Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Tollgates Islands and Rock and Roll

There is these beautiful islands. You are not supposed to land there. There is no fishermen hut or any sign of human contamination. They are close to shore, less than 5 km, and very exposed to the swell. There are plenty of rock formations around and inside the islands that make the place a treasure for paddlers and paradise for those like me that like to play among rocks.

Wade about to run dry.
Last October I went there with Matt. We had envisioned to do a week long paddle on the area. However when the date arrived he was busy with work and me in bad terms with my boss so the week long was reduced to 4 days... But what 4 days!!!  
Lots of fun around.
We were invited to stay with Neil 'honey' at his home in Long Beach. He is a nice guy but 'honey' is not from that. He has some bee hives and produces yummy honey, if you are in the area make sure you get some :-)  
Mr Honey in his boat
Anyway, we slept at his place and went paddling the 4 days around the area. A good deal of that time around and inside the Tollgate Islands. We also managed to do some downwind paddle and one of the days there was a club paddle to the Tollgates which we also joined. The last night we declined the luxury accommodations offered by Neil we decided to camp in the national park, we are hard men of the wild after all :-) or that is what our wives think. We should have stayed with Neil because between both of us we came back with 5 ticks stuck inside our bodies.
Paddling inside the islands

And around the islands

Sometimes I run aground.
In the club paddle a guy came and almost drawn while practicing roll, right Joel?
Some of the locals came to check the visitors
We had lots of fun. We were recording all our movements in video while pocking into and sometimes against some of the rocks, I compiled it and didn't publish it until a week ago. I saved for the RnR film festival which was to be held in that same area.
I am happy to report I won the film competition although I think Marks film about his passion for budgie smugglers should have taken 1st place. He came 2nd though. Thanks Matt for being the cameraman for the video and lending me some of the photos above.

The Rock and Roll weekend, or RnR, is the premier event for sea kayaking in New South Wales. Paddling, honing skills, socialising, presentations and lots of fun. During RnR there were plenty of kayaks going to the Tollgate islands. Some like Josh posted his videos. After watching some of them I think I won not due to my editing skills but because of the islands. It is a magical place.

This year I volunteered as training coordinator for the club. Because of that during the RnR I was a bit busier than other years when off the water coordinating on water training. That made the weekend go away too quickly :-). I am also trying to become a sea kayak instructor so I helped running a couple of instruction sessions during the weekend.
One was helping Nick with a session called 'pushing it in the surf'. We had to drive a bit of distance to find some surf. However, despite calm forecast, we managed to have a good session in 'smallish' waves. The smaller size of the waves allowed the participant to focus more on the technique rather than the anxiety that is normal when you are about to be run by a wave. However the smaller size didn't give the participants the opportunity to overcome that anxiety that inhibits you sometimes when confronted with bigger surf. No matter how small the surf was, we all enjoyed the 'play' time and there were plenty of rolls, even a few swims. It is not that easy to stay upright when trying to surf backwards.
The next day I run a training session helped by Eddie. We focused on advanced rescues. It was lots of fun as we simulated situations for rescues close and sometimes among rocks. In one of those I was being rescued and it was going too smoothly. I decided to add some spice so I started screaming like I was being eaten by a shark. The guys were not sure what to do. I kept screaming until I told them my shoulder hurt. They eventually put me back in my boat. Later, during the debrief, someone said he was very anxious on that particular rescue due to my screaming and not being completely sure if it was for real or not.
The last day I run a trip to the islands. I stipulated you could only come with me if you were ready to scratch your boat. Only 2 participants came but that was good. We could become very intimate with the island and not many scratches were found on the plastic hulls.

Selim testing how hard the rocks can be
Vincent is decapitated by the water hole
Video of that day is being cooked. I hope I can maintain the standard of the previous one :-). Below is sequence of stills from the recorded clips of the day.

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