Waking up this morning to a grey drizzle didn’t seem to put me off, after the previous two days of progression i almost felt un stoppable…almost. I had such a beautiful little send off this morning with a few local baby mermaids i met the previous day paddling in the crystal clear waters of the Hat Head river!
After getting my board ready for go time I waited for one of my favourite highlights of the day, that moment Tony flies around on the jet ski to meet me on the beach. His enthusiasm and smiles always lift my energy. A few small waves started rolling in and i encouraged him to do cut backs looping up and across the face of the rolling waves (not sure who at this point got more excited).
This area is known to be quite sharkie with just 1 day ago people being called out of the water with a large number of bronze whaler sharks, this didn’t concern me i was just enjoying the aqua clear clarity of the water! However at some point within the second hour of the paddle i got the feeling i was being watched. I have had this feeling only 3 times despite being 15 days into my epic paddle and the two previous times the fish finder on the accompanying boat registered that yes my feelings were very much appropriate with a 16 foot white on my tail. Without the technology to prove my feelings i just kept paddling and looked into the water as i moved across it. I didn’t see anything as expected, but i can guarantee i had company. I called Tony over and had a stretch and snack break on the back of the jet ski but continued to look round for my friend with no luck.
Paddling at this stage had me thinking ‘so far so good’, there was no reason to be feeling otherwise, however that soon changed. The first 2 hours of the paddle were completely non eventful regarding progress, yet eventful in every other dimension. The winds from the north west increased which hindered my progress and resulted in me being blown out to sea. I was complaining that i wasn’t progressing and feeling pretty deflated, it was on the 2 hour mark that we realised that in fact this was the case. I had been paddling in an eddie current, the type of current thats going multiple directions and results in incredibly tired/overworked arms with no progress in any direction at all.
Due to the north in the wind the best decision was to scoot me closer to shore on the jet ski in the hopes to have wind protection from the land; good plan however the few moments in the drizzle and wind was enough to send me into a state of shivers and almost uncontrollable shakes. After a lot of convincing, a few snacks and my hands being warmed under Tony’s arm pits i got back into the water and continued to paddle.
For the entire day i could see my destination, it was like a distant mirage that never seemed to get any closer. This was mentally demoralising and made it hard for me to gauge my progress. At one point i put my head down, closed my eyes and nodded off as i paddled. As i awoke i saw a headland distantly along side me, my little internal excitement jumped at the amazement of my progress. Moments later Tony drove along side me giggling “Jules, where are you off to?” Weird question considering this was a different view from the previous 2 hours. As i looked up i noticed i was paddling directly to shore, and that headland was Hat Head… zero progress made here, but plenty of laughs.
Later in the day we got a visit from South West Rocks Marine Rescue, it was unreal to have such great support, even despite my agonisingly slow speeds. I felt bad for making everyones day long and slow, but i was really struggling with my right shoulder locking up today due to the north in the winds. I continued to paddle, stretch, snack for agonising hours, i never quite mentioned to Tony how much pain i was in. At the 15km mark i physically and mentally cracked, as i paddled i burst into tears biting my lip to try and push through the pain shooting through my right shoulder. I tried to hide my tears by turning away from the side Tony was driving on, it didn’t matter he picked up on what was going on for me anyway. Wether i liked it or not the days paddle had to be called as my shoulder was not getting any better. I broke down again once on the ski, i was so frustrated at myself and lack of ability to continue paddling, i hate myself in those moments of weakness.
The convoy of water craft (Marine Rescue Boat and Marine Rescue Jet Ski) headed around the rocky headland that the light house stood on that id been looking at all day. Tony and i rode around in the wake of the boat, it was nice to watch the coastline change as we drove. I spotted a cave accessible by water only, then next to us surfaced a few hump back whales, they were magic to see. They moved so quickly and silently they would have been easy to miss!
Today was Tony’s last day as crew for the paddle, i was sad to say goodbye. The guys out there on the water see me in my element and absolute happy place, they also experience the highs and lows with me.
The rest of the afternoon was spent unwinding/napping in the South West Rocks SLSC where they provided a beautiful dinner for myself and the crew. It really is humbling to have the local support of each town i stop in!