Friday 30 September 2011

Sea Kayak Rescues with Gordon Brown - the Trailer

Here's the trailer for the latest Gordon Brown DVD. The production values & sheer art in the trailer have certainly whet my appetite for the full movie, it looks fantastic. Stock is due around October 25.

Thursday 29 September 2011

NRS Gear for Spring

From time to time the good folks at NRS send us out a few samples to play around with, and this forms the basis of the products of theirs that we include in our online store. The weather is starting to warm up, we're noticing people making queries about the more immersion-centric elements of the sport (rolling, skills instruction that involve capsize & rescues etc), so we have been on the lookout for products to enliven the barmy water most of us are about to start paddling around in (sorry to the Sea Canoeists in Tassie, I know it probably feels warm to you in summer but….)
The latest range of testing gear included four products that we're rapt with, and they're now either in stock or about to be in stock for the coming warmer months.
The first one is the Endurance Paddling Jacket.
One of the big successes kit-wise on the North Reef Trip was a lightweight paddling jacket that Chris used instead of a heavier cag. When we'd stop on the water in the wind, or pull up in the late arvo he would throw it on over the top of his paddling gear & PFD and it provided a breathable shell against the wind & wet & kept him from cooling down. I didn't have this option in my gear & twice landed after a long day in the wet & windy environment a bit too cold for comfort. We have tested this Endurance jacket over the past month & found it to be exactly what we wanted in the range to provide an option like Chris had utilised to such effect on our expedition. It's light, wind & waterproof, breathable, visible & only $109. A great piece of kit as the warmer months approach.
The fun addition is the very cool Propulsion Gloves. You can't say we don't cater to niches, even if the niche is so small it might only be me! What the hell, if your best excuse for including products in your own store is that you just want one, I'm sure there is no commercial law against that!
These are webbed paddle gloves designed to help you make the transition to some of the trickier hand rolls in the Greenland repertoire. I have personally had a lot of fun using these gloves, pretty much cracking a 'cheating' hand roll the first time I had a go, after some good instruction of course (see below)!
They've got a flexible plastic shim between each finger for rigidity, but are still supple enough to allow me to miss a roll & reach for the stowed paddle & recover. They pack such a punch we're contemplating heading out in some gentle surf wearing only the gloves & seeing how long we last, but please don't try this at home. These will be available next week for $40.

In keeping with our premise that the hull is the single most important feature of any kayak design, we're now offering The Padz Deluxe Kayak Outfitting Pack, a  comprehensive outfitting foam pack for paddlers wanting to adapt idiosyncratic seat & comfort to their boat. 

This pack features a set of hip pads & shims, a seat pad, a sheet for ankle/heel paddling, two thigh pads & two thigh risers. It takes the headaches out of making that small adjustment to your boat. The full kit sells for $55.

Finally we've added a paddling glove in a more budget conscious price range, the NRS Guide Glove.

This is a nicely made half-finger design with a textured palm for grip & a very durable Terraprene backing. They're great value for money & have the typical NRS cool good looks.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

The NEW Epic 18X, Now in Stock

The first of the brand new freshly designed Epic 18X's have touched down. We have stock on the shelf for $3990, ready to roll out. If you want to know what's new on this iconic sea kayak design my review of the updated 18X is HERE.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown - Rescues DVD

Simon Willis has just sent us through the pre-release info on his upcoming sequel to the hugely popular Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD. The trailer alone (which is now online HERE) gives a hint to the spectacular production values that have gone into this epic 2 hour instructional DVD.
With the beautiful islands of St Kilda as the backdrop, Gordon Brown takes us through a series of rescue & emergency scenarios, from assisted rescues in rough water to contact tows to seal landings & even a brilliant sequence where he lands his Etain through breaking seas onto a rock platform by swimming it all in.
There is a lovely piece in the middle of the feature about Hamish Gow, who together with his wife Anne were the first to paddle the 40 miles out to the remote islands of St Kilda in 1965. There were no wing paddles, fast kayaks or hand-held GPS back then, and their tale is worth the price of the DVD alone. There is a some great historical footage of this pioneering trip as well as an interview with Hamish.
There are a series of reviews of the DVD which you can read below:

Our stock is on the way & will be available from our online store from October 25. You can pre-order your copy now for $39 including freight nationally.

Monday 26 September 2011

Surf Ski Remount with Oscar Chalupsky

A skill I have about 90% mastered on my V12, and one essential for all ski paddlers, especially now that the market has been opened up by stable beginer boats like the V8. Here's Oscar Chalupsky demonstrating a textbook remount with a very clear step by step technique.
The first thing you should do when you buy your new ski is head down to the bay & practice this skill.

Video - Greenland Paddling Around Sydney Harbour

Following on from Friday's post about our relaxing morning paddling the Tahe Greenland boats, here's a video with some of the pics & movies.
Special mention to Rob for his fantastic photography. Obviously all of the pics of me in this little video are taken by him, and he really has become a brilliant on-water kayak photographer. I had to cut out another 15 photos that were perfectly composed.
You can see how much fun the NRS paddle gloves add to the exercise. Next up I'll have a crack at the hand rolling without them…..
Music from Michael Franti, suitably relaxed in keeping with this gentle morning cruise.

Friday 23 September 2011

Greenland Paddling in & around Sydney Harbour

Sitting on the beach after landing at Hummocky Island on our recent expedition, with just one day's paddling left, and so many months previous spent preparing for the challenge of the trip, I asked Rob how you get over the 'post expedition blues'. He said the secret was to start planning the next challenge as soon as you get back, even if it's not likely to happen for a good deal of time.
The time demands of a trip like we did means another one like it cannot really be on my radar now for a while, so I have spent the last month or so trying to work out what to do with my paddling without a clear challenge on the horizon.
Thinking it was a bit silly to have the Greenland boats in our range & not really have any handle on how they work, I have filled my lost motivation nicely by having a crack at the art of Greenland rolling.
Today was a beautiful Sydney spring day, with a warm northerly wind in the morning & a bouncy but pretty tame sea running outside. After an early demo paddle Rob met me down at Watson's Bay & we took the two Greenland boats in the Tahe range, the Greenland & the Greenland T out for a trundle along the cliffs. As we left the heads dressed in black, in our black boats, a dude paddling past asked us what we were going to go & secretly bomb. No calls from ASIO yet so hopefully he accepted our lame excuse for looking so silly…
The spectacular scenery of the Sydney cliffline is highlighted in the morning sunshine, and it's a beautiful time of day to get out & around the sandstone formations of the infamous Gap.
Being relatively inexperienced with a Greenland paddle, the rebound & confused water is definitely something to concentrate on a bit harder. Even so I soon settled into a rhythm, essentially by waiting a fraction longer for the stick to 'bite', rather than feeling the power at the catch as you do with a flat blade. It takes a little while to adjust to the 'different' predictability of the stick, and remembering to keep your hands low when you need a bit of extra support, which is quite counter-intuitive to my normal dynamic water paddling.
We messed around up against the cliffs, washing in & out on the surges & generally having a relaxing time in among the rebound & chop.
With a big change forecast we struck out for the harbour & spent an hour or so doing some rolling in the calm of the bay. NRS sent us some webbed gloves to try out & the extra lift from them soon had me doing some hand rolls, while Rob was almost able to crack a forward finishing hand roll.
I then lined up for a go at my first forward finishing or reverse sweep roll & managed to do a couple of them, much to my own amusement. This is an amazing roll to perform, & I can't honestly say I have my head completely around how to position myself. It's also a very late recovering roll which is something to get used to when my combat roll is snappy & instant. The number of twists & convulsions you seem to perform upside down are quite disconcerting, but with a little bit of extra rotation suddenly you're upright again. Too funny.
These Greenland boats themselves are such a pleasure to paddle. While we had the little Greenland boat out in conditions that are probably at it's limit, at least for a paddler of Rob's weight (& therefore free board), I had no end of fun in the higher volume Greenland T. It's a smile on the dial boat if ever there was one. It skips along in the flat water & turns & dances around in the gentle clapotis, importantly responding perfectly to properly applied technique. The little one is definitely the king of rollers though, even though the T rolls like a dream, it's smaller sibling is almost a self roller. If rolling is your thing, then this specialised boat just has to be on the list, it's a dream...
We rounded off the morning with lunch on the waterfront back in Watson's Bay (at 'Rob's Office for those of you familiar with his hospitality set-up). We got some good still & moving pics of the paddle which are now up online HERE….

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Klanocopia 2011

Three years ago Hunter Klan founder Brad McPherson decided it was time to have a focal weekend for his slowly building group of local paddlers. He approached us to run a day of training at Umina Beach, followed by a 'messing around in boats' day on the Sunday. The first ever Klanocopia was a relatively small gathering, a bunch of paddling mates getting together to do some targeted training aimed at making them safer sea paddlers.
Rob gives the Saturday morning briefing
Last year the event built a little more, with some new members joining in & establishing it as an annual meet, rather than just a once-off weekend. 
Bert Tarrant cracks a nice wave on the Box Head Bar
This year Shawn Armitage took over the organisation of the Klanocopia & did a terrific job of sorting out everything from the venue, accommodation, registrations & a communal building for some presentations, and Klanocopia made the jump from a smallish weekend to a proper symposium-style sea kayaking event.
The Klan are a broad range of people & paddlers. Not all of them are interested in out & out sea kayaking, but those who are have steadily built their skills up over time to give them what is now a very solid member base of core sea paddlers. They take it upon themselves to introduce their Klan mates to the sea, look out for one another & treat the open waterways of their region with great respect. They also have way too much fun for the often grumpy world of sea kayakers - I think a few more disapproving strokes of an old grey beard are in order if these folks want to consider themselves 'real'…..
Chris outlining his battleplan
We arranged for Shaan Gresser to come along to help out Rob, Sharon, Chris James & I in running instruction, and also to give a talk on the Saturday night about her solo Bass Strait crossing, the first ever by a female paddler.
Surf & bracing training at Box Head
The weather delivered, with a warm spring weekend, some gentle surf & clear blue skies.
On the Saturday we ran five separate instruction programs, with the focus on everything from basic skills & rescues with Sharon & Shaan, to blade control in close quartering with me, to surf, bracing, contact & emergency tows & rescues with Rob & Chris. I bamboozled my guys with a structured session aimed at getting them to eventually turn their boat 180 degrees without stopping, and without resorting to old 'pinpoint turn'. It's not easy stuff, and both the morning & arvo groups applied themselves admirably with several capsizes & a lot of blue language as they contorted themselves & generally performed some kayak pilates trying to follow my directions.
Blade & boat control group
Afternoon surf on the bar
In the evening Shaan gave her talk about the Bass Strait crossing and the dramatic lead up to it in which she suffered a couple of debilitating injuries, had to cancel an original attempt due to bad weather, before finally succeeding earlier this year.

Shaan, all smiles….
Her story is a beauty, with all the elements you'd imagine are required, determination, sheer toughness & careful planning, preparation & risk management. It's a real story of overcoming adversity to achieve something remarkable in the paddling world.
 Colin Sheringham showing some nice surf control
Fernando going hard!
Sharon Betteridge then presented a woman's perspective on expedition paddling, using a 1000km trip from Cooktown to Cape York as her narrative. She highlighted the different issues women face in attempting these sorts of challenges, from the obvious differentials of having a smaller engine to the blokes, as well as some subtle ones such as group dynamics & preparation.
Chris is the crunch zone….as usual
Rob, Chris & I then finished the evening with our North Reef trip, which gave the Klanners some froth to bubble after hearing Sharon & Shaan speak so impressively!
Patonga fun on the Sunday
On the Sunday we headed over to Patonga to mess around in the bay with our demo boats. In the space of three hours a spectator would have seen everything from a 7 year old paddling the Greenland (my eldest daughter Kiri, yes I'm a proud Dad…)
Kiri in the Greenland (thanks to Owen Walton for the pic)
to Greenland style rolling, rescues, beautiful edge control from eager students, capsizes & even a spectacular southerly front, which put an end to the fun right on Fish & Chips O'clock.
Leonie practicing the Haka roll
In all more than 35 people attended throughout the weekend, and despite Klanocopia getting bigger it remains what it was intended to be, a bunch of paddling mates having a good time on & off the water. 
Rob smoking the Baidarka in between the demo paddling
Shaan summed it all up when she made the simple comment at the end of the weekend, 'Hey that was fun'. She was right, it was fun, the weekend had a great community spirit infused throughout, which is something us Sydneysiders don't get to experience too often. I'm sure all who turned up felt the same way.
Selim showing a Mexican bow draw in the Etain
Thanks to all who attended & to Sea-Kayak-Mini-Symposium-Organising-Guru Shawn Armitage for putting it all together.

Monday 12 September 2011

60 Minutes with the Valley Etain

I can usually sneak an hour so on the water every Friday arvo, with an alignment of a late kids gymnastic class pick-up & proximity to the sea.
I've been keen to get the Valley Etain out on flat water to find out empirically how fast it can go, and also to play around with the edging, manoeuvrability & general nuances of this rather different Valley sea kayak.
After about 6 months of the demo living exclusively at Mercer's house it turned up at the warehouse last week so I commandeered it for a spin around at Dolls Pt, at the southern end of Botany Bay.
I set my GPS & took it for my own special speed test, to determine the speed I can hold a boat at over a 12 minute stretch. I like this test because it's pretty hard to go flat chat for that length of time, and even though you can push hard you tend to find a sea kayaks' hull speed in the averages. There was about 10kn on my nose & no discernible current or flow, and over the test period I averaged 9.8kmh. Top speed was about 10kmh with a very flat line on the trace. This was faster than I thought & puts it alongside the Nordkapp & Rockpool GT in our crop of sea kayaks for the 'exercise pace' hull speed. I don't think I could have made it go much faster so my guess is that the terminal hull speed would be somewhere around the same mark.
Next up I ran back with the tiny little wind waves, trying to hold the boat in the troughs & make it glide along with very little paddler input. A typical loose-tracking British boat will tend to slide around in these sorts of conditions, a feature which actually makes them such a joy to paddle in rough water. The Etain has a similar downwind feel to the other Valley boats, but with a little bit of skeg it tracked hard, in fact very hard. Extrapolating this to bigger & faster seas I reckon it would be a great downwind runner in much the same mould as my old Aquanaut, but plainly it has a much higher hull speed than the Aquanaut could hold. I haven't had a go in these conditions yet because my business partner keeps all the fun stuff to himself.
Finally I indulged in a little bit of fart-arsing around, doing my best to find the tipping point of the boat, dropping it on edge, low-brace turning, rolling & sculling. This playful madness has method, I was trying to find out the subtleties in the design, in comparison to the more traditional 'Valley shape' which is fish, rather than Swede form (the fat part on a fish form kayak is around your thighs, on the Etain it's slightly aft of the cockpit).
Valley designed this boat with user-friendliness in mind, hoping to conjure a rough water kayak that looked after the paddler, without sacrificing too much of the responsiveness that frankly makes Valley boats such brilliant performers in the dynamic water of the sea.
So how to achieve this lofty goal? Well a good start is bucket loads of stability. Not stability in the sense of that reassuring lounge chair feel that you get from some 'ol buckets of kayaks with 60cm+ beams. Rather stability as a very solid feeling that the boat is at one with the water. On edge the Etain is absolutely rock solid, with a lovely bouncy & predictable secondary point that is going to be identifiable to even the most inexperienced of paddlers. It rolls with the same snap that the Aquanaut has, and doesn't rest in the upside down pose as comfortably as some other more radical Swede form boats with flat rear decks.
I had to modify my mechanics a little to get the boat to turn off the bow, but soon worked out the small weight adjustment required to make it do what my old Aquanaut could do. 
The boat feels nimble, with the narrower foredeck giving the impression of a much more sporty boat than it actually is, and the stability gives you huge confidence to throw it around & play.
I reckon this boat is a winner for paddlers new to skeg paddling, perhaps looking to ditch the rudder for a few years & learn some good boat handling in a boat that won't crucify them for a mistake. I haven't paddled it laden so can't comment on the loaded performance, but I now have my eyes fixed on the smaller Etain 17'5"if I can sneak it out of Mercer's backyard. Unfortunately there are only a handful of Etain's left in the next shipment, two in standard glass & two in the infused carbon-kevlar layup. Check our stock page for more details.

Thursday 8 September 2011

EK Joins the Facebook Generation

We've finally got around to putting up a Facebook Page, which is now live HERE. We promise to use it for updates, interesting stuff & not waffle, we are damn sure you don't need to know what we had for lunch at the Watto Bay cafe.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Greenland Rolling

Enough is enough, we have some great rolling boats in our fleet & I've sadly never taken the time to get in the water with Rob & learn a few of the moves.
The local pool at Enmore has recently been refurbished & they kindly allowed us an hour's lane-time for a session. The aim for me was to go from scratch & try & make a start on acquiring some of the techniques of this ancient art.
Obviously I'm hardly a novice, with a reliable combat roll developed over years of rough water paddling, and a sea instructor to boot, so my learning curve would hopefully be a little steeper than most people out to pick up a new paddling skill.
Nonetheless, Rob took me through first principles, which revolve mostly around becoming familiar with the balanced brace. I can see why people with a lighter upper body can find this particular position so relaxing & joyous, but for a near-enough 100kg 'person of Pacific Islander appearance' who has been banned for life from attending any form of yoga instruction, it is rather a 'stretch'.
We progressed through some gentle recovery exercises using the paddle as an anchor for finessing onto the back deck, onto a full capsize with the same recovery, into a sculling brace to further develop the mechanics of the recovery, then to a full blown go at the technique unassisted.
Rob is a master instructor, breaking down the components of the roll into such small parts, watching the bits that I immediately understood & skipping through them. The result was that after about 25 minutes I was doing a basic Butterfly roll (although because you can't go from the macho jut-jawed world of ski paddling to doing something called 'Butterfly', I prefer to call it a Haka roll).
Rob's own Greenland rolling is really something to behold. Although he doesn't blow his horn on this aspect of his instruction abilities, I can't imagine many other people in the country able to either demonstrate or teach Greenland rolling as well as he does.
With 10 minutes left at the end of out little session he hopped in & showed me the mechanics of the forward finishing rolls, as well as one he's developed himself, awesome stuff.
It's a completely different way of rolling to the whitewater style that I have developed over the years primarily to deal with recovery from being wiped out in big breaking surf. It's rather nice actually, and pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum to the ski paddling & big water training & paddling I've dedicated myself to these past months! 
But…..the deceitful buggers who say it's relaxing & calming should spend an hour in my bones this arvo, I've got strains in places I haven't stretched since the days I was getting pinned on the bottom of rucks.
The video above shows a few of the ugly moments in the lesson, as well as a couple that came out alright, with the bonus of some of Rob's lovely rolls at the end.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Bundeena Surf Therapy

Just a short blog about the perfect morning paddle I had today. I went down to Cronulla to do a demo paddle & spotted the Bundeena Bar with some perfect cresting green waves, so paddled over for a play in the short hour or so I had available.
I chased the Bundeena ferry across Gunamatta Bay, remembering what Max Walker had taught me about how to hook onto the bow wake & stay there with minimal effort, in the early days of training for the North Reef trip.
Out at the bar the surf was fantastic, over head high, slow enough to paddle onto without having to hang about in the steep zone & risk a thrashing in the break, and giving me ride after ride of 100-200m with little effort other than the first burst to get my ski running. Once away I'd angle left & right seeking out the steeper sections & troughs which unlock a faster ride, all the while soaking up the freedom of surfing along at this 'once in a blue moon' spot.
It dawned on me that I had no goal for this paddle, no heart rate monitor, GPS, nothing to measure my progress as I have been assiduously doing since March. I've gotta say, it was bliss, riding the waves, enjoying the speed of the ski across a glassy waterline & punching back out for ride after long ride.
I had the camera going but alas my SD card still carried the welter of footage from the expedition & only gave me a minute or two at the beginning before expiring. No matter, the video has been replaying in my mind all day.
I didn't think in such a busy life I'd get the post-expedition blues, but I've got to honest & admit that the last few weeks of paddling haven' been very inspiring.
I reckon I cured all that this morning.

Monday 5 September 2011

New stock from Valley, landing in October

Our next shipment from Valley is about 4 weeks away, but once again out of 30 boats, there are only a handful left for sale. I've listed the stock we will have available below with boat colours if you're interested in a new Valley boat for the coming paddling season.
The new Etain 17'7" has made a massive impact already, and this next container sees the very first Etain 17'5" stock landing,. This is a lower volume boat designed for smaller paddlers looking for a viable expedition boat that isn't a big tanker, or day paddlers looking for Etain performance without the extra bulk. We have had our demo Etain 17'5" out all winter & love the sporty feel & speed of this nimble Swede-form Valley boat.

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...