Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Variety

Andre & Chris at full throttle (pic Rob Mercer)
One paddling event I never miss is the annual Tuesday Nighter's Xmas paddle. Even though I barely clock up the miles to be credible, this hardy bunch of all-weather & all-conditions sea kayakers are most welcoming, even to a blow-in who only drops by for the glory nights.


How's this for an evening paddling:


Cast off from the picturesque Watson's Bay on the outer edge of Sydney Harbour, destined for Diamond Bay, about 7km around the corner of the cliff line, with a well set southerly wind blowing up to about 18knots.
On the water, ready to go
Round the lighthouse at South Head & turn north into some engaging & confused rebound, firing back off the clifflines & offering runners going in the opposite direction to the sea. Punch upwind for an hour or so zig zagging around in the confused seas.
Nice little bumps on the way south (pic Rob Mercer)
The Dover Heights cliff line (pic Rob Mercer)
On reaching Diamond Bay, a U shaped cliff face at Dover Heights, spend half an hour bouncing around in some fantastic rebound, practicing your strokes in the most demanding water of all to paddle.
Chris in where Chris is most happy (pic Rob Mercer)
Anyone who wants to have a go, takes a run up close to where the waves are crashing against the sandstone.
Andre launching his Hybrid skywards (pic Rob Mercer)
A 40 minute blast back downwind with the southerly wave pattern almost slow enough to hook into & ride, but with multidirectional waves making any decent run you might garner bouncy & focused.
Ease back into the harbour with the sun setting over the city, the protected waters inside the heads offering a glassy calm.
Back in the lee
Then, spend the best part of an hour a few metres off the beach with everyone trying out a few of Gordon Brown's on-deck acrobatics, practicing re-entries, standing up in their cockpits, generally fluffing around & laughing at one another's antics.

 Matt & Rob on the deck
 Gary a bit confused
  Anne demo's the backwards lay back
 Matty shows the high angle forward stroke….
…then the elevated low brace
…..then the air brace…..
After packing away the boats & towelling off, enjoying fish & chips & a few cold beers at the Watto Bay pub, telling tall tales & spending some rare time with like-minded friends.
I couldn't imagine a better way to round off my paddling year. Variety? Today were racing, surfing ocean waves, playing & manoeuvring in big moving water that would bring a smile to face of any whitewater paddler, we were safe, with protocols for ensuring one another's safety in a challenging environment, we were flat water cruisers & then at the end we were just plain buffoons. Above all we were sea kayakers, because that's what this sport offers if you're prepared to have a go.
Thanks to Rob & his bunch of merry cohorts.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Real Deal

Over the past few months I've been chatting to a couple of paddlers with a trip or two coming up. They are Ben Woodcock & David Williamson, sea kayakers from South Australia. 
Have you heard of them? Unless you've been around a while or are an active paddler around Adelaide I wouldn't have thought so. In fact, I when I realised who David was I called he & Ben 'the blokes that nobody knows about', much to his amusement.
A few years ago, with little fanfare, in a bog standard plastic double, they managed to paddle from New Caledionia to Australia, one of the all-time epic trips in a sea kayak. I found the story on the internet called something like 'staff trip from Noumea', on a long since expired web page. Try as I might, I can't find the gripping trip report anywhere else on the web & the guys aren't sure where it's gone either…
Earlier this year they paddled from Australia, 700km to East Timor (there's a link to that story HERE).
Early next year, Ben & another paddling mate Lachie Harvey are planning a full circumnavigation of Tassie, with a western Bass Strait crossing to start things off, & a cruisy Eastern Bass crossing to finish. You can read about that trip HERE, with route maps (HERE), a link to a Spot tracker & heaps of info on their preparation etc.
And in 2013, Ben & Dave are planning a trip from New Zealand back to Australia, via Norfolk & Lord Howe Islands, something Ben described to me as a 'long island hop'. Again they'll be in a standard double kayak with the front bulkhead removed and sea sock fitted, with a material hatch cover for conversion to sleeping space in the front.
These guys are the real deal in a sport that to an extent has become hijacked by a culture that seems to value self promotion more than actual achievement. In the footsteps of the likes of Laurie Ford, Jeff Jennings, Tony Gaiswinkler, Dave Winkworth, Peter Carter, Les Allen, Andy McAuley and now Stuart Trueman, Ben & Dave continue the tradition of bold adventure on the sea.
I hope their profile can be raised a little based as it should be on merit, and people will keep an eye on their travels & lend support.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Merry Xmas & Thanks.


Another year has ticked by, and our little business has reached it's fifth summer. In a competitive market we continue to be humbled by the lovely support we receive from you our customers, paddling peers and friends. It's reached the point now where it can't really get any bigger without turning into something different - rest assured we're not planning on turning into something different.
Our message continues to be a simple one, that this sport of sea kayaking is one you can get a huge amount of satisfaction from if you are prepared to pay due respect to the sea, & work on your skills.
Although we obviously sell gear & boats, as Napoleon Dynamite says, they're long secondary to the acquisition of skills, which are really what it's all about.
Thanks again to everyone with whom we've come into contact this year, we appreciate every single call & inquiry, and hope to spend even more time on the water in 2012 at various events around the country meeting our paddling buddies.
Have a safe & happy Xmas & enjoy your New Year celebrations.
Mark & Rob (we might be dodgy paddlers, but man have we got some moves…..)

Friday, 16 December 2011

NRS Vista PFD

I have been testing a lighter weight PFD from NRS over the past couple of weeks, the Vista. It's a fairly minimalist design which is suited to paddlers who want a less bulky option, for general paddling or fitness paddling.

They're now in stock for $99. There is a nice video above showing all of the features, from the NRS catalogue.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Xmas Trading

The Xmas break is approaching, and demand these past few days for test paddles & instruction over the holiday break has cranked up.
Just so you know, either of Rob or I will be available over the entire Xmas/New Year period, however the warehouse will be closed other than by appointment.
The final day of dispatch from the online store will be this coming Wednesday, December 22, so please get any orders in as quick as you can if you'd like your gear before Chrissy.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Paddling against the flow

I had a demo paddle scheduled early this morning down at the picturesque Swallow Rock Reserve in Port Hacking. Arriving a bit early planning a fitness paddle before the demo, I had a choice, paddle down to Bundeena & go for a surf on the bar, or go upstream to Audley, a 6km return trip on glassy flat water.
Deciding variety is the spice of life, & opting for a 'form' session, a cruisy 40 minutes where I just concentrate purely on my stroke, I headed for the Audley Weir, in the Royal National Park.
The river valley is a gem, with shallow oyster beds passing below the tannin stained water, white sandy slivers of beach backed by Sydney's iconic sandstone strata.
I chugged up to the weir to find it expelling the heavy rainfall from the Hacking River at a great rate. I messed around in the outgoing flow for a few minutes, paddling against it like one of those space-challenged swimmers with a BaduStream. Wing paddles are not the most sensible choice in aerated water, relying as they do on a good catch to start things off, & I had a few underwater airswings. I video'd the little outflow above, minutes of amusement!
I also got a nice little bonus on my return to Swallow Rock when Olympic kayaker Tony Schumacher was setting up at the car park for his morning training paddle. I introduced myself & we shot the breeze for a few minutes on ski & racing boat designs & his thoughts on what works & what doesn't. One of my mottos in life is that you never get better information about things you don't know too much about until you talk to people that do, & Tony knows his stuff, as you'd expect!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

WA Sea Kayak Symposium

Les Allen has announced the inaugural WA Sea Kayak Symposium, to held this coming February. Les has a comprehensive expeditioning record, having paddled great swathes of the WA Coast and been their leading instructor now for many years. He made it across to the RnR this year & obviously liked what he saw, & has set about establishing a similar event in his own backyard.
The symposium will be held at Point Peron in the magnificent Shoalwater Bay area just outside Perth, & will be a 'live-in' style event very similar to the NSW Rock & Roll complete with cabin accommodation.
Les has drafted in Sandy Robson as a guest, fresh from the first leg of her attempt to retrace Oskar Speck's Germany to Australia paddle, and our own Rob Mercer will be an instructor. Sharon Betteridge is joining Rob for the weekend, and will be presenting a female perspective on paddling. 
We attend almost all of the major paddling events around the country & it's pleasing to see them gaining popularity. A weekend among paddling peers, sharing experiences, learning new skills & having a good time off the water is an opportunity too good to miss.
The itinerary is above on the flyer, and you can register using the application form HERE.

Friday, 9 December 2011

North Reef Expedition featured in Ocean Paddler Magazine

We were all thrilled to have the trip report of our North Reef expedition published in the esteemed sea kayaking magazine in the UK, Ocean Paddler.
The article featured in an expedition issue, packed with the sorts of useful tips & information that all paddlers looking to journey in their craft should know.
Ocean Paddler is heavily subscribed here in Australia, so if you're not getting this superb magazine due to the distance factor, rest assured that your copy, like mine, arrives on time each & every time. 
Unlike most of the kayak mags around the world which cover a broad scope of paddling, Ocean Paddler zeros in on sea kayaking, with almost all of the content written about sea kayaking that happens….on the sea! In my eyes it's proof positive that you don't need to be all things to all people to in order to produce a successful formula, that satisfies the market for which it is intended.
The good folks at OP have given permission for us to re-produce the North Reef article, if you'd like to have a read through, click HERE.
You can subscribe to the digital or soft copy version of Ocean Paddler though THIS link.

Last Chance - Next Valley Shipment Closes Today!



Today is the last day we'll be taking orders against our next container from Valley & North Shore.
If you'd like a completely customised, carbon kevlar, three piece, pink & orange, foot pump installed Valley Sea Kayak please let us know straight away!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Training Paddle in the Epic 18x & Wind 585

Training for our One Degree South paddle is now in full swing. I grabbed some time yesterday with a rare blank schedule & Rob & I went for a training paddle out to sea from La Perouse. I was paddling the Epic 18x, my boat for the challenge, & Rob had the Wind 585 while his Taran is being modified.
Conditions were pretty benign, a 12-15 knot breeze and a typical little sea running on top of a metre or so of swell. 
We ran 7km straight out, averaging about 8.4kmh into the wind. I shot some video of Rob in the 585 as I realised we have precious few movies showing how our boats actually look moving along in the sea. Reviewing the footage later, the 585 is a very sleek creature in the ocean! Rob was impressed by how well it chews the distance with a minimum of fuss, & once engaged with moving water just how much the stability hardens up.
We saw a container ship leaving the bay as we neared the turnaround point so headed north to dodge the shipping lane, whereby I managed to once again whip up a bluebottle & loop it neatly around my throat. As a warning for out trip it was most timely. I will now develop my paddle clothing to try to prevent this from happening again, as bluebottles are definitely going to out in abundance in the weather & wind conditions we are planning for.
The run home was a hoot. My GPS trace had me running mostly between 10-15kmh as I threaded the little runners bad into the bay. The new rudder system on the 18x is definitely a success. The only time I broached unexpectedly was when I backed off to try & get cute on a wave, allowing the boat to lift back up the following wave & release the stern into thin air. My weight was back, the rudder lost all bite & I skewed off to the right. Noting this error, I kept the foot down for the next 20 minutes & once again didn't have to call on a corrective braking stroke once. I'm salivating at the idea of 110+km downsea in this boat.
We pulled into Little Congwong Beach & swapped boats. Rob paddled the final 3km home in calmer water & marvelled at the lack of resistance in the 18x hull, and the engaging responsiveness.
I got a go in the 585 & there was a definite contrast. If the 18x is the Spitfire, the 585 is the Lancaster. Hard tracking, solid as rock on the water & as fast as any traditional sea kayak out there. For a long expedition with a group you'd be hard pressed to find a more user friendly design, capable of carrying monumental amounts of gear.
The next objective is to wait for a hanking Nor Easter & get out amongst it for the final judgement on the boat.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Into the Wind - Round Ireland DVD

In the lead up to our own North Reef trip, where we were using Rockpool Tarans, Epic Mid Wing blades, & planning a fast & athletic expedition style, all our eyes were focussed on Jeff Allen & Harry Whelan & their attempt to break a 21 year old record for the fastest circumnavigation of Ireland.
The guys were using most of the kit we planned on using, and made the bold statement of aiming at the record, come hell or high water, which added pressure but also motivation to pull it off. Rob & Jeff swapped corrspondence on how we thought the boats were handling our lead up, & he shared their findings, all of which was very useful stuff for us, & we hope for him as well!
And man did they smoke it. In appalling conditions, most of the time, the guys tore 8 days off a 33 day record.
Their mate Vaughan Roberts followed them around the coastline recording the journey, & the boys were well fitted out themselves with cameras capturing the on-water stuff. Vaughan has since cut a DVD of their trip which has once again raised the bar for documentation of a rough water expedition.
We'll have our stock here in about a week, but the DVD is available now for pre-order. Go to the DVD Section in our online store for details. Price is $34.95 including delivery nationally

Monday, 5 December 2011

One Degree South Blog

Our blog for January's 'One Degree South' paddle is now live. You can see it HERE.
There is an initial post outlining the paddle, as well as a portal to allow you to donate to RU OK Day, the suicide awareness charity we are supporting.
We will be updating with training notes, gear and other aspects of the challenge over the next month or so, as we count down to the attempt

Monday, 28 November 2011

One Degree South

Forget about space, time is the final frontier. The likelihood of either of Chris or I getting another coordinated block of time to do a North Reef type trip is remote at best in the medium term, so with Rob we have aimed up at a new challenge.


Our goal some time in January is to paddle one degree of latitude in a day, or 60 nautical miles. Roughly speaking, this will link Sydney and Jervis Bay, if the locals will allow us a few km of license and include Currarong in their bay geography!


Our aim in this endeavor is to promote the idea of safe ocean paddling in groups, to lay down a time that will hopefully inspire another group even in another part of the world to have a shot, and finally to highlight another issue close to our hearts.


We have teamed up with R U OK Day, an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to provide national focus and leadership on suicide prevention by empowering Australians to have open and honest conversations and stay connected with people in their lives. The founder of R U OK Day, Gavin Larkin, was a schoolmate of mine who sadly passed away earlier this year, and his idea has been a huge success, paying tribute as it does to his Dad Barry. In doing so we're also raising our own little tribute to local paddling legend Wayne Langmaid, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, a victim of depression. Wayne was a mate of Rob & Chris' &  is much missed.


We'll shortly be posting a new blog site to record the build up and training, as well as providing a portal for the paddling world to donate to this worthy cause, and then of course follow our 'spot dots' as more than 12,000 people did on our North Reef Trip.


We plan to go light and fast, downwind if the weather gods are kind, this time without sails.
It's an awesome 'day trip' to contemplate and I can't wait!

The Balanced Boater: Lesson on a stick..

Rob has just written a beautiful blog on paddles.
I think it very succinctly points out the folly of the strange & bizarrely evangelical fundamentalism that some people out there in blog world attach to their particular paddle choices.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Epic 18X Downwind

I'm planning on paddling the Epic 18X in an upcoming trip with Chris & Rob, & have been busy this past week or so testing it out in the context of what we're planning. The new rudder system is of particular interest, as so far it does seem to have revolutionised the way the boat performs downhill.
It was a blustery start to the day, with a solid southerly wind blowing 19-27 knots across the bay, so I took the opportunity to get out amongst the steep little wind waves on offer. I put my head down into the stiff breeze and managed 40 minutes into the teeth of it averaging bang on 6kmh. While the boat does tend to fall off the back of steep oncoming waves this has little or no impact on forward speed, and once I worked out how to manage the boat over the crests I minimised the effect
Turning with steep, quite slow wind waves from astern, I flew back to the shore in just under 20 minutes, mostly on or above 11-13kmh. Where possible I held the boat on the sweet spot of the waves to stop it from charging into the troughs. An indication of just how good the rudder works, and how well it complements the hull is the fact that in that speedy 20 minute burst I didn't use a single stern rudder. In other words I was able to continue being aggressive & chase runners without having to put on the brakes, ostensibly a neccessity when you feel your directional stability sliding on a following wave.
I plan on a longer open sea outing with some more size to the following conditions & will try to get some video as well as a trace to share.
It shows you what innovation can deliver. A boat that was always fast now looks as though it really will handle the kinds of steep following seas that it's siblings in the ski stable are built for. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Released - the Epic Double Ski

The wraps have come off Epic's latest design, a superb new double ski. Oscar & Greg paddled it together to launch the boat on the weekend's Dragon Run in Hong Kong & put some serious strain on the timekeeper.
It looks sleek, fast & everything you come to expect from Epic's innovative design team.
I'm going to pester the Epic guys for a loan so I can get Rob out for a blast, I reckon it would be a heap of fun.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Remounting a Ski

Rob, Chris & I have a new challenge on the horizon, so this week marks the point where I've deigned to try once again to get my fitness back to levels required for the rigours of long distance sea paddling.
I do this by getting out on my ski & doing short, sharp interval sessions, 'cheating' my way to decent cardio & strength conditioning using the limited time I have available for paddling that isn't work related.
Yesterday was day zero, a new marking point to lay down some times, heart rates etc & give me something to measure & hopefully improve against. Our respective fitness programmes for the North Reef trip produced great results and it's good to have a successful template to work back over. Based on yesterday's effort it's a nice low marker point to begin from!
More time on the ski means becoming reacquainted with the self rescue skills that are necessary for safety. Hands up, I'm no great practitioner of the surfski remount that has been so nicely described on Surfsi.info HERE. I find the sidesaddle re-entry easier in really rough water so have practiced it over the past couple of years at every opportunity.
Then Oscar Chalupsky made THIS neat video a month or so back showing his preferred technique, which is something of a hybridised version of the two wider known methods.
I gave it a go yesterday after an hour of pushing hard along the glassy waters of the Bay, so I at least had fatigue to escalate the challenge, and it is a cracker. Next test is out in some rough water, but the method is so flowing & stable I can't imagine having any dramas out at sea either.
Ski paddling is attracting a much wider demographic since the launch of the Epic V8, and anyone that buys a ski from us gets a very stern talk about making sure this remount technique is mastered before any solo or challenging paddling is undertaken. I still consider myself essentially a ski-paddling beginner, and from this perspective I can heartily recommend Oscar's way, it's instinctive, effective & surprisingly simple.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Riders on the Storm

Whew, Tuesday night's paddle was distinguished by one almighty electrical storm that we just managed to sneak off the water prior to it unleashing.
A change in the forecast from 'possible storms' to one of those 'all hell is going to break loose' storm warnings was issued about half an hour after we left the beach on what looked like a pretty cruisy Tuesday night paddle. On reaching North Head, we didn't need the BOM to tell us what was going on, and turned tail running down the following Nor Easterly breeze back to the safety of Camp Cove. 
Andre & I were the last into the beach, I remarked to him that it didn't look all that dramatic & then BANG, a very big lightning strike lit up the hill above the beach. We all then cowered under the sandstone break wall at the northern end of the beach as the light-show hit full throttle.
The skyline was just so dramatic, despite the edge to being out on the water with something clearly very big threatening, that it was still a privilege to see a storm cell of that magnitude from the water. Just don't try it at home.
Paddling anywhere near lightening is silly, seriously….

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Epic V8, the Friendly Downwind'er

From about now & for the rest of summer, we're blessed in Sydney with a consistent 15-20kn Nor Easter which has mostly kicked in by early afternoon & gives us a fresh, slow moving sea to ride.
The weekend just gone gave me a brief opportunity while camping with the kids at Sydney's Bonnie Vale, to jump in the V8 for an hour or so & run some gentle downwind chop. 
Up to now when people come to try a V8 I always encourage them to try the V10 Sport as well, so they have both a comparison to the 'next' level up in competency, and also because at least half of the people who think they should get a V8 can probably very easily get into a Sport with a smidgin of instruction, and some dedication.
Why a Sport as opposed to a V8? Well, my story is that the V8 is based on a kayak hull, albeit a very fast kayak designed for the sea, and it doesn't 'run' like the narrower boats. That means the effort required in a following sea is obviously more in the V8 than the longer, narrower skis.
I took the V8 with me on the weekend so the kids & adults could have a play, but a decent blow came up around midday so I decided to go out & test my theory.
I didn't think there was a better way to make my point than by demonstrating an entry level ski in what are pretty user-friendly conditions.
The V8 is aimed squarely at people getting into the sport, and this sort of fun following sea is a fantastic way to learn the art of paddling downwind. It was manageable, fun & the hugely reassuring stability provides the best education you can get in your quest to work out how these craft work in the environment for which they were designed. 
So, does it 'run'? Well yeah, in the sort of conditions it was designed for, it runs like a mustang, so my theory has some serious flaws (surprise surprise…!)
Sure, it would be found wanting for pure speed on the longer, more technical ocean swells & bigger developed seas, but by the time you're ready to head out into that stuff you would have a whole lot more in the toolbox, & probably also a narrower, faster boat more suited.

I made about 4 runs of 2km out & back across the expanse of Port Hacking, each time turning & running back to Mainbar on the 20knot breeze & tiny little wind waves. 
You can see from the video how little input was required to keep the ski on a run in these conditions, sometimes running for a minute without much more than the odd burst to hold position.

My eldest daughter Kiri certainly thought it looked like fun, & insisted on coming for a paddle. She's becoming quite a little adventure junkie, and thought the best part of the whole thing was catching the waves into shore & then getting bashed around in the shore break!
As for the V8, well despite a welter of new designs aimed squarely at the market it has singularly created, demand continues to far outstrip supply. Our next stock lands in about 3 weeks & isn't expected to hang around for long. Check our Epic Kayaks page for details.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Next UK Shipment Cut-Off

We are finalising our next order with Valley & Rockpool in the next 2 weeks, and invite anyone with a custom order to let us know you'd like your new boat to look! 
Valley offer several customised options, from their aersopsace infused carbon/kevlar layup to individualised colours, bulkhead lengths, foot pumps, keelstrips & even three-piece boats, which seem to have suddenly become most sought-after.
The next shipment from Valley will also include the smallest version of the Etain, a genuine expedition boat for smaller folks, the 17'3".
Rockpool customise every single one of their boats to the owner's requirements, so if you'd like a GT or Taran, or even the cult Alaw Bach in a funky design just for you, let us know. In the past we've delivered boats with starfish, kelp, even a beautiful Aboriginal design in the gelcoat artwork, so they really do have the capacity to make your boat exactly to your specs.
We'll likely receive the shipment here in Australia some time around early February, and if the pervious couple of Valley shipments are anything to go by, there will be very little left to buy off-the-shelf that hasn't been pre-ordered. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

National Sea Kayak Symposium Wrap

We've just returned from the fourth annual National Sea Kayak Symposium on the Gold Coast, an event we have supported as major sponsor since it's inception.
This year the weather gods again smiled upon us, with the coast turning on three perfect days of clear skies & temps in the high 20s, warm water & barely a zephyr.
Rob was held up the day before our planned departure by an aviation 'issue' where he was holidaying on Lord Howe Island with Sharon, so I made the long trek north on my own. There is a big effort involved in getting all of our gear, demo boats, workload-while-away sorted & then making it up to Currumbin in time for our traditional demo day on the Friday. We're always encouraged by the emails prior to the event asking us to bring up this boat or that paddle to try, & so it proved that come the Friday we had a bunch of people waiting to give the boats a good crack.
Craig at Adventure Outlet had enlisted Mick MacRobb from Flat Earth Sails & Tom Nicholson from Elver Paddles to come along & enhance his display. It was good to catch up with them both, & shoot the breeze with Mick over a few beers about how well his sails performed on our North Reef trip.
The demo day was also the first sighting north of the border of the Valley Etain, & true to form neither the 17'7 nor it's smaller sibling the 17'5 touched the sand, as paddlers took them for a spin to find out if the reality lived up to the hype.
We packed up our trailer mid afternoon & dashed across to the Community Centre to set up our trade display, but instead of knocking ourselves out as we usually do, the presence of Sharon & Mick made the whole thing very nearly a pleasure!
The attendees started to arrive & register at about 5pm & we spent the next few hours catching up with our mates up north & then listening to Stu Trueman trying to fit a 16 month round Australia odyssey into a 90 minute presentation. Stu's trip is nothing short of amazing, & he broke it down into several aspects, rather than try to produce a chronology of the expedition, which went down very well with the big crowd in the hall. Post talk we all headed back to our apartment to catch up properly with Mick & Gary Forrest, who was staying with us.
After cracking a Haka roll faster than either Chris or myself (below) Gary invented a new roll at the demo day, the long-lost Aleutian Smuggler Roll, and quite possibly became the first sea instructor in history to teach a novice Greenland roller the Haka Roll, while dressed only in his hat & his Speedos.
The student, an obviously mentally tough QSKC President Brian McCarthy, ignored the sideshow & snapped off a textbook Haka-for-blokes-Butterfly-for-less-hairy-folks roll in about 8 minutes. Stand by for a warm summer in Sydney & Greenland rolling in nothing but bikinis & budgie smugglers, why should just the surf ski dudes get to dress down? Lets face it, all that head-to-toe black kit, just ain't that sexy......
The Saturday program at the Symposium is all off the water, with a range of seminars, talks, skills demo's & even some yoga. The end of the program featured Olympian Amanda Rankin putting forward a compelling case for us sea kayakers to embrace excellence, rotate more & start to make some of our rusty old forward strokes start to work more efficiently.
We retired to the local Surf Club in the evening to enjoy a steak & a few beers, tell some tall tales & enjoy a rare opportunity en-masse to mix with our paddling peers. It was heaps of fun!
Sunday is the main day of the Symposium, with a full program of instruction, some trips & on my count more than 70 demo kayaks lined up on the beach for paddlers to try. I took an instruction group out with Queensland instructor Shawn West, and attempted to twist & cavort my students into a series of gut busting edging & torso exercises. These guys had a go! Almost everyone fell in with a smile on their face & I hope they took something away from the session.
The latter part of the day may well mark the point where the dark arts of Greenland rolling merged into the Australian paddling mainstream. One by one, paddlers would come over & learn a Butterfly roll, sit upright with hands raised while the highly amused spectators from the bank cheered. I tried to get Macca doing a gloved hand roll after he picked up the bio mechanics for the backward finishing roll from Rob & Gary ridiculously fast on the Friday, but he just couldn't quite crack it. Jonathon then pushed in, seized the mitts & hand rolled first go! The competitive juices started to flow, Macca hurled some abuse, Jonathon responded with a good sledge 'Yeah mate, talk to me when you can do one....', and then it was on! 
Seriously, demystifying the Greenland stuff is half the battle, well instructed it is something that looks real hard, but is actually very, very easy. I think you might see the warm waters of Queensland turn into a sub tropical Qasigiannguit over this coming season, as these motivated & skillful paddlers poke friendly jabs at one another to try this roll, then that roll, down the progression of learning these fun tricks.
I thought I was in reasonable shape prior to the weekend, but having been upside down & twisted a thousand ways over the course of the three days, I'm a little bit slow out of my office chair this morning. Clearly it's time to lobby the Global Yoga Organisation and try to have my lifetime ban lifted.
After packinmg away the boats for the final merciful time, I then adjouned to the local RSL to watch the RWC Final. Only a point separated me from having to send yet another world cup jersey off to Vinnies & it becoming a cherished souvenir, and despite having to sit next to Russ Hinze reincarnate at the rissole to watch the game, and having the bloody haka perfectly dissected by the Ode (OK, I think the ode is pretty important too…), there were big Sundin smiles for the rest of the evening.
All up a top weekend, and one that needs just a little more support from paddlers to make that next step into  massive kayaking event.
Thanks to Mark & his mob at QLD Canoeing, and to everyone who took the time to try a boat, check out our goodies or just say G'day.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Greenland Wars II, the James Strikes Back


Give a man an inch….
I took Chris down to the local pool yesterday to attempt once & for all to 'fix' his Greenland rolling. That's 'fix' like how Carl Williams eventualIy got 'fixed'….
I tried every dirty trick I knew to make sure the black art of the forward finishing roll remained just that to him, a skill unattainable to all but the most supple & talented athletes, like me.
The results are on the video above, clearly my instruction is so good I couldn't even do it badly if I wanted to….
His one serious misdemeanour was an attempt at our 'Holy Grail', the forward finishing rodeo roll, sans paddle. Whereas I was happy to fail miserably & wallow upside down waiting for an undignified rescue, James attempted a sleight of hand deception by arching his back & finishing with a back-leaning recovery! Fortunately, the camera caught out this cynical breach of ethics, which I've included here as a lesson to the cheats among you all. Understand what sort of man you're dealing with if you ever come across this Chris James fella in some other walk of life.
There was interest at the pool from a few Petersham locals, real rough inner city types with big L-O-V-E H-A-T-E prison tats who took some out time to study the ancient arts we were so elegantly performing. Could this become the new yobbo sport, some twisted 'Jackass' underwater….?
I actually heard a rumour that one of the local rugby league teams caused a dreadful brouhaha at the same pool last week, when they turned their 'Mad Monday' celebrations into a crazy Greenland rolling session. Luckily the NRL were able to keep it out of the papers, saving the reputation of the greatest game of all from a scandal that would dwarf the betting, drinking & general antisocial behaviour league players are renowned for. You heard it here first…..
**Note, although I make mention of 'a small animal dying' at the end of the video, please rest assured that no small animals indeed died during the making of this movie.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Tuning up the Rolls


I snatched an hour last week to take the 'T' down to Sandringham Beach & try to tune up my rolls. I recordered the session on my camera, essentially to try to spot any technical problems, but the murky water & late arvo light knocked that idea on the head.
In my limited experience, the backwards finishing rolls seem to be all about how flexible you are, whereas the forward finishing rolls require rather a bit more finesse & intuition. They're awesome when you get 'em right, you rise up almost as though someone else is doing it for you, very cool.
I had a crack at the half-paddle rolls that Rob was doing so effortlessly HERE, and that's another one in the 'work-in-progress' basket.
Regardless, never having been one to be afraid of going through the 'a bit hopeless' phase when learning a new set of skills, here's the highlights & a few lowlights of the session set to the groovy tunes of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
Now that's a mob to aspire to belong to, once I can get the hang of this Greenland rolling bizzo.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Greenland rolling competitive…? Nah….!

Disclaimer - Apologies in advance to the reverential readers in Greenland cyberspace, we're just having some fun here….
I guess the phone call must have gone something like this….


"G'day Rob, Chris here."
"Just noticed the video of you guys doing the rolling thingy"
"If Mark can do it that quick, I bet I can do it quicker…"


A little less Mozart & a little more Rage Against the Machine, the joyous, peaceful, calming rolling pastime, has given way to…... Greenland Wars.…..
Quoted 25 minutes for my first 'Haka Roll', Chris set about the task with Rob down at Watson's Bay yesterday, stopwatch set & running. Nailing it with 5 minutes to spare, after highlighting the achievement with a blatant reference to his watch, he then proceeded to rattle one off on his offside. Not content to stop there, out came the NRS Propulsion Gloves. He ticked off hand roll with the gloves, he then took a shot at the hand roll au naturale, and of course bloody well cracked one second go.
This sort of provocative one-upmanship has escalated the simmering rivalry, so I headed down to the local pool this morning & desperately tried to regain the yellow rolling jersey. Competitive? Me? Nah…..
A dodgy hand roll later & we're all square, although my effort was a little less smooth than the James version. However, and this is a BIG HOWEVER, I was then up for Rob's 'round-the-world-kind-of-imagine-yourself-trying-to-shove-your-finger-up-your-clacker' forward finishing roll, then the forward finish, forward start, paddle over the keel line roll, then the crooked elbow rolly thingy. All highly technical, unbelievably difficult, athletic, Greenland rolls requiring supercharged talent that start with Q have several 'L's' in them and finish with a K. 
Just to put both of us in our places, Rob then fired a few tricky rolls across the bow, which you can see interspersed with Chris & my novice attempts in the video above.
Interestingly, none of the three of us can manage a balanced brace, which is widely espoused as the starting point for anyone to learn these rolls. I think our top-heavy physiques probably make this something of challenge no matter how good we are, so there you go, square pegs in round holes.
This rolling caper is a lot of fun, bring on summer, some warmer water & a chance to really get good at it.
The little skinny elephant in the room is the boat we're using. They're designed for rolling, and certainly make a massive difference. The big fat elephant in the room of course is Rob standing by providing expert instruction, this stuff would be very hard to get your head around without it…..

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

EK Demo Day in Queensland - October 21

The annual National Sea Kayak Symposium is now less than 3 weeks away, and once again we'll be bringing a trailer load of demo boats, paddles & kit north for the event, of which we are Major Sponsor for the third year running. We'll also be holding our traditional Demo day on the Friday preceding the symposium, along with Craig McSween from Adventure Outlet. As well as demo boats to paddle we'll be available for individual on-water tips & instruction throughout the day. 
For those who were there last year, the venue is the same, the beach on the creek at Murlong Cr, Tallebudgera, next to the boat ramp (map below).
This will be the first opportunity for Queenslanders to test paddle the new Valley Etain 17-5 and 17-7, as well as the Rockpool Taran and the fastest selling play boat in the market, the North Shore Atlantic RM. We'll also have a demo on hand of the Mitchell Blades Bombora LV, fast acquiring a cult following among the smaller engined paddler brigade.
Please drop us a line between now & the event if you plan on coming along.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Sea Kayak Rescues with Gordon Brown - the Trailer

Here's the trailer for the latest Gordon Brown DVD. The production values & sheer art in the trailer have certainly whet my appetite for the full movie, it looks fantastic. Stock is due around October 25.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

NRS Gear for Spring

From time to time the good folks at NRS send us out a few samples to play around with, and this forms the basis of the products of theirs that we include in our online store. The weather is starting to warm up, we're noticing people making queries about the more immersion-centric elements of the sport (rolling, skills instruction that involve capsize & rescues etc), so we have been on the lookout for products to enliven the barmy water most of us are about to start paddling around in (sorry to the Sea Canoeists in Tassie, I know it probably feels warm to you in summer but….)
The latest range of testing gear included four products that we're rapt with, and they're now either in stock or about to be in stock for the coming warmer months.
The first one is the Endurance Paddling Jacket.
One of the big successes kit-wise on the North Reef Trip was a lightweight paddling jacket that Chris used instead of a heavier cag. When we'd stop on the water in the wind, or pull up in the late arvo he would throw it on over the top of his paddling gear & PFD and it provided a breathable shell against the wind & wet & kept him from cooling down. I didn't have this option in my gear & twice landed after a long day in the wet & windy environment a bit too cold for comfort. We have tested this Endurance jacket over the past month & found it to be exactly what we wanted in the range to provide an option like Chris had utilised to such effect on our expedition. It's light, wind & waterproof, breathable, visible & only $109. A great piece of kit as the warmer months approach.
The fun addition is the very cool Propulsion Gloves. You can't say we don't cater to niches, even if the niche is so small it might only be me! What the hell, if your best excuse for including products in your own store is that you just want one, I'm sure there is no commercial law against that!
These are webbed paddle gloves designed to help you make the transition to some of the trickier hand rolls in the Greenland repertoire. I have personally had a lot of fun using these gloves, pretty much cracking a 'cheating' hand roll the first time I had a go, after some good instruction of course (see below)!
They've got a flexible plastic shim between each finger for rigidity, but are still supple enough to allow me to miss a roll & reach for the stowed paddle & recover. They pack such a punch we're contemplating heading out in some gentle surf wearing only the gloves & seeing how long we last, but please don't try this at home. These will be available next week for $40.

In keeping with our premise that the hull is the single most important feature of any kayak design, we're now offering The Padz Deluxe Kayak Outfitting Pack, a  comprehensive outfitting foam pack for paddlers wanting to adapt idiosyncratic seat & comfort to their boat. 


This pack features a set of hip pads & shims, a seat pad, a sheet for ankle/heel paddling, two thigh pads & two thigh risers. It takes the headaches out of making that small adjustment to your boat. The full kit sells for $55.


Finally we've added a paddling glove in a more budget conscious price range, the NRS Guide Glove.


This is a nicely made half-finger design with a textured palm for grip & a very durable Terraprene backing. They're great value for money & have the typical NRS cool good looks.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The NEW Epic 18X, Now in Stock

The first of the brand new freshly designed Epic 18X's have touched down. We have stock on the shelf for $3990, ready to roll out. If you want to know what's new on this iconic sea kayak design my review of the updated 18X is HERE.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown - Rescues DVD

Simon Willis has just sent us through the pre-release info on his upcoming sequel to the hugely popular Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD. The trailer alone (which is now online HERE) gives a hint to the spectacular production values that have gone into this epic 2 hour instructional DVD.
With the beautiful islands of St Kilda as the backdrop, Gordon Brown takes us through a series of rescue & emergency scenarios, from assisted rescues in rough water to contact tows to seal landings & even a brilliant sequence where he lands his Etain through breaking seas onto a rock platform by swimming it all in.
There is a lovely piece in the middle of the feature about Hamish Gow, who together with his wife Anne were the first to paddle the 40 miles out to the remote islands of St Kilda in 1965. There were no wing paddles, fast kayaks or hand-held GPS back then, and their tale is worth the price of the DVD alone. There is a some great historical footage of this pioneering trip as well as an interview with Hamish.
There are a series of reviews of the DVD which you can read below:




Our stock is on the way & will be available from our online store from October 25. You can pre-order your copy now for $39 including freight nationally.