Founded in 2017 by three friends Nicki Day, Claire Browne & Neale Martin, the trio circumnavigated Lake Macquarie raising money for The Royal Institute for Deaf & Blind Children at The Tingira Centre.
The idea began when the three friends decided they were finally going to circumnavigate the lake but thought they should do it as a fundraising event and so SUP’n it Forward was created in the spirit of paying it forward. In October 2017 the three set off into the strongest southerly wind unfortunately not reaching their first destination due to the poor weather conditions. Day two had them up two hours early to go back to where they finished the previous day due to poor conditions. The weather continued to make their paddle challenging for the whole three days. Day three saw us finishing at the Lake Macquarie Stand Up Paddle Board club house exhausted but accomplished. It was always hoped we would do more SUP’n it Forward paddles and continue to give back to others as well as get more paddlers to join in.
Due to 2020 bringing about so much sadness & loss, the idea was once again coming to life to do another paddle & give back. 2020 saw the loss of much loved partner (Maxine Jones) of Ronald Cropper & the loss of Vicki Wiseman, Nicki Day’s Sister In Law. This planted the seed that something had to be done to try to stop others from suffering from this insidious disease or friends and family watching loved ones lose their fight and no longer be with us. Founding member Neale has had his own experience with cancer. Rita Smith had only ever paddled 9kms before she put her hand up to do this paddle in honour of her Aunty Vicky who is battling this disease and fighting so hard at the moment. Marshy Kane our youngest member at only 17 took on this challenge in memory of his good friend Rich who also lost his battle to the dreaded Big C. We decided to partner with “Love Your Sister”, as they ensured 100% of donations go directly to vanquish all Cancers which was something we were looking for as no one story or cancer was the same. The team then went about planning & setting out their paddle from Port Stephens to Sandbar/Bushlands holiday park on the Mid North Coast.
Photo - Dylan Henry
Day 1, the 11th of February 2021 we set out from Little Beach Boat Ramp at Port Stephens, what a spectacular morning it was, we had water support from Dylan Henry from SUP Newcastle who came across with us on his jet ski, he captured some amazing sunrise pictures of the five of us paddling across the bay in front of Yacaaba Head & Mount Tomaree. We crossed the bay and headed towards Corrie Island up the Myall River stopping at Tea Gardens to hand over our PFD’s and pick up our supplies. Conditions were so perfect we beat our land crews across and had to wait, our distance was just over 6kms, the land crew had to get out of the Bay up the Highway and into Tea Gardens, they sure clocked up the km’s. We on the other hand also had a 1.9m run in tide and light winds, what a spectacular morning to kick this paddle off.
Once our land crews arrived, we swapped out our PFDs for hydration and snacks and set out to paddle up to Mungo Brush National Park, this paddle was beautiful, we took time to get to know each other a little better, there were lots of stories about our loved ones, lots of banter and laughs. We truly couldn’t have asked for a better start to our paddle.
We arrived at Mungo Brush after having completed 34kms in 5hours 40minutes. Our land crews, who, without them we could not have done this, greeted us with set up homes away from home, food and love. Nicki & Marshy had Nicki’s Husband Andy and awesome friend Penny who joined us at Mungo Brush, we were looked after so well, Rita had two beautiful girlfriends Em and Liz who were amazing, plus with the added benefit of Em being a physio her skills helped so much with the odd ache & pain. Ronnie had his good friend Graham, Neale had his brother John & Sister In Law Enette. The Land crews are definitely the backbone of any long distance paddle and we are truly grateful to them for enabling us to complete this paddle.
Day 2 - the 12th Well…remembering how perfect day one’s conditions were we knew we just couldn’t have a repeat for day two, we were still hopeful though. The wind blew all night and we awoke to white caps on Bombah Broadwater, we left around 6am to try to get the most out of the light winds. None of us had ever paddled from Mungo Brush to Neranie so we were relying on previous research, information provided by our paddle buddy Charlie Dunkley who went and did the course in his boat beforehand. We relied on our gut instinct and the explorer in all of us and the occasional check on maps that we were heading in the right direction.
Once we got past Violet Hill Camp and onto the Myall Lakes, we knew we were in for a world of pain, we could not have asked for a worst wind. It was direct in our faces coming from the North and there was absolutely nowhere to hide. We paddled in waves as high as our knees and the battle was on for the long haul. We stopped and rested where we could, young Marshy headed off as the pace was just too slow & he needed to get to the end. We checked in via phone & made sure he was going well & taking breaks when needed.
Neale & Ronnie both dug deep (Ronnie did say to Nicki he didn’t mean all the nasty things he was saying about her out there) and finished ahead of Rita & Nicki who paddled home singing the Helen Reddy classic, “I am Woman”. Hats off to Rita, Ronnie & Marshy who had never covered these kind of distances before, let alone in these types of conditions, Rita in particular who, with only a few training sessions fitted in between work absolutely smashed it. There were times when we considered back tracking and getting our land crew to pick us up at Violet Hill but our mantra for this paddle was “those who are suffering from cancer have to dig deep every day”, if we have to dig deep to get to the end then that is what we are doing. Too put our day into perspective, it took us 5 hours 40 minutes to paddle 34kms on day 1 – Day 2 took 9 hours 53 minutes to paddle 31kms, so we almost doubled our time paddling due purely to unfavourable conditions! Friday afternoon, we were so happy to see Charne Lindsay who visited us when we returned to camp, Charne was our 6th member but due to circumstances wasn’t able to join us this time. Friday night was an early night that was for sure. We were also greeted by more of our friends who had come to cheer us on for morale support, thank you Michelle, Wayne & Amy.
Photo - Dylan Henry
Day 3 the 13th of Feb, we knew we were in for a cruisy kind of paddle, we decided on Friday night that we would not carry our boards out of the Myall Lakes into the Smith Lakes simply because day 2 had been so massive and we were fatigued, however we would still walk the distance, once again our landcrews stepped up & dropped us off at Neranie only to pick us back up 1km away at the boat ramp, we loaded our boards on & then started the 2km walk from the Myall to the Smith Lakes. This saw us meandering down dirt roads in the rain, across Seal Rocks Road and down to where we met our land crew again and picked up our boards.
Marshy was keen to do a 5km time trial (ahhh to be young) so he waited back to give the “oldies” a head start. This didn’t quiet go to plan as he collected a sneaky hidden rock & put a couple of holes in his new board. With a quick call to Andy who grabbed Rita’s land crew both cars headed back & Andy picked up the damaged board & Liz & Em dropped off a surf sup so Marshy could finish the paddle as we all started “together” there was no way we had come this far for anyone not to finish!
We arrived at Frothy coffee to be greeted by family, friends and our club mates from Lake Mac SUP Club, we had a lovely brunch together & told of our adventures and then our club mates and Penny paddled with us around to Bushlands Campground to finish off our 80km paddle.
We are so grateful to have raised over $10,500.00 for Love Your Sister, we cannot thank our family, friends, clubs, work colleagues, business’s and a very special paddle buddy who kindly donated items so we could sell them off and all money raised went directly to the cause, thank you Les, your generosity saw an increase of almost $1000, we are grateful to both ABC Newcastle who picked up our story & put it on air after reading Port Stephens & Myall Lakes News of the Area for promoting our paddle. We are thankful to the SUP Community for getting behind us.
This won’t be the last time we do a SUP’n it Forward paddle. There will be more, for now though we hope to see you on the water!