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Category Archives: About Kayaks

Trials and Tribulations III

Greetings all. Another update.
After the shittiest year ever I have emerged intact and as bulletproof as ever. The cancer diagnosis seems to be a premeditated device to scare the shit out of me. After four excisions, and several variable diagnoses it turns out that the last operation got everything out and I am all good. I have had 8 CT scans in 6 months  and only recently did they tell me I was clear. The PET scan showed no trace of any cancerous cells in my whole body. I am cleaner than almost everyone else it appears because unlike most people I actually KNOW I am clear. I am probably radioactive and will ultimately develop superpowers but I am as clean as a whistle. The super power I choose is a bomb-proof roll.

The problem is now I don’t have an excuse. I am free to kill myself kayaking and I totally plan to do this. SOON. New truck, clean body, new attitude and right mental attitude. I am working on condition now and I am now going to send those klanners from the Hunter Kayak Klan back to school.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in About Kayaks

 
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Klanocopia 2012

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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.

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Posted by on December 9, 2012 in About Kayaks

 

The Rockpool Taran

Rockpool Taran

In May I bought a Ferrari Red and white Rockpool Taran. I test paddled it twice as you may have read. No problems. The boat is challenging and requires a much higher level of skill and fitness to master. However, neither of these requirements are standing by me at the moment. I am actually afraid of the Taran. It is certainly a beautiful boat but since owning one, I’ve been terrified by its level of difficulty. The other weekend I paddled in the Assateague all day without anything more than a numb foot. The next day I took the Taran out and was exhausted after 2km in flat water. This boat needs you to use core muscles you probably don’t have and a paddling posture only Olympic paddlers possess. It has no initial stability so you have to put complete trust in the Taran to not drop you in the drink because it has great secondary stability. You lose a lot of energy just coming to terms with the twitchiness of the boat but after a while, when you are knackered, you just let go of the panic and the boat starts to respond. By then, though, I am totally spent and just want to go home.

Since taking the Taran home, I have had little time to paddle and my paddle fitness is minimal. After bragging that I will humiliate the ski paddlers in the Klan, my short and unseen forays onto the water are now the source of jokes and innuendo among my Klan family and they have taken to calling my boat “Nessie”. Naturally, they will pay for their insolence but not for a little while yet. I will master this damn boat. When I was sulking about this situation someone said “what do you expect? You have just bought Casey Stoner’s Moto GP bike and you’re expecting to ride it like him”. True. One small step at a time. This boat flies when you hit your stride and by mid-summer I will be in control of this wild stallion. (another Ferrari motif). A narrower arse would be good.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in About Kayaks

 

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Rock n Roll 2012

Well, it’s over for another year. I look forward to it all year and now it’s back to the grind. Here’s a brief overview:

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Jervis Bay and Currarong

This year RnR was held at Currarong Beach Caravan Park. Currarong is a pretty sandy beach just to the north of Beecroft Peninsular which is the northern door post of Jervis Bay and includes the massive cliff of Point Perpendicular. You’ll see why it has that name, soon. Event organizer was the very capable Campbell Tiley, a Hunter Klanner, a capable Grade 3 paddler, and an all round decent bloke. This year Campbell packed a whole lot of non-paddling activity into the four days which meant there was always something going on in the big marquee or nearby.

Unlike Batemans Bay or Umina, Currarong doesn’t have ready access to the water. It’s a bit of a portage to the beach or creek and this means the normal rounds of boat testing and impromptu instruction didn’t happen. Still, the caravan park was accommodating and pleasant with some spectacular coast and terrific ocean paddling. Beecroft Peninsular is a popular kayaking destination that can vary from a pleasant coastal cruise to a life shortening death-trip. Fortunately, we were treated to nice weather and friendly winds.

I arrived on Friday after driving through Kangaroo Valley where I found the World’s Best Pie. Seriously, it is the world’s best pie. On arrival I quickly set up camp and then mingled with the other club members and fellow Hunter klanners. Beer and Pizza courtesy of Expedition Kayaks is now a tradition. Forty pizzas and I think some of the boxes were consumed in a feeding frenzy that lasted only a few minutes. That night more beer, wine and guitar playing at Bruce & Lynne McNaughton’s caravan.

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Expedition Kayaks and Trade area

Special guests for the event were the impressive. The mighty Paul Caffyn whose awesomeness requires no explanation, Stu Trueman who approximates that awesomeness and Sandy Robson who having survived a crocodile attack on her kayak and is now retracing the journey of Oscar Speck is compiling her own scorecard of awe. Everywhere you look there are paddlers of suitable praiseworthiness. The lovely Shaan Gressar, the first woman to paddle solo across Bass Strait was amongst it as was the steadfast Chris James, everyone’s mentor Rob Mercer and badman Mark Sundin. Combine these standouts with the normal cadre of club stalwarts and you have a gathering of the finest paddlers in Australia.

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Trueman and Caffyn. Two of the greatest paddlers.

One of those stalwarts, Paul Loker, led my Saturday trip for a coastal run along the sheer cliffs of Beecroft Peninsular. We ran south down to Gum Getters Inlet, stopping to investigate the nooks and caves along the way. In on of these caves I screwed up a gauntlet exit and speared my Assateague at speed into the cave wall sending blue gel-coat into the air. More embarrassing than dangerous it left my boat with a bloody nose and ribbing from Sundin who mysteriously appeared right at that time despite not being on my trip. After a brief stop at Gum Getters Inlet we turned back home into the 1m swell. My trusty Elver Greenland paddle kept my pace up and I reached home tired and pleased to have been up lose and a little too personal with those amazing cliffs. At night talks from Caffyn and co. The official club dinner and mingling with beer and wine before well earned sleep.

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Cliffs at Beecroft Peninsular. The cave where I smashed the bow.

On Sunday I went with a bunch of others on a drive to Honeymoon Bay for a trip to Point Perpendicular. It’s a good drive through a military live munitions zone and a portage to the water but Honeymoon Bay is one of those postcard perfect little bays with a neat sandy beach and crystal clear water. We set out toward Point Perp but on rounding the first point found the swell too large for the beginners in our group so they turned around and went back. Well, I came to see the massive cliff at Point Perpendicular so I continued on alone into the swell. I quickly discovered this was a mistake. At 3m, it was not difficult to negotiate since there was was no wind to complicate the water but as I progressed out further, the swell stood up more vertically until it started to break over me. This didn’t bother me either but the breaking of my seat did as my right leg lost good contact with the boat and made control almost impossible. Turning was now tricky as I couldn’t edge. Fetch was only about 5m so there was risk of swamping the boat between swell crests. I took a wide gradual turning circle but with the swell at my back now the situation was worse. Surfing would have been brilliant but the short fetch kept my bow ploughing into wave in front forcing a broach so I had to lay back on the deck to slow up. I finally rode back into Jervis Bay and hastily made my way back to Honeymoon Bay and then back to Currarong for a barbecue.

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Toward Point Perpendicular. It's pretty perpendicular!

Late Sunday afternoon Chris James and his good mate Chris Walker took me out into Currarong bay to test the Rockpool Taran. Perfect conditions we shared only with two enormous pelicans. It was flat and calm with a slight swell. We went out a few kilometers then turned to power back into shore with the following swell. Short and sharp training sprint. The idea was for the two of them to introduce me to the Taran but it was the advice I received from this pair on the beach that was one of the highlights of the trip. These are men for whom I have enormous respect and it pays to heed their advice. I have been on the verge of buying a ski but the two made sense. Chris Walker, a ski paddler these days, told me to be either a ski paddler or a kayaker and not to put a foot in either camp and mastering neither. The skills from ski paddling don’t always translate to the kayak and at any rate the Taran is just as fast as a ski. My friends in the klan may see it differently but for me this advice made my choice clear. I will buy the Taran and make it go fast.

Apart from some socializing this effectively ended Rock n Roll for my. I packed up on Monday and went home stopping for another two of the world’s best pies.

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World's Best Pie

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in About Kayaks

 

Storm at Redhead Beach

I took this a few months ago and finally got around to doing some post-processing. Some other guy was on the beach at the same time and took pretty much the same photos. He entered them in a photo comp on Prime TV and won. I’ve got lightning in mine therefore it is better. It’s the second time this has happened to me. Taken on an Olympus E-30 with 14-54mm Pro zoom. I love this camera.

Storm at Redhead Beach NSW

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2011 in About Kayaks

 

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Some Kayaks for bigger blokes

Some Kayaks for bigger blokes

Boats at Klanocopia

There are hundreds of boats out there as everyone knows. Among these are boats you read about that take your fancy and you think how you’d love to paddle them. There are times when you get to do just that. At Klanocopia and Rock ‘n’ Roll we get the opportunity to do this. Paddling in a klan of around fifty paddlers also gives you a chance to swap boats. The problem is that once you get over a certain size you don’t fit in too many.

Recently, I got to try out several boats at Klanocopia. Most disappointing was the fact that of all the boats Expedition Kayaks brought only a few suited me and of these only two were boats I’d consider buying. Let me first disclose that I am an ex-weight lifter, 186cm tall and 115kg in weight. I have large thighs and calves which add to the problem. So with that in mind, here are the boats I tried to paddle:

  • Tahe Greenland T
  • North Shore Atlantic
  • Valley Nordkapp
  • Valley Avocet

The North Shore was the most disappointing because I paddled it a year ago and it fit like a glove. I also loved it and resolved to own one. This time I could barely cram my thighs inside the cockpit. I think that if I were going to buy one I’d have the seat checked to make sure I fit properly. It is such a capable boat it would be worth spending some time modding the cockpit and seat for fit. Strangely I fit in the RM version of the Atlantic and enjoyed paddling it. At $1995 it is a steal and would make a fantastic second boat for thrashing about on rocks or a great budget boat for a beginner that wouldn’t need upgrading for ages. For me, I already have thrashers and the Atlantic RM gives me nothing over the Assateague.

I was disappointed I couldn’t fit in the Greenlander T because it is the sexiest kayak on Earth. I knew I wouldn’t though.

However, I did fit well in some boats:

  • Rockpool GT
  • Rockpool Taran
  • Zegul 535
  • Valley Aquanaut

Selim & the Taran photo by Graeme Auld

The Taran surprised me. It was comfortable with great contact even from my leg mass. It is very fast with great secondary stability and surprising primary. It is designed to go fast in rough seas and set all sorts of sped records. It certainly feels like it would. It’s long waterline prevents it handling like a classic UK boat and it comes with a rudder unlike the GT but I still managed to edge it and do low brace turns without going for a swim so I was impressed with the Taran. I’m not sure it offers me anything I really need, though, since I am unlikely to ever challenge a speed record. I would like a faster boat but I’m sure the GT would deliver.

Rob Mercer & Ben Britten. Rob’s in the GT. Ben bought one

In fact, the GT delivers plenty. At Klanocopia 2009 I came away hating the GT but resolved to try it again. This time I set it up correctly and took my time finding balance and learning the boats characteristics. I didn’t want to get out of it. The seat is great and there are no foot pegs but a plate on the bulkhead that is very comfortable and allows different control points for the feet. Secondary stability is amazing and you can just sit on the edge with complete control. The pivot point is just forward of the knees and a tiny amount of bow rudder swings the boat about with no effort. The GT is beautifully made but doesn’t have the feel of invincibility of the Assateague. It doesn’t have the weight either. The GT is now my top contender for my next boat.

The Aquanaut is also a pretty awesome boat. I paddled the Carbon Kevlar version and it was brilliant. Fit is perfect and the seat is very good compared to the Immersion Research in the Assateague. Handling is similar to the Assateague as well and as much as I liked the Aquanaut it is too similar to my own boat to be a purchase contender. If I were starting out, it would be on the shortlist as a great general purpose boat.

Zegul Wind 535

The surprise of the lot was the Zegul 535. It is a strange looking thing but I slid into it easily and found it very comfortable. Primary stability is a bit twitchy but secondary was fantastic. It just handled everything I did on the edge. It’s a pity I couldn’t paddle it in rougher sea because I rather enjoyed being in it. It also has a surprising turn of speed and I have a feeling it could easily get you onto waves without much effort. It’s strange but this weird looking fish-form boat took my fancy and at $2990 is a real contender. However the GT is the real winner for me. It is pretty expensive though but possibly worth it.

As disappointing as it is to not fit in some of the sexier boats around, there’s still plenty of choice. The P & H Cetus, for instance is another excellent boat that I can fit in and the klan currently has four paddlers with these. So if you’re on the larger side of average there’s probably a boat for you. If you have one drop a comment and let me know how it is going. My tests were done with very little time and in flat coastal water. My chief concerns were fit, stability and handling. You need to spend a lot more time in variable conditions to get a true gauge of a boat which means either owning one or borrowing one for some time.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in About Kayaks

 

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Impex Assateague and considered alternatives

Impex Assateague and considered alternatives

I’m on the larger side of the male average. I am 186cm (6’1″ for the old school) and 110kg. There’s no way I can fit in many of the great boats out there like the Tahe Greenlander (any Greenlander really), the Valley LV boats, Anas Acutas etc. So I get to miss out on experiencing these fantastic craft. That leaves me with larger boats and that’s why my main ride now is the Impex Assateague.

I’ve waxed at length about my Eco Bezhig but let’s face it, the Eco is not in the same class as the entire Impex range. Or the Valley or NDK or Rockpool range for that matter. There are echelons of boat brands in a clearly defined hierarchy of awesomeness and the Eco is sitting at the higher end of entry level. I’ll get back to this boat later.

After a year of Assateague ownership, it’s time to give a more considered appraisal of its performance. I have paddled it now almost exclusively since ownership and my skills have improved to the point where some of the newer guys in the Hunter klan or beginners at Rock n Roll consider me to be a veteran. I certainly don’t think of myself as that but rather as a proficient paddler full aware of how much I can’t do yet. With my regular paddling partner Owen, a 64 year old sea dog, I have explored the NSW coast in all sorts of conditions, chased sharks, paddled at night, got caught in hostile winds, been smashed up surfing, been surfing awesomely and built a pretty outstanding local sea kayak community. So progress has been consistent and reasonably rapid. I owe a fair chunk of this to my boat.

One of the things I love about paddling is the stuff. I like researching, testing and reviewing stuff. Ultimately, I love owning good stuff as well but my nature and career ensure that stuff is central to my enjoyment. Stuff is also one of the biggest motivators for going to Rock n Roll. This year I paddled my own boat, the Assateague, on the formal trips but I was convinced to take out a Nigel Dennis Explorer for a quick sprint to see if I’d like it. Now I know that this is a famous boat from a very famous boat designer so the pedigree is not lost on me. However, my short trip in it was the worst of my life. In the morning, I paddled my Assateague to the Tollgate Islands and played amongst the gauntlets and rock gardens before paddling home. It’s a big morning and a reasonable distance but I did it all comfortably with an Elver Greenland paddle and no real fatigue. The 2km trip in the NDK Explorer was debilitating and if the sea was any bigger, possibly dangerous.

The reason for this is boat fit. The back band was broken which I didn’t realize until I was well away and I couldn’t get any thrust on the foot posts. I also had no point of contact with my knees on the deck so I had NO boat control. The emphasis on secondary stability with the Explorer was completely lost as I struggled to establish its primary stability. My sole concern was getting back to shore alive. When I did I was physically destroyed. How could the two trips be so totally different?

Rob Mercer has an excellent article on boat fit (Read Rob’s article here) and the truth of it was exemplified in my two trips. The Assateague fits and the Explorer didn’t. Which brings me back to the review of the Assateague. After a year of constant paddling, there are some things that I like and things I don’t like about it. Fortunately, the things I don’t like are easily fixed unlike the Eco Bezhig where the things I don’t like are impossible to fix.

I love the Assateague because for a big bloke it has pretty spot-on balance. Secondary stability is fantastic but so is the primary. I am not all that nimble so getting in the boat and sitting still in it in big water is vital and I can do this with ease. I have paddled the Assateague in a large beam sea with waves breaking over me and I felt little danger. This boat is not intimidated by much. It also has John McClane level toughness a fact amply displayed by Stephan Meyn’s thorough trashing on the rocks at the Tollgates which left his pride bruised more than his Assateague. Fortunately for Stephan, a little duct tape and a good explanation was all he needed. Stephan is also a Volvo driver so he knows the value of toughness.

The negatives of the Assateague are fortunately, bolted on. The seat is a disgrace. The Immersion Research backrest is woeful and the source of constant annoyance. I would like to replace it with a Valley or Cetus seat but the McPherson family time axis is notoriously Entish. The foot posts are also rubbish. They are too small and cause numbness after a while. I will eventually carry out Owen’s mod for comfort but these things take time. Carrying capacity is pretty tiny for such a large boat but I didn’t buy it for an expedition boat. I will shake out these bugs eventually and the boat will be perfect, at least for me and that’s all that counts.

The Assateague could be the boat of choice for the large paddler. I know there’s others. The Rockpool GT gets a big tick from everyone that paddles it and I’m sure the Explorer would be great if I set it up properly. The Cetus too is worth a look but sometimes you just want the Landcruiser. The Assateague is it but for the sea.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2010 in About Kayaks, Paddle Gear

 

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