Friday, 29 October 2010

The Epic V8 - The Inclusive Racing Ski



I've just picked up our demo Epic V8, a boat which has had Apple-style secrecy surrounding it's prototyping, testing & design since whispers about it started late last year.
I'm an unabashed advocate of the V10 Sport as an ocean ski for sea kayakers as the secondary stability is very sea-kayak-like, once you get your head around the fact that it has no deck. The general ergonomics of the V10S make it a superb trainer for sea kayakers looking to transition to ski paddling, but not wanting 'learn by immersion' on the elite designs.
Even so, I've had our demo V10S around the various sea kayak expos & symposiums we attend as instructors & sponsors, encouraging sea kayakers to hop onto this sleek & slightly intimidating-looking beast & give it a whirl. A straw poll of testers shows a 'nup, can't even imagine paddling that thing' at about 25%, a 'gosh that looks like fun but could I really get the hang of it' at about 40%, and the rest hopping on & falling into the same lust driven obsession that befell me when I first paddled it.
The V8 is aimed squarely at the 40% who can't quite decide on whether they'll ever master a boat that still calls on a degree of core strength for balance. It's essentially the fast & stable hull shape that saw Freya circumnavigate the country in her Epic 18, with the latest developments forward of the cockpit that the V12 offers in cutaways for close paddle placement & hydrodynamics. The key to the design is the wide aft, or exaggerated Swede form. This boat is stable. Did I mention how stable it was? S-T-A-B-L-E. The good ski paddlers around would probably use it as an SUP to show off, but like the Epic 18, that doesn't stop it having an impressive turn of speed. On a brief test paddle this arvo I had it sitting comfortably on 10kmh over 3km without breaking a sweat. Anyone who has seen my few race results will know that I'm no speedster. On the water it feels very much like the Epic 18, except that the cutaway foredeck lets you really catch high & get a lot of power into your stroke.
It has some nice touches like a water bottle recess & a tether point for your leg-leash, & features that sea paddlers will appreciate like bow & stern carry handles. The 'heavy' club layup weigh in at about 16kg, so it's an easy one to car-top even for our weight conscious lighter paddlers out there worried about boat loading RSI.
The muscular world of ski paddling can be a bit of a turn-off for some sea kayakers, but in my opinion this particular design promises an inclusive, high quality, well designed & eminently paddleable ocean ski that will see many more sea & recreational paddlers including a ski in their quiver of paddle craft.
There are only a handful of V8's in the country, with plenty more arriving next month, so please give either Rob or myself a call if you'd like to take one for a spin.
Price on the Club layup is the same as the V10S, $2750, and you can read more about it HERE.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Rumblin' in Currumbin #3


Another year, another National Sea Kayak Symposium on the Gold Coast. The event is getting more and more comprehensive & better organised, & invariably features paddlers & adventurers at the cutting edge of our sport. This year was no exception, with the venue switched to the cavernous Tallebudgera Recreation Centre, where everything from sea kayaks to performance surf skis to SUP's to surf kayaks was on offer, as well as superb presentations from Graham Charles & the one & only Beau Miles. Rob & I had a great time catching up with all of our mates north of the border, and it was really great to see the Symposium blossom into a top notch social, as well as paddling event. I'll let the images tell the story….

 Tallebudgerigars on the loose, Forest (centre) leading the charge…..

 Demo's as far as the eye can see

 Sundin & Mercer, following the advice on the sign

 The rec centre hall, venue for Saturday

Gnarly Dog after wiggling into the 'T'

 EK's Travelling HQ

Craig & Dylan McSween test out the Wind 585 

Greg Schwarz taking another bath (didn't he see the sign..?)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Reminder - Queensland Demo Day next Friday


Just a reminder to our northern cousins that the day prior to the National Sea Kayak Symposium on the Gold Coast, we'll be holding our now annual demo day. 
We're joining forces this year with CraigMcSween's Adventure Outlet, and between us we'll have the entire range of Tahe Marine, Valley, North Shore, Rockpool, Trak & Epic boats on display, ready for you to  come along & paddle. We're hoping to also have the newest Zegul an out & out tide racer in the mould of the Rockpool Alaw & Tiderace Xcite, for those of interested in trying a new sportscar....!
The demo day kicks off at 10am at the boat ramp at Murlong Crescent, just around from the camp ground at Tallebudgera (map below). Rob, Craig & I will be on hand to offer on water tips & instruction while you're paddling, at an event that has been a lot of fun the past two years. Please let us know in advance if you're planning to come along. We'll be packing at 3pm to get to the Symposium opening. Full details are HERE.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

East Coast Blast

Matt Bezzina crashing through an ocean wave (photo Rob Mercer)
I joined Wendy Stevenson, Matt Bezzina & Rob Mercer on a paddle yesterday from Watson's Bay, just inside the southern head of Sydney Harbour, to Malabar, approximately 22km south of the heads.
We'd had yet another unusual weather pattern around Sydney with a strong Nor' Easterly wind blowing for a few days, and this had kicked up a great 2-3m swell from the east, with a fast running metre or so of sea from the north running over the top. It was a one way trip; none of us fancied a slog back into the 20kn breeze blowing hard from the north, so we arranged a car shuffle, and headed out from the shelter of the harbour into a wild & lively sea.
Wendy & Matt are accomplished paddlers in their own right, Matt having just paddled Bass Straight with Mark Schroeder, and Wendy a dynamic & skilful kayaker with a long background in performance sports. Although years of conditioning make it almost a reflex to keep an eye on your group members, it was great to be out on such a steep & wild sea, safe in the knowledge that your partners are all capable of looking after themselves.
The eastern beaches of Sydney bear southeast to Maroubra, then back west again, so we decided to head out a few kilometres to give ourselves a good chance of lining up the mostly nor' easterly following conditions as far astern as possible. Paddling east provided some great sights, with big walls of water rearing & occasionally breaking, and the unforgettable sight of Rob, Matt & Wendy simultaneously cresting a really steep one about 3km of the heads with the salt-hazed cliffs of North Head in the background. 
We turned & headed south & my boat felt like it had grown an engine. Propelled along by the tremendous surfing sea, we had the pleasure of numerous 'self surfs' - where you find yourself running at top speed without having actually tried to catch the wave. With the crests regularly breaking we all had a few whitewater experiences too. As Matt said afterwards, you look at the sea breaking around you on these sorts of days, knowing that one is going to get you sooner or later, hoping it isn't a real big one, then when one finally does, you get a short broach & are released into the deep green water with only a short thrill to show for it. I don't know if anyone truly gets used to the sound of breaking water behind you in the ocean though, it's an unmistakeable sound & you have to force yourself to ride 'whats in front' rather than try to predict what's coming from behind.
I found the trip a bit frustrating, not really getting into the groove until we'd nearly reached our destination. I think my recent ski paddling has conditioned me to accelerate with a far lower hull resistance than my sea kayak affords, and the transition back into a boat where you definitely need a bit more ring-craft to ride runners wasn't automatic. Watching the video of the trip afterwards, it was clear just how much stroke blending I was doing. A couple of strong forward strokes, an edge dropped, a forward stroke left hanging in a dynamic low brace, the odd high brace, even a couple of bow draws as a steep crest offered a chance to haul my bow around to a take off. This highlights the fact that strokes are such a fluid concept, that there isn't much point in learning a perfect forward sweep or low brace when it's not considered as part of an arsenal of linked techniques to control your boat. For all of the technical challenges, there were three things that would have helped me on this little blast - fitness, fitness & fitness! A month out of your boat is along time, and the cobwebs of a month of moving house and more bloody travel took a while to broom away. And, there is nothing truer than the fact that you're only as good as your last paddle. 
Sydney's eastern beaches flashed by as we flew down the coast, past Bondi, then Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee & finally Maroubra. In a big open bay, the trip past Maroubra some days feels like a graft, but this day we glided by on the following seas in a blink. All too soon we were were rounding the big rebound & confusion off Magic Point & entering the long bay of Malabar, to finish off with a few little surf waves off the reef inside the bay.
There were smiles all round as we paddled into the calm shelter of Malabar & touched down. Raewyn Duffy, our club mate from the NSWSKC, had kindly offered Rob & I a car shuffle back to Watsons Bay, so we packed up, dried off & headed back on the 45 minute drive to our start point. Thanks Rae!
Matt's trainer phone app had recorded a tick under 24km for the trip, covered in about two & a quarter hours. Considering we'd spent the best part of half an hour paddling due east, the following seas certainly gave us a helluva ride once we lined it up behind us & quite literally took off south.
Rob, Matt, Mark Wendy, all smiles after our downwind blast.... (photo Raewyn Duffy)

**The video was shot on my Kayalu RAM Mount with the 8" exrtension toughbar, with a Panasonic Lumix HD camera, all stills are by Rob Mercer (& the music is 'Revolutionary Kind' by Gomez).