From November 2nd to 4th the Hunter Kayak Klan held its fourth Klanocopia and it was bigger than ever. Once again organized by the super-capable and materially over-equipped, Shawn Armitage, the event this year ran like clockwork. As usual, training was provided by Expedition Kayaks’ Rob Mercer, Mark Sundin and Sharon Betteridge assisted by Shaan Gresser and the impressive but probably mad, Fernando and once again it was at Umina Beach on Broken Bay.
Saturday is training day and we split into groups depending on ability. I went out in the morning with Mark and about eight others for drills on the sea. We were looking for wind waves and some bump but it wasn’t until some time later that the wind picked up and we got a good following sea for a ride. It was about this time that disappointment across the klan dropped in. I was exhausted and barely made it back to Umina beach. When I did, thanks to some goo from Sundin, I surfed a small wave which proceeded to roll me on the steep side and forced an ejection. I swam the boat to shore and took some time to reflect on how bad my paddling has become since the promise of last year.
By lunch time, the wind was quite cold and despite some lunch and coffee, everyone was feeling pretty spent. Right across the klan there was a realization we were not up to scratch on endurance. The afternoon session was reduced to some playing in the surf and generally wasting time. The idea of Klanocopia was to advance the core members of the klan in skill and seaworthiness but this year has been a disappointment. I have my excuses which are not very convincing but for the others there has been a lot of emphasis on skis and racing and this divided interest has diluted the overall sea kayaking capability of many. On a brighter note, Anne Moore is fast becoming a Hawkesbury Classic superstar so not everyone was feeling the malaise.
Sunday is ‘messing about in boats day’ at Patonga. Here we take out the new boats in the Expedition Kayaks inventory to see what we like. EK usually do well from us with sales so they let us go nuts. Here is a brief rundown on some I paddled and initial impressions:
1. Valley Gemini.
Short playboat for those who like close in rock work or tight coastal paddling. This one appealed to me because that’s what I like to do. I found this boat very manoevrable but not all that comfortable for my big legs in the cockpit. It is an interesting design and I’d like to spend more time in one once I’m fitter. Maybe at Rock n Roll 2013.
2. Tiderace Explore L.
I really like this boat. I fit well in it, and it was comfortable. I could spend all day in this thing. On top of that, it handles so well and with little effort. Quick as well. I could replace the Assateague with this boat. Build quality is great and not too heavy. Definitely be trying this again.
3. Valley Etain 17
This is a great general purpose boat and probably the best of its kind out there. I’ve paddled it before and still love it. It does everything well without the need to be the best at one thing. Problem is that it won’t give me a significant upgrade form the Assateague despite being a better boat. It’s just not better enough and I can get a big upgrade in the Assateague by upgrading myself first. If the Assateague was destroyed or lost or stolen tomorrow the Etain would be on the shortlist with the Tiderace and the Nordkapp.
These are just impressions, not reviews. I takes more than 10 minutes in calm water to form any sort of opinion. My two main concerns were fit and comfort. No point going further if those aspects aren’t right. EK brought a whole trailer of boats and as usual my largish frame won’t fit in them at all. There’s a whole world of famous boats I will never be able to paddle. Fortunately, there are still quality craft for big blokes as well.
So Klanocopia this year was a real eye-opener. If you don’t use it you lose it. There has been quite a few resolutions to pick up the pace and since the event the klan website has seen a flurry of activity and scheduled trips. Right now I am recovering from cancer surgery again. Major this time and am champing at the bit to get back on the water.