By Jeff Buchan
Before registering for this paddle a quick check of tidal flow has always been a good idea. It may help in deciding the distance you want to cover and your preferred starting time. We opted for the 9am start over the earlier 8am start as we felt the tide may be of some assistance and, for some reason, Deb and I decided on the longest of the three distances on offer, 47km. How hard can it be, really?
Friday and SSCC members descended upon Jimmys Beach Caravan Park at all hours of the afternoon and night. Pitching a tent, sharing a cabin or reversing a caravan was the order of the day. Some decided to stay at the local pub at Tea Gardens, but that’s another story you can ask Wyong Ultra podium finishers Sundo and Axe about. The night before the race was a quiet affair with most members tucked up in bed listening to the wind howling in the treetops above and stomachs rumbling from the carbs digested.
Race day and paddlers made their way to Tea Gardens and the marshalling area, which had been perfectly and painstakingly set up in the wee hours of the morning by our very own Bob Turner. Thanks Bob! Once on the river we very quickly realised that the Mighty Myall had served up its usual smorgasbord of race conditions, the “Triple Whammy”, headwinds, shallow water and outgoing tides. Deb and I along with Mark Moro, President Denyer, The Bingles and The Dawsons lined up for the 9am start. Bob Turner had us primed and ready for start and quickly we were underway, 23.5km up river, turn and paddle home. Easy!
From the very start we knew it was going to be anything but easy and instead a tough day on the water. The open water leading to the mouth of the river was already wind affected, shallow and offering no assistance to anyone. Luckily we hopped in with a pack of boats for the first 5 or so kms sharing the load a little. Deb and I however soon decided that it was time to make some sort of a move as the 13.5km mark was still some distance away and we risked being turned around if we did not reach it in time. 3 or 4kms from the jetty turn around point we had 8am starters heading back to home. They had been turned around not reaching the cut off point in time. The mighty Boost put in a few quicker kms as all 9am starters were given 1.5 hrs to reach 13.5km and we thought, as had the large group of paddlers behind us probably, that this was comfortably attainable. Maybe so in ordinary conditions but not into today’s headwind and water flow. We made it with around 30secs to spare. We found out later that a 10min add on had been given for the cut off such were the conditions up river. So all was good for those paddlers behind. We plugged on.
After some sustenance and a few big breaths we plugged on up river. The upper parts of the Myall are quiet and scenic. It really is a paddle that people should set themselves to do, just not today!
Further on we crossed paths with Sundo and Axe who after seeing the effort tattooed on our faces by now, took great pleasure reading out the exorbitant speeds they were reaching heading the other way. After thanking Sundo for his encouragement we reached what is known as the Brasswater, an open area of the river. We knew we were close to the top turn. Just after this we had Steve and Kate, Gareth and Mark Moro pass us heading back home. At last a good sign that we were almost halfway but it seemed like forever before we actually spotted the orange turning buoy and the friendly face of Greg Robbo on the bank making sure all paddlers were safe and a smile on their faces (mine was more a grimace and a “thank God we’re here) look. We plugged on.
As soon as we turned we could feel the instant push of the water flow Sundo had referred to making its way from the lakes down river towards the finish line. What a relief it was! Unfortunately it did not last anywhere near as long as we thought it would due to the incoming tide pushing its way up river. The two forces quickly cancelled each other out leaving behind “dead water”. We plugged on.
We continued to spot fellow paddlers in front and used this as motivation. Some we would catch and some just kept staying the same distance all the way home. We plugged on.
A few paddlers on the return leg came to grief in the conditions but were always asked by passing paddlers if all was okay. A few rescues were needed but most just needed a quick rest, reset and refuel and they were on their way, all be it a little slower than at the start of the day. We plugged on.
Deb and I by the 43km mark were growing a wee bit tired and we just had to get out of the boat. We let each other know this in no uncertain terms. Deb spotted a sandy bank to our left and I headed straight for it not slowing down until our Boost’s bow had dug a furrow into the sand half its length. After a quick apology for my choice of words and the scratches on the boat, we were back on board and ready to tackle the remainder of the race, open water across the bay to the finish line. We plugged on.
Strong winds, strong tides and weak muscles saw us make our way cautiously but successfully home.
It was fantastic to be greeted by fellow SSCC paddlers who had all done themselves proud on the day achieving their own personal goals whether it be distance covered or adverse race conditions conquered. Once we had found our land legs we packed up and headed back to camp for a well-earned refreshment and a few tales to share.
Will we be doing it again next year? …….. Bloody Oath!
|Dianne Langan||Open F||F||1:51:22|
|Lindsey Gilbert||Open F||F||3:21:41|
|Kim Navera/Jennifer Tjoe||Open X C2||X||3:14:12|
|Ian & Suzanne McGuinness||V50+ X2||X||2:58:20|
| Bruce Sherlock|
& Elisabeth O’farrell
|Steve Dawson/Kate Dawson||Open X2||X||4:37:59|
|Gareth Stokes||Open M||M||4:42:43|
|Axe & Sundo||Open M2||M||5:04:09|
|Jeff & Deb Buchan (aka Buchaneers)||V50+ X2||X||4:56:54|
|Mark Moro||V50+ M||M||4:53:10|
|John Denyer||V50+ M||M||5:04:39|
|Ross Bingle & Robyn Bingle||V50+ X2||X||5:05:20|