Rob is in Tassie having an extended break from his unbearably stressful existence - people who've been to his office will know what I mean - so I've been out doing demo paddles & mixing it up with some new paddlers/customers. I've also had the chance to reacquaint myself with 9 of our different designs, something I really should do more often, as your perceptions of a craft change as your paddling develops.
Sunday was a demo paddle with Wade down at a dingy, cold, rainy & windy Dolls Pt, testing out the Zegul 520, North Shore Atlantic & Nordkapp LV head to head. The three of them are radically different in their design intent & the way they feel on the water, & there was plenty of chop & bounce, not to mention an easing Easterly wind (what's with all these frigging Easterlies around Sydney at the moment…!) for Wade to plough through & under to test the characteristics of each design.
The Zegul 520He struck up an affinity with the Zegul 520 & really made it sing, carving turns & blending strokes very impressively. I haven't spent a lot of time in this boat & having watched the way Wade danced around in it I'm thinking I should be paying closer attention.
On Monday arvo I met another customer, Chris, at La Perouse to pit the Atlantic RM against the Valley Aquananut LV RM. If you ask Chris James what his favourite boat of the last 4 years would be - and he owns a lot of boats - I reckon he'd nominate the LV as the one. I haven't paddled it for over a year, and in the neat little 1m sea whipping into Botany Bay on the back of a 12-15kn breeze it was a joy.
The Aquanaut LV RMThe plastic version of the Atlantic feels much the same as the composite, maybe with a little extra buoyancy, and this translates to a very reassuring ride in rough water. Chris has been paddling an Inuit Classic, a beautiful little boat originally designed by one of the sport's great pioneers & characters, Norm Sanders. I used to own one years ago & learned the art of surfing a sea kayak in it, one of the all time great short sea kayaks, sans rudder or skeg. This background showed in Chris' paddling, and although he doesn't have an extensive resume of sea paddling, he looked at home in the two Brit boats, comfortable using his edges in the bounce & looked like he was enjoying himself. After we finished I pulled out my Mitchell stick & rattled through my repertoire of Greenland rolls, sadly neglected of late in pursuit of a single degree of latitude, but still passable, even in the Aquanaut LV, which isn't exactly a Greenland T.
Yesterday I met up with Neil, again down at Frenchman's Bay, this time so he could have a go in the V10 Sport. Once again the weather turned it on, with a gentle onshore wind giving us some small runners to ride back to the island from the rebound around Henry Head. Neil hadn't paddled anything as demanding as this ski in the sea before & was a bit tentative to begin with, but was soon stretching out & pushing himself & gave it a good enough go to want one.
I always encourage paddlers to try a more demanding ski design so they can see what's over the horizon from the entry level boats, but it remains an undeniable truth that if you keep falling off your ski you'll soon chuck it all in. The boat that suits you best is the best boat for you! Paddling skis on the ocean is a completely different ballgame to paddling sea kayaks, or even paddling the same ski on the flat. You need to be either very dedicated to the acquisition of a new set of skills that take away deck contact as a means of support for bracing, or have a history with rough water & reading the shapes in front of you, as well as a little more core strength than our forgiving sea kayaks demand of us. But the rewards, oh man the rewards, running a big following sea in a ski is as good as it gets…. In my view, as someone who still considers himself a beginner ocean ski paddler, the key is to get out in rough water as often as you can safely, and keep at it, and obviously that means you need a reasonably stable platform.
Having the ski on the roof allowed me the luxury of spotting a chance & a waterway & fitting a sneaky paddle into my schedule.
So, in the space of four days, I've been able to paddle 9 different boats, get out on my ski a couple of times & crack a few runs, paddle a couple of supreme British skeg boats, give the Zegul 520 a refreshed shot, and have a little refresher session on my Greenland rolling.
Tough way to earn a quid right…?