5 Date With the Strait – 180 mile battle between man and sea
Icy Antarctic swells, gusting winds, BIG fish (with sharp teeth) and shallow depths make the Bass Strait twice as rough as the English Channel. It’s been likened to the Bermuda Triangle where weather conditions change rapidly and boats disappear. The threat of sharks, strong winds and huge waves is not deterring two Australians and one American paddler from an ambitious attempt to become the first in the world to paddleboard across the Bass Strait.
The roughly 150-180 mile (240-300km)-wide stretch between Southern Australia and Tasmania is one of the most treacherous in the world, with its exposure to the Southern Ocean and shallow depths routinely causing problems for sailors on even the largest vessels. Yet world champion paddleboarders Zeb Walsh (Victoria, AUS), Jack Bark (Palos Verdes, CA) and Brad Gaul (Sydney, AUS) plan to cross the Strait this week using only their hands and arms to power their 12′ Bark Commanders.
“This is our Everest,” explained Walsh. “No one’s ever done it before. I guess it’s almost like pioneering the adventure paddle…
we’re the guinea pigs to see how hard it is and if it can be done.
The three paddlers come from different parts of the world but all have one significant thing in common, they’ve won their division in the 32 mile (52km) Molokai-2-Oahu Paddleboard World Championships. Brad Gaul won the Unlimited Paddleboard class in 2012 & 2013, Jack Bark took the Stock Paddleboard title in 2012 and Zeb Walsh was the Stock Paddleboard Champion in 2013. All three are very familiar with rough seas and long paddles.
The boys plan to depart today from Refuge Cove off the Southern tip of Australia. Along the journey they will camp on the weather beaten islands which are sprinkled throughout the course to their final destination in Tasmania.
“It’s a formidable piece of water, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenge, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. I think taking Bass Strait on in a big boat is a challenge… to take it on with a paddleboard where you’ve really got no protection; your really on your own out there, it’s a huge undertaking.” — 2013 America’s Cup Champion Jimmy Spithill
Spithill should know as he helped sail “Ragamuffin” to a third place finish through Bass Strait in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race where six lives were tragically lost during the race. Regarding the paddlers plan to camp on the islands along the way, Spithill added, “It wouldn’t be on my top five camping destinations.”
In planning for their adventure, the three agreed the Surftech 12′ Bark Commander stock paddleboard would be the best board to take them across the Strait. Zeb and Jack had paddled Commander prototypes in the Molokai-2-Oahu races and Zeb won the 2013 32-mile Catalina Classic on the Surftech 12′ Bark Commander.
“We went with the stock board because even though they are a little slower than the UL, they are a little easier to handle when you’re beat up after 4-5 hours of paddling,”explained Walsh.
Joe Bark, board designer and creator of the 12′ Commander, agreed.
“The stock board is proven in all conditions. The 12ft length gives it the ability to fit in all different types of bump and chop. The board’s stability and size let’s it work well in the flat water, as well as massive open ocean waves, such as in the Molokai race. Because it’s only 12 ft, it takes less power to push compared to an unlimited, which will allow the boys to paddle it day after day with less fatigue than on an 18ft board.”
3 amazing athletes
1 treacherous body of water
The Date with the Strait could very well be the world’s ultimate contest between man and the open ocean. Click the links below to keep up with their progress.
A Date With the Strait – Facebook updates and info
Tangaroa Blue Foundation – Tangaroa Blue Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on reducing marine debris in our oceans. The boys will be raising awareness for this worthy organization.