all directions. Without my Rapier training I think I would have been a ski swimmer, but it was a revelation about how stable the Sport is to paddle compared to the other hard core racing skis.
I also had a go with a Greenland paddle, the formerly 'only-for-old-codgers', now 'modern-accessory-for-the-sea kayaker-not-afraid-of-being-out-and-proud'. It was interesting the the UK's esteemed Ocean Paddler Magazine has seen fit to grace their pages with a review of three sticks, reflecting the revivial that continues apace.
So, a year to remember for sure for all the good reasons.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the blog, bought one of our boats or a piece of our gear, demo'd a kayak, or stopped for a chat at an event or by the water's edge.
Have a great 2010.