12 August 2013

Kayak swapping

I know I live in a great part of the world where sea kayaking is really beautiful and easy.
Australia, and especially Queensland is a very desirable destination coveted by paddlers around the globe.
While I receive a lot of comments of how beautiful my part of the world is, I occasionally connect on a deeper level with some paddlers. Johan Wirsen, designer of my Zegul 520, was interested in my paddling style and we came to know of each other. He sounded friendly and considerate and after a few emails I invited him to come and visit me to paddle warm waters while his Baltic sea was gripped by a thick sheet of ice. I have enough kayaks that would fit a range of paddlers and enough gear to outfit a small party. We spoke on the phone and travel was arranged soon after; Johan trusted me to look after him. All I had was one small picture to go by to spot him at the airport pick-up but there was no mistake; somehow I recognized him from the distance. We planned a mini sea kayak camping expedition to the warm waters of the Capricorn coast.

Unloading the kayaks_c

Johan tried kayak sailing for the first time and we exchanged ideas and shared the passion for paddling and kayak design. Johan’s personality suited well; mellow enough to go with the flow but with great skills to feel comfortable in demanding conditions. We have similar goals too: no rush, no racing, no destination fever, just happy to explore and play on the water. The rest is just details.
I was invited to visit him in his native country in the Baltic archipelago. Johan has a shed full of kayaks (he is not sure how many) and lives on the water of the Swedish East Coast.
I have been longing to see Scandinavia again since I first traveled there in my teens but little I knew that the coast is a paddler’s dream. Thousand of islands litter the rather calm sea that has very little tidal influence. Those images of tents pitched at almost water level on polished granite slabs are not staged, one can really do that. 



This year things fell into place and I am currently lost somewhere among those islands. Johan has limited vacation time in summer and only paddled with me for a short week, while I am continuing my sea trip heading North.
At the last Rock&Roll I was lucky to meet Petra, on her extended visit to the land of OZ. A very keen sea kayaker from the land locked Austria, she is my travel companion on this incredible trip although her “training” already started Down Under where she learned to roll in the warm waters of Moreton Bay.

It is wonderful how this little sea fearing vessels that have such ancient roots can bring people together from around the globe. The paddlers that I have met share the same passion for self reliant travel and simple life styles; I am drawn to them through this primeval need to be in contact with nature. I have shared amazing times with people that seek outdoor diversions to the structured life we lead. I have met sea kayakers that are authentic and honest, willing to open their hearts and homes to help and host travelers. It seems that the values of hospitality of the first kayakers of Greenland is now passed on to us.

2nd, 3rd and 4th image courtesy of Erik Sjostedt

I am not sure where I will end my trip but I will know when the time will come to get off the water and catch a bus back to my car.