My internal body clock now insists on waking me up at 6am, in reality its not too early but i do aim to make ample time of what sleep i can get. With the constant moving and change it is difficult to find a rhythm and get much quality sleep. My sleep last night was dream filled yet blank, i knew i’d had one of the best nights sleep on tour to date. Staying in Evans Head for two nights definantly played its role in my quality of sleep! You know you’ve slept well when you wake up on a diagonal with blankets and pillows forming a nest around and on top of you!
As i attempted to get ready as quickly as possible it soon turned into a morning of interviews, ABC Northern Rivers followed by ABC Sunshine Coast. This made for an eventful car ride to Ballina, as Nic only heard a single side of the phone calls and got to piece together what was being said.
Arriving at the boat ramp just beyond the Ballina break wall made it fast and efficient for my arrival out the back of Light House Beach. It was incredible to be greeted in the line up by multiple IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boats) and so many smiling faces of club members willing to paddle with me for the morning!
The sun was out and glistening, spirits and energy were high. Being able to share the ocean and its glassy silky surface was pretty special, just to have the company and shared experiences was something i’ll take away with me forever. For an hour this morning in Ballina anyone who looked out to sea would have seen a colourful procession of paddlers, it would have been quite the spectacle. Having conversation with other young paddlers was so refreshing, we all fed off each others enthusiasm. All the paddlers knew they were in for at least a 6km paddle this didn’t stop the surges, the races the wash riding and wrestling each other off boards into the water! The pace was well and truly set with 7km covered in the first hour. Today i was very aware that distance needed to be covered and fast as the north easterly winds were due to increase in just a few hours time.
As a surge started and all the kids began to race forwards catching swell bumps, i noticed Kim my jet ski driver had swapped roles with one of the older paddlers and was now on a board causing up behind us. Moments later Kim was in front of everyone putting in some solid effort to make a break. From this moment onwards the race was on! As we reached a shark satellite buoy just north of flat rock the clubbies had their final initiation into my world, they each had to touch the shark shield. I had one brave paddler dive down and grab onto it underwater, no-one else was too excited about the process. Before anyone else had a moment to be initiated a huge school of fish came charging right towards us. The general makeup of a school of fish is much like a sandwich the fish are the filling in the middle, the top slice of bread is a flock of birds and down below, well you can probably fill that part in yourself.
The Ballina crew, knowing all to well what that bottom slice of bread can do, decided that it was time to turn in and make their way into shore. The kids in the group were keen to keep paddling along with me and not just because they were going to miss out on the rest of the day of school if they stayed! With the warm conditions hanging around, I started tearing off my wetsuits and filling every nook and cranny we could find on the jet ski. Freedom of movement always makes the paddle more enjoyable and with my skin tingling under the suns rays I kept one of my best paces to date as I charged my way towards Byron Bay.
Then my arch nemesis the mighty NE wind decided to rear his ugly head and put a stop to my cracking pace. The Byron lighthouse being a very visible marker on this part of the coastline suddenly didn’t feel as close as the NE winds skipped around the headland hindering my progress. Eventually rounding the bottom of the headland I could see the usual tourists getting the iconic photos at the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Reaching the headland the ocean didn’t provide any assistance with the waves crashing in from the east they bounced straight back off the headland causing treacherous conditions at the base for me to deal with. I kept on pushing around and to my surprise the greeting party (in the form of a pod of whales) had made there way out to meet us in this unlikely spot and they were paddling even closer to the headland then I was. The dolphins must have got word that I was close by too as they rounded the point and came out to welcome me in as well.
Eventually I pushed past the headland after what felt like an eternity and there was Byron. The conditions calmed, the water was crystal clear and hundreds of beautiful people were out enjoying what most consider to be one of this planets many paradises. We came into the beach out the front of the surf club and Troy came out to greet us and after a quick hose down he got straight into needling my back and offering all the services of a skilled physio (www.surflifephysio.com.au). Kim had come to the end of his journey with us and was off to Sydney to support his brothers band so we said our goodbyes, hopeful that he would be able to make it up to Noosa for the finish.
After a chilled out afternoon enjoying the touristy side of Byron and taking in our million dollar view off the deck of the surf club, we headed across the road to enjoy an amazing dinner at the beach hotel (www.beachhotel.com.au), special thanks to Tegan and Elke who were lovely enough to provide us with dinner for our two nights that we planned on staying in Byron.
Special thanks to the Ballina SLSC paddlers Craig Worling, Liam Worling, Cadyn Worling, Andrew Dougherty, Ben Limpenny, Sam Limpenny, Cooper Murphy and Lilly Murphy and the IRB crew Tony Ruston, Matt Benson, Scott Callaghan, Terry Mortimer.