Tuesday 24 March 2009

Eastern Horizons DVD

I've just had my first screening of Bryan Smith's new on-the-road DVD Eastern Horizons, the sequel to his excellent Pacific Horizons release last year. The format will be instantly recogniseable to those of you who have followed Justine's This is the Sea movies, while the theme is a jaunt down the eastern seaboard of the North American continent, visiting various paddling locations & personalities. There are some memorable scenes, like a paddler caught in a whirlpool while having a play in a massive tidal zone, & the famous 'Outer Banks' in Georgia which is about as exhilarating a waterway as I can imagine paddling. There are tide races in & around the Bay of Fundy, which has the largest tidal zone in the world; whales & icebergs in Newfoundland, the usual tide race mayhem & enough calmer stuff to keep the tourers happy. The big difference in this movie is the quality - the entire thing is shot in High Definition & the images are so sharp it's frightening. There is a clip on our Sea Kayaking DVD's page which you can load & watch in HD at full screen if your connection is fast - check it out to see the quality. Eastern Horizons has won all sorts of awards at international festivals & is a significant step ahead for sea kayaking movies, taking them up to the exalted levels acheived by the big-budget whitewater films that you can buy by the haystack.
I personally love the opening quote from Isac Dineson:

"The cure for anything is saltwater - sweat,tears or the sea"

We have stock for sale through our online store for $44.95 including free postage nationally.

Friday 20 March 2009

Kayak Trolley for your day hatch....

Imagine a kayak trolley that works efficiently on all surfaces, requires no dismantling of parts or difficult assembly, and fits inside your day hatch with just a single simple adjustment. It can simply be unfolded and fitted over the kayak or stowed away inside the kayak within seconds even with very cold or wet hands; no nuts to turn, wheels to inflate (or puncture) or axles to corrode. No need to modify your kayak, carry wheels in your main hatches or share around bulky components on an expedition. Then consider that it has been developed in consultation with the esteemed BCU, and is now their recommended trolley for sea kayaks. Consider these points & how well they relate to the trolley you are currently using:The kayak trolley must be lightweight; easily attached and removed; non damaging to the body of the canoe; universal fitting to most boats; robust and waterproof; easily stored in the boat when detached; it must have as few parts as posibble; it must have no loose or detachable parts; it should allow for easy movement of the kayak; and... most importantly, it must take the strain off the body!

Tick all the boxes & you have our new, revolutionary Compact Kayak Trolley. We'll be showing this product for the first time next weekend at Rock & Roll, prior to landing stock over the winter. Watch this space....

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Rob Mercer's Tuesday Night Paddle

I had the great pleasure of returning to one of my formative paddling experiences last night, & heading out on one of Rob's famous Tuesday night paddles. It was a beautiful Sydney evening, with a light sou 'easterly, bugger all swell & a bit of wind chop to make things interesting around the tall cliffs north of Sydney Harbour's southern headland. In a big group of 14 paddlers, it was very clear that this was a bunch of sea kayakers with a much higher than average overall skill level. The ethos for the Tuesday night paddle has always been the same - go out in summer or winter, light or dark, & even if conditions are marginal go & get a taste of the sea. From the protected launch inside Watson's Bay, this means that on some nights the adventure might be simple as a trip across the heads to Quarantine Bay, while on better weather occasions the goal is to head as far north as Manly & have a surf off the reef at Shelley Beach, or south along the tall cliffs of Dover Heights to the headland of Bondi.
The Tuesday night paddles were the first sea kayaking experiences I had where I really challenged myself, pushing beyond the boundaries I was willing to go to on my own, safe in the knowledge that the likes of Rob, Sharon Betteridge, Andrew Eddy, Paul Loker & others were there first of all to set the boundaries, & then to haul me off the rocks, out of the water, when I invariably messed things up. Looking around the seascape as we paddled out of the harbour I noted the calm conditions, & the horrendous things I've seen happen on bigger days. Like Vince the Invincible surfing his old Greenlander onto a rock behind south head & swinging upside down trying to do an Eskimo roll without any water to grab with his paddle. Or the oyster covered rocks I sailed onto in a howling nor 'easter when I first had a go at sailing (by coincidence with Vince's sail, sheet clenched between my teeth & wrapped around my paddle for extra security), and got wedged on, also upside down in a mess of lines & sails & seaweed. Last night wasn't a sea state for this sort of madness, & we ambled south close to the cliffs tyring to invent mischief to trip up Matt Bezzina, world famous kayak blogger, who was leading the paddle to complete his Sea Leader's assessment. We backed into caves, tried a seal landing at the Gap, did co-ordinated group rolls in the bumpiest stuff we could find to try to produce a swimmer for Matt to direct a rescue, & surfed & played in the bounce & chop. Bugger - everyone in this group has a solid roll, so the call went out for offside rolls. Instead of swimmers, we had a few successful rolls, a few who had a couple of goes & then went back to their onside to come back up, & the couple who did stay true to the blue requesting a re-enter & roll before they were subjected to an assisted rescue.
Paddling skills were on show too, people using their bodies to steer & use the sea around them, lots of aggressive edging even in the more challenging sections, & plenty of performance paddling. I seem to remember a bit more of a cruisy atmosphere back 6 or so years ago when I was a regular, but wouldn't swap it for the great paddling I saw on display last night. I've put together a short slide show (click the image above) - it takes about a minute to load so please be patient.

Monday 16 March 2009

Paddling a following sea

This is a bit off track & does feature ski champ Clint Robinson paddling a 24ft Epic ski, but it's worth checking out for the technical aspects of how he catches the waves he's riding. These are the sorts of conditions thrown up around Sydney most afternoons if you're paddling north-south, & show what's possible if you're good enough. Click HERE to see the clip, shot beautifully by a dude called Rambo, a pioneer paddling videographer from Mooloolaba, of Clint Robinson paddling in the Perth Doctor Surfski World Cup race. I spotted it on surfski.info - a great site for ocean racing info. This is the sort of stuff my Rapier 20 loves, it's just the paddler holding it back.....

Friday 13 March 2009

The Greenland Paddle & Forward Speed

Apologies if I seem a bit obsessive about my new Greenland paddle, but I'm a bit obsessed, and have something else to rave about. This morning on our Friday morning fitness paddle only Ben Khan turned up with his Aquanaut LV, so I decided to make it a bit more social & leave the Rapier on the roof & paddle alongside Ben using my Aquanaut & my new Greenland stick. I am no authority on these paddles, having done little more that see the short clips of the gurus on Justine's This is the Sea series, so I figured without polluting my mind with some new technique I would just try & see how fast I could go using my normal paddling stroke.
The Greenland paddle boffins would call my stroke a sprint stroke, with my top hand running about forehead height through the length of my rotation, compared to the funny low stroke that they mostly practice, but, it's what I know best so I gave it a go. In the same conditions (no wind, 12.5km) in my Aquanaut using a big wing paddle, my best time is 84 minutes, or a tick under 9km/h. After that sort of push for near on an hour & a half I'm usually pretty shagged. This morning with the stick I did the same distance in the same boat in just on 90 minutes, or near enough 8 & a bit km/h. At the end of it I was so fresh I could have turned around & gone again.
Where I would have a good lactic buildup in my shoulders, lats & upper back after using the wing, with the stick I was well worked around my mid section, but the strain on my upper body was virtually nil. My cadence was probably 2 & a half times my normal stroke but it was effortless - kind of like the aerobic exercise of a fast paddle workout without the anaerobic power strain. One thing I couldn't do was take off - a couple of little boat wakes ran under us which I would normally take a couple of stronger strokes & be riding, but that's not possible with this Greenland paddle for me at the moment. I guess there must be a technique to get a bit more of a punch from the blade but that's something for another day.
So, to go back to the reference I like to use for the purposes of providing a bit of reality to these controlled times, if I was on a 25km paddle with my club mates, with them going at a very speedy 9km/h using wing or Euro blades, I would be coming in 10 minutes after them, with hardly any of the strain fatigue that they would mostly be experiencing after such a stretch. The truth of course, is that I can't ever recall being on a club trip where the pace exceeded 7km/h, so I'd probably be out in front of the group if I chose to be anti-social.....
If you used a Greenland paddle exclusively you would most likely be lacking in power - the ability to grab some water & propel yourself out of trouble, onto a wave, accelerate, so it's not a panacea for paddling. That said, it is pretty impressive to cover distance with such little strain, at a pace well & truly acceptable for a group on the sea.
The experiment continues......

Thursday 12 March 2009

EK hits the catwalk....

Due to overwhelming demand - well, actually a request from a very nice lady in Tasmania & a few raised eyebrows around town - we've launched the EK kayaking casual apparel range. Actually, less a range than a very cool hoodie. They're available to buy on our online store for $99 - cheap enough to buy two & use one for the office.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Rolling with the Stick

Like an excited schoolkid, I took my new Greenland stick down to Brighton le Sands on Sunday arvo for a bit of a test drive. Near enough to 20 knots of Southerly had chewed up the bay & there were short little wind waves, ruining my expectations of a calm, Dubside DVD-like surface to play with my new toy, but it did at least give me a chance to see what the thing can do in rougher water. Firstly, rolling. If you had to roll to save your life, as the Inuit most definitely did, this would be the paddle to have on board. The hydraulics of the ancient shape give you so much lift through the water that you feel as though you're hanging onto a rail as you smooth through the stroke. Amazingly, my off-side roll, which is something I really do have to practice to keep working, was blisteringly fast & snappy with the stick, while my normal roll was fairly similar to what it's like with a Euro blade. It's something to do with my blade angle (Greenland paddles are un-feathered) on my right-side so something else to work on. If you were learning to roll, this would be your tool to a speedy understanding of the dynamics.

Next, paddling - making your kayak go forward. Well, with my higher angle stroke it works perfectly, and although you can't sprint from a standing start like you can with one of the Mitchell Blades, it does bring you up to a good speed within a dozen strokes. Surfing along on one of the wind waves was great fun, & I had no problem bracing when I decided to broach the boat & check out the performance of the paddle in a deep support stroke. The low angle - I call it the DVD (Doug van Doren) stroke - is a bit beyond me for now because I can't work out how to do it and still rotate the way I am conditioned to rotate, if that makes sense. I might take it out with my Rapier & see if you really do go noticeably slower with one - there are plenty of myths about these paddles to bust or confirm I reckon.
As for the tricks, my repertoire is pretty limited, but I ticked the box for a standard sweep roll, a Pawlata & a C to C, as well as a lay back with my head on the back hatch, all on both sides. Too bloody easy Campese.......
I'm stoked, this paddle is a hell of a lot of fun, & I'm going to sneak away from my responsibilities as often as I can and try to master a few of the cool tricks I see on the silver screen. Now, if only I could squeeze myself into one of these Anas Acuta kayaks.........

Friday 6 March 2009

Nelson Bay

Nelson Bay, NSW
I'm on the last day of a week's holiday with my family in beautiful Nelson Bay on the NSW mid-North Coast. It's a sea kayakers' dream destination, with spectacular offshore islands within an hour's paddle, or the full blown adventure of Broughton Island about 15km from the heads of the bay. It's been a sometime venue for Rock & Roll &  I've spent time exploring the outside of the bay, but this sunny week has given me a chance to explore the inside from our camp ground at Soldiers Pt, around 10km inland. I've had a few races in my Rapier 20, including a bizarre 17km tidal paddle from the jetty in Soldiers Pt to the Nelson Bay Marina & back, which took an hour on the outward journey & 26 minutes on the way back on a windless day. If the Rapier isn't the dead fastest sea kayak to have touched the briny I'm a poor judge; I just wish I had a strong enough stroke to get it to it's hull speed, which feels limitless. Two months of weekly paddles & it no longer has an 'edge' about it either, and the improvement in my paddling in less challenging kayaks like my Aquanaut is noticeable. I can only recommend that sea kayakers looking to make a quantum leap in their skills & confidence should also look at owning a tougher craft - a modern surf ski or racing ski, or of course one of our peerless Rapier 20's. Once you can ride one of these boats on a following or beam sea, it feels like you can do anything when you jump back into a sea kayak.
I've also had a great time with Nicole & our little girls, who are forever wanting to go for a 'paddle paddle' in Daddy's kayak. Look out Freya, these two little monkeys are gunning......
Deni Ginger demonstrating the high angle forward stroke.
Kiri Starr not watching where she's going......

Wednesday 4 March 2009

The F in PFD

After reading a rather alarming article in the latest Ocean Paddler magazine from the UK about the Personal Flotation Devices we as kayakers are legislated to wear, I thought I'd do a little experiment of my own. The cold Tassie water also got me thinking about survival in the sea, so while sunning myself at Soldiers Point this week at sunny Nelson Bay, I donned my PFD & had a bit of a float session while my little girls played around in the pool at the resort (yes folks I did wait until a quiet part of the day so I didn't look like too much of a dork....) Trying to stay dead still in the HELP survival position - the curled up energy saving pose that is meant to preserve your energy levels while floating around - was a bit of an exercise as my buoyancy aid repeatedly turned me from facing forward to facing up, but significantly without dunking my face in the water. I hopped out & put on some paddling gear which made my overall buoyancy better, but I still struggled to stay in a relaxed position unless I used my hands or legs in the occasional support stroke, over a period of about 30 minutes floating in a dead calm swimming pool. 
Thinking maybe I had a dud PFD I tried on another one in my kit - an older design but still the only one with Australian standards approval, and then another spare one of mine, a big name one from the US, & they were much worse - putting me face first in the water every time I rolled around! With any sort of swimming stroke the PFD's were perfect, buoyant, supportive in the water etc, but I reckon if I was incapacitated - knocked out or severely hypothermic - I would have been biscuits wearing one. I'm a big advocate of wearing PFD's - better to have a little bit of buoyancy support when you need it most than none at all, but it did get me thinking harder about the sort of gear we rely upon on the sea. There is an excellent article on surviving in the water HERE.

The Velocimiser Sea Kayak Foil Rudder

After two solid years of R&D, we can finally announce a series of successful sea trials of our new foiling sea kayak rudder, The Velocim...