April Davie paddling her Valley Avocet LV (Photo Gary Davie)
Rob's recent excellent article about boat fit - If the Boat Fits - has drawn a remarkable amount of feedback from paddlers around the country. We just wouldn't accept a market where camping stores had only two shoe sizes available, & if your size was nowhere near catered for, you'd be told to buy four or five pairs of socks to make it fit. Yet this has been the standard response in the kayak market here for many years. Even some of the smaller boats in regards waterline length, have beams at or above 60cm, which make an efficent catch for a good forward stroke pretty difficult for a shorter person.
The result has mostly been a palpable disadvantage for smaller framed paddlers in developing their skills. I can hear the chorus - what does it matter really, it's only for the wife & she just wants to plod along in my wake! Well, the recent spike in female paddlers getting super skilled & more than matching it with their male counterparts is of course in no small way down to their drive & determination, but has also come about with the availability of kayaks that actually fit them.
I received a nice email yesterday from Gary & April Davie in Queensland, about the difference a proper boat fit can make, when it really has to. April is new to paddling & had bought an Aquanaut LV in late 2009, but quickly realised that it was too big for her once the wind kicked in - her slight frame wasn't heavy enough to put the boat far enough into the water to make the hull perform to it's optimum.
At the Currumbin weekend, Moira Schwarz kindly lent April her Avocet LV, a kayak designed first & foremost with the needs of 60kg & lighter paddlers in mind. She loved the close fit & the responsiveness & ordered one on the spot.
Gary & April went for a paddle on the weekend where the obs for the period they were on the water show the winds from abeam building from a pleasant 10kn to a challenging 25kn. These were the most challenging conditions that April had been out in. Gary wrote:
"I thought I would give you some feedback which you probably already know about the Avocet LV and small paddlers. Since April got her Avocet LV I find she keeps up with the Nordkapp at cruising speeds, when it gets rough the thing seems to take off and I have to put in extra effort to keep up. On the weekend we were crossing from Moreton Island to Bribie Island, an 18 km crossing. An hour into the paddle we hit rain squalls, 2-3m seas and wind 25/30 knots side on. 2 hours later we landed at our destination in the surf at Bribie. April was able to hold course with adjustments to the skeg, at one stage I struggled to match the tracking of the Avocet as the tops of the waves were breaking off and blasting into the bow of the Nordkapp forcing it downwind. Sorry I don’t have any photos when things got interesting but this one was an hour earlier. It all sounds good now but at the time it was pretty full on. You can see by the weather station recorded data how sudden the change was."
The moral of the story is clear - a smaller paddler in a boat that fits her in proportion, with a low wind profile, a smaller wetted area making it easier to paddle & maintain a cruising pace, more smiles per mile, even when things get a bit hairy.
We have several boats in our range that fit the small paddler profile, including the Nordkapp LV, Avocet LV, & Aquanaut LV (in composite & rotomould), as well as the Avocet & the new Zegul 530, a boat with very similar fit to the Valley LV boats. We are committed to the idea of allowing paddlers, especially the under-catered female & smaller paddlers, a range of boats that fit, so helping them to further their skills.
If you're smimming around in your current boat and for the life of you can't work out why you just seem to be getting any better, give us a call & organise a test paddle.