“I sometimes wonder if the ocean is in my blood. For generations my family has worked with the sea – as fishermen, marine surveyors, ferry operators, lighthouse keepers and now, of course, a kayak tour operator. A life on the ocean was probably more of a destiny than I realised.” – Reg Grundy.
From his earliest days, Reg Grundy formed a deep bond with Tasmania’s dramatic coastlines and the volatile, all-encompassing sea. This bond has allowed him to pursue a career doing what he loves, while also giving back to the environment that supports it.
Now as the owner, operator and chief guide at Roaring 40s Kayaking, Reg recalls his first taste of paddling while at school.
“I discovered kayaking at my riverfront high school in Hobart, back in the good old days when kayaking was part of the school curriculum,” he says. “Immediately, sitting in a classroom looking out at the water didn’t seem anywhere near as good as actually being on the water.”
Yet the stirrings of a lifelong passion for sea kayaking was yet to fully take hold as the young Tasmanian set his sights on the horizon after completing his education. Reg says that during this time he started down the path of “what some people would call a ‘real career’ overseas,” while also taking time to travel, hike and cycle. “Somehow the kayaking always called to me,” he says.
“When I returned home to Australia I was keen to get back into kayaking, but my wife (who by that time was also my business partner), Jen, had never been in a kayak.
“After a day trip out of Noosa, and although Jen was as sick as a dog for most of the time, we were both totally hooked. I just had to get my own kayaks again after that.”
Reg set about gaining qualifications as an instructor and was soon leading tours. A short time after, in 2013, the pair moved back to Tasmania from where they had lived in Queensland and summarily purchased Roaring 40s Kayaking – a well-established kayak tourism business focused on offering three and seven-day journeys in the southwest of the state.
“I had done some guiding for Roaring 40s prior to purchasing it and had fallen in love with the remote wilderness of the southwest. This place feels like the edge of the world: harsh, brutal and beautiful all in one.
“I’ve paddled in numerous places around the world and never seen or experienced any other life it. On a map it appears near to Hobart, but in reality it’s up there as one of the most remote places in Australia.”
Reg’s tours offer visitors a chance to immerse themselves in this remoteness and to see a wilderness that would appear very similar to the way it did to the first Europeans to visit the region. The impact it has on his clients is almost as rewarding as getting to visit the place on a regular basis, Reg says.
“Taking a group out into the open sea as we nose out from behind the Breaksea Islands, seeing them each experience the raw power of the Southern Ocean for the first time – I can almost feel the ocean empowering them.”
According to Reg, kayaking is very much like bushwalking, but with “good food and no sore knees”. The tour operator says the kayaks offers a way to see wilderness places from a different perspective, as the kayak can get to places other vessels would not, moving at a pace that’s a little closer to walking speed.
“Seals come and seek us out when we paddle on the Tasman Peninsula, and we’ll often float beneath sea eagles with our paddles out of the water, just absorbing the breathtaking sight.
“Another great thing about kayaking here is the ability to pull ashore and walk to places that few other people ever visit. When you climb to the top of a peak like Mount Stokes it’s literally like standing on a map. You can see pretty much everywhere we’ve paddled and vast stretches of wilderness.”
Importantly, Reg has long recognised the beauty of the world’s coasts as something worth working to preserve in any way possible. As such, Roaring 40s is dedicated to working with Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service as part of its Green Guardians program. As a result, Reg and his team regularly partake in shorebird surveys, rubbish surveys and rubbish collection.
“Given the remoteness of the location, we’re usually the only resource available to undertake such work.”
For the opportunity that sea kayaking has given him, Reg is more than happy to go the extra distance to protect it.
“Kayaking has really enriched my life,” he says. “Without it I could still be sitting in an office looking out at the water rather than being out on it – much like I was at school those many years ago.”
This article was originally published in Wild issue 155. Subscribe here to receive your copy of Australia’s longest running wilderness adventure magazine.