Monday, 1 February 2010

NSWSKC Rock & Roll Weekend 2010

We are please to announce that we are the Platinum sponsor of the NSWSKC Rock & Roll weekend this year. As part of our sponsorship, we will be giving away more than $4500 in prizes, including a brand new Carbon Kevlar Zegul kayak. We'll be onsite with our huge range of more that 13 demo sea kayaks, including the new Tahe boats fresh from landing in the country.
There are still places available at this blue ribbon symposium, where trips & getting paddlers out paddling on the sea is the aim of the game.
You can book your place through the club website, or by clicking

Ocean Paddler Reviews the North Shore Atlantic

The esteemed UK sea kayaking magazine, Ocean Paddler, has just done a review of the North Shore Atlantic, & the new Atlantic LV. It sums up this excellent allrounder very succinctly. You can read the review by clicking the image above. We have just dropped the price on the Atlantic due to some technical economies of scale innovations at Valley, & now offer the Atlantic for $3990.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Customised Valley & Rockpool Kayaks

If you'd like us to order you a completely customised Valley or Rockpool kayak, the closing date for our April shipment is next Friday, February 5. We can build a 3-peice boat, a Carbon/Kevlar layup, customised colours, even with Rockpool customised artwork, and have it here in a timeframe comparable to a local manufacturer. Contact Mark on 0417 924 478 or with any enquiries.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Justine Curgenven - This is Canoeing DVD

I've just had an email from Justine Curgenven, the lady who has made sea kayaking cool with her award winning 'This is the Sea' series of sea kayaking DVD's.
She has been busy for the past year making a new movie about Canoeing, as in open top canoeing. I know it ain't sea kayaking but it still looks pretty cool. My motto is, if it involves a paddle, I want to find out what it's all about.
We'll have stock of the new DVD from early March, for $39.95 including postage.
Your can see a preview below:

Here's what Justine has to say about the movie:
'THIS IS CANOEING” is a 2-disc celebration of canoeing, showcasing top single-blade paddlers in their pursuit of remote wilderness journeys or challenging white water. Multi-award winning film maker, Justine Curgenven captures the essence of canoeing in 12 short films. From open canoe slalom races to 1,000 mile birchbark expeditions, Justine provides insights into the diversity of the sport and the influential people who tell it’s story. Immerse yourself in this globe-trotting 3 hours of adventure to world class canoeing destinations in Canada, the United States, Scotland & Wales. Innovatively filmed with headcams and on-board cameras to take you to the heart of the action.'

Monday, 25 January 2010

Price Announcement - Tahe & North Shore

Good news for kayak buyers. Fresh from my trip to the UK & Estonia, we've been able to secure a much better freight rate from Tahe Marine, and can pass on the savings to you, our customers. The Tahe kayaks (Greenland, Greenland T & Wind 585) in standard composite layup are now just $2990. The superb sea performers, the Zegul range, are still the same price, however the boats have been up-specced to the cutting edge Aerospace Vacuum Infused Carbon Kevlar. Having just seen first hand how these boats are made & finished, this represents unrivalled value for money in the Australian market. Check the Tahe page on our website for details.

There has been a similar development at Valley, with the North Shore range now being manufactured in batch lots, allowing a saving on time & materials, and we can pass on the reduction in price that Valley are offerring on the North Shore Atlantic. This boat is approaching cult status for it's rough water capabilities and is now available for sale for $3990.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tahe Marine

People have commented to me that Estonia was a strange place to be heading to seek out sea kayaks, considering the usual source destinations for famous designs seem to be the paddling places as well, like Anglesey in North Wales. However, the Tahe story was a bit irresistible. 20 years old, progressing from a small shed in the snowfield above to a cutting edge manufacturing plant that sees them challenging as Europe's biggest kayak builder, with a wide range of boat designs ranging from lake recreational cruisers up to the latest take on rough water kayaks like the striking Zegul boats (pronounced zee-gool, or a Swedish Seagull).
So, I spent the day today with Marek Pohla of Tahe, running through the range of boats we've ordered & seeing firsthand just how the Tahe kayaks are manufactured. To say it's impressive is an understatement. I wasn't quite prepared for the scale or technology of the Tahe factory, and seeing each stage, of the process including the laying up of the cloth for a sexy semi carbon Greenland T.
Marek then showed me through the aerospace vacuum infusing of the Carbon Aramide boats, and the meticulous 'finishing room' where each boat is checked by two skilled craftsmen for even the slightest sign of a flaw or problem.
Marek is driven by a steely determination to make the best possible kayaks, at the best possible price, and he & his brother Janek have spared no expense in building a modern facility to do just that. Unfortunately it's a few weeks now until our order arrives in Australia for the good people in Oz to see what I'm on about, but be prepared for a exceptional product even taking into account the price.
And then of course there is the iconic Greenlander & Greenlander T. 'Lover's of a line' are raving about these boats & they are no less impressive shining in the flesh than the impressive marketing images we see in the leading sea kayaking mags around the world.
Tahe have a heathy annual turnover & a warehouse like a small aircraft hangar with all of their models on display.
Marek & Janek looked after me like royalty, showing me around Tallinn & giving me an insight into their country & of course the rise and rise of their business. If it was wasn't a thousand degrees below zero I would have loved to go for a paddle, but I didn't fancy the idea of following the icebreaker out to welcome the Helsinki ferry to get to open water! I didn't get a photo of it, because I thought I'd get, frostbite winding down the window of Janek's Troopy as we sped along the coast, but sea ice is one bizarre sight for a warm weather dweller like me. We will just have to wait for March to get the Tahe boats on the water.
I'm now in Stockholm en route to London for night before heading to a meeting in Singapore on Thursday. I'm looking forward to a swim.....
Thanks Marek & Janek, I had a ball.....
For those of you heading to the NSWSKC Rock & Roll weekend, as platinum sponsor we have donated a Zegul as the prize for the event raffle, and will have the full range to display to demo paddle.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Life in the Freezer

Here are a few pics from around Tallinn, definitely not a mecca for sea kayakers, but the home town of the guys from Tahe Marine. Tallin is an absolutely stunning city, but it's not very warm....

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Mitchell Blades & Rockpool

Friday was my day to trip into North Wales to see Lance Mitchell from Mitchell Blades & also Mike Webb from Rockpool.
Lance’s new factory is in Chester, a Roman city with a wall round it keep out the barbarian hordes.

I’m a bit of a sceptic of the car GPS systems – I reckon they slowly kill that part of your brain that navigates, leaving you even less human that you were. However, a combination of jet lag & a rigorous social schedule had well & truly killed the navigation part of my brain already so I was grateful for my little friend telling my to ‘bear right in 800 yards’. Lance is a bit of a go-getter, starting his business in a tiny shed at the back of his parents lovely B&B, and recently moving to a much bigger facility as his order sheets have over flowed. Mitchell Blades have very quickly established themselves as the premier paddle manufacturer in the UK, and it is great to see Lance’s paddles getting more & more refined, lighter & also to see the evolution of some innovative new shapes, such as our own Bomborah.

Lance was hugely helpful showing me around the process of making his paddles, & we came up with a couple of innovations which will be here with our next batch of blades. Look out for the super light Bombora LV, a blade aimed at paddlers looking for a lighter load on the water, and a crank shaft with a broad crank position, eliminating the need to customise the crank to each specific paddler’s stroke.

Lance with the finished product

From Chester I drove down the A55 along the North Wales coastline, through the Welsh ski fields (with almost top to bottom snow), and past the tidal waters that we see in Justine’s ‘This is the Sea’ series. Rockpool are at Holyhead, a stone’s throw from the Anglesey tide races like Penrhyn Mawr. The scenery was stunning; it’s easy to see why this little corner of the world is considered one of the Mecca’s of big water sea kayaking.

Everyone had told me what a great bloke Mike Webb is and it was nice to put a face to an email. Rockpool are a much smaller manufacturer than the likes of Valley, NDK & P&H, so Mike’s ethos is to compete on quality, service & constant evolution. He has developed a racing sea kayak which John Willacy recently blitzed around Anglesey, breaking the circumnavigation record, and is constantly finetuning his signature designs, the Alaw, Alaw Bach and the new GT.

Listening to him explain his logic in designing the myriad features on his range it becomes apparent that he really is at the forefront of modern thinking on boat design & fit out in sea kayaking. It was great to see a few of the boats from Rockpool that we don’t yet import such as the Alaw & the Isel, and to just shoot the breeze for a couple of hours. And yes, there were starfish everywhere......

My day was rounded off with a big send-off at my old cricket club. It’s weird to come back to a town like St Helens after such a long time away (I last played here in 1994). About the only thing that had changed was that everyone had a mobile phone, I felt like Buck Rogers….

I’m now sitting at the airport at Frankfurt nursing a bit of a hangover & the effects of another night with bugger all sleep, waiting to catch a plane to Tallinn, Estonia. Current temp forecast for Tallinn is -17C, which will be a new experience….

Saturday, 16 January 2010


Today I headed across the winterscape to Nottingham to visit the guys at Valley. They remain in the same factory as the original owner, Frank Goodman, however since taking over the business 4 years ago they have expanded into all of the surrounding buildings.

Valley are a go-ahead company, launching the BigDog whitewater brand this year & having instant success, changing the thinking of sea kayakers with their phalanx of Low Volume kayaks, introducing sea racers like the Rapier 20, and developing a 'look' in the construction of their boats that make them the envy of any paddling pod.

Owners Jason, Pete & Andy are all Great Britain representatives in various paddle sport disciplines and their approach reflects their various fields of expertise with paddle in hand. Jason showed me through their production process, the rigorous QC and a few of the tricks that set Valley apart from their competitors. It was nice to see where our boats come from! New developments include an LV version of the Atlantic, and a Rotomoulded Atlantic which is going to be a bit cheaper than our standard Valley plastic boats.
On the way through Nottingham I had a quick look at Trent Bridge, the famous cricket ground, and spent a fair bit of time dodging minor bingles on the icy roads. Man, for a county in a cold part of the planet, they sure don't deal too well with a cold snap!
With owner Jason Buxton


Wow, landing at Heathrow was like descending through the thickest fog on earth, then touching down on a Siberian runway. The whole airport was blanketed in heavy snow, with more and more falling by the minute.
By the time we taxied to a the gate, the wings were iced up and my window looked like a freezer pack. The lady next to me lives in London and said it was the first time she'd ever seen Heathrow under snow. Outside, it wasn't as cold as some places I've been in the world, but still a shock after leaving Sydney at 39 degrees 24 hours earlier! Hell only knows how I'm going to deal with -22C in Estonia on Saturday!
I caught a shuttle flight to Manchester and then braved the icy motorway to my old stomping ground in St Helens, Lancashire. I can tell you, give me a breaking surf bar over an icy English motorway at 70mph anyday.
Off to Nottingham tomorrow to meet Jason, Pete and Andy at Valley.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Slung out in Singapore

The onset of manic jetlag at Changi Airport.
I'm en-route to the UK & Estonia, stopping briefly for a burger, an email update & a Singapore Sling at the airport bar.
My trip takes me to my old cricket town in Lancashire, St Helens (the rugby league stronghold), which is basically in the middle of Nottingham (Valley), Chester (Mitchell Blades) and Anglesey (Rockpool). So, I get to tie in a ripper of a social catch up with my old cricket mates with a visit to all of our terrific kayak people in the UK. Life is tough being a kayak importer...
From there I head to Estonia to meet Marek & Janek from Tahe, & hopefull see our boat shipment as it is loaded into the container.
The weather is a bit brisk, so I haven't packed my boardies......
I'll update as I travel through Europe.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Learning to Ski, the Epic V10 Sport.

At the Queensland Symposium in late November, thanks to Craig Mcsween from Adventure Outlet (the Queensland Epic dealer) I had a go on a couple of the new Epic racing ski’s, the V12 & V10 Sport. Thinking they would be crazy unstable & made for super-fit surf lifesaving athletes I was a bit tentative pushing off the bank at Currumbin Creek & wobbled along on the first few paddle strokes, especially in the real performance boat, the V12.
As I built up a head of steam, I realised that they’re not as unstable as I’d been led to believe, and that the V10 Sport was actually on par with many sea kayaks for the level of stability.
So, as you do, I got hold of one for myself & have spent the last 3 weeks throwing myself into ski paddling on the V10 Sport to see if I can get a small taste of the sort of action you see in the fantastic ski races around Sydney in summer (for a look at a few local races check out Rambo’s Locker).
I began with a couple of gentle paddles in Botany Bay, getting a feel for the extremely close catch zone on a ski compared to a sea kayak. I quickly realised that once you get any sort of following conditions, the ski grows another gear & you find yourself scooting along at 13kmh+ in even a moderate bay chop. The stability hardens up considerably once you’re up over 9kmh, which is achievable on dead flat water at even a moderate cruise pace.
In comparison to a sea kayak like my Aquanaut, the initial stability is a little bit twitchier, but the secondary is comparable, even if it is a ‘different’ type of secondary stability. In my experience & opinion, a sea kayaker with a decent stroke & a moderate level of fitness would make the transition to a V10 Sport without any problems. I wouldn’t make the same recommendation about the V12; they are clearly more demanding boats to paddle on the sea & require a much higher base skill level.
I then took the ski with me to Noosa on our family Xmas holiday, and spent the week going for hour or so long blasts up the river, out through the Noosa Bar & into Laguna Bay. I had a couple of swims on the bar when hit by breaking waves, but quickly & easily remounted to keep on going, even in the surf zone. I’d then head out into the bay upwind, and across the wind to get a feel for the stability & feel of the hull in moderate 15kn winds & little 1m wind waves. I’d finish up with a downwind flyer on the back of the Nor’easter’s that dominated the week, and surf back across the bar riding the swell & surf through the break zone & into the calm of the river again. Once in the river, I’d ride the bow waves of the tinnies & sightseeing boats heading back upriver, cruising along on their wakes at 6-8 knots. As exhilarating as the open ocean & surf zone stuff was, riding bow waves is pretty cool – kind of like being towed along by an invisible line. It’s certainly not something I’ve ever been able to do in a sea kayak!
On arriving back in Sydney, a decent Nor’easter kicked up in Sydney in the first week of January, and I went out with a mate off Malabar to head upwind past Magic Point. The location was deliberate, this is a big water instructing play spot known for rebound & steep swell due to the sub-ocean topography & close proximity of the Maroubra cliffs. In considerable bump, rebound & 2-2.5m steep wind & swell waves coming from a couple of directions at once, the ski was rock solid, very reassuring & ploughed on through the mess with aplomb.
Turning around about 3km off Malabar, the steep following swell was pretty intimidating and I didn’t have the bottle to really lean forward & race down the face of the waves. So, backing off a bit on the bigger ones, I gradually got the feel for the tracking of the ski & realised that the rudder position – a good metre forward of the stern – keeps the boat tracking even when the following seas steepen up appreciably. In any ruddered sea kayak, the rudder would have been swinging in the breeze on the wave crests & making me skate around all over the place. After a few minutes of getting a feel for this rather counter intuitive tracking (that is, no sign of a sea kayak-like broach) I began to loosen up & go a bit harder at the following waves. That’s the point when the real fun began. When I occasionally got the timing right, the boat speed down-sea was almost frightening. Oscar Chalupsky, the charismatic co-founder of Epic & multiple world ski champion, told me in a long chat at our warehouse before Xmas that he regularly has his boats charging at 25kmh+ on following seas in South Africa, & I can believe it. You go so fast that the schoolboy fear of skateboard speed wobbles come flooding back, that part terror, part exhilaration when you feel as though one false move will bring you crashing down. Not that I’m anything but a dead-set novice, but the trick to it on a surf ski is to relax & enjoy the ride, then make use of the speed you’ve picked up on the run to latch onto the next one & so on. I can honestly say that the moments when I got it right rate among the most thrilling bits of paddling I’ve done on the ocean since I first began paddling sea kayaks on the sea nearly a decade ago.
Have a look HERE at Oscar riding small wind swell in the recent 20 beaches race off Sydney's Northern Beaches & tell me it doesn't make you want to get out there & ride some following waves!
‘OK’ you’re saying, ‘but what will the ski do for me, I’m a sea kayaker’.
Personally, I love being taken out of my comfort zone. In my sporting career it was always a thrill & challenge to go up a grade or be picked in a representative team, where you would be pushed harder & challenged against more & more difficult & aggressive opponents. My greatest memories in sport were batting against test bowlers like Malcolm Marshall and Glen McGrath, or bowling to guys like Michael Bevan or Michael Slater at club level. While I love my sea kayak & learn something new just about every time I go out, the idea of trying something that I’m nowhere near as proficient at, while still being a paddle sport is exhilarating. Another aim for 2010 is to have a proper crack at white water paddling, but I think I’ll have to clone myself to make that little fantasy come true….
So, as to the reasons why, I’ve narrowed that down to three big things that I’m hoping to get out of it, besides the overall challenge. First, the fantastic high knee position ergonomics of the seat allows to you rotate fully in your forward stroke. In the ski I exit my stroke & rotate all the way around to the next catch using all of the power my torso & legs can provide, where in my sea kayaks this is limited by the deck on the boat restricting my leg drive. It will eventually make me a much faster & stronger paddler. Second, although the V10 Sport is very stable, the ski requires a little more than sea kayak-style remote control balance, so I have to use my core strength if I want to wring everything out of it. Finally, the potential for a really high, resistance-free cadence helps me to build my paddle speed, acceleration & my paddling ‘under duress’. In my sporting career, practice under stress made for perfect execution under pressure when you needed it, and the ski offers plenty of high octane concentration, reflex training & pure speed. You want to make an hour turn into a few minutes? Take a ski out on a decent following sea & watch the time go past in a flash…!
Add to that the ability to pull a 15kg boat off the roof, throw it on your shoulders with just a pfd & a pair of cossies & head out for an hours fitness cruising & it is a high-reward, low maintenance addition to your paddling quiver. Like all of the things we like & believe in, we will be selling the V10 Sport from early February. The boat we think is best suited to our sea kayaking devotees looking to make the transition to a surf ski is the V10 Sport, in the Club layup, which is the ‘heaviest’ of the Epic layups at 15kg, but runs out at a very affordable $2750. It's a sleek 6m long, with a beamy 48cm width, with a lot of beam behind your seating position, accounting for the excellent stability.

If you’re interested in trying one out, we offer an ocean test paddle, with Rob or I sitting alongside in a sea kayak with full safety gear etc, and advice on how best to get the most out of the boat. You won’t go away from one of our demo paddles with any doubts as to whether these ski’s are for you, and the novice blues will be allayed with an informed instructional first paddle.
Not all sea kayakers will get a kick out of the V10 Sport, but if my experience is anything to go by, there will be more than a few out there who will find this rising phenomena every bit as enjoyable as our noble & ancient sport. I am learning that every single paddling discipline has technical lessons for sea kayakers, and ski paddling is one of the great ways to fast track performance skills in a kayak, no question.
Keep an eye on our website for details of when our stock arrives.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

2009 - the best bits....

With some damn early mornings while up here in Noosa, thanks to the bizarre refusal of Queenslanders to go the daylight savings path, and the rooster genes of my kids, I've been reflecting back on my year on the water.
Our growing business has seen us travelling extensively through the year, instructing & putting on demo days around the country, and several highlights stand out.
First & foremost, there was nothing more bizarre than sitting in a car with 5 bearded men on a lonely Tasmanian country road, in earnest discussion about how long it had been since anyone had shaved. I was feeling pretty swarthy with my bristly 6 day growth - a desperate attempt for sea kayak credibility considering I had been instructing blokes who had been paddling for almost as long as I'd been alive - but of course my own George Michael try-hard wasn't worthy of comment. The tally's started to roll in like the scores from a Sunday arvo 'round the grounds' report, 14 years, 22 years, 13 years, 18 years & I believe the winner was a razor-saving 25 years. It was beard nirvana....
And the winner is.....
A close second was the feast the night after this hair-inspiring ride, when the locals snared a sackful of abalone & fried them up for us fresh with garlic, lemon & butter, washed down with a few glasses of local red. A paddling experience from the heavens....
I had an awesome weekend with the Hunter Klanners up at Umina, with another hliarious evening topped off with an All Blacks win in the Bledisloe Cup, and a great day messing around in boats on the Sunday. The famous Rjimlad attempted to give me the spectrum of philosophical answers to the question of why the chicken crossed the road, and my head is still spinning at the possibilities in that little chestnut.
I got a rare opportunity to go for a paddle for me, and spent a memorable couple of days getting to & from Broughton Island with my mates. The highlight of that little sojourn was Rob asking my mate Stacka if he'd like to go for a walk once we'd arrived at BI, maybe check some of the wildflowers & unique geography. Stacka had done his share of towing during the afternoon, always a hoot into a 15kn headwind, and was sitting prone on the grass at Esmeralda Cove. Without even turning his head to offer the excited Mercer a glance of contempt, he hissed 'why would I want to go for a walk? I can go for a walk at home.....'
Up at Currumbin for the Sea Kayak Symposium I had a great but all-too-brief paddle with Amanda Rankin, who basically sent me back to elementary school on my forward stroke. The rule of thumb, rotation doesn't stop when your blade exits the water! All that was mising was a polite pad on the head, and a 'on your way to do some more practice, little fella...'
I led a failed insurrection against the NSWSKC, gloriously failing to rename the draconian 'President' moniker to the more nautical 'Commodore'. Despite a unanimous vote in favour of the change at the club's AGM, the tyranny of incumbency was cruelly exposed as the motion was unceremoniously squashed by a bureaucratic maneuver straight from the despot's handbook for oppression. To quote Vincent Lingiari, 'If we fall, others are rising'. The quest for a Commodore will continue in 2010.
I've been lucky enough to have a paddle in 10 new & different boat designs, including my beloved Rapier, which has fundamentally transformed the way I paddle. Add to that the Anas Acuta, Nordkapp LV, three Big Dog whitewater boats, the North Shore Atlantic, the 'holy grail' Rockpool GT, the amazing TRAK folding kayak, the uber-cult Avocet, and just in the last week or so, a racing surf ski, the Epic V10 Sport. Just yesterday on the bar up here at Noosa I had yet another one of my highlights, paddling the ski in & out of the bar break, riding the incoming NE waves against the 3kn outgoing tide, with slop & mess in all directions. Without my Rapier training I think I would have been a ski swimmer, but it was a revelation about how stable the Sport is to paddle compared to the other hard core racing skis.
I also had a go with a Greenland paddle, the formerly 'only-for-old-codgers', now 'modern-accessory-for-the-sea kayaker-not-afraid-of-being-out-and-proud'. It was interesting the the UK's esteemed Ocean Paddler Magazine has seen fit to grace their pages with a review of three sticks, reflecting the revivial that continues apace.
So, a year to remember for sure for all the good reasons.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the blog, bought one of our boats or a piece of our gear, demo'd a kayak, or stopped for a chat at an event or by the water's edge.
Have a great 2010.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Farewell Freya....

Freya Hoffmesiter (photo Andre Janecki - - to see a full photo gallery of the night from Andre, click HERE)
A magic Sydney summer evening at Neilsen Park on the harbour played host to Freya Hoffmeister's final night in the country she has successfully circumnavigated by kayak.

An entranced audience of paddlers & admiriers listened in as Freya tried to convey the mindset & scope of her epic paddle. She showed us how she managed to sleep out on the Gulf of Carpentaria, laying back like an aquabound crucifix holding a double floated paddle, the big bite marks on the stern of her boat courtesy of a friendly Noah at Broome, her boat itself, the vessel that she propelled 13,000km clockwise around the country, in just on 11 months, and most of all she gave glimpses into her motivation.

The Epic 18X which took Freya from Broome to the finish.

Her decision to call the trip a race was a masterstroke, when you consider the mindset of the competitive athlete. A race gives you a goal, an opponent (even if the hologram of Paul Caffyn was tailing her through the pages of his book), a finishing line & the motivation to keep going. It's not the usual approach of the recreational sea kayaker, but Freya is sure not your usual paddler. The idea of competition & measurement don't tend to do it for most sea kayakers, but if there is one thing we can learn from Freya's paddle & her talk, it's that it doesn't hurt to push yourself and aspire.

Rob Mercer does the intro.

I was speaking to friends & paddlers present on the night, & we were talking about the biggest days we have ever done on the water. Many of us can claim a 60km or 70km day here & there, but the question is, 'what did you do the next day?' Not too many hopped up & did it again, or maybe punched out 80 or 90km, & then another 60km the next day & so on. Forget the uber paddling like the Gulf of Carpentaria & the cliffs, just the mental toughness to keep at it boggles the mind.

Before she left for her circumnavigation we had dinner & after meeting her I wrote:

"Starting with a 2500km stretch from Victoria up through the East Coast surf zone where just about every single day you will have a very serious surf landing & exit with a fully loaded boat. Factor in the afternoon Nor'easterlies that predominate through the 2 months of her journey north, & her goal of 60km + per day, & she will have very early starts & a very solid pace to beat the demoralising headwinds. Then the 'pleasure' of the protected reef zone, with the onset of the trade winds, 25-30 knot daily winds which produce technical, almost surfing following paddling conditions. Then the vast loneliness of the top end, with the crocs, huge tidal zones, heat & humidity, & the lack of regular re-stock. Consider that this stretches right across the top of the continent, eventually giving way to the rugged WA coast, with it's unbroken cliffs stretching as far as 130km at a time. Clear that & you hit probably the biggest surf zone in the country, down through Margaret River & Esperance, where 16 second wave periods create miles of unlandable surf, then turn the corner to the Great Australian Bight for the 'run home'."

Probably the only bullet she dodged on the way around was the benign conditions on 90 mile beach in the first 2 weeks of her paddle, otherwise Australia threw the lot at her!
An amazing feat & an amazing lady, happy travels Freya, enjoy Xmas back with your family, & we hope to see you again.

Freya farewells her newest fan, my little girl Kiri.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A night with the Hoff #2

Freya returns! Fresh from her circumnavigation of mainland Australia by kayak, Freya Hoffmeister will give a talk & Q&A on her amazing 11 month voyage on Saturday, December 19. The venue is the beautiful Neilsen Park Pavilion on Sydney Harbour. Chris James & his team from the Neilsen Park Venues will cater for the evening with food & drinks available for purchase. As notice for this event is short & Freya realises that many people will have prior social engagements, the evening will begin at 6pm, and wind up at about 7.30pm. The work Xmas party is no excuse to miss this substantial chapter of kayaking folklore from Freya herself!
Tickets for the event are $20 per person, with all proceeds going to Freya's very expensive repatriation to Germany. It's a great way to lend a hand to this amazing lady after a long & expensive expedition, while at the same time being there first hand to hear about one of history's great adventures. Freya will be available to answer all of the questions that you may have on a trip that has truly captured the imagination of the kayaking world. You can order tickets online through the our store (click the image above or browse through the left menu)but hurry, spaces are strictly limited. If you have any queries contact Mark Sundin on 0417924478, or

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Tahe Marine - Coming Soon......

If there is one kayak manufacturer who seems to have captured the imagination of sea kayakers around the world, it's the clever & innovative Tahe Marine from northern Europe. Their Greenland design in particular seems to have had a major hand in re-igniting the interest in Greenland paddling & rolling, with it's clean low-volume lines & sexy black finish. This boat was exposed to a wide range of paddlers last weekend at the Queensland Symposium, thanks to the owner of the only one in Australia, Brian Towell, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I think it's safe to say that, skin on frame boats aside, this is the worlds easiest kayak to roll.
A bit of investigation & some candid correspondence with Tahe reveals that they are no one-trick pony, and are also turning out some other brand new designs worthy of a closer look.

So, we have ordered a shipment from Tahe, and included three designs, the Greenland, Greenland T (a larger Greenland boat for touring or bigger paddlers), the Wind 585, a fast, narrow fitness or touring boat, and a rather special looking boat called the Zegul.

The Zegul in particular has some impressive pedigree. Designed by Johan Wirsén, the creator of the Point65 XP, this boat shares some of the excellent features that made the XP a fast, high performance design, but with added sea attributes like a fuller bow (to prevent pearling in following seas) & a shallower keel line (to give a less twitchy initial stability). It has some very good reviews overseas commenting on the speed downwind, stability in genuinely big water, and the great handling of the swede form hull. The Zegul is available in an expedition size (Zegul 550) & a low volume (Zegul 530). It promises to be a fresh new entrant into a growing & diverse market.
Keep an eye on our website for these boats, stock is due in 2010, prices start from $3190.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Rumblin in Currumbin #2

Rob & I have just returned from an indulgent long weekend at Currumbin on the Gold Coast, where we attended the National Sea Kayak Symposium, run by Queensland Canoeing.
The event was well supported, with well over 100 paddlers attending, guest speakers, on-land talks & seminars, and a full day of on-water instruction & workshops. We drove up on Thursday in order to run our own demo day at Currumbin on Friday. Unlike last year I managed to get to Queensland without running the trailer into a petrol bowser, running out of gas or crunching a low clearance hotel entrance, so all up a pleasingly professional performance behind the wheel.
The Friday saw over 30 paddlers come along & test paddle our boats & paddles. With our shipment of Tahe kayaks due in the New Year, several people took the opportunity to put the exceptional Greenland through its paces, kindly accommodated by the owner of the only one in the country, Bass Strait veteran Brian Towell.


Greg Schwarz rolling the Tahe Greenland
Feedback from Greenland rolling boffins like Greg & Moira Schwarz & Steve Simovic was that it was the world’s easiest kayak to roll, while Brian reports that it is a low-volume joy to paddle on day trips.
Steve Simovic relaxing in the Currumbin sun.
We met many of the high octane stars of the lively Sea Kayak Forum, with pseudonyms like Raider, Gray Raider, Gnarlydog, Karrazy among them putting faces & real names to the exponents of shameful opinion & online humour!

The Raider with a cross-bow draw....!

On the Sunday I took a willing bunch of guys, Rhys, Alex, Glenn & Gary (who also responds well when you call him Dave for an hour, sorry mate…) out to practice some raised edge surfing on the much touted Currumbin Bar. A 20 knot northerly had turned the gleaming glassy swells I’d been dreaming of in days prior into something that looked more like the river in Deliverance. With great gusto the guys slugged it out in an hour of bracing, buffeting & surviving, but I don’t think we were really any the wiser on technique at the end. At least it was almost fun…..

EK HQ at the Sunday on-water event.

Rob & I had the humbling experience of a half hour or so of informal forward stroke critique from Amanda Rankin, a great lady & K1 & K4 Olympian at the Athens games in 2004. Doing my best to hold form in the Rapier as Amanda cast her expert eye over my stroke, she concluded that a few things I really truly thought I was doing well need substantial amounts of work. Without boring you with the details, it was fantastic to be given something to again set my sights on to improve. Why on earth sea kayakers can believe that we have nothing to learn from other paddle disciplines is beyond me – Amanda’s forward stroke was a sight to behold at close quarters & has inspired me to get rotating. To those of you out there that I have barked at over the years for not rotating, well, I wasn’t even doing it properly myself, so there you go!

Silvio Testa back from a trip to the edge in the Rapier 20.

The single most pleasing aspect of the weekend was the ambition of the paddlers in attendance. At our demo day on the Friday just about everyone was rolling, performing tricks, drills, showing good form & modern technique. There is no hard-arsed intelligentsia who tell it like it is in Queensland, and the newest ideas get oxygen just as readily as the older lessons are absorbed. Friday was a bit of a skills extravaganza, with advanced strokes on display from some paddlers who have only been paddling for a few months. Martin are you out there? It was great to see. Over a bottle of wine on Friday night Rob & I pondered a guy like Nigel Dennis, certainly one of the modern fathers of sea kayak instruction, and how over the years he has managed to always have the newest ideas. At no stage has he hung up his skirt & decided there is nothing left to learn & everyone has to do it like they’ve always done it, and that in many ways exemplifies the skills revolution that is taking place in Queensland. In a sport with its fair share of crusty old buggers who refute anything counter to their time honoured rituals, always remember there is another, better way of doing things around the corner.

A broad church of ideas....

The kayak industry was also on show in its brightest incarnation, with a refreshing camaraderie among competing business, boats & personalities. Everything from Surf Kayaks to Surf Skis were on show for paddlers to try out, with a vast resource of information in the trades hall available to anyone with a question or query. Ten minutes talking to Ross Cook from Roscoe’s Canoes is like a mini history lesson in the way the paddling world has developed in this country, while it is always a pleasure to catch up with guys like Christian from Roscoe’s, top instructor & owner of Adventure Outlet, Craig McSween (despite all that stuff they say about him ;-)), & Bob ‘the legend’ from Rafta Kayaks.

The queue for the Tahe Greenland

All up a top weekend for sea paddlers. Thanks so much to everyone who made the effort to come along & see what we had on offer, it felt like a reunion most of the time. We’ll be back at this event next year, it was a ripper.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

National Sea Kayak Symposium, Queensland

It's hard to believe it's almost a year since we attended the inaugural National Sea Kayak Symposium at Currumbin on the Gold Coast, and now here we are in November '09 & it's come around again. We will be exhibiting & instructing at the Symposium, with our full range of TRAK, Valley, North Shore & Rockpool demos available for a paddle as well as bringing a display packed with all of our Reed, Kavu, Mitchell Blades, Greenland Paddles, and all of the other unique gear which set us apart from the rest of the market. We will have a great extended trailer for the Gordon Brown DVD showing on our stand, as well as the DVD & books for sale at a Symposium special price. Don't miss our demo on the amazing TRAK folder; the performance sea kayak that folds away into a golf bag.
We are also holding a demo day prior to the Symposium at Currumbin, from 10am - 3pm on Friday November 27. All of our demo boats will be there, and as usual we will sit along side you in the water offering instruction & advice on your paddling. If you'd like to come along please email me - - for more info.
At the Symposium itself, Rob & I will also be leading a couple of advanced instruction sessions, however we're available over the whole weekend to answer your questions on or off the water about all things technical, boat choices, gear & more. Make sure you say G'day.
Click on the graphic above if you're interested in registering, there are still places left & it promises to be a terrific, informative & entertaining weekend.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Broughring Forties

“At 20 years of age the will reigns; at 30 the wit; at 40 the judgment.”
Benjamin Franklin
“Forty isn't old, if you're a tree”
Bob Hope

So it comes to pass, I’ve joined the demographic of my paddling mates in middle age. Luckily for me, one of my best mates, Glen Hastings, AKA Stacka the Attacka was born on the exact same day as me, November 7, 1969, and we have a tradition of co-hosting the big milestones in our lives. When we turned 30, we booked out the Icebergs at Bondi, had 250 people, some of whom we even knew, & enjoyed a raging party that went from midday to midnight, with two bands pumping out our favourite music, tanned & healthy people wall-to-wall, a boozy haze of good feelings & optimism & a very blurred recollection of the whole thing. Kind of like the Expedition Kayaks beer & pizza ‘Welcome to Rock & Roll’ party, except the only people over 40 were Mums, Dads & Aunties, and there was great music, and umm, it didn’t finish at 8 O’clock.
So, for our 40th, with that sort or roof-raising legacy to maintain, we thought it might be a good idea to paddle out to Broughton Island for a night & sulk. Stacka is a ski paddler who would find paddling a barge of a sea kayak a breeze, a former Bondi lifeguard who is pretty dark on the fact that the current bunch of imposters are now international household names and he’s just a suburban bloke with a bagful of very funny stories.
We also wanted another one of our best mates, Adrian Janschek, AKA the Adonis, to come out & share in the gloom, as he will turn 40 in June. Adonis has absolutely no paddling experience, but is a super fit ex-rower, rugby player & a very determined dude (just how determined we were about to find out). Safe in the knowledge that he earns a crust as an investment banker, we figured if he came to grief among the big water around Broughton, a world with one less bonds analyst has got to be a better world.
The Adonis, looking VERY confident.
To round out the safety of a foursome (actually he was really the first bloke we figured HAD to come), we asked Rob Mercer along, to give us some grief counselling about what it’s like to be 50 (yes folks, despite all my treacherous rumour mongering, he is actually only 50).
With a forecast promising a 15kn headwind throwing up a metre & a half sea on top of a 2m swell for day one, and similar following conditions for the return trip, we decided to go from Shoal Beach inside Nelson Bay, and run past the beautiful offshore islands on our way out to Broughton Island, approximately 20km to the north east. We were all smiles as we skipped past Tomaree Head and across the Pt Stephens heads to Yaccaba.
The refraction & tidal movement started to produce a little bit of rebound as we neared the end of the headland, and then Adonis took a swim. He had a bit of a stunned look on his face as he popped up, and had given no prior hint of instability; just a misplaced paddle stroke that tripped him up & gave him a bath.
Quick as a wink we emptied his boat & had him back in, pointed towards Cabbage Tree Island and away. A minute or two later he was in again, back in again, on his way again, then in again, back in again, but this time we thought it pertinent to actually reassess the whole thing. At that point I was thinking a raging party at the Shoal Bay Fisho’s might be a better idea, but as Stacka is actually banned from the place after a previous brouhaha, that was quickly discounted. Adrian was adamant he felt fine, but just wished he didn’t keep falling in, so we let him continue in the slightly more unidirectional water between Yaccaba & Cabbage Tree.
One more capsize on the way there had us in earnest discussion in the lee of Cabbage Tree Island about the wisdom of continuing. We took into account the distance to go to BI – about 11km. The wind had eased to about 10 knots on the nose, and once clear of the islands we would be in open water with much less confusion in the sea & swell direction. Adrian was well kitted out, physically strong, warm despite the swims, well fuelled, in the company of two sea instructors (one of whom is actually very good) & another very solid paddler who typically was thinking the whole thing was a piece of p-ss (keep reading folks). We decided to push on.
With the distant silhouette of Broughton in his sights, the Adonis then sucked it up, gingerly driving his boat through the head-sea conditions, with a phalanx of attentive newly middle-aged blokes taking turns at watching his every twitch. Halfway across he had another unplanned bath, so we hooked up a V-Tow with support to give him a bit of a breather. Stacka thought it was clever to point out that my line was a bit less slack than 50 years old Mercer’s after about 30 minutes of load hauling. Never mind that the old bugger was in the Rockpool GT and is, well, bloody faster than me…! After the outburst, Rob & I figured we’d give Mr Frustrated Bondi Rescue a go on his own for a while.
He did so well (this time with the Adonis back swinging his paddle & looking as strong as ever), that we didn’t think it was necessary to relieve him until one last capsize near the infamous ‘Commodore’s Cleft’.
Rob hooked in & towed alongside the now chastened and pleasingly fatigued Stacka until it was calm enough to remove the towlines & allow Adonis to breeze past everyone & claim line honours at Esmeralda Cove. In all seriousness, think about the scope of what Adrian managed in the context of your own paddling. No prior experience, seven capsizes in what was a reasonably intimidating sea, with a island on the horizon that never really looks like it’s getting any closer until you get right to it’s front door mat, into a headwind. We were confident we could get him out there by any one of a number of assists, and could have V-towed him all the way there & back if it was called for. However to do it mostly on his own was entirely dependent on him holding his nerve. Falling in is pretty unnerving stuff in a big bad ocean, and I’ve seen lots of paddlers with heaps of experience understandably pack it in after a couple of swims. Adonis mate, if anyone ever tries to tell you you’re not tenacious, determined & brave, give them my number.
A typically ungenerous Hastings was unwilling to relinquish the towline saying something along the lines of ‘I’m not going to give the bastard the pleasure of landing under his own steam’, but wiser & more charitable heads prevailed.
The weather had cleared & the island revealed itself in all of its majesty; one hell of a destination for any paddlers out there with a good skill set in an experienced group, if you’re wondering…...
We made camp, went for a short walk to the south facing side of the island, a beautiful wind-swept island part Royal National Park, part Outer Hebrides.
We then adjourned to Rob’s tarp for a spectacular feed pre-prepared & snap frozen during the week by Rob’s saintly better half, Sharon Betteridge. You know what they say folks, behind every great man is a great woman, rolling her eyes. The sky was as black as a JP Morgan investment bankers heart and shooting stars & satellites began to reveal themselves, remarkably more frequently as we knocked back the third bottle of red.
Sundo & Stacka, looking a hundred dollars. Red anyone...?
It was great to sit out there, having well & truly earned our miles, with three of my great mates reliving the funniest moments of the times we’ve all had together. Especially so when we’d all worked so hard & closely to get Adrian out there (none harder then the Adonis himself, of course). The swooping Mutton birds kept things interesting too, with one managing to wing Adrian on a particularly brave sortee. Not that I heard, but the guys reckon the mutton birds were having a convention behind us during the night, showing each other wonderful new things and saying ‘ohhh’, ‘wow’, ‘ooohhhh’. You’ve got to have heard the Mutton birds to get the joke…..
The next day dawned bright with sunny skies & a noticeable easing of the sea state, highlighted by a Humpback doing a mighty breach at the mouth of Esmeralda Cove.
Learning the lessons of the previous day, we swapped Adrian over to the Aquanaut HV, a much bigger & more solid boat in the water than the North Shore Atlantic he’d paddled out. We then weighed it down with all of the heavy kit, paying special attention to trim, with a higher proportion of weight in the stern. This would serve to anchor the stern & keep the boat tracking straight in the following conditions. So we packed up, did a quick refresher with Adrian on low bracing & edges, and set off for the mainland.
What a difference a day makes. With the far more challenging following seas picking us up and scooting us along at a cracking pace, Adrian held it together across the entire passage to Cabbage Tree.
The rides on offer were marvellous big long surf runs on nicely paced following seas, the one truly exhilarating element of our sport. We turned at the eastern edge of Cabbage Tree Island & ran with the swell all the way back into Shoal Bay, making the return journey in just over two & a half hours.
With high fives all round we packed up the boats & gear & headed to the Marina for a monster feed and a couple of cold libations. My beer was so cold it hurt……
A fantastic way to cap off a trip with a top bunch of people to a spectacular & challenging destination, and a worthy celebration.
So, Stacka & I can safely say we’ve started our terminal decline with a memory we’ll cherish for years, as opposed to entering our thirties with a memory we’ve, ah, what did we do for out thirtieth again….?
(note, there is a comprehensive report with more photos on the Articles page of the website)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Rocking & Rolling with the Tasweigans

Geoff & Lynn Murray, my mates from Tassie & the original globe-trotting sea kayakers were in town last week for a test paddle for Geoff of the new Rockpool GT. We launched from the protection of Watson's Bay & rounded South Head into some moderate Nor' Easterly breeze & a confused chop, remnants of a few days of southerly weather.Lynn was challenged by the steep & unpredictable wave action, but managed to negotiate the heads all the way across to North Head, where things had peaked up a little higher. Rather than head around the very committing stretch to Blue Fish Point we decided a coffee in little Manly was a more prudent goal, and then ran the following swell along the cliffline of North Head back into the shelter of Quarantine Bay. Lynn hadn't previously been exposed to steep following conditions before, and negotiated the unstable feeling lifting from astern like a trooper. She even managed to ride the last half dozen swells into the calm of Quarantine with a smile on her face!
After a good stiff coffee, we traversed the harbour to Grotto Point in search of a wave for Geoff, but couldn't find much on offer.
We then headed back across the shipping lanes to Watto Bay for a cold James Boags & a counter lunch at the pub. The paddle was a beauty, with the majesty of the harbour on show, enough lump & bump to make things interesting & some good food!
Lynn got the gold star for staying with it when she got past her comfort zone and eventually enjoying some bigger water then she's used to.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Fat Paddling....

On a really lovely spring afternoon in Sydney yesterday, I was joined by Sean Smith, the world famous Fat Paddler on a demo paddle of a couple of our boats. Sean is a real character, an ex Rugby player who has spent a bit of time lately recovering from a serious car smash that has cut short his footy, & left him in need of a new physical challenge. He set himself to do the Hawkesbury Classic, a 111km race from the foot of Sydney's Blue Mountains to the mouth of it's biggest river, which he completed last weekend after 6 months of training. He's documented everything on his excellent website,
Yesterday was all about giving our two big blokes boats a run, so we went for a paddle around Middle Harbour in the NDK Explorer HV and the Valley Aquanaut HV. Sean's been paddling with a rudderred boat since beginning his Hawkesbury Classic quest, so it was a new thing to get into a design where directional stability is more dependent on your core strength & body weight distribution, as opposed to your big toes. He got the hang of it pretty quick, as I tend to expect from people with a sporting background, and was soon getting the boats to head in the generally desired direction, despite a building sea breeze mostly on the beam. We rounded Grotto Point into some small wind chop, & Sean did what all good demo paddlers should do, & pushed the boat in bigger water past his comfort zone, into the liquid zone. I reckon you never learn much about any boat unless you're prepared to fall out of it!
After a quick rescue we rode the building wind waves back into the shelter of middle harbour & spent half an hour working on the holy grail of all kayaking, proper body rotation. All up a beaut arvo on the water with one of Sydney's paddling characters. Keep an eye on the Fat for updates on Sean's adventures!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

John Anderson & Stability

John Anderson in his Nordkapp
Hunter paddler John Anderson has written a superb summary of the concept of stability on the excellent Hunter Klan website. A man of science, John has managed to capture in very simple terms the idea that some boats get more stable as they are loaded, that secondary stability is a measureable & important quality, and that this is a very important consideration when you're trying to decide what is best for you for your style of paddling. The article has been posted on our Articles page in the left menu, or you can see it by clicking the link HERE.
Thanks John for permission to reproduce....

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Chris Walker in the Rapier 20

Adventurer Chris Walker is the latest addition to the 'Rapier Club', having taken delivery of his shiny new boat last month. He's put together a great little video of a recent blast on the harbour in the Rapier, complete with a few rolls & some high octane speed! Click the image above for the vision.
Chris is an adventurer and motivational speaker who regularly travels the globe leading treks for private individuals & groups. You can see his website HERE.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Queensland's First GT

Queensland kayaker Graham Dredge has had his maiden paddle in the first Rockpool GT to head north of the Tweed. After a wild test paddle which included the charge of the Orca Brigade, Graham was sold on the terrific alround capabilities of this head turning new design from Rockpool.
Look our for the glitter & starfish on the waters of SE Queensland...!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Big Dog...woof!

Coming in November for demo paddling & custom orders, Britains newest & fastest growing whitewater brand, Big Dog.
Owners Peter Orton, Jason Buxton and Andy "Snakey" Whiting, from Valley fame, have all held down influential development and managerial roles within the paddlesport industry. As paddlers they have represented Great Britain on countless occasions. Many of the kayaks already accepted as benchmarks within white-water, sea, surf and squirt paddling were designed or developed by one or more of this team. Despite Big Dog being a new venture there really are few other companies, anywhere in the world, with this level of experience on their books.
Big Dog has only one focus, making the very best whitewater kayaks available!
We’ll have stock on hand of the Flux, Force & Kaos. Contact Mark or Rob to arrange a blast in the most radically designed playboats to hit the scene in years….

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Valley Aquanaut

It’s just over a year since I took delivery of my shiny Carbon Kevlar Valley Aquanaut, and I thought it an opportune time to reflect on the boat & what my impressions are now that I know it so well. The first thing that strikes you about the Aquanaut is the reassuring stability when things get rough. I find myself reaching for the camera to take a shot of someone engaging in the rebound or swells around Sydney while my paddling partners have their hands firmly glued to the paddle.
No question, the predictable secondary stability of the boat provides a superb platform. Of course, a stable boat is often hard work to edge turn or manouver, but the designers of the Aquanaut have overcome this with a medium rounded chine which allows you to drop off the keel line with a small edge or lean. The ease of hip control isn’t as pronounced as it is on a Nordkapp, where you can really control your boat with the tiniest of movements once you get the hang of it, but you definitely don’t need to be overly strong to steer the boat with your core.
As far as speed goes, on dead flat water I reckon it hits the wall at about 8.6kmh, based on a series of timed flat water paddles where the aim was to go fast. On the sea however, where the power of a wave releases the planning section of the hull, I’ve cruised the 22km Sydney coastline in just under 2 hours. This is due to the fantastic surf-ability of the Aquanaut. I’m yet to paddle a sea kayak that latches onto the power of a following wave, or glides better down the back end of an oncoming swell than my Aquanaut. In beach or bar-break surf, this boat is sitting on the royal podium with maybe only the Avocet (which I can’t fit into) and the North Shore Atlantic superior. The great surfing characteristics of the Atlantic & Avocet however are at the cost of a little boat speed, so there are always swings & roundabouts. Unless the surf has been big, it’s almost impossible to get the bow to dig in & endo, which most people would regard as a quality to be cast in platinum. I personally quite enjoy a good endo when I’ve planned it…!
Despite some big impacts & a torturous regime of boat punishment, there are no signs of cracking or structural damamge, and I've never had as much as a drop of water in any of the hatches. My clear hull, despite the howls of protest from local boffins about how fragile it would be, remains as shiny & strong as the day I took the boat out of the wrapper. Clearly the critics of clear carbon kevlar hulled kayaks in Australia haven't seen the way the Valley guys make them....Where I’m lacking any real experience is in packing & paddling the boat for an extended trip, however Brian Towell came back full of praise for the boat after paddling his Aquanaut across Bass Strait in February. Rob Mercer took his Aquanaut on a 150km paddle in November last year & commented on the loss of real sportiness in the boat when packed, but that with care in weight distribution the trim of the boat could be adjusted to make the most of the day’s conditions. Not every boat can do everything, & I can safely say if I was heading off for a month I’d be in a Nordkapp, rather than my trusty Aquanaut, for the extra waterline length & carrying capacity.
My paddling is confined for now to day & overnight trips, short blasts in the surf or around the caves & cliffs of Sydney, and the Aquanaut is a boat I am well & truly smitten with, for it’s ability to provide a superb platform & feedback in the water in which I like to paddle. I’ve paddled other designs which are faster on dead flat water, others which can carry more gear or are ‘easier’ to paddle, but none which react so beautifully to the motion of the sea

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD

We've just placed an order for the first bunch off the presses, of Gordon Brown's excellent new instructional DVD, Sea Kayak. Those who have read his excellent book of the same name will appreciate the straightforward & insightful style in Gordon's instruction, and this film has been made with Simon Willis, a sea kayaker & film maker with years of experience. I like to do my instructing as part of a trip, where you can stop at various features & sea states & work on a new skill or stroke, & that's exactly the format Gordon follows on this terrific high definition offering. Viewers can return to study the coaching sessions, which use freeze frame and slow-motion, to analyze techniques. Once described as ‘Sea kayaking’s ObI-Wan Kenobi’, Gordon Brown owns and runs Skyak Adventures with his wife Morag on the Isle of Skye. As well as introducing novices to the sport in one of the most beautiful yet challenging parts of the world, Gordon trains and assesses to the highest level within the British Canoe Union. Click the image above to see a preview of the DVD.

Reviews have been glowing:
“fantastic...less like a textbook and more like a documentary”
“a DVD to watch time and again...for both education and inspiration”
"Dynamic coaching in inspiring scenery. Gordon shows strokes in calm conditions followed by 'oh my god' conditions, displaying the same techniques in both."
Justine Curgenven / This Is The Sea

Friday, 2 October 2009

Orca off Sydney Heads

Orca or Killer Whale (artist unknown)
On a paddle yesterday out through Sydney Heads with Rob Mercer & Graham Dredge, I had one of the most amazing wildlife experiences of my life. It began when we noticed a huge amount of splashing & water disturbance on our way back across from North Head.
Rob & Graham before the cetaceans stampede
We saw a very big pod of dolphins about 300m across heading our way like freight trains, blasting through the water, breaching & diving, with the occasional very big splash that seemed to come from below. Rob was looking one way & Graham & I another as the mayhem got closer, and he said, rather loudly 'that's a very big fin for a dolphin....' We all scanned the water for further proof of 'something unusual' & saw a couple of very large, black pointy fins powering towards us obviously in pursuit of either the dolphins or whatever the dolphins were chasing. I caught a flash of black & white just as Graham said 'Killer Whale's eat great whites, don't they..?'
Graham Dredge picking his way through a North Head rock garden in the Rockpool GT
Sure enough, there were two, maybe three orca chasing down the dolphin pod at almighty speed. I can't say I've ever seen a dolphin looking sh-t scared, but I can go to my grave safe in the knowledge that I now have. A bit of research on the web last night indicates that Killer Whales will have a munch on 'Flipper', and the whale watch skippers that operate off Sydney have been reporting sightings of these majestic hunters. A little penguin that we'd seen on the way out was looking decidedly nervous as the cetaceans stampede bustled past. I wondered aloud if the little dude had seen Happy Feet. As always when something as fast as this strikes you dumb, none of us managed to squeeze off a photo. Maybe next time....
Memphis looking twitchy.....

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Kayakers T-Shirts - Addressing the lack thereof....

We've been told many times over the past couple of years that there is a serious dearth of paddling t-shirts out there for sea kayakers. Sure, you can wander around in your whitewater T, looking like a teenager trapped in an old dude's body, but there is not much out there for us sea kayakers to wear to proclaim our moral position to the world. So, we've had a crack at addressing this poor state of affairs, with a couple of designs to allow you, the fashion repressed sea kayaker to finally wear something that reflects your sport of choice.
We've even stuck our toes in the water to see how keen the closet Greenland paddlers are to 'out' themselves to the world, with an unmistakable statement about your quirky pastime, with a Greenland Paddler T. We're waiting with a sense of fear & excitement at EK HQ, & now we know how the staff at the sales day at DJ's feel waiting for the hordes to attack!
Both shirts are premium quality Hanes Beefy T's; they're available in men's & women's cuts, all for the throwaway price of $39, including delivery nationally. What the hell folks, our motto is, if you don't have a go, you'll never know....

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Arctic Paddling, with Ola Løftingsmo

I've been in contact with Ola Løftingsmo, a sea kayaker from the frigid coast of Norway, where he is an active member of the Harstad Paddle Club. He describes the paddling in his home country:
"We only have about 6-8C air temp right now, and its still early autumn. Last days have been quite windy with much rain so winter is coming soon with minus degrees and snow. But - being out at sea during the winter is also beautiful. You just have to put on enough clothes. We have 6 months with winter, about 1.5 months without the sun. We used to say that the rest of the year we have no winter, only bad ski conditions. Just joking, we also have summer, although a short one. Sending you a few shots from my part of the world. As you can see on one of the pictures the salt water has frozen to ice on my tuiliq.I have several boats but mostly I use my Greenland, and the SOF. My SOF is named Freya after Freya H, and she really liked the design and finish when she did rolling classes up here last year.Coldest trip I had last winter in my new Tahe Greenland was minus 19 degrees celcius and 10 m/s wind. In conditions like that I use either a Tuiliq (Brooks neoprene) or a drysuit (Typhoon) to keep the heat. On that trip the body was 100% OK but I hade some small frost injures in my face on the parts where the Tuiliq didn`t give any protection.
I had a layer of frozen seawater on my chest and arms, but it is actually not a problem to paddle on days like that. The big challange is to keep the feet warm. Body and hands are no problem. Imagine what they had to struggle with on Greenland to survive......"
Hand up all the Aussies out there who feel like sooks for not paddling over our terrible winters!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Senior First Aid Certification - Why bother.....?

I've heard more than a few grumblings over the years from paddlers resenting the idea that to become a Sea Leader, guide or instructor, you need to have a valid Senior First Aid certificate. It's a course I've taken myself off to three times now since getting into kayaking & one I figured would come in handy some day. Besides a few minor emergencies with my kids and my clumsy self, I've been fortunate enough to never have to actually use the skills my mate, & St Johns Educator & First Aid guru, Bruce McNaughton has taught me at the refresher courses. That all changed on Saturday when I was driving through suburban Marrickville & spotted a guy slumped against his driving wheel, with a couple of cars behind him honking as he blocked their exit from a popular local market. I stopped the car & ran back to find him unconscious, with blue lips, not looking too cheery. I pulled him out of the car, told a shell-shocked bystander to call an ambo, got another guy to stop the traffic which was still trying to manoeuvre past, then put old mate into the recovery position, checked his airway, remembering Bruce's DR ABC (Danger - Response - Airway - Breathing - Circulation). Another bloke out of the crowd, now over a dozen, checked his pulse which was pretty weak, & I tried to check if he was breathing. Once we'd figured out that he was neither breathing nor had a pulse - a surprisingly difficult thing to be sure about - I started CPR. With Bruce's words flooding back, I gave the guy a couple of breaths, then set up to do the compressions when he let out a big snore like breath & started to splutter, his blue lips started to turn red again & I figured the emergency was over. We then kept an eye on his dodgy breathing for a few more minutes until the Ambo's arrived.
In the post-match questioning from the police, it was amazing that nobody else present - more than 20 in the end - had any first aid skills, and basically they would have stood around & watched this poor dude expire while waiting for the ambulance. Although I've previously never done anything so drastic before, it's a tribute to the training you get from Bruce & the St Johns people that you have a reasonable idea of what to do, even two years removed from my last refresher. The moral of the story, if you don't have First Aid qualifications, seriously consider getting them. For a sea kayakers, especially those of us who from time to time deliberately go looking for adventure, it's something you owe your fellow paddlers. I think it's one of those civic responsibilities that we should all have at some level, preferably from a first rate educator like St Johns. You can check the course options HERE. I can guarantee that more than a few of the powerless spectators on the weekend will be heading off to research the getting of First Aid quals. A couple of them were really traumatised that they didn't know what to do & were silently cursing themselves as the poor dude on the ground went a deeper & deeper shade of blue. Marrickville Police range me on Saturday night to say that the guy was OK & was released from hospital on Sunday night, all is well that ends well. First Aid certification.....? Please bother...

Rob Mercer - 'If the Boat Fits, Wear It...'

Rob Mercer has just added to his wise but intermittent (!) blog with an excellent article about boat fit, especially with regard to smaller paddlers. You can read the post HERE.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Kavu - now available in Australia through the EK Store

We're happy to announce yet another big overseas gear brand with a great track record in paddlesports, the great Kavu range from Seattle.
I've long been a wearer & trasher of Kavu hats & visors, making sure to pick a couple up whenever I've found myself in a country where there is a stockist, and they are superb paddlewear. In our quest to get sea kayakers looking a bit less last century, they're also pretty cool, in a 'just had a surf, about to go climb a crag' kind of way.
We have the Paddling Chillba Hat, a shape-shifting lightweight nylon hat with a good broad wire reinforced brim (no blow-ups in a headwind), & a chinstrap which allows you to cinch right down if things get gnarly.
Kavu have also come up with a great range of water glasses, and we're stocking the ultra chic, super practical Perma-Grin sunnies, polarized for glare & styled to impress.
To top it off, & because it's my personal favourite piece of kit, we're also stocking the iconic Kavu Visor. Made from tough canvas with a great adjustable band which keeps it on your head during the worst trashing, and a great travel companion for lightweight adventures. It's a great triumph of fashion over practicality, but I love mine...! The whole range is available on our online store, at 'matched to the American stores' prices.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Wednesday Morning Fitness Paddle – 12 months of sweat….

It’s just gone a year since a few hardy souls began to gather at the Kyeemagh boat ramp adjacent to Botany Bay each Wednesday morning for a nose-to-the-keel fitness paddle, about 12.5km to Dolls Pt in the south of the Bay & back again.
Over this period, the core of the group, namely Peter Levy, Roger Boardman & Duncan Stoddart have been stalwarts, with a few guest appearances from Bare Island Park Ranger Ben Khan, Kate Nichols, Raewyn Duffy, and cameos from Dee Ratcliffe, Matt Bezzina & Harry Havu.
It’s worth looking back over a period of time at what is essentially a training paddle, to see if there have been any tangible improvements to your paddling, as a result of dedicating some time each week to pushing yourself past the comfort zone.
In my own case I quickly realised that my paddling style had been shaped by the slow upper or hull speeds of the sea kayaks I paddle. In other words, I was conditioned to a certain cadence & stroke that suited the fact that pretty much no matter what I did, on dead flat water my boat couldn’t really go any faster than about 9kmh over a sustained distance. So, I had a slow, powerful stroke that didn’t lend itself to improving overall fitness, or the muscle memory required to accelerate when I transferred my paddling to the dynamic water of the sea.
I also came very quickly to the conclusion that wing paddle I was using was too long, too big in the face & set at the wrong feather.
Wing paddles have become an odd point of contention in our club, and I think this mainly stems from the poor technique many paddlers employ in using them. To get anything at all out of a wing, your stroke needs to be upright, your catch close & you need to rotate quickly out of the water. If you have a low ‘army’ stroke you will fight the design of a wing every inch of the way & get no discernable benefit from using it. You’ll also have a few problems when it comes to using the blade for technical strokes, unless you have really dedicated yourself to learning the nuances required to paddle ‘technically’ with a wing.
My own big bastard of a wing was quickly discarded in favour of a much smaller mid-sized blade with a percentage of glass in the shaft, rather than a stiff, pure carbon pipe.
I also did away with the idea of paddling a traditional sea kayak & went instead for the Rapier 20, a radical design with a much more surf-ski like hull, capable of a top speed that as yet, I’m incapable of reaching.
The result has been a steady increase in my ability to reach a high cadence & sustain it over 75-80 minutes. I’m going about 15% faster compared to the same times in my Rapier 8 months ago, and can crack & hold 10kmh+ for about 50 minutes before my otherwise lacklustre fitness tanks!
I don’t think any of the guys who have been regulars would claim anything other than improvements in their paddling as a result of these weekly sessions, and we all watch one another’s strokes etc & offer advice if someone is getting into bad habits.
Transferring the increased ability to accelerate into my sea paddling, I find that I’m much better at catching the free rides on offer from the sea & swell, and have much better skills at powering my way out of trouble when required. It’s ironic that the metronomic high cadence of a fitness paddle is the antithesis of the paddling style I’ve developed in the ocean, which is more a series of bursts as I try to time my powerful strokes with the ‘kick up the bum’ that following conditions or rebound offer. I also get bored senseless by the trips where everyone is bee-lining from headland to headland in some bizarre todger-waving exercise to see who can go the fastest. Give me a 20km paddle over 4 hours with some caves, rebound, surf & some skills practice anytime over the ‘out & back, quick as you can’ day trips.
So, I hope I can speak for my hardy Wednesday morning mates when I say that you can’t get enough out of a regular paddle in your routine which is dedicated to building fitness & forward paddle technique.
Our paddles leave at 6.30am sharp each Wednesday from Kyeemagh Boat Ramp in Sydney, if you’re interested in coming along.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A paddle with the Forrest....

Rob & had a great paddle with our mate & leading Queensland Instructor Gary Forrest last week. With some nice fat swell bouncing off the cliffs north of Botany Bay we managed to find dophins, a rare Giant Petrel, a surf break at Kurnell good enough to create a bit of mayhem, & some fun cliff rebound. It's amazing how much fun you can have in 4 hours. Click the picture above to see the slideshow of the paddle.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Rockpool GT

After more than 3 weeks, including 10 full days on the water in a big variety of conditions, empty & loaded, we're finally able to pass judgement on this most eagerly awaited design from Rockpool Kayaks. I have only had a short blast in the boat & found it to be something completely different to anything else I've paddled, in the sea kayak genre. The perceived similarities people have thrown at me from a photo or even a glance at of the design are way off the mark in general, & in the GT I really do find a design that is capable of just about everything. My limited time in the boat precludes me from making a detailed assessment, however Rob has given our demo GT a hammering. The results of his exhaustive testing are now up in a comprehensive review which you can see by clicking HERE.

Introducing the Mitchell Blades ‘Bombora’

We have been working on a new design with our mate, the esteemed paddle maker in the UK, Lance Mitchell. Taking one of Lance’s existing surf kayak paddles, giving a bit of a slalom twist, reducing some of the energy sapping blade surface area, and then using Lance’s legendary super tough, small artisan construction methods, the end result is the Bombora. So called in honour of the Aboriginal word for an area of unpredictable surf breaking over a shallow submerged rock shelf, which is inevitably located some distance from the shore and surf zone. We think this is a fitting name for a paddle that will take you to that distant offshore play spot and give you the range of strokes to ride the waves when you get there.
The Bombora has a strong but not exhausting catch, a smooth feel through the stroke & with the shortened face a quick & easy exit. It is a tremendously strong paddle for technical paddling & strokes, yet doesn’t need a huge amount of grunt to cruise distance. It’s made from an incredibly strong, not to mention very sexy Carbon Zenith layup, with a honeycomb carbon kevlar face & black magic carbon spine. We are noticing sea kayaker’s skills rising around the country. The days of the thin bladed ‘touring’ paddle with a long 220cm+ shaft are limited as paddlers are becoming technically more proficient and seeing the benefits of a higher angled stroke to their overall cruising & playing. The Bombora is our attempt to accommodate this into a cutting edge design, made to make the kind of paddling we do more enjoyable & rewarding.
Red Rob Mercer’s review of the Bombora

Monday, 24 August 2009

Umina Beach Training with the HKK.

A terrific paddling weekend of training & unplanned swims with the mob from the HKK (Hunter Kayak Klan). Umina Beach presents a great spot for some easily reached sea conditions, with a small surf break most of the time to test out the bracing skills. This weekend featured plenty of on water action with what has to be the most enthusiastic bunch of ambitious sea paddlers on the Eastern Seaboard, a few cool beers on the Saturday night & the All Blacks retaining the Bledisloe Cup. What more can a man want....? On the Sunday the Klan tried out all of demo fleet – 13 boats of all shapes & sizes, including the new Rockpool GT.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Power Monkey Explorer

I was recently given a great little product to test out in the field, designed for a for a power-hungry paddler, the Power Monkey eXplorer. It's a mini power storage unit that comes complete with a whole bunch of adapters for phones, iPods, PDA's & most USB chargeable products, with the added bonus for a kayaker of a tiny portable solar cell (the Solar Monkey, of course....) to top up power levels. For me, with an iPhone (just replacing a Blackberry), an iPod & a welter of other devices that charge by USB, it's a great addition to my travel or paddling kit, as it allows me to charge up my devices without having to carry a spare battery for each, or a bulky solar panel system with intricacies well beyond my limited electrical knowledge. You simply plug the Power Monkey into a mains for an hour, before you leave home, to return approximately 96 hours of standby on your mobile, 40 hours on your iPod, 5 hours on your games console, 48 hours on your PDA and 6 hours on MP3/MP4 players. According to the manufacturer "Ultra compact, tough and powerful, the powermonkey-eXplorer is water resistant and made from rubberised casing so can take whatever life throws at it, yet it remains the lightest, most versatile portable charger available today." I've been using mine now for more than 3 weeks, and I reckon I get three full charges out of my power-sapping iPhone, with a charged unit, as well as enough power to keep my iPod shuffle going for more than a week. It's compact, the solar chargers are very efficient, and I can't recommend it highly enough as a simple charging system. It won't charge your camera (unless you have one of the few on the market that charge through USB) or a VHF Radio, but nonetheless allows you to stay connected & powered up for the 2-3 day trips that in reality almost all of us undertake when we say we're going on an 'expedition'. You can buy the Power Monkey Explorer with the Solar Monkey through our online store for $149.00, including delivery.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Bouddi Paddle Pics

Scenes from a paddle in early August around the Bouddi National Park, north of Sydney. Thumping swells out to sea produced some dramatic breaking waves against the sheer cliffs, on a weekend marked by some stray whales heading north, & superb Sydney winter weather. There's a slideshow on our Photos page, or you can see it by clicking HERE.

Gina Shannon surfing the North Shore Atlantic

Gina Shannon has been paddling for less than 6 months, & has dedicated herself to learning the skills from Rob Mercer, through a weekly training date. Throwing herself into everything, she has very quickly become a highly skilled & courageous paddler with an appetite for everything that is thrown at her. Here she is riding a dumping 4-footer at Sydney’s Wanda beach, taking the hit, riding the foam pile before being upended. In this sequence she shows impeccable technique, recovering in shallow water with a copybook roll. Click on the image above or HERE to see the sequence (all images Rob Mercer, music by the Beach Boys).

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Latest Shipment from the UK

Our latest shipment has arrived!
The much anticipated Rockpool GT will make it’s debut on the water on this coming week, and there are two only remaining in stock. We’ve also got stock on the shelf of the traditional Greenland boat, the Anas Acuta, the exceptional new double from North Shore, the Atlantic II, and the world’s fastest sea kayak, the Valley Rapier 20. There is good stock of the highly regarded Valley RM range, the performance day boats to compliment your high volume expedition kayak.
Traditionally our new arrivals last days, rather than weeks, so be quick if you want to arrange a test paddle of a shiny new British sea kayak.
We will be closing off custom orders for our next shipment, due in November, on August 21.
If you’d like a Valley, Rockpool or North Shore boat made exactly to your colour & layup specs, ready to paddle in the coming summer, please let us know prior to August 21.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Winter Paddling in Sydney

We've posted a slideshow with some images from a few of Rob's paddles around Sydney over the winter so far. It's a reasonable file size, so please be patient with the download.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Chris James in the TRAK T-1600

Our very first demo paddler for the TRAK T-1600 was accomplished local paddler Chris James. Chris is a skilled & versatile kayaker, with extensive experience in surf ski, adventure racing & sea kayaking, where he holds an Australian Canoeing Sea Guide qualification.
He's also a busy guy, running the superb Neilsen Park Cafe & associated catering facilities - - with a heavy travel schedule, and the versatility of the T-1600 appeals to a bloke with his busy lifestyle. The big question though, is the boat up to a lumpy sea & bigger water? After a 15 minute assembly during which the sea sock (included with the boat) and inflatable internal float bags were meticulously fitted, Rob & Chris had a play with the boat in the calm water of the harbour. They then headed out through the heads into a lumpy 2m swell to test the boat's performance pedigree. Click on the image above to see a slideshow of the paddle & conditions, which the TRAK handled with flying colours.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

TRAK T-1600 - First Paddle

Our first shipment of TRAK T-1600 Folding kayaks arrived this week, with our demo included. Rob & I headed down to a windy Botany Bay to test out the claims of a 10 minute assembly & also to see if my recollections of the performance of the hull stood true, a couple of years down the track.
The boat itself comes in what looks like a golf travel bag, which weighs about 22kg with all components. It has a great wheely system which covered the bumpy terrain from car park to beachside without any problems. The astonishing thing about the TRAK when you unpack the contents is the sheer logic & simplicity of the parts. I've heard horror stories from 'folder' owners about 2 hour assembly, scraped knuckles & a physics degree being the pre-requisite for their boats, but the TRAK is definitely made for someone with my limited attention span & technical ability. I'd almost say idiot proof, but they say you've never met your biggest idiot, he's still out there....
The stern section comes together by lifting the stern piece, and watching as all of the poles fit neatly into place. The bow has a few more clips to fix, but all up the assembly of the frame takes about a minute for each end. You then slide the frame into the shell, fit the cockpit (a 10 second operation), the hydraulic jacks & the excellent ergonomic seat, and you're done. We then spent a few minutes tuning up the jacks to get the shell nice & tight, and were on the water within 20 minutes of our first attempt at putting the boat together.
So far so good.
To be honest, I'm not at all interested in the 'romance', or boffin value of folding kayaks, unless the end product is something I can have fun paddling. For me, that means no compromise on the performance of a design like my composite Valley Aquanaut, just for the sake of having something you can take on a plane. My impression of more traditional folders is of paddling a flexing caterpillar or accordion frame over sea waves, a serious lack of speed, and the sort of 'performance' you'd expect from a wide, load carrying, purpose-built expedition kayak. Definitely not my cup of tea.
The appeal of the TRAK is the playfulness, speed & performance capability of the hull. The big river sequence in Justine Curgenven's This is the Sea 4 features whitewater champion Ken Whiting paddling a TRAK in grade 4 whitewater. So without any further ado Rob & I put the boat through it's paces, head to head against an Aquanaut. In the low rocker setting it's rock solid in the water, superbly stable, but with the same sort of secondary stability, and maneuverability that a boat like the North Shore Atlantic offers. In a sprint against Rob, who was in his Aquanaut, we were bow to bow over 200m paddling flat out, so it's no slouch on the flat stuff, with no noticeable bow wave & a rewarding return of speed to effort. With 20 knots on the beam, it ever so slowly rounded up into the breeze, but one crank on the Vari Trim handle on the gunwhale opposite the wind, had it tracking like an arrow. Once you can get over the bizarre feeling of paddling a boat bent laterally like a banana, you understand the genius in the design. It's got to be be the most innovative solution to weathercocking that was ever solooshed....
The shell is incredibly rigid, to the point that you can't even feel the waves under your heels through the hull, and for all love or money this boat feels and paddles like a composite sea kayak.
We're yet to get it out among the dynamic water of the sea, where we'll be sure to properly fit the float bags & sea sock to ensure bulkhead-like positive buoyancy, but our first impressions of the boat based on our short test are overwhelmingly positive. Words like revolutionary are banded around a bit too much in the simple world of kayak design (usually by me...!), but this boat is as near to something truly revolutionary as I have seen.
Like most of our boats, we have imported them because we want one! I do a lot of business travelling, & I'm already getting excited about the prospect of a paddle on Hong Kong Harbour surfing the junk wakes, or a sprint under the Tower Bridge in London, maybe even a cruise up the Chao Praya in Bangkok, not to mention the fact that I'll now have a dead-set performance kayak to play with when I go to the islands with the family.
The demo is available for test paddling by appointment - drop me a line f you'd like to take the T1600 for a spin.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sydney Sunrise

I have just returned from an awesome sunrise paddle with Greg Simpson, now the Commodore - such a fantastic title - of the Tassie Sea Canoeing Club, in town for a day or so on business. Because entertaining visiting interstate dignitaries is now absolutely considered to be work, I suggested we head out for a paddle on the late sunrise, getting a small taste of the great variety of water around the entrance to Sydney harbour.
I'll let the images tell the story here, it was a spectacular morning, unseasonally warm, windless & with enough building sea to make the cliff sections plenty of fun. As I write this it's a howling westerly outside so we snuck in just before the weather turned, sipping a coffee at Watson's Bay as the whitecaps desecrated our pristine early morning waterway.
Greg striking out against the pre-sunrise skyline (note the lack of rudder....)

Gentle chop off the cliffs of the Gap

North head against the rising sun

The cliffline south of Sydney Heads.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Trak Kayaks - you think you've seen a folder...?

A couple of years ago at a big outdoors show in the US I came upon the stand for a fledgling kayak design, which for all money looked to me like a hard chined composite boat. I walked over & gave the hull a poke, because it looked kind of strange, & to my amusement it flexed. The boat was a skin on frame, but one with some pretty spectacular points of difference.I went out & test paddled the boat the next day, trying out some of the innovative features like adjustable rocker. You want a play boat & tourer? Just pull back on the hydraulics while you're underway and your hard tracking, low rocker 16ft sea kayak: turns into a classic shaped sea kayaking play boat design: Best of all, it paddles like a hard shell, performance sea kayak (check out this video for an idea of what they can do) , rather than a practical but relatively uninteresting floating log, which is pretty much what I have found the great majority of folders to feel like on the water. It takes a flat 10 minutes to put it together (to see the boat put together click HERE), and when you're done it packs into something no airline check-in desk worth their salt is going to think is anything other than a set of golf clubs:
The issue at the time for me was the price. These boats were going out for about $USD5500, which at the time was about $AUD7000 - pretty close to the going price for a good quality folder, but still a hefty whack. Time & success in combination lead good businesses to savings as the market for such a brilliant product increases, and that big price tag has come down in the last year or so. We at Expedition Kayaks are proud to announce that we are the first & only distributors of the Trak T-1600 in the Australian market, & will have stock on hand from June 29. These versatile, high performance, downright sexy folding skin-on-frame boats will be available for less than $AUD5000, in gold or green, with a next day national delivery.
If you're space challenged or are sick to the eyeballs of turning up at an overseas paddling heaven only to find your only option is a sit on top, contact us for a test paddle of the Trak - we will have a demo boat and stock on the shelf here from June 29. Keep an eye on our website over the coming days for full details.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Reed Transpire Fleece - Toasty.....

Our first batch of Reed's new generation Transpire Fleece tops have arrived, a product we ordered on the recommendation our favourite Tasweigan cold water gear freak, Geoff Murray. I was guilty of being complacent with the cooler weather a few weeks back, & paddled back from a night trip feeling very weary & cold. It was a reminder to me, living in a place generally devoid of weather extremes, that even a mild winter's day combined with a bit of wind & few rolls can produce a dangerous mix of cold for a paddler. We thought that a fleece undergarment designed for the cold weather in the UK might be a bit too toasty for the moderate winter temps on the Eastern seaboard, but have been gladly proved wrong. These are beautifully thought out garments, with a thin microfleece lining on the inside, and a silky, knitted outer. They're thermal in the truest sense, in that like wool they keep you warm even when they're wet, and the wind resistant outer means you can wear them as a single skin on a more mild winter's day. Layer them up with an Aquatherm top, or better still one of the Reed cags, and you are in warm paddlers heaven. Best of all, they breathe - that much sought after property in all outdoor garments that separates the wheat from the chaff. At $75 they are literally the bargain from the other side of the world, a sure thing to stop your next winter headwind slog from turning into a polar misery.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Funky GT

Rockpool builder Mike Webb has sent us some pics of the two boats that we have remaining for sale in the shipment of Rockpool GT's arriving in the last week of July. In typical Rockpool style, they are loud & make a statement that won't be missed.
Complete with starfish & glitter, in a boat design that has all of the knowledgeable chins in the UK wagging in overtime, these GT's promise to be something completely unlike what is currently in the market here in Australia, in this genre. We have a demo to play with & we're very excited......


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Welcome to the world, Marley Che.

Not a paddling post, much more important...
On Friday, May 29, my very clever partner Nicole gave birth to our first son, Marley Che. His two big sisters welcomed him with open hearts & germ-laden kisses.
Here's a pic of a proud Dad & his little boy....

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Rockpool GT, Design Notes.

The Rockpool GT, a few words about the design from the boat designer & manufacturer, Mike Webb......
"The Rockpool GT
The G.T. is the latest edition to the Rockpool sea kayak fleet. Whether you are looking for a solo circumnav of Greenland or just to explore your favourite stretch of coastline, this is the boat to place at the top of your list! Initial design criteria for the G.T. was for it to be: a fast boat (we wanted an easy cruise of over 4 kts), stable enough to take photos, large enough to carry exped kit and as manoeuvrable as a day boat – without any compromise!
The G.T. is a high volume sea kayak that is fast and incredibly easy to manoeuvre, combine this with predictable and precise stability (and the new FB seat) and you’ve got a sea kayak that handles like a dream! The hull can carry all the kit you want, the cockpit is roomy enough to ensure you are comfortable on long trips and a front day hatch makes it easy to access to all those little essentials! The G.T. is ideally suited for both long open crossings or just weekend pottering along the coast.
Between the Lines:
Sit in the G.T. and you’ll be surprised; it’s as fast as a long boat but manoeuvres like a short one – the sort of boat that puts a smile on your face! This is a boat that does fill the gap between exped and day boat, and does it well. It’s a cracking good surf too!
G.T. - In the Detail:
The G.T. is a high performance sea kayak designed for paddlers looking for a fast, stable and manoeuvrable boat. A large amount of work went into the G.T. hull to achieve the combination of speed and manoeuvrability we wanted. The overall length is 5 inches less than the Menai 18 (to make off the water storage and handling easier – it should fit in the garage!) but the blended hull form gives a cruise speed which is a touch faster. The boat is quick to reach cruising speed and easy to maintain there.
The hull section changes character, from a Vee at the entry point of the bow, rounded through the front section, to a flattened-U beneath the cockpit (no chines), rounded again under the stern hatch to a gentle blend into short keel section at the stern. The bow and stern sections of the hull have been designed in combination to minimise ‘over-pitching’ as the nose rides over large waves. Enhanced volume distribution gives a balanced boat which results in a unusually smooth and dry ride. The deck is shaped to shed water quickly (without splashing) when conditions get a little boisterous! The rounded sections of the hull give a cushioning effect in waves. The flattened-U centre section gives edging that is easy to initiate but progresses at a constant rate, resulting in predictable and confident edging. The G.T. remains stable and relaxed with even extreme leans (water on the deck stuff!) Turn response to edging is very quick with a good turn rate; as soon as the edge is removed the boat tracks straight without overturning. The shaping of bow and stern sections combined with a reduction of deadwood give a boat that is easy to steer, small heading changes and corrections can be made without leaning. The G.T. has been designed to remain directionally neutral in most wind conditions with a slight (and welcome) turn into wind as conditions strengthen, the hull shaping has also been designed to minimise broaching in following seas.
The G.T. deck has a conventional hatch layout with a round front hatch and rear oval. There is a standard day hatch behind the cockpit and a smaller day hatch just ahead of the cockpit to give easy access to life’s paddling essentials. No more need for that ugly deckbag! An extensive array of deck elastics make for easy storage and access to bulkier items. The front deck is designed to give a dry ride and minimise those annoying face splashes!
The rear edge of the cockpit rim is lowered to makes the G.T. easy to roll and when combined with a raised deck contour behind the cockpit it gives an easy and smooth snag-free entry. Behind the cockpit is a clear area to allow fitting of a deck mounted tow system. Adjustable fittings are incorporated in order to carry split paddles on the front or rear deck. All deckline fittings are recessed for a neat and smooth look, they also make life a little easier during rescue drills.
The integrated thigh braces of the cockpit rim and the adjustable seat make for a precise fit that provides accurate feedback and handling. The G.T. is fitted with an adjustable plate footrest. This is angled for a strong natural ankle position which allows the paddler to finely adjust their leg alignment. Matched with the adjustable seat this places the paddler in a dynamic and comfortable position for paddling.
A choice of the standard Rockpool seat or the new FB seat (developed from a white-water competition seat) can be fitted to the G.T. As per the rest of the Rockpool fleet the seats are moulded GRP shells which are adjustable front-to-back at 10mm intervals. The adjustable seat and footrest are mounted on internal hull fixings without drill holes. This relieves the cockpit rim and deck of unnecessary stress and provides a variable seat position for improved feedback and handling for the paddler. Alternatively the G.T. seat has been designed to allow it to be glassed permanently in place to perfectly match the individual and give ultimate feedback and comfort.
The G.T. is a boat with dreamlike handling – it is fast but turns like a much smaller boat; it is comfortable and manoeuvrable with crisp and precise edging."
We can't wait for our demo boat to arrive in July - only two of the boats remain in stock, so be quick if you want to be among the first to own a revolutionary GT.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Eddie & Gaz Carving up Mooloolaba

Check this out - Eddie Safarik in his Aquanaut LV & Queensland sea instructor Gary Forrest in his Nordkapp, absolutely carving it up....


Monday, 25 May 2009

Storm Paddling

Doing it tough into the gale (photo Rob Mercer)
Sydney's recent wild weather has produced some excellent opportunities for an 'experiential' paddle, and on Friday morning Rob & I decided to have a bit of play in the forecast conditions & then indulge in a surf across Botany Bay. The forecast was for 33kn+ and the observations at the time we were out on the water showed gusts to 41kn, with 3-4m swell rising at times to 6m. Observations are often used by sea kayakers as great fodder for the story in the bar afterwards, but the truth is most of them are measured an awful lot higer up a cliff than a kayaker's position, & conditions on the water are rarely as severe as the 'obs' suggest. Certainly, we didn't see any 6m waves, and the swell on our route was rarely above 3m. That said, it was a pretty demanding little session, with winds strong enough to blow your bow downwind as you crested a wave while we headed upwind, and a rip roaring following sea for our dash 9km across Botany Bay from about level with Henry Head back to the Airport.
Rob Mercer riding the wind waves

Riding a nice runner (photo Rob Mercer)

Lean forward, dig in hard....(photo Rob Mercer)

...and you're off.... (photo Rob Mercer)

It's conditions like these that make you truly appreciate the design of your boat. I've been in plenty of kayaks over the years that would have been either a complete nightmare in this sort of stuff, or alternatively gotten bogged down in the following sea & give a very frustrating ride. Rob & I were both in our Aquanauts, which give a terrific sense of surety & control, especially when riding the sea & swell home. The great thing about Valley boats is the way they get better, as things on the water get worse....

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tuesday Night Paddle

With a forecast of 25 knots out of the east - an unusual wind direction for Sydney - and seas forecast to rise over 2m on the back of the rising wind, I decided I should shut down the PC for the afternoon & head out on Rob's Tuesday Night Paddle. Baby number 3 is also about 3 weeks away so I reckon it will be a last hit out for me for a while! As always there was a mixed group of paddlers, with all levels covered from Sea Instructor to Tuesday night debutant.
The pod heading out of Watson's BayRob Mercer in the Anas Acuta
Unfortunately the predicted winds & sea state didn't come up as forecast, but it was still better than sitting in the office.....
Alan Thurman & Shaan Gresser rounding North HeadAndre Janecki paddling solo.....

Friday, 15 May 2009

Power down & fly....right?

For a few months now I've been listening to various theories on paddle size, shaft length, feather etc, in relation to both speed & effort, for sea kayaking. I have been bashing away on my weekly 12.5km fitness paddle with what would be regarded as a 'Large' wing paddle with a full carbon shaft. I'm managing to sit just under 9.5km/h for the duration, in my Rapier 20, a pretty damn fast kayak, by any measure. Plainly, a paddler with a racing background (I have none), better fitness and a more refined stroke would be able to squeeze another 1-1.5km/h out of the boat on flat water, so I'm not speaking here from the perspective of an expert, or an experienced speedster. Ian Tordoff crossed the English Channel in the Rapier 20 averaging 12km/h, which is just phenomenal considering the effort I require to crank it up to that speed. During the week I bought a mid wing paddle - thanks again to Tony & Jacqui Williams at Epic - with a more flexible carbon/glass shaft & this morning was my first hit out with the new blade. As is the norm for the Friday morning paddle, conditions were very light on the bay with just a 10 knot westerly on the beam, so nothing helping or hindering progress. My dodgy training mantra is to go as hard as I can for as long as I can, in the hope that over months I'll be able to harder, for longer....(I hope Mike Eggleton isn't reading this - still waiting for your training notes so I at least have some idea of what I'm doing mate..!)

So, I set my blade to 60 degrees, 212cm, down from a ridiculous 77 degrees on my larger wing (yes I failed HSC maths but the unnamed highly qualified sea instructor who set the angle for me is well versed in the arts of geometry), & off I went. The first thing I noticed was the appreciably higher rating possible with the smaller surface blade, although that for now doesn't transfer into a marked increase in speed. I hit my turn mark in a little less time than I've been doing lately & finished the course (now 12.75km due to the Desal plant 'waterworks' diversion) in 79 minutes, again, around 9.6km/h for the duration. This is almost exactly the same time as I've been doing with my bigger wing, but at a hugely reduced anaerobic toll on my shoulders & torso. I felt pretty fresh at the end of the paddle, and I'm putting it down to the less brutal catch, combined with the extra flex that a full carbon shaft denies me. I read a great quote the other day that made me decide once & for all to 'power down', and to paraphrase it was simply stating that a large blade only teaches you to paddle slower, unless you're a very powerful paddler. I sure as hell am not a very powerful paddler. What's the advantage of this lower-impact paddle if it hasn't immediately helped my speed, especially if I do want to try to get faster? Well, I figure the potential to get faster which is accommodated by the higher cadence possible with the mid-wing will give me greater scope to build speed, than was possible with my old large wing.
As an exercise in comparison, I grabbed my bigger wing at the end of the paddle & put my head down for a 200m sprint, getting the boat to 13.3km/h. Then I switched to the mid wing & did the same distance as fast as I could & only managed 12.7km/h. So, the heavy catch & the inflexible shaft on the larger blade definitely transfers to speed when you really go for it; either that or I was completely knackered by the time I got the mid wing back....
All well & good, you may say, but how does this transfer to sea kayaking when we're not out on the sea in a race, and where our hull speeds greatly reduce our ability to go very fast anyway? I think it comes down to learning, or training yourself to have the ability to accelerate on the sea, and thus hook into all of the free assistance you can gain from the dynamic water of the ocean. It's something we as sea kayakers mostly lack, and it can only be learned through a training regime that has some form of paddling against a clock built into the session. For a superb technical breakdown of what I'm poorly trying to describe, read Rob Mercer's 'The Catch' article.
I choose to paddle on the sea with my Mitchell Blades Voyager, as I can cruise along with minimal effort - it pulls a moderate amount of water & has a less aggressive catch - but still has enough clout to sprint onto a wave if I sense a free ride. If I'm going out to do some higher octane instruction, or having a surf, I'll take the Poseidon for it's more aggressive catch & bigger blade area for technical strokes. I also prefer the splits so I can drop down a gear with the paddles, taking it down as low as 209cm for close quartering, and back out to 212cm for a cruise. As a general rule, the bigger the blade surface, the shorter the shaft you can afford to have for the same returns in speed. One of the most experienced expeditioners in the country, sea instructor Keith Oakford, recently used the Poseidon on his circumnavigation of Kangaroo Island, and spoke highly of it's capabilities in the technical water they encountered, & also of his increased ability to put the speed on when he needed it. I reckon to have any hope of hanging on to Keith's bootstraps on a sea paddle where he was using the Poseidon, I'd have to use a Voyager with it's smaller impact & try to rate higher, as I will now do my best to learn with my new mid-wing paddle. In a round about way, that's why I'm exploring these side alleys of sea kayaking - I reckon the lessons learned long ago in other paddle disciplines have an awful lot to offer our hybridised sport.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Bass Strait Paddling....

Brian Towell paddling across Bass Strait (photo Silvio Testa)

Leading Queensland paddler Brian Towell recently crossed Bass Strait in his Valley Aquanaut. Paddling alongside were Silvio Testa, in a new Nordkapp, & Craig McSween in his own design, the Outasea. The guys wrote up an excellent blog of their trip which was completed in fine style, within the bounds the group set themselves as acceptable for such an exposed expedition, with plenty of good times along the way. Brian, Silvio & Craig paid this waterway plenty of respect, training extensively with fully loaded boats for months in advance. Brian sent through a photo of him paddling his Aquanaut across the strait against a dramatic seascape.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Braca Hurricane Paddles

Our search for an ultra lightweight sea paddle in a modern, high angle shape has led us to the world renowned Braca paddles from Europe. From June we'll be stocking the Braca Hurricane 100 in both the Min (660cm2) & Max (720cm2), weighing in at a meagre 740gms, one of the lightest sea paddles on the market. Besides the weight, the performance and exceptional build quality of Braca paddles sets them apart from most of the brands available in the Australian market. They are beautifully finished, with terrific performance characteristics. We will also be offerring an absolutely customised paddle - the blade will be cut to your specific length & feather all inclusive.
Keep an eye on our online store for details of these fantastic full carbon paddles, for under $600.
The acquisition of the Braca sea paddles gives us a light option with great performance for those to whom weight is important, in addition to the bombproof Mitchell Blades from the UK.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Canberra paddling

Some images from the demo morning we ran over the weekend in Canberra. Thanks to Ian & Julie for the post-paddle coffee, & to Geoff Payne who had a whale of a time in the Atlantic II & promptly ordered one!
Tony Mee in his brand new Aquanaut

Geoff Payne against a very Canberran backdrop

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Rockpool Kayaks - Coming soon....

In our continuing quest for even more quality boat models to add to the 13 we now have available, we have just finalised an order with the almost mythical Welsh kayak manufacturers, Rockpool. As far as I know, only the well-thought-of Tasweigan, Geoff Murray has managed to procure himself one of these master craft in Australia, but we'll have stock on the shelf towards the end of Winter, 2009. Rob & I both managed some water time in Geoff's beautiful boat on our recent instructing trip to Tassie, & were struck by the small-artisan detail in the build quality. For the aesthetes among us, they are definitely a sight to behold, and not just for the colourful graphics made famous in the tiderace footage of Rockpool's in action in the This is the Sea series. In keeping with our ethos to encourage skills & boat handling, we're also thrilled with the feedback from well-regarded British peers who rave about the rough-water handling of all Rockpool designs. Manufactured in Anglesey, Wales, by master boat builder & designed Mike Webb, Rockpool are reknowned for the innovation in their design. The most impressive of these in my eyes is the higher ergonomic foredeck, which allows a more anatomically correct leg drive position for forward paddling - no cramped thighs in a Rockpool....
We will initially be landing the brand new GT, a fast crusier with all of the big water handling of the shorter tide race boats like the Alaw (pronounced Arr-Lau for those not fluent in Welsh...)
If you have had your heart set on one of these striking, innovative & up to now virtually-impossible-to-get kayaks & would like one made to your specs, complete with the famous starfish & glitter deck graphics, you have until May 10 to contact us with your request.
For an incredibly comprehensive summary of the Rockpool designs & ethos, visit their excellent website.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Demo Paddle For Canberra Paddlers

If you’re interested in a demo paddle in one of the Valley, NDK or North Shore designs, and have time free this Sunday morning, May 3, we’ll be waterside on Lake Burley Griffin for a test paddle. Please email or call Mark Sundin at, or 0417-924-478 to express your interest.