Monday, 31 January 2011

Stu Trueman in Queensland

Stuart Trueman's epic around Australia odyssey pulls into Brisbane this weekend. The Queensland Sea Kayak Club have put on a terrific night for anyone interested in hearing about his adventures on the way around.
Stu's trip is remarkable in many ways, but his solo & unassisted crossing of the Nullabor Coast is a first, with Caffyn (albeit without GPS & carbon fibre paddles) & Freya both doing that remote stretch with vehicular support. It's some feat, something akin to putting a new route up a mountain, even though the hill has already been summitted.
If you're in Brissie over the weekend, for $10 you can get along & hear one of the true expeditioners of our sport sharing his travels. Click the graphic below for full details.
Make sure you buy him a beer…...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Noosa Paddling with Gary Forrest

Gary Forrest in 'Frankie'
I just spent a relaxing week with my family in Noosa, staying in an apartment on the river & spending my days messing around in the pool & on the beach. It was a rare window of impeccable weather among the atrocities experienced in Queensland in the last month, & some all-too-infrequent down time for me with Nic & the kids.
My mate Gary Forrest kindly lent me his spec ski to keep my eye in while I was away, & I managed an hour or so early morning or evening out on the river & the Noosa Bar trying to get the hang of these iconic Australian surfcraft. One comment I will offer on them, make sure you fit properly before you paddle! Gazza's has a wider seat & slighty shorter legs than the perfect fit for me, & it compromised my stability enough to present a few challenges. 
Fuzzy photo 'cause I was going too fast, or wobbling too fast...?
Like most good designs though, first impressions, especially to do with stability are quickly overcome as you spend a little time on the water figuring out how any particular hull works. I think specs skis are true surf skis, designed for breaking water & lifesaving, & the modern ocean racing skis are just that, unbelievably good for racing in the ocean, especially on following seas.
Gazza looking relaxed in his spec ski
Gary came to collect the ski on Saturday, & we went for a paddle around the canals & out to the bar, swapping between his ski & his hybridised V10 Sport, which he & a local manufacturer have turned into a full decked expedition boat. Gazza calls it Frankie, as in Frankenstein, but the lines are a hell of a lot smoother than the ol' bolted one.

Gary is a remarkable paddler, having followed the same course as me through a club, where he was taught the basics, progressed to repaying his debt by becoming a sea leader & then a Level 2 Sea Instructor. He is a legend on the Sunshine Coast especially among the surfers who shake their heads at his big wave surfing, in his array of longboats. I showed the guys at Valley his film clip surfing the Nordkapp on a 3m swell at Mooloolaba, & there were all round sighs as their beloved boat shot along on the big waves.. 
Gazza in typical pose on the Mooloolaba Bar
Last year along with Eddie Safarik & Paul Wilton he made the first successful crossing from the mainland, 85km out to Lady Elliot Island & then along the islands of the Capricornia Cays. It was a trip with some big moments & a sea kayaking first - as the guys discovered, there were a few good reasons it hadn't been done before.
He recently set up an instruction business based on the Sunshine Coast, and is quickly earning a place alongside the Gold Coast's Craig McSween as a modern & hugely skillful sea kayaking instructor. If you're on the Sunshine Coast & looking for someone who can teach you the skills to paddle on the sea, Gary is your man.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Rockpool Taran Wash Riding, from the Round Ireland Guys

More great footage from Jeff, Harry & Chris on their Round Ireland blog, as they train for the circumnavigation attempt later this year.
Check this out
Great stuff, illustrating the handling this boat offers without the rudder if that's what pushes your buttons, as well again showing the serious wheels that the Taran has. I spent a week last summer chasing boat washes up the Noosa river on my ski & can vouch for the wholehearted fun it can be, albeit with a few technical challenges, most of which you can see Harry solving with great aplomb.
As you can read on their blog, they are raising money for Ovarian Cancer through their expedition, and you can hop on their donations site to contribute.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Ginni Callahan - February Instruction Courses

Ginni Callahan was a great hit among local paddlers when she came to Sydney in March to run her own brand of discovery based paddling instruction courses, in conjunction with Rob Mercer's Balanced Boater.
She's back for a week in early February, this time with her instructor buddy Axel Schoevers in tow, to run a series of full day & twilight sessions in & around the harbour.

Her program is outlined below:

Tuesday 8 Feb - 6.00pm - 8.00pm Evening Session - $60/person
Forward stroke correction and video analysis
Evening Session with video review and dinner at Watsons Bay Hotel.

Wednesday 9th Feb - 8am - 3pm - $120/person  
Greenland Skills Day
Take the day off and spend it refining your Greenland paddling and rolling skills with Ginni  and Axel. During the day the group will be split to allow paddlers with different interests and experience levels to work on appropriate aspects of their technique. 

Thursday 10th Feb - 6.00pm - 8.00pm - $60/person
Balance, Edging & Bracing
A wet and fun class, we use games to develop balance in the core of the body.   After this, edging improves without aid of the paddle, which frees the paddler to use the blade more efficiently.  Of course when the point of balance is exceeded, a nice recovery brace saves a dunking.  Supporting braces will also be covered—a way to hold a confident edge in choppy water or push that edge a little higher, or to stay upright in surf.  

Saturday 12th Feb - 8am - 3pm - $120/person
Greenland Skills Day
For those who can't take the day off on Wednesday - During the day the group will be split to allow paddlers with different interests and experience levels to work on appropriate aspects of their technique.

Ginni's sessions were completely booked out last year, and most of the places available have been snapped up by those who took part previously, however a few remain in each time-slot if you're looking for a different slant on your paddling skills development.

Contact Rob Mercer on 0417 227 627, or at rob@expeditionkayaks.com for details & to book your place.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

NRS - The range hits town...

We're excited to announce that we will be stocking a great range of the premium paddler-designed gear from NRS in the US. Both Rob & I have owned a smattering of NRS kit over the years & always liked the design, especially the paddling tops with their kayaker-specific cuts & beautiful quality.
Responding to overwhelming demand, we've even thrown in a bit of colour to the colour-deficient world of paddling apparel. Be seen on the water! Umm, you'll find it hard not to be seen in a few of the tops….. 

The Hydrosilk tops are nicely complemented by the new generation HydroSkin garments, which are like a super-thin laminated neoprene, designed to be worn against the skin & move with you, rather like a running compression garment. 

Rounding off the range for now are the Euro Merino wool tops, which are also cut specifically for paddling & make an excellent base layer under a cag or wind-stopping top (like the Reed LS Top), and a nice lightweight cag in the Stampede Paddle Jacket.

Importantly, in this era of parity with the USD, our pricing is as close as we can get it to the comparative prices direct from NRS in the US, so you can have a global brand at global prices, available freight free nationally from a local supplier, us!
You can see the full range under the Apparel section on our online store.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Paddling with Kiri

I had a memorable two day paddle with my eldest daughter Kiri over the New Year, up the majestic Shoalhaven Gorge. She has been asking & asking me to take her on a paddle 'into the wilderness' since watching (& watching & watching) the 'Douggie down the Pet' segment on Justine Curgenven's 'This is Canoeing' DVD.
After finally showing her Mum that she could wet exit the kayak & swim to shore, Nicole allowed us to go on the trip.
Because it was an 'expedition', we planned & shopped for the food, studied the map of the route, packed everything together & ticked it all off a list, then finally set off on a hot New Years Day, 2 hours south to the Tallowa Dam. We paddled Rob & Sharon's North Shore Atlantic II, which is a roomy & very luxurious double, which clipped along nicely at about 8kmh in the smooth clam river, when I decided to crank it along. It was rather a departure for me from my normal paddling, dawdling along the river bank looking for lizards, but a great experience with my little girl.
The paddle is a meandering 13km trip up the stunning gorge which gradually narrows & grows more precipitous until you reach a set of rapids that are a serious portage for a boat of this size. There are a smattering of beautiful sandy camp spots around these rapids, of which we picked out the shadiest as the temperature nudged 40 degrees. Although we saw a few groups heading back to base there were no other campers in the entire gorge for our night in the bush, blissful solitude! There was happily no competition for camp spots, although we had a healthy debate about which one would be the best. 
Kiri & I spent the afternoon exploring the shady bush finding goannas, lizards, wild goats & kangaroos, broken by plenty of swims in the beautiful warm water of the Shoalhaven.
At night we read books & cooked our dinner on the stove, shared marshmallows & had a night time bath in the river to cool down. Kiri even did the washing up, after I'd explained the importance of teamwork on an expedition! 
The next morning we cleared all the firewood away from the fireplaces that campers had built, packed away our gear & any other rubbish left by previous visitors & made sure we left only our footprints. It's amazing what traction an idea like 'leave no trace' has with kids, pity that more of us weren't given the same lessons in our younger days, or these amazing camp spots would be a little less cluttered with human mess.
Our trip was a great experience for both of us, & Kiri made the movie above to share with her classmates when she returns to school. With her permission I've put it on the blog to share.
The meandering route up the Upper Shoalhaven from Tallowa Dam