November 17, 2010

No Barrier

So after months of prep we finally did it - the 62km paddle from Leigh to Tryphena, Great Barrier Island. The first photo above is of the event organiser and cancer survivor Chris Dench and the second photo (not nearly as pretty to look at!) is of me at a food stop somewhere close to Little Barrier

I have pasted in Tracy Wilson (our favourite fill in coach) account of the weekend for you all to read.

Quick summary:

  • total raised to date is sitting at $17k
  • we actually did it
  • saw dolphins but missed the whales by 15min
  • it’s a long way


Paddle for Child Cancer

17 paddlers split into three “pods” paddled from Leigh to Great Barrier (62.7km) to raise money for Child Cancer. Inspired by Chris Dench who at 15 yrs old lost his leg to cancer, has been organising fundraising sea kayaking events over the past few years. We muscled in on the action after Chris phoned Katie and “invited” her on the paddle. Katie, Dene, Mike and myself were the “surf ski pod”.

The paddle

So – the day started at 4:30am for Tracy and Katie, with home made muesli and coffee. We picked up Mike at 5:20am, headed off to Dene’s for a not so quick transition into the van, and then as a pod, took off to Leigh – our starting point. We eventually got on the water at 7:45am (7:30am was our scheduled departure time and probably cost us missing the whales) – held up by Katie attempting to do a safety brief (what was she thinking) and Dene fixated on taking photos.

I was the designated navigator, with the Great Barrier waypoint locked and loaded in my GPS (and “on land” pod leader). Katie was the “on water” pod leader responsible for communication with our support boat via VHF and organising the pod. We were all pretty excited paddling out of Leigh, it was the perfect day, blue sky and a slight westerly due to pick up to around 10knots. Paddling out, Mike did try and lead us right, to the Coromandel until Dene suggested he turn slightly left to look at Little Barrier and Great Barrier in the distance.

With a slight westerly, we pretty much paddled together catching small runners when we could. We stopped every 30min for a quick (and at times not so quick) drink and eat, which meant our overall time of 6:45hrs could have been faster, but it got us into good habits early, hydrating and eating. The paddle to the half way point of Little Barrier did take ages, but after that, the swell picked up slightly and we were able to catch more runners and tick along at a 11-12km pace.

In a paddle of this length you go through patches of feeling good and not so good. With about 20km to go, not feeling that flash, I decided to have a shorter stop and just paddle slowly knowing the others would catch me. After about 5min I got a call on the VHF that there had been an “unscheduled stop” to pick up Mike’s “jam sandwiches” (translation – Mike had fallen in and Katie and Dene were frantically paddling around the ocean picking up his water, sunscreen and jam sandwiches).

We finally saw one kayaking pod with about 5km to go – apparently we went off course – so much for my navigation. Everyone paddled incredibly well and finished strong. Dene was a trooper and always there for Mike with his “raft ups”. Katie remained strong and calm as our “on water pod leader”. And Mike and I just chopped through it.

Great Barrier

We were met by a small but incredibly enthusiastic bunch of locals who helped us with out boats and gear. We hung out in the sun as the kayakers came in (paddling for around 9 hours), it was impressive what people produced from their kayaks – a keg of beer complete with glasses caught everyone’s eye.

A dedicated group of volunteers transported our gear to the local school (15meters from the finish) and had the BBQ fired up with salads.

This was an amazing event to be part of. A huge amount of organisation went in to ensuring it was safe and fun (VHF’s, safety boats, accommodation, food, etc). We met a great bunch of sea kayakers and managed to convert some to ski paddling!


You can still donate at

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