Sunday, January 22, 2017


About a week ago, with a strong northerly building, three of us paddled from Surfside Beach in Batemans Bay out to Three Islet Point. It's a trip I have done a few times as it is safe for novice paddlers, allows a detour into the warm water of Cullendulla Bay where you can practice some eskimo rolls, passes some easy rock gardens and caves, and ends with a sheltered landing on a deserted beach. 

Paddling to Three Islet Point with the Tollgate Islands behind

Paddling back after lunch near Three Islet Point, we had the wind behind us and were making good time. As we approached Square Head, however, we hit a strong (for these parts) outgoing tidal current and suddenly I was having to work much harder to make progress and not fall even farther than normal behind my two companions. Three months of only occaisional easy paddles and virtually no pushing, pulling or deadlifting in the gym as I recovered from elbow injuries had destroyed my paddling fitness. When we landed, however, it became clear that neither of my fellow paddlers had even noticed the current, which I attribute to our differing capacities.

Cave near Square Head

Imagine a 2 knot kayaker (me) paddling against a 1 knot current. If I continue paddling at the same rate and intensity, my speed will be halved. A 3 knot paddler however (M and D), will only see their paddle speed dropping from 3 knots to 2 knots. In other words, their speed against a 1 knot current will be equal to my speed with no current. The faster, stronger, fitter paddlers simply have more capacity to buffer environmental influences (in this case, current, but could be wind, waves, or any combination of these three).

The Tollgate Islands from Three Islet Point

Which makes sea kayaking, a lot like life in general. The less capacity we have to buffer environmental influences (poor diets, lack of exercise, poor sleep, etc.) the greater the impact those environmental influences have on us. Ultimately, this is why what you managed to do in your 20's you are unable to do in your 40's, 50's or 60's if you have not maintained your capacity.

Rock gardens near Square Head

The common language among us all as we age regarding the modification of environmental influences (i.e. behavioural change) runs generally along the lines of "I've got to X years of age doing this, I see no reason to change now." Which would be reasonable if we had maintained the capacity we had at 20. Chances are, however, we have not and those environmental influences we buffered at 20 (back to poor diet, lack of exercise, poor movement patterns, etc.,) are killing us now. Most of us don't want to change, but, as our capacity ineluctably declines, we simply cannot afford not to.

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