Thursday, 28 March 2013

Nature Distracts Speed Freaks…!

Botany Bay sunrise
Wow, what a morning. For the past couple of months a hardy bunch of mates have been meeting down at Kyeemagh Boat ramp at 0630 to run a 12.5km course along the foreshore of Botany Bay, the aim being to do it as fast as we can. The motto is simple, 'a little less conversation a little more action...'
We're not part of a club or organised body, just a fitness paddle where everyone deigns to look after themselves and wage a little war on their personal best times each week. And also of course on one another if they manage to get close enough to push it….! It's fun, unashamedly competitive and all of us have noticed a substantial improvement in our sea paddling as a result of a simple weekly session where we push beyond our normal output levels.
As daylight savings winds down in NSW, the sunrise has crept back to 7am, so the first 15 minutes or so of our paddle has been in the magic light of pre-dawn.
I personally get quite tuned in to my paddling goals on this weekly sojourn, and it may as well be along a mucky canal for all for all of the sightseeing I usually manage to fit into the trip, but this morning was so beautiful I was forced to ignore the GPS.
Rounding the breakwall at the entrance to the Cooks River, the moon loomed large & full, about 10 degrees above the western horizon on it's way to bed for the day.
Moonset over Kyeemagh
Looking east the sun was only moments from breaking the suction of the underworld and lighting up the morning sky, all of this playing out on a glassy bay, with only the sound of your paddle stroke & the odd A380 inbound from Singapore to break the silence.
Good morning sunshine
As we reached the building at Brighton the moon started to disappear, leaving the sun free of any celestial interference. Just magic.
Goodnight moon...
I didn't have my camera with me, but if I had I would have stopped the training run & taken photos for 20 minutes. Luckily, Rob was testing his new project, the 'Gould's Petrel Mount', so we have a photographic record of this rare 20 minutes of bliss, captured on Rob's video grabs. What a way to start the day….

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Rob White Crosses Bass Strait

Before leaving Port Welshpool
Rob White from Bermagui on the Far South Coast just sent us a series of photos from his successful solo crossing of Eastern Bass Strait.
Rob set his sights high for the crossing, training hard and preparing for all eventualities, as you must do when taking on such a committing trip as a solo paddler.

A sequence from Rob's training - cracking a wave…..
then flicking off before the crunch…..
He paddled a Rockpool Taran, choosing the boat for the unique combination of rough water handling and speed. His reports back on the way the Taran handled the tough days is very encouraging, reinforcing what we already know about this very special kayak design.
Deal Island in sight 
His dedication to preparation paid off, with a cruising average speed far in excess of the 4 knots he had planned, and a fast crossing of the eastern islands duly completed in great style. Rob completed the chain in eight days, leaving Port Welshpool on the 4th of March, arriving at Little Musselroe Bay on the 11th of March.
Hogan Island
He granted himself one rest day at Whitemark on Flinders, as you do, then pushed on to beat a weather system that threatened to keep him on the island for an extended period.
Finished! Rob at Little Musselroe Bay
Rob runs a terrific paddling business down on the south coast at Bermaguiwww.oceanwilderness.com.au, and is a great guy to show the sights of his native waters if you're down that way.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Bay Running


Rob & I competed in yesterday's excellent Bay Runner event, a 16km race out to sea from Port Hacking, finishing back on the sand at Gunamatta Bay.
For the second year running we were the only sea kayakers in the race, despite organiser Steve Newsome making it clear that, unlike the other ocean races on the calendar, they are welcome to enter. We were secretly hoping a few salts would have a crack, and maybe revive a chapter of sea kayaking that has died, where in places like the UK it is actually thriving, but there you go. Regardless we enjoy being a part of this aspect of paddling, and threw in some sponsorship prizes to show our support.
Marley says 'Dad Rob's boat looks like a rocketship!'
I took the Tiderace Pace 18, and with conditions so flat Rob dusted off his Rapier 20. The Rapier 20 has some pedigree, having broken the record for crossing the English Channel months after it was released, and Rob figured it was the tool for the job considering how flat it was 'outside'.
I knew my boat had a hull speed of about 10kmh, so was aiming to race it somewhere around that terminal point for the entire distance.
I also had Kiri & Marley along as crew, with my Mum Suzanne keeping an eye on them while I was out racing. After missing last weekend with them at Rock & Roll, it was good to be able to share a paddling experience with the kids, even if sister Deni still missed out due to Ballet rehearsals!
The start of the race was fantastic, this year I positioned myself right at the front and figured there was help to be had from the rush of skis sprinting off the line. I buffeted around in the whitewater, nearly surfing the wash for the first kilometre or so, great fun. I then settled into a rhythm, deciding it was more interesting lining up the guy in front and trying to grind them down, rather than trying to ride a non-existent sea.
Rob had skipped past me at the 2km mark and I did my best to keep him in sight as he whizzed along in the Rapier.
The final can marked the start of the 'downwind' leg, but in reality in just meant the start of the 'no wind' leg. On rounding it, my sunnies fogged instantly and any cooling breeze disappeared. Both of us slogged it back trying to grab the tiny quartering runners in sweltering heat.
On entering the bay again I started to dread the idea of another 4km on dead flat water, but then mercifully felt a push from behind and cracked a 150m ride on the outer wave of the Bundeena Bar. Steve had run the course straight through our favourite surf break! The guy's a genius! If you watch the short video above you'll see what Rob managed to squeeze out of the bar.
Finally, mercifully, I crossed the line after 1:37, Rob had beaten me home in 1:33. The consensus among the racers on the beach was that it had been a hard day at the office, not the sort of conditions you'd choose to paddle in at race pace for that distance, if it wasn't a race....
I love the idea of racing, just another one of those things I like to do in my sea kayak. Today was tough, hot, and 16km at that sort of output level is no doddle, but I enjoyed it immensely and would definitely take on more ocean races in my kayak if the opportunity was available.
Thanks to Steve Newsome and the Southern District Ocean Paddlers for putting on such a well run day, all for the good of the excellent charity, Jacaranda Cottage.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Bay Runner Tomorrow


The annual Bay Runner Race is being held tomorrow at Gunammatta Beach at Cronulla. Rob & I sponsored & participated in this event last eyar & had a ball, paddling our kayaks despite the event catering mostly to surf skis.
We'll be there again tomorrow from 9am both as sponsors & competitors. Information on the race can be found HERE, all proceeds go to the Jacaranda Cottage charity.

To whet your appetite, here's the video I took from last year's event.


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Rock & Roll Rocks…!


"If it's illegal to rock & roll, throw my ass in jail!"
Kurt Cobain

It's over again, the biggest & most ambitious sea kayaking gathering on the calendar, the NSW Sea Kayak Club's annual Rock & Roll Weekend.

So popular has the event become, that an unofficial Rock & Roll 'week' has sprouted, with a good smattering of paddlers booking in for a few more days than the programmed four.
My Rock & Roll began doing laps of the domestic terminal at Sydney airport with the full trailer of boats hitched up, trying to evade the uniformed fun police who patrol the pick up zones as I waited for Gary Forrest to emerge from the terminal. Once Gazza appeared & we neatly swerved past an armada of officials, we turned onto the freeway & made our way north to Jimmy's Beach on Nelson Bay.
We arrived late arvo & had a gang of helpers on hand, including kayaking celebrity Mick MacRobb from Flat Earth Sails, to get the EK marquee up & the boats off & set up. We then went to golf club for some libations, tofu, and adjourned to our tents after a very pleasant night spent chatting quietly, without any ukulele playing at all. Fourteen members of the Queensland club mingled with the Hunter Klanners & added to the cerebral, considered evening. With it being such a lovely night I took a rare opportunity to spend a night sleeping under the stars.
Rising fresh & revived on Friday, I helped Rob & Sharon get the stand in order, then took off around Cabbage Tree Island with Rae & Neil Duffy & WA paddling legend Les Allen. This was one wacky paddle, in an area known for multi-directional swell when it's coming from one direction, there were two big swells rolling from almost opposite directions. 
Rae goes up the ladder
We enjoyed waves coming from everywhere, rebounding off the headlands and islands & throwing back big, fast moving walls of water. It took me a little while to get my clear head around it, but what a hoot.
EK Fish & Chips & Beer Party
Back to HQ in time for the EK Welcome to Rock & Roll Party, the lack of a pizzeria in the district capable of cranking out 50 pizzas in good time, meant we had to go the fish & chips option. Two hours of crazy seagull action ensued, the beers were downed and RnR was officially underway.
This year the club managed to register over 180 participants, with a loaded program of instruction, seminars on boat fit out, sails, & forward stroke to fill the afternoons, and some great trips on offer in the mornings.
I had Les along on my trip, which was originally meant to be a 15km circumnavigation of the first offshore peak, Cabbage Tree Island. A thumping easterly swell driven by the intense low hammering Lord Howe Island made for some impressive looking waves as our big group of 16 paddlers headed out to sea, but so well did everyone handle the rebound and bounce that I figured we may as well push on. So, we headed east after a spectacular trip around Cabbage Tree, and also looped the equally impressive Boondelbah Island.
The pod off Cabbage Tree on Saturday
All up 21km of genuine sea paddling for a group mostly new to conditions of that scale, made possible by the almost complete absence of wind. A better day out on the open ocean is hard to recall.
Saturday's paddle - thanks to Eddie Safarik for the great pic.
Saturday night was the usual presentations & dinner at the Golf Club, a great opportunity to catch up with club mates & tell lots of tall stories. 
Saturday night
Sunday dawned to a gale warning, but with a favourable lee shore in the essentially enclosed waters of Nelson Bay, the club decided to take the opportunity to get less experienced paddlers out in the wind to practice their skills.
This turned into a spectacular morning, with Les Allen giving a concise theoretical lesson on turning your boat in high winds, and then along with Rob getting a big mob out to put it all into action in winds that had built to over 25kn.
Annie in full flight
I took Alan, Annie & Jonathan out into the teeth of the wind to do an edge-of-the-seat lesson on downwind (and upwind) paddling in strong wind. We had a hoot, grinding it out into the breeze at barely 4kmh, then flying back to land on lovely little steep wind waves that had built up with the breeze. Matty put his sail up & challenged me to a downwind race, his kayak under sail in 25knots gusting to 30 knots versus my new V10, and unfortunately he lost. History is litterred with brave attempts at glory, which are simply recorded as 'loss'. L-O-S-S. The fact that my ski is 900mm longer than his kayak is not relevant.
Matty - not happy
Sunday night was a bit of a gem, with the club holding a gadget competition, then a kayaking Tropfest of short films made by members. It was enthralling, entertaining, hilarious & in the case of the extraordinary couple of entries from south coast paddler Vincent Weafer, compelling. If Vince ever gets his videos up somewhere on the web, you've gotta see them, just brilliant.
It also reminded me that regardless of how nice it can be to have a luminary or legend from overseas trot the stage from time to time, the greatest stories in paddling are those that come from our paddling mates. Just sit around a campfire on an expedition if you don't believe me… Any other paddle clubs reading this want an idea for your next big event? Tee up a movie, story telling, or presentation night from your own members, limit it to ten minutes per player, and watch what happens.
Monday coffee cruise
Finally on Monday I tagged along on Rae Duffy & Dave Fisher's coffee cruise. The wind had died, and while the swell was still bustling through the heads at Tomaree there were no silly antics to be had. This was so different from my normal time-pressed paddling and I loved every minute of it, the relaxed pace, the conversation, and the rose smelling. And, halfway through the paddle, they stopped. And had coffee. Am I missing something....?
Only another year to wait now for the next one, thanks to the club's committee for doing such a thorough job running a faultless event, and to organiser Campbell Tiley who is truly a guru. My vote is for Campbell to be permanently installed as Rock & Roll Co-ordinator, like what happens when you're appointed to the High Court…..
And thanks as always to Sharon for running the EK show off the water, she is well & truly the great woman standing behind the great man, rolling her eyes...
Campbell - permanent RnR guru…?
Note, my pics from the weekend, including group paddling pics and all the shots in the video journal above are HERE. If you see one of yourself and would like it, give me a shout, I'm always happy to share the high res. versions.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Rock & Rolling Around


Time to scratch another notch on the paddle shaft, the annual landmark NSWSKC Rock & Roll event has come around again.
This year's event will be held at Jimmy's Beach at Port Stephens, a waterway that like all RnR venues provides everything from a gentle river cruise to a full blown rough water experience.
Once again there are over 180 participants registered, and once again Expedition Kayaks are the gold sponsor of the weekend.
We have been major sponsor every year since we came into being in 2007, and continue to support paddling events around the country, putting something back into the sport we love.
I'll be leading instruction trips on the Saturday & Sunday morning, and also plan an out & back to Broughton Island on the Monday, for those capable of a fast open sea trip of just on 40km.
We'll host our institutional 'Beer & Pizza' welcoming ceremony on the Friday evening, and look forward to catching up with our club mates. I'm heading down on the Thursday arvo after picking up Queensland instructor Gary Forrest - and hopefully repaying some of Gazza's hospitality when I'm up his way!
Information on thew weekend can be found on the NSWSKC website at www.nswseakayaker.asn.au.
I've linked a few video diaries of past Rock & Roll weekends below, just so you can see what you're missing out on if you won't be making it long this year….

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Mercer in the Pace 17 Tour


I only looked away for a minute, distracted by my new V10, and Mercer had the Pace 17 on his roof & was off to his Tuesday nighter. I haven't seen it since, I think he likes it….

Sunday, 3 March 2013

It's Here! The All New Epic V10

Here's a couple of videos of the new Epic V10, a first ever paddle in some fat waves on the Bundeena Bar:

….and a great little downwinder off Cronulla with Steve & Kate, who were paddling their double:

The ski is stable, fast and so reassuring in rough water, a breakthrough design for paddlers looking to step up from an intermediate ski, but not confident enough to go to the ultra elite designs.
We have a demo boat & stock on the shelf from early April.