Monday, 22 October 2012

Wild creatures in the city

During the pre paddle briefing Rob asked if someone had any preferences to do and someone said “See some whales”. Everyone agreed between laughs. Very diplomatically Rob delegated that task to his second in command, Shaan, who said “Everything has been arranged.” All laughed again... If only we knew what a good job Shaan had done.

There was some strong wind from the north, probably around 20 knots. Crossing to North Head against it was not easy and it was a workout. It was good, because that was the only exercise we were going to do. After regrouping, resting and decided we were going to regroup again, some 2 km North, we paddled out of the heads and against the wind again. Not 10 minutes had passed and all the instructions about regrouping were out the window and instead of going North, everyone turned to look South. We gave Rob a hard time managing the group but he couldn’t compete against a whale and his calf blowing water and splashing around. We drifted a bit south with the wind but apparently the whales were very curious about these strange creatures floating on the surface and they got even closer... “Too close for comfort” some said later.
They were too curious and got close to check us out.

Suddenly some of the guys started screaming even more. Nothing to worry about, they had just spotted a pod of big dolphins swimming nearby. Soon they were also checking us out as they came and swam underneath the kayaks, while a few hundred meters away the mother and the baby kept splashing.
Coming from the right, Dolphins have priority
After a while that felt too soon, whales and dolphins disappeared under the blue and all that remained were the wind, the waves and the comments like “Did you see how the whale...” “They came close!!!” “Those dolphins...” and others.

We started to paddle back into the heads and the screams of excitement started again. More whales coming from the bottom of the ocean surfaced between us and South Head. Wait a minute, weren’t they the same ones? The whole episode repeated along with the excitement. This time I put my goggles on and tried to spy them within their element but the water was not so clear... or they were not that close.
Second act
Too soon again we started to drift too far south and this time Rob managed the group and we started to come back. At the pull off site we practiced some rolls and played a bit. Then I had to cross the harbour again to get to my car. If time and weather allows me, I paddle across the harbour instead of driving around it to meet with the others. A few weeks ago I was too bold and a big lighting storm prevent me from paddling back, but that is a different story.

While paddling back I looked west inside the harbour and saw some white water in the distance. First I though some waves breaking but then I though “no waves get there with this weather”. Then I said aloud “More whales!! Can’t be!!” but it was. I paddled into the harbour and stayed some distance away but apparently calf whales are as curious as human babies and they came closer. They also appear to be as playful as human infants because they started to breach and splash around. They put a full show of tails, breaches and puffs. At one point I worried that the ferries would collide with them as they passed full steam really close to the whales.
After a while I had to go. This time it didn’t feel too soon. I wasn’t tired of the show but I was satisfied. I had 3 videos of 20 minutes from the time I was by myself, so I had been watching the show for over 1 hour. As I paddled away they kept playing and followed me a bit.  Will they be there next time?
Thank you Shaan, will you share your contacts to summon these amazing creatures?
Sydney CBD and its wild life

Two icons or three if you pay attention to the bottom left.

Come fellows, I start paddling back will you come?
After that day I read on the web  that sometimes ferries or sailboats collide with whales hurting them. I don't think that if a kayak collided with a whale she would be the hurt one... The problem is that we kayaks have very limited vision when up and down on the swell, specially for objects underwater. More than once I hit a log floating just under the surface because I didn't see it until I was on top of it. Regardless of the excitement, being in a kayak may be dangerous when a big mammal decides to surface and the kayaker discovers that instead of water the paddle just catch air. Sadly we don't have the propulsion or the sight to avoid a whale... not to mention a shark or a pod of dolphins. If we are lucky, as I was this day, and the whales are in the mood they will show to us otherwise we have no chance to know where they are nor the speed to get close to them before they dive again.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Calm conditions, nice coast and best people

The trip was advertised on the club calendar as car camping for 3 days. That is the kind of multiday trip I like... at least until I get a kayak that can handle more gear without giving in manoeuvrability.

It happened last weekend some 300km south of Sydney, in Batemans bay area. 17 people in total. Beautiful area. It was a pity that we all missed Saturday's paddle due to windy conditions. I had been with flu like symptoms since Tuesday but on Thursday I felt better so I decided to go. Then, Saturday night cold weather while chatting and eating outdoors and Sunday’s paddle helped the bugs get stronger and put me out of action for Monday and a good part of the week. At least by cutting short the long weekend and coming back home earlier I avoided the traffic of everyone returning to Sydney.

Sunday’s paddle was good though, I was not feeling 100% but a 15 km slow pace of hugging the coast with no swell, no wind and lots of rock passages made me forget I was sick. A mother and her cub seal posing for the cameras, the scenery and company made the almost 10 hours return driving trip worth the not even 4 hours paddle.

Enjoy the little video.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Gold coast and Cook Is

A few weeks ago I went to Gold Coast, Queensland, for work and took the opportunity to stay over the weekend. Mariano, a friend of mine from before migrating to Australia, lives in Brisbane and I stayed over with him and his family. He paddles by himself, preferring to stay away from clubs and organisations. I was the same way a couple of years ago.
I wanted to contact other paddlers from up there and through some common friends I met Eddie. Actually I had met him before when he come down to Sydney a few months ago and joined us in a big group for a Tuesday night paddle. However I had not had opportunity to chat with him then. I had thought of renting kayak and gear up there but Eddie offered to lend me the exact same kayak I have here so I took the offer.
Same model as I have in my garage but over 1000km away.
On Saturday we drove to Gold Coast for a short paddle out against the wind and swell and some surf where we had to compete with windsurfers but not board surfers, a novelty for me.

Mariano in action...
and holding on the side.

This is not fair!! In the middle of two brakes!!

I couldn't stay up and surfed upside down
I had told Eddie that I am happier playing in moving water than paddling distances and he highly recommended to go to Cook Is. Mariano was skeptical about the destination, either because he prefers going from A to B or more likely because we had to drive back even farther south than on Saturday to the frontier with NSW.
This little island is only 1 km from the coast and soon after we started it broke my bad luck with wild water animals!!!
Cook Is and its wild life
Apparently the sea bed in the area makes strange things with the swell which breaks in deep water,  creates rebounds against nothing and makes a small swell of 2 meters appear far bigger than it really was.
Trying to surf deep water waves...
...before they breake in the deep blue
Steep waves with the gold coast buildings on the horizon
The beach where we put in and out also has some strange behaviour with sets of waves coming from different directions and breaking all over the place.
Eddie in the new Tiderace xcite, surviving the multi directional braking waves
A fantastic place
Photos from Eddie, Mariano and me.
Take a look at the video below playing around Cook Is. While surfing I was so happy that I started howling at 2 minutes, went under water rolled back up and as I was still on the wave I kept howling.