Posted by: paddle4mentawais | November 29, 2010

Good news!

Practice paddle at sunrise, Eastern end of island.
Woke up on Saturday to start paddling just after 6am from the Maqta Bridge. I wanted to kick off earlier, however the tide was not responding to my reasonable request. Even with the late start, it was still heading the wrong way for me when I set off. Planty of friendly sea life getting around on this paddle. Garfish are schooling up and do these marlin like runs across the top of the water although some re-enter the water more gracefully than others. I guess their friends are calling them kooks when they get back to hanging out.

I was followed by a bream looking fish for about 500m. The hunter hunted. It was nice to have company anyway. One day soon, I am going to take a rod  out and give these waters a try. Also had a turtle come up within paddle whacking distance, had I felt the need to whack a turtle gopher style. I didn’t. (Just in case PETA is listening…)

Anyway, it was easy to make good speed, even though the tide was small and short one, only 30cm  and 4hrs from high to low. For those with an interest, this is to do with water moving into the Arabian Gulf and not being able to get back out before the next tide pushes in. The following tide then has an excess which pushes out and means there are 4 and 7 hour tide cycles as well as steep vriations in tides one time and flat ones the next. On Thursday, I will be paddling in the longer tide cycle. Smart eh?

It took about 4hrs of fairly relaxed paddling to get to the Port, where I had a short break before getting out into open water around the front of the northern tip of the island. And that’s when it got tough.Just when I got out into the open ocean, 3 mates from the Falcons Aussie Rules Club headed over for a chat before they headed out for some fishing and wake-boarding on their boat. How do you think that felt to know they were going to be having fun, while I had already been paddling for 5 hours and had another who knows how long to go???

I hope they had as much fun as I did. There was wind coming straight at me, waves from the right that then bounced off the retaining wall of the port, so I was getting hit from both sides. Also, there was the wake from boats. Little boats, big boats, patrol boats, barges and container ships. Not to mention the tide had changed and was now heading back in, when I wasn’t. It was short, sharp and as choppy as a New Zealand abbatoir. Up until that point I was making about 6km an hour. It took me over an hour to make it about 3km through this mess and back to flat/protected waters. While I always respected the Molokai/open water dudes, new found admiration…

Once inside the breakwall protecting Lulu Island, progress was much easier, even against the tide. Paddling up close to the wall, to avoid the wind more than anything, gave a good perspective on how fast you are realy moving. When you are further out on the water, the visual references we usually measure our pace at aren’t always obvious. Against the wall it is right there in your face! the last little push across the channel to the Marina, near the imaginatively titled Marina Mall, was unprotected although only about 500m. As I paddled past the luxury yachts of all shapes and sizes, reflecting on the aches in shoulders, back, stomach, knees and other places that didn’t seem important, I also pondered the vast chasm between the lives of the people who owned these amazing boats and those in the Mentawais. It became very clear to me that we, who choose this lifestyle have  a reponsibility to help those who don’t. The other thought that popped into my addled brain as I paddled past a 120ft sleek, shark like ‘motor cruiser’ was that if you wanted to circumnavigate Abu Dhabi Island, a  120ft sleek, shark like ‘motor cruiser’ was probably a good option.

The good news? Well, I am now slightly more than reasonably confident I can make it around the island in one go. It will mean leaving very early in the morning to avoid the tides and boat traffic around the front/ocean side of the island on the National Day Holiday. However that will also mean I get back to the starting point earlier! And, I have been lent a larger, more floaty paddleboard by an, at this point un-named ‘friend’. (Thanks to Mark Anning for setting that up!)

Things are looking good. I am planning to set off from the Tourist Club Area (hoping to confirm a definite site today) at about 1.30-2am. From there a quick zip out around the front, then up inside the breakwall to Marina Mall, around Emirates Palace, down to the new bridge to the south, past ADNEC and Sheikh Zayed Sports Stadium, under the Musaffah, Maqta and Sheikh Zayed Bridges, out to the main shipping lane back to the Tourist Club Area. Sounds like a breeze. A 12 hour breeze…

If anyone would like to join me, I’d love to have company for any part of the trip. Stay tuned for more updates!



  1. Hi Russel

    Spoke with my sister Sam Wells over the christmass break, i was advised of your story on the net. looks like you still love the water, well done for the fund raiser.

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