31 December 2010

End of Year surfing

I wanted to end the year 2010 with a bit of wet fun.
Despite the forecasted 20 knots wind I picked up my kayak and headed for a gentle break that promised some good runs.

The water was extremely dirty from all the recent flooding but the surf was still good.
This year has been exceptionally exciting for my sea kayaking and 2011 is promising to be even better.

24 December 2010

Missing telemarking

Half of the Northern hemisphere is in the grip a real cold snap and snow is creating havoc from London to Paris to metropolis of North America.
On the other hand the early winter is bringing the coveted white Christmas to so many snow loving skiers.
Ski resorts are having mother nature provide the magical white blanket for the exceptional powder experience early in the season.

Mammoth Lakes, CA.   File Image provided by MEI SoCal_Edgard Peralta

There was a time when I lived in US and A that skiing was a real passion of mine.
Longtime downhiller skier I grew bored with just ripping the slopes at reckless speed; I wanted to try something different: I converted to telemarking.
More difficult and more tiring then downhill I found telemarking initially way more challenging. To telemark I had to relearn how to ski: the weight distribution occurs on the exact opposite ski than alpine style. Once perfected I never returned to conventional skis.

A few rusty free-heel turns in the Australian AlpsMEI archives_Tess Dodd

It looks like there is a correlation between telemarking and Greenland paddles: both have ancient roots.
So why transition to tools that are harder to use?
Because just like Greenland paddling, to me telemarking is way more graceful than alpine skiing.
The focus is not on speed but on the fluid motion of the turns and graceful dance-like feeling when perfected; telemarking suits more my style.

20 December 2010

Stick use spreading

Another “victim” of the “Stick Cult” Stevatron finds the Greenland paddle to his liking.

It appears that the stick is stirring emotions among some paddlers.
Initially ridiculed as not much good other than to show off with when rolling, a couple of sprint challenges with big Euro bladed local paddlers and a few surfing sessions have really put a damper on the laughter.
On the other side of the world the use of the traditional paddles has better acceptance.
Local interest in the stick is growing and after short trials followed up by persistence in learning the technique, more kayakers are now using the stick for most of their paddling.
But, as I've said before: it’s not for everybody and not ideally suited for racing. Just like different kayaks are best suited for a given purpose, the stick excels in recreational paddling.
Learning how to properly use a traditional paddle takes time. Initially I felt inadequate with a paddle that offered so little resistance in the water. I feared that it would not give me enough support for my high braces in the surf. Steve sculling Nordlow_2 (c)
Stevatron with the Euro paddle
I also thought that I would lag behind when paddling in a group of kayakers with Euro paddles.
Those reservations seem to be common among the paddlers that borrow our traditional paddles for the first time.
Proficient rollers that have been using the explosive power of a CtoC roll suddenly find themselves failing and swimming when using the stick for the first time.
Just like paddling, rolling with the stick is “low impact” and requires a better technique.
Last Saturday two proficient kayakers new to the stick learned the finesse of sculling and rolling with a GP.
Greg Schwarz was again happy to coach the fine points for using the stick.
Summer is looking very busy sharing knowledge with people interested in trying the stick.

13 December 2010

On blogging

A recent post from Silbs made me reflect on the reasons I blog.
Since I don't have commercial reasons to advertise my products or ideas I wondered on my motives. It must be because I find that sharing knowledge enhances my life.
There is a tremendous amount of very good work out there, in cyberspace.
Just like I often come across great ideas, reports and good information in general when browsing for a particular item, I wish to share my findings with others. I have learned a lot from my fellow bloggers.

There are the usual high speed commercial sites where the info can be occasionally biased, there are a few good amateur independent offerings and then there are the useless ones that just like to post mindless material because they can.
And that last one seems to be the subject of Silbs post.
Does one really feel the need to post countless images of questionable quality of the same subject? surely they can see that a bit of culling would make the blog a bit more attractive.
The same goes with reports of trips and events.
Does anybody really care that I got up early in the morning to cook porridge and then pack up my camp and then load the kayak and then launch in a bit of North-Easterly and that the humidity was high and I was paddling at 5.3Kmp with a 45 degree feather in my paddle? You know what I mean.
I understand that not all blogs are directed towards a universal audience but even the selected few that might know the person/location could possibly get bored.

I am a lousy writer therefore I try to relay what I experienced with images. But just because an image says a thousand words it does not mean I should create "verbal diarrhea" by posting too many images of the same thing. The advent of digital photography means we can take hundreds of images but I select my images; only the ones I think are the very best make the cut and only very few are published. If any average photographer would pay just a bit more attention to on how they take the an image and try to be more selective when they publish or share them then I might better see the experience they are trying to relay to me.
The same goes with prose: cut the unnecessary stuff and tell me more about the essence and the experience, not the mundane facts.
Combine good images with decent copy and maybe there is something I can be bothered reading. Seakayakphoto is an outstanding example on how to create an appealing story: images and copy.
While I believe that no blogger is immune to ego, I notice some just like to post hoping to get attention.

Unfortunately some have very little to say and their efforts have the opposite effect, leaving them open to ridicule.
Some bloggers go for the "reheated news". Seen somewhere else an article that seems to be popular? Let's repost it in my blog hoping to generate some traffic.
I find it OK if a blogger actually comes across a terrific piece of work that is rather obscure and believes that it deserves a bit more publicity, but question the motive of those who cut/paste sensationalistic news so people flock to their blog.

I don't know what to say but I am compelled to have a new post? There is always the option of having unrelated professionals write for me. Maybe the topic has to be a bit generic but at least my blog has a new post.
I was recently approached by a commercial company of writers that does just that. They offered to write an article for Gnarlydog News for free to then have their company linked on my blog.
I asked them to write something about Aleut and Greenland paddles. Their reply:
"...However I feel that our writers may not be able to deal with a topic of that nature.
Have you anything else you would be interested in featuring on your website. Maybe something on travel kayaking? "Dilbert.com
Yeah, a generic post about travelling: how riveting :-)
OK, not everybody can be good at blogging. I certainly am just average.
My writing is a bit ghetto but I like to use the excuse that English it's my 4th language. I try a bit harder with images though.
Some posts require a fair amount of planning, preparing and executing the footage/images.
Once I have acquired the material I spend some time editing it since I regard my raw footage as only good for a draft, rarely worthy of presentation.
I like to present my work with straight horizons and I crop out the disturbing elements, if I can. A bit of polishing makes a huge difference.
Despite all that I don't spend too much time capturing the footage, I'm rarely getting paid for it :-)
It's just an amateur effort in capturing fun moments of my activities, something that I will like to review in years to come.
Certainly bloggers are free to write what they want and publish as many pictures as they please, but if you want others to be as interested as you are in your offerings, it pays to remember: "quality over quantity".

06 December 2010

GEAR: the humble stick_Aleut and Greenland paddles

heading out (c)

The last couple of years I have been paddling with sticks exclusively. Initially I had reservation about its performance in rough water but soon realized that that they are very capable even in the surf.
Recently a buddy of mine intrigued by my moves wanted to try the stick. Originally from New South Wales, he has been paddling for years in rough water and has undertaken long trips along the East coast of Australia. His surfing ability is remarkable. He saw no point to first pussy-foot around in calm waters; he wanted to see if the stick has credentials in the surf.

Surely it can’t be too good in conditions where power is everything, or is it?

I quickly lost sight of him: he paddled away into the thick of the big surf while I was holding back in the gentler waves (my surfing skills are basic). Then I saw him capsize and I was predicting a swim; after all he has been using the stick for little more than 10 minutes. Not so, he easily rolled up and powered down a face of a wave.
Later he commented that the Greenland paddle seemed to offer him less support in the surf but still performed when he needed it while not hindering any of his surfing. It was interesting to hear that from somebody that knew nothing about Greenland paddles. He had a split Euro style paddle on deck as back-up but never reached for it. He was hooked.
Back in the shelter of the lagoon we tried some traditional rolling and a bit of sculling. It became evident that his rolls were based on muscled efforts, something that I often see with paddlers that rely on the lifting power of a big blade.

photo published with permission by wolftone

I still remember one proficient kayaker that is very good at rolling with his wing blade not being able to roll with the Greenland paddle when trying it for the first time.
My eye is critical enough now to notice the same power technique used by most of the local paddlers when rolling with Euro paddles. All force, little finesse.
So why bother with finesse if a standard C-to-C roll gets you up anyway?
I used to think the same: once you know how to roll, why bother with “fancy” rolling.
Warren Williamson seem to have some interesting thoughts on the ability to roll in many different ways.
Working on Greenland rolls or training rolls, will really help your rolling skills over all. I find it so amazing, I hear kayakers a lot of times say, in regards to Greenland rolls, "why would you ever need to do that roll."
The way I see it, it's not that you would ever need to do that roll but what that roll can teach you.
If all you know how to do is let’s say a few standard rolls with the paddle, you really don't know just where you’re at with your technique.
Rolling with a paddle is just about the same as reaching up and grabbing onto a fixed object. You can literally come flying up out of the water because you have so much leverage with the paddle. You can get away with bad technique time after time and not know it.
Warren puts it into words way better than I could.

Since I have been playing around with traditional paddles my technique has improved. From being able to only do power rolls I am now able to execute a couple of different rolls and I have gained a higher understanding of the handling of the kayak. Slowly I have taken away pressure from my paddle and started to use my body more for turning a kayak back up.
What’s limiting me from learning advanced rolls is being rather inflexible and poorly coordinated. But every occasion I spend time just “playing” I progress my overall skills. I view it as cross training. Rolling helps me with finessing the boat when surfing.
black stcik rolling_2ca
I have several traditional paddles. I use Aleut and Greenland paddles. I find the difference between the two subtle when used as a cruising paddle.
I think that the Aleut is easier to learn to use and appears to grab more water (it is slightly wider than my GPs). I also find that the Aleut does not require canting of the blade. On long paddles (expeditions) I find my Aleut to be easier to use when I am tired. It is however noisier than my Greenland paddles.
Initially I thought that a GP fluttered more in the water. It was Greg Schwarz that enlightened me on the need to subtly angle the blade when entering the water ('cant') to achieve minimal splash and prevent aeration behind the paddle.
Below is a quiver of Aluet and Greenland paddles. Click on image to enlarge.
red # paddles are Greenland style by Greg Schwarz, blue ones are Aleut style by Vanstix
1) Greenland, carbon balsa core
2) Aleut, solid WRC
3) storm size Greenland, carbon balsa core
4) norsak WRC
5) storm size Aleut, solid WRD
6) Aleut, solid WRC (back side showing)
7-8)  Greenland, hollow core laminated WRC
9) Aleut, solid WRC
10) Aleut, bidirectional laminated solid

While the canting technique requires some time getting used to, it is essential for good Greenland paddling.
Where I find the GP excels is with rolling: it’s so incredibly effortless when slicing through the water in a sweep roll. Its shape offer immediate lift when sweeping and there is no need to pay attention to the precise set up usually required with a Euro paddle. The GP seems to orient itself.
As Dubside says all you need to do is: “relax and go wide”
The popularity of the traditional paddle is growing but it probably will never reach huge numbers. Most paddlers are not convinced that a humble wooden stick can really perform. I used to think that too.
And then there is the commercialization and advertising side.
Very little money is spent by the industry to push a product that seems to be so low-tech. Good GPs are crafted, not manufactured.
Crafting a product requires skills and time, something that usually it’s hard to commercialize on a mass scale.

03 December 2010

The stick: Aleut and Greenland

black stick roll_1c

coming soon...