Category Archives: Canoeing and kayaking

Friends Fab Fun on the river


Friends Fab Fun on the river


Cotter to Urriara Crossing

1.43 on guage at Mt. McDonald

Capture5Another short day on the river whitewater kayaking. The level had been holding for a while with recent rain continuing. Canberra whitewater used to be more reliable but now it’s a matter of when the river is up you need to get in the water quick. Friends, boats, paddles, we were all in. Or mostly. Caleb rolled and pirouetted and nose dived and tailied and played like a pro who had never been far from the flow. I took it easy and surfed a lot but didn’t swim this time. DanM ran all the bigger lines and surfed like there was no tomorrow in his yellow banana. And Mitch and DanG pushed themselves and surfed and drank a little water upside down. The Gopro lit up and did all the right things to capture all the action then spat the dummy and lost all the footage. Oh No! Disappointment. It would have been a ripper compilation. Oh well, we’ll have to do it all again when it rains next.




Sept 2015

Point Hut to Pine Island – Murrumbidgee River

Whitewater kayaking

Capture 3

Watch the video           

Caleb paddled hard up-stream from the river’s edge, then forced his way onto the stopper wave. Surfing back and forth, sometimes spinning his paddle above his head. Turning round and back-surfing in the hole. A thumbs up and smile in my direction. Not showing off. Just in the zone. In his element. Almost on the edge but somehow in control. Delight writ large on his face and in his fluid movements. Action packed. At this level the river is strong and his reactions sharp. In tune with the power and force of nature. Riding and playing in the flow. He drives the nose deep then pops back onto a rail and flips over. Eskimo roll. Paddle back up for another go.

“Be back home by 5.00”, Mum would say when I was a primary school little fellow in the afternoons after school. A friend and I would launch into games of cricket, touch footy. Around athletics carnival we’d dig out a long jump pit or make a high jump in the back yard. Or alone I’d tear around a track on my bike. Grass never had much of a chance. Climb a tree. Make a new tree house and sit up there spying on the neighbours or look out across the valley. Later I’d explore the bush, making cubby houses with branches and rocks, wander along the creek, climb in the small sandstone cutting looking for quartz pebbles, make tin boats to paddle across a pond, venture through the drains underneath the suburb. We had fun. We pushed our limits. We developed skills and awareness of what we could do. I grew to love the bush and feel at home in it. I shared time with best mates and in solitude. Burned off energy.

“Play is considered so important to child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. Play — or free, unstructured time in the case of older children and adolescents — is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Marie Hartwell – Walker. 

When we play and flow in the zone where our skills and experience are challenged at just the right level time and the rest of the world are left behind. Our best play is where our mind, body and senses are totally focussed. As our skills and experience develop we seek out higher level challenges that are necessary to take us into this zone. We are challenged at whatever level is right for us. Edgework is play at our threshold.

My skills are nowhere near those of Caleb. I surf in smaller waves, practice skills, easier tricks and enjoy the exhilaration. Refreshed. The cobwebs are blown away, washed away. I feel energised. Together we share the journey, watching out for each other, chatting down the slow pools between rapids. Appreciate patterns of ripples, the trees, the weather, the water.

The benefits of play for adults are evidenced in research. The overall effect on our wellbeing (depression, hurt, worries, feeling foggy, sadness, anger, insecurities, anxiety – can be left behind for a time and our perspectives on them changed) is huge.  All of this is multiplied if our play combines the health benefits of physical exercise and being in the natural world.

For me adventure is my primary form of adult play. Now I call up my friends and ask if they want to go climbing for a day or skiing up on the main range, or for a paddle on the river or to hike in the desert for 10 days or cycle down the Danube in Germany or do some via ferrata in Italy. Am I not just saying as I used to when I was a child, “do you want to come out and play”? The playground is bigger now and the games are more challenging.

“How about a second run down?”  Caleb asked.

As we paddled down and played just for the pure joy of it I wondered as an outdoor ed. teacher how many students he’d shown how to do this, how many had learned wholesome adult play ways – climbing, paddling, diving, hiking, caving.

“You can reclaim your inner child by setting aside regular, quality playtime. The more you play, joke, and laugh—the easier it becomes.

By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, you can reap the myriad of health benefits throughout life.”

 Capture 2

Back at School – On the River


Back at school – On the river

30/4 – 1/5/15

Clyde River

Canoeing and kayaking two day tour between Nelligen and Anglers Reach.

Glassy smooth water. The sharp nose of my very old “dancer” kayak rippled the surface reflections. Clouds built but didn’t spill. Multicoloured canoes and kayaks moved along closer to the shore and contrasted to the shades of bush greens on the bank. The Clyde River. The river all Canberrans know as they speed over the concrete bridge at Nelligen on the summer pilgrimage to or from the coast. Our group of students and teachers were some of the very few that ever venture further than the road or shore.

On the first day I had mixed emotions being back with a school group in the outdoors with that ever present niggling duty of care. The beauty of the late afternoon conditions and a short stretch slightly away from the group helped as the slow calm of the river seeped back to my core. I was working with a group of trainee guides who were assisting the teachers who were overseeing the students who were also under the tutelage of a student teacher along with a couple of ex student helpers. A tangled complex web of skills and knowledge transfer and mentoring. This was a true learning community. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction that I had been able start this program and that now it was seeming sustainable.

At dusk the would be guides dived into their rescue practice tasks. The water was cold. The final part was completed as the moon rose.

Later evening sent us all from the fire to bed. In the middle of the night mist covered the moon.

The weather in the morning had improved. We paddled off in mainly sunshine. The trainees took control and kept it moving and made it fun and swapped the canoe pairs and gave them turns in the kayaks and smiled lots and wound us in and out of overhanging trees in the still water, and cared for them and handled all the scenario rescues and did everything right. I had to relearn that on nearly all of these adventure trips it takes time for the experience to have its effect on people. The change from the first day in the individuals and the group was noticeable if you tuned in. Something subtle often takes place. For this group and some students it would take a few more trips in beautiful surroundings and away from mobile reception with skilful leaders for special characteristics to start showing through. Generosity, inclusiveness, confidence, being at ease in a group.

It did feel good to have a small bit part in it all again.