As we embrace the start of 2012, I thought it time to look back on what has been a truly incredible year for Fat Paddling.
The year started with a deadline, with the final manuscript of what was to become The Fat Paddler due into my publisher in the first week of the year. As discussions on the editorial process got underway, I boarded a plan heading for the USA and Canada, where I met up with an incredible bunch of people from the paddling industry. I got to paddle (and sink!) a canoe on the icy waters of Lake Ontario, snowshoe in the freezing cold snowscape of Thunder Bay and of course do kayak rolling lessons with Helen Wilson and Joe O’Blenis.
With summer temperatures soaring on my return to Sydney, Team Fat Paddler decided to head to sea in the early dawn, paddling past a bull shark on the way. We also took part in an amazing event known as the “Warrior Dash” for a land-based challenge, where our mate Gelo ended up dislocating his shoulder, before closing out the month with a more gentle morning on Sydney’s beautiful Pittwater.
In March I decided to take my kids for their first camping experience and a great canoe trip hunting water dragons. We met up with Andre Janecki and got to watch him putting his newly designed Hybrid sea kayak through its paces. Then Team Fat Paddler hit the fundraising trails before taking part in the Lifestart Kayak for Kids on beautiful Sydney Harbour.
As winter approached Team Fat Paddler were challenged in more interesting ways. A visit and a rock gardening lesson from Jim Kakuk of the Tsunami Rangers introduced us to fun in ocean white water (for some of us, more of an addiction!). The team then took on the Bridge to Beach race in truly frightening conditions, with plenty of capsizes to keep us all on our toes. And then at the end of the month, I took delivery of the first Wenonah Encounter canoe to hit Aussie shores.
The month started with a video collaboration with the Tsunami Rangers, where I was able to remix and post a mash-up of their “Greatest Hits” DVD. FatPaddler.com then published its first ever guest post with TFP member Nat comparing the Epic V8 surfski with the THINK Fit. We welcomed a new team mate, Mikey “The Inspector” Stelzer, before I managed to totally smash myself up in a rock garden.
As the cold weather settled in, Team Fat Paddler head out for their first team “Commando Camping” outing, where they had to set up camp in the pouring rain and in the middle of a swamp! I also started testing Wenonah canoes in the search for a good race boat for the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic.
We sadly farewelled team mate Gelo with some rock play before he returned to his homeland of Greece. I also started looking for a new rock gardening and white water playboat, deciding on the Liquidlogic Remix XP10. Then Sydney got battered by giant ocean swell which gave us a great opportunity for surf and play inside Sydney Harbour.
What a month! It started with the official launch of my book at the Sydney International Boat Show. I also took delivery of the Remix and got to paddle her for a full week in all sorts of conditions including surf, rocks, river white water and amongst dolphins. Then Team Fat Paddler expanded both interstate and overseas, with the Canadian chapter taking on the “Conquer the Dog” event in Ontario.
Another international trip saw me canoeing in Canada with Badger Paddles, night paddling on the Chicago River and exploring the rocky coastline of Los Angeles. On my return I took delivery of the Wenonah Minnesota II race canoe, and commenced canoe paddle training for the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic.
Despite what seemed like constant rain, I continued canoe training including paddles through both the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and the incredible Shoalhaven Gorge. I also attended the farewell party for Cas and Jonesy before they flew out for their next challenge, walking across Antarctica. Finally at the end of the month, ten paddlers of Team Fat Paddler took on the 2011 Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, raising over $15,000 for charity as well as bringing plenty of colour and fun to the event.
With November always being a recovery month after the Classic, Team Fat Paddler spent some more relaxing time introducing new paddlers to the joys of the water as well as partnering up with Benefit Fitness to help push the message of paddling for fitness. We also put a bunch of kayak paddlers on the water for the first race of the 2011 Summer Series, taking out a number of podium places under somewhat controversial circumstances!
In the final month of the year I spent more time paddling amongst my beloved rocks, introducing new Team Fat Paddler member Martyn to the joys of rock gardening as well. My book The Fat Paddler was released on the iBookstore in ebook format globally and reviewed by David Johnston of PaddlingInstructor.com fame. The team took on the 2nd race of the 2011 Summer Series in Rose Bay with another couple of podium places (this time without controversy). And finally, I announced our new big challenge for 2012, the Island Shamaal in Mauritius, a surfski ocean race that I’ve already begun to train for.
What will 2012 Hold?
With 2011 being such an amazing year, it’s hard to imagine how 2012 could hope to get any better. The Mauritius challenge that we’ve set however is a huge one, with surfski racing being an entirely new challenge for us, so for at least the first half of 2012 that will be my entire focus. Of course we’ll still take on other events along the way, including the remainder of the Summer Series, the Lifestart Kayak for Kids, the Bridge to Beach and of course the 2012 Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. Team Fat Paddler will continue to grow stronger and we’ll continue to fundraise for our supported charities, as well as having bucket-loads of fun along the way. Happy New Year everyone, and here’s to an awesome 2012! Cheers, FP