Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Rock & Roll 2017


Each year in March the NSW Sea Kayak Club convenes at a spot along the coast to mark their one big event of the year, the Rock & Roll weekend.
Spot the beer & pizza. No chance...
As a sponsor of the event since 2007 when we began to be, it's a rare chance for us to get along to a weekend where near enough to 150 dead-set sea kayakers are in attendance, with the overriding goal of going for a paddle on the ocean. We enjoy the opportunity to put something back into the community of which we have been a part for so many years.
The welcome to RnR speech
This year the weather gods smiled, slotting Rock & Roll in between an East Coast Low that closed out most of the NSW coast in thew week prior, and monsoonal rain event that subsequently soaked it silly. We had some big residual groundswell on the Saturday & a building sea breeze both days, but the protected launch spot at Batehaven meant that the getting out bit was mostly achieved without incident.
Setting out for the distant Tollgate Islands.
Friday night kicks off with the Beer & Pizza Party, our major contribution to the weekend, and partygoers trucked their way through an astonishing number of pizzas in an even more astonishingly short time. I think everyone must starve themselves on the way to the bay, in anticipation of the frenzy....
It was a morning to keep well clear of the Bombies.
My Saturday trip was pencilled in as a trip out to the spectacular Tollgate Islands & back, but my group got out there so fast we decided to head over to the diminutive outcrop further south known as Black Rock as well. The big swells kept us well clear of the close-quartering mischief we have enjoyed at previous Rock & Rolls, but provided their own dramatic backdrop as we rolled over some very impressive walls of water. 
Peter powering past the Tollgates
It was also incredibly sharky, as many as five toothy friends spotted weaving in & out of our pod over the course of the morning. I spotted a big Mako, as well as a small Hammerhead & (we reckon) his Mum, curious majestic animals cruising by for a look at our strange craft. I love seeing sharks out on the open water, it tells me all is well with the ocean. 
Stephen in the trough.
We were lucky to have Ken Bellette along with us, a surf lifesaving legend in the area who is getting back into sea kayaking, and he navigated some judicious lines around lurking bomboras as well as being a general tour guide to the features & history of this beautiful waterway. 
Smooth lumps almost obscuring the Tollgate Islands.
On the Saturday arvo I took the double ski down to the beach & pulled a few unsuspecting RnR'ers off the beach for a go in the little sea that had developed next to Snapper Island. For entertainment, it was 10/10, especially my favourite paddler of all time, who I think was actually trying to jump out of the ski on one big run we cracked!
Tom up on top of some foamy swell
Rob ran his brilliant rescue challenge in the arvo, with a big cast of participants, and as always it was really well received. The winners were spotted improvising a hand-paddle home to take the yellow jersey!
Jenny Walker - last year she was the one being inspired, this year she was doing all of the inspiring herself.
On Saturday night we were treated to a talk from Sandy Robson, doing her best to fit a five year Germany to Australia sojourn into an hour long presentation. Raffles run & a buffet banquet put away, there were some very weary bones dragging themselves off to their tents for the night.
19km Big Swell Tour of the Bateman's Islands.
Again with Ken giving us the local weather and local knowledge, we decided all would be right to run a downwind paddle from South Durras to Bateman's Bay. 
South Durras briefing
Launching from the protected boat ramp at Durras we paddled out past the break & swung south, for an hour of the cleanest, steepest little runners you'd ever hope to paddle. 


Audax smokin'....
The one & only David Slattery in his beautiful timber boat.
Ronaldo looking relaxed.
Kenny looking very Clint.
The group paddled with tremendous cohesion, the fast guys blasting through & waiting, the slower paddlers using the seas for a cruisy ride  back to Bateman's, always within shouting distance over the entire 16km journey.
Rob & Mark taking in the pearls of wisdom from local legend Ken Bellette.
Safely back on the beach after a rollicking run down the coast.
On Sunday arvo Rob ran his paddle workshop, which curiously seems to always finish with about twice the number of participants start. In the evening the famous Pogies are contested, the short film festival for sea kayakers with more than it's fair share of controversy & high drama over the years. This year the quality of entries were just brilliant, like watching the Discovery Channel (!), but I think everyone agreed that Mark, Roddy & Davlin's Bass Strait video was a worthy winner (the link to the video is HERE).
Rob's paddle workshop.
Rob, Sharon & I came into this year's Rock & Roll with an extra incentive, and no small amount of trepidation, as it was our first chance for mass engagement for our new boat design, the Audax. Whilst we're very confident we've come up with a design that has wide appeal as well as high performance, nevertheless over the weekend we listened intently to the 40+ paddlers who gave our demo boats a thorough workout, mostly in pretty lively conditions.
Rob cruising south in the Audax Elite
The feedback was very reassuring, the speed and acceleration was evident & I guess people figure is a given, but the rave reviews were for the stability and the manoeuvrability. I have noticed people looking at fast plumb bow boats since they became popular with some suspicion, prejudging them to be too unstable, 'something that looks that fast must be hard to paddle', and there have been events we've been to over the years where they've barely even been tried. The Audax seems to have generated a lot of interest however, and paddlers were queueing up for a go, and almost universally coming back to us with a cheerful tale affirming how easy the boat is to paddle. 
Sunday night dinner put on by the Triathlete Cabin (pic by Ken Collins).
The Rock & Roll weekend was organised by Simon Swift, ably supported by his man on the ground at Bateman's, Neil Gow, along with Selim, Phil & a bunch of others silently making the cogs turn. They did a hell of a job, numbers were up, the organisation was seamless, and you almost got tired of seeing people throwing their heads back & having a laugh, sharing their combined passion for this wonderful sport of ours. 

We extend a hearty thanks to these guys, as well as to our club mates who stopped by to say G'day & swap a yarn or two. If you haven't managed to get along to a Rock & Roll weekend, and you're a sea kayaker anywhere, let alone in our coastal waters, you don't know what you're missing.

1 comment:

  1. great roundup Mark, sorry I missed it and am looking forward to seeing the Audax:-)

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