Thursday 31 January 2013

Valley Gemini Surfing

As the storm systems dovetailing off Tropical Cyclone Oswald reached Sydney, they've generated a decent easterly swell, and yesterday Rob took the opportunity to head to the bar at Bundeena with the promise of a fat & chunky break.
On arrival it was a full tide so the waves were long & fast, but as the tide began to run out they steepened up into some great overhead waves which provided another dimension for our latest toy, the Valley Gemini SP.
Rob's cheery report on the three hour session was muffled, I think he was a bit buggered, but the general feedback was that as the waves got bigger & faster, so did the Gemini start doing more & more exciting things. 
We've steadily churned through our stock of this mighty little play boat, selling it about equally between those who want to 'go big' and those who like the idea of a shorter, lighter, nimble tourer for gentler waters, made with the care & attention you expect from Valley (for under $3000).
I had it out on a Tuesday night paddle earlier this month & lapped up the playfulness of the boat in some nice little following seas off Sydney. Because it's so short, it slots into the chop & kicks around from steep section to steep section, whipping along & following the alignment of your shoulders to the next fast bit. Conditions were pretty ideal, but I had no trouble scooting alongside John in his Taran, offering some advice & tips on catching the runners.
 The Valley Gemini ST, arriving early April 2013
In April we land the touring version, the Gemini ST, one we hadn't really contemplated until we saw how innovative the little SP is.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Video - Gazza & Sundo Paddle Noosa

A short video sampling the variety of great paddling on a 16km cruise along the Noosa National Park coastline.
Gary Forrest is in his Rockpool Taran, I'm in my borrowed Epic V10 Elite.
I hope it looks like we were having as much fun as we actually were, a top day.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Another Paddle with the Forrest

This year was our turn to do the pilgrimage up to Noosa to hang out with Nicole's parents, tough gig!
Like thousands of Australian families we pack the car with kids & summer toys & head north to the golden sands & sunshine of the north.
I was lucky enough this year to wangle a loaner V10 from Tony at Epic in Sydney, a black elite carbon layup, like the one you see on the posters. I haven't paddled a V10 before, having developed my ski paddling over the past couple of years in my trusty V10 Sport, so I was pretty happy to get my hands on one to test out on the clear & varied waters that characterise Noosa Heads.
Another little tradition when I come up here is to organise a paddle with my mate Gary Forrest, the top instructor up on the Sunshine Coast and one of the few to have done the crossing out to Lady Elliot Island. Gary runs an instruction business out of his home waters in Moolloolaba, and is a rough water paddler of the highest calibre.
This year we met up on the river with the intention of breaking out over the bar, and paddling along the National Park coastline and into Alexandra Bay, a 16km return trip with enough fun features and point breaks to amuse us.
Gary took along his Rockpool Taran, the one he, err, bought off me for a rather low price, three quarters of the way through a lively night at the Currumbin Surf Club. It was no longer purple with yellow starfish, instead now in Gazza's customary all white colour way. It looked crap...
Punching out through the bar was so uneventful we decided to turn around & catch a wave back inside & do it again, second time around we very nearly got thumped.

The paddle out into Laguna Bay is one of life's pleasures, azure waters, warm almost to the point of not being refreshing, a brilliant sunny day & the volcanic headlands that on their day present some of the world's finest point breaks.
We turned the corner at Hell's Gates where a small rebound was chopping up the water surface, enough to make life tougher for me in my new ski. I was grateful to clear the mess & turn & catch a great little wave into the beach at 'A-Bay'.
After a short breather we broke out again, this time watching a few big sets out the back before picking a lull & scootling back out to sea.
We then ran back along the cliffs riding runner after runner, poking our noses into the famous breaks at Tea Tree, Car Park & Main Beach along the way, before one last long ride through the bar.
A great paddle with a great fella, I wish I could do it every day. I've cut a fun video which you can see below.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

The Botany Bay Game

Our warehouse here in Marrickville is only 10 minutes drive from the shores of Botany Bay, a wide open Bay in the heart of Sydney open to all manner of wind & conditions.

A favourtite game of mine is to watch the forecasts for a coming southerly front, head down to the bay when I see the weaher stations just south of Sydney starting to cop it, paddle across to the south as far as I can in what is usually either a tailwind or reasonably benign stuff, then gun it back across the bay with the frontal system up my hooter.

When I get it right, the southerly buster will whip up enough of a sea to let me sit on wave after steep, short wave and ride clean across the few miles to my launch spot in no time.

It's not the sea, so the waves don't have any power or ocean speed to them, but if the wind is strong enough, and southerlies usually hit my part of Sydney like a freight train, it produces steep little runners that are a technical test as you zig zag around from face to face.

Yesterday was one of the hottest days recorded in Sydney, at one stage my car thermo measured 45C, with brutal westerlies drawing the inferno in the west of the continent down on us urban softies.

A big 'buster' was forecast for the early hours of this morning, so even though I wouldn't be able to play my game of getting a free ride in both directions, the bay would still be pretty lively for a slog out & a blast back.

So it proved, obs during the hour I was out ranged from 20-26 knots, the sea state on the bay was short, steep & fun, and the forty minutes spent grafting out to my turnaround was roundly justified by the 20 minutes of downwind bliss which brought me home. The speed graph is below, never underestimate what a 25 knot breeze does to your boat speed!

The bay provides a reasonably safe environment for learning the art of downwind paddling, with a lee shore no more than five or six kilometres away and waves that rarely get above head height. This is my typical surf ski paddle, a short sharp hour, usually pretty opportunistic, plenty of sweat, but equal amounts of cheers….
The trace of my paddle is HERE

Tuesday 8 January 2013

The Greenland T Returns….

We've just taken delivery of a new shipment of Greenland T's, in the brand new Red/White colourway (with a white hull).
There are just two available, a fantastic 'smile on the dial' kayak that has broad appeal, oodles of stabilty and looks that turn heads, for $2990.
Here's a video from last year showcasing some of the capabilities of this boat, both out on the ocean and messing around with some rolling.
We have a demo Greenland T if you would like to arrange a test paddle.

Rob Mercer Reviews the Tiderace Xplore L

Mark in the Xplore L

I believe a good kayak test needs to be spread over enough time to acquire a few scratches, overcome the novelty factor and develop some familiarity with the nuances of the design. It should involve sea, swell, wind and surf and ideally it should also include watching others paddle the boat so you can check your own impressions with theirs.

The following review is based on paddling the Xplore L a number of times over the last couple of months but is by no means exhaustive. I have paddled it in seas to 2m with winds of 20-25knots, swells to 2.5 metres and rebounding waves and small surf.

I weigh 86kgs and measure 188cm and find the boat trims well with around 5kgs for a day trip and yet still feels comfortably buoyant with around 30kg of extra camping gear. Others who tried the kayak have been in the 75 to 95 kg range and all are experienced paddlers.

As with all the Tiderace boats I have so far test paddled, The Xplore L has the trademark high foredeck to allow for a “knees up” seating position and a solid, minimalist seat and back band that provide a good starting point for individual paddlers to fine tune. If our demo boat didn’t need to fit so many different paddlers I would add hip pads to keep me from sliding across the seat in surf and when rolling, but because the boat is predictable on edge and rolls so easily it worked ok for me as a loose fit, straight off the shelf.
The foam on the seat is thin enough and hard enough not to be too grippy so proper rotation is still possible.

As with all other quality boats in our range, paddlers rated the seat, thigh brace and footpeg setup everywhere from extremely comfortable to indifferent and given that skilled kayakers come in so many shapes and sizes this is hardly surprising. What is noteworthy is that all paddlers felt they could adapt the existing sturdy generic setup to their personal shape if it was their regular kayak.

The Xplore range comes in four sizes and although this is the “L” model it really doesn’t look or feel bulky. From the cockpit you could easily be mistaken into thinking you are paddling a smaller boat than the stats suggest with a narrow contoured foredeck that allows for a close catch and a high angle stroke.
Reflective Bungees and 6mm decklines are sturdy and practical and the boat even has a gloss finish on the external seam. Spare paddles can be stowed fore or aft with tensioners on the bungees to cinch down splits.

Tiderace have a really neat set of numerical indicators on their website covering details like the amount of V in the hull’s cross-section along with rocker; factors that are easy to quantify along with numbers for the more subjective qualities of stability and speed.

Tiderace themselves rate the boat as a moderate V (a rating of 2 with three being deep V and 1 being shallow), rocker is rated as a low with 2 out of 5 (5 being heavily rockered).
With the boat on flat ground the low rocker and deep V are quite apparent and both are obvious when compared with the more banana shaped and rounder hull of my trusty Nordkapp.

Despite these features I found the boat surprisingly responsive, exhibiting a predictable, smooth transition from straight tracking to tight edged turns.
With a little edging practice I located a ‘sweet spot’ that delivered the maximum turn for edge and it occurred when the boat was still at a comfortable angle of heel; beyond this point any additional edge was wasted and the kayak just seemed to track on its gunwales.

Unlike some low rocker, deep V boats, the Xplore L is not a handful to turn upwind even in moderate conditions. It has a deck profile that balances windage but still provides enough buoyancy for bigger daysw

When paddled to windward the Xplore cuts into the wave crests without excessive stalling or pounding, providing an efficient but wetter ride than my Nordkapp.
In multidirectional wave patterns and cross chop the L is very smooth if a little subdued, but then again this also translates into “reassuring” when paddling unfamiliar waters.

In following seas the boat is capable, accelerating smoothly and holding an excellent line at a brisk cruising speed. This is when personal style and taste in boats becomes an issue, personally I prefer a looser tracking boat as a fast cruiser for day tripping and especially when chasing steep runners and surfing small waves but I would really enjoy the efficiency of this boat if I had miles to cover, especially with a load on board.

Here's a video of a day out recently where I tested the boat in some moderate chop & winds to 20knots.

Regarding stability and speed I would rate the boat as being more stable than the 2 out of 5 it is given by tiderace but broadly agree with the 4 out 5 speed rating on their website.

In considering the above it is worth noting stability and speed are very “fluid concepts” when applied to real life paddling in waves. Mathematical models can give you numbers for “resistance to heeling” and “speed vs resistance” but don’t easily capture how the boat runs on a wave face or remains predictable in spiky wave patterns.

Despite being one of the narrower boats in our range the Xplore L is steady in a wide range of sea states supporting good posture and form in the rough stuff.  It didn’t feel twitchy when upright and the transition to an edged position is predictable with good feedback well before the boat reaches the point of no return.

For me the L sits nicely in the niche between ultra modern ski inspired designs and the classic British style boats.

It is not as out and out fast as the Pace 18 as playful as the Xcite or as lively as my Nordkapp but offers an elegant balance of performance features to the sea skilled paddler looking for an efficient all-rounder.

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...