Feel like keeping fit, meeting new people and enjoying beautiful scenery while having minimal impact on the environment? Caroline Swan-Webber and her husband Bill Webber established the Port Macquarie Hastings Canoe Club Inc. in 2007. Jo Atkins talks to Caroline about the club and the many benefits of canoeing and kayaking.
> How did you and Bill become involved with canoeing?
We’ve been involved with canoeing/kayaking for many years. Bill’s involvement with the sport spans over 40 years and includes paddling surf skis at surf club events and flat water racing in the following craft: C1, K1, K2 and K4, and also down river racing and white water paddling. He lived close to the Wollongong beaches, and the sport was well-established in that area.
I became involved with paddling approximately 25 years ago in the Illawarra, where Bill and I lived (after meeting in Nepal). I learned to paddle on a double surf ski on the ocean and graduated to flat water racing with Bill in a TK2 and then a K2. I also paddle a TK1 and a Mirage sea kayak.
We’ve been past members of the Illawarra Canoe Club and the Lilli Pilli Kayak Club in Sydney.
> How and when was the Port Macquarie Hastings Canoe Club Inc established?
Bill and I moved to Port Macquarie in October 2005 following Bill’s retirement from contract green keeping. One of our main reasons for relocating to the Mid North Coast was the abundance of beautiful waterways, which are a flat water paddler’s paradise.
Prior to that, our paddling training was often restricted to a polluted, tidal creek or a ‘duck pond’ on a new housing estate. Purchasing a home at Riverside on the North Shore, opposite the junction of the Hastings and Maria Rivers, we thought we’d died and gone to heaven!
However, we were surprised to find that there was no canoe/kayak club in Port Macquarie. After making a few local contacts and sounding out a few other people, we organised an ‘exploratory’ meeting, which was held on the 25 October 2007, to assess the level of interest in forming such a club.
We were overwhelmed at the response, and the decision was made to go ahead and formally establish the club – which was done on the 8 November 2007.
Bill and I were elected to the inaugural and subsequent committees. Publicity in the local media resulted in nearly 100 enquiries being made about the club, and in order to introduce both the club and canoeing to members of the public, an information day was held at Settlement Point on the 9 December 2007. This was a huge success, with interested parties being able to try a variety of kayaks made available by members.
> How often does the club meet?
The touring sub-committee of the club meets quarterly to plan its schedule of paddles, and there is an AGM once a year – usually held in conjunction with the Christmas party. Otherwise, members meet on paddles and are kept up to date via weekly emails.
> Has the club grown in popularity since it began, tell us about the members?
The club has gone from strength to strength and now has approximately 50 members. Our membership hails from Kempsey to Wingham, and the ages of our members range from school age to mid-70s.
A core group within the club has many years of experience between them in a range of paddling disciplines, including white water, surf, flat water and down river racing.
However, while all these facets are being included in club activities, the club is predominately orientated towards recreational paddling. Yearly membership includes public liability insurance.
> What are some of the regular activities the club organises?
Every three months a schedule of paddles is put out for members. These range from 10 km – 30 km and generally include paddles on most weekends and weekends away to places such as Macksville, Mylestom, Red Rock, Forster, Myall Lakes etc.
These trips present opportunities to meet up with paddling clubs in other areas and discover new waterways to paddle.
The club also holds a weekly point score on the Camden Haven River at Kendall (followed by coffee at a local café) and a twilight paddle at Westport. Some members participate in the Northern Marathon Series of races, local Kayaktivity events and charity focused paddles such as the Hawkesbury and Myall River Classics.
> What does the club offer its members?
The club offers newcomers an opportunity to try out a variety of kayaks and paddles before making a decision on which one to purchase. Basic instruction, including paddling technique, is also provided, as well as ongoing assistance and support.
This is important, as many people have gone out and purchased a craft that is totally unsuitable for the type of paddling they wish to undertake. Purchasing the correct equipment right from the start is important for individual comfort and suitability, and a lot of different factors come into play.
Club members are very happy to share their experiences and knowledge with newcomers to the sport. The club is very welcoming, and the majority of members have been novices themselves and are always ready to lend a helping hand, answer questions and pass on information – from where to buy gear, to what trips you need to bring the mozzie repellent along on!
> What are the benefits of canoeing/kayaking?
Canoeing/kayaking is a very versatile sport. You can paddle alone, or enjoy safety in numbers by being part of a group. You can do a short paddle, a day paddle, or undertake a camp out, taking gear and provisions with you.
You can be a recreational paddler, or try your hand at racing. You can paddle 5 km or 50 km, depending on your level of fitness and the amount of training you’re prepared to do.
Enjoyment of kayaking is based on learning skills and gaining experience. The most important part is enjoying the journey – not the destination. Every paddle is different; the venues change and the water conditions vary – so do the scenery, flora and fauna.
You meet different people from all walks of life, and nothing beats afternoon tea around a campfire after a good day’s paddle. One of the most satisfying aspects of paddling is that it has minimal impact on the environment.
> How can readers contact the club to find out more information?
I can be contacted on 6583 9582 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Thank you Caroline.