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