Breakfast – the full house with the Century City Canoe Club

Breakfast – To some this means a meal, crucial to the start of a working day, sustenance for what lies ahead, that aroma of coffee that has the ability to wake even the brain dead after a hard evening. But to another group of hardened paddlers it brings a whole new meaning (it will slowly unfold). Some how due to my checkered past of attempting the seemingly impossible, and after months of slow relentless convincing, I was lured into joining the breakfast club for my sins, and thought, being a chef, maybe it was for my ability to cook.

I have done a fair amount of paddling, but in a totally different context and craft. A little surprise was to unfold as the sun slowly rose over the Hottentots Holland mountain and brushed table bay with soft strokes of morning light. Ralf (Tulip) an old hand at paddling, for his sins was assigned to me and given the task of getting me ready for my first down wind dash (an adrenalin rush of note). This was not communicated to me – if only I had known.

The old sea dog had a simple philosophy to my training, this lasted the sun total of 3 days. Just before 6am, in front of the Milnerton life saving club, the group lined up on the beach, normally, to say the least in front of quite a wall of beach breakers. Most would wait for a lull and then head out. No, not my captain, he would wait for the set to roll in and then it was go-go like two cormorants we would flap, kick and dive our way out. After a few serious “claps” around the gills we would finally get out, yes we did swim a lot as we struggled with balance, needless to say I quickly learned to deal with the cold water. We slowly evolved into the “Breakfast show” keeping everyone amused, especially on our return; the swell seemed to have the habit of just lobbing us back onto the beach.

The down wind was approaching and I was more of a jellyfish hanging in than the engine in the back that Tulip needed to catch the runs in the surf-ski, but my captain had a plan – his student would be ready. The day before event he went into what I would call the archives of the club house and pulled out an antique from under the racks. With a bit of Gemkem glue and a few strips of foam the “Blou Job” in his mind a more stable ski was ready for the dash and according to him so was I.

The day broke with 65km winds and there were thoughts of calling the event off, but not a chance with my motley bunch off we went. 6 times we fell off, tired and beaten we made it to the end, swimming the last 100m as we fell off again. We made it, what a “joll” and the refreshments flowed, so jubilant were the breakfast team that it took till the early hours of the morning to end the jubilation.

A week later we did our next run, this time in some smooth lightning bolt, and did pretty well. So, yes now the real motive came to the surface, and of course according to my band of merry men I was ready for the epic “West Coast Boemelaars” trip. A two day paddle to Langebaan, 110km. After many a discussion, the planning was done, the supplies dropped off at Ysterfontein and D day arrived.

It was Friday there was a mad rush to get everything ready, the SE wind was pumping and, there was a (small!!!) 6 meter swell pumping out there, waves breaking nearly 1km offshore. We hit the beach at Blaauwberg and out we paddled. With all my training I had been through I knew Tulip would probably choose the biggest set to head out through. Yep, true to form we took a “Clap” but only one and out we went – Ysterfontein here we come.

It had been 5 and a half hours of hard paddling in really hectic swell – fatigue was setting in. Falling off the surf-ski became quite common and the cold began to eat into me, I was starting to shiver, it was also getting late and we still had 16 km to go. We made a decision, head for land call it a day.

There was this nervous look around the group as we looked at the massive swell breaking 1km out. I had sapped most of Tulip’s energy with him having to counterbalance and keep us upright, we decided that Richard would take over at my helm and off we headed into the red zone. Tulip joined up with the now sea sick and bait spewing Tallon. Shit just looking at the massive swell in front of us rolling in was scary enough. Slowly Rich twisted in and out of the rollers edging closer and closer in. At one stage he took off his hat, tightened it around his neck and his quick glance back said it all. I knew “Hier kom kak” the ski started to lift, I just heard the scream paddle. I looked back and above me were three stories of seriously angry water. Down it came. I did not know if I would ever get another breath of air down and down I went, I let go of every thing and tumbled with the swell. Eventually I surfaced disorientated and choking looking around I spotted Rich, all I heard him say was, “Pull your life Jacket down; if we make it, we have some thing special to share with our grand children”.

The next roller smashed into us and down we went, this time I had serious visions of the real Davey Jones’ locker. 15 minuets later we finally washed up on the beach at Jakkelsfontein, we could finally stand and slowly staggered to shore. I looked to my left and there Richard rolled out just next to the smashed ski, broken in two by the waves. Exhausted, I sat and looked out to sea, Where are the others, my heart sank, I could not see anyone, then Dale and Philip broke out through the swell as their ski was thrown a few meters into the air. Further behind them I saw the heads of Tulip and Tallon bobbing in the cauldron of white water. Their rudder cable had snapped as they tried to ride one of the monsters in, their ski turned right back into the on coming steam train and they were pummelled.

No one had seen Etienne, then a while later he appeared, all we saw was a carbon fibre missile launched into the air as he was unceremonially ripped from his ski, to later crawl out with a what we would call politely, a “Blou Bal”

The folk staying in Jakkelsfontein were frantically phoning each other spreading the news of, as they said “Bodies washing up on the shore”.

They came running down to the beach to see if we were ok, we were a bit rattled with light hypothermia that had set in, but otherwise ok.

What a weekend! What a breakfast!

It’s left me pondering and thinking what is breakfast actually – all I know it really seems to kick-start the day.

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