Wednesday 25 September 2013

The Think PFD, minimalist comfort & functionality

In our search to accommodate the 'Not PFD' crowd, those who begrudgingly acknowledge the need for a PFD at the very least to enter races, but are desperate for a design that is so minimalist as to feel as though it's almost not there, we've had several different products cross our virtual storefront.
The most recent & by far most successful, the NRS Ninja PFD, won't be available in 2014 while we wrangle ourt way through a compliance issue with the US Coast Guard rules & their synchronisation with our own maritime laws.

Asking around the recent Myall Classic race, there was a lot of noise about the Think PFD. This jacket is designed by ski paddlers, to meet local race rule requirements, but also providing the the sort of ventilation & light weight that competitors not particularly enamoured of PFD's demand.

It's a terrific surf ski or adventure racing PFD, with plenty of flotation & support for an unplanned swim, but the lowest, most unobtrusive profile of any PFD we've used. It features an organiser system for hydration tubes, a pair of mesh pockets, and a central neoprene pouch for a 650ml waterbottle or radio etc. The Think PFD has an adjustable harness to ensure perfect fit. 
Size S/M fits a chest size 33'-40", size L/XL fits 38" - 46".
They're now available in our ONLINE STORE for $159.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Rob's Breathtaking Kayak Pic

A dramatic sunset pic Rob took last Tuesday evening, featuring John & Mark cresting a swell off North Head in Sydney. One of the most striking sea paddling photos I've ever seen.

Monday 16 September 2013

Miles of Myall Miles

Despite the fact that this year's averse tides were likely to make the 47km version of the Myall Classic paddle race a bit of a grind, I kept telling myself 'would you rather be doing this or another ocean swim!?'
This was my first go at the iconic Myall Classic, a wonderfully scenic marathon race that offers paddlers of all ability levels a distance to take a shot at, be it 12km, 27km or the full monty.
A bright & breezy morning greeted the participants on the banks of the river at Tea Gardens, following a night of electrical storms.
Pre race - Making sure the camera picks up all of my logos.
The start line was awash with all manner of boats, from the sleek double Sladecraft kayaks that seem to burn these courses up, to ocean skis, outrigger canoes & sea kayaks.
Having shadowed Kate & Steve Dawson for 10km of 20km on a warmup paddle on Monday, I thought I would try & tuck in behind them and see if I could repeat the dose, not quite understanding the difference between a race start and a training paddle start. So, as they chugged off into the foamy mass of leaders I began hunting fast dudes to draft.
I admit to being a bit taken with this sort of racing, it's engaging, challenging and once you start to work your way into the sweet spots around a pack of racing paddlers, quite exhilarating.

It was just as well there were guys to chase as the ebb tide was beginning to crank, & we were struggling to maintain speeds around 9kmh, much slower than even a normal training cruise in my V10. 
From the 13kmh mark I was done with the front runners and spent the remainder of the up river leg being drafted myself, which is nowhere near as easy as bludging off the back of someone else!
Thankfully, the tide was still running when I hit the turnaround buoy, so I had a burst run back down the course for about 15km. Tactically, this is the point where you want to have enough gas in the tank to really lift your rating & make the most of the favourable tide. While it's hugely difficult to make even small incremental gains on your normal speeds running into a tide, you can make ground down tide if you're prepared to lift your tempo. It was a salient lesson for this year's Hawkesbury, which will offer a very solid 5-6 hours of flow from the start.
I always feel a bit more cheery when I see the speedo over 11kmh, and it was a nice reward to finally be free of the head current and motoring at & above my training speeds.
I managed to pass a couple of boats on the way back, and then hooked in behind Warren & Bernie in their double as I felt the start of the flood tide again start to apply the brakes to my progress.
We swapped front positions for a few clicks, before they finally lifted their rate enough to leave me behind over the final stretch.
I managed a deranged cackle in the last couple of kilometres, as I passed moorings being dragged under the water by the flooding tide, and my boat speed slowed to 7kmh. I had designs on a sub 5 hour time, but once again watched that float back down the river with the incoming flow, eventually managing 5:04. Memories of my Hawkesbury finish literally flooded back. My trace of the paddle is HERE, which if nothing else illustrates the tidal resistance & also the beautiful serpentine route the race follows along the Myall.
Finished (pic by Owen Walton)
The finish was a buzz of back slaps & smiles. All agreed that it had been a tough day on the river and winning times were a good half hour down on the previous year, where the conditions had lined up a little more favourably. During our paddle back, Warren & Bernie had made the point when I raised a half-whine about the tide, that it's the same for everyone (so stop complaining & get on with it!)
The racing mob are universally good natured & supportive, every crew or paddler I passed in either direction offered a word of encouragement or a small cheer. They're obviously dedicated, and while at the pointy end of the field they're unmistakeably there to race, they do so with a great spirit of camaraderie.
Myalls of smiles at the presentation
Despite being the grind it was this year, the Myall Classic is a wonderfuly inclusive event, and the perfect warm up for the Hawkesbury Classic, testing as it does your boat fit out (and crucially, your comfort), your fitness, and your resolve.
Congrat's to Mike Eggleton & the Just Paddlers crew for doing such a stirling job in organising and running the race, and of course in their support of Charlie Teo's Cure for Life Foundation.
Expedition Kayaks were the major sponsor of this year's Myall Classic.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Get a Myall on your Dial

This coming Saturday marks the eleventh running of the iconic Myall Classic paddle race, at Tea Gardens, about 2 hours drive north of Sydney.
It's become the third leg of the local marathon 'triple crown' alongside the 111km Hawkebury Classic & the 400km Murray Marathon.
In many ways it's the most inclusive, with options for a 12km, 27km or 47km race, all following the same sections of the meandering & picturesque Myall River.
Like the other two big races it's all done in the name of charity, with the Myall's beneficiary the excellent Cure for Life Foundation. Organiser Mike Eggleton told me they have raised nearly $100,000 for the foundation since the event began, reason enough to stump up for a weekend on the coast & go for a paddle I reckon!
I'm going to have a crack at the 47km race, which whilst definitely not a distance to be sneezed at, is a little less daunting than the stern character test of something like the overnight Hawkesbury Classic. As always, I'm hoping to tuck in behind someone much faster than me & cheat.
Organiser's are expecting a bumper field of more than 200 paddlers, in craft ranging from plastic sit on tops to Surf Row Boats to Olympic K1's. The format of the event means anyone with a canoe or kayak can find a race distance to suit their skills & fitness. You can enter online by clicking the link HERE, or just roll up between 0730-0830 on Saturday morning & register on the day.
We are sponsoring the event & will have a full range of all of our fast boats on hand for paddlers to check out & even take for a short test paddle on the river. Keep an eye out for the Taj EK near the rego tent.
All info on the race can be found at their website here -

Monday 9 September 2013

Crossing the Line

Years ago during my second stint playing cricket in the Northern Leagues in England, I managed to hit a West Indian test fast bowler over fourth slip for six. I was aiming to hit him in almost the exact opposite direction over midwicket, but there you go, you still get six for it.
He steamed down the pitch and said some very unpleasant things to me, mostly relating to my future, short, life expectancy. Never one to miss the chance at a decent comeback, I told him to make sure he wiped the tomato sauce off the ball after he fetched it from the bloke's pie it landed in.
Ha, great comeback Sundo, that'll learn him…..
Next over I was back on strike and Mr Benjamin kicked his mark back to the boundary line, and then proceeded to bounce the absolute sh*t out of me. First one in the ribs, the second one hit my gloves in front of my face & the third one, which I didn't see, hit me on the helmet. 
Oh my god, Kenny killed Sundo! West Indies quick Kenny Benjamin
I remember thinking 'OK, I'm a decent enough player, but I'm not a test cricketer, and this suddenly isn't much fun, I think I'd like to just go home now'.
It was a fine line between enjoying the challenge & suddenly feeling rather out of your depth, and it wasn't an altogether pleasant place to be.
Anyway, I stuck it out, got hit a few more times but also managed to make some ugly runs, which have become more and more stylish & self assured as the years have passed. Buy me a few beers and set aside 2-3 hours & I'll tell you all about it!
My first go at a multi sport event, yesterday's inaugural Hydrothon, took me right back to that day watching that big Jamaican hurtling towards me.
The race started at South Cronulla, and a glance around at the field showed that I was probably the only true weekend warrior giving it a crack. A body mass index measurement would have already had me at the tail of the field, which included several nationally ranked iron men & women & a seriously fit looking bunch of dudes from the local surf clubs.
Organiser Steve gave the briefing, where the most interest seemed to be around what you'd have to do to get a red card from the officials. Righto, so everyone's here to race!
I had trained for the one leg that was a mystery to me, the ocean swim, but hadn't really taken my mind into that confronting environment in any tangible way. The sea isn't a place I fear, I spend my life in waves & moving water & surf, so I hadn't given the seriousness of a 1.3km ocean swim on a choppy day much thought (read: respect).
The gun went off & we charged down the beach & into the surf. I have been swimming really easily in training & just wanted to get into a nice rhythm and hopefully finish the leg in somewhere around 30 minutes. Stroke, stroke, stroke then breathe…..except that I mis-timed my roll & was still in a wave & managed to suck in half of Bate Bay. Thirty metres off the beach & vomiting sea water wasn't a great start to the 22.3km race, but I didn't really want to be remembered as 'that bloke who jumped in the water at the Hydrothon & had to quit!' My mate Stacka had warned me 'most people who do this for the first time swallow a lot of water'. He'd also seen my training times & asked me if was doing dog paddle.
Start - Photo by Grant Sellen of Monopod Photography
After a couple of minutes resting hanging onto a support ski I turned east & headed for the buoy. My stroke went to sh*t and I felt like a little kid learning to swim as I battled out for what felt like hours with waves smacking me in the face over & over. I found a bit of rhythm coming back to shore and caught some little waves back in, slowly around the beach mark then headed out for the second lap.
I dived under a couple of waves & set up for my first swim stroke, which is where I had my Kenny Benjamin moment. I caught a glimpse of the buoy, about 20 kilometres out to sea (at least), and thought, 'I can't do this'. I've done some hard things in paddling but this was different. I was miles outside my comfort zone, my breathing was all over the shop, my legs felt like I'd had 15 schooners & I had to go & do another frigging lap. A nice clubby on a paddle board gave me a few blokey words of encouragement, and I decided to keep going. On the upside there were so many concerned surf club guys watching me there was no way I was going to drown!
Anyway, suffice to say I made it back with some confidence as my stroke recovered, and ran down the beach for the ski leg that I had been fantasising about as I spluttered my way through the swim.
The ski paddle was awesome, Saturday's big southerly had kicked up chop & mess & even though it was quartering it was great fun. I wove my way through the 11km course in what felt like no time, then landed through the surf for the run. Encouragingly, I was nearly footing it with the fast guys on their second lap, so even though I can't swim, I can rest assured that I can still paddle.
I'd just pulled on my shoes & stood up to take my first stride when there was a huge round of applause from the gathered crowd. Jeez that's kind I thought, what a big clap for the poor bugger coming last!  Then I looked right & saw the winner, Hayden Allum, cantering over the finish line looking like he'd been sitting on the beach doing yoga for an hour.
Winner Hayden Allum - Photo by Grant Sellen of Monopod Photography
OK, so I'm 10km behind the winner, time to finish off. The run was a tough leg, not so much for the conditions, more for my total lack of reserve energy. It was a unique experience to be so bloody knackered, and unsurprisingly I ran about 2kmh slower than my normal training speeds. The patient marshalls on the course clapped me at each station as I grimly held up their stroll back to the presentation.
I finished in 2:41, which I was (very quietly) pretty happy with considering I'd thought 2:45 to be a decent target. I was secretly hoping I wouldn't get hooked for being too slow, but Steve reassured me it wasn't good etiquette to hook a sponsor, so don't let anyone tell you supporting events doesn't have it's perks. I was 22nd out of 24, and the two competitors behind me were both called DNF. That was a nice change, considering the male competitors ahead of me all looked like SBW **(Google 'Sonny Bill Williams' if you are reading this from a foreign shore).
Finished, bloody hell, thank god for that!
The event was brilliantly run, safe, clearly defined & well received by the competitors.
You'll see more of these Hydrothons around the place as the concept grows, in my opinion it's got the potential to rival triathlon, after all we're coastal dwellers & there is the added bonus for us paddlers that we can paddle instead of peddle. Organisers are also thinking of incorporating a 'half course' race, which would definitely be a gentler intro than my damn-the-torpedoes debut.

Is it a 'weekend warrior' event? Well yeah, but maybe not at a 'roll up & have a go' level. I trained pretty hard for this and felt my running & paddling were well up for it, it's just the bloody swim that got me, and man did it get me. 
Well done to the Hydrothon guys for putting on such a great spectacle, I'd love to have another go one day soon and hopefully consign my ocean swim to the 'funny stories' bin!
The finish grimace

Friday 6 September 2013

Bouncing in the Xtra

Some nice shots from a short paddle this morning around the cliffs. Rob is getting to know the Tiderace Xtra, a fun little play boat designed for just this type of water.
Wave hits cliff...
Wave bounces back onto Rob….
"Calm" is restored….

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...