Friday 28 June 2013

Smashing it Up on the Bar

Yesterday's forecast promised 2-4m dead easterly swell pulsing between 10-12 seconds, big & strong enough to get right into our favourite bar break & produce some fat & rideable waves, on the outgoing tide.
Mark H, Matty, Rob & myself met at Wally's & paddled across to the normal take off, only to find it too full & fast for us to ride.
We spotted whitewater off towards Bonnievale Beach & swung across onto a stupendous steep wave. The tide was running out so hard with the combination of springs & some serious rainfall into the river that even our screaming rides were only registering 10kmh on the GPS, probably the closest thing we'll ever get around Sydney to a tidal race.
For about half an hour the steep impressive faces gave us lovely clean waves to carve around on, and then moments after I declared them loudly to be 'big powder puffs' they started to hit us a bit harder.
That's when the fun started…
Here's a great sequence of Rob outgunning a nice wave, you can see his 'Petrel Cam' persepctive in the video above.

Cracked it 
 Bottom turn

Saturday 22 June 2013

Paddling, what's to love...?

Inspired by a wonderful final column in today's Sydney Morning Herald from iconic sports journo Richard Hinds, I've put together a list of the thinks I love about paddling....

The snap of my spray deck as I clip it on before pushing off the beach.
The agonising pause as you look down a wave and realise you've probably taken off on the wrong spot.
Rebound, especially when it's industrial strength rebound.
The look on the face of someone who's paddled out into sea conditions they couldn't have imagined ever being in the middle of, when they actually start to enjoy it (usually a short time lag between getting into it, and the enjoyment part).
The sun rising over a calm sea.

The sun rising over an absolute cranking sea, or at least a vague idea of when its rising, because you can't see it. Spray, wind, everywhere mayhem, and the day is only starting.
The unforgettable feeling of commitment and awe when you look around for the first time, and realise you can't see land in any direction.

Paddling for hours and hours in a big following sea.

Whales. Wow.

The bizarre emotion when you realise you've landed through the surf and haven't had to pay the ferry man. Relief or joy? Discuss....
Thinking you're pretty sh*t hot, and moments later getting sucked clean out of your cockpit by a breaking wave that feels like its going to strip the flesh off your bones (see above).
The warped paddler humour that comes only after you get done over by hubris.....again....

Smugglers on the ski, combined with a well angled GoPro.
Teasing Mercer about his hat, among other things.

Cracking your first roll in the surf.

Seeing a mate crack their first roll in the surf, a very empowering moment.
Ninety second rides on the Bundeena Bar.

Beating my Thursday morning time by four seconds. In fact, beating anything....

The shared satisfaction of planning and executing something big (or not so big) with your mates.
The unique cacophony of a sea cave.
North Reef.
The unrivalled ability of the sea to make you feel very, very, very small.

The instant gratification that comes with a real adventure sometimes only being a mile from your put-in. No plane trips, air fares, or weeks off work required.
Most importantly, the people with whom I'm lucky enough to get out and experience it all. What's any experience if you can't share it with others...?

And finally, the realisation that I could go on for hours with this list. Maybe you can help me out in finishing it....?

**I'll update any Facebook contributions on the blog some time over the next week or so. Our Facebook page is HERE, it seems a lot easier to make comments there than through the clunky blog procedure!

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Winter Has Arrived, But What to Wear….?

This week in Sydney we copped a concerted southerly weather system, which seems to have ended the quite extraordinary run of unseasonably warm weather we have enjoyed throughout Autumn & early Winter.
On cue, we've had a lot of enquiries about suitable paddling gear for the colder months. We stock a range of paddle-specific clothing designed to keep out the cold in varying degrees and ways, and it can be a bit confusing getting the mix right for your own particular paddling.
I break my own paddling into two distinct sub groups when deciding what is the best gear for me.
The first is my fitness paddling, or my days on the open sea with a small group of mates, where each of us is out to make ground and work hard.
On these days, despite the cold air temps, my biggest problem with cold weather gear is actually overheating. I tend to layer up with a skin tight Merino layer under an NRS Hydroskin or Disco Shirt, with a throw over jacket like the NRS Endurance handy in case there is an extended stop or unexpected landing. The sub-group of this category is my ski paddling, where Reed or Hydroskin Long pants provide a thermal barrier to wind & the elements, and pairing them with the excellent SealSkinz Socks adds some dry, warm luxury to the experience! I actually find my legs cop the brunt of the cold when I'm paddling my ski, especially with the lower half often wet from waves washing over the gunwale.
SealSkinz Socks, NRS Hydroskin Pants, Reed Pre Bent Long Pants
The reason I go with the Hydroskin is that it provides a degree of wind protection as long as I'm working, without having a thermal effect. I reserve the barrier qualities of the Disco shirt for filthy days where I know I'm going to be very wet, or when I'm going for a surf. I'm yet to see a non-barrier garment that stops wind, but the Disco shirt is the closest I've come across, with the only points of ingress being the arm gussets, kept supple to prevent chafing.

This clothing is fantastic in a performance context, but especially in the case of the Hydroskin, not so great at stopping the wind dead.
So, for my second broad category of paddling, open peer groups, club paddles or instruction days, I tend to skew my clothing towards the wind barrier end of the spectrum. Our Reed gear from the UK is the best paddle kit I've ever come across for stopping the chilling effects of wind. Most days around Sydney, something as simple as a Reed Long Sleeved Shirt with a thermal or Merino layer underneath will do the trick. On the bad days, or occasions when you're going to do a lot of sitting still (rock gardening, group instruction days etc), the Reed Touring Cag is positively bombproof.
Crappy day….Reed Cag..!
Our NRS Stampede Cag is another excellent piece of kit, drier than the Reed and made from a lighter fabric, which give it a few more, warmer months of use in our climate.

I think it's important to have a think about how you go in the cold before you commit to expensive cold weather kit. Consider how you paddle (cruising, busting it, or like me a mix), how often you actually feel the chill when you're out on the water and where (hands, feet, torso etc), and then of course the consequences of a long swim anytime around now in what you'd normally be wearing. And that should be a very serious little moment of reflection….
My best indicator that I've got my dress wrong is when I'm shivering as I tie on my boat at the end of the paddle. I figure shivering is a pretty bad indicator of the lack of a safe margin against the dangers of cold water & wind.
The garments mentioned throughout this article are all available through our ONLINE STORE. We've flogged them, busted them used & abused them in all manner of awful ways, and we stand behind them in the toughest environment of all. Please contact us if you're after pointed advice. 

Monday 17 June 2013

Valley & Rockpool Custom Cut Off This Week

Our order for the next Valley & Rockpool container is finalised. If you're after a brand spanking new Valley or Rockpool kayak, made in your colours, your layup, even with your own custom starfish, please contact us this week.
(Rockpool pics by Mike Webb)

This shipment will land in September.

Thursday 13 June 2013

John, Sharon & Rob do Broughton Island

Rob has written this brief summary of his trip out to Broughton Island last weekend with Sharon & John.

Standing at the lookout above Fingal Bay we still couldnt see any evidence of the Northerly headwind that was forecast to blow all day at around 15-20knots. A fat 2 meter swell was breaking across the Fingal Spit "zipper style", but in deep water there was only an occasional ruffle on an otherwise glassy sea. In the distance Broughton island faded in and out of focus in a light mist.

After rounding Yacaaba we cruised north waiting for the stronger headwind to arrive, but it never happened. 
Our Campsite offered stunning views across the cove but our first mild starlit night gradually gave way to a fierce south easterly wind and pouring rain,  In the  morning the very versatile John set up the tarp as a shelter just in time for a lazy hot breakfast and espresso coffee and we were all so glad to be there with another day up our sleeve that the dramatic shift in weather did nothing to dampen our spirits. 

Managing expectations is often the biggest challenge when heading out to Broughton Island.  In the local scene everyone knows "Broughton" is home to: huge sharks, prolific whale sightings, great camping, beautiful walks through coastal heath with stunning vistas at every corner, abundant fish life hiding in the rock gardens, a heavily indented coastline inviting exploration and of course, the thrill of arriving there by kayak with the Iconic Looking Glass Rock and Little Broughton Island guarding the entrance to the refuge of Esmerelda Cove.
So as we enjoyed our cosy retreat amidst the conditions with the tarp slapping and straining, I wondered how many of the Island's many treats we would enjoy during the rest of our visit.
The  video above answers most of my questions, but we left out the capture and consumption of several delicious fish and gratefully did not have to tick the box for huge sharks. It also empasises the extra effort required to manouvre fully loaded boats in tight spaces!

Rob Mercer.

Monday 10 June 2013

A Royal Challenge Indeed

Cue 'Chariots of Fire'.... Running the last stretch to the end of the weekly BBAC Club Trial
Last November I pulled alongside a guy paddling his V10 back into Gunammatta Bay from the Hacking, as I was heading out for a run along the coast. He was struggling a bit into the tide and told me it was his last hit out before the Royal Challenge, a 21km paddle split between a 21km trail run along the picturesque Lady Carrington Drive in the Royal National Park.
He asked me if I'd be interested and straight away I shot back, 'nah I'm a paddler, never been a runner'. Turns out the tired dude was Steve, the race organiser, so I offered some prizes in the way of sponsorship, as we're always happy to get behind events with a paddling element supporting such a worthy cause (the KIDS Foundation).
I went home and thought about my reflex answer, and while it's true even in my days playing rugby I was far more likely to run over someone than around them, I figured it was a bit of a cop-out to decide that 'I don't do that'! You know the story, Dragons don't dance, knights don't knit, witches don't play hopscotch etc etc....
So, for the first half of this year I've been slowly toughening up my 'undercarriage', running as little as 2-3km to begin with, trying to acclimate my hips, quads and joints to the joys of high impact, repetitive strain running. Running types I've spoken to have all said I'll be aerobically fit enough &, to my likely detriment, mentally tough enough to finish a half marathon along a bush track, but I'll probably hurt myself in the process unless I build very slowly. All the warnings about knees, Achilles tendons, hip flexors, even hammies have been heeded.
My kids run down at Brighton Beach Athletics Club each winter Sunday morning, and last season I simply turned up with my coffee and watched. This year I've joined the club and have started the program which will see me hopefully doing the 12km trials by September. Seven weeks in & I am now completing a weekly 6km time trial with the club.
I'm off the near front mark in the handicap race, and yesterday for the first triumphantly gunned down the runner in front of me at the 4km mark, only realising when we got back to the finish (with him coming hard at me again) that he was about 70! It's humbling to be the guy who is clearly identified as the beginner, and equally humbling to be quietly offered sound advice about breathing, running style, programs for building strength etc from the other club runners at the post race warm down.
One of the things Rob always impresses on me is to try to remember what it's like to start out at something, because you're a better instructor for it. So far I'm not having to try too hard when it comes to running.
I enjoy being outside my comfort zone and trying on new physical and mental challenges to an end. The goal is always what motivates me, but the spin offs are staying healthy and fit. Give me a paddle event or trip to work towards, and in a month I can be fit and ready to go. This running caper will take a lot more commitment and has already be a harder road to hoe, just great.

If anyone else is thinking about taking on the Royal Challenge, details of the race can be found on their excellent website HERE. For paddlers not so keen on committing to such a bloody big run through the bush, I have about half a dozen very competitive club runners who are interested in doing the run leg, in the teams event with a paddler. The race is on November 23, so all those Hawkesbury paddlers should still be on top of their game for a shorter challenge. I'm secretly waiting for a paddling mate to step up & have a crack as well, that will be all the motivation I need to get really serious about it all!
Expedition Kayaks are once again sponsors of the event.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

First Aid Refresher

Rob & I need to have up-to-date first aid qualifications as part of our Australian Canoeing Sea Instructor qualifications, and by coincidence our current certificates were both due to expire this month.
Sharon managed to find a little gem in Eden Findlay, a local emergency & first aid trainer who runs his Senior First Aid course out of a legendary local watering hole of which I have particularly warm & hazy memories, the Clovelly Hotel.
I've heard long & mournful whining over the years about the folly of us sea paddlers having to update our ticket every three years, and it's generally the single factor that causes people to allow their leader, guide or instructor qualifications to lapse.
I have a more cheerful view on it all, having had to use my first aid skills in two life threatening situations over the past few years. The first (link HERE) was a successful resuscitation of a poor dude who had stopped breathing and was for all money as dead as Julius Cesar. The second was just last year in Melbourne helping a young girl out of an horrific car crash and making sure she didn't lapse into shock.
Both experiences left me feeling very empowered, in stark contrast to the onlookers present who were mostly in a state of shock themselves, with a few admitting afterwards to their shame that they 'just wouldn't have known what to do'.
Eden was brilliant, tuning into the water-specific emergencies with which we are most likely to deal & tailoring the day to our needs, whilst still running through the full range of the First Aid spectrum. As always, in three years since my last refresher things have changed. It's now optional to perform the 'mouth to mouth' part of CPR, with chest compressions the overwhelmingly more important element of the first aid. We got to play with Epi Pens, and will now carry them in our first aid kits in the kayak. We'll probably also invest in a resuscitation bag. Jellyfish sting treatment has changed (again…!)
To top off all of the great info Eden provided he also shouts you a ripper of a counter lunch & a cold schooner. It was the most lucid & enjoyable day I've spent in the Cloey Hotel ever!
If you're thinking about doing a first aid course or a refresher with some mates, please consider Eden's services. His company is EFI Training & you can contact him at
And finally, don't just consider it, do it. A community full of first aid trained citizens would be a safer place.

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...