Pedalling the Elements


I’m dreaming of a better day
When the waters will be one.
Yothu Yindi

I’m good at jumping my BMX bicycle. I can jump off higher jumps than any of the boys in the park; even boys older than me. I’m always making bigger and bigger jumps to fly off.

Then I got this bright idea to set up a jump on the end of a wharf and jump into the lagoon.

I found a plank of wood and set one end on top of two bricks as a ramp at the edge of the wharf. I took my BMX up the hill then without another thought went for it. My bike’s new paint job shone and sparkled in the black and white of my beloved Western Suburbs Magpies. I was charged for the stunt, wearing a t-shirt with Century Batteries written across the front – that’s where my dad works.

I hit the wharf at a good clip, flattened out and launched off the ramp into the air where my hang-time lasted like a sack of spuds. As I plunged into the lagoon I didn’t think my BMX would want to sink as quickly as it wanted to, but there was no way I was going to let that happen.

I held on to it with one hand and used my other to swim as best I could. I kicked hard with my feet – I’m a good swimmer – but my BMX felt like it weighed ten-times as much in the water as it does on the land. I managed to thrust upward to catch a breath. As I broke the water surface I saw my friend Normie looking down at me with a dumb look on his face like he had no idea what to do. I managed to get one syllable out which probably sounded like “Wep” or some stupid non-English word, before again being drawn down by the bike.

I nearly panicked and cried but I knew if I did I’d have to let go of my BMX. The thought of never seeing it again made me fight even harder. Tommy Raudonikis would have fought that way too at Lidcombe Oval on any Saturday afternoon – the mighty Magpies depended on him the same way I depended on my black and white BMX.

Bubbles were coming from my bike and rising past me to the surface. Bubbles were coming out of me too. Sounds started to get all weird in my ears and from the drowning depths below I could feel a beckoning which was scary and comfortable at the same time. I felt warm and calm, like I was going back to be in my mum’s tummy. I felt I could love this water like one of the mullets swimming around in the same lagoon I was struggling in.

Everything slowed down and the light above began to dim. Should I let go of my BMX? Should I go down with it? What should I do in the oddness of my ‘now’?

I heard a splash and felt a weed brush my arm. I lashed out and grabbed it. Rope! I tightened my grip onto the handlebars with one hand and my grip on the rope with the other. I let my legs relax and sunk for a time. Then the rope tightened and the light above began getting brighter. On the other end was Normie – he fished me and my bike out of the water. My BMX was saved.

“Well, that was a pretty silly stunt wasn’t it?” I thought. I mellowed a bit that day.

About Blair Paterson

Blair grew up and lives in Sydney’s Inner West. He first realised a love of nature and the outdoors during weekends and holidays with his family on the Hawkesbury River. From humble childhood pastimes building billycarts and tree houses to spending large chunks of time in the bush, Blair now embarks on outdoor pursuits whenever and however possible – by foot, kayak, bicycle or other. He has worked in Environmental Management and currently Outdoor Education. Some of his fondest travels to date have been around Australia and through the Indian Himalayas.
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