Friday 31 December 2010

A paddle day with the gang

Rob, Emma, Hung & Sali.
We often get nice feedback on the speed of deliveries from our online store, the helpful people who answer the phone & the pleasant service on offer when customers drop in unexpected & either of Rob or myself aren't in the office. While we like to pretend that EK is a multinational super kayaking corporation, the truth is we're cheating.... 
Rob hoping we don't lose anybody....
We are very lucky to have the services of the dedicated team of people from my main business, Talisman. They are my friends, workmates and have a lovely attitude towards their work & their customers. They cut their teeth every day in the demanding corporate world in which Talisman exists, where a late delivery can mean the loss of a big account, and have to contend with some delicate egos, in particular where marketing & events are concerned.
Rob giving Huey a few tips in the V10S
They have looked on these past 3 years at the growing business that is Expedition Kayaks, & been increasingly curious about how the boats work, what the differences are, what those funny timber sticks are for etc etc.
The gang on the beach
So, with a few moons aligned over the Xmas New Year break, we organised a day on the water for everyone & brought a few boats along to try out have some fun.
Sali Wu, the paddle queen of Shanghai
It was a hoot. Not one of the gang had paddled anything before ever, so Rob, Sharon & I were flat out giving some basic tuition, fishing out capsizes, chasing down strays & all-in-all having a great time. 
The Hurricane, looking very Clint Robinson.
Emma & Huey 'The Hurricane' Nguyen, a former national kickboxing champ, managed to conquer the Epic V10S, & Emma even looked solid enough on my new V12. 
Deni, Huey & Jade
Sali Wu blasted up & down the beach looking like the Queen of Shanghai, while Hannah managed to get her high heels off for long enough to show some genuine, & I mean genuine sea kayaking skills after a few minutes of practising her edging, & getting a bit wet.... 
Hannah, good at paddling, not so good at swimming...
In between shepherding the kids around the beach, Nicole & Hien even managed a few brief paddles. 
Emma 'I want one of these...'
Everyone agreed that the V8 was ridiculously easy, the Holden Commodore of surf-skis. The sea kayaks presented a few more challenges, especially with a soft breeze blowing, & there were a few rescues & hilarious capsizes. Smiles all round on a typically beautiful Sydney morning.
Hien making the V8 look like a V80
It was a nice way to end another successful year for both EK & Talisman, and provide some well deserved fun for my hardworking team of good people. 
Thanks guys, you're the best.
Next time you call up the office, ask the dude on the end of the line about their paddle day, I'm sure you'll be spun a good yarn or two & may even get a new opinion on some of the boat designs!
Marley - 'I'd rather eat sand than bother with all of this stuff'.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Merry Xmas from EK

Another year draws to a close….
We have had a ball, continuing to travel around the place doing our instruction & demo days, interacting with our paddling community & launching a bunch of new designs & models into the market.
We're finishing up in the warehouse today, so there won't be any further gear dispatched from the online store until January 3. If you want to swing by & pick something up, please call first & we'll arrange to meet you.
Rob & I are in Sydney over the entire Xmas New Year period & have several demo paddles booked in already, including a couple of groups of friends who all have some spare time, and want to run their own mini demo day. If you have been curious about a boat, or how one compares to another, we're all too happy to come along to a suitable stretch of water nearby & give you a qualified test paddle in the boats you want to try. We remain committed to the idea that if you want to buy an expensive, fair dinkum sea kayak, then you should definitely try it first in a decent amount of chop & bounce to find out as much as you can about how the boat handles the water for which is was designed. Just give us a shout. 
Rob can be contacted on 0417227627, you'll get me on 0417924478. 
Thanks to everyone who has paddled a boat, bought a boat or a bit of kit, called up for advice or instruction & in any other way been part of our little business in 2010. We continue to be amazed at the reaction to Expedition Kayaks & are very humbled by the support we receive from you our dear customers. Here's to good times, cold beers & tall tales with friends & family over the holiday break.
Merry Xmas.

Monday 20 December 2010

Kinda Dumb Storm Paddling….

Last Thursday promised a fresh southerly change about midday, so we decided to once again get out in the ski & the Rockpool Taran to give the kayak a speed & handling test.
We paddled out about 4km off the Gap, with building seas & wind from the south, with the aim to turn & run back once things got up. Unfortunately for us the weather had a nasty twist in store. The heavens opened & then there was an almighty crack from above that sounded rather close, so we decided discretion was the better part of valour. As the electric storm started to crank up we found out a few things about our speed downwind, in my case in some generally crappy confused water which isn't usually a barrel of laughs in my ski!
My usual cheery disposition was replaced by something distinctly darker as you can see in the video above!
Our mate Peter told us that if lightning strikes on the water anywhere within about 100m of where you're paddling you'll basically be fried, and that conversation was repeating in my head as the thunder continued to boom.
In hindsight it probably wasn't a great idea to have a metal camera mounted on an extended arm either, but the option to stop for a minute & pull it off wasn't too appealing either.

Wednesday 15 December 2010


This morning dawned clear & sunny, without a breath of wind, and lucky for me I had my ski on the roof. Diverting five minutes to Botany Bay on my normal route into the office, I pulled in at Dolls Pt, chucked on the smugglers, pulled the boat off the roof, grabbed my paddle & went out for a cleansing 45 minute paddle along the coastline. 
My ski offers me this simplicity. It's light, it doesn't require the same level of gear or accessories that my sea kayak does, & consequently in a life full of endless time pressure it presents me with the opportunity to get on the water without as much planning. 
I love my sea kayaking, but now that summer is here I think I'm going to be spending a lot of time on my V10 Sport, whenever the opportunity knocks.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

EK Xmas Store

Ho Ho Ho….
Xmas is fast approaching, & we've added some cool new stuff to our burgeoning online store. People often ask us why we have such a limited range on our site, & the answer is simple, we bloody well test everything & make sure it all works. Rob is our canary in the coal mine, using these products daily in all weather & sea states, so we get a really good grip on the pro's & cons of any given product before we decide to add it to our offerings. 
Take a look through the range through our home page & maybe drop a hint on that mother in law who consistently buys you the latest Andre Rieu DVD, or the uncle who is renowned for presenting you with another Greg Norman bio on the big day.

Monday 13 December 2010

Tuesday Night Paddles- 11 Year Anniversary

Ian Fletcher
What's so special about an 11 year anniversary? Umm, plenty if you all managed to allow the 10 year anniversary to pass by a year ago without remembering…
Last Tuesday I went out for a paddle to celebrate eleven years since Rob Mercer first began his Tuesday afternoon training paddle. It was also a de facto Xmas paddle with a picnic on the grass at Watto Bay afterwards. Like most of the Tuesday night paddles when the forecast is pretty timid, there wasn't a huge roster, contrasting the days when there is a bit of sh-t in the forecast & Rob gets 12-15 paddlers along for the experience. It's probably one of the few sea paddles where you throw in a forecast 20kn nor' easter or some solid groundswell & everyone wants in….
Ian Rounding a benign North Head
One of the paddlers on Tuesday was Ian Fletcher, who told the tale of his first Tuesday paddle many years ago when very much a novice. It was his first 'live' sea paddle & to this day he says it was the biggest day he's ever been out on, with many sea miles under his belt since. He recounted being encouraged to capsize & be rescued, perform a rescue in water that he considered unthinkable to be out of your boat & immersed in, & came away from this first experience wanting more. 
Rob cruising along in his backyard
It's a common tale among the regulars, everyone seems to remember the day when this happened or it was breaking over South Head or we saw a waterspout out to sea or whales or such & such managed to run aground on those rocks et etc. 
After such a long time it's become an institution in Australian paddling, with scores of guest paddlers from interstate & overseas, & offers a unique & regular opportunity for sea kayakers to get out on the sea in nearly all conditions & learn & develop. 
As always it was great to be out on the sea with Rob & his group, and the event was worthily celebrated afterwards with a few cold beers & cold chicken at the peerless Watson's Bay.

Friday 10 December 2010

EK through the eyes of Kiri

Daddy & Rob doing Kayaking, by Kiri Sundin.

My eldest daughter, six year old Kiri proudly presented me with this picture after I returned from another overseas trip last week. I asked her what it was, & she said 'it's you & Rob doing paddling in your kayaks, past an island in Singapore, on a sunny day. You just did a roly poly, but Rob is still the best at kayaking'. 
She is wise beyond her years, and in love with Justine's latest canoeing DVD where a great Dad takes his young son Douggie down a beautiful wild river in Canada. She is pestering me daily on when we can go paddling together, & loves nothing more than a few minutes on my new Ergo machine, punching out some miles. She still talks about Freya, having charmed the lady in black for a morning on the day she headed back to Germany, and thinks she might want to paddle around the world, rather than just Australia. It brings a smile to my face, and I'm looking forward to getting my little girl out for an overnight paddle over the Xmas holidays.
The artist & budding paddler in typical cheeky monkey mode.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

6 Degrees North, Sri Lanka

The dream home my Mum has been building on the beach coast of Sri Lanka is finished. Mum began going to Sri Lanka just after the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, and has formed some very strong relationships with the villagers in the ravaged areas around the hippie destination of Hikkaduwa. Being the generous lady she is, Mum has sponsored kids to uni, helped raise money to build wells & schools, all in the aid of seeing this beautiful part of the world regain some of it's mojo after such a devastating event.
When she mentioned that she would love to build a house in the area, her mate Udi kept his ear to the ground & found out about an old family block on the beach at Ambalangoda that was selling as freehold, a rarity in the village culture of Sri Lanka. 
Mum snapped up the land & then put Udi & his villagers in charge of building a traditional Sri Lankan home, with a touch of her own western chic. Six months later, with employment for more than 50 people, and all local & recycled building materials & techniques utilised, her dream home is finished. Mum plans on visiting as often as she can during the year & renting the home out to visitors at other times. Local interest has been intense, as the house is a real work of art, and she's already managed to get the International Cricket Council book it for the umpires in all of the international games in Sri Lanka's coastal cities. Billy Bowden & Rudi Coertzen won't have a poor sleep as an excuse for a crappy decision!
Built around the ruins of an older building that was rattled, but not flattened by the wave, it's a sprawling 4 bedroom beach house, with an en suite in each room, which would comfortably sleep 4 couples, or two big families. There is a full time caretaker who looks after the home, and a local chap who comes in the mornings & evenings to tidy up the guests mess & make the beds etc. The house is right on Madampe Beach, a calm coral reef-protected sandy beach from November to March, & a gentle surf beach in the wet season when the wind comes from the west. Paddlers staying for a week could carve out miles of coastline with headlands, surf & inland lagoons to fill your days. 
Or, you could stay the whole time in the house, cook your own meals with fresh local produce, & lounge around the pool….
I've just finished the website for the house if you're interested in reading more. There are a few bits to finish, but unfortunately I'm flat out selling kayaks & might not get to them until the break. The website is
Eventually I'm going to have a few sea kayaks & gear freighted in from the UK so I & guests can enjoy some proper kayaks in a place that is just a beautiful, unspoiled place to paddle….

Wednesday 24 November 2010

NZ Tip to Tip

Jaime Sharpe is a NZ paddler & adventurer currently attempting to paddle the east coast of his homeland from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south. Interestingly, he's doing the first leg of his trip in a TRAK T1600 folding kayak.
 Image Jaime Sharpe

Having paddled the TRAK a fair bit over the past year I have wondered about it's application to a serious trip, & Jaime is out there doing it in good style, from the reports in his blog.
You can follow his trip on his excellent website, Kayak Downuder NZ 2011.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Klancopia - Inside the HKK

We have had a close association with the keen bunch of paddlers known as the Hunter Kayak Klan, since they formed a couple of years ago. Last year we attended their inaugural Klancopia event at Umina, essentially a training & development weekend aimed at raising the level of skills among the Klan members who aim eventually to do their paddling on the sea, in safety. It was a great success & a lot of fun, so we looked forward to catching up with our mates from the Klan this year at the same venue.
This year we added in an assessment on the Friday through Rob Mercer's Balanced Boater for any of the members Klanners hoping to have a shot at their AC Sea Skills award, and Campbell Tiley & Owen Walton stepped up to the plate on a pretty testing afternoon to do their thang.
The forecast southerly had blasted through in the early hours of Friday & whipped up a solid 2m sea, and winds remained on or about the 20 knot mark for the duration of the assessment. We remarked later that it wasn't Rob doing the assessing on this day, it was the sea.
Owen Walton riding up the southerly swell
Owen & Campbell ran through the gamut of skills that are required to pass the mark, including rolling, re-entering & rolling, performing rescues & showing good boat handling in the demanding conditions. The highlight was during Campbells rescue of Owen, when a fat ocean wave broke clean on Campbell & sent him reeling back 20m upside down.
Campbell rescuing Owen, just before the crunch. Bruce in the background watching the wave roll in...
We watched waiting for him to pop the coaming & float free as he wasn't holding his paddle when the wave broke, but he had the presence of mind while upside down to feel for his paddle leash, haul the paddle back into his grip & do a nice roll recovery.
Owen performing his rescue on Campbell
Owen asked what he would have to do if that was what the other candidate was capable of! On the paddle back I reminded Campbell that it was at this event last year when he first had an explanation & a short lesson on rolling, & here he was in the middle of some very real conditions, doing it for real. It shows you what some dedication & practice can achieve.
Owen running down the back of a wave
Bruce McNaughton helped us out on the water, & by the time we got back into the beach every member except Rob had managed an unplanned roll. Mine was a capsize on a runner after I got cocky & drove my edge too hard & ended up doing a 40m 'face brace'.
Riding the swell, just before the face brace
After a brief rest we then hit a good sized surf break to put the guys through the surf phase of their assessment, & both passed with a competent display of support strokes, boat control & rolling under fire. Owen in particular copped a real cruncher, & managed to hold it together all the way in, much to the delight of the crowd on the beach.
It's easy to forget that Owen is a gent well into his sixties. Watching this determined bugger get his sea skills in the conditions we encountered was one of the highlights of my paddling days, well done Captain Grumpy!
Owen punching out on his way to his Sea Skills award
After a gourmet meal on the Friday night at 'Hotel Patonga' (note, it's NOT called the Patonga Hotel), we assembled on the beach for Saturday's skills sessions. I had Chris James helping me out, after he took the opportunity to rocket up the coast from Neilsen Park on Friday arvo, covering 55km in about five & a half hours in his Aquanaut on the back of the southerly.
Rob & Chris James give the Saturday briefing
We spent the whole day working on stroke blending, incorporating our core strength into our strokes, & some innovative drills on supports strokes & bracing. On the whole it was a lot of fun & 13 tired paddlers hit the showers with sore guts!
The Klan….
Anne Moore doing a nice cross bow draw
Bruce McNaughton in classic form
Saturday night featured the now mandatory beer & pizza, and Sunday dawned bright & sunny for our demo day, which we shifted across to Patonga. This was the first sighting en masse of the Rockpool Taran, the Epic V8 & the Zegul 520, and also the first opportunity in NSW for anyone to paddle the entire range of Tahe Marine boats in one spot.
As with all of our demo days, everyone had a smile on the dial as they swapped & compared, rocked & rolled, & generaly mucked about in boats.
Camp EK
Thanks to the Klan for another great weekend, congrats to Owen & Campbell on attaining their sea skills awards, & here's to a bigger & more comprehensive Klancopia in 2011. Thanks to Sharon for making my lunch & making the weekend so easy for Rob & I, what a lady….

Monday 22 November 2010

Rolling the Epic V8 Ski…??!!

With such a stable, kayak like performance, we wondered if it was possible to roll the Epic V8 Ski at a recent demo day.
With the help of a well-placed tie down & a Mitchell Horizon Greenland paddle, Rob Mercer showed just how easy it was….

Monday 1 November 2010

Customised Valley & Rockpool Boats Deadline

Just a final reminder folks that the last day for a customised Valley or Rockpool kayak, due here at the end of January, is Wednesday. Space in the next shipment is limited due to a huge response to paddlers wanting their next boat made to order, so please give Rob or myself a call if you want yours included.

Friday 29 October 2010

The Epic V8 - The Inclusive Racing Ski

I've just picked up our demo Epic V8, a boat which has had Apple-style secrecy surrounding it's prototyping, testing & design since whispers about it started late last year.
I'm an unabashed advocate of the V10 Sport as an ocean ski for sea kayakers as the secondary stability is very sea-kayak-like, once you get your head around the fact that it has no deck. The general ergonomics of the V10S make it a superb trainer for sea kayakers looking to transition to ski paddling, but not wanting 'learn by immersion' on the elite designs.
Even so, I've had our demo V10S around the various sea kayak expos & symposiums we attend as instructors & sponsors, encouraging sea kayakers to hop onto this sleek & slightly intimidating-looking beast & give it a whirl. A straw poll of testers shows a 'nup, can't even imagine paddling that thing' at about 25%, a 'gosh that looks like fun but could I really get the hang of it' at about 40%, and the rest hopping on & falling into the same lust driven obsession that befell me when I first paddled it.
The V8 is aimed squarely at the 40% who can't quite decide on whether they'll ever master a boat that still calls on a degree of core strength for balance. It's essentially the fast & stable hull shape that saw Freya circumnavigate the country in her Epic 18, with the latest developments forward of the cockpit that the V12 offers in cutaways for close paddle placement & hydrodynamics. The key to the design is the wide aft, or exaggerated Swede form. This boat is stable. Did I mention how stable it was? S-T-A-B-L-E. The good ski paddlers around would probably use it as an SUP to show off, but like the Epic 18, that doesn't stop it having an impressive turn of speed. On a brief test paddle this arvo I had it sitting comfortably on 10kmh over 3km without breaking a sweat. Anyone who has seen my few race results will know that I'm no speedster. On the water it feels very much like the Epic 18, except that the cutaway foredeck lets you really catch high & get a lot of power into your stroke.
It has some nice touches like a water bottle recess & a tether point for your leg-leash, & features that sea paddlers will appreciate like bow & stern carry handles. The 'heavy' club layup weigh in at about 16kg, so it's an easy one to car-top even for our weight conscious lighter paddlers out there worried about boat loading RSI.
The muscular world of ski paddling can be a bit of a turn-off for some sea kayakers, but in my opinion this particular design promises an inclusive, high quality, well designed & eminently paddleable ocean ski that will see many more sea & recreational paddlers including a ski in their quiver of paddle craft.
There are only a handful of V8's in the country, with plenty more arriving next month, so please give either Rob or myself a call if you'd like to take one for a spin.
Price on the Club layup is the same as the V10S, $2750, and you can read more about it HERE.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Rumblin' in Currumbin #3

Another year, another National Sea Kayak Symposium on the Gold Coast. The event is getting more and more comprehensive & better organised, & invariably features paddlers & adventurers at the cutting edge of our sport. This year was no exception, with the venue switched to the cavernous Tallebudgera Recreation Centre, where everything from sea kayaks to performance surf skis to SUP's to surf kayaks was on offer, as well as superb presentations from Graham Charles & the one & only Beau Miles. Rob & I had a great time catching up with all of our mates north of the border, and it was really great to see the Symposium blossom into a top notch social, as well as paddling event. I'll let the images tell the story….

 Tallebudgerigars on the loose, Forest (centre) leading the charge…..

 Demo's as far as the eye can see

 Sundin & Mercer, following the advice on the sign

 The rec centre hall, venue for Saturday

Gnarly Dog after wiggling into the 'T'

 EK's Travelling HQ

Craig & Dylan McSween test out the Wind 585 

Greg Schwarz taking another bath (didn't he see the sign..?)

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...