Trigger Warning: this post discusses mental health and suicide.
A team of kayakers from Sydney’s North Shore are set to battle the Bass Strait in an effort to raise money for mental health support.
The five friends – Matt Taubman (19), Ed Hosken (20), Jono Hargreaves (21), Tim Taylor (22), and Ben Taylor (23) – will paddle across 320km of open water completely unassisted.
In January the group sets off from South Victoria to Tasmania in support of the Black Dog Institute, with a goal to raise $100 for every kilometre they cross. They also hope to contribute to the discussion about mental illness in the process.
“We had a mate in the last year of school who passed away and we wanted to do this for him and for other people who may be suffering as well,” said Hargreaves.
“I think it is something that we don’t talk enough about. We don’t talk to our mates about how we are feeling and how we are going.
“We are trying to break that stigma and just check in with your mates. We don’t want anyone feeling down when they don’t have to.
The idea is that we will do something as dumb, stupid and crazy as possible.
“I think everyone has kind of been through struggles and know people who have gone through mental health struggles.”
The Bass Strait is notorious for its’ rough conditions, with waves reaching over 10 metres high and shallow waters and sand banks causing trouble for sailors and kayakers.
Unpredictable changes in weather patterns could also make or break the team’s journey, but with 12 plus months of training and research on their side, they say they are prepared for the challenge.
“A lot of people think we are idiots, but there are also a lot of people who believe in us too,” said Taubman.
“The idea is that we will do something as dumb, stupid and crazy as possible and people will go ‘oh shit’ these guys are kayaking across the Bass Strait and then they will look into the meaning behind it and hopefully start up some form of conversation.
“The funds go towards research for mental illness. We are trying to spread awareness. I think a lot of people find it hard to start that conversation as well.”
After completing the Hawkesbury Classic, an overnight kayak race that entails 111 kilometres of paddling, the team sat down with Central News to tell us about their upcoming endeavour.
“The idea generated about a year ago,” Hosken said.
“Every Wednesday we have been going down to Lane Cove River and doing 12 kilometre races. We try to get out most weekends to do a day trip or even an overnight trip.”
In Australia, one in five people experience mental health illnesses, and over 60 per cent do not seek any form of help.
In 2021, an average of 6.5 men died by suicide every day across Australia and a Beyond Blue Research survey also showed 8.6 million Australians will experience a mental health condition at some stage in their life. These statistics reached an all time peak during the COVID-19 lockdowns throughout 2020 and 2021.
“I’m keen as. It’s going to a beautiful, beautiful trip. It’s going to test us as a group and it should be really fun,” said Tim Taylor, with his brother Ben adding: “The longest paddle on the Bass Straight is about 14 hours.
“Definitely the most important thing is to raise money for the Black Dog Institute but it is going to be an adventure of a lifetime and I am really looking forward to it.”
In collaboration with the Greengate Hotel, the five mates will hold a charity event on Friday, November 17, starting at 6pm. All proceeds from the event go towards the Black Dog Institute and their efforts to break down mental health barriers. With entry being free, the group encourages as many people to attend as possible.
“We will all be there so let’s have a chat,” said Hargreaves. “[It is] time for a change.”
The Strait To Tassie team would like thank their sponsors McGrath Real Estate and Stratti Building Group, and also acknowledge Redbull for endorsing their trip.
You can can donate to the Strait To Tassie Team and the Black Dog Institute here.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health struggles and needs support, you can head to NSW Health for a list of contact services and resources. You are not alone.
All photos by Adam Cavenor