Sunday 30 May 2010

St Johns First Aid Campaign

Following an incident last September where I had to use my first aid skills to revive a gent having a serious emergency, I was approached by St John to become one of their advocates.
This essentially involves making myself available on a volunteer basis, to tell people about my experience from the perspective of an ordinary person in the street, and to be an advocate for first aid training.
I've had some interesting experiences with the campaign so far, in particular being put well outside my comfort zone in a one-to-one on camera interview with Jennifer Byrne - now I know how Kevin07 felt when King Kerry put him under the torch. I can't say the TV interview experience would be pleasant one if you were a dodgy mortgage broker about to be dissected by a raging TV current affairs shock jock! You can see my interview, and some really amazing stories under the 'I never thought it would happen to me' section. In particular Paul Geller tells a harrowing story of his survival after a shark attack.

The campaign has been launched at St Johns new website, and the advocate stories, as well as tales from professionals involved in the daily handling of such emergencies, and the hard-hitting TV ad above are all available for viewing. I showed the ad above to my staff last week, and the ones with no idea about first aid were completely shocked, whereas the ones who had some training weren't that phased by its hard hitting message. Why? The trained people immediately had a few ideas on how to sort out the emergency, the untrained ones would have had to either guess, or just stand by helplessly.
The gist of the campaign is that you never know when you might need it, and from my perspective it's a nice feeling to know that when the need arose, I was up to the task. The thing that struck me after we'd managed to revive the poor guy that day in Marrickville was how shocked the bystanders were. The overwhelming reason was that they had no idea what to do, and were grateful there was someone there who was, lest they have to act without any clue as to what to do in the emergency.
Research from St Johns shows that most people consider First Aid to be important, but few transfer that feeling into actually getting the certification. 
I urge you to get qualified if you're not. Even if you've done a course in the distant past, it is now definitely out of date, and in my own resuscitation experience I used a completely different CPR method to the one I was taught prior to my last refresher. I'm off to do my 3-year refresher next Monday & expect to learn a whole bunch of new techniques & skills.
You can enrol for a course through the St John site above, or my good mate Bruce McNaughton is running a course at the beautiful Neilsen Park Cafe (venue for Freya's talk in December) on August 8, which you're welcome to enrol in, if you're in the Sydney area and a club member. You can get details of Bruce's course through the NSWSKC Calendar, or by clicking HERE. Bruce is also running an adjoining Remote First Aid course the following weekend which is a fantastic thing for sea kayakers to do, considering the places we go & the things we do, sometimes well away from immediate medical help.
I have three beautiful and adventurous kids and consider it my duty to have the skills to assist them in any way should they require first aid. From time to time my paddling puts me in positions where the risks associated with the activity demand that I am capable of dealing with an emergency. In my workplace, I'm the only up to date first aid qualified person, so again it's a responsibility I take seriously.
With the campaign launched today, I look forward to doing a bit more towards raising awareness of the need for everyone to get some proper, up-to-date first aid training.

Friday 28 May 2010

Nick Gust - Tasmanian Nordkapp Tuna Fisherman....!

Nick with 20KG Southern Bluefin Tuna
(photo copyright Nick Gust)

Tasmanian paddler Nick Gust sent in a photo overnight of him & his prize catch, a 20kg Southern Bluefin Tuna. He caught this blue-ribbon game fish while paddling his Nordkapp RM, some feat when you consider these animals have an amazing amount of power through the water. No Titanic beamed fishing SOT here folks, a proper sea kayak which many paddlers out there consider as being at the challenging end of the spectrum for stability. 
Nick said it took him 'for a bit of a ride', my interpretation of which is probably the same as yours. Hmm, Nordkapp, narrow beam, serious sport fish on the end of the line, cold Tasmanian water, eskimo roll while being pulled sideways through the water not really possible if I capsize, balance & core strength required to actually LAND the fish, then store the bloody thing somewhere, and so on.....
We are impressed, I think it's probably as close in the modern world as you could get to experiencing an Inuit-style hunt without.....umm....harpooning a Beluga. And you know what I really think...SAVE THE BELUGAS!
Nick, you're a legend, amazing story & one seriously Maui-proportioned fish.
Nick has written a story for the next edition of the Tasmanian Fishing & Boating News, so keep an eye out for it if you want the full tale from the man himself. 
The Southern Bluefin itself is of course a species under threat not just from the usual suspects, the Japanese fleets (who admit to harvesting 100,000 tonnes over their quota), but also from Australian commercial fishing. If you want find out more, check out the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefish Tuna.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Through an Instructor's Eye

There are definite benefits to being a sea kayak instructor, especially one who does it the way Rob Mercer does it, well & truly challenging his students to experience the sea.
Click on the Vimeo link above to see the past few months through Rob's lens, in locations ranging from Bateman's Bay in southern NSW to the Central Coast.
There are even a few photos of Ginni Callahan in there demonstrating her Greenland skills, and a couple of Sharon Betteridge, the real engine room of EK, getting out on the big bad sea.

Monday 24 May 2010

The Hand of Mercer...

My business partner in EK and leading sea instructor, Rob Mercer, regularly challenges his clients on surf days at beaches like Umina, Bundeena & Wanda. I can never work out whether this is serious work for Rob, or a paid opportunity for him to get out on the water in his favourite sea environment & rip it up, all the while of course keeping a close eye on his students. The jury is out on that one, regardless of what he says!

Yesterday he had a strong group out off Umina Beach in perfect surf conditions, with the odd bomb set rolling through. It was one such bigger set that Rob chose for an orchestrated reverse endo, and the camera mounted off his bow here shows him at the tipping point, attempting to turn the endo into a pirouette 'so I didn't land on my head...'
There aren't many people around good enough to do this sort of stuff for fun, it takes every bit of nerve & skill you acquire over years of paddling all sorts of boats in the surf, not to mention the good judgement to pick the right wave, in the right place. 
Enjoy the photo, just the foredeck of his Aquanaut LV RM, and a grim hand stuck fast to a Bombora Paddle in amongst the fury of the soup (taken on Rob's GoPro HD).
Rob's excellent training can be booked through his website,

Friday 21 May 2010

Geoff Murray Photos

Sea kayak instructor & photographer Geoff Murray has sent me some beautiful photos of his flotilla of boats set against the landscapes of his native Tasmania. Geoff & his wife Lynn are sea kayakers through & through having travelled to all points of the compass seeking out a breadth of ideas on skills & techniques related to our sport. They were instrumental in getting Gini Callahan out here in March/April, something which generated a lot of ideas & teaching concepts. 
I'm sure you'll agree that Geoff's photos are beautifully constructed, open it in the HD Vimeo setting to get them in a nice full screen. If you want to see a broader range of Geoff's work visit his excellent website at
Geoff & Lynn kitting up on Sydney Harbour.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Beau Miles - Africa by Kayak, in Sydney this Friday night....

Just a reminder to those of you in Sydney that Beau Miles is bringing his film, Africa by Kayak,  to town this Friday night, at the terrific theatre in the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. You can make a night of it with dinner in one of the myriad restaurants beforehand, and a cocktail or two to round things off afterwards.. 
Beau is one of those 'make it happen' adventurers who manage to turn a dream into an expedition, a bit of a character with a very honest approach to his exploits.
In 2007, Australian Beau attempted to paddle a sea kayak from one side of Africa to the other. Hand in hand as filmmaking and expedition project, a state-of-the-art, HD camera was mounted to the bow of his 15 foot kayak. The journey would follow the coastline for over 4000 kilometers, through 3 diverse, often volatile countries. Mostly solo and unsupported, Beau had allowed five months. That was the plan.
Malaria, cyclonic weather, massive swell, freak waves, enigmatic locals and constant corruption, is back dropped with typical adventure, hardship and reward. All on film, it returns to the basics of expedition travel and shows that true, modern day adventures are still out there.  
As a paddler, the idea of 30 days paddling a remote coastline with vertebrae crushing surf, a big landing & launch at every sunset & sunrise is about the most committing thing I can imagine. I remarked to Beau after the film that it was the sort of trip you'd only do in your 20's! Add to that the logistical nightmare of negotiating his Australis Kayak through corrupt customs, visas which expired before countries coastlines were finished, and the terrible impact the disappearance of Andrew McAuley had on Beau, happening as it did during a tough period of his own trip, and you have a combination of big water surf survival & raw emotions.

Dates are below, and the show features not just an awesome adventure film, but the soundtrack is played live in the theatre by Melbourne band, the Animators. Get along if you can, it's one hell of a story, and you'll be supporting a real, true-blue kind of bloke who is fast becoming one the country's boldest adventurers.

You can book tickets through the National Maritime Museum, or at

Sydney: Friday May 21 
7pm at The Australian National Maritime Museum

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Capital Fun

Rob & I have just returned from a terrific sojourn to Canberra where we held a demo day & attended the annual SOTA show. Thanks to our mate in the capital, Marty Holden, we had a beaut venue on the scenic & surprisingly clean(?) Lake Burley Griffin, and had no less than 40 paddlers turn up for a splash. Scotty from Canberra's own Wetspot Watersports came along to demo a few of his boats & the Epic ski's, and for the first time in the country, a crowd got the chance to try out the entire Tahe & Zegul range in one place.
Included in the eager demo paddlers was, err, me. I always know when a boat is a good one because I don't manage to get it off Mercer for a go, sometimes for months, so this was my first chance to have a crack in the Zegul 550, and the Greenland T. I think it took about 4 months until I was able to have a paddle in the Rockpool GT, so a meagre 3 week wait was a bonus.....
The Zegul was first cab off the rank for me & impressed with it's blinding speed, hard tracking & super stability. I don't think I've paddled a skeg boat with such incredible tracking, and the punters doing the test paddles found it hard to separate the 550 from the Wind 585, which several good judges have rated the fastest 'real' sea kayak they have paddled.

In a similar vein, it was easy to see why none of our Greenland T stock made it to the warehouse, all 7 being pre-sold on the hunch from hopeful buyers that they'd paddle as well as they looked. For a fun day boat, with rollability only surpassed by it's bolemic sibling, and the versatility of being perfectly usable as a light tourer, you'd be hard pressed to find something so lively & nimble as the 'T'. Of course, there is also the added bonus of Vogue Living looks on the roof of the Forrester.
Rob jumped in the T & rattled off a few of his party tricks, I followed suit in an underwhelming way after shoe-horning myself into the Greenland, but when the startled locals starting waving arms we figured Lake BG might not be the best spot for some nasal ingestion. Always be suspicious when it's only the out-of-towners with wet hair.
Special thanks to all of the Wetspot guys for taking part in the day, and also to Marty Holden & Tony Mee for helping us out with organisation & loading the fleet back onto the EK trailer, and to Marty for the special home brew & parking spot for said trailer. 
The Canberra paddling scene is quite obviously dominated by the Lake BG expanse, and it was unusual to see so many demo paddlers mount a GPS on the foredeck & go for it. On most of our test paddles the victim, err, I mean paddler is too busy letting the power of the sea wash over them to worry about how fast they're going, but clearly this is a big deal to the fitness paddlers of the lake. There was a bit of a split between those smitten with the serious speed offered by the Zegul 550 & the Wind 585, as opposed to the more subtle appeals of the Greenland & British boats. Bateman's Bay is a regular sea paddlers venue from Canberra & it was great to hear from so many ambitious sea kayakers hoping to get their skills up & find out just what the real rough water boats in our range can offer.
We then headed to the SOTA show in search of new products to add to our burgeoning range & came away with a few very innovative paddling designs. Stay tuned for details.
Thanks so much to all of you in Canberra for coming along to see what we're all about & for making us feel so welcome.

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...