Thursday 27 October 2011

National Sea Kayak Symposium Wrap

We've just returned from the fourth annual National Sea Kayak Symposium on the Gold Coast, an event we have supported as major sponsor since it's inception.
This year the weather gods again smiled upon us, with the coast turning on three perfect days of clear skies & temps in the high 20s, warm water & barely a zephyr.
Rob was held up the day before our planned departure by an aviation 'issue' where he was holidaying on Lord Howe Island with Sharon, so I made the long trek north on my own. There is a big effort involved in getting all of our gear, demo boats, workload-while-away sorted & then making it up to Currumbin in time for our traditional demo day on the Friday. We're always encouraged by the emails prior to the event asking us to bring up this boat or that paddle to try, & so it proved that come the Friday we had a bunch of people waiting to give the boats a good crack.
Craig at Adventure Outlet had enlisted Mick MacRobb from Flat Earth Sails & Tom Nicholson from Elver Paddles to come along & enhance his display. It was good to catch up with them both, & shoot the breeze with Mick over a few beers about how well his sails performed on our North Reef trip.
The demo day was also the first sighting north of the border of the Valley Etain, & true to form neither the 17'7 nor it's smaller sibling the 17'5 touched the sand, as paddlers took them for a spin to find out if the reality lived up to the hype.
We packed up our trailer mid afternoon & dashed across to the Community Centre to set up our trade display, but instead of knocking ourselves out as we usually do, the presence of Sharon & Mick made the whole thing very nearly a pleasure!
The attendees started to arrive & register at about 5pm & we spent the next few hours catching up with our mates up north & then listening to Stu Trueman trying to fit a 16 month round Australia odyssey into a 90 minute presentation. Stu's trip is nothing short of amazing, & he broke it down into several aspects, rather than try to produce a chronology of the expedition, which went down very well with the big crowd in the hall. Post talk we all headed back to our apartment to catch up properly with Mick & Gary Forrest, who was staying with us.
After cracking a Haka roll faster than either Chris or myself (below) Gary invented a new roll at the demo day, the long-lost Aleutian Smuggler Roll, and quite possibly became the first sea instructor in history to teach a novice Greenland roller the Haka Roll, while dressed only in his hat & his Speedos.
The student, an obviously mentally tough QSKC President Brian McCarthy, ignored the sideshow & snapped off a textbook Haka-for-blokes-Butterfly-for-less-hairy-folks roll in about 8 minutes. Stand by for a warm summer in Sydney & Greenland rolling in nothing but bikinis & budgie smugglers, why should just the surf ski dudes get to dress down? Lets face it, all that head-to-toe black kit, just ain't that sexy......
The Saturday program at the Symposium is all off the water, with a range of seminars, talks, skills demo's & even some yoga. The end of the program featured Olympian Amanda Rankin putting forward a compelling case for us sea kayakers to embrace excellence, rotate more & start to make some of our rusty old forward strokes start to work more efficiently.
We retired to the local Surf Club in the evening to enjoy a steak & a few beers, tell some tall tales & enjoy a rare opportunity en-masse to mix with our paddling peers. It was heaps of fun!
Sunday is the main day of the Symposium, with a full program of instruction, some trips & on my count more than 70 demo kayaks lined up on the beach for paddlers to try. I took an instruction group out with Queensland instructor Shawn West, and attempted to twist & cavort my students into a series of gut busting edging & torso exercises. These guys had a go! Almost everyone fell in with a smile on their face & I hope they took something away from the session.
The latter part of the day may well mark the point where the dark arts of Greenland rolling merged into the Australian paddling mainstream. One by one, paddlers would come over & learn a Butterfly roll, sit upright with hands raised while the highly amused spectators from the bank cheered. I tried to get Macca doing a gloved hand roll after he picked up the bio mechanics for the backward finishing roll from Rob & Gary ridiculously fast on the Friday, but he just couldn't quite crack it. Jonathon then pushed in, seized the mitts & hand rolled first go! The competitive juices started to flow, Macca hurled some abuse, Jonathon responded with a good sledge 'Yeah mate, talk to me when you can do one....', and then it was on! 
Seriously, demystifying the Greenland stuff is half the battle, well instructed it is something that looks real hard, but is actually very, very easy. I think you might see the warm waters of Queensland turn into a sub tropical Qasigiannguit over this coming season, as these motivated & skillful paddlers poke friendly jabs at one another to try this roll, then that roll, down the progression of learning these fun tricks.
I thought I was in reasonable shape prior to the weekend, but having been upside down & twisted a thousand ways over the course of the three days, I'm a little bit slow out of my office chair this morning. Clearly it's time to lobby the Global Yoga Organisation and try to have my lifetime ban lifted.
After packinmg away the boats for the final merciful time, I then adjouned to the local RSL to watch the RWC Final. Only a point separated me from having to send yet another world cup jersey off to Vinnies & it becoming a cherished souvenir, and despite having to sit next to Russ Hinze reincarnate at the rissole to watch the game, and having the bloody haka perfectly dissected by the Ode (OK, I think the ode is pretty important too…), there were big Sundin smiles for the rest of the evening.
All up a top weekend, and one that needs just a little more support from paddlers to make that next step into  massive kayaking event.
Thanks to Mark & his mob at QLD Canoeing, and to everyone who took the time to try a boat, check out our goodies or just say G'day.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Greenland Wars II, the James Strikes Back

Give a man an inch….
I took Chris down to the local pool yesterday to attempt once & for all to 'fix' his Greenland rolling. That's 'fix' like how Carl Williams eventualIy got 'fixed'….
I tried every dirty trick I knew to make sure the black art of the forward finishing roll remained just that to him, a skill unattainable to all but the most supple & talented athletes, like me.
The results are on the video above, clearly my instruction is so good I couldn't even do it badly if I wanted to….
His one serious misdemeanour was an attempt at our 'Holy Grail', the forward finishing rodeo roll, sans paddle. Whereas I was happy to fail miserably & wallow upside down waiting for an undignified rescue, James attempted a sleight of hand deception by arching his back & finishing with a back-leaning recovery! Fortunately, the camera caught out this cynical breach of ethics, which I've included here as a lesson to the cheats among you all. Understand what sort of man you're dealing with if you ever come across this Chris James fella in some other walk of life.
There was interest at the pool from a few Petersham locals, real rough inner city types with big L-O-V-E H-A-T-E prison tats who took some out time to study the ancient arts we were so elegantly performing. Could this become the new yobbo sport, some twisted 'Jackass' underwater….?
I actually heard a rumour that one of the local rugby league teams caused a dreadful brouhaha at the same pool last week, when they turned their 'Mad Monday' celebrations into a crazy Greenland rolling session. Luckily the NRL were able to keep it out of the papers, saving the reputation of the greatest game of all from a scandal that would dwarf the betting, drinking & general antisocial behaviour league players are renowned for. You heard it here first…..
**Note, although I make mention of 'a small animal dying' at the end of the video, please rest assured that no small animals indeed died during the making of this movie.

Monday 17 October 2011

Tuning up the Rolls

I snatched an hour last week to take the 'T' down to Sandringham Beach & try to tune up my rolls. I recordered the session on my camera, essentially to try to spot any technical problems, but the murky water & late arvo light knocked that idea on the head.
In my limited experience, the backwards finishing rolls seem to be all about how flexible you are, whereas the forward finishing rolls require rather a bit more finesse & intuition. They're awesome when you get 'em right, you rise up almost as though someone else is doing it for you, very cool.
I had a crack at the half-paddle rolls that Rob was doing so effortlessly HERE, and that's another one in the 'work-in-progress' basket.
Regardless, never having been one to be afraid of going through the 'a bit hopeless' phase when learning a new set of skills, here's the highlights & a few lowlights of the session set to the groovy tunes of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
Now that's a mob to aspire to belong to, once I can get the hang of this Greenland rolling bizzo.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Greenland rolling competitive…? Nah….!

Disclaimer - Apologies in advance to the reverential readers in Greenland cyberspace, we're just having some fun here….
I guess the phone call must have gone something like this….

"G'day Rob, Chris here."
"Just noticed the video of you guys doing the rolling thingy"
"If Mark can do it that quick, I bet I can do it quicker…"

A little less Mozart & a little more Rage Against the Machine, the joyous, peaceful, calming rolling pastime, has given way to…... Greenland Wars.…..
Quoted 25 minutes for my first 'Haka Roll', Chris set about the task with Rob down at Watson's Bay yesterday, stopwatch set & running. Nailing it with 5 minutes to spare, after highlighting the achievement with a blatant reference to his watch, he then proceeded to rattle one off on his offside. Not content to stop there, out came the NRS Propulsion Gloves. He ticked off hand roll with the gloves, he then took a shot at the hand roll au naturale, and of course bloody well cracked one second go.
This sort of provocative one-upmanship has escalated the simmering rivalry, so I headed down to the local pool this morning & desperately tried to regain the yellow rolling jersey. Competitive? Me? Nah…..
A dodgy hand roll later & we're all square, although my effort was a little less smooth than the James version. However, and this is a BIG HOWEVER, I was then up for Rob's 'round-the-world-kind-of-imagine-yourself-trying-to-shove-your-finger-up-your-clacker' forward finishing roll, then the forward finish, forward start, paddle over the keel line roll, then the crooked elbow rolly thingy. All highly technical, unbelievably difficult, athletic, Greenland rolls requiring supercharged talent that start with Q have several 'L's' in them and finish with a K. 
Just to put both of us in our places, Rob then fired a few tricky rolls across the bow, which you can see interspersed with Chris & my novice attempts in the video above.
Interestingly, none of the three of us can manage a balanced brace, which is widely espoused as the starting point for anyone to learn these rolls. I think our top-heavy physiques probably make this something of challenge no matter how good we are, so there you go, square pegs in round holes.
This rolling caper is a lot of fun, bring on summer, some warmer water & a chance to really get good at it.
The little skinny elephant in the room is the boat we're using. They're designed for rolling, and certainly make a massive difference. The big fat elephant in the room of course is Rob standing by providing expert instruction, this stuff would be very hard to get your head around without it…..

Tuesday 4 October 2011

EK Demo Day in Queensland - October 21

The annual National Sea Kayak Symposium is now less than 3 weeks away, and once again we'll be bringing a trailer load of demo boats, paddles & kit north for the event, of which we are Major Sponsor for the third year running. We'll also be holding our traditional Demo day on the Friday preceding the symposium, along with Craig McSween from Adventure Outlet. As well as demo boats to paddle we'll be available for individual on-water tips & instruction throughout the day. 
For those who were there last year, the venue is the same, the beach on the creek at Murlong Cr, Tallebudgera, next to the boat ramp (map below).
This will be the first opportunity for Queenslanders to test paddle the new Valley Etain 17-5 and 17-7, as well as the Rockpool Taran and the fastest selling play boat in the market, the North Shore Atlantic RM. We'll also have a demo on hand of the Mitchell Blades Bombora LV, fast acquiring a cult following among the smaller engined paddler brigade.
Please drop us a line between now & the event if you plan on coming along.

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...