Monday, 4 February 2008
Paddling the Famous Norkapp
I took the Nordkapp out on Saturday morning for my first paddle in this legendary boat, & man, it didn't disappoint.
The aim of the exercise was to allow Jennie Connaughton, now the proud owner of an Impex Force 3, to get out on the ocean & test paddle her boat, just to seal the deal. I took the opportunity to wrestle the Nordkapp demo boat back off Rob Mercer to give it a try, after he & Les Allen from WA had given it a glowing review after testing a couple of weeks ago. We paddled off from La Perouse & headed out to Cape Solander with a pretty solid 2m swell, & a confused sea riding on top of that. The wind was a pleasant 10 knots, gusting to 15 knots, but it was a focussing test paddle, as the steeper waves had that 'about to break' look about them - that deceiving feature ocean waves can get from time to time, especially when they bustle into a shallow ocean floor as exists between the heads of Port Botany. Jennie handled the conditions like a pro, despite limited sea experience - I'd say her past life as a wave-ski paddler came into play as we bounced over the swell & chop. Out into the conditions the Nordkapp was well behaved & dealt with them as you would expect the world's first & most revered expedition kayak to do. It was the return run, with reasonably steep, fast following seas where I was very pleasantly surprised. Now, the Nordkapp has received some bad press in Australia for many years, due to a few manufacturers both here & in NZ perpetuating very close copies of the original boat design from the 1970's. Make no mistake, these designs are pretty tough to handle, especially in following seas. I would say the preponderance of rudders in Australia & NZ, compared to Britain & the US, is in no small way due to the performance of these Nordkapp-inspired kayaks, & the difficulty of keeping them on a good track. However, the new guys at Valley have made some subtle variations to the original design, which have obviously had their effect. Coming back with the conditions on Saturday, I flew, at one point surfing down the face of one green wave, over the top of the one in front & continuing the ride on that one for a good couple of hundred metres. I was expecting the boat to slew off waves, as a kayak of this length should do (& my previous Greenland-style kayak did virtually every time), but it held a very fast, straight line & absolutely powered down the face of waves. Without the skeg deployed, there was a little more tendency to veer to one side or the other, which meant I had to use my body a little more to steer, which is actually great fun if you don't have to do it for hours on end in an inferior down-sea design. With a little skeg in the water & the boat tracked like a beauty.
The boat is plastic (or rotomoulded polyethylene to be more correct), & I considerecd myself to have moved beyond the 'training wheels' phase of paddling plastic boats, into the status symbol world of composites, but this boat is making me have a re-think. There is little to distinguish this kayak from a composite boat - it's light, strong, completely watertight (seriously), & the Valley manufacturing process produces a stiffness that plastic boats of the past can only dream of acheiving.
All up, a fantastic kayak for a budding expeditioner looking for big-water adventures.
Oh, & by the way, Jennie did bloody well on her test paddle too. Look for her out on the water in her Force 3...!
We're occasionally asked if the Audax is just a surfski with a sea kayak deck, usually followed by our explanation that you can't ju...
Surfski paddling on the new breed of ocean racing skis, has moved very quickly in recent years from the exclusive domain of elite surf ...
The most often asked question we hear, with boat choices available from EK now numbering in the high teens, and each craft selected ...
In my exposure to paddlers from a wide variety of paddle backgrounds & disciplines around the country, at the various events &...