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Paddling New Mesmerizing Territories

New territories are always refreshing paddling experiences. Today, I had the opportunity to paddle around Cronulla with some of the guys from Cronulla Canoe Club. Then later in the day, I got the chance to head out on the OC-1 into a nice downwind run with Benny Bricknell who, along with his fiancé and parents, are hosting me during my stay here in Australia.

At the moment, there is a SSW wind blowing and the skies have the look of moodiness. The water temp is nice, but with the wind there is a touch of chill to the air on the beach. We jumped in the OC-6 to get a little practice for Saturday’s Sydney Harbor Challenge race. As we made our way along the coast, I couldn’t help getting a little lost in the landscape; it’s so different from the coastline I’m used to paddling back home in Maui. The continental rock slabs and formations were mesmerizing, as were the forests of Eucalyptus trees and the architecture of a different culture.

Once we made our way out to the ocean, the coast resembled something wild and tame at the same time, with crashing waves on smooth round shelves of stone. The wind was blowing and giving the ocean great texture for some downwind fun yet allowing the upwind paddle to be manageable. With the OC-6, we just wanted to pull off an hour, so our surf run was short and most of the paddle was upwind and in the calm. Good warm up for our afternoon run!

The OC-1 run began with a car drop around 4pm then off to rig up canoes back at the paddling site. The beginning of our paddle was the same course as the morning with the same landscape that my eyes couldn’t stay away from. The tide was a lot lower so there was a considerable amount of new land to visually consume. The ocean and wind dropped slightly from the morning, but the horizon showed plenty of texture still. We gathered outside an outer reef that was about 1/2 a mile off shore. From there the angle for our run lined up pretty well with the point to which we were paddling around. The ocean was alive with bait fish, and just off in the short distance, a pile of birds were toying with the crest of ocean swells in the hopes to snatch up an easy meal. As I watched all this movement around me, we slowly positioned our canoes down towards our destination and began our downwind adventure.

For some reason, when I do new or different downwind runs that differ from the familiar runs I’m accustomed to on Maui, and in Hawaii for that matter, I always compare the similarities of these new runs to the runs I know. Today’s run was showing a bit of familiar flavor to it. The right quarter and mixture of backwash reminded me of one of my favorite runs back home called the Kahakuloa run. The boys here call this the Cronulla run, the rodeo, and for good reason! The funny thing is our Kahakuloa run receives the same term on most days.

Our downwind started with a nice smooth quarter bump to the right with a tapered backwash from the cliff in the far distance. This gave us some easy drops with light confusion to it at moments. I would run out the quarter bump beyond my landmark; then I would turn down at times to connect a good drop running towards the point ahead, then back out to my quartering. Because of my heavy quartering early on, I had the opportunity to straighten out a lot more as we neared the point in the distance, allowing me to get some nice drops and dodge in and out of the backwash, which was gaining size and consistency due to my approach on the point. This is where the rodeo was becoming more of a reality! The backwash was pushing into the oncoming waves causing the bottoms to drop out and the waves to increase in size as the two merged into one another.

As I ran up and over this disarray of motion, my body weight and angles adjusted constantly to accommodate for the weightlessness and awkward positions that the canoe and I were thrown in (hence the term rodeo). As I past the point, the cliff section of the run continued on for more distance than I had originally thought. “Yes!” I had said quietly to myself. “There’s quite a bit more run left!” Then as I was running the cliff section the bump changed and was running in three predominate directions: in at a 45 degree angle, out at a 45 degree angle, and straight down the pipe. The beauty of this was that my options just expanded and once I caught one, I could connect all three bumps giving me more sitting time and and less paddling, not to mention the fun in zig zagging all over creation following every trough I saw. I love this stuff! It was truly some wild water. This had to be one of the most exciting moments of paddling for me. These experiences bring feelings that keep bringing me back to the water every day.

At the end of the run, I came across a piece of coastline that I felt looked familiar, something I’ve seen before. Maybe from the likes of a magazine or video. As I sat there and looked over the coastline, I realized I was sitting outside the infamous surf break called Ours. This surf break is a heavy wave that has the utmost respect from surfers around the world. It was classic. When Benny came up to me he asked if I knew where we were. I answered with question in my voice, “Is that Ours?” Benny was somewhat surprised I had an idea. Haha!

Ours Surf Break

This brings me to a good point, a point that could help with comfort and safety. When in new places, trying to familiarize yourself with your surroundings should always be part of the agenda. With pictures or sightseeing there is always a story especially if you study them hard enough. It’s like creating a map in your head. Possibly slightly inaccurate but enough to survive.

Well, I must say it was a great trip! The Boys in Cronulla have a great run in their backyard and I believe that that run could prep one for a channel crossing for sure. The Sydney Harbor Challenge was a great race to experience and with another race the next day, it made for a full weekend of activities. I would like to thank Dean Gardiner for helping me get a Fenn for the Surfski race on Sunday; he made it easy for Pat Dolan and myself.

Thank you Australia for a great experience!

Kai Bartlett

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