Paul Jurak: The Kayakcameraman prepares to leave the city he fell in love with

Tim Gavel 17 November 2021 77
Paul Jurak

Paul Jurak, the kayakcameraman, in his red kayak. Photo: kayakcameraman.

Paul Jurak estimates that he has taken over 100,000 photos of Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounds over the past decade.

What began as therapy as he recovered from cancer and the ravages of chemotherapy, taking photos on his red kayak, rapidly became part of Canberra folklore.

Cow kissing a kayak

Paul never knows what he is likely to come across in the early morning. Photo: Paul Jurak.

“A plumber with a camera who takes a few photos” is how he describes a passion that developed into a life of its own with the moniker, Kayakcameraman.

Paul came to Canberra in 1989 to spend time with his then-girlfriend, Julie, who had been posted to a teaching position in the ACT. She later became his wife

Paul, 21 years old, the son of a Croatian immigrant, was working in Newcastle laying gas mains when he received the offer of an apprenticeship as a mechanical services plumber and gasfitter.

“I started work for Benmax at Charnwood High School as a plumber-gasfitter,” Paul remembers. “I was only going to come to Canberra for a year, but the city was too good.”

Through his job, Paul worked on iconic Canberra buildings, including the National Gallery, Black Mountain Tower, the ANU and Woden Valley Hospital.

Lake Burley Griffin

Paul’s photos from his kayak offer unique and iconic images of Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: Paul Jurak.

His life changed dramatically in 2010 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The source of the pain and swelling was a four-centimetre tumour.

“Initially, they thought they had removed it all, but it came back six months later.”

As he describes it, he was belted from pillar to post by chemotherapy. Mentally and physically, it was taking a toll.

Looking towards Black Mountain

Looking towards Black Mountain from Paul’s red kayak. Photo: Paul Jurak.

“I was sitting in the chair at the hospital when I saw an advertisement for kayaks. I hadn’t ever kayaked before, but I went to a store and bought one. I couldn’t paddle, but I started as a way to rebuild myself physically.”

As he built physical strength, the mental health benefits became the most important aspect of the daily ritual of an early morning paddle on the Lake.

“Some days I might only paddle 100 metres in an hour. I usually put the boat in the water with no real plan. I just immersed myself in the beauty of the Lake.”

By chance, he took a photo on his phone while paddling with son Tully, and it went from there.

Tully Jurak on Lake Burley Griffin

Tully Jurak paddling in the early morning on Lake Burley Griffin with his dad. Photo: Paul Jurak.

“I started taking more photos while I was paddling, and my friend and journalist, Emma Macdonald, encouraged me to take it further. I continued to take photos of the Lake, and then I did a course at CIT, and the kayakcameraman was born.”

It quickly became a phenomenon with his photos of the Lake and Canberra from his red kayak becoming the talk of the town.

Paul Jurak's photos will remain a part of Canberra's history. Photo: Paul Jurak.

Paul’s photos provide a time capsule of Canberra and all its beauty. Photo: Paul Jurak.

“I’ve taken over 100,000 photos,” says Paul, “My website has been archived by the National Library of Australia as it shows the changing nature of the Lake.”

But his daily ritual of paddling Lake Burley Griffin is about to come to an end. Julie and Paul have sold their home in Ainslie. They plan to move back to Newcastle with their youngest son, Louis.

Paul's photos enable us to all see Canberra from a new perspective

Paul captures the colour of hot air balloons above Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: Paul Jurak.

Paul’s wife Julie is a highly respected music teacher in Canberra. They have three sons: Tully, who lives in Latham with his partner; Finn, who is currently starring on a football scholarship at Oakland University; and 13-year-old Louis.

“It’s been one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made,” says Paul. “Canberra is such a great community. We plan to return regularly.”

Adrian Kelson on Lake Burley Griffin

Paul’s photos of the changes on Lake Burley Griffin will be greatly missed. Photo: Paul Jurak.

It is through Paul that we have grown to see and appreciate the beauty of Lake Burley Griffin. His images will remain a reminder of his wonderful contribution to the Canberra community.


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77 Responses to Paul Jurak: The Kayakcameraman prepares to leave the city he fell in love with
Monica Tiffen Monica Tiffen 8:20 am 21 Nov 21

Have loved your photos!

Vee Saunders Vee Saunders 5:20 pm 20 Nov 21

I have loved your wonderful photos of Canverra. All the best for wherever you are going. You and your photographic talent will be missed.

Peter Svager Peter Svager 9:45 pm 19 Nov 21

Not that I've had the pleasure of bumping into u of late Paul but u always will be a legend where ever u go.....from the old days in the smoko room it was always a pleasure to hear a story or 2 & with great laughter. You have passed alot of plumbing knowledge to many young apprentices & later in life your stories/journeys through the lens has been awesome. Your photos have brought pleasure to many. All the best mate to u & the family for future adventures.

Heather Stray Heather Stray 1:14 pm 19 Nov 21

I have loved your many photos, our loss anothers gain I guess

Aldith Graves Aldith Graves 11:59 pm 18 Nov 21

We will miss you & your photos. Best of success & much joy with your move to Newcaste..

Peter Mackay Peter Mackay 6:22 pm 18 Nov 21

So much beauty! Thank you, Paul.

    Kayakcameraman Kayakcameraman 5:32 am 19 Nov 21

    Much appreciated Peter, thank you so much

Kelly Pye Kelly Pye 2:22 pm 18 Nov 21

Thanks for sharing many a stressed out day turning into blissfull ambience watching the sunset at the lake happy travels to you

    Kayakcameraman Kayakcameraman 5:31 am 19 Nov 21

    Thank you so much Kelly, we certainly are treated to many stunning sunsets and sunrises here in CBR. Enjoy

Irene Faunt Irene Faunt 8:14 am 18 Nov 21

Thanks for all your beautiful photos. 😊

    Kayakcameraman Kayakcameraman 5:30 am 19 Nov 21

    My pleasure Irene, so glad you liked the images

Sahibjeet Bains Sahibjeet Bains 7:27 am 18 Nov 21

Kate Bomm thought this was an article bout u 😂

Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 11:09 pm 17 Nov 21

Good luck Paul. Looking forward to seeing you around Newcastle 😀

    Kayakcameraman Kayakcameraman 5:30 am 19 Nov 21

    Thanks Shayne, catch you in Newcastle in the new year mate.

Eddy Lewis Eddy Lewis 7:29 pm 17 Nov 21

Jed Hockey Matty Aye Jake Exton big Paully been skipping tech for the snaps again lol

Matthew Maguire Matthew Maguire 6:38 pm 17 Nov 21

He’ll be missed, a fantastic photographer.

    Kayakcameraman Kayakcameraman 5:29 am 19 Nov 21

    So glad you like the imagery Matthew, thank you

Ti Jay Ti Jay 4:56 pm 17 Nov 21

Good luck to you and your family Paul. I feel so lucky to have had the random chance to chat with you earlier this year at a market stall, and be further inspired by you to continue with my iPhone amateur photography.
You’re a genuine good bloke, a bloody good photographer and I wish you nothing but wellness and happiness.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful images.
Xx TJ

Evelyne Georgette Evelyne Georgette 4:46 pm 17 Nov 21

Ce n’est qu’un au revoir ,you will be back Canberra has that affect on people ,they usually return in holiday .thank you for the joy of your photography 🕊🎶🦘🐨📸

    Kayakcameraman Kayakcameraman 5:28 am 19 Nov 21

    I'll definitely be returning on a regular basis Evelyne and I will be bringing the red chilli and camera in hand as well. Thank you

Sam Goodwin-Robinson Sam Goodwin-Robinson 3:51 pm 17 Nov 21

All the best Paul!! Wish you all the best in your new adventures!!

Linda Seaniger Linda Seaniger 3:40 pm 17 Nov 21

Really appreciated you sharing your beautiful photos. Enjoy your new home. Lx

Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 2:49 pm 17 Nov 21

A fine, enthusiastic man who will be sorely missed by Canberrans. Go well Paul.

Linda Wells Linda Wells 2:07 pm 17 Nov 21

I always loved your photos when I lived in Canberra and look forward to seeing you out and about in Newcastle/Lake Macquarie. We moved to Newy two years ago and love being out on the water! ❤🚣‍♂️⛵🐬

    Kayakcameraman Kayakcameraman 9:06 pm 18 Nov 21

    Thanks Linda. I hope to cross paths with you in Newie!! Best Paul

Jane Curry Jane Curry 1:09 pm 17 Nov 21

Thanks for sharing your photos. Good luck in Newcastle.

Margaret Harries Margaret Harries 11:12 am 17 Nov 21

All the Paul,love your photos.you should make a book or portfolio of them so we can buy them

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