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Preserving paradise

The eco-friendly kayakers making a big splash in Lavender Bay

First published in northsider magazine, Spring 2021

Sydney Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney by Kayak’s Ben, Levi and Laura

Head down to Lavender Bay on any day of the week and you’re sure to spot a fleet of brightly coloured kayaks. Either lined up on the beach or bobbing on the harbour in the distance, the Sydney by Kayak paddlers have called the beautiful bay their home for eight years.

“I love it when people who’ve lived in Sydney for years come down for a kayaking session and say they’ve never been to Lavender Bay before,” Sydney by Kayak owner and McMahons Point local Laura Stone tells northsider. “And I just say “Welcome to paradise!”

It’s a paradise that Laura, her husband Ben and the Sydney by Kayak crew are committed to protecting.

"Shockingly, the paddlers collected 250kgs of rubbish in just one month."

“When we started taking kayaking tours out on the harbour, Ben and I would pick up rubbish along the way,” Laura remembers. “We started bringing buckets with us for the litter and soon our regular paddlers asked if they could bring buckets and help collect rubbish from the water too.”

Laura could see the interest people had in doing their bit to keep the harbour cleaner and Sydney by Kayak’s dedicated Clean Up Tours were born. The hour long sessions include a fun paddle and litter pick.

“We just ran it once a week to start with but very quickly we were inundated with enquiries,” Laura remembers. Now their eco tours run almost every day of the week.

Shockingly, in just one month last year, the paddlers collected 250kgs of rubbish.

From kids’ scooters to golfing trophies, shoes, hats and everything in-between, you name it, Laura’s seen it thrown away.

“I’d say probably the most common items are the cellophane wrappers that cigarette boxes come covered in,” Laura says. “I didn’t realise there were still so many smokers!

“The other day we collected 6.5kgs of litter, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that it was all things like cellophane and tiny pieces of plastic, it’s actually a huge amount.”

A Clean Up Tour collecting rubbish

As well as helping to rid Sydney Harbour of rubbish, participating in a Clean Up Tour also raises money for conservation work.

“Since the start of the pandemic in March last year, we’ve raised $16,500,” Laura says.

Around half of that has gone towards buying a state-of-the-art Seabin for Lavender Bay, with the remaining amount being used as a foundation for further funds to add to The Living Sea Wall Project.

“When we run our Clean Up Tours, one of the main focuses is picking up rubbish but the other focus is educating people,” Laura continues. “We talk about the Seabin and how much rubbish it collects, what kind of things we’re finding in the harbour and we also share information about local conservation projects.”

The Sydney by Kayak team’s efforts have seen them receive Silver in the eco tourism category at the 2019 New South Wales Tourism Awards. They’ve also received Better Business Partnership recognition for their sustainability work with North Sydney Council.

With plans for ‘doggy’ paddles with pooches on board to raise money for local animal rescues as well their regular sunrise tours, private sessions and fitness paddles filling up, Winter is no time for slowing down, despite Laura and Ben welcoming new baby, Isla, a little sister to Levi, four, to their family.

“The sunrises in Winter can be absolutely amazing,” Laura says. “I love the light and the crispness in the air. It’s a great time of year to get out on our beautiful harbour.”

Sunrise paddlers head towards the bridge

What’s a Seabin?

A Seabin is a rubbish bin for the ocean, often installed in marinas. A submersible pump at the bottom of the unit draws in water. The water is passed through a filter which catches rubbish, oil and fuel and pushes filtered water back out.

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