Thursday 26 April 2012

A Review of the Valley Etain 17-3, by Sharon Betteridge

I recently took delivery of my new Valley Etain 17.3 and doesn’t she look great. I chose a golden yellow hull and combing, white deck and light aircraft grey seams. I figured if the kayak is upside down I’d need rescuing and I think the yellow hull has higher visibility. (Some of my previous kayaks have had this ‘upside down’ colour scheme for the same reason). Primarily I purchased her for longer trips, and after looking inside her hatches was pleasantly surprised to see how large they are and after doing a bit of a dummy pack at home I think she will carry a good load of expedition gear. To give you an idea about me, I am 49kg and 5foot 2inches. 
She has a lovely finish, some nice standard extras like the front ‘glovebox’ hatch on the foredeck to store snacks and a small dry bag. There is also a small stainless rod on the deck behind the seat easily accessible for towing and very handy as a spot to secure you kayak with a padlock if you need to. There are plenty of bungies on the fore and aft deck to store a spare paddle and hand pump, there is also an inbuilt compass mount, and I have ‘ear-marked’ a spot on the foredeck to put a sail fitting. 
The seat and back-band are the standard Valley. I find the back band is in a nice low position so it doesn’t get in the way of your forward stroke seating position, nor does it get in the way for back deck rolls. There is a space where you can add extra foam padding at the hips, but I haven’t found this necessary. I did add some thin foam thigh pads which have been very useful for edging and rolling.

She looks long and lean sitting in my hallway, and when I took her out on the water last Friday the Etain 17-3 didn’t disappoint at all. As usual the Valley seating was very comfortable for me.  After cinching in the back band a little and packing provisions for lunch and safety gear in the day hatch we were on our way. I felt comfortable all day and didn’t need to make any further adjustments. 
For me the front deck is narrow and allows a good forward stroke position without clashing the blades on the deck (as I am prone to do in wider decked kayaks) and there is room inside the cockpit to paddle in the “knees up” position to get the most power into my stroke. The kayak certainly felt fast and, on both the Friday and the Saturday when I took her out my paddling companions made comments about how my forward speed had increased somewhat. 
From the forward paddling ‘knees up’ position I can quickly and easily put my knees and thighs back under the combing for strokes requiring more body control with edging and leaning. This splayed position is very comfortable for me in these smaller volume kayaks compared to larger wider kayaks. 
On the open water around Jibbon Point and along the Royal National Park Coast the sea conditions were quite messy with swell waves and wind waves opposing each other and a reasonable rebound. The Valley Etain 17.3 handled it well and at all times I felt well looked after in her. When required, just a small edge using body movement would keep her going straight, and when combined with manoeuvring strokes she could easily turn to the left or right, or a full 360 degrees. 
After our picnic lunch at Little Marley we launched into small surf and then into a 10-15 knot north-easterly headwind for the return trip. Rob was surprised how easily I could manage to paddle into the breeze. I still can’t keep up with him (and probably never will), but he said he waited less time for me than any time in the past. 
On the return journey back into the Hacking River I caught runners easily and using a combination of power strokes and edges I was able to keep the 17-3 online. Every time Rob stopped to see where I was he couldn’t believe I was so close. 
Now before you hit your keyboard to send me an e-mail, I am not selling my still treasured Avocet LV. It’s probably a bit extravagant but it is nice to have two so different kayaks (one for day trips and instructing and the other for expeditions), both of which are a joy to own and paddle. 
**Sharon Betteridge is the third member of our EK team, and one of the most accomplished female paddlers in Australia, with Australian Canoeing instructor qualifications, & an expedition resume containing many major trips. These include various trips spanning the Queensland coast from the tropic of Capricorn to Torres Strait (2560kms), including Cape York, the Wet Tropics and Lucinda to Cooktown via the coast, the Whitsunday and Gloucester group, Mackay to Bowen via the outer Islands, & the Capricorn Coast. Sharon is a passionate sea paddler, having built her own timber Greenland style boats & paddled them extensively. She is a big believer in boat fit, if you’re a lady seeking serious advice on a kayak to fit you, & allow you to truly engage the wonderful sport of sea kayaking, contact Sharon.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Next Valley Shipment Closing Date

Our next Valley order is almost finalised, with the feature of our next shipment being the arival of the highly anticipated sea kayak playboat the Valley Gemini.

A trend we've noticed, exemplified by a fair proportion of the next lot being made this way, is the popularity of Valley's bolted sectional kayak, priced around the same as a top folder and just as transportable by air. For paddlers wanting hard shell reliability & the sort of performance they like in their home waters, while overseas or interstate, you can see the attraction.
Please let us know before April 30 if you'd like your very own creation custom manufactured by Valley.

Canberra Demo Day, May 6

Our annual lakeside demo day is on again, on Sunday week, May 6, on the lakeside at Yarralumla. We'll be bringing down the new Valley Etain range comprising the 17'7, 17'5, 17'3, as well as the Etain RM, the Nordkapp, Nordkapp LV, Rockpool Taran, North Shore Atlantic, Zegul 520 & Baidarka, Tahe Marine Reval, Wind 585 and the Greenland T. 
It's quite a lineup & a unique opportunity for ACT paddlers to try our entire range in the one place, one after the other. The demo day is always well attended, so please let us know in advance if you're planning on coming along. 
The venue is the same as in past years on the shore at Yarralumla Bay, the map is below.
Hope you see our Canberra mates down at the lake!

Thursday 19 April 2012

Cruising with Cheri & Turner

Cheri Perry & Turner Wilson are in town for the next few days running their brilliant instruction sessions on rolling & general Greenland paddling skills. 
After their first session on Tuesday Rob organised for Cheri & Turner to come out with his regular Tuesday night group for a paddle, to show them some of our spectacular Sydney cliff line & enjoy a bit of local paddling camaraderie.
Unfortunately a great forecast promising winds up over 25 knots didn't eventuate, and as the sea was running from the dead south we didn't even get our normal taste of rebound & bounce, but it did give us a chance to get up close into places like the Gap for a play.
It also meant that the short ride back with a very unidirectional & slow sea was a hoot, even if I would have preferred an hour of it, rather than an all-too-short 20 minutes or so!
I was fascinated watching Turner's elegant forward stroke - watch the video above & you'll see a brief slow-mo out off south head. I cornered Cheri & pinched her paddle once we got back inside the harbour & she gave me a very pointed 10 minute lesson on the canted stroke. I have often wondered about some of the tips I've been given about how it's supposed to work, & tend to tune out when I hear instructions that are interpretive at best - things like 'magical lifting force' etc. Cheri explained the bio mechanics so succinctly that I can see why these guys are the reference point for most people in the Greenland world when it comes to hearing some good straight talking about technique, leaving aside their revered rolling tuition.
I further enamoured myself to the Etain 17'5, ripping around in the little following waves in a boat I didn't really get at first, but would now call my boat of choice for any sort of rough water paddling. If you apply the 'never ever use a stern rudder rule' on a running sea, you'll soon find out either how good you are or how good your hull design is. This smooth new boat from Valley allows you to crank the bow around & keep chasing the troughs without having to resort to a big braking stroke. I'm thoroughly enjoying the responsiveness & feel of the boat & the great running speed I seem to be getting.
The torrential rain washed our boats & us down once we landed, & we then kicked back in the warm & dry Watson's Bay Hotel for a few beers & a counter dinner.
Cheri & Turner had a few ripping yarns about Greenland itself & specifically the competition week held there each year. I haven't Googled it, but see what 'Walrus Pull' turns up & you may well find what could be our next big paddle sport craze! Of course, here at Expedition Kayaks we never condone the actually pulling of a Walrus, but the Cheri & the Greenlanders are right into it….
Rob has been helping out Cheri & Turner with logistics etc & is so impressed with their technical breakdown, explanations & professional presentation, as good as anything he has seen. So, if you are looking to master the dark arts of the stick, or would like some targeted rolling coaching give Rob a hoy (best to call him on 0417 227 627), they have lessons spots available on Saturday (April 21).

Thursday 12 April 2012

New Stuff…...

We've updated our store range recently with a few products that we think will either appeal to your sense of fashion on the water, or will make things safer.
Here's a summary….
The Kavu Paddlers Chillba Hat is now available in a few, umm, unique colours & patterns. We've also dropped the price to $29.95, so even it sucks when you get it, at least it wasn't an expensive fashion mistake. I swear by these hats, have used them on every long day at sea for the past few years as they're cool in the heat, & can be cinched down tight when it's cold or the wind is blowing. They're still available in the plain colours too, if you're a boring bast*rd….
The Kavu Synthetic Strap Cap
We've got two new colours in the Kavu Synthetic Strap Cap. Negligible sun protection in the context of  paddling, but way cool apres paddle if you're looking for a bit of 'outdoors cred'. Like the Chillba, it's a very reasonable $29.95
The Kavu Nor'Wester Hat
The Kavu Nor' Wester hat is a polarising design. 88% of the population think it's appalling, almost a criminally unfashionable accessory which shouldn't even be seen among the often bizarre world of kayaking apparel, while the remaining 12% can see it's innate practicality, stiff brim, extended neck protection, hardy nylon construction etc etc. Never let it be said that here at Expedition Kayaks we don't cater to niches. The Nor' Wester is $19.95, available in navy & blue.
North Water Front Deck Tow
We've been testing this compact emergency tow from North Water, which they have designed as a PFD towline. While we're definitely not fans of the concept of a tow from a PFD for sea kayaking, we have been interested in using this tow from the front of the boat. It has a short shock cord tether for contact tows, as well as 15 feet of extension line for a backwards tow from a tricky spot like a rock garden. North Water explain their design concept HERE. We're describing it as a Front Deck Towline to discourage use from a PFD for sea kayakers, who are obviously our target (as opposed to the whitewater guys who can do as they please with it…), and they're now in stock, available for $95.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Surfing the Bundeena Bar

The Easter forecast showed a decent wave period from the ENE, and a lowish tide around mid afternoon Sunday. I grabbed a golden couple of hours & drove down to Port Hacking with my V10 Sport to see if the fickle Bundeena Bar was working. This is a bit of a mystery break in some respects, it's coded as a 'novelty spot' on surf websites, which means when everything else is being obliterated by a big southerly swell or East Coast Low, it's surfable for the board riders. 
For a kayaker, it mostly provides the sort of gentle, barely breaking waves that you see in my video above. They're slow, easy & as consequence-free as you ever get on a paddle craft. 
On a decent day however, it can be epic & every bit as demanding as a beach break. 

Just after my eldest daughter was born in 2004, I went down in my old Inuit Classic for a surf on a day with a honking westerly, a genuine two metre long-pulse swell, and not another boat or surfer in sight. I had been doing a lot of surf kayaking in the years previous, and was very confident of my own abilities in the surf, even though I hadn't been in a sea kayak for a while (& consigned to the hurt locker the feeling of being thrashed in a boat with a much longer waterline for a breaking wave to grab & toss around). I cracked a couple of great long fast rides, then got a bit cocky & tried a surf-kayak turn & got well & truly dusted. Despite a super-reliable roll, I couldn't even get the boat to begin to rotate from it's capsized position, so had to wet exit. 
The westerly pushed me & the boat back into the crunch zone & I held on while I got a couple of good floggings, slowly heading back over the break & out into the wider bay. I had three or four goes at a re-entry & roll & inexplicably still couldn't get the thing to move, tried a cowboy which was always doomed, and then watched the Bundeena Ferry chug past too embarrassed to ask for help even though I was cold & starting to tire, and the next stop was Jibbon Bombora, at best.
In a moment of rare clarity after another failed re-entry & roll I relaised I was trying to roll a hard-chined kayak against a twenty knot wind, so set up for an offside roll, which wind-assisted was successful first go. To give you an idea of how the cold can affect your thinking I didn't even consider turning the boat around & going to my strong side, which would have been a lot easier!
A chastened paddler then slowly paddled the couple of kilometres back to the beach at Bonnievale where as penance I forgot to pack my bestest surf paddle & lost it forever!

Thankfully, Sunday was the opposite, long, clear runs with just a couple of other guys out there on skis & outriggers, all waiting our turn & enjoying the blissful conditions. I'm reacquainting myself with my ski after concentrating pretty hard on training for the One Degree South paddle, and enjoying the freedom & simplicity of the boat, as I always have. We're planning on getting the cameras rigged up for an epic Bundeena Day as soon as one is in the offing, but for now enjoy it the way it mostly is, a cruisy play spot, one of my antidotes to the modern world…..

Thursday 5 April 2012

Photo of the year…?

Rob Mercer got this shot on Tuesday night in some thumping swell off Blue Fish Point along the Sydney cliffs. I haven't seen many better action shots in rough water, taken whilst balancing in some heavy rebound, featuring Fernando up close & personal with the Sydney sandstone.
An unbeleivable photo…...

Wednesday 4 April 2012

The Balanced Boater: Swell

The Balanced Boater: Swell: I sent out the call for starters for the evening paddle this week with the disclaimer "pond like conditions and a 1.5metre Easterly swell."...

This is the Roll on the way…!

Justine Curgenven has just sent our first fifty copies of the This is the Roll DVD. The small army of people with forward orders can expect delivery just after the Easter Break.

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...