Foiling for the Fires

Foiling 90km downwind for the Bushfires was Marcus Tardrew's bright idea, he couldn't afford to contribute the amount he wanted to so decided the best way raise the funds was to do something crazy or inspirational.

The Australian summer has been ravaged by natural disasters this year, Drought then Bushfires sparking up in spring and decimating native bushland and towns along the way and most recently Flooding. Just about everyone on the East coast of Australia has been affected by the fires whether it be thick smoke choking cities to loss of homes. Over 10,000 million hectares have been burnt, mostly national parks, but peoples homes and communities burnt to the ground as well. It's been grim to say the least.

Marcus announced he was planning to do this mission of a Foil in December and was planning on waiting for the right conditions to do it. A month and a bit rolled by before the day was set, Sunday February 9th. The wind was forecast to build from mid morning to a super windy afternoon. Seaweed had been a real issue for foiling the entire month of January, ribbon weed can get stuck on the mast and wings of the foil slowly but surely making it more and more difficult to maintain your speed. You can stop to take it off but with so much weed in the water it can be seriously frustrating and mean you stop more often and go much slower than normal. For whatever reason the weed in Perth seems to be much worse than further south so the call was made to Foil from Bunbury to Mandurah, a course Marcus had only ever paddled 15km of the planned 90km.

As a mate of Marcus' I couldn't let him do this crazy mission on his own. Once Marcus had confirmed the date I was booking flights, as was Marcus' brother Ben Tardrew. Unfortunately the day before Ben was set to fly out to Perth he had a mishap at work dropping an air conditioning unit on his foot. He required multiple stitches and had serious swelling around his ankle so was unable to fly. It was just going to be Marcus and I attempting the distance.

Logistics seemed to all come together at the right time with an unreal support team. We had Galvos boat with Robbie Bullen as captain, Kirk Hill as deckie, Shannon Stent as photographer, Jacyln Nichol as land support and Sussanah Wilson helping out with an interview and media package. We also had Ange and Dan JJ, Alfie Carter, Sil and Darren help out at the start and finish. A huge thanks to these guys for giving up their Sunday for the cause.

With everything organised we drove down to Bunbury early to launch the boat. Just as we dropped the boat in the water Maritime turned up and we got the once over and had to go buy some flares as they had just expired. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed the wind to build a bit more while we got organised.

Marcus and I hit the water a touch after 11 with conditions looking a bit light, about 12-15 knots, but wanting to get started so we didn't run out of daylight. Just as we hit the water we spotted the dreaded ribbon weed. While there wasn't as much as in Perth it was definitely going to make our day that much harder. There was also a bit of swell running from the West meaning it would push us into shore.

Right from the get go we knew we were in for a big day. The first 20km we probably were a bit excited and pushed through weed patches we probably didn't need to only having one stop in the lightest conditions. Marcus really struggled this first 20 mentally, with so long to go and such ordinary conditions it meant we had to work super hard. Could we do it for another 70kms? If conditions had stayed exactly as they were I seriously doubt it. I reassured him it's only going to get better and that this first 20 to 30 kilometres was always going to be the hardest.

We made it through that first 30km and the wind started to build, the weed was still an issue and the swell was starting to push us in closer to the coast, Robbie, Shannon and Kirk cheered us on from the boat and held a straght line but this is when I really started to struggle. Not even at halfway and my back leg was really starting to burn, cramping up at times. I pushed through and tried to relieve it by adopting a few different stances, bending my knee more and straightening my leg more.

What I really needed was more wind so I didn't have to pump and quarter out to sea as much. The weed really made it all the more difficult as it prevents glide between bumps. When quartering out to sea you need all the glide you can get, without it you need to paddle and pump more, which meant more stress on my back leg.

On one of our weed removal breaks Marcus and I agreed if one of us got weed that meant we had to work too hard we would both stop and regroup. It meant we had a few more breaks than we had planned but it just wasn't worth burning all that energy with so far to go. This continued until the 65th kilometre. Slowly but surely getting the distance done, weed eventually building up forcing us to take a break.

By the 65th kilometre the wind had finally filled in to a point that we no longer had to work as hard between bumps, we had enough glide to link bumps even with weed on our foil and we started to string together multiple kms over 20km/h which had been a rarity up to this point.

As we approached the Dawesville Cut conditions really started to light up. The wind had well and truly filled in with a consistent 25 knots, gusts over 30 knots. We were about 4.5 hours in and actually starting to feel the best we had all day. Marcus was feeling so good he yelled out "I'm in for the hundred!"

The last 30km went by effortlessly surfing from bump to bump, even if we hit weed it would eventually come off our foil because of the increased speeds. When we hit the 90km mark we stopped, did a quick celebration, Shannon getting a few photos, and made a plan to go until Marcus hit the 100km mark, I had zigzagged a bit more so had a few more kilometres under my belt. The boat would go in at Halls Head and we would continue and come in on the beach somewhere between Madora Bay and Secret Harbour. I really loved the last section, definitely finding a second or third wind, Marcus on the other hand hit a wall at the 98km mark. While still surfing from bump to bump he was fading. Marcus hit the 100km mark just before Singleton and made our way in wearily through the shore break. A big high five and a call to the support crew to let them know where we were and we trudged up the beach to the road. We were met by our super support crew a few minutes later, enjoyed a cold beer and had a good debrief on the side of the road.

What a day and what an effort by all involved! I foiled for 6 hours 20 minutes covering a total of108km all in an effort to raise funds for Bushfire Relief. I am proud to be apart of the day and can't thank our support crew enough. If you'd like to donate to the cause head to the link below

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