Thursday, 19 January 2012

I love my job….

I've had a memorable four days of 'work', if you consider what I've been doing to be in any way laborious!
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 520
He 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 RM
The 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.
With that in mind, and an appointment at Epic in Brookvale that I managed make myself suspiciously very early for, I pulled in at the Spit & took my V10S out for a short cruise to North Head & back. There was very little action happening out in the harbour, it's a harbour after all, but I still managed to crack a few small waves on the stretch back to the calm of Grotto Point from across the way. Once inside Middle Harbour I latched onto the stern wave of the James Cadman & went almost all the way back to the Spit at over 13kmh, riding along with very little paddle effort. That is my kinda paddling, my lazy paddle is featured in the little video above set to the music of the Lazy Song….
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…?

9 comments:

  1. Tough job Mark... can i have it?
    Really interesting to hear more about boats out of your range being test paddled.
    I currently run a Valley Etain 17-7 bought from a great friend of mine who got it direct from you, but am now looking for something to maybe supplement the 17-7 as a play/surf boat.
    I loved Pete's (my mates) Atlantic, but i was wondering what your thoughts are on the Zegul 520 as a surf and play boat?
    For reference, i'm the roughly the same size and build as you.
    I find the 17-7 great, but a bit buoyant and 'springy' on the edges... but a great and smooth tracker.

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  2. G'day Steve,
    In an Atlantic vs Z520 comparison, its' worth understanding that they come from two almost opposite design pholosophies. The Zegul tracks hard, the Atlantic tracks loose, and therefore requires more paddler input for surf & following seas, but less input once you're actually running & want to manoeuvre. The Z520 is a little more versatile at the touring end, being quite quick for such a short boat. If you love the Etain, then the Swede form of the 520 might feel very familiar, with the added feature of very a very defined secondary point, compared to the softer chined Atlantic which 'bounces' on it's secondary point. The Zegul has lighter initial stability, but if you think about it this gives it heaps more playfulness in the hands of a paddler unafraid of dropping from edge to edge in rougher water.
    They're very different, it would be good to get you out for a paddle in them both!
    Mark.

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  3. Good info Mark, cheers mate
    I'm hoping to get a trip up your way in March or April, so a test paddle of everything in the shop will be on the cards ;)

    ... if only my fat arse would fit in a beautiful tahe greenland...

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  4. No worries mate, it might fit in the T? See if you can co-ordinate your trip with the Rock & Roll weekend, we've got a few people coming from interstate & doing just that.

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  5. If it fits in the T then I'll swap you a mint etain!
    In fact I'll just trade my etain in on your red and white Atlantic! Now!
    When is the rock and roll weekend

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  6. Details on the NSWSKC site - http://www.nswseakayaker.asn.au/

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  7. "A few remounts to keep my eye in" I'm gonna have to use that line.

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  8. **Disclaimer, Expedition Kayaks cannot be held responsible for comments originating on the eastern side of the Tasman.....

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  9. Rock and roll is looking damn fine... i think i'll have to make the journey from the apple isle!

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