Luke O’Garey’s Paddle4Pink – A View from the Shore

on Jul 28 in Downwind, Evo II, Kayaks, Surfski, Think, Uno Max by

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It was still dark as Luke pushed off from shore, and the small deck light taped to the deck of the UNO max didn’t do much to light the way. The sound of paddling was soon drowned out by the Bridport SLSC IRB and jet boat; Luke’s support crew. It felt lonely standing on the shore watching them disappear out to sea but, with a light easterly blowing, conditions were looking good for a nice run down to Greens Beach – 65km down the coast.

A few weeks previously Luke had floated his idea with a simple facebook message: “What your thoughts on a paddle for pink? I’ll paddle from Bridport to Devonport to raise funds for breast cancer”. Well, that was an offer too good to refuse – and so the idea for ‘Luke O’Garey’s 100km Paddle4pink’ was launched.

I guess I felt pretty humbled that someone would take on a challenge like this. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year, and so the idea for Luke to use his paddling skills to help others in this way was pretty cool. We wanted to keep the funds local if possible, and soon found a benefactor – the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation was planning some research to help breast cancer survivors.

As the end of summer was fast approaching we wanted to get the paddle done before the Tassie winter started to take hold and so settled on a planned departure date of April 5th. With only a few weeks to get organised it’s was amazing how quickly things come together when you’ve got a deadline.

Pre race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Coffee? Check! Boat? Check!’

The distance from Bridport to Devonport was roughly 100km and it seemed natural to plan to set off from Bridport SLSC and finish at Devonport SLSC, Luke’s home club. But to do this we needed an easterly. Anyone who lives in the roaring forties knows that our big winds usually come from the west, so it was unlikely Luke was going to have a down-wind surf to Devonport. But we weren’t fussy, any easterly would do. Water safety was the next issue. With paddling buddies clamouring for the job of sitting in a rubber ducky for up to 10 hours it was easy to select the cream of Tassie Surf Lifesavers for the challenge ahead: (ok we were left with) Trent ‘Retz’ Hadley, Glenn ‘Ranga’ Campbell, Paul ‘Hawka’ Hawkins, and my brother-in-law ‘Banjo’ Bensemann. Well at least I knew Luke would be entertained on his trip, if nothing else. I was the ‘responsible’ shore crew – which roughly translated to driving truck, trailer and spare boat round to Greens Beach, then onto Devonport.

Support Crew 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke’s cracking support crew – what could possibly go wrong?

As departure day approached, we worked hard to prepare. Well, Luke worked hard, and I spent a lot of time FaceBooking, emailing and drumming up as much support as we could for the paddle. I was constantly amazed at how generous people are. Even in the midst of difficult financial times Aussies are quick to support people willing to have a go. Even before taking a stroke, Luke’s supporters had donated thousands of dollars to the cause. And the local media had shown a keen interest with newspaper, TV and radio interviews in the week leading up to the paddle. I soon discovered just how much Luke enjoys having his photo taken (not).

With a couple of days to go, the weather reports (amazingly) predicted a light easterly for departure day. I drove down to Devonport to pick up Luke and his ski for the trip back to Launceston where the team would be departing from the next morning – at 4.30am.

The next morning dawned – well actually no it didn’t because it was still dark, but anyway it arrived – and I brewed a couple of strong coffees before Luke and I headed off to pick up Ranga, then onto Trent’s. With coffee in hand we loaded up and headed off to Bridport, over an hours drive away, where we would be meeting the rest of the support crew. The drive passed quickly as the boys kept us amused with their usual entertaining banter.

Luke aimed to be on the water by 6am, but sunrise wasn’t until about an hour later so we knew the first part of the paddle would be in the dark. Luke had attached a deck light to his ski, which would help to not so much light the way, but at least show where he was. We met the others at the boat ramp near the old pier, and while the boats were launched Luke set about quietly getting his gear ready. We walked his boat down to the beach, and before we knew it, they were gone.

ski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“He’s steaming along!’ Trent yelled down the phone, “New ETA at Greens Beach 1030 I reckon!” Blimey, it was 7.30am and I was still drinking coffee in Bridport. I’d better get a move on. I still had to drive back to Launceston to pick up my Evo II, then onto Greens to meet them – a 130km round trip. I messaged Bec (Luke’s better half) who was going to drive down from Devonport to meet us at Greens, with their super-cute daughter, Lily. All of a sudden we’re all running late!

The next two updates were less encouraging, a light offshore breeze had picked up and this meant it was getting sloppy out there and Luke was now paddling into the wind. Things had slowed right down. The ETA was progressively pushed-out to 1130, then 12.30. Our dreams for an easterly run down the coast were quickly disappearing into the distance. But, despite this Luke was still on track to make it to Devonport by 4pm.

It was a gorgeous day at Greens Beach and the offshore breeze made it hard to imagine the conditions a few miles offshore. Tex and I paddled out to meet Luke and soon understood, as it became quite sloppy at the mouth of the Tamar – especially with the wind against tide. The two small specks on the horizon quickly became recognisable as a paddler and support boat – and we turned round so we could to paddle in together. Even after 65km, I still couldn’t keep up!

As Luke paddled into shore 20-month old Lily caught sight and started running towards him along the sand. They were both clearly glad he had arrived. The next 40 minutes was spent refuelling (food and drink) and patching Luke up. He was clearly fatigued and his shoulder was giving him grief. Then there was the lower back; and his hands were a mess of blisters! As he lay on the grass straightening out, he looked buggered but not broken. The guys refuelled and watered, and discussed the plan for the next leg – 35km onward to Devonport. Luke was now in a race against time as the predicted NWester was due to come in around 4pm, and so it was decided that rather than stopping on the way at Port Sorell, Luke would paddle straight thru – this time in the ‘pink think’, my EVO II. On the plus side the tide was now flooding west and this would provide up to 2knots of help along the way. The afternoon looked perfect as they headed off, but we knew that could soon change – this is Tasmania after all!

ski 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect one minute….

The drive over the hills of Narawntapu National Park meant that we would have little phone contact with the boys until they were off Port Sorell, about 12km from Devonport. So we had to estimate Luke’s arrival time for the ‘welcoming committee’ – some of the Devonport SLSC crew who were paddling out to meet them. As we held our breath over the next couple of hours, the weather held and so did Luke’s speed. Probably the fastest my little pink-striped EVO has ever been paddled. Before we knew it, we were greeted by the sight of a small flotilla of skis, accompanying one tired but triumphant paddler in a pink Evo.

Finish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke completed the 100km paddle in less than nine hours, raising over $4800 for breast cancer research. He endured hours of effort, back and shoulder pain and scored two hands full of blisters doing what he does best, to benefit others. I don’t know about you but I find that pretty inspirational, and an amazing example how something as simple as paddling a boat can help change the world for good.

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” John F. Kennedy

A big thank you to everyone who helped make the Paddle4Pink happen, and for all the generous donators and FB promoters. We couldn’t have done it without you!! You guys rock x

Jules Sladden

You can find out more about the Paddle4Pink on the Face Book page: https://www.facebook.com/paddle4pink?ref_type=bookmark

Or donate online at: http://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/paddle4pink

All proceeds go towards Tasmanian Breast Cancer Research.