Monday 18 November 2013

A Right Royal Challenge Beckons

I have enjoyed the shape my paddling year has taken over the past few seasons. Events like the Hawkesbury Classic & a few open water races are motivation enough to get myself into gear and aim for a good showing. To do them properly means some form of conditioning program, which in themselves I find tremendously satisfying.
Once they're out of the way I've usually got enough base fitness and endurance to enjoy the  warm weather paddling I get up to for the rest of the summer & autumn, be it surfing in my sea kayak, chasing runners at sea in my ski or even lining up another big ocean paddle like a 'Degree in a Day'.
Even though so far this spring I've competed in the Hydrothon, Myall Classic & the Hawkesbury Classic, they have to an extent been means to an end, the terminus looming at this coming Saturday's Royal Challenge.

This is a 21km paddle split in half by a half-marathon run along the trail of Lady Carrington Drive in Sydney's Royal National Park (course map is HERE). The paddle part is something I've always been confident of completing, but I only started running in February, and herein lies my challenge. I have a long log of slow and consistent running build up since February, was fortunate enough to do a winter season with the Brighton Athletic Club, but even so I've only ever pushed myself past 15km once. That was last Thursday on a very hot arvo; I did a great job dismantling any confidence about my running that may have falsely began to develop!
Anyway, for some strange reason I enjoy the possibility of a nasty endurance surprise. It reminds me just how dedicated and talented the elite people who consistently do this stuff are, and allows a small glimpse into that world of deep inner examination. It's something like meditation combined with suffering, with a stopwatch making you meditate faster.
The race starts at 7am Saturday down at the weir at Audley, and I'm hoping to finish somewhere between 4 - 4 1/2 hours. That is a probably a bit optimistic considering I've never run a half marathon then tried to paddle 10km afterwards, but there you go, you can't go to jail for being an optimist.
Organiser Steve Southwell puts this race on for the KIDS Foundation. KIDS is an acronym for Kids In Dangerous Situations and their charter is to try to redress the startling childhood injury statistics in Australia. More children in Australia die from injury than from disease. Not only do they offer childhood programs on injury prevention, but also they also support hundreds of children and their families who have endured trauma, horrific burns and other injuries that have changed their lives. I'll admit to not knowing much about KIDS prior to becoming involved in the Royal Challenge as a sponsor, but seeing what they do makes me proud to be participating in an event to their benefit. 
I have a sponsorship donation page set up HERE. If you have a spare dollar or two any support for this worthy cause would be muchly appreciated.
Last minute tips from experienced long distance runners will be received with much gratitude.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

All @ Sea II - The Real Deal!

My favourite paddling weekend last year was the inaugural All @ Sea Weekend with the Sutherland Shire Canoe Club, essentially a sea-familiarisation weekend at Bundeena where we tried to help the club members with sea aspirations, to get out safely with their mates & experience the big, wide ocean.
It was a hoot, with laughs all weekend as we took most members from their first wet exit on the shore at Bonnie Vale to deep water rescues off Jibbon Head, over two committing days on the water.
This year, organiser Bob Turner had a more challenging goal and booked the camp ground at Currarong, and we basically aimed to take up where we left off and head straight out into the demanding waters of the Beecroft Peninsula.

Twenty paddlers hit the beach on the Saturday morning for what turned out to be the only calm-ish weather of the entire weekend, and in two groups we headed east.
A rolling Nor Easterly swell was being lifted by the complex undersea topography of the area & making a series of bomboras occasionally go off, but otherwise the windless skies just made everyone feel rather small. As an intro to what the sea can look like when it's being lifted by a swell with some length to it, the intimidation factor was almost as elevated as the waves hitting the bombies.

Back safely inside Currarong Creek we then spent the arvo getting wet, practising rescues, edging, turning, with a few even having a crack at rolling. It was great fun, with an infectiously enthusiastic bunch of mates with a tremendous group attitude to having a go & egging each other on.
The feature of Saturday night's entertainment was a series of ten minute presentations by members on subjects as diverse as a paddling/road trip to Queensland, some ridiculous NZ whitewater action (which explains much of Steve Dawson's behaviour), and the iconic Murray Marathon. A few bottles of red washed down a superb seafood spread put on by Zac's, the omnipotent Currarong eatery, and merriment ensued well into the early hours, as a big southerly weather system wrought winds & driving rain outside. As you can see from the pic below, it was cold enough for the hard men of the club to reach for their blankies...

Unsurprisingly given the drastic turn in the weather overnight, there were fewer paddlers up for the Sunday trip, which we decided would be a tight coastal hug in the lee of the land, out to the headland where the southerly winds would rapidly make things more interesting. We beachcombed all the way along the picturesque coast to Little Beecroft Head, at which point the sea took over as our instructor. The group paddled into some steep & bouncy seas for a few minutes, getting a taste of just how mighty it can be 'outside', before we ducked back into Abraham's Bosom to regroup. It was challenging, once again very intimidating, but everyone relished the exposure.
Sunday Action.
I particularly enjoy the atmosphere around the Sutherland Club, they all know each other well enough to laugh along together in the wet & dry moments that are inevitable on a weekend like this where so many boundaries are being pushed. The Saturday night was a screamer, in my opinion the sort of gathering that makes shared paddling experience such a joy.
Well done to all of the wide eyed folks who got out among the rolling apartment blocks off Beecroft, and thanks to Bob Turner for putting it all together. 

Tuesday 12 November 2013

The EK Online Store Gets Serious!


Despite all original intentions of Expedition Kayaks being a fun little side business to keep Rob & I entertained, the reality now is that seven years down the track it's grown to the point that we have to treat it as a proper entity. We're even considering a mission statement, KPI's and a campaign where we'll endlessly write about how passionate we are, so far these have only made draft format, and only after about 11pm at noisy paddlesports events. With ukulele backing music. Stay tuned for the final document.

So, if we're going to pretend we know what we're doing, we should at least look like we know what we're doing, and today we've launched a brand new online store to replace our folksy little effort that has skipped around the boards of the web since 2007.

We've categorised things more comprehensively, added more than 30 brand new products, with a bucketload on the way from great paddlesports companies like Reed, NRS & Peak UK, and introduced for the first time a range of products from KajakSport in Finland, including the full range of LRC hatches.

In the background we're busy testing products sent to us in the aftermath of the Kanumesse event in Germany, and will have some very cool new things up online over the coming months.
Rob shows us his X-Range

We have also added in the new Lendal USA X-Range Kinetik paddles, with more in that range landing before Xmas.

For the bargain hunters, we have listed some run-out specials, ranging from NRS Hydroskin & Cags, to half a dozen great quality ex-demo paddles.

The store can be reached through the link on our home page, and all transactions are encrypted through our 128bit security system. We aim to dispatch on the day the goods are ordered subject to stock, and of course freight is free, nationally, on all orders over $50. 

Our aim is, and always has been, to make an overseas purchase essentially redundant, by keeping our prices as closely aligned as we can manage to the prices you see for our products online overseas.

Take a tour & let us know what you think!

Monday 4 November 2013

'Small Boats, Big Difference' Sharon Betteridge's thoughts on the range of skis & kayaks for smaller people.

These are exciting times for smaller paddlers.  For many years the Australian market neglected to cater adequately for these paddlers, offering only wide, stable short kayaks (erroneously thinking women need wider kayaks so they wouldn’t feel unstable), or smaller versions of large kayaks. Both options were still way too big and cumbersome for smaller paddlers to handle.

Expedition Kayaks recently added a new kayak and ski to their range for the lighter weight paddler. Alongside the already popular Valley Avocet LV, there is now the Tiderace Xcite-S sea kayak and the Think ‘Eze’ Ski. Like the two Valley kayaks, these new additions to the range are specifically designed for the smaller paddler.  Not just ‘cut down’ versions of their bigger siblings. All these craft are carefully designed - narrow where you plant the paddle, ergonomic seating, efficient hull designs, reasonable water line length to ensure good forward speed, and in the case of the kayaks the smaller design allows a comfortable fit in the cockpit, easier edging for manouevering strokes and rolling and, with good sea manners on the open water, and still with enough room to pack your gear for overnight trips.

Whilst I have never been a proponent of ski paddling, I couldn’t resist a test paddle of the new Think ‘Eze’ ski when Rob brought it home on his roof a couple of weeks ago. It is shiny and slim, and light enough for me to get on and off the roof of my car on my own, and, after a few paddles on Sydney Harbour in genuine 20 knot winds, I was impressed to say the least. After a few anxious moments on launching, I adapted quickly to the feel of the both the ski and the wing paddle. Into the wind and across the wind I felt pretty much in control, and the ski was going quick. Then it was time to turn around and catch a few runners home. After a few unsettling moments I realized I could make this craft go fast, with little effort. A few days later I was out on it again.

Last week the Tiderace container arrived at the EK warehouse and inside was the new Tiderace Xcite-S. Having sat in so many ‘small’ sea kayaks over the years, I never really know what to expect but I was ‘Xcited’ when the box was opened to reveal that the Xcite-S was another genuine small person’s kayak. Tiderace have the formula right – comfortable fit in the cockpit, cockpit combing height just above my hips, the kayak moves easily when I want to edge, the deck is narrow where I want to plant the paddle for an efficient forward stroke, it has a decent waterline length for speed, enough rocker to ensure ease of turning, and of course all the usual excellent features of its larger relatives. I took it out for a paddle on the weekend, and it was everything I hoped it would be – comfortable, narrow foredeck, tracks well, turns easily, rolls exceptionally well and is more stable than its narrow beam would indicate. Another winner!

Tiderace have also just released the new Pace 17S; I think the market will benefit from the addition of a smaller fast sea-touring kayak in the high performance range for longer expeditions.

Last time a penned a review I was inundated with requests from paddlers asking to buy my personal kayaks. So before anyone hits the send button I am not selling. I love my Avocet LV. The Pace 17S certainly fits more gear for the overnight and extended trips; and the Avocet LV makes a great day boat and instructor’s kayak with its nimble responsiveness, ease of maneuvering and quick turn of speed when managing a group but then with access to the whole EK demo fleet I don’t have to sell my favourites to enjoy these new additions!

At last the leading designers and manufacturers are starting to take the under 65kilogram paddler seriously and provide them with real sea kayaks that they can use in real conditions. Small boats really do make a big difference - just ask any kayaker who paddles one.

Sharon Betteridge

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...