You don't know what you don't know...

Date: Monday, 30 August 2021
River: Mersey.
Water level: 25 Cumecs.
Participants: 3.

What we initially thought would be a fun 3 days of improving our whitewater kayaking skills quickly turned into 3 days of pushing our paddling ability to the limit, swimming the Berlin Wall and discovering that running guts doesn’t count as running the river.

The adventure started out early Monday morning with all three of us (Ben, Luke and Joshua) driving separately to the Mersey River due to not being able to stand each other’s company ;) (we actually all had to go out separate ways at the end of the trip). Having met with Ben in Deloraine we continued to the Mersey with Luke arriving with minutes to spare. After chatting to the course instructor, Blake Miller, we decided to tag along with the last day of the SRT training course to practice our swimming. Fun exercises included, swimming to the eddy on the right in the middle of the Berlin wall from river left, swimming the rest of the wall and over an artificial log and swimming the whole thing with our boats and getting rescued live bait style. During this I accidentally swallowed enough water to feel ill but realised this is probably the best I will feel when we really apply these skills.

After a short lunch break where we realised no one had organised to put food where we stopped, we re-joined the SRT guys for a pinned kayak rescue. When we arrived at the scene of the incident Blake was found standing on the left Gemini with no boat in sight. Turns out they are not so easy to pin when you want too and very easy when you don’t. The rescue was rather interesting to watch and included some learnings for all involved. The end of the day was spent practicing more kayaking skills and searching for Blakes kayak which was eventually found amongst a log jam down towards the dam.

The next two days were a blur of drilling technique, chasing each other in and out of eddies, discovering that Zoolander is not just a movie and flipping. While Ben and Luke executed lovely screw rolls, the packraft presented much more of a challenge and resulted in me swimming a fair bit. The nights were filled with theory and a lot of beer and paddling clips. As the nights got longer and the beers started to disappear the banter only got spicier which really helped to keep the moral up on Tuesday night where we found ourselves hiding under the gazebo as 20mm of rain poured out of the sky. Getting a fire going also improved the rainy experience but the roof of Luke’s gazebo would disagree.

The final day was more practice to refine our S turns, paddle strokes and even a bit of slalom. By 2pm that day our bodies were so sore and tired we struggled to even stay upright. After a slow packup, with some questionable teamwork, we all hit the road and I for one definitely had trouble holding the steering wheel.

~Joshua Resta

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