Paddleboarders go `strait' for a record

Brad Gaul, of Sydney, will be one of the trio paddleboarding across Bass Strait next month.
Brad Gaul, of Sydney, will be one of the trio paddleboarding across Bass Strait next month.

THE waters that separate Tasmania and Victoria can be testing aboard a 30,000-tonne ferry, let alone a 12-foot paddleboard.

But a trio of world champions are determined to conquer Bass Strait next month and land themselves in the record books.

Victorian Zeb Walsh, Sydneysider Brad Gaul and Californian Jack Bark aim to paddle 300 kilometres from Refuge Cove to Tasmania's North- East shore: the first paddleboard crossing of the strait in history.

Walsh, 30, said the Date with the Strait had been 10 years in the making, with the team hoping to paddle 40 to 50 kilometres each day through the Flinders Island group.

"The idea is to use some of the islands as shelter while we're moving, and then to camp on them at the end of the day," he said.

"If the weather is right, we should be done within two weeks."

Walsh, Gaul and Bark have each won the Holy Grail of paddleboarding events: the Molokai2Oahu race across Hawaii's "channel of bones".

Walsh, who won the stock prone paddleboard world championship last July, said he expected the shallow, cold waters of Bass Strait to provide their own unique challenge.

"We'll probably get thrown around a bit," he said.

"But we want to stress to people that we are not cowboys - we are taking maximum precaution with this.

"We'll have a support vessel watching us the whole way, monitoring the weather and keeping tabs on our conditions."

Aside from completing an extreme physical feat, Walsh, Gaul and Bark will be collecting data on marine debris for the Tangaroa Blue Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on the health of marine environments.

The athletes will use cybertrackers to support the Australian Marine Debris Initiative, which reports marine debris hotspots, identifies types of waste, and where it might have come from.

Tangaroa Blue managing director Heidi Taylor said previous findings from Bass Strait revealed only 12per cent of waste was from local sources.

"The aim is not to clean up the beaches and coastlines by hand - we could be doing that forever," she said.

"We want to cut rubbish off at the source.

"That involves cataloguing what we find, checking where it has come from and implementing education programs for the communities surrounding the source."

Ms Taylor said the most common waste found on the Bass Strait islands was broken hard plastic, rope and net scraps, foam insulation and plastic bags.


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