Captain Kuk in the Land of Oz

by Eric Soares on May 10, 2011

By Jim Kakuk

(editor’s note:  This week, Tsunami Rangers Captain Jim Kakuk relates some of his experiences during his recent trip to the Land Down Under)

At the Sydney Harbour Bridge with host Mike Steinfeld


Australia! Even the name conjures up images of a country filled with big adventures and a wilderness larger than the Wild West.  Geographically the size of the lower 48 states, Australia has a rather small population of 20 million.  Though the majority of people live along the coastal green belt, there is still a lot of open space and long distances between cities and shires. I just traveled two and a half months in New South Wales but only caught a glimpse of what this great continent has to offer.

Wayne and Mel Hanley with Jim Kakuk

Arriving in Sydney in late January, I knew it was summer and hot. Dee Ratcliffe picked me up at the airport and we went straight to the water along the south Sydney beaches to freshen up in the warm salty sea at Clovelly. The next day Dee and Mike Steinfeld, my host, took me on a paddle in the Sydney harbour. We launched from the south side and crossed to the north shore, under the Harbour Bridge and then back past the opera house to Shark Island. This was a nice introduction to the beautiful Sydney city seascape. The rest of the week I hiked the stunning coastal trail and swam in the beaches from Bondi to Maroubra along the shore looking over the South Pacific, on the other side of the world. 

Jim snorkels with Mark Hutson in Jervis Bay

On a sunny afternoon, I went for a paddle with Rob Mercer from Expedition Kayaks out around the South Head and along the refracting headlands of sand stone that is the prevalent rock form in Sydney.  Rob dropped me off downtown at “Central” and I headed south. Trains are a really good form of transportation in Sydney and to the outlying towns, like my next destination, Cambeltown. There I found Wayne and Mel Hanley at their dojo.  I watched the Jujitsu class that Mel was teaching before catching a ride with them to Jervis Bay. Like many coastal towns, Jervis Bay is touristy with miles of sandy beaches that features the whitest and squeakiest sand I have seen or felt under my feet. I stayed at Sasha Joura’s for a week and hung out with her and Tsunami Ranger Mark Hutson.  We swam the remote spots and tramped the coastal trails of Booderee Park. The plentiful bar-b-q grills abound in the park camp and picnic spots made cooking out easy and we had many a sausage on the Barbie!

Lawrence Geoghegan hits the beach

Sasha and Mark dropped me off in Moruya, where I camped for a few days before my next excursion to the southern end of New South Wales in the shire of Bega. There I worked with Lawrence Geoghegan of Nadgee Kayaks building a Tsunami Ranger X-16 mold and test boat. I visited the Bega cheese factory, the whaling museum in Eden and enjoyed fantastic “hippy gourmet” meals prepared by Lawrence’s wife Nadia. While I was in Brogo, we were inundated by torrential summer rains and witnessed the highest water in the river since 1972. While I was watching the flood waters rise, other disasters were going on in the world—cyclones and floods in Queensland and earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan.

a student in Jim's rock garden class makes a bold move

On April1st I went to the New South Wales sea kayak club’s annual gathering in Bateman’s Bay and taught a rock garden class and gave a presentation about the Tsunami Rangers and adventure kayaking in surf, rocks and caves along the California-Oregon coast. It was well received and a good turnout of 160 people from the club participated in the three-day event called “Rock n Roll”. At R&R I met John Anderson and he gave me a ride up to the Central Coast, which is above Sydney.

Jim on a mission with Sean Smith and Team Fat Paddler

In the town of Budgewoi, I enjoyed quiet time with John and his family before heading back down to North Sydney.  In the suburb of Hornsby, I stayed with Sean Smith and his family for my last week. Sean, AKA the “Fat Paddler”, had set up a paddle out of Sydney Harbor Kayaks. We met for a day of rocking along the south shore towards Manley. Great weather, warm water and rocks with waves made for a “Rangeresque” day with the Fat Paddler team.  That evening we went out in downtown Sydney for a Mexican dinner complete with shots of tequila, just like in California!

The Opera House in Sydney from the water

I also got to meet Justin Jones, who with James Castrission paddled from Australia to New Zealand in 2007. The book and movie of their expedition is called, “Crossing the Ditch”. The “Ditch” is the common name given to the Tasman Sea that separates New Zealand from Australia. There is a lot to this achievement in kayak folklore Downunder, and the story has two parts.  The book Solo by Vicki McAuley describes Andrew McAuley’s earlier attempt to kayak solo across the Tasman and his disappearance within sight of New Zealand.  I recommend reading both books starting with “Solo”. 

Recent kayaking events in Australia include Freya Hoffmeister’s circumnavigation, following the epic journey of Paul Caffyn.  Currently, Stuart Trueman is attempting to be the third person to make this 15,000k paddle. In 2007, Sandy Robson ended her trip just shy of completion after being attacked by a giant salt water crocodile! And we think Herberts are a hazard.

Bondi Beach, Sydney

If you go to Australia, allow plenty of time to catch the spirit of this big country and hospitable people.  Next year it’s Oz2 from Sydney to Darwin!

Readers are invited to share their kayaking stories from Australia and to ask Jim questions.  Just push the comment button below and go for it!

Mumbulla Creek slide with Finlay the Adventurer


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John Lull May 10, 2011 at 11:19 am

Hey Jim, thanks for the write-up on your trip. Sounds like a great place, with great people, and a good time all around! I know they have a lot of pubs down under, too. Did you visit any, or were you just too busy eating healthy food and kayaking?



Fat Paddler May 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I have it good authority that he may have. I for one have photos of Jim at the Clare Hotel in downtown Sydney sipping some fine Aussie ales.

Clare Hotel –


John Lull May 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I thought as much!



Mark Hutson May 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Kia ora Jim…
We were honored to have you visit Sasha and me for that week in Jervis Bay in February! I’ll be back there this winter for 4 1/2 months for some coastal activities and–being winter in Oz–ski and snowshoe the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park–only 4 hours drive inland. I hope to get my hands on your new X-16?

I’m already looking forward to your visit to Aotearoa (New Zealand) in for the Ides of March paddling party! Bring some of that California wine and those connoisseurs!



Wayne Hanley May 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Hi Jim, it was a pleasure to be a part of your Australian adventure.

All the best.

Wayne & Melissa Hanley


Fat Paddler May 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Can I say what a pleasure it was to spend some time with Kuk during his visit Down Under. His willingness to share his vast experience and knowledge of bouncing off rocks with Team Fat Paddler (including him leading our mission along the cliffs of Grotto Point Reserve) has gone down as the highlight of our year so far. Furthermore I got to benefit from his cooking skills not once, but twice (highly recommended!). My two daughters were drawn to him like bees to honey, which surprised me until I saw the photos of Kuk’s return to California where weeks of Facebook photos have shown that it’s not just young girls that are drawn to him this way! Thanks Kuk for everything and we very much hope to see you down here in paradise again soon. 🙂

P.s. I’m going to try to stop shamelessly plugging my own site when I post here, but not today – haha! Here’s video of Captain Kuk leading the Team Fat Paddler lads out for a play under the sun in Sydney:


Jim Kakuk May 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Mark, Had a blast with you and Sasha and looking forward to next year in Australia and New Zealand! I will bring my budgie smugglers this time.

Wayne, It was great to meet you and Mel. Thanks for the accommodations.

Sean, Sydney rocks! Thanks for wild and wet time with the FP crew. Your girls are sweethearts, tell them uncle Jimmy says “hi”. Got a surprise for next year… double trouble! Add in the marathon pub crawl and you can shamelessly plug it.

John, you can join in on the fun! Why not come for Oz2 next year?


Fat Paddler May 11, 2011 at 3:31 am

Ooooh, sounds exciting!! I look forward to plotting out a pub crawl for us all…. and I’ll get Hairyboy onto it, he’s the Pub Crawl Master! Please leave the Budgie Smugglers at home that night though. 😉


Eric Soares May 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

Okay, Jim, now for the tough questions. If you could revisit only one kayaking place in Oz that you visited, where would it be and why?

Second question: You said Oz2 will include Sydney to Darwin. Did you have some places to paddle in mind, or were you going to rely on the kindness of the Aussies to show you where to go? I just saw some video of the Capricornus Coast on Gnarlydog’s site Perhaps you might want to check it out. It looks pristine and definite Tsunami Ranger country.


Moulton Avery May 11, 2011 at 8:24 am

Only “Herberts”? Eric, I thought you told Cap’n Kuk about the Salties at GGSKS! And how quickly we seem to have forgotten the rapacious hoards of Humboldt Squid. Hoards of Humboldts! Aieeee! Paddle away! Paddle away!

Jim- I recall you mentioning something
about a spider in the loo Down Under…


Jim Kakuk May 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Eric, I would start any trip in Australia by seeing Sydney, the capital of the Southern Hemisphere. There is so much more to see in Oz that I cannot recommend any place until I do a little more exploring. Yes I did watch the Gnarlydog post and I am keen to get up that way next time and to see the Great Barrier Reef.

FP, Yes would like to have Harry (Houdini) the pub escapologist along so we can drink our way out of even the trickiest of beer caverns.

Moulton, No Humboldt squid, not even here in Humboldt county. No toilet spiders encounters on my trip but I did get bit by the travel bug and have the need to return and take in some more of the endless coastal scenery.


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