Friday, 26 March 2010

Rock & Roll 2010

Another year, another Rock & Roll weekend, and they just seem to get better & better. This year the venue was changed to an old favourite in Bateman's Bay, right on Batehaven Beach, and once again we were blessed with ridiculously calm weather. This gave plenty of people the opportunity to get out to sea & the prize destination as always are the Tollgate Islands, about 6km off the coast.
On the Friday night the punters managed to demolish 40 Large pizzas & 8 cartons of beer in about 2 hours at our traditional EK Welcome to RnR Party. To say I enjoyed myself would be an as-ever modest understatement. There are several nameless club members who can only be described as VERY bad influences on young blokes like me....I've gotta get out more.
The movie below from our Vimeo channel is High Definition, for best results expand it to full screen.
Saturday was my session in the morning on forward stroke, with 10 people signed up for some heavy surgery on their rotation & stroke. Every time I teach forward stroke to a group, I'm reminded how difficult it is to re-learn if you weren't taught 'right' in the first place, and also how horrifying it is for most people when they see themselves on video. Most people watch my demo & think to themselves, 'yeah I'm pretty much doing that', only to see the video illustrating something rather different. To anyone considering getting into our sport or just starting out - read that as not yet ingrained with bad habits - go & get some instruction. Forward stroke is such a key element to paddling & most of the instruction done on it around the place is more 'correction' than instruction, if you know what I mean.
On Saturday night we were treated to young adventurer Beau Miles, who showed the video of his attempt to paddle the entire south coast of Africa. I'll be posting more on Beau & his fantastic, raw film in coming days. Suffice to say his presentation was fantastic, showing an adventure that was brave, terrifying at times & covered some stunning scenery. Beau's talk was preceded by the raffle, where our donation of a brand new Zegul 530 was won & celebrated.
I was taken to the Tollgates on the Sunday by Gina Shannon, doing some work experience on Trip Leading prior to her subsequent successful assessment on the Monday. 
Conditions were perfect, oily smooth water & a low rolling swell of less than a metre, so we managed to poke our noses into most of the caves & rock gardens on the island. Spinning around in my Aquanaut, manoeuvring in & out of tight spots & generally playing around in the little surges reminded me why I'm a sea kayaker, even though I'm having a fast & lustful affair with my surf ski....
The rolling competition on Sunday arvo was a huge amount of fun. Up & coming paddler Paul Tobin upstaged the big names with a performance of Greenland Rolling that deserves a spot in Circq de Soleil. I'm sure he could kiss his own arse if he tried hard enough, amazing...
On Sunday night Ginni Callahan showed us a glimpse of what it's like to be a Garlic farmer come sea kayak guide & instructor, living a life we could only dream of. Ginni did a great job over the weekend giving her perspective on skills & paddle strokes & came away with heaps of new fans. If you can make it to her sessions this weekend (only Sunday arvo left), it's well worth the effort.
Over the entire weekend our huge demo range - now 18 different boats - were paddled to death. It was great to see so many people out there trying new things, having a crack in a design they'd heard about to see if it was for them. Thanks so much to everyone who dropped by for a chat, or who bought some of our gear or paddles. As well as our stand there were terrific retail stands to ogle from Elver Kayaks, Mick at Flat Earth Sails, the iconic Australis Kayaks, Bob the legend from Rafta Kayaks, Gudu & a newcomer in Cape Boat Works with lovely looking timber kayaks. The feedback I get is that the growing retail presence at Rock & Roll is a highlight for many attendees, with gear to demo & buy all in one place, and the experts there to provide in-person advice.
So another one over for another paddling season, and 2011 to look forward to. Special thanks to Rob Richmond who ran the show so incredibly effectively. Richo is the king of the kayak symposium, and available for a deserved hefty consulting fee if you want him to come & run yours for you!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

HD Ski Video

I finally got to give my camera mount a serious field test, fixing it to the bow of my ski last Friday for some fun in the rolling swell off Sydney.
We'd had a few days of concerted southerly winds which had created a localised sea of around 2m, riding on top of a smallish swell. The wind on the day of our paddle was about 15kn, and the net effect was ocean conditions almost tailor made to riding fast following seas. If there had been a bigger swell, the waves would probably have been a little bit too fast & not steep enough to really dig your heels into, less wind driven sea & it wouldn't have been much more than a gentle cruise.
So, Stacka & I paddled out to sea from La Perouse as far as Cape Solander, which is about 3km from our launch spot, punching out through the peaky waves to our turn around spot. The ride back took no time, and was about as much fun as you have without charges being laid. We had such a good time we both turned & did it again. In a sad postscript to the paddle we were both tragically late to work.....
We were both in our V10 Sports, and the stability of these craft in what were at times reasonably challenging multi-directional conditions is very, very reassuring. Stacka has owned a few ski's, but would have thought twice about heading out to ride the waves on a day such as this in his previous, tippier craft.
I've uploaded a High Definition video of the first run back, below. When it's loaded, choose the option of Full screen HD in the Vimeo menu and you'll get a full screen view of the conditions, & should be able to see the nice rolling waves looming up behind us, then giving a little kick for a screaming down sea run.
If you think I look like I'm concentrating, it's because I am...!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Paqua Midi Waterproof Submersible Case

Sea kayakers the world over have lamented the lack of a reliable waterproof case system for modern electronics, especially with the advent of smart phones & compact GPS units with all of their huge applications on the water. The really waterproof ones are so sturdy that you can't hear or talk through the membrane, that is you have to remove the phone from it's waterproof case to make a call, whereas the good 'talker' cases have never been too crash hot on the waterproof caper. Added to that a clumsy lanyard, which makes the decision to stow in the day hatch (not ideal) or readily accessible from your pfd (i.e. stuffed in a pocket or in your rear hydration sleeve) a bit of a choice between being eaten by a lion or eaten by a tiger.


This brings me to the Paqua Midi, a terrific little phone or valuable case that is so reliable in the water it's the product-of-choice of Surf Life Saving Australia to protect their thousands of VHF & UHF radios. The membrane is designed to be 80% audio permeable so you can make that emergency call without having to risk your phone to Neptune's wrath, and for smart phones and GPS units in particular is malleable enough for you to browse scroll etc through any info you may need on the water. It has a reflective safety strip, and a solid velcro strap for securing the neoprene unit to your person, boat or PFD. 


Being designed for the surf life savers, the Paqua Midi is designed to be worn around your arm or lower leg - not ideal for a sea kayaker - but the demo I have been testing for the past month wraps snugly around the shoulder strap of my PFD (pictured above), allowing me to view the screen, and make a call with a minimum of fuss. It doesn't hinder my stroke & the light weight is barely noticeable.
I've used a whole bunch of these waterproof cases over the years & this is the next generation in terms of security, reliability & compactness. We have stock available now for the very reasonable price of just $34.95 delivered nationally.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Bombora LV & the new Mitchell Blades Crank

Our latest shipment of Mitchell Blades has arrived, with the first of yet another collaborative paddle design we have made with master paddle maker, Lance Mitchell.
Recognising the dearth of high performance paddles in the market for smaller paddlers, we have tweaked the very successful Bombora design to reduce the volume, without easing off on the solid catch or easy exiting characteristics of the original.
The brand new Bombora LV is a scaled down version of the Bombora, with a 620gm blade area, a thinner shaft for smaller hands, & a lovely light swing weight to easy the burden on tired shoulders. We've made the paddles from the same super-strong Carbon Zenith layup, one that hasn't seen a single returned paddle in more than 18 months since Mitchell Blades were released in the market here. 
The LV comes with a straight shaft, & each shaft is customised to the precise length of the buyer, so you can truly have a lower volume blade made with your exact requirements in mind.
Stock is on the shelf, with a demo available to try.
We also have stock of Lance's innovative new crank shaft, the only one in the market with a wide 15cm crank zone. This allows you to have a crank that is way more customised to you paddle stroke, than a standard off the shelf design with a very narrow hand spacing & a crank zone that is rarely more than the diameter of your hand.


I have never been a great fan of cranks as I have always considered them something that really do need to be completely customised if they're going to work for an individual, but this one takes away that reservation with it's wide margin for adjustment. The cranks come with the rock-solid Vario split fitting, and allow a 10cm adjustment in shaft length & infinite feather.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Ginni Callahan - Greenland Paddling Instruction



Rob Mercer is working with US instructor Ginni Callahan later this month to run a series of Greenland paddling instruction sessions around Sydney. Ginni is a highly regarded US instructor and founder of a successful training and guiding business on the Columbia River, who some of you may have seen ripping it up in the surf in This is the Sea 3. She is a bit of a character, having a reputation for great personal skills as well as being a top-notch paddling coach.
The boom in this country of Greenland paddling & boats in the past 12 months hasn't been matched by any great expertise in instruction of the ancient techniques, so Ginni represents the first real chance for Australians to get some first-class tips from an expert.
Ginni has spent the last few years, following the resurgence in Greenland paddling in the US, studying & developing a repertoire of Greenland skills and devising training techniques to inspire Greenland enthusiasts and anyone else who wants to better understand alternative techniques and approaches to paddling and rolling.
The instruction sessions will be small personal workshops with a maximum of 6 participants. Rob will be there to help out and also to do his best to learn more about GP technique!
The emphasis will be set square on a fun and supportive learning environment, and there will be a few Greenland paddles available for loan for those of you not yet in possession of one of the myriad of excellent 'sticks' now available in the market.
At the terrific rate of just $50 per person for a 3 hour session it's almost a no-brainer to make a day of it & book the morning & afternoon class.
A rough outline of what will be available is below:

·      Sat March 27th - Morning session; intro Greenland rolling workshop - SOLD OUT
·      Sat March 27th - Afternoon session; general boat control techniques - SOLD OUT
·      Sun March 28th – Morning session; Greenland style rolls for those who already have a consistent roll and want to learn new techniques or refinements.
·      Sun March 28th – Afternoon session; Greenland forward stroke. 

You can secure your place in any one of the workshops by emailing Rob Mercer at robmercer@balancedboater.com. Numbers are limited & the sessions are expected to all fill up within a few days, so be quick...!

Monday, 1 March 2010

This is Canoeing - Now in Stock

Justine Curgenven's new DVD, This is Canoeing, has just arrived & is now available from stock on the EK store. Price is $44.95 including freight nationally. I watched my copy over the weekend & it's a cracker.
The trailer is below, for those who missed our earlier blog on the movie.