Friday, 31 December 2010

A paddle day with the gang

Rob, Emma, Hung & Sali.
We often get nice feedback on the speed of deliveries from our online store, the helpful people who answer the phone & the pleasant service on offer when customers drop in unexpected & either of Rob or myself aren't in the office. While we like to pretend that EK is a multinational super kayaking corporation, the truth is we're cheating.... 
Rob hoping we don't lose anybody....
We are very lucky to have the services of the dedicated team of people from my main business, Talisman. They are my friends, workmates and have a lovely attitude towards their work & their customers. They cut their teeth every day in the demanding corporate world in which Talisman exists, where a late delivery can mean the loss of a big account, and have to contend with some delicate egos, in particular where marketing & events are concerned.
Rob giving Huey a few tips in the V10S
They have looked on these past 3 years at the growing business that is Expedition Kayaks, & been increasingly curious about how the boats work, what the differences are, what those funny timber sticks are for etc etc.
The gang on the beach
So, with a few moons aligned over the Xmas New Year break, we organised a day on the water for everyone & brought a few boats along to try out have some fun.
Sali Wu, the paddle queen of Shanghai
It was a hoot. Not one of the gang had paddled anything before ever, so Rob, Sharon & I were flat out giving some basic tuition, fishing out capsizes, chasing down strays & all-in-all having a great time. 
The Hurricane, looking very Clint Robinson.
Emma & Huey 'The Hurricane' Nguyen, a former national kickboxing champ, managed to conquer the Epic V10S, & Emma even looked solid enough on my new V12. 
Deni, Huey & Jade
Sali Wu blasted up & down the beach looking like the Queen of Shanghai, while Hannah managed to get her high heels off for long enough to show some genuine, & I mean genuine sea kayaking skills after a few minutes of practising her edging, & getting a bit wet.... 
Hannah, good at paddling, not so good at swimming...
In between shepherding the kids around the beach, Nicole & Hien even managed a few brief paddles. 
Emma 'I want one of these...'
Everyone agreed that the V8 was ridiculously easy, the Holden Commodore of surf-skis. The sea kayaks presented a few more challenges, especially with a soft breeze blowing, & there were a few rescues & hilarious capsizes. Smiles all round on a typically beautiful Sydney morning.
Hien making the V8 look like a V80
It was a nice way to end another successful year for both EK & Talisman, and provide some well deserved fun for my hardworking team of good people. 
Thanks guys, you're the best.
Next time you call up the office, ask the dude on the end of the line about their paddle day, I'm sure you'll be spun a good yarn or two & may even get a new opinion on some of the boat designs!
Marley - 'I'd rather eat sand than bother with all of this stuff'.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Xmas from EK

Another year draws to a close….
We have had a ball, continuing to travel around the place doing our instruction & demo days, interacting with our paddling community & launching a bunch of new designs & models into the market.
We're finishing up in the warehouse today, so there won't be any further gear dispatched from the online store until January 3. If you want to swing by & pick something up, please call first & we'll arrange to meet you.
Rob & I are in Sydney over the entire Xmas New Year period & have several demo paddles booked in already, including a couple of groups of friends who all have some spare time, and want to run their own mini demo day. If you have been curious about a boat, or how one compares to another, we're all too happy to come along to a suitable stretch of water nearby & give you a qualified test paddle in the boats you want to try. We remain committed to the idea that if you want to buy an expensive, fair dinkum sea kayak, then you should definitely try it first in a decent amount of chop & bounce to find out as much as you can about how the boat handles the water for which is was designed. Just give us a shout. 
Rob can be contacted on 0417227627, you'll get me on 0417924478. 
Thanks to everyone who has paddled a boat, bought a boat or a bit of kit, called up for advice or instruction & in any other way been part of our little business in 2010. We continue to be amazed at the reaction to Expedition Kayaks & are very humbled by the support we receive from you our dear customers. Here's to good times, cold beers & tall tales with friends & family over the holiday break.
Merry Xmas.





Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Surfing the Rockpool Taran

SeaKayaking Cornwall made this video showing Jeff Allen from expeditionpadlers.com getting to grips with some nice little surf. While not exactly a surf kayak, it's interesting to watch him get a feel for the boat in the steep break, before really cutting loose towards the end of the clip. 
Not a bad lesson for budding sea kayak surfers.
Clearly, Jeff is a very talented paddler, there are some terrific deft skills in among his display, in particular his beautiful use of the boats edges on the last carving ride. Great stuff. The lads from expeditionpaddlers.com, Jeff, Harry Whelan & Chris Millington are planning a circumnavigation of Ireland in 2011. Check out their excellent blog for details.
We're still busy working out how the Taran handles in all conditions, how fast it really goes & what it's like under load. So far it's exceeded all expectations. Judging by the pre-orders we have for the Taran in the next Rockpool shipment, we're not the only ones who think it may well be the most revolutionary expedition-come-fitness boat to hit the market.
Rob & I are in town over the entire Xmas break, give us a shout if you'd like to take the Taran out for a blast.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Kinda Dumb Storm Paddling….



Last Thursday promised a fresh southerly change about midday, so we decided to once again get out in the ski & the Rockpool Taran to give the kayak a speed & handling test.
We paddled out about 4km off the Gap, with building seas & wind from the south, with the aim to turn & run back once things got up. Unfortunately for us the weather had a nasty twist in store. The heavens opened & then there was an almighty crack from above that sounded rather close, so we decided discretion was the better part of valour. As the electric storm started to crank up we found out a few things about our speed downwind, in my case in some generally crappy confused water which isn't usually a barrel of laughs in my ski!
My usual cheery disposition was replaced by something distinctly darker as you can see in the video above!
Our mate Peter told us that if lightning strikes on the water anywhere within about 100m of where you're paddling you'll basically be fried, and that conversation was repeating in my head as the thunder continued to boom.
In hindsight it probably wasn't a great idea to have a metal camera mounted on an extended arm either, but the option to stop for a minute & pull it off wasn't too appealing either.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Simplicity…..

This morning dawned clear & sunny, without a breath of wind, and lucky for me I had my ski on the roof. Diverting five minutes to Botany Bay on my normal route into the office, I pulled in at Dolls Pt, chucked on the smugglers, pulled the boat off the roof, grabbed my paddle & went out for a cleansing 45 minute paddle along the coastline. 
My ski offers me this simplicity. It's light, it doesn't require the same level of gear or accessories that my sea kayak does, & consequently in a life full of endless time pressure it presents me with the opportunity to get on the water without as much planning. 
I love my sea kayaking, but now that summer is here I think I'm going to be spending a lot of time on my V10 Sport, whenever the opportunity knocks.
Simple.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

EK Xmas Store

Ho Ho Ho….
Xmas is fast approaching, & we've added some cool new stuff to our burgeoning online store. People often ask us why we have such a limited range on our site, & the answer is simple, we bloody well test everything & make sure it all works. Rob is our canary in the coal mine, using these products daily in all weather & sea states, so we get a really good grip on the pro's & cons of any given product before we decide to add it to our offerings. 
Take a look through the range through our home page & maybe drop a hint on that mother in law who consistently buys you the latest Andre Rieu DVD, or the uncle who is renowned for presenting you with another Greg Norman bio on the big day.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Tuesday Night Paddles- 11 Year Anniversary

Ian Fletcher
What's so special about an 11 year anniversary? Umm, plenty if you all managed to allow the 10 year anniversary to pass by a year ago without remembering…
Last Tuesday I went out for a paddle to celebrate eleven years since Rob Mercer first began his Tuesday afternoon training paddle. It was also a de facto Xmas paddle with a picnic on the grass at Watto Bay afterwards. Like most of the Tuesday night paddles when the forecast is pretty timid, there wasn't a huge roster, contrasting the days when there is a bit of sh-t in the forecast & Rob gets 12-15 paddlers along for the experience. It's probably one of the few sea paddles where you throw in a forecast 20kn nor' easter or some solid groundswell & everyone wants in….
Ian Rounding a benign North Head
One of the paddlers on Tuesday was Ian Fletcher, who told the tale of his first Tuesday paddle many years ago when very much a novice. It was his first 'live' sea paddle & to this day he says it was the biggest day he's ever been out on, with many sea miles under his belt since. He recounted being encouraged to capsize & be rescued, perform a rescue in water that he considered unthinkable to be out of your boat & immersed in, & came away from this first experience wanting more. 
Rob cruising along in his backyard
It's a common tale among the regulars, everyone seems to remember the day when this happened or it was breaking over South Head or we saw a waterspout out to sea or whales or such & such managed to run aground on those rocks et etc. 
After such a long time it's become an institution in Australian paddling, with scores of guest paddlers from interstate & overseas, & offers a unique & regular opportunity for sea kayakers to get out on the sea in nearly all conditions & learn & develop. 
As always it was great to be out on the sea with Rob & his group, and the event was worthily celebrated afterwards with a few cold beers & cold chicken at the peerless Watson's Bay.

Friday, 10 December 2010

EK through the eyes of Kiri

Daddy & Rob doing Kayaking, by Kiri Sundin.

My eldest daughter, six year old Kiri proudly presented me with this picture after I returned from another overseas trip last week. I asked her what it was, & she said 'it's you & Rob doing paddling in your kayaks, past an island in Singapore, on a sunny day. You just did a roly poly, but Rob is still the best at kayaking'. 
She is wise beyond her years, and in love with Justine's latest canoeing DVD where a great Dad takes his young son Douggie down a beautiful wild river in Canada. She is pestering me daily on when we can go paddling together, & loves nothing more than a few minutes on my new Ergo machine, punching out some miles. She still talks about Freya, having charmed the lady in black for a morning on the day she headed back to Germany, and thinks she might want to paddle around the world, rather than just Australia. It brings a smile to my face, and I'm looking forward to getting my little girl out for an overnight paddle over the Xmas holidays.
The artist & budding paddler in typical cheeky monkey mode.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

6 Degrees North, Sri Lanka

The dream home my Mum has been building on the beach coast of Sri Lanka is finished. Mum began going to Sri Lanka just after the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, and has formed some very strong relationships with the villagers in the ravaged areas around the hippie destination of Hikkaduwa. Being the generous lady she is, Mum has sponsored kids to uni, helped raise money to build wells & schools, all in the aid of seeing this beautiful part of the world regain some of it's mojo after such a devastating event.
When she mentioned that she would love to build a house in the area, her mate Udi kept his ear to the ground & found out about an old family block on the beach at Ambalangoda that was selling as freehold, a rarity in the village culture of Sri Lanka. 
Mum snapped up the land & then put Udi & his villagers in charge of building a traditional Sri Lankan home, with a touch of her own western chic. Six months later, with employment for more than 50 people, and all local & recycled building materials & techniques utilised, her dream home is finished. Mum plans on visiting as often as she can during the year & renting the home out to visitors at other times. Local interest has been intense, as the house is a real work of art, and she's already managed to get the International Cricket Council book it for the umpires in all of the international games in Sri Lanka's coastal cities. Billy Bowden & Rudi Coertzen won't have a poor sleep as an excuse for a crappy decision!
Built around the ruins of an older building that was rattled, but not flattened by the wave, it's a sprawling 4 bedroom beach house, with an en suite in each room, which would comfortably sleep 4 couples, or two big families. There is a full time caretaker who looks after the home, and a local chap who comes in the mornings & evenings to tidy up the guests mess & make the beds etc. The house is right on Madampe Beach, a calm coral reef-protected sandy beach from November to March, & a gentle surf beach in the wet season when the wind comes from the west. Paddlers staying for a week could carve out miles of coastline with headlands, surf & inland lagoons to fill your days. 
Or, you could stay the whole time in the house, cook your own meals with fresh local produce, & lounge around the pool….
I've just finished the website for the house if you're interested in reading more. There are a few bits to finish, but unfortunately I'm flat out selling kayaks & might not get to them until the break. The website is www.sixdegsnorth.com
Eventually I'm going to have a few sea kayaks & gear freighted in from the UK so I & guests can enjoy some proper kayaks in a place that is just a beautiful, unspoiled place to paddle….