Friday, 27 January 2012

Australia Day Fun!

We Aussies are a laid back bunch; to many outsiders, we have no sense of patriotism, a weird sense of humour, and take a greater sense of pride in our dangerous fauna than our country’s achievements. We look at the enthusiastically overt, flashy displays of patriotism put on by many other nations and respond with a ‘No worries mate, we’ll do it our way’. We do have our own quiet sense of patriotism and pride, but as with our people, it is laid back and fairly relaxed (unless you’re talking about cricket).
Australia Day is a day which does stir a bit of patriotism in most of us, and while there is still some debate over the choice of date for this day, for most of us it is simply a day to celebrate who we are. Unlike other public holidays, where it is perfectly acceptable to have ‘a bit of a bludge’, it has become an almost compulsory part of our culture to get out and do something you enjoy on Australia Day - no matter what the weather J If you’re not at least trying to do something fun, then you are running the risk of that ultimate insult – being un-Australian. Un-Australian includes many cultural faux pas such as - disliking lamb chops or vegemite, knowing the second verse of the national anthem, not scaring tourists with stories of drop bears and yowies or at least snakes spiders and crocs, not helping your mates when they need a hand, not using derogatory nick-names for your best mates, drinking foreign beer,.... to name just a few of our social complexities.
With national pride on the line, we had to go out and find some fun!
Common Australia Day activities include barbecues, back-yard cricket or days at the beach, usually in sweltering heat. Unfortunately, the day dawned rather dim and gloomy. We got up and it rained, had breakfast and it rained some more, spent the morning pottering about with some chores while the rain became sullen and moody alternating between light showers and heavy downpours. Finally deciding after lunch that the weather was not going to improve, we went and loaded the kayaks on the car (in the rain) and headed for the water. We decided to make it a rolling day – the rain wouldn’t be able to make us any wetter.
Living only a few minutes from St Georges Basin (an estuary lake open to the sea via a narrow inlet) has made us a bit lazy and ‘the Basin’ has become our favourite location for rolling sessions rather than driving the fifteen minutes that would take us to Jervis Bay (absolutely beautiful for paddling, but last time I took part in a rolling demo on the bay it was with wind, swell and the water was full of Blue Bottles – still a fun day but flat, calm, stinger free water also has its appeal). We cruised past Palm Beach as a possible location, not our usual spot but it has the advantage of a car park and some undercover facilities. As we approached, the rain began its real assault and for a moment we entertained the idea that this may not be the best of plans. Arriving at the park we found a few sorry looking groups of people huddled under shelters in the rain and wind, some scurrying to pack up their barbecues while making futile attempts to stay dry. A couple of die-hards were in swimming, determined to enjoy their day at the beach, but not looking too happy about it. We decided to drive on to our favourite spot a bit further round the Basin where we would be more sheltered from the wind. As we headed into the national park, we left the rain behind and found our favourite spot to be its usual secluded, calm little hide-away. 
With a trio of Black Swans gliding past, a Grey Heron hunting on the shore and a Pelican cruising the shallows, we felt like we were in a different world. The water called to us and with boats, tuiliks and paddles ready we were going to have some fun! Joined by our new Australia Day mascot, we spent over three hours rolling and playing with bracing, sculling, balance braces and lots more rolling. Playing with a camera mounted on my front deck allowed us to catch some of the fun on video, although after watching the clips, I do have to remind myself to smile occasionally when we film the rolls – really I am having fun!  I’m one of those people who really doesn’t like being in photos or videos, but as my interest in Greenland rolling and paddling has increased, video has been a great way to share with our friends overseas and pick up tips and advice from people who are more experienced, there has also been a bit of friendly rivalry with friends coming up with new techniques and variations and challenging others to try which is a lot of fun. I must admit, when Wayne first put a clip of me on Facebook, I instantly ordered him to take it down, I guess I’ve gotten a little more used to it now, but still need to work on it J
With no serious goals in mind for the day, it was a lot of fun just playing with different rolls and techniques. Recovering from a shoulder injury meant many of the forward finish rolls have been off my list for a while, with no pressure to actually get everything perfect, it felt good to just play with the techniques and get these working again. Towards the end of the day Wayne finally managed to pry me out of my boat and had his first turn in the Tahe Greenland, discovering very quickly that it is a much easier boat to balance brace than his high volume Aquanaut. Deciding to give myself a challenge, I tried out his boat for a while, playing with sculling, balance braces and a variety of rolls. While I have finally acquired a Tahe to make some of the more advanced rolls a little easier, I love being able to challenge myself and try different boats, the Aquanaut is a much higher volume boat than I am used to (and fitted out to suit Wayne) which gave it a very different feeling to roll and balance in, really making me concentrate on technique and not getting away with any of the short cuts that the Tahe allows.
A misty view across the 'Basin'.
With the light fading and our energy dwindling, we called it a day, having had more than our share of fun, playing and rolling and enjoying the amazing wildlife this beautiful location brings – a brief visit from a Stingaree, Sea Eagles soaring overhead, Black Cockatoos, Herons, Swans, Ducks, and ending the day with a lone Kangaroo hanging around quite close to our car as we quietly packed up.

I hope everyone else had a fantastic Australia Day!


  1. 20 cm of snow and 70 km/hr winds! Happy Australia day from Canada!

  2. Thank you Lee.
    Wow, the weather sounds nasty over there, I think I'll be happy with our rather mediocre summer :)

  3. Mel, let me compliment you on your outstanding rolling.
    Looking very very good.
    Interesting enough your rolling is way better than any other local certified instructor's that I have seen to date.

  4. Thank you Gnarlydog, I've really enjoyed working on these rolls - still a lot more to work on though :)
    I'd really love to see more people get involved in Greenland style paddling, the more people who get interested, the better.
    I would rather invite interest than comparison, my aim is to perfect each roll to the best of my own ability, not in comparison to others, but thank you for the compliment.