This past March, Zeb Walsh, Brad Gaul, and Jack Bark took on the challenge of a lifetime. To paddle from Mainland Australia to Tasmania, a 300 kilometer journey through some of the wildest seas in the world. After settling in after completing their world record paddle these are their thoughts on the trip.
This paddle was a dream I have had for like 10 years. After Molokai, I hit Jack up to do it and he was super keen which was classic cause he knew nothing about the Bass Strait before hand! Haha. Once I had locked Jack in, I rang Brad. I knew if Jack and I were in, there was no way Brad was going to let us go without him.
So we had our team and in my eyes there was no way we could have gotten a better team to paddle this Strait. Brad pretty much hasn't lost a race in the last 2 years. Jack, well, he is the skinniest kid I know but probably the only person I know that, if he wanted, he could equal Jamie 10 straight Molokai wins but on a stock board.
We made it hard for Brad by making him paddle a stock board and we were lucky enough to have the great Joe Bark give us 3 New SurfTech Commanders to paddle. So it was all set to take part in what was probably the biggest adventure we had done to date.
So the biggest part of the trip was the paddling. We are all distance paddlers but what we were looking at was six Molokai2Oahu paddles in eight days. I thought we all could do it before hand but after the first day I will be honest I started to worry a little bit. haha. After two lay days of bad weather we did the last five days straight and it hurt. But if it was easy it wouldn't have been an adventure. We got to learn about one and other and ourselves and we can do what ever we want as long as your willing to hurt your self a little. It was the hardest but most satisfying paddle I have ever done and I can't wait for the next one!!
For me in the end I was so stoked to fulfill a dream that everyone told me wasn't possible, and to share this with Jack & Brad and our support team. I don't think I can write how it feels for me. But I will say this isn't the one and only crazy paddle adventure we will have together! The sky is the limit and with the friends we have everything is possible.
Over all, it was the wildest, hardest, yet most fun trip I’ve ever been on. To start it off, we couldn’t have had a better crew out there. Captain “Nudge” brought the most laughs to the downtime on the boat, as well as checking the weather 24/7 to get us in the best conditions possible. Having Dean Gardner out there with us was also amazing. One because he’s a legend, and two because he knows so much about the ocean and was key in keeping us motivated. The film crew we had was epic. Mic, Cormac, and Blake are all very talented at what they do and super awesome dudes. And then getting invited to go with Zeb and Brad, hands down the best stock and unlimited paddlers on the planet right now, it was a dream.
The paddling was the most brutal part of the trip putting a lot of physical and mental strain on all of us. The stretch of water between AUS and Tasi is really extreme, at its deepest its 100 meters. We would paddle days where were were only over 25 meters of water for 30k. This, factor in a 3 knot current and a 10 knot wind going against it, created some good sized waves, usually never going in our favor. I got sick for a few days and could barely eat any food. So for the 2nd and 3rd days I either was asleep or paddling. Paddling between 6 and 9 hours a day, there was no way any of us could have done it alone. The encouragement we got from each other kept us going each day. After each day's paddle we would try to explore these beautiful islands, mostly walking around like zombies, or in my case, falling asleep pretty much anywhere. We scored an epic pub for Nudges birthday on Flinders island, but we realized it was Sunday, and of course, that means the whole town is at the lawn bowling club. We ended up watching for a while, then got bored and went back to the boat to BBQ steaks and a fresh lobster some kind fishermen gave us. The islands we got to explore were the most amazing places I’ve ever been to. They were full of 1000 ft. cliffs dropping to deep blue water, crazy currents and whirlpools, and crystal clear water. We got to eat fresh abalone and fish, and grilled chicken and steaks at night. And the fact that there were penguins and wallabies everywhere was pretty sweet for me to check out. I loved bonding with the natives! : )
Over all, I’m so stoked for Zeb to have completed this dream he’s had since he was 15! Such feeling for his family to see him accomplish the paddle, something people thought couldn’t be done. Now I have an incredible friendship with Brad and Zeb and some amazing stories to go with it.
300k Paddle Breakdown:
250k hard side/up wind
We jumped in the icy Tasman and left and it looked spectacular with the beautiful deep blue ocean underneath. A seal even followed us for an hour from Wilsons Promontory. Land began to fade behind and the further we got towards the horizon, the side chop grew. It was our first taste at how much the wind would control the paddling conditions... and the morale for that matter. Despite a relative flat swell, the winds would get so strong at times there would be three to six foot chop. Six hours of the nose going up and down through the chop, and the board getting caught in the wind while one arms trying to paddle, and the other is stabilizing the board is torturous, and heartbreaking at times. The way the currents pull in the Strait is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It can pull up to three and a half knots, almost 10km/h. For much of the first day the current was working against us, and a five-hour paddle turned into a seven-hour battle. When you get caught up in a current you just feel like you’re in the hands of Mother Nature. She’s calling the shots; you’ve just got to deal with them.
As our paddles went on, our bodies went into complete survival mode. Muscle fatigue was the first thing to rattle my body. Rashing too. Then my knees went and my neck locked up. That’s where you learn alot about yourself. The emotions came on without even knowing. One moment I’m spiraling into a really down moment and would be crying, then 5k later I’d be back on a high thinking, “How good is this?”. We all went into this felling pretty tough. Doing Molokai you have to have some mental toughness. But we came out of it enlightened.
The last day we had to gun it across the channel otherwise the weather would lock us in at the island for 3 days. This was the 66k day. It took us 9 hours. I spotted in the distance these little white things in the water. As we got closer, we saw they were 3-foot stationary waves, forming due to the tide change, in the middle of the ocean. In the end, the boat had to stay way outside of us or it would have flipped due to the currents and howling side wind.
Making it to the beach in Tasi was incredible. The feeling of winning is one thing. But this was a feeling of relief and achievement. There’s a bond between us now that’s pretty unexplainable. Everyone has a pain threshold, but it's not untill you go beyond it that you realize what’s really possible, and it proves the power your mind has over your body.