Keppel Island Sea Kayaking Symposium

There are some fantastic ‘old sea dogs’ out there in the Australian sea kayaking scene. I was lucky to meet just of few of them at a recent Sea Kayaking symposium on North Kepple Island, QLD…..

“Too easy… you can do this…you’ve sooo got this!”

This is what I am telling myself often. Its a pep talk. Once said, I must follow through.

Having just left the calm and tranquil marina waters (in Yeppon, QLD) I was now faced with wind,choppy swell and to be honest there was a glimmer of worry in me.

I was in Yeppon, North Queensland for the Keppel Sea Kayaking Symposium on North Keppel Island.

North Keppel Island is off the coast of Yeppoon
North Keppel Island is off the coast of Yeppoon

Getting there means 17km paddle from the mainland to the island. Moving through that glassy water toward the mouth of the marina it was easy to feel good and confident, even though I hadn’t been in a ‘long boat’ (a sea kayak) for sometime.

 

Morning launch from the Marina, arriving at Nth Keppel Island just before lunch
Morning launch from the Marina, arriving at Nth Keppel Island just before lunch

I poked my kayak out from the shelter of the break walls and instantly I am hit with 20-25knot winds and 1-2meter southerly swells, dumping over the front and rear decks of my kayak. I had serious case of the wobbles and felt like I was fighting for every stroke. It must have showed because the group leader is headed my way.

“On a scale of 1-10, where are you sitting Kase”

Les had been watching me for sometime, as a group leader would do. I lie and tell him “six”, but … I’m easily an eight.

“Sorry can’t talk Les, I’m concentrating”.

He chuckles as he paddles off, but I feel him keeping a watchful gaze my way as we continue. He needn’t worry as I have ZERO intention of coming out of this boat, in fact, I’m somewhat of a master at staying upright and on course.

You will be happy to know that I made it. And in truth, I welcomed the challenge and had a good paddle. A right of passage, so to speak. I was now an official symposium attendee.

What a fantastic place for sea dwellers to meet. North Keppel Island is primarily a hub for education, housing a school that is frequently visited by school groups and even has its own principal (lovely fellow).

There are people from all over Australia here, form beginners to the seasoned paddler. It’s a great place to find inspiration for future trips and rub shoulders with other like minded folk.

Les Allen (my group leader coming across) is from WA and a kayaking great. Motivating, patient, master of boat and paddle and a mentor. He makes everything look so easy during his skills session. ‘Dancing with the ocean’ describes his method toward paddling. His direction and guidance is invaluable.

Les taking us through dry drills
Les taking us through dry drills

Days are filled with paddle sessions and short trips. Leaving evenings showcasing trip reports and presentations from some of Australia’s most prominent paddlers.

The highlight of the trip, for me, is a legend called Syd. He is 75yrs young and an absolute champion (hope you don’t mind me disclosing Syd).

 

Syd! Legend!
Syd! Legend!

What a character! He has been paddling FOR EVER and it shows as he easily leads the way during our paddles. I find myself watching him and trying to replicate his skill every chance I get. He’s even got one of those fancy Greenland paddles, which is essentially a plank of wood similar to a fence paling.

Les has us do a rescue drill (so important to practice the basics) and Syd dominates. He takes charge, bench pressing the kayak over his head to empty out the water. I’m so impressed and yell out to him.

“Syd, just how much spinach do you eat each day!”

An honest and simple response is shouted back.

“No spinach Just lots of water and lots a rest, that the secret Kase”. I reckon he may be onto something there.

Syd and co rolling a triple at dusk
Syd and co rolling a triple at dusk

I do notice that I am the youngest person at the symposium but you can’t be fazed, it’s often the case with sea kayaking. A retirees sport some say.

What does strike me is the number of women attending. It’s no secret I love seeing women kicking arse in the outdoors and this is just another example. It would be nice to see a few more younger sorts attending, but I guess that is part of my aim for this blog, to inspire others to get amongst things and attend weekends away like this.

A Symposium is a great place to test your skills, learn from the best and get inspired for future trips. If you find your often on your own paddling then a symposium is a fantastic place to connect with other paddlers in your area and plan trips together. I can’t recommend them enough and can’t wait to attend my next one.

So come on you lot, have a look around your local area and make plans for something!

Interested, why not connect with the following:

And don’t let a beginners status hold you back!! All are welcome.

DCIM100GOPRO

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