Monday, January 25, 2010


I have witnessed a sense of quiet anxiety amongst the paddling community since the attack at Fish Hoek. I think that we all, to a differing extent, feel a sense of apprehension in putting our boats in the water after having been reminded, again, that the ocean is not exclusively our playground.

The feeling that has gelled over the last few weeks I think can best be summed up by the closing words of Dawid Mocke in his recent post on the Varsity Surf Ski School Website. Since they are his words I won't repeat them here but suggest that you read Dawid's contribution for yourself.

I was very happy to hear from Basil T  that the Wednesday evening paddle after the incident was particularly well supported. I think that Paddlers, whether Kayakers, Surfskiers or Waveskiers are on the whole philoshophical about sharks. We know that they are, like seals and dolphins, with us in the water and that it is by no means a certainty that one of our ilk will never encounter them. We do however believe that we must moderate our behaviour in proportion to the ultimate risk. The exact extent of that risk clearly cannot be determined with any accuracy. We can only look back historically at the number of Kayaks attacked by sharks. It is small. Worldwide.

Fortuitously Sunday brought a light Southwester which, by unanimous assent, took us in a Westerley direction to Fish Hoek Beach via Glencairn. The conditions were perfect and we paddled, as a group of about 8 Kayaks into Fish Hoek beach. We weren't making any statement, just quietly asserting our privelege to paddle in the environment which we love and respect and where, for most of us, we choose to spend a large proportion of our spare time.

Bernard and I met Adrian Good on the beach. Adrian had brought his kids to take part in the Nippers training. Bouys had been placed, marking out a course. Assistants on boards kept an eye on the youngsters as they swam the course and a rubber duck sat a little further out. It was reassuring (to me at least) to observe a sense of normality (and rationality) returning to our environment.

For me this paddle was a little more significant than most and so I have chosen, perhaps out of a sense of deference to desist from the usual light hearted tone of these postings.

In closing I do however feel compelled to report that The Webbmaster and The Hun declined to accompany us this time. It had nothing to do with sharks but everyting to do with a burning desire to catch (and eat) Calimari. I understand that they spent the better part of 2 hours sitting at a certain yellow bouy just off the naval base. They caught, between the 2 of them, 3 of those enormous animals. The Webbmaster was (a little) defensive when suprise was expressed at the generous extent of the oceans bounty. While the rest retired to a Restaurant table to gorge on Calimari, The Webbmaster and the Hun snuck off without fanfare to enjoy their feast with the Selke (who was no doubt disappointed).

And Viv is wearing that damn lifejacket again....


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I thought it maybe a bit silly not to copy that comment onto this blog. This is it:

"I am part of the False Bay Kayaking community centred in Simonstown. We Kayak, as do the Fish Hoek Surfskiers, almost exclusively in the general area between Millers Point and Kalk Bay. As such we interact regularly with all the natural residents of the bay. Those of us who use False Bay, or any part of the ocean regularly, including (particularly surfers and divers) are sensitive to and aware of the pleasures and dangers which it presents. All too often my real sense is that the casual Saturday swimmer is cut - off and distanced from what goes on beyond the foam. Without wanting to sound arrogant we need to develop a connection with the environment - that connection breeds both respect, tolerance and understanding in what is otherwise an alien environment. When it is experienced as alien there can be only a limited understanding and any experience is filtered through the only environment of which we have experience - land. My earnest hope is that more of us will take the step, in whatever way, to begin to experience the ocean holistically as more than just a pretty sight or a place to cool off on a Saturday morning."


I am sure that all of the Simonstown Kayaking community will join the administrators of this blog in expressing sympathy with the loved ones of the swimmer who died at Fish Hoek on 12 January.

I read the post placed on  the Sharkspotters website relating to the attack and couldn't help placing my own comment there. You can have a look at it there. It reflects and summarises, in essence, my feelings around the Shark issue without focusing directly on the incident at hand (of which I have very little pertinent knowledge). I would rather leave the formulation of opinions in that regard to those properly qualified to do so.

Perhaps any of the readers of this Blog and the Kayaking community would like to comment. Feel free to.

best regards

Thursday, January 07, 2010


The First Wednesday Paddle of the year was executed in a mild South Westerley and moved in a Northerly direction from Berthas to Fish Hoek.

The really good paddlers carried on from Glencairn quarry to Fish Hoek where the elite surfed into the beach and stood with the other surfers watching the non-elites hanging about aimlessly and nervously on the fringes of the bay. I must say that the other beachgoers certainly looked impressed as one of the elite, The Webb\Wave master (get the pun?) himself, caught a wave in and rode it all the way into the beach at high speed (only to fall out once he had stopped).

Afer re- joining the increasingly nervous non - elite we all paddled merrily back to Simonstown arriving at about 19h30.

I am told by William and Margie, who had paddled a bit earlier, that they had seen a number of Dolphins in the bay. This was confirmed by some of the non elites who brought up the rear on the way home who apparently also saw them. Perhaps this elite thing is counterproductive as they seem to miss the fun. The dolphins were later seen (from the deck of The Southern Right Hotel) swimming just off Glencairn Beach.

The evening weather was perfect and most of the group repaired to The Southern Right (you may have guessed that already) for dinner.

You may be interested to know that Viv has a new grey life preserver. This is only interesting because, as we all know, that multicoloured apparition that she has been wearing for all these years has struggled doggedly against the odds to preserve her dignity, let alone her life (sorry Viv). It will be ceremoniously burnt at our next braai.

William also showed off his latest life preserving apparatus (regular readers will, by now, know that he needs it). It is, wait for it... an exploding, gas propelled life jacket. Apparently as you fall out of your kayak, having been knocked half senseless by a 3 metre wave, or Great White,as the case may be, you reach down, look for and find (or not) a 2cm piece of string which you then pull, setting off an explosion which ignites.. sorry, inflates, this technological marvel. You are then unconcious. This is apparently a good thing because you do not disturb your fellow paddlers with your screams for help or feel the Shark biting you. The Webb\Wave master wants one because he reckons he can ignite it before he paddles into the Northwester.

See you soon on the water.

Oh, by the way, have you seen the tan of the Selkie alluded to in the story below? Wicked. Need to find her a job.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Calling on fellow paddlers to tell us about their kayak experiences beyond the familiar shores of False Bay. I’ll tell you about ours if you tell us about yours.!!

Chris and I usually drive east to spend Christmas with family, and no matter how large the load of Christmas consumerables or building materials for holiday cottage repairs, he always manages to pack the seakayaks.

If the sea is rough at Nature’s Valley, we have to console ourselves with practicing eskimo rolling in the lagoon - there is no sheltered Bertha’s Beach style launch site. But if the sea is accommodating, an enervating paddle through the surf is a gateway to either a seaward version of the Otter Trail or westward toward Plett. East or west, the coast is dramatic and the sea full of surprises. This time we were visited by a humpback whale with calf. Anyone who has been close to a whale at sea will know about the lingering magic of the experience. There was a bit of wind chop and the whale surfaced within boat lengths of us before we realized we were not alone. Perfectly huge, with her calf a small replica shadowing her, she simply swam past. Surface, blow, huge finned back humping the ocean aside, confused wavelets marking their passing, surface, blow and that glossy black back again, and again and again. So big! but the only sound her blowing and my heart pounding.

Going through the surf at Nature’s Valley also gets my heart pounding and Double Barrel would chuckle if he could see me doing the `calming breathing’ I like to recommended to others. Fortunately the shore break at NV was smaller than usual and a strong rip current created a relatively wave free channel between beach and backbreak. – and the rest is good timing and for me lots of breathing…..

The Webb ed one joined us for a paddle in Plett. His beautiful wife who is actually a Selkie (which explains why she would rather swim than paddle - and how she manages to swim faster than most of us can paddle) had swam in the Robberg to Plett Charity race the day before Taking a similar route, we launched off the beach in the cnr of Robberg and paddled to the Point and then back via Beacon Isle Beach where we stopped for a leg stretch. When you next see the Webb ed ones ask them why Mark was seconding a seal and not Liz - something fishy there for sure! For us paddlers, the waves breaking off Robberg Point discouraged any thoughts of rounding the Point especially for Mark who was using one of our `foreign boats’ and heaven forbid – no photos please - a FlatPaddle.

I could not help comparing the magnificent roosts of the seals on Robberg with the rows of Plett beach mansions shouldering each other as they competed for seaviews and being thankful that Robberg is a conservation area. The bay is a haven for whales and possibly even for Selkies.

May 2010 be a year of great kayaking experiences for you.


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