Friday, 30 March 2012

Valley's Gemini Twins

Here's a boat we'll be seeing here in Australia later on this year. Of particular interest to us is the out & playboat of the two. Take a look at Pete from Valley in the UK walking Scott McGregor through the design.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson Show!

My exposure to Greenland rolling is pretty minimal, but I've managed to improvise my way through a few of the rolls & I have to admit to finding it enormous fun. Where I've been stuck on something or had a bit of a mental block, the odd piece of sage advice from the likes of Rob Mercer, Greg Schwarz or Mel Hanley has inevitably led to a mini breakthrough & away I go again.
I always appreciate advice on any aspect of my paddling, so for example when Mel showed me an alternative set up to a Haka, err, sorry Butterfly roll the other day which produced a world class result (!) I was quick to thank her for the tip. She deferred instantly & said thanks anyway, but that it was actually Cheri Perry & Turner Wilson's trick, and then she spoke glowingly of their ability to break things down & explain like nobody else. Rob's experience with Ginni Callahan was the same, she'd explain something from an obtuse angle that shed new light on a roll or body motion & again say 'that's from Cheri & Turner!'
So, on the first hand advice of several well credentialed Greenland exponents it's pretty exciting that these guys are heading our way, if so many people keep calling you a guru the chances are you probably are!
Rob Mercer will be hosting Cheri & Turner for a week from April 17-22, and their schedule of events is below:



April 17
Paid group class will start at 1pm followed by a guest appearance at the Tuesday night paddle.
April 18
Individual coaching by the hour
April 19
TBA
April 20
Full day session for those who are seeking to refine their Greenland rolls and rechniques
April 21
Full day for those who are working towards a roll
April 22
NSW Sea Kayak Club Day (please see NSW Sea Kayak Club website for details)

They are renowned for being very inclusive in their ideas & instruction, so don't think you have to turn up with your black tights & Ned Kelly beard to get something out of the day. Their rolling video out soon in conjunction with Justine Curgenven (see HERE) has them doing all rolls using all types of paddles in all sorts of different kayaks.
If you'd like to attend one of their sessions please get in touch with Rob Mercer at rob@expeditionkayaks.com.


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Rock & Roll 2012

I looked back at my last few years of Rock & Roll reports & realised they all seem kinda the same. Turned up, beer & pizza, a party on Friday night, some instruction & fun paddles, great guests, old mates, new mates, very little sleep, hectic pace, etc etc.
Beer & Pizza Party
Thankfully, the 2012 one was just like that, the absolute premier event on the national sea kayaking calendar primarily for the reason that it's there to get people out on the sea, often for the very first time, and year after year that's the minimum the guys at the NSWSKC manage to deliver for their members.
Matty & Fernando mixing it up
I was privileged on the Saturday to help out Matty Bezzina guide a group of 12 from Honeymoon Bay inside Jervis Bay, all the way out & around the imposing cliffs of the Beecroft Peninsular to Currarong, a paddle of 26km thereabouts.
At least half the group had never seen seas or rebound like the at-times industrial strength clapotis that this tiny little sea route can produce. Good training, a competent group with several experienced and trusty club paddlers there to keep an eye out meant that these guys had a lifetime experience around a cliff line, on a day that you can bet they wouldn't have dreamt of taking on, on their own. It was also nice to only have to paddle 26km to get to Currarong…..
The Drum & Drumsticks seals & their smelly mate
Watching the video above, you could be excused for thinking, 'hey what a great multi-day trip, imagine seeing that variety of water, cliffs, wildlife over a week's paddling!' It makes you realise what a special place this is for a sea kayaker, a bit like the highlights reel that only shows the tries & the big tackles.
Memorable moments at Rock & Roll for me included meeting Paul Caffyn & Sandy Robson for the first time, renewing acquaintances with mates in the healthy & growing sea kayaking community, putting faces to names (or forum monikers!), and just getting out on the water to smell the roses.
I love the challenges I've set for myself lately in concert with Rob & Chris, & they bring a special satisfaction in the training & execution, but every year Rock & Roll reminds me why first & foremost I define myself as a sea kayaker. Drifting along a sublime bouncy coastline in water you earn through acquiring skills, poking into caves, rock gardens, littered with sea birds, seals, sharks & even a breaching Marlin is pretty hard to beat.
Beecroft….what a place.
Bravo to event organiser Campbell Tiley, Commodore David Fisher & all of their club mates who give so freely of their time to safely grow their sport. Thanks to everyone who came along to the EK tent for a chat, bought some gear, tested a boat or generally shot the breeze over the weekend. If you are fair dinkum about your paddling & haven't been to a Rock & Roll you really, truly don't know what you're missing. The bummer is, you've got another year to wait….


**the Beer & Pizza record was also smashed on the Friday evening, with 40 large pizzas & 30 dozen beers lasting just 37 fearsome, hectic minutes. Who says sea kayakers aren't competitive…?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Trip Report - One Degree South


Our goal was a simple one, a single day paddle from Sydney's Cronulla Beach, 117km down to the northern outpost of Jervis Bay, the coastal village of Currarong.
We were planning to go in January, when on any other year without a La Nina pattern we would have had our choice of long blustery days throughout Sydney's hot summer. It wasn't to be, and we had to wait until the shorter days of mid-March for a forecast that was even half favourable, with a three day period promising Nor Easters starting at 12 knots & building up to 25 knots as the day wore on.
As we were primarily doing the trip to help raise awareness for R U OK Day? we announced our plans a couple of days out & were then essentially committed unless the weather really went pear-shaped.
The real consequence of the shifting start date was the difficulty in holding fitness, especially for me! It's easy to work towards an expedition date & get your fitness up for it, but a date that drifts along for eight weeks makes it very hard to keep things at what I consider an acceptable level to try & paddle this sort of distance. I had a few concerns about my ability to foot it with Rob & Chris on a fairly sparse preparation.
Regardless, we met down at South Cronulla at 6am last Wednesday, Rob & Chris arriving with our mate Andrew Eddy, who had kindly volunteered to do the grueling almost-24 hour job of being our land crew.
Cronulla early morning (pic by Andrew Eddy)
We were quick to pack & were on the sand at about 0715, pushing off through the little shore break at 0730. Rob & Chris paddled their Rockpool Tarans, while I was in my Epic 18X. All three of us used wing paddles.
The wind hadn't yet arrived, & barely qualified zephyr-status as we pushed south along a wide line that we were hoping would give us some assistance from a south-set East Australian Current. It soon became apparent from our boat speed, hovering around 8kmh despite effort levels that would normally produce near enough to 10kmh that we instead had a head current & continued to do so for the next five painful hours.
The golden cliffs of the Royal National Park & the beach coast north of Wollongong skulked past from our vantage point some 10km offshore, and I began to really struggle with the heat & the resistance from the contrary sea. We knew we had to maintain a certain speed to reach Geroa & the start of the Crookhaven Bight before nightfall so had to keep pushing. If someone had offered me a jet ski & a double Mojito at the 40km mark I think I would have happily sneaked off the back of the pack & found a banana lounge at Austinmer!
The view out to our position from Wattamolla (pic by Andrew Eddy)
As we approached a long line of moored tankers some 12km off Wollongong we began to feel the beginnings of a breeze building from astern. At the six-hour mark this had built to about 12-15 knots & was starting to produce a rideable sea. We then upped the ante to string together three hours of 10kmh averages & scooted in to our only planned stop at Bushrangers Cove, a rocky cleft hewn into Bass Point, some 70km from our starting point.
 Chris Entering Bushrangers Cove (pic by Andrew Eddy)
Andrew was waiting with words of encouragement & a change of clothes, & we enjoyed a blissful 20 minutes stretched out on the boulders contemplating the 47km to go to our target at Currarong. We figured we were on track to reach the headland at Geroa & the start of the bight with about an hour of daylight left, & would then try to hammer it out into the bay & cover as much ground as we could before the light abandoned us. In many ways the Crookhaven Bight is the crux of this paddle, despite being the end bit. It's a shallow, shifting bay exposed to wind & swell from all directions & is reknowned as unpredictable & treacherous to the local fishers. With 20-odd knots blowing it's definitely best paddled in daylight….
 Leaving Bushrangers Cove (pic by Andrew Eddy)
The coastal section between Bass Point & Geroa is a beauty, green farmland atop rolling dales & sandstone cliffs occasionally broken by golden sandy beaches. The wind was up over 20 knots & while the sea was behind us, the swell was starting to crank from the ENE quarter and occasionally drop a bomb, in the form of a breaking wave which would throw us into a sideways brace for a few seconds. Despite how unnerving this sounds, it was a great change to the slog of the morning & we appreciated being able to use our skills & actually do some proper sea paddling in challenging conditions.
 Mark off Gerringong (pic by Rob Mercer)
We reached Geroa & took a bearing on Currarong, hoping we'd be able to see the lights of the village before dark, & thus avoid having to navigate at night by compass.
The twilight zone ended just after 8pm with us still 17km short of our goal but mercifully with a bead on the village lights. Time to knuckle down in what was now a fully developed & breaking sea & grind it out. We'd identified my weakness at night as a potential problem on the trip, in comparison to Rob & Chris I rarely paddle moving water at night, and it was bound to slow us down, as it had to an extent in the last hour of our 95km crossing out to Lady Elliot Island last year.
We nailed a couple of milestones, passing the 100km mark after 12 hours, then the 112km, or 60 Nautical mile, or 'one degree' mark after 14 hours.
We felt the unique & not altogether pleasant experience of whizzing along in a following sea in the pitch dark, only to have waves suddenly break across your left shoulder almost without warning & give you a real thump. The only sign it was coming in the dark was a sudden lurch astern as the water fell out from our left quarter, then the roar of the foam, followed instantaneously by the crunch as the wave got you. Sitting slightly behind Rob & Chris I could see them drop from sight into the trough & then watch their lights suddenly lurch sideways for 20 or 30 meters as they braced hard. 
Suffice to say I'm glad I learned to brace before I learned to roll!
Our pace slowed to just over 6kmh, ostensibly due to my lack of confidence to really stretch out in the dark, so it was a great relief just after 10pm to be able to make out the shore & small harbour at Currarong. We radioed Andrew & tried to work out a landing spot through the breakers, & then spotted a set of torches pointing to a gap. These were courtesy of another paddling mate Mick Martin, who had brought them along from his home in nearby Nowra when he saw our Spot tracker getting close. Thanks Mick!
One by one we landed through the shore break. The degree was done!
Team One Degree South (pic by Mick Martin)
Andrew had a feast on hand & he & Mick helped us carry our boats & gear back across the dunes to the car park. We were all buzzing from the day & spent the two hour ride back to Sydney running through the day & the highlights. For sure a great day, one I'll never forget.
Looking back now that almost a week has passed I still shake my head at the distance. I stopped working out in my head how much further, how long it was going to take etc after about 60km, the reality is when you have a go at something like this you've just got to concentrate on the next paddle stroke.
Rob & Chris were amazing throughout the day. For an old bloke Rob goes alright, a picture of calm & control & he's still he best paddler I've ever seen at squeezing the life out of any waves coming at him from behind. As for Chris, the next time I paddle anywhere with him I'm going to sneak some Kryptonite into his day hatch. That'll stop him…!
A few people this week have asked me how it compares to a Hawkesbury Classic, a race of 99km on a local river, famous for it's epic stories of endurance. Having done three Classics, albeit a while ago now, I would have to say there is absolutely no physical comparison. For starters you don't get ocean swell breaking over your head for the last three hours of the Hawkesbury! Those extra 18km are also a very long extra to tack onto a long day. As a challenge for us the One Degree South paddle brought together every skill of planning, training, and execution on the sea that we had available to us. It also called on a fair reserve of old fashioned resolve, especially in my case with a pretty patchy preparation, more so after the first five hellish hours of paddling essentially flat soupy water. Funny that the worst part of the paddle for all of us was the flat stuff!
Andrew Eddy was a superstar. He drove to various points along the coast in advance of our arrival, monitored the Spot dot, updated the web, took some great photos (see the video above) gave us an objective sounding board at our rest stop in case we had gotten cocky, & then drove us all the way back to Sydney in the early hours of the morning. It's always reassuring to know that the guy who is watching your back on land has a complete understanding of what you're going through out at sea, & Andrew is one of the country's most able & experienced expedition sea kayakers. Thanks mate…!
The other reaction from the week has been the great response to our support of RU OK Day? I personally have always baulked at doing the 'charity thing' with my paddling, I reckon it's a bit overdone & often appears to carry no great reasonance with the protagonists. RU OK Day certainly represented the antithesis of that to Rob, Chris & I. The guys had a deep admiration for the late Wayne Langmaid, and during the lead up to the paddle Rob had a close friend fall to the same fate, adding extra determination to make our trip a success & helping to raise awareness. The personal messages of support & shared stories of dealing first or second hand with suicide & depression have been both moving & inspiring, and RU OK's message of removing the stigma associated with talking openly about such things strikes a piercing chord. Well done to my old mate from school Gavin Larkin, and to the dedicated folks at RU OK Day? who continue his legacy. Please feel free to continue to donate to the cause, but even more importantly take a minute to read about their goals, or even pick up the phone & ask on old mate 'RU OK?'
As to the challenge of a single degree of latitude in a day, we'd love to see someone else, either here in Australia or in another part of the world, have a go & hopefully blow our time to pieces. Our time stands there for the 60NM at 14.02 hours. The rules are pretty simple, at least three paddlers for safety, 60NM on the sea in a day, no support craft, & paddle power only. It seems to fit well with a charity cause so some sort of money or awareness raising is also part of the deal.
I asked Andrew on the way home if he thought it was an accessible challenge, & his long pause kinda gave me the answer, however I don't think there is any reason that a well prepared team, with a full set of sea skills couldn't have a crack. We like the idea of sea kayaking having another tangent including athletic & friendly competitiveness, as Rob says it's not compulsory but it is something to aspire towards, if that's what floats your boat.
I think on the right day, with a bit more conditioning, we could probably cover the distance in 12 hours, so maybe that's one for 'One Degree North'. Chris' idea, not mine….

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Valley & Rockpool Shipment is here…!

Our latest shipment from the UK is here. We opened the doors this morning & unloaded a container filled with Rockpool Tarans, the Nordkapp LV's & the full range of Etains, including the brand new Etain 17'3.
The first Etain 17'3 in Oz
What a sweet little boat the 17'3 is, a genuine expedition kayak aimed at small paddlers, with low windage, low volume & the same set of sea manners as the more playful Avocet LV. We'll be seeking paddler opinions this coming weekend down at the NSWSKC's annual Rock & Roll weekend, where we'll have a demo available.
For now, our stock list has the list of what remains in the warehouse, again it's not many, as the Brit containers are invariably filled with customised boats.


Friday, 16 March 2012

GPS Trace of One Degree South

We have a secret weapon in our support guru Andrew Eddy. He has compiled our average speed from the GPS each of us had running on the One Degree South paddle & put it into a format understandable even to a maths tragic like me.
The trace shows a few interesting things, firstly the unforgiving slog of the first 5 windless hours into a head current, then the blast down to Geroa, & finally the dramatic slowdown as night fell & the Crookhaven Bight got, well…. crook!
We'll have a full report up some time next week but here's the trace to disseminate, for those of you interested in such things.
Thanks again to Andrew for the great spreadsheet.
A belated thanks also to another paddling mate Mick Martin, who drove from his home at Nowra all the way out to Currarong when he saw we were getting close. Mick brought along torches which were life savers in pointing the way through the surf for the landing, & then hung about to haul our boats back to car & help out with all the gear & sorting out. Thanks Mick!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

One Degree Done….

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One Degree Done….

We arrived in to Currarong last night at 10.25pm, after 14hrs 55mins paddling with half an hour on the pebbles at Bushrangers Cove. Total distance was 117km, & we did the 'one degree' at 9.30pm, so fourteen hours for any prospective idiots out there considering putting themselves through the same wringer any time soon.
A terrific, challenging & most satisfying paddle. Trip report to come.
Chris, Mark & Rob.

Monday, 12 March 2012

UPDATE - One Degree South Attempt Wednesday March 13

A blessed Nor easterly forecast has arrived, & we've targeted Wednesday as D-Day for our One Degree South paddle.
The winds aren't the epic strength we had hoped for, but they're the best on the offer since early January. It's testament to the wacky La Nina summer Sydney has experienced, when you consider we figured it was a shoe-in to have our pick of January Nor' Easters to ride south. Our greatest difficulty has been maintaining fitness 2 months longer than we had planned. Suffice to say all three of us have failed on that front!
We'll be leaving Cronulla at sun-up Wednesday, and our SPOT Tracker will be running from THIS LINK.
The route line you see above is a little longer than we're planning, as the EAC has moved in to about 10km offshore all the way down to Bass Point, which will give us about a knot of assistance, all going well. Unfortunately it's running north any further in to shore, so it will be a long stretch wide out to sea for most of the day.
Don't forget the trip is primarily to raise awareness for RUOK Day, a depression & suicide awareness charity that carries special significance for us. You can donate to RUOK Day HERE, but above all we'd like you to take the time to consider what they're all about.

**Overnight we had a very kind offer from sea kayaker & mate Andrew Eddy to be our ground crew. Andrew will tail us along the coast in case of a problem, possibly rendezvous at a pre-determined rest spot, meet us at Currarong (hopefully!) and then bring us back to Sydney. It's a much appreciated offer & the only real logistical worry we had solved in one fell swoop. Thanks Andrew, much appreciated.
The forecast has held overnight for NE winds from early, rising & turning northerly as we get into the Crookhaven Bight, so all good, if not a little lighter than we had hoped for.
The SPOT link is now live & will be tracking us from about 6am tomorrow.

Thanks to Carl from Illawarra Boat Charter for the golden advice on the currents off the coast. You can charter Carl's boats through his website HERE.



A couple of updated links to Spot pages
Mark's is here - http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0qEXcnDBmSrq8KWVhO8ZtvnMn6U837nQ7

Chris' is here - http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0I3Bq204XzkEM9JCXzlDNqHuVVKbp08Lk

Storm Swell

I was down at Cronulla on Saturday while my eldest daughter took part in a solar power promotion on the corso. Sydney was pounded by big swells on Friday & the lag was still apparent on Saturday arvo, with the added bonus for the surfers that a gentle morning onshore breeze had cleaned up the faces.  
While the beach was closed for swimmers, the lifeguards rightly recognising that water of this magnitude creates hydraulics that not many swimmers can counter, the surfers were out in force, & the clubbies were also out dancing around in the RIB's.
I made the mistake - once - of looking out at this sort of swell & thinking I could foot it in my kayak, about 10 years ago further up the beach at Wanda. I fluked a lull & ended up out the back while some seriously big waves rolled through, sat out there for about half an hour wondering when the next lull was coming - it wasn't - and then finally got impatient & picked a smaller wave for the glory run back to the sand. 
I had one helluva ride, right up to the point that the wave closed out & I then spent about 4 minutes underwater (it felt like 4 minutes) getting the sort of chiropractic manipulation you'd pay thousands of dollars for from a professional. Somehow I rolled, because back then it wasn't an automatic skill, & then got one final flogging which tore me from my boat & landed my whole sorry mess on the beach.
Lesson learned…..

Friday, 9 March 2012

Fridays from the Vault - Surfing Bundeena Bar

By popular request - thanks TK - here's a video from 2010 of Rob surfing some nice little waves on the Bundeena Bar. Years of matching great days on the bar to corresponding surf reports, swell direction & period, and the crucial tide swings have given us a pretty good idea of when the bar is going to 'go off'. While this video doesn't exactly show the bar in an epic mood, it was still a good day. How can you tell the power of the waves? Count the seconds that the thrashing lasts, there is no busting off the top of a fragile lip here when the one decent wave grabs hold of Rob's boat. If you get nailed, you go for a long ride sideways….
As an aside, anyone heading down to the bar around lunchtime today can expect conditions much like this, steeper than usual, plenty of punch & consequences when you get it wrong.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'…..

Yarra Bay - pic by Rob Mercer
We teamed up with Wayne & Mel Hanley from Greenland Downunder on Saturday to host a free Greenland rolling day, at an overcast & rainswept Yarra Bay.
We had a great turnout, with more than 20 paddlers registered, ranging in ability from very accomplished in the Greenland arts, to 'just rollers' wanting to explore.
Demo - pic by Rob Mercer
Mel kicked off the day with a polished demonstration of a range of Greenland rolls, rattling off a selection of the competition rolls as well as some of the 'non approved moves'.
Mel Hanley, textbook positioning - pic by Rob Mercer
We then split into two groups, roughly along the lines of 'looking to really finetune' and 'looking for a refresh on the basics'.
Mel - pic by Rob Mercer
Rob & I took the group who were after some basics, as we felt we had these covered from an instructor's perspective, while Mel & Wayne looked after the diverse bunch of more advanced rollers.
It was fun, many of the people present cracked a roll they hadn't previously managed, & there was plenty of loud applause & cheers as one after the other a debut butterfly roll or reverse sweep or hand roll was achieved by a smiling paddler.
pic by Rob Mercer
Having not previously instructed the Greenland stuff in a specific & concentrated way like this, it struck me how similar it really is to teaching the standard combat rolls we have honed over the years. Good body mechanics are good body mechanics, & rotation is really the key to good rolling, or good Greenland rolling for that matter.
Once everyone had managed to blow out their energy on the exhausting effort of learning rolls, contorting themselves into all sorts of bizarre positions, we hopped into our boats & fart-arsed around for an hour swapping tips & tricks.
Kitting up - pic by Rob Mercer
Dave, Ian, Shawn & I exchanged theories on a few of the rolls, then Rob paddled out & tried to get us all doing the Storm roll (another one that looks mysterious but is ridiculously easy once you get your head around the mechanics).
Mel tried every trick she had to get me balance bracing, but alas the consensus seems to be that I'm just not very buoyant. For a graceful looking, peaceful manoeuvre when I watch someone else doing it, once I start twisting my own frame into the textbook balanced brace shape it feels more like water torture….
My personal goal is to be able to do all of the Greenland rolls I can do with a stick, just as well with my standard paddle, without extending my grip or changing my hand position on the paddle. Although my range is pretty small, maybe 8 rolls according to the book, so far I'm able to do it, which means effectively I'm able to transfer some of the powerful forward-finishing rolls into my rough water & surf paddling. The forward finishing rolls are especially strong & 'safe' for combat situations, & make it possible to roll like the whitewater guys, basically 'from anywhere' without having to go through a laborious set up underwater. One tip for successfully transferring the rolls from the surety of a buoyant & unfeathered GP to a feathered & clunky Euro blade, just forget it's a Euro blade. Use it the same way & rely on your body mechanics & you'll find the rolls work the same, even with a diving feather angle being the most logical outcome in your head. Like most of this stuff it's really a head game….
The gang then adjourned to the excellent Yarra Bay Saling Club for a cold beer & a burger, & swapped tall stories well into the arvo.
A top morning on the water & a precursor to what Cheri Perry & Turner Wilson with their very broad & inclusive instruction might provide when they're here in a few weeks.
Thanks to Wayne & Mel for coming along & to all who attended.
There is a great little video on Ian Vaille's blog Waterlines, which you can see HERE.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Fridays from the Vault - If the Boat Fits, Wear It….

Probably the most commented on blog post we've written was Rob's contribution on the importance of boat fit. It continues to be read widely & we get emails from parts far-flung asking advice on paddler weight with relevance to boat design & performance.
The blog is reproduced below from Rob's Balanced Boater blog, where it was first posted in September 2009:

If the Boat Fits, Wear It
Imagine walking into a specialist outdoor store looking for walking boots and finding there are only two sizes. Then imagine asking why there are only size 9 and 13 and being told that these sizes fit "most people"(read large males). Finally imagine the helpful store person explaining to your smaller companion with size 5 feet that the size 9 is is perfect for her as long as she is willing to wear enough socks.
I think kayaks and shoes have a lot in common and no amount of closed cell foam and wishful thinking will make a small paddler feel connected in a medium to large boat any more than a dozen pairs of socks will make big shoes fit smaller feet.
A few years ago there really was no choice in Australia for smaller paddlers but to follow the "wear more socks" principle. With very few imports and a small market it made economic sense to build kayaks that suited the male dominated sport: i.e. expedition ready boats that performed adequately for medium to large men when empty. Unfortunately because everyone smaller than this would fit into these larger craft, it was assumed the boats fitted them.
Trying a boat for size:
  • It is possible to have too much stability. It is tiring to edge, maneuver and brace an oversize boat, particularly if there is so much initial stability that it prevents you from heeling the kayak easily and precisely. A wide boat that responds well for a heavier paddler with a high centre of gravity may simply simply feel like a barge to individuals shorter and lighter in the torso.
  • The Hip Test: When the boat is tilted the coaming and deck should not interfere with elbows or ribs. If you want to edge and roll the kayak you need to wear it so that the coaming is approximately aligned with the top of the hips.
  • Longer isn't always faster: Although a longer waterline equals higher potential speed this potential is only realised if you can produce enough power to overcome the drag generated by the extra wetted area. A scaled down boat may be a little shorter but the reduced waterline beam and wetted area will often more than offset reduced waterline length.
  • Weight: All other factors being equal, the lower volume (LV) boat will be lighter than standard or HV equivalents. Lighter boats accelerate faster on the water and are easier to handle off the water.
  • Beam: A reduced beam and height amidships allows shorter legs to engage the deck without straining into a very wide ''frog position". A narrower foredeck also allows a closer catch without overreaching, making it easier to roll as well as paddle.
  • Bulkheads: A scaled down cockpit area and closer spacing of bulkheads reduces the floodable area in the cockpit, and makes the boat easier to manage if it is swamped and easier to empty if it is capsized.
About 10 years ago with all this in mind and a complete lack of local options my wife, Sharon,
made her own plywood kayak: a ''Baidarka" built from plans that had been scaled down to give her a boat that would provide the same proportional fit as the larger composite craft that I had always found easy to paddle. Her boat control skills improved dramatically and she handled the challenging maiden voyage from Sydney to Jervis Bay in challenging conditions with new found confidence. These days there are options in the low volume market. Her regular kayak is an Impex Force 3 and she has her eye on an Avocet LV to add to the fleet in the future.
As sea kayakers have become more aware of the connection between boat fit and performance the number of LV models has steadily grown and new LV paddlers seem to be vindicating this move by learning faster and paddling better than ever before.
A spin off from the "Low Volume Revolution" has been the number of medium sized paddlers who have found these general purpose LV tourers make excellent play-boats. But, if you usually paddle a standard kayak don't expect any offers for a test paddle from the LV crew. They will be too busy ''getting amongst it" and won't happily sit on the beach watching you have all the fun.