Paddling a Half Marathon along the Gold Coast of Australia
Paddling a Half Marathon along the Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
An odd sight, wearing compression skins, a rashie and an Osprey hydration pack. I wandered down to the beach with a 10’6 “Clubbie Board” under my arm. Dragging the board to the waters edge I stopped to ask a stranger to take a photo of me for this article. Of course, then came the big question “where are you going?”.
At this point in the day, I wasn’t so sure of my answer. My response was laden with the self-doubt that comes when attempting something, far outside of our comfort zone “I’m going to try to paddle to Rainbow Bay, but we’ll see how I go” I replied, and with that I jumped on my board and began what would soon become a five-hour adventure!
The board in question was an old, beaten-up rescue board which looked to be at least 20 years old which I’d borrowed from the surf club years ago to practice on, and rather than drive it back I thought paddling it back would be both more fitting and allow me to explore a different endurance sport, with the weather being perfect for paddling on that day.
I soon realised that the biggest challenge was going to be maintaining a consistent stroke rate, something which I’m told in the surf sports world they call your “rating” which to us runners out there is essentially your cadence. The first few kilometres my shoulders were already hurting, but after passing the five-kilometre mark they had warmed up nicely and I was able to enjoy the glorious conditions on the day.
By the time I reached Nobby’s and Miami I was ready for a quick break, so I took off my pack, whilst floating in the extremely calm and clear water and took a few photos and made sure to keep hydrated. Paddling was not aerobically difficult so although brief this short rest was enough for my arms to feel rested and ready to continue. In the back of my head, I knew that there was a good chance that after lunch the wind would pick up, as it often does on the Gold Coast, making this leisurely paddle next to impossible, especially for a beginner like myself, so I tried to keep any breaks short and sweet!
This next section of the paddle was where I encountered my first scare of the adventure, as I got into a rhythm I began to zone out and paddle effortlessly without any thinking, and not look at where I was placing my hands, all of a sudden I was jolted back to reality when instead of water my hand was met with something strange and spiky, initially I assumed the worst, that some sort of sea creature had attempted to attack me, but then the rational part of my brain kicked in as I saw plenty of big pieces of spinifex grass floating in the water. But nonetheless I kept my eyes on where I was paddling for the next few minutes!
Once rounding Burleigh headland, I once again had a brief break, before crossing the mouth of Tallebudgera creek and beginning what was possibly the longest and most boring section of the paddle. Palm Beach, a seemingly never-ending strip of sand separating the iconic Burleigh heads and the relaxed and popular beaches of the southern Gold Coast. To try and finish this segment of the paddle as quickly as possible instead of going in close to shore and paddling through the beautiful blue and clear shallows I set my sights on Currumbin and paddled straight for Currumbin Alley. This lead to me paddling what felt like 400 metres off shore, so far offshore that jet ski and boat traffic was closer to the shore than I was at points. Passing over the artificial reef at “Palmy” I did my best to forget about all the stories of Palm beach’s resident great white I had heard over the years and sure enough I finally made it to Currumbin.
The wind had begun to blow but nothing could put a dampen on my mood as I had finally made it to the part of the paddle that I had mentally labelled as the home straight.
Things were going well, although my back was beginning to ache as I was unable to paddle on my knees for the entire distance, every time I would try, my legs would cramp up and I would be forced to continue paddling prone.
Coming into North Kirra I was disheartened, see I had begun this adventure on the same day as the iconic Coolangatta Gold, my logic had been that my abysmal pace would mean the event would be over by the time I reached anywhere near the course. Unfortunately, this theory, was exactly that and there were still several competitors out on the course. This meant that I would have to paddle much further out to sea, to avoid being in the middle of the course, and this thought process was echoed by one of the water safety jet ski drivers who I passed whilst paddling.
By this point the wind was causing small waves and severely limiting my already snail-like pace with the wind blowing from the east I would have to paddle diagonally against the wind in order to go out and around the course, but with little other options and the end in sight, I kept on paddling.
With my eyes set on the big groyne at Kirra point, I failed to notice the wind blowing me towards the shore and before I knew I found myself 200 metres ahead of a competitor in the middle of the Coolangatta Gold, at this point my arms were well and truly hurting, with the last few kilometres feeling 10x harder than the first few I managed to paddle out of the course without causing any havoc and along Coolangatta beach rounding Greenmount and finally dragging myself onto the sand at rainbow bay, my legs feeling like jelly from 5 hours of no use.
There was no celebration, no adoring fans to welcome me to shore and no rational reason for paddling apart from my desire to challenge myself, do something new and return the board to the clubhouse. At the time I was glad to be out of the water and didn’t really feel as though it was something I’d ever want to undertake again, but as the days have passed and my recollection has gotten hazier, prone paddling is becoming a sport that I may consider undertaking again after all.