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Kiters score sharks & croc on PNG charity crossing

BIANCA KEEGAN | The Cairns Post

Kite surfers cross the Torres StraitTHEY MAY HAVE HAD to abandon the breast-shaped boobsled but it was replaced with a stalking croc and 4m shark when a group of ambitious kite surfers crossed the ocean to Papua New Guinea to raise $70,000 for charity recently.

Sydney kiteboarder Alex Unsworth said the five-day 399km journey was his toughest challenge yet.

"Physically, it was bearable, just like a series of marathons five in a row,'' he said.

"What was tougher was the stress of 16 kitesurfers spread across the ocean in rapidly changing currents, up against a timetable and undertaking what was a world-first.''

While 11 boarders now have bragging rights after completing the arduous adventure, five were forced out because of a strict timetable and one boarder being followed by a tiger shark.

"We saw lots of sharks. One of the kitesurfers was followed by a 4m shark for about half an hour.

"The support boat was following...and eventually the shark was getting closer so the crew pulled the kitesurfer into the boat.''

Mr Unsworth said the support crew of Torres Strait Islanders were also concerned about pirates taking their boats near the PNG border.

"There were lots of twists and turns but we got there.

"Most of these crossings have been done around the world...but this one hadn't been attempted.

"The toughest day was 6.5 hours on the water with no breaks, kitesurfing directly downwind towards the murkier crocodile waters closer to Sabai Island.''

The team were planning to tow a sled crafted in the shape of breasts - aptly nicknamed a 'boobsled' - to raise awareness of breast cancer, but Mr Unsworth said authorities told the group they had to leave it behind.

"We've now raised an incredible $70,000 for McGrath Foundation and the dollars are still pouring in,'' Mr Unsworth said.

"We couldn't have done it without the expert advice we got from the locals along the way - the boat crew and whole community of Masig Island especially.”


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Phil Fitzpatrick

There are "pirates" along the Papuan coast. They are basically armed rascals who shoot out from coastal villages in banana boats and raid passing boats. Especially prevalent around Kerema and Kikori. They rob passengers and take motors and leave them to drift. We only just outran some near Baimuru a few years ago; fortunately their motor broke down and all they could do was take wild potshots at us.

Paul Oates

The TI crew were concerned about pirates taking their boats near the PNG coast. Tell me more.....

Phil's got more. See above - KJ

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