Mike Tomalaris took on Tasmania's picturesque Derwent River and managed to tick off a few health and fitness goals in the process.
By
Mike Tomalaris

13 Mar 2017 - 10:21 AM  UPDATED 6 Feb 2019 - 2:25 PM

I've ridden bikes, I've climbed mountains. I've even scaled buildings. But in my pursuit of a health-conscious lifestyle that tinkers between adventure and exercise, I've never kayaked.

What? I hear you say. It's true. As a 50-plus year old, this was something I was determined to achieve. I wanted to be a kayak-master or at least, master a kayak and settle for title of novice. But I wanted a challenge, a point of difference for this expedition.I wanted my experience to stand out as a memory I'd never forget.

I'll be honest, I was somewhat intimidated by the thought of tackling a water craft up the mighty Derwent River.

Deep down I always had this penchant for water sports - one that ultimately led me to seeing Hobart's waterways from a different angle. 

I wanted to meet characters and explore an unchartered side of Australia and hopefully master the art of long-distance kayaking (and survive to tell the tale.)

Cue Reg Grundy, one of Hobart's great characters, and the owner and operator of Roaring 40s Kayaking.

After meeting Reg (whose real name is Mark, but chooses to be called after the rhyming slang for undies - don't ask me why) I felt at ease. We start our day at a little beach haven named Tinderbox where Reg sets up his kayaks for a day out on the water. Take it from me - there's more to simply jumping into a kayak for the first time than meets the eye. Reg patiently takes you through the processes of wearing the correct clothing, the techniques needed to steer and guide your kayak. He's your tour guide for the day and along with assistant Tory, both ensure you'll have a journey to remember.

I’ve got to admit, I started paddling like a man possessed in a bid to try and impress Reg without embarrassing myself on my first experience. I soon discovered there was no need to over-impress. Reg continues to remind me that this is not a race, but a relaxing way to see the beauty of Hobart's "backyard."

Paddle slowly and take it all in - that is the key.

Having been raised on nearby Bruny Island, Reg has always had a genuine love for the great outdoors. From his earliest days he formed a deep bond with Tasmania’s picturesque coastline. He’s worked in many areas of the sea – as a fisherman, a marine surveyor and a ferry operator. But as a kayak tour operator, Reg is doing what he loves best and giving back to the environment that supports it.

He admits to being 46 years of age, but a life on the water suggests he could be mistaken for being 10 years younger. Reg oozes youthfulness, exuberance and enthusiasm when describing the environment in which he works every day of the week.

The sun was up but the wind was blowing from an easterly direction when we launched at 8am on a perfect summer’s day. I had the best seat in the house.

Tasmania is famous for having one of the world’s great wilderness areas. I could have been a million miles away, yet it was hard to contemplate that Hobart’s CBD was no more than 10 kilometres in distance. Such is the wonder of this magnificent part of the world.

A sense of peacefulness came over me as we made our way upstream. The air is clean, the water pristine as Reg educates me of the various bird life that abounds.

He singles them out one by one: there’s the White Bellied Sea Eagle, the Black Faced Cormorant, the Crested Tern, the Kelp Gull and the White Faced Heron, to name but a few. We’re in awe of their presence especially after they extend their wing-span to reveal their true splendor. We hugged the river bank for a better view.

Tasmania’s famous salmon farms can be seen in the near distance, so too the cloud-cover above Mount Wellington which towers over the water, reminding me of my incomparable size.  

Reg also supplies a brilliant lunch consisting of the best locally sourced Tasmanian cheeses and fruits for day-trippers. Reg is quite the entertainer as we munch into our tasty treats on the river bank.

If you’re the more adventurous type he also offers a seven day experience, which consists of a journey to the rugged and isolated south-west of the state. All food and accommodation facilities are supplied for the intrepid water explorer.

If you think a high degree of fitness level is needed for the one-day kayak trips with Reg, think again. This is a laid-back experience and one that won’t apply any stress on even the most inexperienced adventurer.

Viewing Tasmania from a kayak has never been more fun. This was the health challenge I set myself in January. And now I can report I've mastered the challenge in February.

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