The Clarence River Ride always promises an amazing adventure. What we were all looking forward to was 230km of flat water riding. What we got was slightly different. It started at about 6am when cars started streaming towards the ramp at the Big River Holiday Park and Ski Lodge at Sealands just south of Grafton. The plan was to meet everyone at the ramp at Grafton at about 7:15. Not all stayed at the ski lodge, as we had some locals joining in on the ride.
We pulled in to the ramp and gathered round for our safety brief. We had 25 skis and 33 people all itching to get on with the ride. We decided to run two groups to cater for the speed freaks and the cruising characters. The wind was higher than any of our previous rides, but we were on an adventure.
Soon after leaving Grafton we encountered the results of high wind with some pretty sizable swell. People didn’t mind the swell as much as the cold. Group leader Tom McNaught often says that there’s no such thing as bad weather on a ski, just inappropriate clothing. Tom says he’s the sort of person that really feels the cold so he had the appropriate gear and was quite comfortable.
We had breakfast arranged for 9:30 at Sedges Reef Hotel. The owner was opening up just for us, so we wanted to be there on time. The conditions were making it a challenge to keep the group together. Tom was leading the speed group but decided to regroup. Noticing five skis missing, Tom asked our local mate Desan, to continue leading the group towards breakfast while he went to check. The great thing about a river ride is until you come to a fork in the river, you just can’t get lost. Upon finding the remaining riders he discovered that one of the skis was not running right. It was one of the Grafton locals. Two other riders, both locals, escorted him back to Grafton in case he needed support. This is one of the great things about riding in a group. Tom then lead the other two skis toward breakfast.
While Tom was bringing up the rear, another group of riders had strayed from the original line and run aground. After a little group help, the skis were floating again and Jimmy The Jet found himself the leader of this part of the group. Jimmy knew to head towards the ocean, and away he went. Tom and Jimmy rode into the Marina wheel breakfast was waiting at 10am. As we were running late, Phil the owner was not phased and served up a great breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomato, hash brown, toast and juice, tea, or coffee on the agreed set menu. It was well appreciated by all.
The ride home offered much smoother water and most riders opened up the throttle to enjoy the smooth water. One of the skis had an overheat alarm sounding and to protect the ski Tom decided to tow the ski to a ramp a few kilometers up the river. From there, a trailer was organized to come and collect the ski. To save everyone waiting around, Tom arranged for Jimmy The Jet to lead the group back to Grafton while he waited for the trailer. It’s all part of the adventure, recalls Tom. The afternoon finished off with a BBQ back at the Ski Lodge.