We've just returned from the fourth annual National Sea Kayak Symposium on the Gold Coast, an event we have supported as major sponsor since it's inception.
This year the weather gods again smiled upon us, with the coast turning on three perfect days of clear skies & temps in the high 20s, warm water & barely a zephyr.
Rob was held up the day before our planned departure by an aviation 'issue' where he was holidaying on Lord Howe Island with Sharon, so I made the long trek north on my own. There is a big effort involved in getting all of our gear, demo boats, workload-while-away sorted & then making it up to Currumbin in time for our traditional demo day on the Friday. We're always encouraged by the emails prior to the event asking us to bring up this boat or that paddle to try, & so it proved that come the Friday we had a bunch of people waiting to give the boats a good crack.
Craig at Adventure Outlet had enlisted Mick MacRobb from Flat Earth Sails & Tom Nicholson from Elver Paddles to come along & enhance his display. It was good to catch up with them both, & shoot the breeze with Mick over a few beers about how well his sails performed on our North Reef trip.
The demo day was also the first sighting north of the border of the Valley Etain, & true to form neither the 17'7 nor it's smaller sibling the 17'5 touched the sand, as paddlers took them for a spin to find out if the reality lived up to the hype.
We packed up our trailer mid afternoon & dashed across to the Community Centre to set up our trade display, but instead of knocking ourselves out as we usually do, the presence of Sharon & Mick made the whole thing very nearly a pleasure!
The attendees started to arrive & register at about 5pm & we spent the next few hours catching up with our mates up north & then listening to Stu Trueman trying to fit a 16 month round Australia odyssey into a 90 minute presentation. Stu's trip is nothing short of amazing, & he broke it down into several aspects, rather than try to produce a chronology of the expedition, which went down very well with the big crowd in the hall. Post talk we all headed back to our apartment to catch up properly with Mick & Gary Forrest, who was staying with us.
After cracking a Haka roll faster than either Chris or myself (below) Gary invented a new roll at the demo day, the long-lost Aleutian Smuggler Roll, and quite possibly became the first sea instructor in history to teach a novice Greenland roller the Haka Roll, while dressed only in his hat & his Speedos.
The student, an obviously mentally tough QSKC President Brian McCarthy, ignored the sideshow & snapped off a textbook Haka-for-blokes-Butterfly-for-less-hairy-folks roll in about 8 minutes. Stand by for a warm summer in Sydney & Greenland rolling in nothing but bikinis & budgie smugglers, why should just the surf ski dudes get to dress down? Lets face it, all that head-to-toe black kit, just ain't that sexy......
The Saturday program at the Symposium is all off the water, with a range of seminars, talks, skills demo's & even some yoga. The end of the program featured Olympian Amanda Rankin putting forward a compelling case for us sea kayakers to embrace excellence, rotate more & start to make some of our rusty old forward strokes start to work more efficiently.
We retired to the local Surf Club in the evening to enjoy a steak & a few beers, tell some tall tales & enjoy a rare opportunity en-masse to mix with our paddling peers. It was heaps of fun!
Sunday is the main day of the Symposium, with a full program of instruction, some trips & on my count more than 70 demo kayaks lined up on the beach for paddlers to try. I took an instruction group out with Queensland instructor Shawn West, and attempted to twist & cavort my students into a series of gut busting edging & torso exercises. These guys had a go! Almost everyone fell in with a smile on their face & I hope they took something away from the session.
The latter part of the day may well mark the point where the dark arts of Greenland rolling merged into the Australian paddling mainstream. One by one, paddlers would come over & learn a Butterfly roll, sit upright with hands raised while the highly amused spectators from the bank cheered. I tried to get Macca doing a gloved hand roll after he picked up the bio mechanics for the backward finishing roll from Rob & Gary ridiculously fast on the Friday, but he just couldn't quite crack it. Jonathon then pushed in, seized the mitts & hand rolled first go! The competitive juices started to flow, Macca hurled some abuse, Jonathon responded with a good sledge 'Yeah mate, talk to me when you can do one....', and then it was on!
Seriously, demystifying the Greenland stuff is half the battle, well instructed it is something that looks real hard, but is actually very, very easy. I think you might see the warm waters of Queensland turn into a sub tropical Qasigiannguit over this coming season, as these motivated & skillful paddlers poke friendly jabs at one another to try this roll, then that roll, down the progression of learning these fun tricks.
I thought I was in reasonable shape prior to the weekend, but having been upside down & twisted a thousand ways over the course of the three days, I'm a little bit slow out of my office chair this morning. Clearly it's time to lobby the Global Yoga Organisation and try to have my lifetime ban lifted.
After packinmg away the boats for the final merciful time, I then adjouned to the local RSL to watch the RWC Final. Only a point separated me from having to send yet another world cup jersey off to Vinnies & it becoming a cherished souvenir, and despite having to sit next to Russ Hinze reincarnate at the rissole to watch the game, and having the bloody haka perfectly dissected by the Ode (OK, I think the ode is pretty important too…), there were big Sundin smiles for the rest of the evening.
All up a top weekend, and one that needs just a little more support from paddlers to make that next step into massive kayaking event.
Thanks to Mark & his mob at QLD Canoeing, and to everyone who took the time to try a boat, check out our goodies or just say G'day.