Tuesday 17 March 2015

Plastic Fantastic - The Epic V7 & Vajda Raptor Arrive

There can be no questioning the boom in surfski paddling over the past 5 years, driven exclusively by the innovative ski designers who have made this fast & rewarding craft accessible to all, through the development of super stable hull shapes.

Probably the only thing holding the crossover fishing kayakers, sea kayakers & sit on top paddlers back, was the high price of the mid-range skis, mostly starting in the early to mid $3000 range & rising.

Epic & Vajda have addressed this glaring lack of a true entry level, budget-priced ski with the respective recent launch of their V7 & Raptor Surfskis. Both designs are shorter than the standard skis at 5.2m and 5.3m respectively, so manageable in an average home garage, or on top of a city sedan.

They're both light in comparison to kayaks, weighing in at 19kg & 20kg respectively, and in testing both have laid strong claims to genuine surfski performance.

The Raptor is made from a lightweight form of ABS called Styrolight, whilst the Epic V7 is a rotomoulded ski, made in very much the same way as our hugely popular Valley sea kayaks. Both feature the full fit out & hardware that their more expensive higher-end models display, and you have to look hard at them pair of them before you realise that they're not composite, but instead plastic fantastic.

Both boats are now in stock, with pricing hovering around the $2200 mark.

Full specs & details on both of these entry level surfskis can be found below.

Epic V7
The new Epic V7 breaks that mold and sets a new standard for rotomold performance. It is lightweight, extremely efficient, and easy to handle. The V7 is outfitted with the same high quality fittings as every surfski in the Epic lineup, including our carbon fiber footboard and pedals and the hugely popular Epic designed bailer. In addition, it features an aft storage compartment with a lightweight, waterproof hatch.
Length: 5.20 m     Width: 54.00 cm     Depth: 35.00 cm    Weight: ~19kg    Capacity: 135 kg Storage: 100l  Material: Polyethylene

Vajda Raptor

A 20kg, 5.3m long entry-level ski designed for a great combination of stability & speed. Made from Styrolite, a lightweight ABS plastic with tremendous stiffness and impact resistance. The ski comes with Vajda's handy carry strap & points, has carry side & end handles, and a rear hatch with capacity for a light overnight trip. Quick enough to have won a recent short course Sydney Harbour race, yet as stable as the steadiest entry level design.
Length: 5.34 m     Width: 53.00 cm     Weight: ~20kg    Capacity: 110 kg  Storage: 95l    Material: Styrolite

Monday 16 March 2015

Expedition Kayaks Coaching & Training

Many of you will be aware that EK now has both council & waterways permission to operate individual & group coaching & training on Botany Bay. 
We're also a fully accredited National Training Provider registered with Australian Canoeing, delivering training programs in the sea & flat water categories. Since launching our new training arm in October we have been busy developing a program of coaching around the most commonly sought after categories of instruction.

Broadly, these involve two levels of lessons. Firstly, kayakers looking to begin their paddling with a solid base of skills & drills so as to get off on a technically correct path, & surf ski paddlers starting out & looking for the same type of initial instructions. Secondly, paddlers of both types of craft who are looking to broaden their range of paddling conditions, by experiential coaching under more demanding sea & weather conditions.

Our coaching & instruction for sea kayaking is based on more than 25 years of combined sea instruction, with local tide & weather knowledge of the Bay & surrounds that allows us to put you into the conditions you need to get the most of your three hours on the water.

For ski paddlers, our focus isn't on getting you into the top 50 in the 20 Beaches, but rather getting you out on the water on more days than you might contemplate at the moment, by encouraging first competence & then confidence in rough water. We have seen first hand through our association with the Dolls Pt Paddlers, just how quickly a flat water ski paddler can make the jump to open water with the right guidance & skills. If shaving a minute off your 14km race time is your goal, we're not the guys, but if you want to greatly increase your confidence and enjoyment of moving water in your ski, we have all the tools to get you to your goals.

Our 'Paddling in Pairs' session is designed to make you & your regular paddling partner both safe & self reliant on the sea. It's a great option for those of us who have a buddy they spend most of their days on the water with, as it allows you to take away a set of skills & drills to work on together.

We've set up six lesson plans that have proven very popular with our students over the summer, and have now formalised them into the following program:

Session 1 - Intro to Ski Paddling
This is a three-hour class for new paddlers or those who would like to review the basics. The focus of our surf ski coaching is maximising your enjoyment of your ski. Our aim is to broaden the number of days you can take your ski out for a paddle, to build confidence in moving water.
Includes: setting up your ski and paddle, safety and basic weather knowledge, posture, hand position, bracing and balance exercises, stroke basics, the rudder, remounts and assisted rescues.
Cost; Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 2 – Paddling With Waves
This is a three hour class for ski paddlers who are comfortable in flat water and want to progress to areas with more exposure and a little wave action. Mark and Rob have decades of local knowledge to ensure conditions to match your abilities. This session will provide challenges in a safe and positive learning environment. The focus of our surf ski coaching is maximising your enjoyment of your ski. Our aim is to broaden the number of days you can take your ski out for a paddle, to build confidence in moving water.
Includes: Understanding wind and waves, how your ski responds, bracing, acceleration, timing, positioning on the wave, turning, remounts and rescues in waves. Botany Bay provides a fantactic learning environment for paddling skis in wind, without the consequences of serious open water.
Cost: Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 3 – Intro to Sea Kayaking
A three hour session for new paddlers or those at any level who would like to review their foundation skills. Starting in flat water with a gentle progression onto the more open waters of the Bay.
Includes: Setting up your kayak and paddle, safety and basic weather knowledge, posture hand position, stroke basics, edging, bracing and balance, self and assisted rescues.
Cost: Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 4 – Kayaking With Waves
A three hour session for kayakers who want to refine their paddling, rescue and boat handling techniques out on the bay in more exposed conditions.
Includes: Weather, rudderless boat handling, close quarters manoeuvring, rescue options, bracing, catching small waves, strategies for dealing with the wind.
Cost; Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 5 - Safe Paddling for Pairs
Do you paddle with a regular partner? Are you confident that as a pair you'd be capable of rescuing one another if you had a problem, or do you enjoy learning new skills together, so you can go away & practice them as part of your normal paddling routine? We have found that training as a pair is a very effective way to not only take in new information and techniques, but also to go away & work on new skills with a clearer focus on peer appraisal. In this session we focus on safety for paddlers operating as a pair, and techniques & drills which can be worked on later.
Cost; Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 6 – You Decide
A three-hour session for 1-4 individuals based on a specific technique/s that you want to focus on.
Includes but not limited to: Forward stroke coaching, remounts and rescues for skis, kayak rolling and re-enter rolling, Wave riding sessions, essentially you tailor the session to the skills, techniques & knowledge you feel would enhance your paddling. We're happy to make suggestions based your level of skill & ambition.
NOTE: Ski and Kayak classes will always be run separately.
Cost: Individual Session $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Since the training arm of business began we have been heavily subscribed & the feedback has been very positive, not only in general for our coaching & instruction, but also in allowing us to hone in on the things that paddlers most want.

You can contact Rob or Mark to book a session, or order directly through the EK Training page on ONLINE STORE .

Thursday 12 March 2015

Rob Mercer - The EK Big Foot Footplate System

If you look at your foot and then at the size of the standard commercial foot peg or peg-pedal combo you will probably notice three things. First, the peg is a lot smaller than the area of your foot and second, because the right and left units are fixed to the sides of the boat somewhere near the deck to hull join, they are wider apart than most paddlers would choose for a comfortable paddling posture. Finally, if you look closer you will notice that the peg is almost vertical even though most of us prefer to angle our foot about 30 degrees forward. Comfort isn’t the only issue here; a larger plate and pedal area makes it easier to engage your legs for more power and control. One solution is to have your boat supplied with a custom bulkhead but this requires forward planning, extra expense and limits possible future buyers and borrowers.

After some frustrating experiences with a few composite aftermarket plate systems that always required fiddly spacer bolts or customized tapered spacer blocks I decided to make an expanding footplate that allowed the tracks to be fitted parallel on the sides of the boat.

After making a very clunky first prototype that seemed to work OK and gave me some key dimensions and angles for further development, I headed off to my mate Greg Davis who owns and runs an immaculately maintained metal-work and tool making workshop. It helps that Greg is an avid sea kayaker and bay surf aficionado, so all of my theorising and bad pencil sketches were accepted in good grace by Greg as he worked his magic; bending, drilling, grinding and punching out some tricky shapes from alloy and stainless. As we closed in on the final product Greg displayed the uncanny knack of dealing with every challenge by making the product simpler and neater.

Rob's bow goes airborne during testing of the prototype Big Foot in 2014.
Two more prototypes were made and fitted to Tarans and Paces and these were tested with full footplates and half footplates. We very early decided that to make the system easy to fit we would design it to replace existing side-track assemblies without resorting to any spacers or other tricky parts. We also decided to avoid potential stress points along the keel line or floor of the boat by avoiding any fasteners glassed to the hull or any system that involved localised downward pressure to be applied to the hull by the plate.

The current design has been tweaked repeatedly in response to testing across a number of boats with a range of paddlers for almost a year. Although everyone who took part in the testing speculated that they would enjoy a full heel foot-plate before the comparative trials, the angle and height of the standard half plate made it the overwhelming winner.

The half plate allows your heel to move a few centimetres forward and under the plate and for many paddlers this provides a leg stretch with the leg completely straight. Many of us appreciate this leg stretch to ease the strain during a long paddle, but personally I also found that allowing the leg to straighten completely facilitates better hip rotation for kayak-specific body movements like edging, sculling, sweeping and rolling techniques, which a full heel plate designed more for racing, can actually inhibit.

Ultimately there will be those who still want a full length angled plate and for them, a custom overlay cut from plywood, sheet plastic or aluminium can easily be screwed on to the existing half plate using the width adjustor screws to fix to the existing threaded backing plate. This allows an individual to customise their own extension to fit individual hull profiles.

Key Features of the System:

  1. Easily field serviceable. Uses standard Marine Stainless for all screws, nuts, washers and hinges. No tricky springs or special clips.
  2. Durable. Made from tough 5504 Marine Grade Aluminium. We recognize that these plates will be used under demanding conditions on the ocean, they were tested to the limit under these very same conditions, and are built to perform.
  3. Easy to maintain. No hidden voids to clog with sand and grit, no tight tolerance parts to jam. Easy removal for occasional cleaning
  4. Lightweight. Simplicity means that despite the robust construction it weighs only 120gms more than the most common toe pedal system used in large-scale manufacture.
  5. Pedals adjust for width fit around a glovebox. For those using the shorter leg position in boats with glovebox hatches the pedals can be set to clear these and other-under deck obstacles.
  6. Four way Adjustable. Width, length, toe-pedal angle, pedal spacing.
  7. Easy to modify. Provides a sturdy base for custom fitting of full plates to suit your needs.
  8. No need to drill. These tracks use the same hole spacing as most popular factory fitted foot peg systems.
  9. Designed by us, manufactured by Greg in his factory a stone's throw from our Miranda warehouse. Made by sea kayakers for real kayaking conditions.
We’re very pleased with the performance and build quality of this custom designed product, and look forward to seeing how it will be received in the sea kayaking world. All of our extensive testing in the past 12 months has been positive and feedback from users has been a significant driving force in the final design. We thank everyone who took the time to offer generous feedback, knowing they were assisting us in the development of a new product.

We have plenty of stock, and the Big Foot plate system is available now to order through our online store for $320 including delivery nationally. Note also, a simpler plate without gas pedals will also shortly be available for non-ruddered boats, for $250

Tuesday 10 March 2015

New to the EK Store - The Axel Pack Chart Case

Dutch paddler, instructor and expeditioner, Axel Schoevers was a visitor to these shores a few years back, running instruction sessions up & down the East Coast with his buddy Ginni Callahan.
Rob & I with Axel when he visited Sydney
He had an intriguing piece of kit that he had developed himself, a very practical & waterproof chart case. Why bother to make a chart case when there are so many around to buy? Simple, Axel had found that every map case he bought leaked when he took it sea kayaking. Tired of ruining expensive maps, he developed his own, and even Rob, notorious for picking the tiniest fault or likely fail point on any piece of kit, was well pleased when Axel was kind enough to present him with one at the end of his Sydney stay.
Axel about to launch down the reef at 'the Bower' - Sydney 2010
Fast forward to Lady Elliot Island, 80km from the mainland, and a messy but ultimately successful attempt to bust across a heavily breaking coral reef & out onto a heaving beam sea. Chris first, unscathed, then me, losing a GPS & Kayalu Light, then finally Rob copped a snorter as he went over the shallowest part of the reef, braced hard, but broke through to join us in the relative safety of the open sea. Two minutes after we set course & headed off towards our next island some 48km away, I heard a muffled sob, and turned to see a misty eyed Mercer bemoaning the idiocy of our breakout, because that last big breaking wave had cost him his Axel Pack. 'Big deal' I said, in typical empathetic tone, 'just buy another one'. 'Mark', said Rob in his best instructor voice, 'you can't buy them, Axel has to give you one!' You'd have thought he had lost a finger....
The reef at Lady Elliot Island, resting place of Rob original Axel Pack!
Anyway, Axel’s chart case is one of the only truly waterproof chart cases we've found and is a gem. It's double ended rolling closures keep water out even under extreme conditions making it one of the few variable width chart cases on the market.

The plastic tubes slide off to allow you access to your maps and also provide protection when the map is on your deck. Clips on both tubes allow you to clip the map case to your deck-lines. Something tells me Rob hadn't quite managed to get those clips in on Lady Elliot....

These chart cases are hand made by Axel in Zuid-Holland, Netherlands, and now you don't have to wait for Axel to give you one, as we have stock exclusively in Australia. We have a limited number of Axel Packs for sale for $79.95, including free freight nationally, check out our ONLINE STORE (under 'Paddling Accessories').

Justine Curgenven had this to say about her Axel Pack "I have used the same one for years and even put my passport in it on one trip. It's the best map case I know for keeping your precious maps & charts dry & safe.”

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...