Wednesday 29 February 2012

Bay to Beach/Bay Runner 2012

A rare Nor' Easterly forecast greeted the participants in Saturday's Bay Runner race, an event which was curtailed from the original Kurnell downwinder to a triangular 18km course by some red tape.
Rob & I lined up in our 18X & Taran respectively, and despite racing as a pair, it was soon apparent that Rob was well on song as the gun went off. Rob was in great form, footing it with the mid packers on skis & even throwing in a few friendly jibes about being an old decrepit bloke on a canoe! I struggled along, thinking that a recent flu bug was gone, when in reality it was just sitting there dormant waiting for me to do something requiring real exertion. We had eyed off this Monday just gone as a possible One Degree South date, I can promise if I had gone Monday I'd still be out there heading for JB!
I watched Rob disappear & figured he'd just go for it, & do the best time he could muster, but as I reached the final turn I saw him sitting there waiting as we had agreed prior to race to finish together. H'd been waiting almost 10 minutes for me so would have put in a terrific time, well in the middle of the pack with the skis & faster OC1's.
Crossing the finish (pic by Steve Newsome)
Despite my own whining, I admit to being very excited about participating in & now paddling one of these ocean races in a sea kayak. When you line up at the start you can see that everyone taking part has a plan, has been training, is out there to do their best, and they're all essentially racing against themselves to try to better a previous time or placing. It's a way different culture to my own sea kayaking roots but it has it's appeal for the athleticism & endeavour.
The race itself was pretty much on flat water. The Nor Easter had barely come up by the time we reached the downwind can & the wind strength wasn't sufficient to produce a sea worthy of riding. Still, any morning out on the sea is a good morning. The tragedy of the forced format change was that as the clock struck 1.30pm, the scheduled race start time from Kurnell, the wind cranked up & produced the sort of fresh following seas that would have made this race an absolute beauty. Next year….
We sponsored the race & will continue to get behind events that get people out paddling on the ocean. Steve Newsome & his gang from the new & entusiastic Souther Districts Ocean Paddlers did a terrific job, despite all of the setbacks, in getting such a big field out on the ater & meeting the safety requirements asked.
The next chance us sea kayakers get to take part in one of these ocean races, as many of you who are able should grab the opportunity. It's a window into another paddling culture & one from which we can learn a lot.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Update - Bay to Beach Race

Just a quick note to advise a slight change of plans for the Bay to Beach race to held this coming Saturday. The start & finish have now been moved to Gunamatta Bay & the race will be a loop course out across Bate Bay & back. 
Apparently the risk averse elements of both the paddle world & the bureaucratic world decided that it would be too dangerous to risk a paddle around 5km of cliff line, the nanny state strikes again….
So, please be at Gunamatta Bay at 0830 Saturday for the briefing & race plans, otherwise all details remain the same (BBQ & presentation afterwards).
We are sponsoring the sea kayak section of the race & there will be some decent prizes on offer for the first, second & third teams in the race, for both men's & women's. Click on THIS LINK to register.

Free Greenland Roling Day, March 3

We were overwhelmed by the reaction to our Greenland tuition at the National Symposium in Queensland late last year, where people who had previously considered the Greenland thread of our sport to be a black art came forward one by one & delighted in learning some new tricks. It was fun, hilarious fun even, and I have no doubt that many paddlers went away from the event with a renewed interest in the Greenland 'thing' & rolling in general.
So, for the first time in Sydney this summer, the water is warm, summer looks like it might have actually arrived in Sydney, & with the impending arrival of rolling gurus Cheri Perry & Turner Wilson we thought it an opportune time to put on a free rolling & Greenland rolling day. 
In partnership with Wayne & Mel Hanley from Greenland Downunder, we are holding an open rolling day on Saturday March 3 at the Yarra Bay Sailing Club, tucked inside the calm waters of Botany Bay (off Kooringai Ave, Yarra Bay. Map below). 
A full three hour program will kick off at 9am, featuring rolling demos from Mel Hanley, an intro to Greenland rolling instructed by Rob, Mel, Wayne & Mark, a crossover session to demonstrate the relevance of the Greenland styles to rough water paddling & a post event get together on the sand in front of the sailing club.
Wayne & Mel will be bringing along their range of Greenland gear including Joe O Paddles for demo & we'll have our selection of Greenland style boats on hand.
Numbers are strictly limited to 20, as we want a concentrated instructor-to-student ratio so everyone comes away with a very good chance of picking up some new skills. It's a chance to get some tips from Rob Mercer, as well as some Greenland specific instruction from Wayne & Mel, who have travelled the word attending various Greenland workshops & symposiums. They have seen first hand how the big Greenland get togethers work overseas & will be bringing this knowledge to our little event, so for the first time we'll get a glimpse into how it's done in parts of the world where Greenland rolling a little more mainstream.
If you'd like to attend, please contact Mark at
As a reminder of how simple these things can be to learn in the hands of the right instructor, here's a video from late last year of my first Greenland rolling lesson with Rob.

Friday 17 February 2012

Friday from the Vault - Broughton Island Trip

This week's 'from the vault' post recalls the trip we took out to Broughton Island to celebrate both my & Stacka's fortieth birthdays, which fall on the same day.
It was an hilarious trip, drafting as we did our best mate The Adonis who had never paddled before, along with Rob to ride shotgun & come up with sensible ideas if anything went pear-shaped.
To cut a long story short, despite falling in  seven times, we managed to cajole, tow & intimidate Adrian the best part of 20km out to Broughton where we enjoyed a tired & emotional evening reflecting back on 40 years of existence….
To this day it's a story people will often ask me about 'hey has your mate ever paddled again, you know the bloke who fell out 17 times…?' Answer…? No. It was a Patrick Cummins like debut, streaking like a star across the sea kayaking landscape only to settle below the horizon never again to appear in the neoprene & lycra.
You can read the post, 'The Broughring Forties' HERE (or a more comprehensive report with extra pics HERE).
Broughton Island remains something of a rite of passage for sea kayakers in our area. It's far enough away from a non-surf landing to make it a good hike on the sea, the islands you thread to get out there produce a mix of clapotis & currents, and the prize when you arrive is a genuinely beautiful coastal island. On all but the most benign days you need a full set of skills to make the crossing, mess around in the amazing array of rock gardens & gauntlets you find on a lazy circumnavigation, 20km is too far to risk not getting your boat trim right etc. All up an achievable & worthwhile challenge for paddler wanting to experience the exposure of a crossing & a brilliant journey on the sea!

Rob & Sharon's Excellent WA Adventure

Rob & Sharon travelled across as guests of WA instructor Les Allen to help out on his inaugural WA Sea Kayak Symposium.
Rob's write up of the groundbreaking event is here:

The Balanced Boater - Rob Mercer

WA Inaugural Sea Kayak Symposium

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Justine Curgenven's 'This is the Roll' DVD

Justine Curgenven, maker of the brilliant 'This is the Sea' & 'This is Canoeing' DVD series is about to release a new DVD featuring Turner Wilson & Cheri Perry called, 'This is the Roll'.
Justine emailed earlier this week to let me know that our copies will be on the way as soon as the final dubs are done, hopefully some time in late March/early April.
The trailer of the DVD is above, & it has extra relevance for us on the East Coast as Cheri & Turner will be here around the release date giveing a series of instruction days in Tassie, Victoria, NSW & finally Queensland.
The boom in Greenland style rolling over the past year or so is palpable, not only is it way easier than it looks with the right instruction, it offers a tangent to other threads of the sport which complement sea skills. It's also a lot of fun…
You can pre-order the DVD through our online store  for $34.95 including freight nationally.

Valley Hatches - the original & still the best

Prompted by a bit of feedback from paddle mates & customers, it seems there is a small but noisy back channel campaign being run against the iconic Valley hatch here in Australia. We're not surprised about the source of most of the misinformation, but I thought I would set the record straight in a public way. As always when negative information is spun about a product, ask yourself the question, who benefits from any damage done to the brand? 
When sea kayaks were first mass produced, watertight bulkheads were a revolutionary safety feature but only as good as the hatch that was exposed to the full force of the elements. Valley  embraced  a pioneering idea employing a custom-built rim & hatch together, engineered with a unique 'double seal' as the best chance of maintaining a water tight compartment.
A kayak at sea is being pitched & rolled, sometimes at the same time, & a hatch needs to have some flexibility built into the design to accommodate this tremendous contrasting force. So successful is the Valley design at providing this seal that it's necessary to drill breather holes in the bulkheads to alleviate the air pressure within the compartment & prevent the hot air from within the cavity 'blowing' the hatch on a hot day. Of course no hatch system is perfect & it's folly to suggest that any one will remain intact for eternity, especially in the dynamic environment of the ocean.
The hatches are a rubber blend which has  undergone a number of subtle ingredient mix changes down the years aimed at combating the tendency of any form of rubber to succumb to UV light & degradation. Despite what is being pedalled, the current incarnation of the Valley hatch cover is the most UV stable Valley hatch produced to date.  If you hear that they have made a change to the mix which makes them more susceptible to UV, please consider it nothing more than a bit of malevolent mischief. Seriously, can you imagine a company with such lasting integrity making a decision to weaken an industry leading product? 
When we sell a Valley boat, we recommend a liberal application of a plasticiser like Armorall or T303 once every couple of  months to ensure the hatches live out a long & functional life. If you don't take this small maintenance precaution, you'll likely be facing a replacement far sooner. 

If you have a Valley hatch that seems to degrade prematurely, it's most likely an old hatch. Ask your manufacturer about the production date, because even when not exposed to UV, storage in hot warehouse conditions will create a shelf life for these & any other rubber based product.
As with all mass produced products, there have been the rare batch down through the years where one or two hatches seem to have degraded prematurely, but our experience with Valley since 2008, selling many hundreds of boats, would suggest this is less than 1%. It's sure isn't a replacement rate that has us questioning the integrity of the product, & is dead in line with rates of replacment due to UV degradation & other issues like delamination on the other hatch system we supply.

Our responses to negative industry campaigns are always the same. We won't ever be drawn into the double negative of berating another product to try to elevate our own, instead reinforcing the positive aspects of a particular craft or accessory, based on our own experiences of using these products in the most demanding environment of all, the sea.
If you'd like more detailed information about the Valley hatch system, please get in touch with Rob or Mark.

Friday 10 February 2012

Fridays from the Vault - Downwind on the Epic V10 Sport

My little stats page on Blogger clocked over to 300 posts last week. I noted the milestone & then spent a couple of hours during the day scrolling back through the posts from years gone by, seeing how much my own perception on some things has changed, & also how similar it is today to when I first started on other things.
The first post was a welcome in January 2008, about six months after we began as Expedition Kayaks. Back then I was an avid surf kayaker, paddled the Impex Currituck (a boat I still enjoy whenever I can get into a rare specimen), figured surf skis were for clubbies & too tippy, Greenland rolling was for beardie weirdies, and with a busy family life couldn't envisage getting away for that shining light on the hill, the one 'big' trip.
In the years since my interests have broadened considerably and I'm probably unrecognisable as a paddler from the one who got out a couple of times a month back in '08. It makes me wonder what I'll be into in four years time….
There were more than a few blog posts that brought a wry smile, so I thought I would put up a weekly reminder of some of the articles that I particularly enjoyed writing up.
The first of these comes from March 2010, and documents my first ever paddle on the open sea in my new Epic V10 Sport. My mate Stacka & I decided to take out skis out for two 'out-and-backs' from La Perouse, in some moderate seas whipped up by a couple of days of southerlies. Watching it with a discrening eye now it was pretty clearly a crash or burn experince, I'm pretty shaky, my stroke turns to all arms once the heat goes on, and there are about half a dozen safety trailing braces that save me from a swim, and my expression betrays my anxiety levels! But, you really only learn how to do this sort of paddling my doing…..this sort of paddling..!
The post is HERE, and the video from the paddle is below, this was one helluva fun ride….
Check back each Friday for more EK posts 'from the Vault'.

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...