WA teacher vies for Australia’s best ride to work after spending 20 years kayaking to school


He may be a little biased, but Gary Fullarton, a high school teacher in Western Australia, thinks he may have the best commute to work in the country.

Mr Fullarton, who teaches math at Great Southern Grammar in Albany on the state’s south coast, has been kayaking to work for about 20 years.

Depending on wind and weather, it takes Mr. Fullarton about half an hour to paddle through Oyster Harbor to reach the school grounds.

“When I first moved here and saw the school across the water, I thought it would be a great way to get to work,” he said. -he declares.

“There’s usually hardly anyone on it, so it’s really relaxing.”

Mr. Fullarton stows away the cart he uses to wheel his kayak to and from the water’s edge.(ABC Great Southern: Ellie Honeybone)

Mr. Fullarton loads everything he needs for school, including a change of clothes, into a waterproof bag, which is then placed in a hatch.

“I keep it on the cart and just put the bags on and come down here from my house,” he said.

“Some days I’ll even put a fishing lure on the back while I’m going there too.”

On rough days, it can take Mr. Fullarton around 40 minutes to cross, but it’s only the threat of lightning that keeps him from taking on water.

“It’s a great exercise,” he said.

A man wearing a hi-vis jacket paddles a bright orange kayak through a harbor
Gary Fullarton walks through Oyster Harbor on his way to work.(ABC Great Southern: Ellie Honeybone)

“You don’t overdo it, so when you get to work you’re all pumped up, ready for the day and ready to take on anything.”

Mr Fullarton has managed to avoid capsizing so far and has enjoyed the few days the fish have bitten.

“I haven’t caught anything yet this year, there’s been a lot of weed,” he said.

“But there was one morning when I caught four fish on the way to work and after cleaning them I was a bit late for class.

“We had a Japanese teacher visiting for a few weeks and he came one morning when I had caught a fish and he saw me coming in and cleaned it up and then spotted me at lunchtime as I cooked and ate it.

“I thought it was pretty good publicity for the school.”

A man wearing high visibility stands next to an orange kayak floating in the water
Gary Fullarton says his commute to work is extremely therapeutic.(ABC Great Southern: Ellie Honeybone)

A permanently open estuary, Oyster Harbor is home to plenty of seafood and wildlife, including commercial oyster and mussel farms.

“I once had a dolphin dive off the back of my kayak and it was awesome, but very scary when you realize how powerful they are when you’re only a foot away from them” , Mr. Fullarton said.

“I had a seal come and bump into the edge of the kayak and there are a few stingrays in the shallows.

“You never know what you’re going to get out there.”

With frequent foggy mornings and sometimes glassy conditions, it’s easy to see why Mr. Fullarton chooses paddling as his mode of transportation every day.

“It’s very therapeutic to be among God’s creations and see how beautiful it all is,” he said.

“It prepares you for teaching, it’s a lot cheaper than fuel at the moment too and it’s also a lot better for the environment.”

A man in a high visibility jacket walks up a hill towards a group of buildings carrying a rolling kayak on wheels
Gary Fullarton arriving at Great Southern Grammar in Albany to start the day’s work.(ABC Great Southern: Ellie Honeybone)

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