Waking up knowing I had very little to paddle was an added bonus as I contemplated just what I’ve done over the past month and a bit. We decided to launch the jet ski from Noosa River and drop me out to the starting location in alignment with the northern Sunshine Beach point and the beginning of A Bay, as the low pressure system was still in full force and it was too dangerous to attempt to paddle out the back. My arms were also in a place of absolute exhaustion which didn’t help my cause getting out through surf breaks of any size.
Today is the first day I have paddled yet began the morning in ‘normal’ clothes. There was a live TV interview scheduled with the Today Show, just prior to me suiting up and finishing the morning at one of my favourite places Noosa!
Getting my wet suits on again was another matter altogether, the only thing motivating me to have any speed about the process was the fact that this would be the last time…
Once suited up Fish and I jumped onto the ski and I helped him navigate the shallow bars of the Noosa river mouth. There was some solid surf able waves breaking across the bar so Fish in his own fun way floored it and we jumped them, I did remind him we had the board to hold onto but I know fish too well now. Well enough to know that if there is a slightly more fun or extreme way to go about things that’s how they get done!
We made our way across the Noosa bay passing the point breaks and observing the keen surfers from a distance as they sat and waited patiently. We continued on through the turbulent waters around the tip of the Noosa National Park (Hells Gates), shortly after we crossed A Bay I gave Fish the signal that this was the spot. I readied myself by throwing down a can of Co Cos Pure Coconut water as I knew I wouldn’t have any other food or water for this stretch.
I officially began paddling at 10:30am the surf, despite the backwash of waves was still big and all over the place but the water itself was a deep shade of clear blue. As I paddled and looked down through the water I could see hundreds and thousands of blue jellyfish dancing in the swell. Every so often I’d feel something slippery smack my hand as I hit a jellyfish while I paddling, eventually I got used to it and didn’t flinch.
It was interesting that as I turned around Hells Gates and started to paddle towards Noosa that the jellyfish disappeared completely.
I paddled past Granit Bay and caught a few solid waves on the way, the swell out the back where I was would have been close to 6-7 feet, so I was moving pretty fast whenever I managed to jag onto a wave! I stopped at Tea Tree for almost an hour, this was where I said my goodbyes to Fish and thanked him for absolutely everything he had done for me over the trip duration. The words of wisdom and kindness, the smiles, the winks, the stories and the people he introduced and connected me with were all part of what made his role as my water safety crew just so incredible. For the next hour I paddled around Tea Tree catching waves and just floating around trying to take it all in. The water was aqua clear and I could see every fish, rock and grain of sand underneath me.
Gradually I began to make my way towards Flat Rock, where again I floundered around to chew up time. I told everyone that my arrival would be 12 noon and I’m all about punctuality so I was very much aiming for 12 on the dot!
A local board paddler Noel came out to paddle me in which was lovely, it was great to have his energy with me. I was in a very quiet place as I mentally began to understand that in less than an hour I could stop paddling, stop moving, and I could stop the need to be in the ocean every day covering great distances. Right at this moment this all sounded rather incredible! A chapter of my life I will hold dearly and think of often was finally coming to a close!
Paul from Sea Shepherd greeted me in the water on a wave ski he dusted off, I was so pleased to see him and have a quiet chat. Next moment a bunch of eager board paddlers made their way out to me from the beach. I was around Nationals by this stage and I just felt an incredible energy from everyone in the water mixed with my own surreal feelings. Having the local Noosa Surf Club board paddlers come out and greet me and then continue to paddle me into shore was unreal. As I got closer to shore Craig from Surfrider Foundation splashed around me on his surf board cheering and hollering for me!
I chatted with the kids and answered their questions as we paddled. The first person I greeted as I paddled onto the beach was Andy, he was in the water with his under water camera capturing the moment for me! I was so pleased and relieved to see him, he was a big part of this paddle for me. Andy has been a mentor for me over the past few years since the Bondi paddle so having him in the water with me to offer a few final words before I finished was absolutely perfect!
As I jumped off the board and my feet hit the sand I looked up at the crowd of people surrounding me just smiling and clapping. I didn’t know what to do or say, it was an odd feeling to simply have a crowd of people looking at you. I wasn’t sure if I should do or say anything but in all honesty my relief was immense.
I really cant sum up my absolute gratitude to everyone involved with this paddle, to those who have followed my journey, offered me the motivation and support when I needed to keep going, to the people that have so generously donated to the charities, the food that’s been provided, the gear that was loaned and sponsored for the trip. The hospitality and generosity from individuals and surf clubs right up the east coast of Australia. There are so many hundreds of people behind the scenes that helped make this crazy dream a crazy reality and I truly thank you all.