Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Balanced Boater: The Spice of Life - Autumn Winter 2012

Rob has just put up a series of great pics from his past few weeks paddling and instruction. Well worth a look.

The Balanced Boater: The Spice of Life - Autumn Winter 2012: Challenging and erratic weather enjoyed with paddling companions new and old; special overseas guests; a diverse training calendar; a weeke...

Friday 22 June 2012

Winter Solstice Paddling - Beating the Chill

The winter solstice dawns, Botany Bay
Yesterday marked the astrological turning point for Sydney's year, from now on the days get longer & winter should theoretically have thrown it's worst at us. The reality is that July around these parts is the coldest month, and the water temps hit rock bottom (13-14C) about now & carry through being cold until late September, sometimes longer (readers from less temperate zones please fell free to throw stuff at the computer at this point)….
I get lots of questions from paddlers about how best to beat the cold, and the answer isn't a simple one. Unfortunatley, how you dress for winter paddling comes down to a few factors, essentially revolving around the sort of paddling you do.
On my ski I am out for an hour tops, usually early morning, going hard and operating at a high metabolic rate. I need cold weather gear that limits my exposure to immersion, but doesn't allow me to overheat. I've devised a pretty good set of kit to facilitate these fairly specific requirements. On top I wear an NRS Hydroskin Paddle Jacket, with a skin tight merino T underneath.
NRS Hydroskin Paddle Jacket
This is a flush garment, it moves with me creating no rub or chafe spots, & while it's not a wind barrier as such the combination of double laminate Hydroskin & the merino under layer means I seem to warm up to exercise level in cold temps, and don't overheat. 
NRS Boundary Waterproof Socks
Down below I wear a pair of NRS Kicker Remix Drypants, combined with NRS Boundary Waterproof Socks. 
NRS Kicker Remix Drypants
These two garments in concert are dry, which is almost an obscene luxury on a ski where I tend to get very cold feet and legs with water constantly splashing into the footwell and the wind doing it's nasty work.
Early morning ski training paddle, Dolls Pt, Sydney.
On my sea kayak, I paddle in groups, tend to paddle 'wet' in rough water with plenty of immersion & do a lot of stopping, waiting, and in winter that means prolonged exposure to wet combined with chilling winds. What I wear on my legs is far less important as I have the protection of a decked cockpit, so I gravitate between Reed Long Sleeve pants for their complete barrier protection, and NRS Hydrosilk Long Pants for their compression. Up top I wear the same tight merino t-shirt, and a Reed cag, although if I had an unlimited budget I'd also like to have an NRS Stampede Cag as it's lighter & probably more suited to the less harsh months of the Sydney winter. 
It's worth considering what you wear in the colder months, and how it relates to what you do. My rule of thumb about dressing right is simple. If you get cold on the water you've under dressed. If you get cold within minutes of getting off the water you've also probably under dressed, shivering while you're strapping the boat on the roof is not a good sign.
Dressing for the swim is a perfect ideal, but there are ways to mitigate the water temps without blowing a gasket once you start exerting yourself.
It goes without saying, when you're paddling solo or in water rough enough to make assistance from group members either dangerous or unlikely, you should err on the side of safety & dress strictly for the swim.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Skiing with the Clubbies

The NSW Sea Kayak Club recently did a survey which showed a fair amount of latent interest in ski paddling, a factor which I found surprising considering the previous parallel universes in which the two sports have mostly existed.
Ian on debut, Tony watching on....
One of the club leaders, Tony Murphy, sent around a friendly email asking if anyone was interested in doing a ski-only club paddle, a chance to try each others boats, paddles & swap training & technique tips & tricks.
 The guys heading across the remnant storm swells to North Head
The take-up was pretty strong, but Sydney's wild weather conspired to reduce the numbers of those willing to take on the chill without a deck covering-one's-lower-half to just four.
So Mark, Ian (paddling a ski for the first time), Tony & I did a cruisy 18km on Sunday, leaving Rose Bay, heading out towards North Head, back down with the swell towards Dobroyd Head, into Balmoral for a coffee, then back to Rose Bay.
Discussing a down-sea line from the middle of the heads
We had some pretty varied conditions! Rose Bay was clam flat with a Nor' Westerly head/beam wind to about 10 knots, which swung nearly behind us as we crossed from South Head. The remnant swells from the preceding Big Wednesday produced almost unreadable wave patterns as we paddled further out into the heads, and the wind intensified & swung more to our beams as we battled across to Washaways. Despite a big volume of moving water, you just feel the hydraulics underneath you from the swell & confusion, there was bugger all going our way, regardless of what direction we pointed our noses.
Schroeds cracking a runner
We thought there'd definitely be a wave of some description off Grotto Point, but it had all of the energy knocked out of it & was barely breaking.
A juvenile Albatross crosses my line
Schroeds & his mate the Gannet
Tony & Ian
Although the plan was to paddle non-stop, ostensibly to keep warm, we couldn't resist the coffee houses of Balmoral Beach & traipsed gallons of water in among the landed gentry sipping their Sunday morning Latte's. Only fellow kayakers would for an instant have considered our presence sat so civilised at the table to be anything other than bizarre.
Sunny Balmoral
Ian & Mark swung by Neilsen Park on the trip back to swap skis, and after a few early wobbles Ian handled Mark's elite Red 7 like a pro, maybe a slightly tense pro...
A top morning had by all, not my typical short sharp painful hour's ski blast but more a sea kayaking-style cruise, and lots of fun.
Tony has promised more events for the NSWSKC 'Ski Bums' so clubbies keep an eye on the calendar.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Tiderace Sea Kayaks - Landing Soon

We are pleased to announce the impending arrival of our next big brand of international sea kayaks, Tiderace. Tiderace are the creation of British paddler Aled Williams, and have quickly gaining a foothold around the world as boats of terrific quality & innovative, modern design.
We've been speaking with Aled developing a range for our paddling scene, & are about to finalise an order for the Xcite, Xplore and the new Pace 18.
We know there are paddlers out there who have been waiting for the chance to order a Tiderace boat, so please contact us within the next 7 days if you'd like to include it in the order landing in September.
We're pleased to once again be able to offer the Australian market a brand of sea boats which challenge paddlers to develop their skills, and Tiderace designs certainly hold the promise of uniqueness and performance.
You can see the full Tiderace range on their website HERE.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Paddle Fitness & Safety

May has been a bit of a shocker. I've been laid low for almost the entire month with 'Kiddie Flu', one of those bugs your three year old picks up at school which not unlike an electric current seems to amplify in severity as it goes through a bigger host. I've had my head stuck in accounting software for long hours trying to restructure an entire business ordering system, which I would have to list among the dirtiest jobs I've done. The sad & sorry casualty has been the paddle fitness I've so studiously built over the past eighteen months.
I managed to swing a couple of hours free of kids parties, swimming lessons, school working bees, lawn mowing, you name it, and this morning went down to Wally's Wharf at Port Hacking for a re-acquaintance paddle on my ski.
It was cold, pretty miserable, the sea looked oily flat, but when these chances arrive on a weekend I grab 'em. 
I've decided to start training with a larger wing blade, so unsheathed my Epic Large Wing for the first time, hooked up the GPS & hit the water. 
I find that after a few weeks off the water I don't wobble around or lose form or technique, the water sense stays, but when I took off after a big cruiser that was throwing out a fat wake it was only a few hundred metres before I started sucking in the big ones and had to back off. I turned the corner & headed north to Cronulla in some surprisingly weighty, but far apart swell, and again just lacked the conditioning to chase the subtle lines of fast runners that were inviting me so cheerfully.
Bugger this, I landed through the surf at South Cronulla & bought a coffee, sitting on the sand in the rain watching some brilliant little kids learning to surf on a day that wasn't the slightest bit bleak for them.
My run home was into a roaring Spring tide which had me puffing, but the payoff was a wave just starting to form up on the Bundeena Bar, which I hooked into half a dozen times before paddling home.
All up about 14kmh, a very gentle moving average speed just above 9kmh, and while I'm writing this I don't feel any less buggered than I did after paddling 70km a few weeks ago in one big stretch from Cronulla to Bushrangers Cove.
I have a few things going for me in this ocean paddling caper. I have experience and judgement built over a long time learning the art of paddling on the sea, skills & instruction qualifications, even a certificate which says so, but today at least I was nowhere near the same paddler I can be.
I am reminded of the importance of keeping yourself in decent shape if you are serious about challenging yourself in the sea. It's a simple thing to fall back on hubris, 'I've done it before I'll be fine', or even to kid yourself that you're in better shape than you are, but the sea will quickly reveal a lack of conditioning. Fatigue in all it's guises remains the single most dangerous enemy of the sea kayaker.
I enjoy my winter fitness paddling, something like the training for last years North Reef trip remains one of the most satisfying few months of preparation & enjoyment in all the years I've been doing this. To me it's like a footy player establishing base of fitness in the off-season, which you can then cash in on once the sun starts to shine again.
I'm hoping the flu fairy & the MYOB goblin can let me go for now so I can get back into some sort of shape!

Friday 1 June 2012

Fridays From the Vault - May 2010, Rob Mercer, Through an Instructor's Eye

Here's a nice photo blog post from a couple of years back, featuring pics of Rob's adventures with his training business, The Balanced Boater, and the beautiful music of Sarah Blasko.

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...