Friday, 18 March 2011

Demo Paddles

What happens on a demo paddle? How do you paddle a couple of boats over a short period & get some semblance of an idea of what it will be like, before committing a substantial amount of your hard earned towards a purchase? What do you look for if you're not an experienced paddler & seriously don't have much of a clue about the nuance of hull designs? How are you supposed to know what's going to happen to you & your new boat the first time you get into challenging water, if your test paddle is in controlled & calm conditions? How about your general skills, what's going on when the best reviewed boat on earth feels difficult on the water. Is it a crook boat, or are you desperately in need of some instant on-water feedback from a skilled paddler to maybe help you correct your own technical problem, which is perhaps giving you the wrong responses from the hull?
Buying a kayak is always a bit of a leap of faith. We try to minimise this by providing demo paddles in real conditions - at least as real as the paddler is comfortable with - and being alongside to offer technical advice on general paddling so you can get a proper understanding of what a particular boat is capable of.
Tim in the Zegul 520LV
This morning I took Tim out for a paddle in blustery conditions just inside Botany Bay, with 15knot winds generating short, sharp, uncomfortable wind waves. He'd expressed an interest in the Zegul 520, & the Nordkapp LV, neither of which are true novice boats, both of which offer rough water performance, but very, very different boats both in concept and on the water. We spent two hours paddling into, across, & downwind, stopped in the lee of Frenchman' Bay a couple of times to get a feel for some of the chine performance of the boats, & generally messed around trying to test & push both Tim & the hulls of two very different designs.
An aerial GPS Track of the demo paddle. Wind was 15-18kn from the SSW corner
Tim had a fantastic go. He pushed hard on the following seas, fell in more than once in his efforts, paddled across the wind in the uncomfortable chop & challenged himself beyond tipping point. He's a novice, but he's fit, brave & prepared to learn the skills required to become a sea kayaker. It was a brilliant morning, and Tim went away with a very good understanding of what boats shaped like the Nordkapp LV do, as opposed to what boats shaped like the Zegul 520 can do.
I love these sorts of test paddles because, well, hell I don't get on the water that often & we had fun. I love seeing people have a go, face the cruel reality that it's not easy to get good, but it's a brilliant thing to commit to something & begin the long & enjoyable process of attaining skills.
Sure not everyone aims so high, and more power to those with milder ambitions with their paddling - all paddling is good paddling. I just thought I'd share a nice story I had this morning from the perspective of an instructor, with the concept of a real demo paddle at it's heart.
Next time you go to buy a boat, ask about the style of demo paddle that is available, & then see if you can't get a bit more than just a solo paddle on a flat stretch of water, without any advice from a skilled instructor or guide. You will make a better choice if you're better informed.

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