What a humbling send off that was, i had the beautiful support of Urunga Surf Club members with me on the waters edge as well as a group on the over looking headland.
There was a bit of a surf running, not much but anything is a bit much when your on day 19 of a 43 day paddling voyage… negotiating the surf was a little less smooth than usual, but after some incredibly frustrating moments i was out the back of the break. I was joined by a club member/ PE teacher, Tim on his surf ski which was great. Any company out there is always welcomed! So it turns out that his uni gymnastics teacher was one of my many favourite school PE teachers Brett Austine (world renowned trampoline champion), no matter where you are the world continues to shrink!!!
Conditions were semi ideal so i was moving along ok, after about the 2 hour mark my stops became more frequent than on the hour as that right shoulder started locking up again. When this happens not only is my physical performance hindered, but the mental performance suffers also as i begin to stress and think about my shoulder and what’s going on with it. Quite simply the easiest way for me to put what I’m going through is to suggest (or not suggest you try this at home) standing on the spot for 6 plus hours windmilling your arms forwards like a butterfly swim stroke or freestyle swim stroke continuously. After almost 19 days of doing this for up to 6 hours i can guarantee you will be able to sympathise with me!
One of the rest stops was a little more lengthy as my right shoulder locked up, Fish massaged and tried to release the mess of knots in my back and shoulders. However due to the length of rest time the wind cut through me enough to chill my bones. The situation wasn’t looking overly positive so Fish assisted me in covering further ground with the jet ski. While we were sitting on the ski sorting out the new ’Tony method’ of transporting my board i noticed water displacement just in front of us. I said pretty quickly to Fish ‘something is right there’ as usual he thinks I’m making things up so shrugged off my comment. Within 5 seconds my spotting skills proved bang on! A giant hump back whale appeared about 5 metres in front of us. I was so excited screaming and squealing as is swam by, but the pace it set was nothing to be discounted. That whale was seriously moving, it gave us a shower as it spat out a gulp of water and i was watched in amazement at it shines slippery looking skin with not too many barnacles at all. The odd thing about this whale was actually the direction it was swimming; Fish and i instantly went through the list of scenarios. Maybe it left its house unlocked or maybe it felt hungry, either way both those things could only be satisfied swimming to Antarctica.
Arriving at the back of the Coffs Harbour Jetty was a whole adventure within itself. If you think its as simple as paddling into a harbour think again… There was the land on the left of me which had a long break wall running north off it. Then there was a small island to the right of me. In between this was a 4-5 metre swell of waves, side chop and backwash from breaking waves either side of me. Fish said he’d be much happier if he took me in via the jet ski, but stubborn me said i had it. Paddling through that stretch was incredibly testing and both skills and patience, but i got there eventually or i thought i did anyway. i looked over my shoulder to see a giant mountain of water looming up behind me and no this wasn’t a swell lump it was a breaking wave, i glanced quickly over to Fish on the jet ski to see an absolute look of horror on his face. In this split second i thought well i’m on my own here if he’s freaking out, no later had i thought that and i saw him out running the wave and getting out of there and away from me faster than i could blink! so i thought id have a go catching it. I went flying blindly down the wave unable to see anything except white water and thinking the entire time about my shark shield tail and hoping i didn’t get zapped. I think i have actually built up more of a fear of that than anything else I’ve come across. I made it through that wave ok only to have the next right behind it, just as big just and unreadable. My adrenaline kicked in big time as i held onto my board hoping not to lose it, after getting through the second wave i had a brief yet sturn chat with myself ‘its only water’ i told myself. I got frustrated at my adrenaline kick and fleeting moments of concern.
Paddling through the heads of the harbour was much smoother and arriving on Jetty Beach was pretty special, i truly love this area. I was greeted by John and Jeni from APOLA (Australian Professional Lifeguard Association) who have been a huge support behind the scenes in making this paddle a success! Also on the beach was NBN tv and ABC radio so it was pretty surreal to be ushered right out of the water for interviews shivers and all!
After getting dry and warm the Mermaid crew went for a much needed and appreciated lunch at Coffs Surf Club. The afternoon was spent organising, recovery stretching and chatting with the local lifeguards. Exhaustion on a high sums up where I’m at right now but really looking forward to sleep!