Thursday 24 September 2009

Arctic Paddling, with Ola Løftingsmo

I've been in contact with Ola Løftingsmo, a sea kayaker from the frigid coast of Norway, where he is an active member of the Harstad Paddle Club. He describes the paddling in his home country:
"We only have about 6-8C air temp right now, and its still early autumn. Last days have been quite windy with much rain so winter is coming soon with minus degrees and snow. But - being out at sea during the winter is also beautiful. You just have to put on enough clothes. We have 6 months with winter, about 1.5 months without the sun. We used to say that the rest of the year we have no winter, only bad ski conditions. Just joking, we also have summer, although a short one. Sending you a few shots from my part of the world. As you can see on one of the pictures the salt water has frozen to ice on my tuiliq.I have several boats but mostly I use my Greenland, and the SOF. My SOF is named Freya after Freya H, and she really liked the design and finish when she did rolling classes up here last year.Coldest trip I had last winter in my new Tahe Greenland was minus 19 degrees celcius and 10 m/s wind. In conditions like that I use either a Tuiliq (Brooks neoprene) or a drysuit (Typhoon) to keep the heat. On that trip the body was 100% OK but I hade some small frost injures in my face on the parts where the Tuiliq didn`t give any protection.
I had a layer of frozen seawater on my chest and arms, but it is actually not a problem to paddle on days like that. The big challange is to keep the feet warm. Body and hands are no problem. Imagine what they had to struggle with on Greenland to survive......"
Hand up all the Aussies out there who feel like sooks for not paddling over our terrible winters!

Monday 21 September 2009

Senior First Aid Certification - Why bother.....?

I've heard more than a few grumblings over the years from paddlers resenting the idea that to become a Sea Leader, guide or instructor, you need to have a valid Senior First Aid certificate. It's a course I've taken myself off to three times now since getting into kayaking & one I figured would come in handy some day. Besides a few minor emergencies with my kids and my clumsy self, I've been fortunate enough to never have to actually use the skills my mate, & St Johns Educator & First Aid guru, Bruce McNaughton has taught me at the refresher courses. That all changed on Saturday when I was driving through suburban Marrickville & spotted a guy slumped against his driving wheel, with a couple of cars behind him honking as he blocked their exit from a popular local market. I stopped the car & ran back to find him unconscious, with blue lips, not looking too cheery. I pulled him out of the car, told a shell-shocked bystander to call an ambo, got another guy to stop the traffic which was still trying to manoeuvre past, then put old mate into the recovery position, checked his airway, remembering Bruce's DR ABC (Danger - Response - Airway - Breathing - Circulation). Another bloke out of the crowd, now over a dozen, checked his pulse which was pretty weak, & I tried to check if he was breathing. Once we'd figured out that he was neither breathing nor had a pulse - a surprisingly difficult thing to be sure about - I started CPR. With Bruce's words flooding back, I gave the guy a couple of breaths, then set up to do the compressions when he let out a big snore like breath & started to splutter, his blue lips started to turn red again & I figured the emergency was over. We then kept an eye on his dodgy breathing for a few more minutes until the Ambo's arrived.
In the post-match questioning from the police, it was amazing that nobody else present - more than 20 in the end - had any first aid skills, and basically they would have stood around & watched this poor dude expire while waiting for the ambulance. Although I've previously never done anything so drastic before, it's a tribute to the training you get from Bruce & the St Johns people that you have a reasonable idea of what to do, even two years removed from my last refresher. The moral of the story, if you don't have First Aid qualifications, seriously consider getting them. For a sea kayakers, especially those of us who from time to time deliberately go looking for adventure, it's something you owe your fellow paddlers. I think it's one of those civic responsibilities that we should all have at some level, preferably from a first rate educator like St Johns. You can check the course options HERE. I can guarantee that more than a few of the powerless spectators on the weekend will be heading off to research the getting of First Aid quals. A couple of them were really traumatised that they didn't know what to do & were silently cursing themselves as the poor dude on the ground went a deeper & deeper shade of blue. Marrickville Police range me on Saturday night to say that the guy was OK & was released from hospital on Sunday night, all is well that ends well. First Aid certification.....? Please bother...

Rob Mercer - 'If the Boat Fits, Wear It...'

Rob Mercer has just added to his wise but intermittent (!) blog with an excellent article about boat fit, especially with regard to smaller paddlers. You can read the post HERE.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Kavu - now available in Australia through the EK Store

We're happy to announce yet another big overseas gear brand with a great track record in paddlesports, the great Kavu range from Seattle.
I've long been a wearer & trasher of Kavu hats & visors, making sure to pick a couple up whenever I've found myself in a country where there is a stockist, and they are superb paddlewear. In our quest to get sea kayakers looking a bit less last century, they're also pretty cool, in a 'just had a surf, about to go climb a crag' kind of way.
We have the Paddling Chillba Hat, a shape-shifting lightweight nylon hat with a good broad wire reinforced brim (no blow-ups in a headwind), & a chinstrap which allows you to cinch right down if things get gnarly.
Kavu have also come up with a great range of water glasses, and we're stocking the ultra chic, super practical Perma-Grin sunnies, polarized for glare & styled to impress.
To top it off, & because it's my personal favourite piece of kit, we're also stocking the iconic Kavu Visor. Made from tough canvas with a great adjustable band which keeps it on your head during the worst trashing, and a great travel companion for lightweight adventures. It's a great triumph of fashion over practicality, but I love mine...! The whole range is available on our online store, at 'matched to the American stores' prices.

Monday 14 September 2009

Wednesday Morning Fitness Paddle – 12 months of sweat….

It’s just gone a year since a few hardy souls began to gather at the Kyeemagh boat ramp adjacent to Botany Bay each Wednesday morning for a nose-to-the-keel fitness paddle, about 12.5km to Dolls Pt in the south of the Bay & back again.
Over this period, the core of the group, namely Peter Levy, Roger Boardman & Duncan Stoddart have been stalwarts, with a few guest appearances from Bare Island Park Ranger Ben Khan, Kate Nichols, Raewyn Duffy, and cameos from Dee Ratcliffe, Matt Bezzina & Harry Havu.
It’s worth looking back over a period of time at what is essentially a training paddle, to see if there have been any tangible improvements to your paddling, as a result of dedicating some time each week to pushing yourself past the comfort zone.
In my own case I quickly realised that my paddling style had been shaped by the slow upper or hull speeds of the sea kayaks I paddle. In other words, I was conditioned to a certain cadence & stroke that suited the fact that pretty much no matter what I did, on dead flat water my boat couldn’t really go any faster than about 9kmh over a sustained distance. So, I had a slow, powerful stroke that didn’t lend itself to improving overall fitness, or the muscle memory required to accelerate when I transferred my paddling to the dynamic water of the sea.
I also came very quickly to the conclusion that wing paddle I was using was too long, too big in the face & set at the wrong feather.
Wing paddles have become an odd point of contention in our club, and I think this mainly stems from the poor technique many paddlers employ in using them. To get anything at all out of a wing, your stroke needs to be upright, your catch close & you need to rotate quickly out of the water. If you have a low ‘army’ stroke you will fight the design of a wing every inch of the way & get no discernable benefit from using it. You’ll also have a few problems when it comes to using the blade for technical strokes, unless you have really dedicated yourself to learning the nuances required to paddle ‘technically’ with a wing.
My own big bastard of a wing was quickly discarded in favour of a much smaller mid-sized blade with a percentage of glass in the shaft, rather than a stiff, pure carbon pipe.
I also did away with the idea of paddling a traditional sea kayak & went instead for the Rapier 20, a radical design with a much more surf-ski like hull, capable of a top speed that as yet, I’m incapable of reaching.
The result has been a steady increase in my ability to reach a high cadence & sustain it over 75-80 minutes. I’m going about 15% faster compared to the same times in my Rapier 8 months ago, and can crack & hold 10kmh+ for about 50 minutes before my otherwise lacklustre fitness tanks!
I don’t think any of the guys who have been regulars would claim anything other than improvements in their paddling as a result of these weekly sessions, and we all watch one another’s strokes etc & offer advice if someone is getting into bad habits.
Transferring the increased ability to accelerate into my sea paddling, I find that I’m much better at catching the free rides on offer from the sea & swell, and have much better skills at powering my way out of trouble when required. It’s ironic that the metronomic high cadence of a fitness paddle is the antithesis of the paddling style I’ve developed in the ocean, which is more a series of bursts as I try to time my powerful strokes with the ‘kick up the bum’ that following conditions or rebound offer. I also get bored senseless by the trips where everyone is bee-lining from headland to headland in some bizarre todger-waving exercise to see who can go the fastest. Give me a 20km paddle over 4 hours with some caves, rebound, surf & some skills practice anytime over the ‘out & back, quick as you can’ day trips.
So, I hope I can speak for my hardy Wednesday morning mates when I say that you can’t get enough out of a regular paddle in your routine which is dedicated to building fitness & forward paddle technique.
Our paddles leave at 6.30am sharp each Wednesday from Kyeemagh Boat Ramp in Sydney, if you’re interested in coming along.

Monday 7 September 2009

A paddle with the Forrest....

Rob & had a great paddle with our mate & leading Queensland Instructor Gary Forrest last week. With some nice fat swell bouncing off the cliffs north of Botany Bay we managed to find dophins, a rare Giant Petrel, a surf break at Kurnell good enough to create a bit of mayhem, & some fun cliff rebound. It's amazing how much fun you can have in 4 hours. Click the picture above to see the slideshow of the paddle.

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...