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Day 26 Evans Head to Ballina

Waking up to an overcast day didn’t help to brighten my mood but I did try to hide that I was feeling a little glum. We left our warm, comforting shelter and ventured down the road to Chinaman’s Beach to start the paddle there on the recommendation of Kim, who has surfed this spot for the last decade and knew that there would be dolphins playing in the surf. The walk down to the beach was set in pristine national park untouched as it is in close proximity to a bombing range. We were escorted to the beach by Mark, Denise and Rose, down the boardwalk which reminded me of a more tropical environment and Mark’s rainbow umbrella definitely helped to brighten the scenery.

There were two rips of choice to paddle out in and I went with the more northern rip. I headed out when the sets started to roll through expecting a lull and break in waves but unfortunately for me the lull never came and paddling out went from being initially fine popping over the smaller waves but then a monster rolled in and stole my board from underneath me and there was nothing for me to do but watch it wash all the way back onto the shore. This moment was when my morning really began to go sour! I made my way back into shore, grabbed my board and repeated the process.

Eventually making it out the back where Kim was waiting on the jet ski. My arrival involved me screaming with anger at myself for not having the energy to be able to make it out through the surf, which if I was fresh wouldn’t have been a problem. Kim’s pet dolphins arrived right on cue and started swimming around us. I was in such a dark place mentally that I couldn’t even force a smile for the dolphins and I paddled off without a glance back as they continued to put on a show.

Paddling from Evans Head up the coast to Ballina, as I discovered over dinner the previous night, is well known by the locals as a great white breeding ground. Based on the amount of text messages I’ve been receiving from sharks in that area I paddled out expecting them to finally come through on those dinner dates they’ve been promising!

Conditions for the day were in my favour with a southerly swell, light south-westerly winds but was overcast and foggy and Kim described it quite a few times as a “overcast sharky looking day…” We spent the day staring off into the fog and faintly being able to make out the distant headlands and landscapes of Ballina. As I made my way up the coast my position in the water eventually changed the winds from helpful to hindering and i had to change my paddling technique to try and compensate. Catching runners directly into shore I would then turn and paddle back out towards NZ and then turn back in to catch runners, zig-zagging my way up the coast making the days distance twice as long.

We reached our destination for the day and were greeted by a large pod of whales. The whales moved off as if they were clearing the floor and moments later a group of dolphins came in and surrounded the jet ski, pirouetting beside us and playfully riding our wash as they darted and weaved next to us. The director of the play called the dolphins off stage for the main act to make his grand entrance and from behind the curtain slunk a gigantic great white shark. He swam just below the surface of the water and then got stage fright and quickly darted down into the depths. I’m under the belief that sharks are really shy creatures and trying to get any footage of them is tricky unless you have a big bag of chum to draw them in.

Within the next thirty minutes I came to the conclusion that Kim was the official ‘Cowboy of the Sea’ for the trip. He drives the jet ski flat out with more confidence then I’ve ever seen someone drive when they are just out by themselves, let alone holding a 12ft board off to the side and 5ft8 passenger behind. We hooned our way back up the coastline, running a little to close for my comfort levels to shore, before arriving a short time later at the Evans Head break wall.

We scooted back to our bungalow and I dived straight into the bathtub to unwind in an epson salt bath. I can’t remember the last time I got to relax and sit in a warm bathtub but it did feel a little ironic after spending the day out in the worlds biggest bathtub – the ocean. I had a list of errands to go over that afternoon but due to my mental fog and vegetable like state nothing really got achieved. We did end up making a pyramid though in the front yard, as we didn’t think Mark and Denise would appreciate a sheet fort in the house, we collected all the Coco’s Pure cans (www.cocospure.com) from the truck and stacked them as high as we could. If anyones looking for a renewable building material these cans are pretty solid… Just saying!

We made our way off to the sugar cane capital Broadwater to have dinner with Kim and Chrisy at there amazing little cottage. They put on incredibly beautiful, healthy, fresh food and Kim showed us his surfing wall of fame and introduced us to all his little critters that they’ve taken in over the years. After another great evening we cruised back over to our bungalow and crashed out hard.


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