Saturday 29 December 2012

Vale Chris James

Just over a week ago we lost our great mate Chris James.
Chris was the third member of our paddling team, and with his paddling skills forged in the heat of heaving seas & crunching surf, his attention to detail and endless reserves of optimism we had pulled off a couple of memorable trips, and had many more in the pipeline.

Chris was an incredible guy, fit & strong, a technician on the water of the highest order, and a mentor to so many paddlers. He was one of those rare people who'd take on a new challenge with relish, immerse himself in it, only happy when he'd well & truly conquered it, and then use the experience gained to build on the next big idea. And man did he have some big ideas. 
His brilliant entrepreneurial skills had seen him establish a long line of successful businesses, always working away on some new deal or plan, seeking out that elusive win-win point where everyone could walk away happy. Our trip meetings were often held at one of his beautiful restaurants, where as Rob pointed out in his touching eulogy to Chris at his funeral, we would bemuse Sydney's glitterati as we spread out nautical charts across a vacant banquet table and debated plans over a cold beer or three.
He was a great Dad to his little girls Kasey, Darcy & Lucy and his eyes shone when he spoke of his beloved soul mate & wife Sally.
We shared the modern affliction of busy business & family lives, & I considered Chris to be the bloke who had best managed to find the balance that we all seek. I've reflected on the way he went about things & realise that there is nothing wrong with seeking excellence in anything you do, it seemed to be the way Chris naturally attacked life. He was the kind of guy you just wanted to be like.
Rob & I shared some unforgettable moments with Chris & we are both devastated by his loss, so unfairly in the absolute prime of his life. I wrote about him after our One Degree paddle earlier this year 'the next time I paddle anywhere with him I'm going to sneak some Kryptonite into his day hatch. That'll stop him…!'  My lasting memory of that day was the final couple of hours where we were getting belted by breaking seas in the dark, after more than 100km of paddling. Chris started to laugh as one by one we'd get our go at being swept sideways by a hissing wave, and something that was probably quite grim suddenly became a bit of a boys game of roulette. It was typical Chris, a man who thrived on the idea of consequences and lived life as an adventure. 
We have shed too many tears over the past few days, too many for a guy like Chris anyway who would be looking at us a bit annoyed to have caused such a fuss, and doubtless be willing us back out to the sea.
Farewell Chris James, we promise to keep up the adventure.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Surf Video - Valley Gemini vs Tiderace Xcite

Christmas Eve brought the promise of a lingering two metre longish period easterly swell, which was bound to kick up against an outgoing tide on one of our favourite play spots, the Bundeena Bar.
We decided to ditch the last minute shopping and head down with two boats we'd wanted to try out in just these conditions, fast enough for fun, but not crunching beach breaks. In other words, something we felt most sea paddlers could relate to, surf that wasn't intimidating but was still a helluva lot of fun.
The video is a small cut of what was laid on for us for the best part of two hours.
We swapped boats about half way through, running the long rides on offer, bouncing around in the whitewater and generally getting our heads around these two boats that were designed to excel in the surf.
Rob let his full suite of surf tricks loose, delighting in the ability of the Gemini to 'hit & run', timing a sweep with the first 'hit' from a broach to bring the buoyant little boat back on line and carry on. You'll see him doing it a few times if you watch closely.
The differences between them are palpable. The Gemini oozes buoyancy and edge control, but still accelerates wonderfully onto a wave. It lifts once planing and feels light & loose on the wave, encouraging you to have a crack at things you wouldn't normally do in a sea kayak on a wave.
The Xcite runs faster, in fact the waves probably weren't fast enough to cut it completely loose, and tracks hard on the wave with a lot more dependence on strokes for control. When you consider how good the Xcite is in open water, both zipping downwind and bouncing around at close quarters, it's a very well credentialed day & play machine.
They are both supremely reassuring in the rough, not for a moment did I get tripped up by either and I'm a bit rusty surfing a sea kayak. Rob's boogles were self inflicted, pushing the envelope to unlock the little gems hidden in the hull shapes.
Of course this was all done in the name of market research, a tough job that we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy....

Friday 14 December 2012

The Simplicity of a Summer Nor' Easter

My paddling waters around Sydney are blessed each summer with a mostly predictable & cooling sea breeze from the North east. The hotter the day, the earlier it kicks in and the stronger it blows, but as it is a localised breeze, it has generally blown itself out by early evening.
Last summer with the La Nina weather event that dominated Australia's east cost, the Nor' Easters became a rarity as our weather seemed to come from the moist, cool, south. For Rob, Chris & I waiting patiently for a decent northerly to propel us on our One Degree South Paddle, it was a frustrating time, relieved only by a half-arsed wind that finally blew in late March.
Despite some flukey weather this spring, the warm days have started to return with consistency and with them, thankfully, our cooling Nor' easterly.
I have had a bizarre couple of weeks, suffering from some nerve damage in my left leg after a nasty electric shock from a Coffin Ray. 
It's made my left leg spasm, affecting my lower back and generally turning me into a half bent over grumpy bugger. I've tried a few massage remedies, but my chiro reckons it will just go away eventually and to stop being such a big tunsa.
I've soldiered on, having a few paddles on the quirky Zegul Rhapsody SUP we were sent to test, and on Sunday I swapped the lawn mowing (back too sore or course) for a paddle & took my V10 Sport out off Cronulla for some downwind therapy.
I slogged out to sea about 5km straight into the teeth of a Nor' Easter that was building, then turned and ran blissfully all the way back into Port Hacking.
It was brilliant; warm water, a postcard Sydney summer's day, and waves and wind that coasted along beside me propelling me along at an exhilarating speed, linking run after run with a quick edge or stern draw.
All I want for Xmas are some strong winds, steep following seas & blue skies….and for the electric fish to leave me alone.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Tiderace MKII - Lands tomorrow!

Our second Tiderace container lands tomorrow, only a matter of weeks after the first one, such has been the demand for these cutting edge new designs.
We've added the Tiderace Xcape to the range, a sympathetic rough water expedition boat that slots in amongst the genre typified by the Valley Etain series. 
It brings our range up to five designs, with the sixth addition, the much awaited Pace 17 Tour arriving in our third shipment, due in mid January.
Only 35 more sleeps - the Pace Tour 17
Unfortunately there is only one Pace 18 remaining in the shipment that isn't pre-sold, so please get in fast if you have your eye on one, as there are none available in the shipment landing in January, and we're unlikely to have any more until late Autumn.
We also have the full range of colours back in stock on the Xcite, for those who have been enquiring about colour range.
Check out our Kayak Stock & Prices page for details on colours & availability, and the Tiderace page on our website for the full specs & details.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Customised Valley Kayak Cut-Off

Our next shipment from Valley is being finalised this week. 
If you'd like a customised Valley boat made to your specs, colours, maybe with a clear Carbon Kevlar hull, or if you're planning on paddling overseas & would like a boat made in the robust 3-piece construction, please let us know before Friday. 
The shipment is likely to land around the end of February.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Lendal Paddles return to Australia

Our first shipment of the all new Lendal X-Range Paddles, arrives this week from the US.

We have stocked the most modern Lendal design, the Kinetik Tour, a dynamic flat blade designed for responsive rough water performance and a clean exit. We chose this design initially because it's one with which we are most familiar,  with characteristic down-tilted geometry producing initial power, which aids when manoeuvring the kayak in rock gardens, surf and sea caves. It's Lendal’s best selling paddle and rewards good technique, with palpable performance.
They paddles are in the two piece configuration.
The shafts we've landed are the carbon flex style, light, rigid but without the shoulder tendon-twanging stiffness of a full carbon shaft, important for sea kayakers paddling long distances.
The paddles feature infinite feather adjustment, and we have shaft lengths ranging for 204cm up to 214cm.
You can order Lendal paddles now through our online store, $549 including national overnight delivery - just in time for Xmas!

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Sea Kayaker Magazine Reviews the Tiderace Pace 18

Here's a review from the boat I've been getting to know over the past couple of months, both out on the ocean chasing down following seas, and also through 11 hours of toil on the Hawkesbury Classic. You can read Sea Kayaker Magazin'e review HERE.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Cool New Stuff….

Summer is a matter of days away, and we've got some cool new stuff just arrived for the warmer months, all available through OUR ONLINE STORE.
Kavu never let us down with their eclectic mix of practical but groovy water hats & apparel. We've added some new hat colours, including the Paddler's Chillba ($29) in a nice Rust colour. 
Kavu Paddler's Chillba
There is the merest hint of Baywatch in the Big Eddy Paddle Shorts ($49), and the revival of the full canvas Strap Cap ($29) in red to match the Big Eddy shorts.

Kavu Big Eddy Paddle Shorts
Kavu Canvas Strap Cap
 We've also got some new colours in the ever popular Perma-Grin Shades, a retro Tortoise Shell & a stylish Cloud ($89).
Kavu Perma Grin Shades
We have re-introduced the short sleeved NRS Hydroslik rashie ($49) for summer in a charcoal that will match the Perma-Grin Cloud Shades (an important consideration if you're contemplating a charcoal theme….) 
NRS Hydrosilk Short Sleeved Rashie
There is now also a short sleeved version of the excellent NRS Endurance Jacket ($79).
NRS Endurance Short Sleeved Jacket
Finally, by popular demand we have now started to stock the Reed Neoprene Skirt ($129) with map loops. This is as tough as teak, not as light & breathable as the Aquatherm version but a great option if you're doing a day of rescues or rock gardening.
Reed Neo Deck with Map Loops
You can order now OUR ONLINE STORE.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

All at Sea, in a sea of smiles….

A few weeks ago Rob got talking to his good mate & local paddler Bob Turner about the club he belongs to, the Sutherland Shire Canoe Club. Bob was eager to expand the horizons of many of the club members who owned sea kayaks, but were primarily paddling the enclosed waters of southern Sydney, caused mainly by a lack of group confidence to safely head out to sea.
Rob suggested a training weekend where we would put together a program designed to give these essentially flat water paddlers a taste of open water and the basic set of skills to paddle safely as a group in the sea.
We expected (and planned for) about 15-20 paddlers, so were greatly surprised when Bob started to push through the numbers in the days prior to the event, with over 40 paddlers eventually registered.
We had to swiftly pull in some help in the form of trusted paddling mates Fernando, Rae, Chris & Shaan to cater for the demand, something we hadn't anticipated to be so strong.
The miserable Friday weather cleared to a sparkling Saturday and we divided the groups by ability & set off on a day of skills training & adventure.
To give you an idea of the progression through the day, my first act with my guys (Rowley, Sam, Albert & Ross) was to teach them a safe wet exit in four feet of water off Bonnievale. Three of the four hadn't performed one previous, nor worn a spraydeck.
Sam, Rowley, Ross Albert
Six hours later we were parked out at sea, bobbing around off Jibbon Head, performing deep water rescues with increasing speed and competence. In between we edged, fell in, manoeuvred, fell in, braced - successfully & not so successfully - and had a hoot of a day with about equal time divided between being upright in the boats & swimming around next to them.
This is something of a leap of faith for paddlers used to racing on the fat, where the water is something to be avoided, not swum in! Not only did my guys rip into the activities but they all made great progress as the day wore on and finished with hugely enhanced confidence about venturing beyond the safety of enclosed waters. And when I pointed at a far marker and said 'let's all head over there for the next drill' I was doing well to foot it with a bunch of paddlers with excellent forward stroke technique and fitness. I had to keep making them fall in to give myself a breather….
The reason for this rapid progress? I reckon it was the club spirit on show so clearly through the day. Sometimes clubs can feel like an amalgam of strangers, reintroducing each other at each varied & distant event & never really showcasing the characters under the neoprene. By contrast these guys paddle together most weekends, race in organised events on the Woronora River at their club house, and plainly they not only know each other well, they know each other well enough for some pretty fearsome exchanges of banter!
I loved my day out with them, barely a moment passed without a chuckle as someone stuffed something up or a cheer when it went right, mixed in with a comedy routine that would have done Jerry Lewis proud. It's an atmosphere that fosters encouragement, it's a long time since I've heard paddlers clapping one another on a training day. Most of the day I felt like I was back in the dressing room at Coogee Oval.
A sun-beaten and pleasantly weary mob descended on the Bundeena RSL for dinner and a presentation from Shaan on the story of her remarkable solo Bass Strait trip. While there was a party in full swing at midnight on Friday around the camp site, no such bonhomie was apparent on Saturday after the dinner, I think the sea had woven it's wearying spell.
Sunday was a less formal day with some rolling classes for some, and a sea paddle for the more adventurous out to Boat Harbour & back. Judging by the smiles on the dials of those returning with a building Nor' easter from Boat Harbour, Chris & Fer had achieved the right mix of safety & exhilaration on their well planned 'experiential' trip. The group Shaan, Rob & I took also had a nice taste of steep moving water as the wind kicked in on the return journey to Bonnievale, to conclude a cracker of a weekend.
A big thank you to Bob Turner and his merry mob from the Sutherland Shire Canoe Club. We were so impressed with the 'give-it-a-crack' attitude and good humour evident among the members.
Thanks also to Chris James, Shaan Gresser, Raewyn Duffy & Fernando for coming along & sharing their collective wisdom, safely guiding their respective groups through a rigorous day of skills & confidence building, laced with fun.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

The New Epic V8

True to form, Epic have sprung a surprise on us all with the redevelopment of their game-changing V8 surf ski.
I collected our boats from latest container last week & when we unwrapped the V8's bound for Gary & Trish the changes to the design were obvious.
This new V8 looks sleek, has slightly less rocker, features some clever new design features that will improve it's 'big water' performance, like an angled top lip of the seat, side handles to make rescue & remount easier (as well as portage), and a new footboard that allows you to run your hydration tube underneath.
On the water it lost none of it's stability, felt like in ran longer and was a far more aesthetically pleasing craft.
Well done Epic, we have stock on the shelf ready to go…

Thursday 15 November 2012

Rob's Mob

Some pics from Rob's talented Tuesday crew out amongst it. I reckon there are some beauties here, all photos by Rob Mercer.
John cresting a nice swell
Shaan Gresser - the first woman to solo Bass Strait

Rae Duffy - sea paddler & Hawkesbury dual record holder

 Rae again
Dave in his Taran

Friday 9 November 2012

Klancopia 2012

The most enjoyable paddling weekends on our calendar are those run by small, passionate pods of kayakers up & down the coast, & the one that captures that spirit more than most is the excellent Klancopia at Umina Beach, run by the Hunter Kayak Klan.

This year there were about 25 paddlers on the water, with the new starters heading over to Patonga with Sharon Betteridge & Shaan Gresser, and the sea dogs heading out into Broken Bay with Rob & I for some 'live' training.
We feel that we are among mates at Klancopia, and the community feel extends from the informal 'opening ceremony' among the tents on the Friday evening, through the Saturday night entertainment (both organised and 'ad hoc'), and on into Sunday's messing around in boats session on the beach at Patonga.
Organiser Shawn Armitage built on last year's more organised itinerary, and pulled together another cracker. The Saturday evening was a particular highlight, where Klan members gave short presentations on a subject of their choice, ranging from short on-water videos to comedy slideshows, to paddle explanations to fix-it advice.
Beach line up

I enjoyed the creativity & humour far more than listening to a typical presentation from a guest speaker, sometimes it's important to remember that everyone has a story to tell about their own paddling.
I'll let the images tell the story of a fun weekend. Thanks to Sharon & Shaan for turning out a top day on the creek at Patonga, and to Shawn for remembering to bring the ukuleles.
Well done you Klanners….!
The Xplore L
Annie in the Zegul 520
The Bill Gates of Klancopia
Camp EK
Dr Smiles
Colin in control
The graceful exit...
Sea rescue
Dirk in the Reval
Gemini downside
Gemini upside
Saturday night dress code check
The opposite to a rescue
Pearl Beach
Strange south coast dude who just turned up
Posing in the Xplore L
Marty cruising in
Marty lands
Marty & Brad
Matt in the Xplore L
Camp site wisdom
Owen ponders….
..and then explaining why wing paddles are better that Greenland paddles….
…and then showing us why wing paddles are better that Greenland paddles….
Mercer judges the talent quest
Mercer landing
And finishing the day
Wade shows his better side
Shags on a Lion
Gemini footsies
The Sebastian Coe of Klancopia
The Klan's favourite Telco CEO
Steve, Pace + GP
A trailer of expensive laminates

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...