Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Epic 18X Double - Reviewed


Epic announced a new double touring sea kayak late in 2017, and we were quick to order a demo, seeing the potential for a light weight, stable and fast design in a market where at the moment there isn't really anything like that in a double.

The doubles we see round the traps, at races & on trips, are either wide, heavy and in relative terms quite slow, or high performance race craft not suited in any way to carrying gear.

We have tested the new Epic 18X double in a range of conditions and can report excellent performance in the kinds of seas 95% of paddlers would enjoy paddling. It hits speeds which put daylight between it & the nearest composite touring double in the market, and a set of ergonomics which allow a full range of paddler size, combined with cutaways that encourage full power in your stroke.
In a nice design tweak, both cockpits have a forward glovebox hatch, and the rudder is the transom-mounted Smart Track system that we have tested over the years & also use with supreme confidence on our own Audax, with the solid Epic footbrace & pedals developed for the original 18X.

The ergonomics are excellent, a high leg position allowing a full leg drive, seats which adjust fore and aft to accommodate paddlers of different heights, as well as crucially allowing you to tune the trim of the kayak, so important in a double, especially if you're using it for marathon racing.

It's already developing an imposing record in the US, having won a number of prestigious long distance races, and is extremely well suited to the very popular series of marathon races that are becoming more and more prevalent in Australia.

At 6.7m long, it's an easier boat to handle & car-top than most other doubles, and considering the speed capabilities (Rob & mark had it ticking over at 13kmh without raising a sweat), has carrying capacity of 240kg. That said, like most fast doubles (as opposed to the big tankers that are designed primarily to carry gear), the distance you could travel with the 18X Double fully loaded would depend on your ability to pack light.

If you're after a light, fast, stable double sea kayak with ample capacity for cruising with gear for an extended trip, this should have made it's way onto your list. Prices, specs & construction options are below. We have the only demo in the country here at our warehouse if you'd like to take one for a whirl.

SPECIFICATIONS

Length: 22' (6.7m)
Width: 57 cm
Depth: 38 cm
Capacity: 240 kg
CONSTRUCTION OPTIONS

Performance

29 Kg $5,000
  • Infusion grade foam core
  • Composite hybrid of fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar
  • Vacuum infused, heat-cured epoxy
  • Black bow & stern

 

Ultra

 26 Kg $6,000
  • Nomex honeycomb core
  • Woven carbon and Kevlar fabric
  • Vacuum bagged, heat-cured epoxy
  • Red bow & stern

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The EK Kayaker's Tarp


Our range of locally designed & manufactured paddle-specific products is growing each year, prefaced as they all have been by an exhaustive testing & prototyping process to make sure we get as close as possible to the perfect item.

Adding to products developed locally with trusted & skilled artisans such as the BigFoot & SkegFoot plate systems, Flat Earth Kayaks Sails, our own Audax (which involved more than  a dozen local experts and manufacturers), Dave Winkworth's excellent Silver Storm seat & water bags, we have now finalised the design of a tarp system that we think is an excellent addition to any kayakers kit bag.

The EK Kayaker's Tarp was conceptualised by a sea kayaker, Simon McGuire from Tier Gear in Tasmania. Rob and Simon put their heads together to work out what was important for a paddler, especially from the perspective of getting it up without always having rely on trees. It's shaped in a caternary rectangle, a shape designed to provide better performance in the wind, which also helps you achieve a more taut pitch. 

Measuring 3.5m x 3.2m, the tarp features reinforcement patches in Dyneema Gridstop, a  210 denier nylon with a reinforcement grid of Dyneema fibre. The tie-out hardware is a 20mm Beastee Dee, made from Acetal with a reinforced design for superior strength. There are four mid panel pulls, which provide the ability to create more space internally under the tarp when needed.The position & construction of anchor points allows for a wide range of pitching options.


The tarp comes complete with a full set of high quality, high vis. 2mm Spectra guy lines, with a simple v-cleat tensioning system, on each line (for people with dodgy knots)!


It packs away into a 28cm x 22cm lightweight bag with a roll top closure, and weighs just 600gm. 

The ridgeline construction, something unique to Tier Gear, allows the stitching to pass through multiple layers of fabric for added strength and durability, using a high tenacity polyester continuous filament thread which is made in Germany.

Our test model was used throughout our Bass Strait crossing, sometimes as a sun shade, most often as a base camp shelter against inclement weather - anyone who has seen our video will know we had our fair share! Having the tarp on our trip was pure gold, and where space and weight are at premium it was a luxury to have such an expansive shelter that weighed less than a water bottle.


In short, no expense has been spared to build a light, strong, and supremely designed tarp that goes up quickly and easily.

We don't think it's use is limited to expeditioning, it's so slim & fast to erect, especially with a set of Mont Batwing poles or two paddles, that it will win many friends on trips with your paddling mates. We reckon you'll soon see this as an essential piece of kit for day trips with a lunch stop.

You can order through our online store HERE, price is $295 including free delivery within Australia ($50 for overseas orders, please get in touch with us by email to order if you're overseas - mark@expeditionkayaks.com).

Friday, 16 March 2018

Back to the Future - The Epic V10, 2018 Edition


When I first started paddling skis back in 2008, the holy grail in our neck of the woods was the Epic V10. There were a few others in that elite genre but we didn't know much about them, the V10 was pretty much the ski on the roof that made a bit of a statement.
I worked my way up to paddling a big black carbon one about two years later, & while it was a challenge, it was a beautiful ski, especially out in the ocean where it was so instinctive and had terrific acceleration.
Getting my head around the original V10, yeeew...
Just as I was getting my head around the original V10 and really starting to enjoy it, Epic redesigned and re-released it, promising more speed and more stability. 
It seemed at the time as though half the world promptly ordered one on the back of this claim, indeed even as a dealer my personal new V10 was three containers of skis down the list, such was the demand.

The new V10 arrived and it sure was more stable, easily the most stable elite ski there had ever been in fact, but over time we realised that the stability had come at the cost of the original boat's sea manners and feel on the waves.


The Gen 2 V10 (thanks to Alan Coker for the pic)
Those sea manners are a very hard thing to define in a written article, and I see reviews and comparisons around the web of ski designs with spreadsheets and times over courses, which I frankly find a bit irrelevant, because I reckon I can only go as fast as the wave I'm riding most of the time anyways..... Most of the elite skis are pretty quick, it just comes down to whether you're good enough to always apply full power.

Very quietly, almost stealthily actually, certainly in comparison to the huge hype around the V10  Gen2, Epic have been redesigning the V10 from the ground up, and this week our demo arrived.

Straight away you can see that this is not in any substantial way derived from the Gen 2 boat. The amount of rake at the bow, the rocker profile, the more organic lines of the hull and generally all over point towards a scratch design that owes much to the (also recently re-released) V12.

It carries it's volume aft a fair bit further than other elite skis, has a 45cm beam, and is shorter than predecessors at 6.25m, so the pure numbers and shape suggest a ski with the characteristics of the excellent new V12, but not requiring the extra skill set required to pilot such an uber-elite craft.

Yesterday we had 5 different paddlers in the boat, in a range of conditions from dead flat water in the hands of very fast local guy (where it was as quick as everything except the V14-type elites), to a 10km triangular across-downwind-headwind bay course in 19-25kn of southerly which I paddled, a current Gen2 V10 Sport paddler, and two other guys who also regularly paddle intermediate skis in rough water. 

All three of the intermediate paddlers instantly identified the tweaked seating position, slightly higher than the usual Epic set up, and remarked on how good it felt being right over the top of your stroke. The V10 Sport paddler felt that the lower stability was a good thing as it was very predictable on edge and that it only took him a minute in the chop to adjust, and then the benefits of the sleeker design then became obvious. The other two guys both enjoyed the looseness of the stern downwind, the very instinctive manouvreability, which is something I remember fondly from the original V10. 

My own run involved 1.5km across a fresh southerly buster in pure wind waves, during which time I had to manoeuvre to assist a paddler to remount. That's something I have to plan pretty carefully on the genuinely elite skis, but on the V10 I never had a second thought about my own stability.

Downwind in waves about a boat length apart, I was skipping and turning the boat towards each steeper section, scooting along at about 12-13kmh pretty easily, and had the acceleration to chase the occasional wave that needed chasing. The nimbleness of the hull is a joy, it responds to an edge like a much shorter ski, and I really did have a lot of fun.

Back upwind it was like most skis, I don't think I've ever read a detailed review of any surfski's upwind performance!

But, nowadays it's a crowded and quite confusing market, so who is going to get a kick out of this ski?

Well me for one, who has wished since the day it went away that I had kept the original V10. This is a nod to that first, great ski, no question. It feels the way the old one felt on waves, accelerates in a predictable and reassuring way, but without the 'rolliness' of the original. I think that's a reflection of the fact that skis in general have come a long way since then and most of us are no longer willing to put up with unnecessary instability as a sacrifice to performance.

V10 Sport owners have a very appealing and not-so-large step up to something that offers plenty more, in fact anyone out there paddling an intermediate ski well, should consider the new V10 as much smaller leap of faith towards elite skis, with a very real step up in performance.

We can't wait to get the boat out in a decent ocean downwind and see what is under the bonnet when it's bigger, faster & your decision time is substantially shorter, but initial impressions are that this new offering from Epic is a welcome nod to their illustrious past, and will put smiles on a lot of paddlers faces.

We have our demo here on hand, although it's pretty heavily booked over the coming week or so, and stock on the shelf. Get in touch to book a test paddle.

**postscript - we've now had the V10 out in 22-29kn southerly (see the video above), and the vision speaks for itself. It's a very stable moving water platform, manoeuvres around easily, and catches everything you point it at. Epic has most definitely got this one right.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Video - The Bundeena Bar from the Clouds


Sydney had been battered the previous day by 'Big Tuesday', waves recorded up to 10m and winds over 40kn. The next day dawned bright & clear, and the swell had enough energy to pump into the shallow bar that guards Port Hacking.

Rob in the Tiderace Action, Andrew in the Tiderace Xtra, and Nick in the Valley Gemini all picked the perfect little craft for the steep, fast runs.

Hope you enjoy the video.

Monday, 15 January 2018

The Peak UK Explorer PFD - now High Vis.


It's been three years since we settled on a PFD for our sea kayaking, after traipsing around the world's biggest kayak expo for three days turning all of the big brands inside out. In the period we've been using and selling the Peak UK Explorer Zip PFD, not only has our experience been a very good one, but our customers have gone out of their way to let us know what a great quality product it is, both to wear, and for it's superb functionality.

That period has coincided with a veritable explosion of high visibility paddle gear, lead by the omnipotent Vaikobi Ocean PFD, a bright & minimalist design that has won over grumpy racers who were most perturbed by having to wear a life jacket in their training & racing.

For us, the shift away from the old dull colours in PFD's - 'so the ranger doesn't see us landing & putting up our tent' - has meant that weekly activities like Dolls Point Paddlers, a rough water paddle with anywhere from a dozen to twenty paddlers in high wind & twilight, have become infinitely easier to manage.

The Vaikobi brightness has shifted the goalposts, we now look very favourably upon ocean paddling mates who wear something high vis - a cap or a shirt if not a PFD - and the chances of losing someone, not seeing them wandering off have been greatly reduced.


Up to now the Explorer Zip has only been available in red or blue, both colours we now find unacceptably difficult to see on open water or in low light, so we asked Peak if they'd make us some higher visibility colours. The came up with a brilliant bright orange which they contrasted with lime green straps, and a lime green 'opposite'. 

The good news is they've landed, and are everything we had hoped for in colours & visibility, as well as having a few little tweaks improving what was already the best ocean paddling PFD we've ever used. We sincerely believe that in 10 years time, we'll all be in high visibility PFD's, and for that matter will wonder why we ever weren't!

They're available in our store, $235 including delivery nationally. You can order HERE.

There's a detailed review below:

Monday, 20 November 2017

Tiderace Sea Kayaks & Nelo Portugal


Tiderace Sea Kayaks made quite an impact when we first imported them to these shores back in 2012. Designed by Aled Williams, a chap we have the utmost respect for as a kayak oracle, shaping hulls that just do exactly what you want them to do, and built up to now at Cobra International in Thailand, one of the world's largest composite manufacturers.
They oozed simplicity, were built to a standard like nothing we'd seen before, and just looked damn cool. In the Pace 17 Tour Aled managed to bring the fast tourer to the average paddler, without compromising on performance, a genuine breakthrough in a market where plumb bow kayaks were being whispered about by some traditionalists as 'not real sea kayaks'.

Over the past 18 months it became harder & harder for us to get stock from Tiderace, as they became captive to a manufacturer for whom they were a very small fish in a very big pond, and we were wondering if they were ever going to grace our waterways again.
Last month we received news that manufacturing was being moved to the kayaking giants of Europe, Nelo.

With a state-of-the-art production facility in Portugal, we had grown used to seeing Nelo's unbelievably well made surf skis creeping into the ocean ski market here, so we were very excited at the idea of these guys pumping out the Tiderace kayaks we'd come to love for their performance.

The great news is that they're only a few weeks from finishing the moulding for familiar models such as the Pace 17 Tour, 17S and Pace 18, and well as the Evoke (now known more fittingly as the Action) and the Action S.

Because Nelo pride themselves on being able to customise every single kayak they build, we're no longer restricted to a very small set of standard colourways, instead being able to offer a huge range of colours & variables in deck & hull design (a few examples of which are illustrated in the graphic above).

Aled has also designed a new model to be the flagship of their skeg boat range, the Xceed, which looks to be a touring evolution of the Xcite, a kayak we consider to be the best skeg boat ever designed (we still have the last ever XciteS stock in this part of world, two remaining and then sadly gone forever).

With production based in Europe, we can now also import the rotomoulded Tiderace Vortex, a flat planing hull design that has redefined play in a sea kayak.

Pricing is still to be confirmed, but our best guess is that despite the manufacturing moving from Asia to Europe, it will be basically the same as it was when the boats were being made in Thailand.

If you'd like to test out a Tiderace kayak, or order one in your own colours, please get in touch, we're finalising numbers over the next 2-3 weeks, and will have plenty of stock here in April 2018.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Festval of Blue Water & Blue Sky


It's always a tough one packing for our annual migration south for the Victorian Sea Kayak Club's Blue Water Festival. We invariably leave Sydney in balmy spring weather, the cold weather gear having been dispensed with for another season, and never quite manage to get our heads around the fact that several degrees of latitude south does tend to cool things down!


Having mostly been blown to smithereens at the previous two years' events, we did our best to prepare for whatever may be, despite a forecast promising plenty of sunshine.
The club put the weekend on at Barwon Heads this year, a seaside village so idyllic it was used as the backdrop for the TV series Sea Change.

We drove down to Melbourne via the eastern edge of the city & caught the Sorrento to Queenscliff Ferry across to the surf coast. If you haven't done that before, it's a real treat, and they have a bar.

On the Friday we had coaching booked for more than thirty club members, a morning session on forward paddling, and an afternoon of very targeted rescue practice cloaked in the inevitable buffoonery of Rob's excellent rescue game.



Don't assume we're going to let you use your paddle, just because it's meant to be kayak coaching!





Geoff Murray had sailed across from his native Tassie on the Spirit to be the headline act for the weekend, and we caught up with him and enjoyed some local seafood & spring water at a beautiful little restaurant perched on a wharf. 

On the Saturday morning I accompanied Gerard, Tina & a big group on a paddle out along the surf coast between Barwon Heads & the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, a broad expanse of small rolling swell that traverses a sandy sea floor of at times wildly varying depths.

Scanning the water ahead provided the occasional highlight as a peak seemed to rise alarmingly & then dissipate as quickly as it had appeared. Every now & then there was a hint of white water, ranging from about 500m to about 800m behind the surf zone, but we clipped along the calm, windless sea profile without incident.

At about the point where we were due to turn, I looked south & saw a big green wall that was threatening to break, but as years of ocean paddling experience tell me, surely  won't. Regardless, as it began to turn transparent, I decided a desperate charge was my best form of defence, and busted over the lip into a lot of clear air as it did, in fact, start to tumble over. With a degree of hubris, I thought "Phew, I'm glad it missed me, but I bet there's some collateral damage on the other side!' as I glanced back at the hissing white wall that was heading for my new paddle mates. 
Then the hissing sound changed ears, and when I swung my head around there was a bigger one, and I wasn't going to get away this time! Charging regardless, I hit the wave almost vertical, was pushed straight up into the air by the pile of whitewater, driven backwards into a not-so-elegant reverse endo, which terminated, by my best guess, on the 'over-the-falls' part of the breaking wave, where I was window-shaded three times before managing to grab a handful of purchase with my roll & breathe again. The trace on my GPS shows a 12 second ride backwards, but I swear it was 6 minutes.... With my sinuses now remarkably clear and chiropractic work done, I then set about retrieving my very expensive sunnies (on a float), my $90 hat and my pump (also both floating). So a good tale, but not an expensive one!

Excitement over, Gerard & his able deputies then proceed to calmly put the group back together, retrieved the riderless horses; Ben deck-carried one of the swimmers (as we'd practiced the afternoon before), and within 5 minutes were were all sharing a laugh about the experience.

A wider course home was deemed appropriate, so we paddled out to the submerged wreck of the HMAS Canberra, before running back to Barwon Heads on some very cool little waves.

Back at the beach a few curious souls tested out my demo Audax, before we made our way back to the HQ for lunch.

In the arvo Rob told the tale of the Audax, from concept through to design & manufacture; a story that surprises most paddlers when they hear first hand just what's involved in bringing a new design to market. In a part of the world where a plumb bow sea kayak is often treated with suspicion if not bewilderment, we hope we managed to explode some of the myths peddled about this new style of boat.


On Saturday night our mate from Tassie, Geoff Murray, presented his gobsmacking trove of images & tales from years spent paddling in Greenland & Antarctica. 


Preceding that however, the club had decided to honour Mick MacRobb by naming their hotly contested photo competition in his memory, and had invited Mick's Mum & Dad, Graeme & Jenny, and his partner Lyn to speak & present the award. It was lovely moment, in a room full of warmth & good wishes, and well done to the Vics say we.

Ben Flora's winning photo - what a stunner!

The final day dawned with blue sky & warm sunshine yet again, so Rob took the opportunity to join in on the club's surf coaching session in the insanely fun Tiderace Action, where from all reports all he did was surf himself silly. He certainly had a grin from sunscreen-smeared ear to ear when he came back from the beach!

The weekend finished with a catered lunch & a farewell from President Richard, and this year everyone went away with a sunburnt nose & big smile. What a top weekend.

Thanks so much to Richard, Steve, and the committee of the VSKC for inviting us down & making us feel so welcome. You know you're coming to play with a healthy club when they welcome outsiders & their seditious ideas in good humour, with an open mind, and we had a ball.

The Epic 18X Double - Reviewed

Epic announced a new double touring sea kayak late in 2017, and we were quick to order a demo, seeing the potential for a light weight, s...