Monday 28 November 2011

One Degree South

Forget about space, time is the final frontier. The likelihood of either of Chris or I getting another coordinated block of time to do a North Reef type trip is remote at best in the medium term, so with Rob we have aimed up at a new challenge.

Our goal some time in January is to paddle one degree of latitude in a day, or 60 nautical miles. Roughly speaking, this will link Sydney and Jervis Bay, if the locals will allow us a few km of license and include Currarong in their bay geography!

Our aim in this endeavor is to promote the idea of safe ocean paddling in groups, to lay down a time that will hopefully inspire another group even in another part of the world to have a shot, and finally to highlight another issue close to our hearts.

We have teamed up with R U OK Day, an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to provide national focus and leadership on suicide prevention by empowering Australians to have open and honest conversations and stay connected with people in their lives. The founder of R U OK Day, Gavin Larkin, was a schoolmate of mine who sadly passed away earlier this year, and his idea has been a huge success, paying tribute as it does to his Dad Barry. In doing so we're also raising our own little tribute to local paddling legend Wayne Langmaid, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, a victim of depression. Wayne was a mate of Rob & Chris' &  is much missed.

We'll shortly be posting a new blog site to record the build up and training, as well as providing a portal for the paddling world to donate to this worthy cause, and then of course follow our 'spot dots' as more than 12,000 people did on our North Reef Trip.

We plan to go light and fast, downwind if the weather gods are kind, this time without sails.
It's an awesome 'day trip' to contemplate and I can't wait!

The Balanced Boater: Lesson on a stick..

Rob has just written a beautiful blog on paddles.
I think it very succinctly points out the folly of the strange & bizarrely evangelical fundamentalism that some people out there in blog world attach to their particular paddle choices.

Thursday 24 November 2011

The Epic 18X Downwind

I'm planning on paddling the Epic 18X in an upcoming trip with Chris & Rob, & have been busy this past week or so testing it out in the context of what we're planning. The new rudder system is of particular interest, as so far it does seem to have revolutionised the way the boat performs downhill.
It was a blustery start to the day, with a solid southerly wind blowing 19-27 knots across the bay, so I took the opportunity to get out amongst the steep little wind waves on offer. I put my head down into the stiff breeze and managed 40 minutes into the teeth of it averaging bang on 6kmh. While the boat does tend to fall off the back of steep oncoming waves this has little or no impact on forward speed, and once I worked out how to manage the boat over the crests I minimised the effect
Turning with steep, quite slow wind waves from astern, I flew back to the shore in just under 20 minutes, mostly on or above 11-13kmh. Where possible I held the boat on the sweet spot of the waves to stop it from charging into the troughs. An indication of just how good the rudder works, and how well it complements the hull is the fact that in that speedy 20 minute burst I didn't use a single stern rudder. In other words I was able to continue being aggressive & chase runners without having to put on the brakes, ostensibly a neccessity when you feel your directional stability sliding on a following wave.
I plan on a longer open sea outing with some more size to the following conditions & will try to get some video as well as a trace to share.
It shows you what innovation can deliver. A boat that was always fast now looks as though it really will handle the kinds of steep following seas that it's siblings in the ski stable are built for. 

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Released - the Epic Double Ski

The wraps have come off Epic's latest design, a superb new double ski. Oscar & Greg paddled it together to launch the boat on the weekend's Dragon Run in Hong Kong & put some serious strain on the timekeeper.
It looks sleek, fast & everything you come to expect from Epic's innovative design team.
I'm going to pester the Epic guys for a loan so I can get Rob out for a blast, I reckon it would be a heap of fun.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Remounting a Ski

Rob, Chris & I have a new challenge on the horizon, so this week marks the point where I've deigned to try once again to get my fitness back to levels required for the rigours of long distance sea paddling.
I do this by getting out on my ski & doing short, sharp interval sessions, 'cheating' my way to decent cardio & strength conditioning using the limited time I have available for paddling that isn't work related.
Yesterday was day zero, a new marking point to lay down some times, heart rates etc & give me something to measure & hopefully improve against. Our respective fitness programmes for the North Reef trip produced great results and it's good to have a successful template to work back over. Based on yesterday's effort it's a nice low marker point to begin from!
More time on the ski means becoming reacquainted with the self rescue skills that are necessary for safety. Hands up, I'm no great practitioner of the surfski remount that has been so nicely described on HERE. I find the sidesaddle re-entry easier in really rough water so have practiced it over the past couple of years at every opportunity.
Then Oscar Chalupsky made THIS neat video a month or so back showing his preferred technique, which is something of a hybridised version of the two wider known methods.
I gave it a go yesterday after an hour of pushing hard along the glassy waters of the Bay, so I at least had fatigue to escalate the challenge, and it is a cracker. Next test is out in some rough water, but the method is so flowing & stable I can't imagine having any dramas out at sea either.
Ski paddling is attracting a much wider demographic since the launch of the Epic V8, and anyone that buys a ski from us gets a very stern talk about making sure this remount technique is mastered before any solo or challenging paddling is undertaken. I still consider myself essentially a ski-paddling beginner, and from this perspective I can heartily recommend Oscar's way, it's instinctive, effective & surprisingly simple.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Riders on the Storm

Whew, Tuesday night's paddle was distinguished by one almighty electrical storm that we just managed to sneak off the water prior to it unleashing.
A change in the forecast from 'possible storms' to one of those 'all hell is going to break loose' storm warnings was issued about half an hour after we left the beach on what looked like a pretty cruisy Tuesday night paddle. On reaching North Head, we didn't need the BOM to tell us what was going on, and turned tail running down the following Nor Easterly breeze back to the safety of Camp Cove. 
Andre & I were the last into the beach, I remarked to him that it didn't look all that dramatic & then BANG, a very big lightning strike lit up the hill above the beach. We all then cowered under the sandstone break wall at the northern end of the beach as the light-show hit full throttle.
The skyline was just so dramatic, despite the edge to being out on the water with something clearly very big threatening, that it was still a privilege to see a storm cell of that magnitude from the water. Just don't try it at home.
Paddling anywhere near lightening is silly, seriously….

Monday 7 November 2011

The Epic V8, the Friendly Downwind'er

From about now & for the rest of summer, we're blessed in Sydney with a consistent 15-20kn Nor Easter which has mostly kicked in by early afternoon & gives us a fresh, slow moving sea to ride.
The weekend just gone gave me a brief opportunity while camping with the kids at Sydney's Bonnie Vale, to jump in the V8 for an hour or so & run some gentle downwind chop. 
Up to now when people come to try a V8 I always encourage them to try the V10 Sport as well, so they have both a comparison to the 'next' level up in competency, and also because at least half of the people who think they should get a V8 can probably very easily get into a Sport with a smidgin of instruction, and some dedication.
Why a Sport as opposed to a V8? Well, my story is that the V8 is based on a kayak hull, albeit a very fast kayak designed for the sea, and it doesn't 'run' like the narrower boats. That means the effort required in a following sea is obviously more in the V8 than the longer, narrower skis.
I took the V8 with me on the weekend so the kids & adults could have a play, but a decent blow came up around midday so I decided to go out & test my theory.
I didn't think there was a better way to make my point than by demonstrating an entry level ski in what are pretty user-friendly conditions.
The V8 is aimed squarely at people getting into the sport, and this sort of fun following sea is a fantastic way to learn the art of paddling downwind. It was manageable, fun & the hugely reassuring stability provides the best education you can get in your quest to work out how these craft work in the environment for which they were designed. 
So, does it 'run'? Well yeah, in the sort of conditions it was designed for, it runs like a mustang, so my theory has some serious flaws (surprise surprise…!)
Sure, it would be found wanting for pure speed on the longer, more technical ocean swells & bigger developed seas, but by the time you're ready to head out into that stuff you would have a whole lot more in the toolbox, & probably also a narrower, faster boat more suited.

I made about 4 runs of 2km out & back across the expanse of Port Hacking, each time turning & running back to Mainbar on the 20knot breeze & tiny little wind waves. 
You can see from the video how little input was required to keep the ski on a run in these conditions, sometimes running for a minute without much more than the odd burst to hold position.

My eldest daughter Kiri certainly thought it looked like fun, & insisted on coming for a paddle. She's becoming quite a little adventure junkie, and thought the best part of the whole thing was catching the waves into shore & then getting bashed around in the shore break!
As for the V8, well despite a welter of new designs aimed squarely at the market it has singularly created, demand continues to far outstrip supply. Our next stock lands in about 3 weeks & isn't expected to hang around for long. Check our Epic Kayaks page for details.

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...