Thursday 21 March 2013

Rock & Roll Rocks…!

"If it's illegal to rock & roll, throw my ass in jail!"
Kurt Cobain

It's over again, the biggest & most ambitious sea kayaking gathering on the calendar, the NSW Sea Kayak Club's annual Rock & Roll Weekend.

So popular has the event become, that an unofficial Rock & Roll 'week' has sprouted, with a good smattering of paddlers booking in for a few more days than the programmed four.
My Rock & Roll began doing laps of the domestic terminal at Sydney airport with the full trailer of boats hitched up, trying to evade the uniformed fun police who patrol the pick up zones as I waited for Gary Forrest to emerge from the terminal. Once Gazza appeared & we neatly swerved past an armada of officials, we turned onto the freeway & made our way north to Jimmy's Beach on Nelson Bay.
We arrived late arvo & had a gang of helpers on hand, including kayaking celebrity Mick MacRobb from Flat Earth Sails, to get the EK marquee up & the boats off & set up. We then went to golf club for some libations, tofu, and adjourned to our tents after a very pleasant night spent chatting quietly, without any ukulele playing at all. Fourteen members of the Queensland club mingled with the Hunter Klanners & added to the cerebral, considered evening. With it being such a lovely night I took a rare opportunity to spend a night sleeping under the stars.
Rising fresh & revived on Friday, I helped Rob & Sharon get the stand in order, then took off around Cabbage Tree Island with Rae & Neil Duffy & WA paddling legend Les Allen. This was one wacky paddle, in an area known for multi-directional swell when it's coming from one direction, there were two big swells rolling from almost opposite directions. 
Rae goes up the ladder
We enjoyed waves coming from everywhere, rebounding off the headlands and islands & throwing back big, fast moving walls of water. It took me a little while to get my clear head around it, but what a hoot.
EK Fish & Chips & Beer Party
Back to HQ in time for the EK Welcome to Rock & Roll Party, the lack of a pizzeria in the district capable of cranking out 50 pizzas in good time, meant we had to go the fish & chips option. Two hours of crazy seagull action ensued, the beers were downed and RnR was officially underway.
This year the club managed to register over 180 participants, with a loaded program of instruction, seminars on boat fit out, sails, & forward stroke to fill the afternoons, and some great trips on offer in the mornings.
I had Les along on my trip, which was originally meant to be a 15km circumnavigation of the first offshore peak, Cabbage Tree Island. A thumping easterly swell driven by the intense low hammering Lord Howe Island made for some impressive looking waves as our big group of 16 paddlers headed out to sea, but so well did everyone handle the rebound and bounce that I figured we may as well push on. So, we headed east after a spectacular trip around Cabbage Tree, and also looped the equally impressive Boondelbah Island.
The pod off Cabbage Tree on Saturday
All up 21km of genuine sea paddling for a group mostly new to conditions of that scale, made possible by the almost complete absence of wind. A better day out on the open ocean is hard to recall.
Saturday's paddle - thanks to Eddie Safarik for the great pic.
Saturday night was the usual presentations & dinner at the Golf Club, a great opportunity to catch up with club mates & tell lots of tall stories. 
Saturday night
Sunday dawned to a gale warning, but with a favourable lee shore in the essentially enclosed waters of Nelson Bay, the club decided to take the opportunity to get less experienced paddlers out in the wind to practice their skills.
This turned into a spectacular morning, with Les Allen giving a concise theoretical lesson on turning your boat in high winds, and then along with Rob getting a big mob out to put it all into action in winds that had built to over 25kn.
Annie in full flight
I took Alan, Annie & Jonathan out into the teeth of the wind to do an edge-of-the-seat lesson on downwind (and upwind) paddling in strong wind. We had a hoot, grinding it out into the breeze at barely 4kmh, then flying back to land on lovely little steep wind waves that had built up with the breeze. Matty put his sail up & challenged me to a downwind race, his kayak under sail in 25knots gusting to 30 knots versus my new V10, and unfortunately he lost. History is litterred with brave attempts at glory, which are simply recorded as 'loss'. L-O-S-S. The fact that my ski is 900mm longer than his kayak is not relevant.
Matty - not happy
Sunday night was a bit of a gem, with the club holding a gadget competition, then a kayaking Tropfest of short films made by members. It was enthralling, entertaining, hilarious & in the case of the extraordinary couple of entries from south coast paddler Vincent Weafer, compelling. If Vince ever gets his videos up somewhere on the web, you've gotta see them, just brilliant.
It also reminded me that regardless of how nice it can be to have a luminary or legend from overseas trot the stage from time to time, the greatest stories in paddling are those that come from our paddling mates. Just sit around a campfire on an expedition if you don't believe me… Any other paddle clubs reading this want an idea for your next big event? Tee up a movie, story telling, or presentation night from your own members, limit it to ten minutes per player, and watch what happens.
Monday coffee cruise
Finally on Monday I tagged along on Rae Duffy & Dave Fisher's coffee cruise. The wind had died, and while the swell was still bustling through the heads at Tomaree there were no silly antics to be had. This was so different from my normal time-pressed paddling and I loved every minute of it, the relaxed pace, the conversation, and the rose smelling. And, halfway through the paddle, they stopped. And had coffee. Am I missing something....?
Only another year to wait now for the next one, thanks to the club's committee for doing such a thorough job running a faultless event, and to organiser Campbell Tiley who is truly a guru. My vote is for Campbell to be permanently installed as Rock & Roll Co-ordinator, like what happens when you're appointed to the High Court…..
And thanks as always to Sharon for running the EK show off the water, she is well & truly the great woman standing behind the great man, rolling her eyes...
Campbell - permanent RnR guru…?
Note, my pics from the weekend, including group paddling pics and all the shots in the video journal above are HERE. If you see one of yourself and would like it, give me a shout, I'm always happy to share the high res. versions.


  1. Great video that captures the participants, kayaks and events so beautifully. So many happy faces all that is R&R.

  2. Best R'n'R ever! Had a mix of everything and you have encapsulated it beautifully, both on camera and with your summary above.

  3. "Unfortunately he lost" says Mark. You know as well as I do who lost Sundo. First off you couldn't keep up with me into the wind and kept wanting to stop even though we had just started. I had to ignore you for the whole way out just to get a bit of distance. You know I had you the whole way out. As I turned around and was getting my sail up (no easy task in 30 knots) you took off having never reached the distance I had. I actually asked you to go right accross but you were not going to hear any of that. I caught you up and we hit the beach at exactly the same time as we were on the same wave! I was happy enough to call it a dead heat but obviously i'm not versed in the ways of the competitive! I would have left it as a draw but of course I can't now. I call my first witness, JMUZZ who had binoculars . . . . .

  4. I remember the final stages as my bow slid onto the sand. I looked right, water. I looked left, water. I looked right again, and heard Matty yelling loudly 'It's a draw, it's a draw!' as he touched down a few yards away, breathing heavily and looking a bit red in the face through all of that hair. Jmuzz is hardly a credible witness, with form all over the place for creating mischief - including the video above!
    Rematch over 10km…?

  5. Rematch of course! Only this time maybe we should both be in sea kayaks! However I'll give it a go against your ski in strong conditions over a square course. Of course I was puffing - YOU WERE ON A SKI I WAS IN a SEA KAYAK!!!!!

  6. The excuses of the vanquished make sorry reading!

  7. Looking forward to part two...'Son of Showdown'.

    new rule: all participants must be wearing visible Sunderpants!

  8. 25kn Nor'easter, Cronulla to Stanwell including beach launch/landing. Not this circle in a bay stuff.
    The RNPokai will determine who is undisputed champion in real conditions.

  9. Or we could just stand in front of a series of mirrors and see who can puff their chest out further!

  10. Oh dear, the children are loose in the playground again. Joel, if you sit alongside me in another ski, we'll take Matt on.

  11. Joel can't be there to hold you hand all the time.
    You have publicaly announced your great turn of speed so you should have no problem in winning challenge No2.

  12. Righto Wade, we'll do a Kurnell to Shark Island in a decent Nor Easter. Matt can bring his sail, you can bring your Taran, Joel can paddle a V8, and we'll go for it. That way Matt can prove he's faster upwind than my V10, as well as after downwind with his sail, you can take part now that you've thrown your 20c in, Joel can finally have a go in a ski in some rough water, and the winner will be shouted to a very, very expensive dinner in Cronulla by the losers.

    1. Happy to take part in the original challenge of what is faster down wind - sea kayak under sail or an ocean ski.
      As for the competition of sea kayak into the wind or down wind without a sail against a ski, i already know the outcome.


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