Tuesday 20 October 2009

Queensland's First GT

Queensland kayaker Graham Dredge has had his maiden paddle in the first Rockpool GT to head north of the Tweed. After a wild test paddle which included the charge of the Orca Brigade, Graham was sold on the terrific alround capabilities of this head turning new design from Rockpool.
Look our for the glitter & starfish on the waters of SE Queensland...!


  1. Mark & Rob
    It's absolutely fantastic that you guys earn a living from selling sea kayaks but flogging Welsh kayaks which trade on "glitter and starfish" for their marketability?

    Come on ... you can do better than that.

    Why don't you use your combined paddling experience to design and manufacture a sea kayak that addresses the specific conditions along the east coast of Australia?
    These glitter kayaks will date faster than a pair of flared purple trousers.

    And those UK fibreglassers must laugh into their warm beers every time that an order comes through for a dozen more sea kayaks to be shipped around the world to Australia.

    In all seriousness, Luke.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. "but flogging Welsh kayaks which trade on "glitter and starfish" for their marketability"
    Boy, I have heard some uninformed opinions before but that one takes the cake! The kayaks that come out of Wales are designed for some of the roughest paddling around. Look beyond the glitter and starfish Luke and you will see a craft that is as good as they get. I haven't paddled the GT yet but if it's anywhere near as good as my Alaw Bach (also built by Mike Webb of Rockpool just in case you didn't know) it is a winner. Mike is a craftsman in a class of his own. And oddly enough, I still love the glitter and starfish on my Rockpool!
    You don't paddle a Greenlander do you??

  4. Luke, for a guy who clearly thinks deeply about his paddling, your comment is roundly negative considering you've never even paddled the GT. Although I've only paddled the GT in rough water, I can't imagine a design more suited to 'Australian' conditions. It carries heaps of gear, will go head to head and blitz the fastest sea kayak designs made locally, full or empty, and has the huge bonus of being ridiculously sporty and manouvreable. I'd suggest you take the boat out for a paddle before lining Rob and I up for such a public cheap-shot. As for for the glitter and starfish, they don't come that way standard, and we bring them in plain unless otherwise asked by the orderer. I actually love the look of the starfish graphics, but then again you may one day see me poncing around in a pair of purple flares, just for the hell of it...Viva la difference. I would suggest that what you consider to be an 'East Coast Australian' design would highly likely be very to different to my take on it. Would the perfect design be for someone your size & dimensions, who enjoys the sort of paddling you enjoy? Would it be for a 48kg woman who likes to surf, rock garden & hardly ever loads up for an extended trip? Would it be a design for a speed freak who peers endlessly at GPS tracks post-paddle to see how fast he went? This idea of a boat that can do it all is rather fanciful; much better to aspire to be a paddler skilled enough to deal with 'East Coast Australian' conditions. I have owned the boat you currently paddle and would not go back to a design which so limited my ability to paddle the way I like to paddle. It's a personal thing....
    Sorry mate, I'm usually pretty relaxed about these things, but this is a rather pointed attack on both of us here with absolutely no credibility regarding knowledge of the product you're attacking. Everyone is entitled to an opinion Luke, but opinions are much more weighty when the opinionated have at least had a crack in the boat on which the opinion is being expressed. In my opinion, the Rockpool GT is no gimmick, but rather the biggest step forward in sea kayak design in a long time, from the worlds most innovative designer. British or otherwise, leave the jingoism to the chest thumpers.

  5. Folks, the deleted comment above was mine, I just decided to add in a few more ponts on re-reading this morning....

  6. Luke your comments are disappointing to me.
    I fully agree with Geoff and Mark's comments in response. I am the proud owner of this GT which I can assure you I did plenty of due diligence on, demo'd and carefully compared beforehand. I sought plenty of advice from others aswell before purchasing the GT. I really appreciated the time and effort that Mark and Rob put in to answering questions and explaining differences between the GT and my current kayak.
    For me it is all about extending my abilities and the functionality of my kayak - it is not about the glitter.

  7. Woah ... obviously a few raw nerves were touched there.

    In response, firstly, may I say well done to Mark for posting my comments and then taking the time to respond with a considered reply of his own.

    In response to Mark’s reply and the subsequent postings:

    The present state of evolution for kayak architecture in Australia is in an immature phase - focused as it is on the importation of design solutions from the other side of the world.

    In a mature state of kayak evolution there would be active and strong local manufacturers producing design solutions that are specific and responsive to the environmental conditions found within, say, 500 kms of their workshop doors.
    For example, kayaks designed for tropical environments of Qld might have self-ventilating cockpits and other innovations specifically attuned to the unique demands of hot and humid environments. Kayaks designed for the Sydney coastal environment might have extra-reinforced hull ridges in response to the abrasive quartz-rich strata of Sydney’s rock platforms and the razor sharp rock oysters, etc, etc …

    It is my impression (yes, I have not paddled the Rockpool boats - sorry) that these Welsh-designed and manufactured kayaks are born out of the silty and sludgy estuaries of Wales. Yes?

    Kayak manufacture is not as complex as car manufacture – where the constraints of complex production technology result in generic design solutions.
    Kayaks can be manufactured in a backyard shed by skilled individuals over relatively short periods of time. What is required to elevate these kayaks to the status of inspired kayak architecture are designers who are in tune with the marine environments into which the kayaks will be performing and who directly apply their insights into the design and fabrication of their kayaks.
    I am unconvinced that a kayak which is heavily marketed by way of a distinctive brand recognition reliant upon superficial graphics and glitter is approaching kayak design from an intelligent direction.

    My challenge, as expressed in my cheeky posting (apologies for offence generated, none intended), is that Mark and Rob apply their combined kayak experience to develop (and sell) kayaks that are locally inspired. Ultimately such an approach will result in a maturation of the local kayak scene with designs that have their distinctive brand recognition built upon the solid foundations of responding to specific environmental demands - rather than superficial graphics.

    For an analogy, one has only to look to the evolution of cooking in Australia. In the immature phase of Australia’s culinary evolution most of us sat down to eat boiled plum puddings for our Christmas dinners like the good little Anglos that we were. Fortunatley we have moved on from this condition to develop a cuisine that is local, endemic, and inspired by the environments and conditions in which we actually live.

    I would love to have a kayak that is better than my faithful Greenlander Pro. As many know, I have been recently trialing other kayaks in an endeavour to find an inspired kayak design which will carry me through another decade of unpredictable marine adventures. However I am reluctant to trade her in for a plum pudding.

    Over & out

  8. Interesting suggestions Luke but unfortunately designing kayaks has one serious constraint....weight. As soon as you try to introduce any radical ideas your weight is very likely going to go sky high. As it is now, kayakers spend large (relatively) amounts of money to gain ridiculously small savings in weight so adding more weight is not going to go down well. As with most things in life, simple is best.
    Honestly, I would consider a "self ventilating" or "abrasion resistant" kayak far more likely to be driven by advertising hype than an honest boat, built by an inspired craftsman, that has developed a fabulous reputation for rough water capability on its own merits. As in most things Luke, look beyond the surface....
    As for abrasion resistance/strength, I paddled with Gordon Brown a couple of years ago in Skye. We landed on a very rocky islet and I was at one stage sitting in the kayak, a Rockpool, on a pointed rock directly under the centre of the hull. I went to try to move it but Gordon's comment was if the boat wasn't capable of taking that treatment it wasn't worth having. So I just got out of the kayak and we swapped boats.
    Luke, some people talk to impress, others talk to communicate. I am afraid I do the latter......
    And you really do have have a lot of kayaks to choose from to replace your Greenlander.


  9. Righto, a few points in reply there Master Luke....
    First, there aren't many successful brands out there with a successful & recognisable....brand. The reach of the Rockpool Starfish is so great that I've seen a few boats here, which aren't Rockpools, with the same graphics. One even had glitter... !Obviously some twisted souls out there like the idea of a bold & identifiable boat, and more power to them, there sure isn’t any copyright on the humble starfish. Clearly though, one persons Starfish is another persons Catfish. Personally, I love ‘em.
    Second, if you read the detail beyond the lovely boat graphics, you'd have seen that Rockpool was born out of the challenging exposed tidal waters around Anglesey, not a silty North Wales estuary. My paddling mates in the UK are in broad & sometimes grudging agreement that this is sea kayaker skills nirvana, in one small localised area. The sea is the sea - if a boat has been successfully designed to deal with the sorts of conditions a decent day around Anglesey can dish up, then it will deal with anything around these parts. The only thing you need to worry about then is the poor bugger holding the paddle. The amount of design detail on the Rockpool website is testament to the fact that Mike sure as hell isn't relying on the deck graphics to sell his boats.
    Finally, if the Rockpool, North Shore & Valley designs were 30 years old I'd probably see some validity in your 'English trees in my garden' argument. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Anas Acuta, pretty much all of them are either brand new designs - Rockpool GT, Rapier 20, anything LV - or an older design which has been given a contemporary tweak within the past 5 years - think Nordkapp, Aquanaut. These boats are either running with the times or they are a completely new take on an ancient design, evolving with the new trends where sea kayaks are becoming a vehicle of higher octane entertainment, rather than just a vessel for bushwalking on the sea.
    I think I could however come up with a great solution to your excellent point about hull reinforcement. I'm sure you are right, that our rocks are probably harder, and our oysters sharper and more likely to damage hulls. My best way of dealing with that is to develop the skills to avoid them. Failing that, my carbon kevlar keel strip does most of the rock point duty, leaving the rest of my hull to gleam with disgraceful marketability.
    Sea kayaking in Australia is changing, fast. There is a heightened awareness out there that more is possible in a sea kayak if you are prepared to dedicate yourself & get some skills. We are firmly committed to the idea of the sea kayak as an end in itself, not just a means to an end, and we’re providing boats that satisfy our own needs for high performance. They’re not for everyone…!
    I don’t see geographical borders in business, and have never understood the nationalistic idea that ‘we should be able to do it better’. It’s being done well at the moment by a number of UK manufacturers with big markets & innovative designers, forget the cultural cringe & find out for yourself how the boats paddle.
    I welcome the day when a few of our plum puddings turn into Wattle Ice Cream, even black pudding would be a progression for some. Then again, having seen what you guys can do with a humble & gastronomically polarizing kinna, I reckon black pudding might be in the hamper with your Pinot on the next Eastern Horizons expedition.
    Good on you Luke, this has been hours of fun….

    Note, I paddled your Greenlander Pro for many happy years & don’t cast any aspersions on the boat, to do what it promises to do. It’s a well thought out design & one still made by hand in Tassie. People shouldn’t discount it as an option as a long haul tourer with heaps of stability & good sea manners.

  10. Luke, fear no more.
    The Rockpool can be had in non glitter too.
    Apparently you might see many more that won't have any glitter and will be made of "plastic" as well.
    Plastic Rockpool? yes, according to this: http://seakayakphoto.blogspot.com/2009/10/rockpool-alaw-bach-in-carbonite-2000.html
    And I think Mark is right: I don't believe the Rockpools will apppeal to the "bushwalker on water".
    If bicycling is your thing may I draw a comparison: "East Coast Australian" kayak= touring bicycle, Rockpool= mountain bike.
    I know which "bike" I will have more fun riding...


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