Paddling the Senses



Whenever you feel at home, you are at home. If your surroundings are pleasant, you are at home.
Dalai Lama

Iwas having the best ski of my life. Stuart bought a new boat, a Juddcraft with an inboard Chevy 350 small-block, called ‘SS-81’, and Drew and I were the first skiers it had pulled. Being offered such a privilege made us feel quite special.

On an early autumn morning there wasn’t a breath of breeze and the water was smooth as glass. Drew and I were strapping teenagers who had honed our skills on skis over the summer and in such perfect conditions everything felt just right.

Whipping out against the boat on an angle sharp enough to drag my fingers along the water felt exhilarating! Then to carve a tight, fluent arc and slalom toward the wake, launch into the air and fly right over – to nail jump after jump, back and forth and again and again felt like I was touching something special!

On one of my jumps, though, I pushed for too much air, lost my balance and poise and took a tumble. SS-81 looped around, I grabbed the rope and within no time was up and skiing again. Standing on the water beside me, Drew pointed to a trickle of blood flowing down my neck. In my euphoria I didn’t realise I had gashed my head in the tumble, but we still had more skiing to do so I would worry about such matters later.

Once back at the beach I showed mum my head which she decided to show to the doctor who in turn showed it a local anaesthetic and a needle, sewing in four stitches. My head throbbed. But when the doctor gave me express instructions to keep the stitches dry and stay out of the river, I felt robbed. For that afternoon some kids and me were building a raft.

After some anxious deliberation with mum, it was agreed I could participate in the raft building but was NOT under any circumstances allowed onto the contraption – I was to watch from the shore.

I love building things! After getting stitched up, I met with the other kids to find they had scrounged all manner of practical items for the job including empty petrol drums, tyre tubes, rope, lengths of wood, an old tabletop and a forklift pallet; all of which they had began assembling on the banks of the lagoon.

Did I say I loved building things? I felt so excited when I saw the enterprise and activity that there was no chance I was going to miss out by staying on the shore. Late in the afternoon we looked down our blistered noses and felt our sunburnt necks and congratulated each other on a job well done. We had built a craft which to me appeared as seaworthy as a shopping trolley, but regardless of my doubts the thing actually floated when launched.

One kid got on, then another and all was going well with our full crew of eight onboard. We used waterskis and planks of wood as paddles. Once we were mid lagoon somebody thought it a good idea to rock our raft by swaying from side-to-side. A drum burst from its fastenings and bubbled out from under the raft which then listed sharply to one corner. Two kids lost their balance and toppled into the water and with the shift of weight another drum burst free. The six remaining crew members may have had a chance to stay aboard if those already in the water resisted the urge to climb back on. (Some may argue that the intention of the kids in the water was to assist the kids on the raft also into the water, I could not say for sure.) We dry six shot each other a look of resignation for we felt sure we were going to get wet, and predictably, that’s exactly what happened. The raft exploded into as many pieces as what it had been built from, and the late-afternoon calmness was dispelled by the raucous laughter, bickering and splashing of eight kids in the lagoon.

Guess what. My head got wet too. I didn’t tell mum though, and I got all the kids to back me up. I felt confident I could get away with it, but she knew – mums are so hard to pull one over! And after all, she was the one who spent the next two weeks squeezing, bathing and picking the pus and infection from the gash in my head.

With the sheer pleasure of my morning of waterskiing and the afternoon of raft building, I also felt the pain too.

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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