Sunday, 27 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
An entranced audience of paddlers & admiriers listened in as Freya tried to convey the mindset & scope of her epic paddle. She showed us how she managed to sleep out on the Gulf of Carpentaria, laying back like an aquabound crucifix holding a double floated paddle, the big bite marks on the stern of her boat courtesy of a friendly Noah at Broome, her boat itself, the vessel that she propelled 13,000km clockwise around the country, in just on 11 months, and most of all she gave glimpses into her motivation.
The Epic 18X which took Freya from Broome to the finish.
Her decision to call the trip a race was a masterstroke, when you consider the mindset of the competitive athlete. A race gives you a goal, an opponent (even if the hologram of Paul Caffyn was tailing her through the pages of his book), a finishing line & the motivation to keep going. It's not the usual approach of the recreational sea kayaker, but Freya is sure not your usual paddler. The idea of competition & measurement don't tend to do it for most sea kayakers, but if there is one thing we can learn from Freya's paddle & her talk, it's that it doesn't hurt to push yourself and aspire.
Rob Mercer does the intro.
Before she left for her circumnavigation we had dinner & after meeting her I wrote:
"Starting with a 2500km stretch from Victoria up through the East Coast surf zone where just about every single day you will have a very serious surf landing & exit with a fully loaded boat. Factor in the afternoon Nor'easterlies that predominate through the 2 months of her journey north, & her goal of 60km + per day, & she will have very early starts & a very solid pace to beat the demoralising headwinds. Then the 'pleasure' of the protected reef zone, with the onset of the trade winds, 25-30 knot daily winds which produce technical, almost surfing following paddling conditions. Then the vast loneliness of the top end, with the crocs, huge tidal zones, heat & humidity, & the lack of regular re-stock. Consider that this stretches right across the top of the continent, eventually giving way to the rugged WA coast, with it's unbroken cliffs stretching as far as 130km at a time. Clear that & you hit probably the biggest surf zone in the country, down through Margaret River & Esperance, where 16 second wave periods create miles of unlandable surf, then turn the corner to the Great Australian Bight for the 'run home'."
An amazing feat & an amazing lady, happy travels Freya, enjoy Xmas back with your family, & we hope to see you again.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Tickets for the event are $20 per person, with all proceeds going to Freya's very expensive repatriation to Germany. It's a great way to lend a hand to this amazing lady after a long & expensive expedition, while at the same time being there first hand to hear about one of history's great adventures. Freya will be available to answer all of the questions that you may have on a trip that has truly captured the imagination of the kayaking world. You can order tickets online through the our store (click the image above or browse through the left menu)but hurry, spaces are strictly limited. If you have any queries contact Mark Sundin on 0417924478, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
The event was well supported, with well over 100 paddlers attending, guest speakers, on-land talks & seminars, and a full day of on-water instruction & workshops. We drove up on Thursday in order to run our own demo day at Currumbin on Friday. Unlike last year I managed to get to Queensland without running the trailer into a petrol bowser, running out of gas or crunching a low clearance hotel entrance, so all up a pleasingly professional performance behind the wheel.
The Friday saw over 30 paddlers come along & test paddle our boats & paddles. With our shipment of Tahe kayaks due in the New Year, several people took the opportunity to put the exceptional Greenland through its paces, kindly accommodated by the owner of the only one in the country, Bass Strait veteran Brian Towell.
The Raider with a cross-bow draw....!
On the Sunday I took a willing bunch of guys, Rhys, Alex, Glenn & Gary (who also responds well when you call him Dave for an hour, sorry mate…) out to practice some raised edge surfing on the much touted Currumbin Bar. A 20 knot northerly had turned the gleaming glassy swells I’d been dreaming of in days prior into something that looked more like the river in Deliverance. With great gusto the guys slugged it out in an hour of bracing, buffeting & surviving, but I don’t think we were really any the wiser on technique at the end. At least it was almost fun…..
EK HQ at the Sunday on-water event.
Rob & I had the humbling experience of a half hour or so of informal forward stroke critique from Amanda Rankin, a great lady & K1 & K4 Olympian at the Athens games in 2004. Doing my best to hold form in the Rapier as Amanda cast her expert eye over my stroke, she concluded that a few things I really truly thought I was doing well need substantial amounts of work. Without boring you with the details, it was fantastic to be given something to again set my sights on to improve. Why on earth sea kayakers can believe that we have nothing to learn from other paddle disciplines is beyond me – Amanda’s forward stroke was a sight to behold at close quarters & has inspired me to get rotating. To those of you out there that I have barked at over the years for not rotating, well, I wasn’t even doing it properly myself, so there you go!
Silvio Testa back from a trip to the edge in the Rapier 20.
The single most pleasing aspect of the weekend was the ambition of the paddlers in attendance. At our demo day on the Friday just about everyone was rolling, performing tricks, drills, showing good form & modern technique. There is no hard-arsed intelligentsia who tell it like it is in Queensland, and the newest ideas get oxygen just as readily as the older lessons are absorbed. Friday was a bit of a skills extravaganza, with advanced strokes on display from some paddlers who have only been paddling for a few months. Martin are you out there? It was great to see. Over a bottle of wine on Friday night Rob & I pondered a guy like Nigel Dennis, certainly one of the modern fathers of sea kayak instruction, and how over the years he has managed to always have the newest ideas. At no stage has he hung up his skirt & decided there is nothing left to learn & everyone has to do it like they’ve always done it, and that in many ways exemplifies the skills revolution that is taking place in Queensland. In a sport with its fair share of crusty old buggers who refute anything counter to their time honoured rituals, always remember there is another, better way of doing things around the corner.
A broad church of ideas....
The kayak industry was also on show in its brightest incarnation, with a refreshing camaraderie among competing business, boats & personalities. Everything from Surf Kayaks to Surf Skis were on show for paddlers to try out, with a vast resource of information in the trades hall available to anyone with a question or query. Ten minutes talking to Ross Cook from Roscoe’s Canoes is like a mini history lesson in the way the paddling world has developed in this country, while it is always a pleasure to catch up with guys like Christian from Roscoe’s, top instructor & owner of Adventure Outlet, Craig McSween (despite all that stuff they say about him ;-)), & Bob ‘the legend’ from Rafta Kayaks.
The queue for the Tahe Greenland
All up a top weekend for sea paddlers. Thanks so much to everyone who made the effort to come along & see what we had on offer, it felt like a reunion most of the time. We’ll be back at this event next year, it was a ripper.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
We are also holding a demo day prior to the Symposium at Currumbin, from 10am - 3pm on Friday November 27. All of our demo boats will be there, and as usual we will sit along side you in the water offering instruction & advice on your paddling. If you'd like to come along please email me - email@example.com - for more info.
At the Symposium itself, Rob & I will also be leading a couple of advanced instruction sessions, however we're available over the whole weekend to answer your questions on or off the water about all things technical, boat choices, gear & more. Make sure you say G'day.
Click on the graphic above if you're interested in registering, there are still places left & it promises to be a terrific, informative & entertaining weekend.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
“Forty isn't old, if you're a tree”
So, for our 40th, with that sort or roof-raising legacy to maintain, we thought it might be a good idea to paddle out to Broughton Island for a night & sulk. Stacka is a ski paddler who would find paddling a barge of a sea kayak a breeze, a former Bondi lifeguard who is pretty dark on the fact that the current bunch of imposters are now international household names and he’s just a suburban bloke with a bagful of very funny stories.
With a forecast promising a 15kn headwind throwing up a metre & a half sea on top of a 2m swell for day one, and similar following conditions for the return trip, we decided to go from Shoal Beach inside Nelson Bay, and run past the beautiful offshore islands on our way out to Broughton Island, approximately 20km to the north east. We were all smiles as we skipped past Tomaree Head and across the Pt Stephens heads to Yaccaba.
The refraction & tidal movement started to produce a little bit of rebound as we neared the end of the headland, and then Adonis took a swim. He had a bit of a stunned look on his face as he popped up, and had given no prior hint of instability; just a misplaced paddle stroke that tripped him up & gave him a bath.
One more capsize on the way there had us in earnest discussion in the lee of Cabbage Tree Island about the wisdom of continuing. We took into account the distance to go to BI – about 11km. The wind had eased to about 10 knots on the nose, and once clear of the islands we would be in open water with much less confusion in the sea & swell direction. Adrian was well kitted out, physically strong, warm despite the swims, well fuelled, in the company of two sea instructors (one of whom is actually very good) & another very solid paddler who typically was thinking the whole thing was a piece of p-ss (keep reading folks). We decided to push on.
With the distant silhouette of Broughton in his sights, the Adonis then sucked it up, gingerly driving his boat through the head-sea conditions, with a phalanx of attentive newly middle-aged blokes taking turns at watching his every twitch. Halfway across he had another unplanned bath, so we hooked up a V-Tow with support to give him a bit of a breather. Stacka thought it was clever to point out that my line was a bit less slack than 50 years old Mercer’s after about 30 minutes of load hauling. Never mind that the old bugger was in the Rockpool GT and is, well, bloody faster than me…! After the outburst, Rob & I figured we’d give Mr Frustrated Bondi Rescue a go on his own for a while.
He did so well (this time with the Adonis back swinging his paddle & looking as strong as ever), that we didn’t think it was necessary to relieve him until one last capsize near the infamous ‘Commodore’s Cleft’.
Rob hooked in & towed alongside the now chastened and pleasingly fatigued Stacka until it was calm enough to remove the towlines & allow Adonis to breeze past everyone & claim line honours at Esmeralda Cove. In all seriousness, think about the scope of what Adrian managed in the context of your own paddling. No prior experience, seven capsizes in what was a reasonably intimidating sea, with a island on the horizon that never really looks like it’s getting any closer until you get right to it’s front door mat, into a headwind. We were confident we could get him out there by any one of a number of assists, and could have V-towed him all the way there & back if it was called for. However to do it mostly on his own was entirely dependent on him holding his nerve. Falling in is pretty unnerving stuff in a big bad ocean, and I’ve seen lots of paddlers with heaps of experience understandably pack it in after a couple of swims. Adonis mate, if anyone ever tries to tell you you’re not tenacious, determined & brave, give them my number.
A typically ungenerous Hastings was unwilling to relinquish the towline saying something along the lines of ‘I’m not going to give the bastard the pleasure of landing under his own steam’, but wiser & more charitable heads prevailed.
The weather had cleared & the island revealed itself in all of its majesty; one hell of a destination for any paddlers out there with a good skill set in an experienced group, if you’re wondering…...
We made camp, went for a short walk to the south facing side of the island, a beautiful wind-swept island part Royal National Park, part Outer Hebrides.
We then adjourned to Rob’s tarp for a spectacular feed pre-prepared & snap frozen during the week by Rob’s saintly better half, Sharon Betteridge. You know what they say folks, behind every great man is a great woman, rolling her eyes. The sky was as black as a JP Morgan investment bankers heart and shooting stars & satellites began to reveal themselves, remarkably more frequently as we knocked back the third bottle of red.
The next day dawned bright with sunny skies & a noticeable easing of the sea state, highlighted by a Humpback doing a mighty breach at the mouth of Esmeralda Cove.
What a difference a day makes. With the far more challenging following seas picking us up and scooting us along at a cracking pace, Adrian held it together across the entire passage to Cabbage Tree.
The rides on offer were marvellous big long surf runs on nicely paced following seas, the one truly exhilarating element of our sport. We turned at the eastern edge of Cabbage Tree Island & ran with the swell all the way back into Shoal Bay, making the return journey in just over two & a half hours.
With high fives all round we packed up the boats & gear & headed to the Marina for a monster feed and a couple of cold libations. My beer was so cold it hurt……
A fantastic way to cap off a trip with a top bunch of people to a spectacular & challenging destination, and a worthy celebration.
So, Stacka & I can safely say we’ve started our terminal decline with a memory we’ll cherish for years, as opposed to entering our thirties with a memory we’ve, ah, what did we do for out thirtieth again….?
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Friday, 16 October 2009
Owners Peter Orton, Jason Buxton and Andy "Snakey" Whiting, from Valley fame, have all held down influential development and managerial roles within the paddlesport industry. As paddlers they have represented Great Britain on countless occasions. Many of the kayaks already accepted as benchmarks within white-water, sea, surf and squirt paddling were designed or developed by one or more of this team. Despite Big Dog being a new venture there really are few other companies, anywhere in the world, with this level of experience on their books.
Big Dog has only one focus, making the very best whitewater kayaks available!
We’ll have stock on hand of the Flux, Force & Kaos. Contact Mark or Rob to arrange a blast in the most radically designed playboats to hit the scene in years….
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
No question, the predictable secondary stability of the boat provides a superb platform. Of course, a stable boat is often hard work to edge turn or manouver, but the designers of the Aquanaut have overcome this with a medium rounded chine which allows you to drop off the keel line with a small edge or lean. The ease of hip control isn’t as pronounced as it is on a Nordkapp, where you can really control your boat with the tiniest of movements once you get the hang of it, but you definitely don’t need to be overly strong to steer the boat with your core.
Despite some big impacts & a torturous regime of boat punishment, there are no signs of cracking or structural damamge, and I've never had as much as a drop of water in any of the hatches. My clear hull, despite the howls of protest from local boffins about how fragile it would be, remains as shiny & strong as the day I took the boat out of the wrapper. Clearly the critics of clear carbon kevlar hulled kayaks in Australia haven't seen the way the Valley guys make them....Where I’m lacking any real experience is in packing & paddling the boat for an extended trip, however Brian Towell came back full of praise for the boat after paddling his Aquanaut across Bass Strait in February. Rob Mercer took his Aquanaut on a 150km paddle in November last year & commented on the loss of real sportiness in the boat when packed, but that with care in weight distribution the trim of the boat could be adjusted to make the most of the day’s conditions. Not every boat can do everything, & I can safely say if I was heading off for a month I’d be in a Nordkapp, rather than my trusty Aquanaut, for the extra waterline length & carrying capacity.
My paddling is confined for now to day & overnight trips, short blasts in the surf or around the caves & cliffs of Sydney, and the Aquanaut is a boat I am well & truly smitten with, for it’s ability to provide a superb platform & feedback in the water in which I like to paddle. I’ve paddled other designs which are faster on dead flat water, others which can carry more gear or are ‘easier’ to paddle, but none which react so beautifully to the motion of the sea
“a DVD to watch time and again...for both education and inspiration”
"Dynamic coaching in inspiring scenery. Gordon shows strokes in calm conditions followed by 'oh my god' conditions, displaying the same techniques in both."
Justine Curgenven / This Is The Sea