Monday, 31 March 2014

Kayak for Kids, A Breath of Fresh Air


I'd consciously finished my season of races & events after last weekend's Bay Runner Race at Cronulla, a long summer of sorts that began with the Hydrothon, and included some fantastic days out like the Myall Classic, Hawkesbury Classic, the 20 Beaches & the Royal Challenge.
It's been a rewarding few months, with something slightly different on the horizon to train for, an excuse to keep getting out on the road or the trail or the sea or the river & keep in shape.
I asked paddling mate Steve Dawson what he was doing over winter, as he & his wife Kate do the entire Marathon Series in various craft ranged on the their back lawn (umm.... 16 of them to be precise), and he mentioned the Kayak for Kids Race as being a good one & a lot of fun.
I entered a few days before, expecting nothing much more than what is on offer at the series of B-lining ski races that are increasingly populating each summer weekend.
What a surprise then to rock up to Blues Point Reserve early on Sunday morning & see such a vast & diverse flotilla of craft on the banks of the harbour, getting set for the 16km race.
Steve's traditional pre-race Macarena.
Everything from the 3-person plastic sit on tops - as Steve says 'design consideration #1, stackability' - to wide rec boats, sea kayaks & a few skis.
The golden thread of this race is the 3 person boats. They're crewed mostly by non paddlers, again not something I was too up with until I heard eventual winner Matt Blundell doing the pre-race briefing & carefully describing how to correctly orient the paddle!
They're the first ones off, and a king tide combined with some ferry wash to make this a brilliant spectacle, as one by one, kind of like penguins launching off a rock, the crews piloted their boats down the sandstone steps & into the breaking clapotis.
Fun & games as the teams boats take to the water.
I swear I saw three women paddling off with the handbags tucked neatly into the footwells, an assortment of garbage bags storing (hopefully not very) valuables, and defying Matt's professional instruction, a fair proportion of competitors with the paddle backwards! 
One thing I didn't see was a jut-jawed frown though, this was a big bunch of people having a big bunch of fun.
It was quite a sight, hundreds of little yellow boats bobbing up & down, framed neatly by the Opera House & Harbour Bridge.
The 'own your own' boat class was next, & we negotiated the same launch & paddled towards the Harbour Bridge awaiting the start. Compared to the more serious races, it was great to see so many different boats out on the harbour. I was especially pleased to see so many sea kayaks, & if I'd known the race was so inclusive I would have left the ski at home & brought one too.
Is there a better paddle race panorama anywhere on the planet?
I was trying to work out how the organsiers managed to get the claimed 17km out of a course that was maybe 13km at best, but the serpentine route went right into several harbour beaches (to facilitate the crew changes in the 3-person teams event), and essentially hugged the foreshore all the way around to Middle Head. 
The Kayak for Kids race course.
The first can was an interesting experience. I paddled in full tilt, a bit consumed with the slightly faster guy in front of me & the slightly faster guy closing in on me from behind, looking up only when I saw what looked like the M3 on a Friday at peak hour, except all yellow. The concept of rounding the can anti clockwise was loosely followed at best, and I think more than a few of us puffing along & staring at our GPS's felt a little silly at 'racing' in the midst of such a hilarious scene.
I applied a couple of friendly 'direction assists' to get both my ski, & the yellow boats in my path pointing the right way, & I was away again.
The weather gods had been kind to a field possibly not too conditioned to moving water, & it was as calm a day on the harbour as you could hope for. I took the closest line as I could to the sandstone cliffs that ring Sydney Harbour, enjoying being up so close in the benign seas & wind.
The Marquee City at the finish.
The finish was welcome after racing the last few legs into an outgoing tide, on what was yet another unseasonably hot & humid Sydney day.
Organisers had built a marquee city at the finish, with free drinks & sausage sangers, and the presentations featured several parents of kids for whom the Lifestart charity has clearly made a difference. It was nice to have the charity which underpins the entire event put so elegantly, and eloquently, into the picture.
Kate & Steve did really well, finishing 7th overall as the 3rd double home. Another honourable mention goes to Les Westerweller, who told me as we sat at the start line he wanted to break 2 hours, yet bolted home in 1:46 on his V8. Not bad for an old bloke Les!
Yet another another mention however to Emiel Temmerman, who picked up his V10 Sport on Friday having paddled it once - EVER - with no other paddling background at all, and paddled/swam home in 2 hours. If that's not inspiration enough to get out & have a go I don't know what is!
I'll definitely do this one again, it was fun, traversed a varied and scenic course, and considering the much lower skills base of many of the participants, was quite brilliantly run. Thanks also to my mum Suzanne, who volunteered to drive the car for Steve, Kate & I & save us the long shuffle & parking fines!

Monday, 24 March 2014

What the Cool Paddlers are Wearing....


The new range of NRS colours & fabrics keeps on rolling in. Later this week we land the short sleeved version of our new relaxed fit H2Core Paddle Shirt, an surprise instant hit with the obviously latent market out there who prefer their paddling garments worn a bit looser.

There are two colours to start with, both unmissable on the water or in the cafe, Lime with Grey trims, and Crystal Blue with Grey trims. They're selling for $45 through the Summer Wear page on our ONLINE STORE.

The second new arrival is the H2Core Lightweight Hoodie. A marginal paddling garment maybe.......but definitely a winner in the apres paddling stakes. Made with the same versatile 9 oz. technical fabric as the dedicated paddling tops, combining comfort and breathability with just enough warmth to take the chill off on cooler days as well as advanced sun protection for SUP, kayaking, and other active water sports.

The H2Core Lightweight Hoodie is available in the Light Grey/Charcoal colourway pictures, for $85 including national delivery, through our ONLINE STORE (under the Winter Wear category).

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Mitchell Blades Bombora Returns...!


A most welcome delivery this morning from our long term supplier & buddy in Cheshire, Lance Mitchell, of Mitchell Blades.
Lance's paddle business has grown out of all proportion due to the meticulous workmanship he puts into every blade, and we've been out of stock for a couple of months awaiting some new paddles, which Lance has been fine tuning using a new manufacturing process.

Today they arrived, and if it was possible, these new Bombora paddles have an even more lustrous appearance, the blade has a slightly more foiled face & the weight is down on the traditional bomb proof layup. 

The Bombora shape has long been a favourite, blending as it does a strong & aggressive catch, with a mid sized blade (approx 670sqcm), and a light exit through the cutaway neck. It's the paddle we recommend if you're hard on your paddles, and in all the years we've been selling them, we're yet to see a single structural failure in a blade layup. Considering some of the people we know who are out there using them & what they've put them through, that's a mighty reflection on the committment to quality from this small but highly regarded paddle maker.

Lance has also done away with the old Vario Lock system for joining the split shafts, instead opting for a US manufactured joiner, similar to the Epic lever lock but made entirely from a lightweight alloy.
The new alloy lever lock fitting on all Mitchell Blades
We've got plenty of stock in the straight ($595) & crank ($625) shafts, available in lengths from 205-215cm, and 210-220cm. You can order through the Paddles page of our ONLINE STORE.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

New Arrival - The NRS H2Core™ Lightweight Paddle Shirt

Our latest arrival from NRS's revamped lineup of paddling gear is now available through our online store, the NRS H2Core™ Lightweight Paddle Shirt. A brand new fabric offers the same comfort and breathability as our Silkweight fabrics, but with more warmth and protection. A relaxed fit allows easy layering over and under the garment.

Unlike our other NRS layering garments, this one is designed to be worn loose. 

The garment features a versatile 9 oz. technical fabric combining comfort and breathability with just enough warmth to take the chill off on cooler days.

The cut integrates friction-free zones under the arms to ensure comfortable paddling, & the fabric also provides advanced sun protection which wicks moisture away from the skin, breathes freely and dries quickly for cool comfort on the water.

The NRS H2Core™ Lightweight Paddle Shirt is available now through our ONLINE STORE for $70 including national delivery. You can check your size through the sizing tables HERE.

Check out the video below for an explanation of the entire new range of NRS H2Core apparel.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Rock & Roll 2014


The annual NSW Sea Kayak Club's Rock & Roll weekend returned to Bateman's Bay this year, a venue that has a bit of everything for sea paddlers, with excellent water access & a camp ground at Batehaven that is a beaut.

As is our tradition, I collected Gary Forrest from the airport on Thursday, & we drove the trailer of boats & EK gear, four hours down the coast to the event.
Gazza & Mick
As is also becoming more common, there were plenty of paddlers already there, despite the official start being the following day, which meant we not only had helping hands to set up, but also a few extra people to have some fun with in the evening, at what has become the 'unofficial' opening ceremony.

Friday dawned clear & bright despite an iffy forecast, and as the day wore on & our display took shape, more & more paddlers arrived with the early evening 'Beer & Pizza' party looming. This year's theme was Hawaii, and in full swing things did look like something in like Blue Hawaii, except there were a lot of blokes in coloured shirts who looked a bit like Max Cady in Cape Fear.
Max Cady - the template for all men at a Hawaiian shirt party
Owen having a 'coffee' at 9pm on Beer & Pizza night. Marty isn't fooled.
The EK 'Welcome to RnR' Beer & Pizza Party
Winners of the best dressed awards went to Nerissa & Shawn, a bright & cheery island mermaid &, umm, a Rastafarian Polynesian white-guy ukulele player.

The following two days on the water were pretty memorable, from the perspective of getting club paddlers out to sea, exploring offshore islands, pushing boundaries around rocks & surf, all within the excellent safety boundaries set by the club. I'll let the pics tell the story.
Wade pays the Toll
Nice waves at Surf Beach
Tollgate Rock Gardening
Nerissa heads for Black Rock
Mick in his new toy
Saturday paddlers head to Black Rock
John punching out of Surf Beach
Weaving through the volcanic rocks at the Tollgate Islands
Sea Cave at the Tollgates
Claus at 17kmh
Dave enjoying the warm water
On the Saturday evening we were treated to the extraordinary tale of David Williamson & Ben Woodcock's paddle from Australia to East Timor. 
Saturday dinner.
This was an 800km trip across the Timor Sea, battling a slowly disintegrating double kayak. They also touched briefly on their epic journey from New Caledonia to Australia years earlier, once again in a bog-standard production plastic double, one of the great ocean paddling feats, & one of the least publicised. For those of you interested in that tale, Ben has sent me a copy of the log he wrote soon after completing the journey, which is in his own words:
"an unedited version from the day I wrote it 2 days after the trip in 2004. Please be aware it is not in any way the same format as I would write today or as in depth as I would like, but it is authentic. This gives the outline of the trip and some perspective of my emotions etc."
Ben's tale is HERE, and a large PDF file with pics of their trip is HERE.
Their next adventure is an island hop across the Tasman Sea, from the top of NZ's North Island to Norfolk Island, then Lord Howe Island, then landfall in Australia on the north coast of NSW. You can read all about the trip preparations HERE. Just a bit of an island hop.

On Sunday morning I went for a quick spin with Mick MacRobb, Robin & Bob from the Victorian Sea Kayak Club. Bob paddles a beautiful skin on frame Greenland boat with his own hand made paddles, and had a few tricks up his sleeve.
Bob - Mischief Man
The best one was paddling up to a fishing boat & asking the crusty old buggers on board if they wanted him to check for any fish. Before they could tell him to bugger off, he capsized, and spent rather a while upside down, only resurfacing after they started to make some quite alarming noises. Now he had their attention, he pointed them about 20 meters to the North, 'big school of squid over there fellas'. Classic.

Sunday was the second annual Pogies, a short film festival which on both occasions has managed to bring the house down. I entered my own issues-based film, 'Why Don't Sea Kayakers Wear Budgie Smugglers', but unfortunately lost out to Fernando's more paddling focused effort (you can see Fer's excellent video HERE).

Once again, a well run, extremely well attended (over 160 paddlers), and fun, four day paddling weekend.

We have now been the major sponsor of Rock & Roll for 8 unbroken years, but the truth is, EK or not we'd be there as participants. If you're a sea paddler from anywhere in the country & you haven't been to one you truly don't know what you're missing. 

Congrat's to the club, organiser David Linco & his wing man Neil Gow for running such a seamless show, and thanks muchly to Sharon for keeping Rob & I pointing in the right direction all weekend. Well, most of the weekend....
Our favourite Wahine.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Kayaking Film Festival Marred by Budgie Smuggler Controversy


The annual 'Pogies' the sea kayaking film festival equivalent to the Academy Awards held each year at the NSW Sea Kayaking Club's Rock & Roll Event, was marred by a controversial decision by judges to award second place to a film confronting one of the biggest issues facing the sport.
The Pogies crowd, before the controvery started.
In deciding to award the Gold Pogie to a film made by Fernando featuring action, tremendous paddling skills and excellent editing, over one raising dark & difficult questions, the judges showed that substance matters little in the world of kayaking art house.

Luckily, we can submit this film, by Sunderpants Products, for the broad kayaking world to pass their own judgements.

We urge you to make up your own mind.

**note, of course we are taking the micky, you can see the actual winner, Fer's video HERE, damn impressive eh...?