Friday, 28 April 2017

Audax Speed test

Yesterday we put the Audax to the test over the same 10km course on which we've tested every single one of the 70 or more boats we have imported over the years, to ascertain accurately the terminal hull speed of the boat. 

We choose this course on Botany Bay as it's as flat a stretch of tide-neutral water we can find, with only about 800m of assistance & resistance at each end, and 10km is too far pushing hard to get any weird high results. We've heard people tell us that boat X can go 12kmh, but we've never ever seen a sea kayak do those speeds over still water for more than a few hundred metres, so prefer our own tried & trusted method of measurement.

Whilst it wasn't dead flat, with a beam wind gusting to about 12kn, it was protected enough to give us a good gauge on just how fast the Audax is in comparison to other boats in the genre.

The recorded trace is below, with an average speed over the 10km of just on 10.2kmh. That makes it the fastest sea kayak we've ever recorded over the course, with the exception of the 6m long, 44cm wide Valley Rapier, as radical a design as you're ever likely to see.

The numbers are higher than we thought we'd see, considering the huge stability of the craft, the reassuring beam of 53cm and the rocker we designed in to maximise handing and manoeuvrability in the big stuff. We put it down to the entirely organic shape of the hull, with no hard surfaces, only the suggestion of a V, and also the ergonomics of a close, clean strike zone allowing plenty of power transfer at the catch.

It means the Audax has a broader reach than we had originally considered. With that sort of hull speed it's realistically a sub-eleven hour Hawkesbury boat, and a fitness kayak for paddlers looking at entry level ski performance and stability, with the huge benefit of being a well credentialed touring sea kayak.

Why is this speed measurement important? Considering that nobody other than a racer would be pushing the limits of a hull in the context of sea kayaking, under the the ethos that it's about the journey & speed isn't really that big a deal. Why bother to actually measure potential speed? The answer is simple, a boat with a high terminal hull speed will generally have more glide than a boat with a lower limit; glide being defined as the length of time between strokes before the kayak starts to decelerate. In the context of sea paddling, this means less effort to maintain a cruising speed, even if it's only 6-7kmh, and a less taxing experience on the ocean. 

One of the most common comments we hear when paddlers first try a fast touring boat is that they feel light on the water in comparison to a traditionally shaped kayak. That's not down to actual weight, it's the earlier planing effect that these modern hulls tend to generate. Power translates to lift much earlier, the hull gets up & on top of the surface more effectively, and feels lighter to move along.

Fast touring boats are not a massive revolution, but they have steadily turned distances that have previously been considered fairly epic undertakings of 10 hours or more, into a 6-7 hour steady cruise, whilst also being exceptional in any hint of a following sea.

The Audax continues to win friends, with orders rolling in & the boats already delivered providing an enhanced paddling experience for their new owners. Contact us to arrange a test paddle.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Introducing the Expedition Kayaks Audax.

After two years of prototyping, testing, more prototyping, more testing, and then finally the nuts & bolts of getting the mould made to the high standard we expect, we are proud & excited to announce the launch of our own locally manufactured sea kayak, the Audax.
Inspired by the Striped Marlin whose Latin name is Kajikia Audax, Audax is a Latin word usually used to denote bold, daring or adventurous. We wanted to produce a kayak that reflected this spirit of adventure in wide range of coastal and open water environments.

Our aim was to start with stability, the absolute most important aspect of any craft in which you may one day have to sort out a very serious problem on a heaving sea by yourself, we then expanded our design brief to incorporate the elements that we hoped would bring a smile to the dial of our customers. Namely the overarching requirement to get ground, to be an efficient and fast hull which has the capacity to turn that 50km crossing from a ten hour epic, into a six hour hoot. And of course the capacity to manoeuvre, not simply for the pure safety margin that a boat with good close-quartering manners provides, but also for the joy of the craft of kayaking. 

The Audax is a long waterline, open water kayak built to join the growing ranks of plumb bow fast tourers that have proven so successful and popular in Australian conditions.For decades now the local market for sea kayaks has coexisted with the ocean racing ski market and so the arrival of leaders in this niche such as the Rockpool Taran and Pace Tour appeared to many of us as an obvious progression for kayak design. These shapes probably appeared less radical to Aussie kayakers accustomed to sharing the coastline with surfskis.

Our aim with this kayak was not to replace other plumb bow designs in our range, but instead to add another kayak that would appeal to those who are looking for an efficient modern touring boat with enhanced stability and maneuverability. The fact that the kayak is built in Australia will no doubt also appeal to many as it offers support to local small businesses and also provides new levels of flexibility for customisation.

The final hull shape was the result of repeated prototype testing across a range of conditions and paddlers, over a period spanning just over two years. We aimed for an efficient hull that was easy to drive at cruising speeds but still accelerated well to catch runners, but we also wanted the boat to turn well at all quarters to the wind and above all to have predictable stability in conditions both rough & smooth.

The best of the plumb bow kayak designs have proven themselves to be highly capable and sea worthy craft for everything from easy cruising to long distance expeditions so we felt no hesitation in using this shape for the Audax. We added a little rake at the bow to make the boat easier to slide off the beach when launching and maintained the upswept sheer line synonymous with our favourite classic kayaks.

From an ergonomic point of the view, the deck is quite steeply angled forward of the cockpit to allow an upright stroke. The cockpit is wide between the thigh braces so most paddlers can paddle “knees up” or “knees under” as required and the deck is high enough to allow for a comfortable bend at the knee in either position.

Audax kayaks use our “Bigfoot” footplate system, an adjustable composite seat and foam back-band. Other seat options include the Winkworth foam seat or the famous Gurney Gears Bumfortable (to order).

We have enjoyed the challenge of bringing this project to fruition after a couple of years of development and are delighted with the Audax’s performance and build quality. We hope you enjoy paddling it as much as we do. 

The Audax is available in three layups, which you can se in detail on the Audax page of our website (

Length 5.6 Metres Max Beam 53cm 

Stern (includes day hatch compartment) 149.07 litres. - Bow 100.13 litres - Cockpit 154.13 litres Total 403.5 litres. 

Standard features:
1 Kajaksport large Oval hatch
1 Kajaksport 10” Round hatch
1 KajakSport 8” Round

Decklines - 6mm retro reflective black with gold and silver fleck.
Shockcords – 5mm.
Towpoint – Wichart cast stainless.
Deck tensioners – Alloy Buckles.

Rudder: Smarttrack transom mount.
Footplate: EK “BigFoot”.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Rock & Roll 2017

Each year in March the NSW Sea Kayak Club convenes at a spot along the coast to mark their one big event of the year, the Rock & Roll weekend.
Spot the beer & pizza. No chance...
As a sponsor of the event since 2007 when we began to be, it's a rare chance for us to get along to a weekend where near enough to 150 dead-set sea kayakers are in attendance, with the overriding goal of going for a paddle on the ocean. We enjoy the opportunity to put something back into the community of which we have been a part for so many years.
The welcome to RnR speech
This year the weather gods smiled, slotting Rock & Roll in between an East Coast Low that closed out most of the NSW coast in thew week prior, and monsoonal rain event that subsequently soaked it silly. We had some big residual groundswell on the Saturday & a building sea breeze both days, but the protected launch spot at Batehaven meant that the getting out bit was mostly achieved without incident.
Setting out for the distant Tollgate Islands.
Friday night kicks off with the Beer & Pizza Party, our major contribution to the weekend, and partygoers trucked their way through an astonishing number of pizzas in an even more astonishingly short time. I think everyone must starve themselves on the way to the bay, in anticipation of the frenzy....
It was a morning to keep well clear of the Bombies.
My Saturday trip was pencilled in as a trip out to the spectacular Tollgate Islands & back, but my group got out there so fast we decided to head over to the diminutive outcrop further south known as Black Rock as well. The big swells kept us well clear of the close-quartering mischief we have enjoyed at previous Rock & Rolls, but provided their own dramatic backdrop as we rolled over some very impressive walls of water. 
Peter powering past the Tollgates
It was also incredibly sharky, as many as five toothy friends spotted weaving in & out of our pod over the course of the morning. I spotted a big Mako, as well as a small Hammerhead & (we reckon) his Mum, curious majestic animals cruising by for a look at our strange craft. I love seeing sharks out on the open water, it tells me all is well with the ocean. 
Stephen in the trough.
We were lucky to have Ken Bellette along with us, a surf lifesaving legend in the area who is getting back into sea kayaking, and he navigated some judicious lines around lurking bomboras as well as being a general tour guide to the features & history of this beautiful waterway. 
Smooth lumps almost obscuring the Tollgate Islands.
On the Saturday arvo I took the double ski down to the beach & pulled a few unsuspecting RnR'ers off the beach for a go in the little sea that had developed next to Snapper Island. For entertainment, it was 10/10, especially my favourite paddler of all time, who I think was actually trying to jump out of the ski on one big run we cracked!
Tom up on top of some foamy swell
Rob ran his brilliant rescue challenge in the arvo, with a big cast of participants, and as always it was really well received. The winners were spotted improvising a hand-paddle home to take the yellow jersey!
Jenny Walker - last year she was the one being inspired, this year she was doing all of the inspiring herself.
On Saturday night we were treated to a talk from Sandy Robson, doing her best to fit a five year Germany to Australia sojourn into an hour long presentation. Raffles run & a buffet banquet put away, there were some very weary bones dragging themselves off to their tents for the night.
19km Big Swell Tour of the Bateman's Islands.
Again with Ken giving us the local weather and local knowledge, we decided all would be right to run a downwind paddle from South Durras to Bateman's Bay. 
South Durras briefing
Launching from the protected boat ramp at Durras we paddled out past the break & swung south, for an hour of the cleanest, steepest little runners you'd ever hope to paddle. 

Audax smokin'....
The one & only David Slattery in his beautiful timber boat.
Ronaldo looking relaxed.
Kenny looking very Clint.
The group paddled with tremendous cohesion, the fast guys blasting through & waiting, the slower paddlers using the seas for a cruisy ride  back to Bateman's, always within shouting distance over the entire 16km journey.
Rob & Mark taking in the pearls of wisdom from local legend Ken Bellette.
Safely back on the beach after a rollicking run down the coast.
On Sunday arvo Rob ran his paddle workshop, which curiously seems to always finish with about twice the number of participants start. In the evening the famous Pogies are contested, the short film festival for sea kayakers with more than it's fair share of controversy & high drama over the years. This year the quality of entries were just brilliant, like watching the Discovery Channel (!), but I think everyone agreed that Mark, Roddy & Davlin's Bass Strait video was a worthy winner (the link to the video is HERE).
Rob's paddle workshop.
Rob, Sharon & I came into this year's Rock & Roll with an extra incentive, and no small amount of trepidation, as it was our first chance for mass engagement for our new boat design, the Audax. Whilst we're very confident we've come up with a design that has wide appeal as well as high performance, nevertheless over the weekend we listened intently to the 40+ paddlers who gave our demo boats a thorough workout, mostly in pretty lively conditions.
Rob cruising south in the Audax Elite
The feedback was very reassuring, the speed and acceleration was evident & I guess people figure is a given, but the rave reviews were for the stability and the manoeuvrability. I have noticed people looking at fast plumb bow boats since they became popular with some suspicion, prejudging them to be too unstable, 'something that looks that fast must be hard to paddle', and there have been events we've been to over the years where they've barely even been tried. The Audax seems to have generated a lot of interest however, and paddlers were queueing up for a go, and almost universally coming back to us with a cheerful tale affirming how easy the boat is to paddle. 
Sunday night dinner put on by the Triathlete Cabin (pic by Ken Collins).
The Rock & Roll weekend was organised by Simon Swift, ably supported by his man on the ground at Bateman's, Neil Gow, along with Selim, Phil & a bunch of others silently making the cogs turn. They did a hell of a job, numbers were up, the organisation was seamless, and you almost got tired of seeing people throwing their heads back & having a laugh, sharing their combined passion for this wonderful sport of ours. 

We extend a hearty thanks to these guys, as well as to our club mates who stopped by to say G'day & swap a yarn or two. If you haven't managed to get along to a Rock & Roll weekend, and you're a sea kayaker anywhere, let alone in our coastal waters, you don't know what you're missing.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Review - Long Span Y-Racks

A local manufacturer has come up with a very clever and well designed car topping rack system which we have been busy using & road testing for the past 6 months.

The Long Span Y-Rack system is designed to lengthen the span of your tie-points, thus reducing the torque on rack mounted cradles that are very close together. Car manufacturers seem if anything to be narrowing the distance between roof rack mounting positions, which can be a problem for paddlers transporting boats up to 7m long on highways & in high winds. The Long Span Y Racks offer 2.1m of spread from cradle to cradle.

Spread is one of the most important factors in securely transporting your kayak on roof racks. The wider you can get your boat supports, the less likely it will be influenced by side winds & destabilisation.

I've travelled more than 4000km with my set, the lightweight version, carrying light ocean skis, big doubles and heavy sea kayaks, everywhere from the from the inland sand tracks of Fraser Island to the 110kmh highways between Sydney & Melbourne. I was a little worried after bouncing around Fraser Island with a 14kg, 6.1m long Think Evo on the roof that I may have damaged the ski, but the soft padded nylon footing protected the hull from the negligence of my off-road driving!

These long-span Y racks convert even the shortest hatchback rack span to a width more typical on a big SUV, via a brilliant design which is light, secure & simple to fit. The 'Y' cradles are paddled with a  smooth nylon so you boat will slide, the fixture plates have a thin rubber coating to prevent the bars sliding, and you can clip the Y fitting out when you're not carrying your kayak. 

There is also now a stiffer, slightly heavier bar which you would choose if you had to offset the longitudinal bars on a hatchback, or if you have a very long double to transport.

Considering the cost of a standard set of basic cradles has climbed to around $230, these also represent great value at just $320 for the full set up.

You can order this great locally designed & manufactured product though our online store via this LINK.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Daring Adventure, in an Afternoon...

'Because life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all'.

Inspiring words from a great friend, but not meant to be a call for an epic Shackleton-esque adventure, just a reminder about having an adventurous attitude.

Living in Sydney we can be swept away by the traffic congestion, over stimulation of constant crowds in one of the world's busiest cities, but adventure is right there on the fringes, especially for us paddlers, where the sea interacts with the coast.

On Tuesday I made it along to the annual Tuesday night Xmas paddle, usually a short paddle followed by a long celebratory picnic. This year the crew that assembled at Vaucluse Bay was strong & keen, and the sea breeze was building from the Nor East, so Rob decided were heading out past North Head to give ourselves a long & fast run home to our picnic venue on Ronaldo Island.

We ground our way past the nude dudes on Lady Jane Beach to South Head where Kenny nearly had his afternoon curtailed in spectacular fashion. As we traversed to North Head the winds picked up, accelerating over the cliffs and slowing us down appreciably. 

Regrouping in the shadow of the buttress the guys then plotted a line into the wind as far north as Bluefish Point.
These guys are well organised and capable, arranging a staggered start for the long downwind section so as to have everyone paddling within eyeshot despite the wild water making it hard too stick too close. The paddle back was fast, bouncy, fast, bouncy & fast. Yee haaa....

Detouring across the harbour to another little beach full of perplexed nude dudes, we then climbed the cliffs to say G'day to our mate Chris, at a secret spot that is close to his and his family's heart.

With an imposing pair of thunderstorms converging from north and south we paddled hard across the harbour to Ronaldo Cove, where we set up a modest picnic ground & sat down to enjoy a lot of cheese, some prawns and a couple of cold libations. I'm glad I quite like cheese.

On the way across the 'Voyager of the Sea' steamed past, juxtaposing the nine of us having a wonderful adventure on the sea, with the 9000 (or is 90,000) on board the Voyager about to head out for another kind of adventure on the sea...! Oh man if only they knew....

As the sun set the city lights sparked up, the Xmas party boats started their scenic loops of the harbour and we soaked it all up from our humble vantage.

To top off an afternoon of howling winds, steep breaking seas which sent us rollicking along at tremendous speed, a thunderstorm light show out to sea which went for hours, an eerie calm descending in time for us to have clear skies for our picnic, we then paddled in the dark back to Vaucluse Bay with a bioluminescent light show in the water that lit up each paddle stroke like a sparkler. 

All up 20km of as varied a set of water, wave, wind & atmospheric conditions as you could hope to encounter in a month, let alone a couple of hours within a 15 square kilometre patch of the earth.

What a great finish to a brilliant year of paddling, thanks to Nick, Kenny, Andrew, Tim, Davlin, Kevin & Rob for letting me tag along.
Merry Xmas...!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

A Week in the South

An invitation from the Victorian Sea Kayak Club to return for a second year to their Blue Water Weekend & AGM at the Wonthaggi Surf Club on the beach opposite Cape Patterson had us planning a trip south since September.

The sad passing of our great mate Mick MacRobb on the Sunday prior to the event meant a slightly rushed pack & departure, so we could be at the service to commemorate Mick's life, in Paynesville, just around the corner from his home in Eagle Point.
Mick out where he loved to be, with his sail flying.
Despite the desperate sadness of Mick's loss, both Rob & I were very humbled to be asked by Mick's partner Lyn & his Dad Graham to speak at the funeral, and to shine a light on his contribution to the paddling world. A eulogy is no easy thing to deliver, but it's an honour you try your best to fulfil.

The paddling world that Mick had such a giant influence over was there in force, with huge numbers attending from his own Victorian Sea Kayak Club, and others he'd spent time paddling alongside over the years. It was a reminder of the tremendous community to which we are all very privileged to belong.
Mourners at Micks' funeral raise a guard of honour.
Tim, Sarah, Bob, Rob & I then had our own little celebration of Mick's life in the evening, a night with a few tears & a lot of laughs, just the sort of evening we'd wiled away with Mick countless times over the years.

The following day we bid our goodbyes to Lyn & Mick's family & headed for the Bass Coast and Cape Paterson. This is a stunning part of the world, clear, cold blue water & on the day we arrived the sunshine revealed a craggy coastline of white sandy beaches & rocky headlands. 

We had two coaching sessions booked in for the Friday at the nearby coastal village of Inverloch, a morning clinic on boat control with a twist, and an afternoon where we crafted the coaching around the consensus of the participants, and were lucky to have Tim Pearse come along to help us out.
Tim presenting to the morning session.
Both were well attended, and despite a building breeze that reduced our usable seaway at times to a couple of hundred metres, both groups were willing & adventurous & had their boats moving in ways that many hadn't thought possible!
As we got off the water the wind shifted sharply to the west and the temperature dropped alarmingly. Although this wasn't the big system that was forecast for the weekend it was still a stark reminder of how quickly things can change in this part of the world.
We grabbed a quick meal at the excellent nearby tavern & then headed for the surf club for the opening session of the Vic's weekend. Bob Fergie presented a terrific slideshow based around his catch cry - 'Capsize is inevitable, but recovery is possible'. Bob is one helluva big character who has overcome his fair share of setbacks to even get out on the water, let alone being the beacon of positivity & inclusiveness that he is. He's about to start his own paddling enterprise 'White Dog Kayaking', aimed at using kayaking to overcome mental illness and depression, so keep an eye out for that when it launches.

As we were making our way back to cabin the front finally hit. It sounded like an A380 taking off over our roof, such was the ferocity of the wind & rain squalls. At Wilson's prom the winds were raging over 50 knots, and we were pretty keen to get down to the beach the next morning to see what it looked like!

Saturday dawned pretty bleak, howling winds, seas that were off the richter, and nothing to suggest it was going to ease any time soon. I had booked in to go on a paddle with Peter Costello, and he'd abandoned any ideas of an ocean paddle in favour of a downwind paddle on the Powlett River.

We arranged a car shuffle, and set out through the mud & cow dung to blaze a trail towards the highway. This was some experience, we were blown along at 7kmh without paddling, simply by fluttering our paddles to catch the tempest raging behind us. We enjoyed it so much that we headed past the car shuffle point & went as far down as we could before the thickets stopped us from progressing. Then we had to earn our hot chocolates punching back into an incredibly strong wind for a kilometre or so.

In the arvo I ran a forward stroke clinic on the ergo machine which was meant to go for an hour but ended up going for nearly three, maybe because it was about the only safe way to get a paddle in!
Mark with eight year old Arieta - the best student of them all!

The club arranges a locally catered dinner for the Saturday evening & it did feel a bit like an Alaskan hunting lodge, with the weather raging outside & a good hearty meal on our plates. Mark Thurgood opened many eyes to the endless possibilities of paddling Moreton Bay in his evening presentation. John Woolard, one of Mick's oldest mates, stood up & gave a most beautiful tribute, something I'm sure everyone present will cherish. Once the formalities were over we got down too the less-serious business of catching up with old mates & telling a few lies.
On the Sunday morning the weather again wiped out any suggestions of an open water paddle, so various clinics were offered in & around the surf club. Rob ran a session on paddle selection, which picked up numbers as it went on & passers by realised just how complex and multi faceted the nuances of each of the Greenland, Flat & Wing paddles actually are. If Rob runs this workshop at an event you're at, make sure you get along, it's a beauty.

We bid our farewell to the Vics after another lovely lunch in the surf club, & headed north. 

We'd been speaking with Tim during the week about his plans to get back to Sydney from Cape Paterson, and he mentioned that he'd promised to take Mick out for a paddle to Honesuckle Point, and the lava rocks off Eden, when he recovered. 

It was a paddle the two of them had done before & Tim was mesmerised by Mick's knowledge of the area & the geology and was keen to throw that up as incentive to his friend.

Sadly that paddle never eventuated, but Tim was determined to go anyways, and Rob & I thought it might be a fitting way to say our own quiet goodbyes to our old mate & tagged along. You couldn't imagine a more beautiful sunrise, we had humpbacks breaching out to sea and several pods of dolphins escorting us along the way. An amazing place.

Our little paddle rounded off an emotional week, where at every turn we were surrounded by paddlers, many of whom were hurting just as we were in the wake of Mick's tragic passing. We both want to thank the Victorian Sea Kayakers for their welcoming ways & the hospitality we were shown, and look forward to getting back down again in 2017.