Thursday, 26 August 2010

Testing the Kayalu RAM Locking Suction Camera Mount


The great challenge for kayakers looking to record their adventures, how to mount a video camera & get good results? Up to now I've been using my Sticky Pod mounted on an extension for paddling video, which has produced some excellent results, but lacks versatility in composing scenes, and is also a bit cumbersome if it's anywhere near your paddle stroke.
The good folks at Kayalu kindly sent Rob & I a Kayalu RAM Locking mount which we've been testing for the past month. It has a three-piece adjustable bracket which allows you to compensate for awkward placement (like the sloping surface of a kayak deck), and also to get enough elevation to give your video some perspective. It's damn hard to make the sea look anywhere near as engaging as it can be on video unless you're moving fast & rough, so this mount is great from my perspective as I can frame the paddler in there too & give the viewer an idea of 'what it's like'. The foredeck mounted 'pointed forward' stuff I've seen tends to make everything look pretty bland, so I've been playing around with angles to see what works.
So far I've put it on the foredeck looking forward (where the extra elevation gives a modicum of perspective) & back (check out this video). I've used it offset to film paddlers alongside me as I paddle at their pace (check here), and in the video above I set up just behind the cockpit of my ski. I tilted the camera out at an angle over the gunwale, knowing I was going to be chasing some fun little waves whipped up by a day of solid westerlies. I find it hard to watch the short video without rocking from side to side in my seat, which tells me it must be capturing the ride in an authentic fashion. Now, if I could just work out a way to keep water off the lense, where's Jeff Jennings when I need him?!
Angled RAM Camera Mount on the foredeck of my surf ski
The camera was within reach if I needed to grab it for a still, or alternatively change the angle to capture the sunset etc, and I can adjust it even in rough water with one hand on the paddle. Terrific versatility.
The Kayalu accessorised RAM suction cups are very strong, the same system as used by professional glass installers. That said, if you're worried about your $500 HD Digi being knocked into the depths by a wave or stray paddle strike it comes with a bungee tether. The fittings are robust & so far in testing the unit shows no signs of problems from use in dynamic water. We don't expect these things to fail in flat water, but over the years have found all sorts of things for manufacturers about what happens when they are pushed in the sea environment.
In summary, in my opinions these little mounts are the first & best so far in a wave of boat mounted, commercially available fittings which will allow us to get better & better with our amateur video graphics.
We have stock on the shelf for $65 including delivery nationally, available through our online store.

Friday, 20 August 2010

EK Demo Paddle - Aquanaut vs Atlantic


Newcastle paddler David Price called me last week asking about the differences between the Valley Aquanaut & the North Shore Atlantic. The distinctions in these two designs are blurred, with both being designated rough water specialists, the former skewed more towards the touring & expedition end of the spectrum, and the latter definitely favouring the kayaker looking to do a lot more playing around.
So much is written about boats & designs & much of what I see on the web is pretty heavily qualified once you find out the credentials of the reviewer, so my advice for David was to come down to Sydney & have a crack in both boats.
Yesterday was a great day for a demo paddle. A building northerly swung west as we were out on the water, cutting up the surface of the sea & giving David a perfect picture of what happens to each boat in wind approaching 20 knots, wind driven messy sea & chop. We paddled out into the headwinds, across the chop to get a feel for the skeg, then raced downwind on the back of some great fun little wind waves.
These 'real' demo paddles are something I always wished I had the opportunity to do back when I was making boat choices as a relatively new paddler. Back then you were lucky to get even a flat water paddle in before coughing up your dough. 
As a consequence, this is a service we're glad to offer to make sure that anyone who buys a boat from us firstly gets a taste of what their $4000 thereabouts sea kayak can do on the sea, and also makes absolutely sure of boat fit, comfort & feel on dynamic water, rather than just on the floor of the showroom or a millpond.
With the paddling season fast approaching, give either Rob or I a call if you'd like to test out an EK boat.
As you can tell from the video, I just hate getting out & doing these paddles....!

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Handpresso - Expedition Espresso Kayaking

I was reminded this week about the bizarre twists my working year presents. On Thursday I was out paddling offshore with Peter & James, two very raw but ambitious sea kayakers who have set Bass Strait as their goal & had flown in from interstate to test & buy a boat, a paddle & gear for each of them, as well as get some instruction on the best way to commence their training in skills & expedition preparation. That night I jumped on the plane to Melbourne, left my Aquatherm suit in the fish bucket & packed the Armani suit for the biggest event of my wholesale business, the annual Melbourne Gift & Homewares Fair.
This is some show, more than 2500 exhibitors, filling the entire Melbourne Exhibition Centre on Southbank as well as the Melbourne Showgrounds near Flemington Racecourse. We're there selling our diverse giftware range, with everything from Stirling Silver & gemstone jewellery to handmade Thai hill-tribe toys to outdoor folding tables & picnic bags. I joke that this is the only place in the world that you could walk into looking for a Tahitian Pearl & silver pendant, & walk out with a Nordkapp. Laugh if you must, it's happened...
Anyway, I digress. During a rare lull over the 5 days at the fair, I met a very cool dude name Nick who introduced me to the Handpresso. Ostensibly, it's a full blown espresso machine, which looks like a cross between a Glock pistol & a small bike pump, and allows you to brew a proper coffee in the wilderness without electricity, batteries or a bulky espresso machine.
The process is ridiculously simple. Add your ground coffee to the pod at the end of the 'pump', pour in hot water (somewhere between 84C & 95C for the purists), seal it off, then pump up the pressure to the 'green zone' indicated on the gauge, release the pressure & have the filter slowly brew the coffee as it's forced through by the combination of heat & pressure. Nick made me a Handpresso coffee, then another one from one of his beautiful Bugatti machines, and my pretenders palette couldn't tell the difference. The video above shows the glorious simplicity of the Handpresso.
What it means for the Expedition paddler, or even the coffee cruiser, is that you now have a tough, power-free portable & lightweight espresso maker, which makes very, very good coffee....
We have this product available through our online store for $199 including delivery nationally, with the option of a protective EVA case for the unit for an extra $50.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

NEW - Kayalu Deck Light

My paddles home from work end in darkness, and I have been wondering about a good light system to keep me as visible as my low-profile sea kayak can be on a busy waterway like Botany Bay. Rob's hard core of Tuesday Nighter's are the great testing ground for night paddling, going as they do 'no matter the conditions' in the dark of winter, so I asked around.
Chris James, our mate & a man with a keen eye for a good gadget, recommended the Kayalu Deck Light, which he'd bought in the US, so with my extended period of weekly night paddling upon me, I decided to get one in & test it out. 
The first thing that strikes you about this light is the fitting system. 'Why didn't I think of that' was my first reaction. The reinforced nylon pole sits on a closed cell foam mount, held fast to the deck with a carabiner fixed to any tethered point on your boat. On my Rapier (above) it's the metal o-ring that my decklines slide through, however if I wanted it further forward I could simply pull the decklines together to get enough of a solid point for the biner to clip in &secure the light. The mount is solid, good enough for a decent trashing in the surf & certainly up to the job in the hurly burly of wind, swell & sea paddling. The light itself is a Tektite Mark III, featuring a bright white LED providing 2-mile visibility, 200 hours of service on a single set of batteries, and an LED life rated to 10,000 hours of service. The Tektite Mark III's batteries (included) are easily replaced without having to unbolt the light from the Kayalite mast.
There is a great review of the Kayalu Deck Light at the Solent Sea Kayaker HERE.
We have stock on the shelf of this excellent new product, available for $55 with free freight nationally. Taking the exchange rate & the cost to get them here from the US, that's a better price than you'd get from the retailers in the US, which is always the aim of our GEAR STORE. They're available to buy through our online store.