Saturday 31 August 2013


A while back I decided it might be fun to enter & train up for the Royal Challenge race, a 22km paddle, 21km trail run race run through the picturesque Royal National Park in Sydney's south.
No dramas with the paddling, but I've now spent the best part of six months going from a non-runner to one who consistently runs 15-20km a week, and I'm now a proud member of a famous old running club! It's been very tough but like all hard things, tremendously rewarding.
My youngest daughter Deni asking me how much fun I'm having with my running!
The organisers of the Royal Challenge have also come up with a new concept, the Hydrothon. It's another paddling-centric race, with a 1.3km ocean swim & a 10km run tacked onto either side of an 11km ocean ski paddle. And it's all over within 3 hours.
When I saw it was on, I figured it would be worth a crack as well, and entered as a competitor (and later a sponsor).
To get through this little goal I've had to undertake a few weeks of swimming training, and thanks to a very neat little method called Total Immersion Swimming I'm now feeling confident enough to do the swim leg of the Hydrothon without drowning. 
The Hydrothon is next Sunday, and when the competitor's hand book was released it listed cut off times for each leg. 40 minutes for the 1.3km swim, 80 minutes for the 11km paddle and a similar maximum time for the 10km run. I thought, right, they're comfortably outside the times I'm getting in my training, so hopefully I'm not going to get the dreaded 'tap on the shoulder' as I battle along!
Except, and it's a big but, I haven't actually strung all three together before, and had to change kit & transition from one discipline to the next, on the go.
On a paddle with Jason a few weeks back, an accomplished triathlete, he said that above all else I should start practising my 'transisitons'. Oh yeah sure, how hard can they be? Then a chat to my local font of knowledge about these things, Max Walker from Xamax Watercraft, kind of said the same thing, the key to it all is the transition.
So, for the last few times out on the ski, I've finished my paddle and gone for a short run. The last few runs, I've jumped in & gone for a few laps. It's an experience, but it was fine.
Yesterday, Sydney's ridiculous 'hottest ever winter' served up a 27 degree day so I thought it might be time to see what all the 'transition' fuss was about, and actually put all three elements of the Hydrothon together in sequence, although over a condensed hour.
I went down to Brighton, hopped into the cold bay water and went for a 650m swim. It took about five minutes before the ice cream headache subsided enough for me to get into my 'Total Immersion' stroke. Once I'd escaped the grasp of death-by-cold-shock I found the buoyant salt water to be way easier to swim through than the dead water of the pool. I also found that not having to stop every 50 metres and push off, was more conducive to the rhythmical trance I find myself when swimming laps, with various Public Enemy songs repeating in my mind. You know 'Dont….don't…... don't ……..don't,…..don't believe the Hype!' 
All good so far.
Out of the water and a short jog along the beach, and into the V10 for a 20 minute run up to the airport & back. No need to worry about the paddling leg right? Well, not quite. The exertion of the swim and the 'core' factor that Max had warned me about are not to be underestimated. Even though it was only a short 15 minute swim, swimming is a serious core exercise and my core was tired. This translated into an uncharacteristic wobble for the first 100m as I had to think about re-engaging my balance muscles.
Off the ski after a fast cruise along the bay, wetsuit off, singlet on & then away along the beach in the soft sand for 20 minutes. Yes, smugglers only....
This was the crunch moment, my breathing went to sh*t, my legs were slow to get moving, and for about 2-3 minutes once I got moving, I'd have to say it wasn't much fun. Why? Well not only does the swim leg use your core, but so does paddling an elite surf ski, and of course the number one element of your body to engage to run properly is.....your core.
Once in the groove, all of the training I've done kicked in and it felt like any other run, and I finished my mini training run in good shape. 
All in all a good confidence building exercise, which left me happy enough about beating the 'sit down pal you're too slow' fate that I feared awaited my first go at a multi discipline event! There is a lot to be said for not taking your body anywhere your mind hasn't been first, and these sorts of dry runs are tremendous at reinforcing (or blowing to pieces!) any self assurance that you may have garnered in your preparation.
D-Day is next Sunday, September 8 at Cronulla Surf Club. Entries have closed but you can bet this won't be the last event of this kind on the east coast. It's a great concept and in the sometimes rarefied air of multi-disciplined beach sports, about as accessible & inclusive as they come.

Friday 23 August 2013

The Interstate Demo Paddle

Barry tests the Tiderace Xcite off The Gap
Barry flew into town from WA on Wednesday to take the Tiderace Xcite for a spin. We'd been talking about the boat on & off for a while & he decided the best way to make sure of the boat's suitability was to get in one & take it for a spin.
He's an inspiring character, having had a tough time with his health recently, but fronting up nonetheless for a sea paddle around the cliff lines on the southern edge of the heads. When he apologised for his lack of speed, I couldn't help but wonder in the same circumstances whether I'd even have been out on the water, one tough bugger!
We had a perfect Sydney winter's day, and spun a few circles inside Watson's Bay before skirting Camp Cove, Lady Jane & South Head on our way around to the notorious Gap.
The dramatic Sydney sandstone cliffs were illuminated by the early morning sunshine, & a low swell meant we could get right up close for a look, just brilliant.
Sydney's beautiful sandstone cliff line
Back inside the harbour we did the real estate cruise, past the vacant block of land at Camp Cove that just sold for $28 million, and on to the old money fortresses around Vaucluse & Parsley Bays.
There is now a well worn path from the airport, to Circular Quay, and onto Watson's Bay by ferry for interstate visitors flying into town for a day on the water with us. With airfares sometimes cheaper than taxi fares, it's a sensible option when you're forking our serious money for boats that you may not be able to try outside NSW or Queensland, and we're great advocates of testing sea kayaks on the sea.
You'll get a glimpse of the unique Sydney vistas we enjoyed in the short video below.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Demo Paddling the Tiderace Xplore L & Pace 17

I had an excellent test paddle this morning on a blustery winter's morning with Andrew, who was keen to test the Tiderace Xplore L & Pace 17 head to head.
Conditions for testing sea boats were perfect, gusty winds ranging from 17 to 26 knots, whipping up a steep but slow moving sea that was short & sharp enough to expose any flaws in the performance of any hull design.
Andrew was tossing up the merits of classical touring sea kayak, designed for rough water, against the new breed of fast tourer that is grabbing the headlines.
He had a real crack, bustling along in the following seas to the point of capsize a couple of times, running the boats across the testing conditions and generally have a red hot go. You've gotta love it when people are brave!
Andrew the brave....
He seemed to take more of a shine to the Xplore L which I didn't mind one bit, providing me as it did with an opportunity for multiple downhill runs in the Pace 17. I hadn't previously had the Pace 17 in such short, sharp seas and it didn't disappoint, running along like a ski and catching everything I had a shot at, just awesome fun.
Enjoy the video (and the Stevie Wonder soundtrack).

Rob & Sharon's Tropical Queensland Paddle (II)

More pics from Rob & Sharon's northern sojourn. If the weather hadn't been so lovely in Sydney while they were away I'd be exacting some 'crappy job' revenge on Mercer when he finally swans back into town….
Wishful thinking: placebo sailing south from Conical to Humpy
Two of the thousands of butterflies that we found fluttering in a little grove on Humpy island
Humpy Vista
Humpy sea scape
Uninterrupted sea views
View from the tent on Humpy Island
Catching Dinner on Humpy Island
Setting up Sharon's new sail
Morning sea mist over Corroboree Island
At last! A brisk SE breeze to push us back to Yeppoon.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Keppel Sea Kayak Symposium - Rob's Photo Diary

Rob & Sharon have been off on their annual norther sojourn, this year slotting the inaugural Keppel Sea Kayak Symposium into their schedule of island hopping around the Keppel Group of islands in the Capricornia region.
They've sent back a bunch of lovely pics which tell the story all by themselves….

Preparing to leave
Heading out to North Keppel
Keppel sunset
Instruction paddle break
Sea cave on North Keppel
Mega raft
Sharon on the beach
The show's over
Island views (Conical Island)
Fog bank
Sunset vista
First footprints
Calm rock garden
Sharon in the Etain 17'3
Looking back 
Conical Private Resort

Monday 12 August 2013

A Year in the Tiderace Xtra - Peter Kelly

We got our hands on the first of our stock Tiderace Xtra's on Friday, but there has been another one at the far edges of the colony, busting moves in the cold waters of southern Tassie, plioted by our buddy Peter Kelly. We brought this boat in for Pete in our first ever Tiderace shipment last year.
Pete was asked to pen a review of his Xtra for a paddle mag in the US, and he's kindly allowed us to reproduce it here.

The Tiderace Xtra
It is always tricky business to pen a review of a boat as choice is such a personal thing, I will only compare the boat to craft I have either owned or spent considerable time in.

About Me 
I am 194cm tall and 115ks, cursed with size 15 feet, I have been sea kayaking for about 6 years, mostly in the cold windy waters of Southern Tasmania. In my paddling life I have owned an Aquanaught HV RM, North Shore Atlantic, Impex Assateague, Rockpool GT, Valley Etain 17.7, Valley, Nordkapp and now The TideRace Xtra.  I have also Spent a reasonable amount of time in a SKUK Explorer, and for the purposes of this review will compare the boat directly to the Boats mentioned.

Initial Impressions
When the boat arrived in August 2012 the first thing that struck me after the initial “ooh very shiny” (And it was VERY shiny) is that the boat looked like a lead tipped arrow (or Darth Vaders Codpiece if you were my mate looking on) the boat is Very fish form and carries more volume in front of the cockpit than any boat I have ever seen. There is a heavily bevelled deck that creates a spine running the entire length of the boat, this adds to the incredible stiffness of the deck, the only one I have been able to sit on without ANY flex, it also allows for a knees up paddling position.
The second most striking feature has to be how flat the section of the hull is under the cockpit, sitting out on the grass the boat sits completely flat with no rocking side to side, it has very hard chine’s, and compared to my other kayaks and insane amount of rocker. The seat was comfortable and the footpegs sturdy, build quality was the best I had seen.

On The Water 

The boat is stable, and the transition to secondary stability is smooth, and once up on edge, it locks onto its chine and sits there, with an incredibly predictable healing motion akin to the Atlantic or Aquanaut when hard over on edge, although far more agile than either. As it turns out the boat turns faster than any boat that has been in the water next to it in the last 10 months. It responds predictably to both bow and stern rudder and sideslips on a hanging draw faster than any boat I have paddled. Close quartering amongst rocks or manoeuvring in the surf the boats agility adds to its feeling of security, and while most boats are still broaching, the Xtra has turned around and facing out to sea.
Although not marketed as a fast boat, I have not had any trouble keeping up on club trips, as given any texture in the water, regardless of direction, the boat just gets up and uses the planning hull to its advantage, I don’t want to speculate what sort of magic has been applied to the hull by Aled Williams, but I am grateful. Other paddlers that have tried the boat described it as a Hydrofoil feeling where the boat “Sits up out of the water at speed” These are not my words, but mirror my feeling in the boat on textured water. As I hate paddling on mirror flat water, I cannot comment on its speed in these conditions.
In rough water, rebound and big swell the boat is extremely predictable and secure, it tracks well enough, a little loose like an Atlantic, not as hard as a GT or Explorer, the skeg aids with this in strong wind, but I like my boats lively. I have not struggled ever to maintain a heading.
I have loaded the boat and taken it on an overnight paddle where including myself the boat carried about 150kgs, the noticeable thing was there was no apparent change in the agility of the boat when loaded, and as I was leading the group, it was great to be able to easily move amongst the group back and forth without any perceived extra effort.

Ok, I need to say this boat surfs better than ANY boat I have ever paddled. The planning hull has to be experience to be believed, making the boat sit up and the higher section of the wave similar to a surfboard. This means that the boat is easily able to change direction with an applied sturn rudder, or by digging in the very hard chine and transferring your body weight. The boat can run strait and true along a wave face, carve turn or make diagonal runs along a wave face with ease, it performs the “hit and spin” easily and can quickly turn from front to reverse surf, or vice versa.

The boat encourages you to attempt steeper waves than you previously thought possible as the massive volume up front allows the boat to pop out and shoot forward on its planing hull. When it all goes south, the boat is very predictable and doesn’t stay caught up in the front of the foam pile, preferring to pop and sit up on top, or “hit and spin”, both allowing for a speedy exit from the danger zone. The boat is an easy roller both in set up, unpredictable situations and re enter and roll, the aggressive thigh braces locking you in place.

I must admit I have been pleasantly surprised by this boat design. I ordered the boat untested from Expedition Kayaks in Sydney on the basis of reviews I had read from Europe, and whispers amongst the European community of a new great boat for surf/instruction.  It has done all that I need in a boat, has bomber build quality, is always up for a play, and looks damn sexy on the water. If these are qualities you are looking for in a kayak, I strongly recommend you take one for a blast, just make sure you are near some surf or rough water when you do so, because a boat design this good needs to be in a place where the hull was intended to shine. 

Happy Paddling.
Peter Kelly.

Friday 9 August 2013

The Magic Box….

This magic truck from Tiderace pulled up at our place today, & wonderful things kept appearing.

Once unpacked we found Pace 17 Tours, Evokes, and the much awaited Xtra (which is now on my roof bound for a breaking in session at Bundeena over the weekend).

Happy weekend adventures!

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...