FP gets amongst it as the sun climbs above the Tasman Sea horizon
I’m not sure if it’s Global Warming, angry paddling gods or the work of the Devil, but something has decided to punish those of us in Sydney by robbing us of our usually gloriously hot and sunny Summer. Instead of weekends on the beach, Sydney-siders have spent as much time as possible huddling under-cover as hundreds of millimetres of rain dumps itself on our beautiful city day after day for months at end.
Meanwhile the Mauritius Paddlers continue to train. Cardio sessions in the gym, weights and kettle bells every few days, calorie-controlled diets and whenever possible, time on the water. The one time of the day when the sun *may* make an appearance is at day-break, so to escape the storms we’ve been trying to get out for early training sessions during the most beautiful time of day, sunrise. There are worse ways to train I guess! Cheers, FP
Sure, the sharks that are apparently teeming in the Harbour are probably looking for breakfast...
The weekend just gone, Nat and FP tackled Botany Bay as part of the 2011 Summer Series in Sydney. FP, after only four weeks paddling a ski not only finished the race, but didn’t come off once. A remarkable effort from a bloke undergoing a fairly remarkable transformation from dough boy to man of steel. Nat also managed to finish this one without a swim, but conditions were hardly out of control.
On the weekend, Nat attempted South Head in strong north easterly conditions and about four foot of swell coming around the point. Whilst he did better than his Fenn Cup attempt, the conditions still saw him demonstrating to his paddle partner his speedy self rescue technique.
Enter Jim Walker with the offer to give us some basics off North Bondi on Sunday. Jim’s an ex-Olympian and AIS coach, but in his spare time between running a business, private coaching sessions, squad training and presidency of the North Bondi Nippers does this kind of stuff for fun:
We’re looking forward to his guidance and to taking what he teaches an making ourselves better paddlers – we simply can’t get to the level we need to tackle Mauritius without some time in the rough stuff – BRING IT ON!!!
The Sydney Sunrise - Red Sky in Morning, Sailors Warning
With five and a half months to go, I’m getting nervous. I can still barely stay on a surfski in anything other than smooth water, even a stable surfski like the Stellar SR. I’m still carrying around 20kgs too much around the middle and have an enormous job to both get fit AND get boat-ready for big ocean conditions.
Last Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed around 4.30am and head down to the water for a sunrise training paddle, followed by some ski testing and fun with my Team Fat Paddler mates. A huge rain-storm was coming into Sydney which drenched us all and again in the wind chop I struggled with balance in the ski. Thankfully when my team mates arrived, they too struggled whilst testing various surfskis and wing paddles, and like it or not we all ended up practicing wet recoveries in the shallows of our local put-in.
Despite the rain, the crew from Team Fat Paddler played in surfskis, many for the first time
We all ended up have a great time playing on these fast boats and everyone felt the bite of the surfski bug during the morning. But that didn’t change the fact I have an enormous way to go before I’m ready. I just hope I can pull it off in five months.
Team Fat Paddler member "The Riddler" gets up some pace on the Stellar SR
The Fat Man is dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century
From the moment I took on this challenge the spectre of the wing paddle has been hanging over me. Despite my romantic desire to complete the challenge with a traditional Greenland and Aleut paddle, it has become apparent during training that I’d require a wing paddle to be competitive with my paddle mate Nat. The crew at Slipstream Surf will be decking me out with a Stellar wing paddle shortly, but in the meantime I had a couple of practice sessions with one of the Nat’s old ones lying about his house.
Look at that fat boy fly! Managed good speed without any wing paddle skills at all
To say I was surprised was an understatement. The wing seems to handle much like a traditional paddle but with far less effort (which really surprised me). It seemed to fly through the water without effort and yet the speed I could manage was astounding. Needless to say, it was enough to convince me it was the way to go.
So it looks like I’ll be training with a wing paddle from now on. I would never have believed it! Cheers, FP
The new and improved Fat Paddler, now with shiny new wing paddle
The first test passed - yes, the ski actually remains afloat with FP inside it!
I dont paddle surfskis but I know enough about them to know that when you start to paddle one, you spend a great deal of time in the water. With the Stellar SR now sitting in the kayak rack I knew I had to actually put her on the water and attempt to paddle her… something I assumed would be difficult at best! When a spare few hours came up I took the opportunity to drive down to the Harbour, unpack the ski and then look at her with a mixture of excitement and fear. Then with a flourish and a wobble, I was off, propelling myself out into the boat channel with a traditional Aleut paddle. Maiden voyage a success! Cheers, FP
A weird sight - a Stellar SR surfski with a traditional Aleut timber paddle
And he's away! A big man with a timber tooth-pick paddle on a Stellar SR surfski
There are worse places to learn to paddle - The spit, Middle Harbour Sydney
A glorious end to a beautiful afternoon. The compelling sight of a surkski's nose cutting water.
Stellar SR Advantage Surf Ski - hopefully it'll float with FP in it
When we started planning our trip to Mauritius I was somewhat turned off by the big conditions of this year’s Island Shamaal. I’m a kayak paddler and have never really successfully even stayed upright on an ocean ski, unlike Nat who is strictly a ski paddler. But the trash talk from Nat finally got to me so I thought what the hell, I’d start training and give this ski paddling a crack, with the 2012 Island Shamaal as the target. It’s an Audacious Goal, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge!
Nice lines with a big bucket for a big arse. I just hope I manage to keep my arse upright!
Of course, I don’t actually have a ski, so I put the word out that I was looking to borrow one to start my training over Christmas. The crew from Slipstream Surf were quick to jump on board and, with the help of Stellar Kayaks Australia, have set me up with a Stellar SR ski to start my training on.
The Stellar SR ski looks pretty skinny compared to the other boats in the Fat Cave quiver!
So today a shiny new ski arrived at my front door. It looks beautiful, and fast, and well, tippy! All that’s left now is to get her out on the water and get some swimming practice I guess! Keep an eye out for it, it should be pretty funny to see. Cheers – FP
Nat showing his surfski paddling credentials. And he's the better one between us!
After announcing our quest to Team Fat Paddler, we were presented with a reminder of just what exactly we were looking at. The sentence “2-3m following swell and huge breakers coming through the Le Morne channel” stared at me from within a friend’s email to us, declaring us crazy. Crikey, I thought to myself, what have we got ourselves into?
FP showing his cat-like balance and skill. Dear oh dear...
If you’re a religious person, it might be time to pray for us. If not, well maybe just have a good belly laugh at our expense instead! Cheers, FP
It sounds so easy. Train, fly in, and paddle in a Surfski World Series event in the tropical paradise that is Mauritius. But as always there’s a catch – we’re two grossly unfit paddlers who can’t stay upright on surf skis. With 6 months to go…. here comes our story!