With the first week of the Shaw and Partners Paddle of Aus. done and dusted we look back on the week that was!
Setting off from the beach on day one to start the Shaw and Partners Paddle of Aus., all the nerves from the lead up and all the excitement was dulled by the realisation that this was going to be the new normal, each day spending hours upon hours on the water. I was as ready as I could ever be from a physical perspective and excited to give it my all and see where the next six months could take me! I was in awe of all the support from family, friends, the Gold coast community and of course the amazing sponsors who have made it all possible.
I was feeling especially grateful for everyone who came out to send me off and all going well I hope to see everyone back on the beach to welcome me home in just under 6 months’ time!
Day two was a day of implementing some minor changes to make life on the water and my paddling more efficient, for example changing my paddle feather to 30 degrees to take the load off my wrist (I would later change it again to 0 degrees).
Day two was beautiful, but starting from Byron there was a lot of bait balls, so you just think, what else is under there? The Jet-ski keeps me feeling a lot more confident in moments like this, especially while I get further out to sea. Another change we implemented based on our learnings from yesterday was that I stayed close to Velella (the support boat) for the majority of the day. It was great to end the afternoon on a high with some awesome runs, a new PB of 95km, a warm shower and some Belgium chocolate ice cream.
Paired with better hydration and nutrition, day two was a significant improvement on day one!
It was great to get home! Day three once again set a PB for the longest day of paddling in my life!
All up completing 108 kilometres, from the mouth of the Clarence River at Yamba to the southern side of Muttonbird Island in Coffs Harbour! As I started to recognise the beaches of the Coffs coast, it gave me the boost I needed to get through to the boat harbour where I first learnt to paddle.
It was nice to end the day knowing tomorrow held a shorter day of paddling going past Sawtell where I grew up.
A shorter day for day four, leaving from the boat harbour in Coffs, I rounded the break wall and was confronted by some of the flatter conditions of the week, the sun was out and stopping every few kilometres for a quick dip allowed me to cool down and rest my arms. On the way to Sawtell there was a beautiful moment where a huge pod of dolphins popped up and stayed with me diving under the water and doing all sorts of underwater acrobatics, it gave me a huge boost and I really felt like they were welcoming me home! Enjoyed the easier day and was looking forward to the next day knowing I would be feeling well rested for a bigger day tomorrow!
Teamwork was the word of the day for day five, as I am really grateful for the team around me and everybody who has been giving me the support to make each day easier! It would be so much harder without all the amazing people who have helped me along the way. Whilst there are so many people offering me positive feedback and encouragement, my competitive spirit comes out when I get messages from people who are doubting my ability to achieve the tough goals, I’ve set for myself and there is a little fire burning inside me to prove them wrong! This same competitive spirit is what made me push an extra two kilometres today to finish up on 100 kilometres taking me just past Port Macquarie! We went up to ten kilometres further out to sea on day five so that we could benefit from the EAC (East Australian Current, you might know it from Finding Nemo) as it is a current that pushes south from the warmer waters of northern Australia. Overall Day five left me feeling inspired to tackle this challenge and to do something that I can be really proud of for the rest of my life!
Day six was the hardest one yet, the head winds punished me, pushing me to my limits, both physically and mentally. I persisted, stayed patient and “weathered the storm”. Completing a further 60 kilometres more after considering a lay day. Today taught me to hang in there and the tides will turn. After hanging in there we got to experience some of the beautiful mid north coastline with the crew.
Day seven was Christmas Day. I paddled into Nelson Bay with spectacular cliff faces lining the coast along the way! My friend Lizzie Welborn joined me for part of my Christmas Day paddle and it sure was lovely to have some company out there on the water! After the days paddling was done it was nice to get back onto the boat to make some calls and catch up with my family and relax. Hoping everyone had a happy and merry Christmas and is looking forward to the new year!
Being the first week of such an immense journey, week one was always going to have a multitude of learning experiences and challenges. Some of the main challenges that presented themselves in this first week were, lower back pain and how we would get my ski from the water, up onto the boat whilst still at sea! These challenges will for the most part become more difficult as we go into more remote parts of the country, so I am extremely excited about the way the team and I have been able to adapt and overcome these challenges early on and it leaves me with a sense of confidence in my ability to continue on this epic journey!
In the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to getting south of Sydney to the south coast and Victoria where the coastline becomes rugged, deserted and is absolutely stunning. I am looking forward to seeing parts of Australia I would never have experienced.
We are currently gearing up for the 240km stretch between Eden and Lakes Entrance and the team is discussing how this will look as there is nowhere for the boat to safely anchor in stretch. I am both wary but also excited about this part of our adventure, excited for the challenge as that’s what I signed up for at the end of the day.
– Compiled and edited by Ben Lavery for paddleofaus.com