When I first hatched the idea of the Ocean2Colleges paddle with Alan and floated it on the web, I was hoping to get one or two other interested mates to join in to keep us company for the long slog up the river. Little did I expect the eventual result of 27 different paddlers keen to join us on the journey in some form or another. Ultimately the trip became a great training day for the impending Expedition Alaska race with Sloshy and Rob, and many others were using it as training for their own upcoming races whether it be GeoQuest, XPD or similar.
By way of a quick recap, here’s how the day played out from my perspective. The logistical hassles of a point to point paddle were nullified by having my wife, Sally, deal with car shuttles to either end with only the bare minimum of arm twisting. Despite my carefully hatched plans of tide time tables, we punched into the current and a stiff head wind for about 23km before the tide finally turned. A couple of planned stops at the 15km and 30km mark to stretch and grab a bite to eat helped break up the early stages of the paddle.
Sloshy was sitting on our wash in a single ski and probably working a fraction harder at all times. We tried swapping out with Rob, but the leg length differences and the spike in tempo as a bit of competitiveness came out meant that we swapped back again 2km later. Sloshy would end up paddling 79km of the full 81km in the single. We were joined by Gareth who was training for Coolangatta Gold on a single spec ski for as far as West End. The late start, strong head wind and slow turning tide meant that we arrived at our lunch point much later than initial time predictions. I pushed our relaunch time back a bit and we had a full hour break, but in that time only a couple of boats had made it to the 42km mark at Fig Tree Pocket. Unfortunately it also meant we missed an hour of the strongest running tide while we sat and dried out in the sun. Starting back up again was probably the hardest kilometer of the whole trip.
Setting out again, we made a much better pace averaging over 12km/hr and hitting as high as 14.4km/hr at one point. Asking Sloshy, custodian of the only GPS, what our pace was became a very regular game. We also got to chase down a few of the boats starting at the half way mark including Richard and Tamsin as well as Kirk and Walter, both in Mirages. At the junction of the Bremer River and Brisbane River 68km in, we were planning our final break to find that Jo and James were already pulled up on shore. Just my luck that James had the camera out when Rob, having already climbed out of the boat, took a step back and went from knee high water to chest high water, giving me a dunking in the process.
The final 7km dragged a bit as the pace slowed back to 9-10km/hr with the tide starting to turn again. I was certainly ready to be done with paddling at that point. Ultimately I was happy with how the day went. Fortunately none of my big fears – for example picking up a niggling injury, pain or discomfort from the seating position in an unfamiliar ski, sunburn, not being able to finish the paddle and blowing out the car shuttle logistics, etc – ever came to fruition. As the sun set over College’s Crossing, we got to share in pizzas and stories with some of the other paddlers, friends and family and bask in the glow of finally ticking off a big challenge. Watching the river evolving from shipping docks, to CBD, to upperclass suburbia and parklands to eventually semi-rural areas in one trip was also unique. In parts, it was also possible to imagine how the river must have once looked.
To the best of my knowledge, here is how some of the other paddler’s got on:
Bec and Shaun – paddled the full 81km in a double ski with a small leak that took on enough water that they couldn’t lift it out of the river at the finish without emptying it first.
Trev – paddled the full 81km in a Mirage, doing the first half with Mitchell and the second half with Shane. All solid XPD training.
Joe and Thor – I think these guys paddled the first half in a plastic double kayak?
Paul S – paddled the first 75km in a single TK1 before getting a lift to avoid fading light.
Alan – paddled the first 75km in a single ski. Alan spent much of the first half of the day waiting for his XPD team mates who were having a few boat issues, averaging about 6km/hr. He knocked the majority of the second half of the paddle off at 9km/hr into an increasing outgoing tide before having to call it quits to get back home to family, having spent more time on the water than anyone else.
Paul G and Mark – paddled the first 30km in an unfamiliar double ski. They capsized five times and pulled out short given the fatigue from keeping the boat upright and how slow they were moving. They then portaged the double ski a kilometer back to Paul’s house through the suburb of Fairfield.
Adam – paddled the first 42km in a single plastic kayak as planned. Great XPD training again.
Christine and Craig – paddled the first 42km, I think?
Todd – paddled the first 42km. He then changed the plans as he was running behind time and was going to shuttle up to College’s Crossing and meet Kirk and Walter by paddling back to them. However, when he couldn’t find the car keys for Kirk’s car he pulled up stumps for the day.
Kirk and Walter – paddled the second 39km in a Mirage, but became stranded when Kirk’s car was not available at the end of the paddle. They eventually were able to get a lift back to their start point.
James and Jo – set out early about 2km downstream from the Fig Tree Pocket ramp. They paced their 41km paddle well to finish just on sunset in a TK2 that has previously been used to race the BV100.
Adam and David – set off 30 minutes early from the start point in Outrigger Canoes. We passed them near the Gateway Bridge. They pulled up early and messaged to let me know they were safe off the water.
Gareth – paddled the first 27km to West End in a single spec ski, sitting on the wash with Rob, Sloshy and myself.
Tamsin and Richard – paddled the second 39km in their Mirage, Bruce, finishing just on sunset.
So that brings a long term plan to wraps. Already there has been banter of doing something similar again in the future, and by future I mean at least next year awawy. I can’t say I’m keen to do the full length of the Brisbane River again, but I’d be happy to take on another epic day on the water. Perhaps another point-to-point paddle on a more scenic river like the Noosa River, the upper sections of the Clarence River or alternate northern NSW river? Perhaps a big stretch along the coast somewhere, or Paul has suggested linking up a big paddle through Somerset and Wivenhoe? Alternatively, something a little easier logistically like a looping course with the same start and finish locations such as a circumnavigation of Bribie Island or a jaunt out the bay to Stradbroke with short course options. I’m open to suggestions, but it’s definitely time to put the thinking cap back on.