Friday, 29 January 2010

Customised Valley & Rockpool Kayaks


If you'd like us to order you a completely customised Valley or Rockpool kayak, the closing date for our April shipment is next Friday, February 5. We can build a 3-peice boat, a Carbon/Kevlar layup, customised colours, even with Rockpool customised artwork, and have it here in a timeframe comparable to a local manufacturer. Contact Mark on 0417 924 478 or mark@expeditionkayaks.com with any enquiries.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Justine Curgenven - This is Canoeing DVD

I've just had an email from Justine Curgenven, the lady who has made sea kayaking cool with her award winning 'This is the Sea' series of sea kayaking DVD's.
She has been busy for the past year making a new movie about Canoeing, as in open top canoeing. I know it ain't sea kayaking but it still looks pretty cool. My motto is, if it involves a paddle, I want to find out what it's all about.
We'll have stock of the new DVD from early March, for $39.95 including postage.
Your can see a preview below:


Here's what Justine has to say about the movie:
'THIS IS CANOEING” is a 2-disc celebration of canoeing, showcasing top single-blade paddlers in their pursuit of remote wilderness journeys or challenging white water. Multi-award winning film maker, Justine Curgenven captures the essence of canoeing in 12 short films. From open canoe slalom races to 1,000 mile birchbark expeditions, Justine provides insights into the diversity of the sport and the influential people who tell it’s story. Immerse yourself in this globe-trotting 3 hours of adventure to world class canoeing destinations in Canada, the United States, Scotland & Wales. Innovatively filmed with headcams and on-board cameras to take you to the heart of the action.'

Monday, 18 January 2010

Life in the Freezer

Here are a few pics from around Tallinn, definitely not a mecca for sea kayakers, but the home town of the guys from Tahe Marine. Tallin is an absolutely stunning city, but it's not very warm....


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Mitchell Blades & Rockpool

Friday was my day to trip into North Wales to see Lance Mitchell from Mitchell Blades & also Mike Webb from Rockpool.
Lance’s new factory is in Chester, a Roman city with a wall round it keep out the barbarian hordes.

I’m a bit of a sceptic of the car GPS systems – I reckon they slowly kill that part of your brain that navigates, leaving you even less human that you were. However, a combination of jet lag & a rigorous social schedule had well & truly killed the navigation part of my brain already so I was grateful for my little friend telling my to ‘bear right in 800 yards’. Lance is a bit of a go-getter, starting his business in a tiny shed at the back of his parents lovely B&B, and recently moving to a much bigger facility as his order sheets have over flowed. Mitchell Blades have very quickly established themselves as the premier paddle manufacturer in the UK, and it is great to see Lance’s paddles getting more & more refined, lighter & also to see the evolution of some innovative new shapes, such as our own Bomborah.

Lance was hugely helpful showing me around the process of making his paddles, & we came up with a couple of innovations which will be here with our next batch of blades. Look out for the super light Bombora LV, a blade aimed at paddlers looking for a lighter load on the water, and a crank shaft with a broad crank position, eliminating the need to customise the crank to each specific paddler’s stroke.

Lance with the finished product

From Chester I drove down the A55 along the North Wales coastline, through the Welsh ski fields (with almost top to bottom snow), and past the tidal waters that we see in Justine’s ‘This is the Sea’ series. Rockpool are at Holyhead, a stone’s throw from the Anglesey tide races like Penrhyn Mawr. The scenery was stunning; it’s easy to see why this little corner of the world is considered one of the Mecca’s of big water sea kayaking.

Everyone had told me what a great bloke Mike Webb is and it was nice to put a face to an email. Rockpool are a much smaller manufacturer than the likes of Valley, NDK & P&H, so Mike’s ethos is to compete on quality, service & constant evolution. He has developed a racing sea kayak which John Willacy recently blitzed around Anglesey, breaking the circumnavigation record, and is constantly finetuning his signature designs, the Alaw, Alaw Bach and the new GT.

Listening to him explain his logic in designing the myriad features on his range it becomes apparent that he really is at the forefront of modern thinking on boat design & fit out in sea kayaking. It was great to see a few of the boats from Rockpool that we don’t yet import such as the Alaw & the Isel, and to just shoot the breeze for a couple of hours. And yes, there were starfish everywhere......

My day was rounded off with a big send-off at my old cricket club. It’s weird to come back to a town like St Helens after such a long time away (I last played here in 1994). About the only thing that had changed was that everyone had a mobile phone, I felt like Buck Rogers….

I’m now sitting at the airport at Frankfurt nursing a bit of a hangover & the effects of another night with bugger all sleep, waiting to catch a plane to Tallinn, Estonia. Current temp forecast for Tallinn is -17C, which will be a new experience….

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Valley

Today I headed across the winterscape to Nottingham to visit the guys at Valley. They remain in the same factory as the original owner, Frank Goodman, however since taking over the business 4 years ago they have expanded into all of the surrounding buildings.

Valley are a go-ahead company, launching the BigDog whitewater brand this year & having instant success, changing the thinking of sea kayakers with their phalanx of Low Volume kayaks, introducing sea racers like the Rapier 20, and developing a 'look' in the construction of their boats that make them the envy of any paddling pod.

Owners Jason, Pete & Andy are all Great Britain representatives in various paddle sport disciplines and their approach reflects their various fields of expertise with paddle in hand. Jason showed me through their production process, the rigorous QC and a few of the tricks that set Valley apart from their competitors. It was nice to see where our boats come from! New developments include an LV version of the Atlantic, and a Rotomoulded Atlantic which is going to be a bit cheaper than our standard Valley plastic boats.
On the way through Nottingham I had a quick look at Trent Bridge, the famous cricket ground, and spent a fair bit of time dodging minor bingles on the icy roads. Man, for a county in a cold part of the planet, they sure don't deal too well with a cold snap!
With owner Jason Buxton

Heathsnow....

Wow, landing at Heathrow was like descending through the thickest fog on earth, then touching down on a Siberian runway. The whole airport was blanketed in heavy snow, with more and more falling by the minute.
By the time we taxied to a the gate, the wings were iced up and my window looked like a freezer pack. The lady next to me lives in London and said it was the first time she'd ever seen Heathrow under snow. Outside, it wasn't as cold as some places I've been in the world, but still a shock after leaving Sydney at 39 degrees 24 hours earlier! Hell only knows how I'm going to deal with -22C in Estonia on Saturday!
I caught a shuttle flight to Manchester and then braved the icy motorway to my old stomping ground in St Helens, Lancashire. I can tell you, give me a breaking surf bar over an icy English motorway at 70mph anyday.
Off to Nottingham tomorrow to meet Jason, Pete and Andy at Valley.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Slung out in Singapore

The onset of manic jetlag at Changi Airport.
I'm en-route to the UK & Estonia, stopping briefly for a burger, an email update & a Singapore Sling at the airport bar.
My trip takes me to my old cricket town in Lancashire, St Helens (the rugby league stronghold), which is basically in the middle of Nottingham (Valley), Chester (Mitchell Blades) and Anglesey (Rockpool). So, I get to tie in a ripper of a social catch up with my old cricket mates with a visit to all of our terrific kayak people in the UK. Life is tough being a kayak importer...
From there I head to Estonia to meet Marek & Janek from Tahe, & hopefull see our boat shipment as it is loaded into the container.
The weather is a bit brisk, so I haven't packed my boardies......
I'll update as I travel through Europe.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Learning to Ski, the Epic V10 Sport.

At the Queensland Symposium in late November, thanks to Craig Mcsween from Adventure Outlet (the Queensland Epic dealer) I had a go on a couple of the new Epic racing ski’s, the V12 & V10 Sport. Thinking they would be crazy unstable & made for super-fit surf lifesaving athletes I was a bit tentative pushing off the bank at Currumbin Creek & wobbled along on the first few paddle strokes, especially in the real performance boat, the V12.
As I built up a head of steam, I realised that they’re not as unstable as I’d been led to believe, and that the V10 Sport was actually on par with many sea kayaks for the level of stability.
So, as you do, I got hold of one for myself & have spent the last 3 weeks throwing myself into ski paddling on the V10 Sport to see if I can get a small taste of the sort of action you see in the fantastic ski races around Sydney in summer (for a look at a few local races check out Rambo’s Locker).
I began with a couple of gentle paddles in Botany Bay, getting a feel for the extremely close catch zone on a ski compared to a sea kayak. I quickly realised that once you get any sort of following conditions, the ski grows another gear & you find yourself scooting along at 13kmh+ in even a moderate bay chop. The stability hardens up considerably once you’re up over 9kmh, which is achievable on dead flat water at even a moderate cruise pace.
In comparison to a sea kayak like my Aquanaut, the initial stability is a little bit twitchier, but the secondary is comparable, even if it is a ‘different’ type of secondary stability. In my experience & opinion, a sea kayaker with a decent stroke & a moderate level of fitness would make the transition to a V10 Sport without any problems. I wouldn’t make the same recommendation about the V12; they are clearly more demanding boats to paddle on the sea & require a much higher base skill level.
I then took the ski with me to Noosa on our family Xmas holiday, and spent the week going for hour or so long blasts up the river, out through the Noosa Bar & into Laguna Bay. I had a couple of swims on the bar when hit by breaking waves, but quickly & easily remounted to keep on going, even in the surf zone. I’d then head out into the bay upwind, and across the wind to get a feel for the stability & feel of the hull in moderate 15kn winds & little 1m wind waves. I’d finish up with a downwind flyer on the back of the Nor’easter’s that dominated the week, and surf back across the bar riding the swell & surf through the break zone & into the calm of the river again. Once in the river, I’d ride the bow waves of the tinnies & sightseeing boats heading back upriver, cruising along on their wakes at 6-8 knots. As exhilarating as the open ocean & surf zone stuff was, riding bow waves is pretty cool – kind of like being towed along by an invisible line. It’s certainly not something I’ve ever been able to do in a sea kayak!
On arriving back in Sydney, a decent Nor’easter kicked up in Sydney in the first week of January, and I went out with a mate off Malabar to head upwind past Magic Point. The location was deliberate, this is a big water instructing play spot known for rebound & steep swell due to the sub-ocean topography & close proximity of the Maroubra cliffs. In considerable bump, rebound & 2-2.5m steep wind & swell waves coming from a couple of directions at once, the ski was rock solid, very reassuring & ploughed on through the mess with aplomb.
Turning around about 3km off Malabar, the steep following swell was pretty intimidating and I didn’t have the bottle to really lean forward & race down the face of the waves. So, backing off a bit on the bigger ones, I gradually got the feel for the tracking of the ski & realised that the rudder position – a good metre forward of the stern – keeps the boat tracking even when the following seas steepen up appreciably. In any ruddered sea kayak, the rudder would have been swinging in the breeze on the wave crests & making me skate around all over the place. After a few minutes of getting a feel for this rather counter intuitive tracking (that is, no sign of a sea kayak-like broach) I began to loosen up & go a bit harder at the following waves. That’s the point when the real fun began. When I occasionally got the timing right, the boat speed down-sea was almost frightening. Oscar Chalupsky, the charismatic co-founder of Epic & multiple world ski champion, told me in a long chat at our warehouse before Xmas that he regularly has his boats charging at 25kmh+ on following seas in South Africa, & I can believe it. You go so fast that the schoolboy fear of skateboard speed wobbles come flooding back, that part terror, part exhilaration when you feel as though one false move will bring you crashing down. Not that I’m anything but a dead-set novice, but the trick to it on a surf ski is to relax & enjoy the ride, then make use of the speed you’ve picked up on the run to latch onto the next one & so on. I can honestly say that the moments when I got it right rate among the most thrilling bits of paddling I’ve done on the ocean since I first began paddling sea kayaks on the sea nearly a decade ago.
Have a look HERE at Oscar riding small wind swell in the recent 20 beaches race off Sydney's Northern Beaches & tell me it doesn't make you want to get out there & ride some following waves!
‘OK’ you’re saying, ‘but what will the ski do for me, I’m a sea kayaker’.
Personally, I love being taken out of my comfort zone. In my sporting career it was always a thrill & challenge to go up a grade or be picked in a representative team, where you would be pushed harder & challenged against more & more difficult & aggressive opponents. My greatest memories in sport were batting against test bowlers like Malcolm Marshall and Glen McGrath, or bowling to guys like Michael Bevan or Michael Slater at club level. While I love my sea kayak & learn something new just about every time I go out, the idea of trying something that I’m nowhere near as proficient at, while still being a paddle sport is exhilarating. Another aim for 2010 is to have a proper crack at white water paddling, but I think I’ll have to clone myself to make that little fantasy come true….
So, as to the reasons why, I’ve narrowed that down to three big things that I’m hoping to get out of it, besides the overall challenge. First, the fantastic high knee position ergonomics of the seat allows to you rotate fully in your forward stroke. In the ski I exit my stroke & rotate all the way around to the next catch using all of the power my torso & legs can provide, where in my sea kayaks this is limited by the deck on the boat restricting my leg drive. It will eventually make me a much faster & stronger paddler. Second, although the V10 Sport is very stable, the ski requires a little more than sea kayak-style remote control balance, so I have to use my core strength if I want to wring everything out of it. Finally, the potential for a really high, resistance-free cadence helps me to build my paddle speed, acceleration & my paddling ‘under duress’. In my sporting career, practice under stress made for perfect execution under pressure when you needed it, and the ski offers plenty of high octane concentration, reflex training & pure speed. You want to make an hour turn into a few minutes? Take a ski out on a decent following sea & watch the time go past in a flash…!
Add to that the ability to pull a 15kg boat off the roof, throw it on your shoulders with just a pfd & a pair of cossies & head out for an hours fitness cruising & it is a high-reward, low maintenance addition to your paddling quiver. Like all of the things we like & believe in, we will be selling the V10 Sport from early February. The boat we think is best suited to our sea kayaking devotees looking to make the transition to a surf ski is the V10 Sport, in the Club layup, which is the ‘heaviest’ of the Epic layups at 15kg, but runs out at a very affordable $2750. It's a sleek 6m long, with a beamy 48cm width, with a lot of beam behind your seating position, accounting for the excellent stability.

If you’re interested in trying one out, we offer an ocean test paddle, with Rob or I sitting alongside in a sea kayak with full safety gear etc, and advice on how best to get the most out of the boat. You won’t go away from one of our demo paddles with any doubts as to whether these ski’s are for you, and the novice blues will be allayed with an informed instructional first paddle.
Not all sea kayakers will get a kick out of the V10 Sport, but if my experience is anything to go by, there will be more than a few out there who will find this rising phenomena every bit as enjoyable as our noble & ancient sport. I am learning that every single paddling discipline has technical lessons for sea kayakers, and ski paddling is one of the great ways to fast track performance skills in a kayak, no question.
Keep an eye on our website for details of when our stock arrives.