Friday, 30 May 2014

Harnessing Rebound & Clapotis

One of the most common questions I'm asked by paddlers new to the sea, is how to deal with multi-directional water. It's pretty hard to avoid off Sydney; as soon as you clear enclosed water you're bound to come under the influence of a cliff line throwing back some mess & chop.

Most paddlers feel comfortable bashing into a headwind, where the movement of the boat is very predictable, even paddling clean downwind, where you eventually tune into the tempo of the running sea.

Rebound, clapotis, confused water around cliff lines & headlines however, provoke the most tentative responses from paddlers not used to it, and it got me thinking about strategies for turning this less predictable sea state into something fun and 'useable'. By useable, I mean a free ride, instead of a leveller.

On Tuesday I joined Rob, Mark, Matt, Dave, Luke & John on a fun little downwind paddle from Sydney Harbour down to Malabar, about 20km of variable water parallelling Sydney's affluent Eastern Suburbs beaches. We had a clean northerly, some remnant swell, and a freshly developed sea moving at 'kayak pace', about 12-16kmh when you hooked into a runner.

The section between South Head & Bondi is a steep cliff bound stretch where the wind generated sea was colliding with the sandstone walls and sending back chop & rebound at varying angles, depending on which part of the cliff it was hitting. Underneath all of this the predominant north-moving sea was forming rideable waves, fast, steep & fun, which made this short 8km section engaging & entertaining to paddle.

My take on this sort of water is to keep positive, both in terms of posture and intent, & stick to the universal truth of following seas - the faster you go, the faster you go. I watched the video back after the paddle & figured it offered a reasonable look at what I do to nullify the unsettling nature of confused water. 

If I had to summarise it simply, I try to visually filter out the water that isn't going my way, and keep looking for the wave shapes that are. Combined with more power in my stroke when the boat is set to head downhill (this is the moment just before it actually heads downhill), this strategy makes me accelerate constantly, using the stability of speed to crash through anything unhelpful.

You also find that the shape of the sea changes as you reach the speed at which it is running. Because you're no longer wallowing in troughs that can push you around, and instead constantly surfing in front of a gently sloping pile, the next move becomes more obvious & you can subtly change direction to catch the next steeper section that presents itself.
Trailing brace on my left side, where I naturally have a flatter more sympathetic blade surface.
Above all I only ever defend in the most dire circumstance. When running fast on a wave you'll notice the back of my blade drop into a trailing brace. This isn't a rudder or braking stroke, merely a gently skimming precaution to allow me to get my retaliation to an unpredictable event in FIRST. My weight shifts to the left so I can accommodate any unexpected movement on the side I have the most sympathetic bracing blade angle.

I've seen instructional videos where another technique is used, catching a runner then immediately going to a stern rudder to control direction. In my mind this is surrendering all of that hard won speed, and makes your day on the biggest free ride you'll ever get twice as hard, as you constantly stop & restart. My preference is to use power to control direction, so I'm accelerating towards where I want to go, as opposed to braking to make sure I don't go somewhere I don't. 

Confused...? Watch the video & see if you make any sense of it, the views from behind give a good perspective of the running waves as they form up. Then, get out & give it a crack somewhere safe in the company of peers who can help you out of something goes awry! With a little exposure & dedicated practice, you can very quickly turn rebound and clapotis from something you swing out wide to avoid, into something you actively seek out & enjoy.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Paddling Gear for the Cold

We're blessed to be based in Sydney, as temperate a climate as you could hope to have, with cool winters laced with sunshine, and a water temperature that barely plumbs the depths some of our southern neighbours have to endure.

Nonetheless, as the calendar marches into winter, the mornings are cool, the evenings chill down fast, and gradually our sea temperatures are dropping into the teens.

On cue, we're getting requests for information on paddle gear we stock for cool weather, how they work together & how they apply to different types of paddling.

The NRS Disco Shirt ($115), NRS H2Core Expedition Shirt ($99), and NRS H2Core Paddle Shirt ($70)
In the past year, we've revamped our range of winter gear to include the cream of cold weather kit from leading manufacturers Peak UK, NRS & Reed Chillcheater.

The lightest is the loose-fitting NRS H2Core Paddle Shirt. This is slightly heavier than a rashie, with silky fabric on the normal rub points for paddlers under the arms & on the sides. It's a fair weather winter top, suitable as a base layer, without the cooling evaporative effects of a typical lycra rashie.
The Peak UK Thermal Rashie ($75)
The Peak UK Thermal rashie is another new addition which is a brilliant cold weather top. When I'm working hard & pushing my aerobic limits the biggest problem I face with clothing is overheating. The Peak Thermal Rashie is thin enough to breathe if I'm working, holds very little water & thus has a greatly reduced evaporative cooling effect, and provides 'instant toasty' when worn under a barrier like a cag or paddle jacket. It's incredibly versatile, and like all Peak UK gear is cut for paddlers.

The NRS Disco Shirt is the cold water high intensity top. I'll use it for a surf on the bar in winter where I'm going to be soaking wet for an hour or two, and the bursts of high energy & sprinting to catch & surf waves are interspersed with a fair swag of time waiting for a wave. It's strength is it's wind resistance, a barrier material that protects your core, with silky anti-chafe fabric where you need it.

The latest addition is the heavy duty NRS Expedition Shirt, a warm thermal top versatile enough to be worn as an outer layer, but definitely the bomb when layered under a cag. On a slow coastal exploration trip with mates, stopping to play at rocks & surf, this top under a cag or paddle jacket would be the king.
NRS Hydroskin Pants ($115), Peak UK Neoskin Pants ($75), Reed Aquatherm Pants ($115)
Down below, there are three options depending on what you value most. 

The NRS Hydroskin pants are the most stretchy, least constrictive, and insulate by trapping warm moisture between you & the fabric. 

The Peak UK Neoskin Pants are scuba diver warm, thick Neoprene with a considered paddling design free of rub points. They're my pants of choice on cold early morning ski fitness paddles.

The Reed Aquatherm pants are the most waterproof, and by virtue of Reed's shell fabric the most windproof. On their own they're not particularly insulating, but if I was standing on a beach in a cold wind they're the ones I'd hope to be wearing.
The Peak UK Tourlite Hoody ($189), Tourlite Shorty ($129), NRS Short Sleeved Endurance Jacket ($75) & Long Sleeved Endurance Jacket ($115)
We've also updated our paddle jacket range lately, with some new jackets from Peak UK. They're not the heavy duty cags we have come to see profligate over recent years, and that's because we recognise that the biggest problem with cold weather gear for the majority of paddlers is actually overheating. These outer layers stop the wind without adding bulk and hindering your athletic output.

The Peak UK Tourlite Shorty & Hoody are premium quality paddle jackets, light enough for all round use in our forgiving climate, but constructed for the rigours of the sea. They're both made from a  tough but soft feel ripstop nylon, with wide neoprene velcro cuffs.

The NRS Endurance Range offer a low cost over-jacket, cut for paddling, and specifically designed to protect paddlers from the wind, especially if they've been caught out. Made oversized, so they're easy to slip on over your paddling gear on the water.
Reed Touring Cag ($285), Aquatherm Pants ($119), Shirt ($149) & Vest/Deck ($159)
Last but not least, Reed Chillcheater continues to pump out brilliant cold weather gear, born of the frosty waters of the UK. This is hard core sea kayaking kit, the trademark Aquatherm fabric designed to insulate & beat the wind.

I think it's important to get cold, before you go out & spend money on cold weather gear. Some of us feel the cold regardless of how hard we're paddling & need all the help we can get, others turn purple as soon as they lift their output & can make do with much lighter gear.

Please give either Rob or I a shout if you'd like to chat about any of our winter paddling gear. Everything listed is avaiable through our ONLINE STORE, with freight free on all orders over $50.

Friday, 16 May 2014

EK Now Stocking ORKA Paddles from South Africa

We have just landed our first stock of the South African made ORKA Paddles, the paddle of choice for current World Surfski Champ Sean Rice.

ORKA Paddles are made strong, with a solid layup, alloy joiner & a finish & look to rival the hand made Mitchell Blades we import from the UK.

We've chosen two designs from their range, the Inner & the Flex.

The Inner is a mid-sized blade, designed to be sympathetic to the varied & unpredictable shapes the sea throws at us, suited to long distance sea kayaking and endurance surf ski paddling. It's designed  with a forgiving leading edge, it's built strong, with an alloy joiner & a reinforced shaft, and an ovalised grip to assist in blade orientation, and features 10cm of length and infinite feather adjustment. 

The Flex is a small mid sized paddle with a punchier catch, which provides huge stability at the entry point, but a very narrow neck for a clean & effortless exit, combined with a smaller blade size. If you're endurance racing your ski on flat water this would be an excellent choice, also built with ORKA's customary strong layup, with 10cm of length and infinite feather adjustment.

ORKA Paddles are retailing for $390, and are in stock. You can order freight-free through our ONLINE STORE.

Friday, 2 May 2014

What the Cold Paddlers Are Wearing.....

The Peak UK Tourlite Hoody Paddle Jacket - $189.00
Tomorrow marks Sydney's first day of proper cold weather (...he says imagining a loud snigger down the ethernet cable from our Tasmanian canoeist mates...), as the temps plunge down to 15C & a bitter westerly wind makes it feel a heck of a lot colder.

Almost on queue, we have had a gaggle of queries about cold weather paddling gear, and these two new additions to our online store certainly add to the armoury we have available through our online store.

Having tested the Peak UK Tourlite Shorty Jacket over the past couple of months, we decided it was so good we would also bring in the full blown Tourlite Hoodie. It's a practical paddling jacket for our climate, made from a X2.5 lightweight recycled polyester with 10m waterproofing, featuring Aqua-out waist and wrist seal.

This jacket has an articulated cut with bent elbows, a zip opening neck and large fully adjustable hood, and an easy access right hand side zip pocket. Another of the new generation Peak UK paddle garments released in early 2014.
NRS Men's H2Core Expedition Shirt - $99.00
The second cold weather addition is a complimentary one, the NRS Men's H2Core Expedition ShirtDesigned as a thermal base layer, using advanced H2Core fabrics to deliver maximal warmth without limiting your movements, while gasket-friendly cuffs and friction-free seams provide unmatched comfort underneath outer jackets and cags. 

Micro-fleece filaments efficiently wick moisture away from the skin, and the durable, smooth exterior resists pilling and abrasion. H2Core Lightweight fabric under the arms creates friction-free zones for comfortable paddling while improving ventilation where you need it most. It's cut in a semi-form fit for athletic comfort and easy layering over the top.

Both the Peak UK Tourlite Hoodie & the NRS Men's H2Core Expedition Shirt are available now through our ONLINE STORE.

The Audax vs The Surf Ski

We're occasionally asked if the Audax is just a surfski with a sea kayak deck, usually followed by our explanation that you can't ju...