20 October 2011

Photo: balanced brace

Balance brace with NLP_1
Adveturetess just floating and stretching her back.
The balanced brace is the foundation to many Greenland rolls.
Once a paddler masters the balance brace he/she can roll with so much more grace using the body to turn the boat, not the resistance or momentum offered by the paddle or hand.
Unfortunately I am not flexible enough to balance brace and  my Butterfly rolls are performed with force and momentum with plenty of support from the paddle.


18 October 2011

GEAR: Greenland spare paddle on rear deck

With the recent shipment from Northern Light  I now have a high quality spare paddle on the rear deck of my kayaks.
I paddle exclusively with traditional style paddles and so far I have been forced to carry a Euro paddle as a spare.
I rarely had to use my spare but it would be unwise to venture out at sea without one; after all if I lost/broke my main paddle I would be left using just my hands or having to be towed.
My DIY split Aleut paddle was never tested in rough waters but I am not sure if it would have held up.
Some paddlers (Greg Schwarz for example) carry a full size GP on the front deck of their kayak.
I tried to configure a way to carry a full size on my kayak but the deck is shaped differently and just would not work. A full size paddle would not sit flat and would protrude too far outside the deck risking to catch a wave in heavy seas and possibly dislodge.
My Zegul 520 doesn't lend itself to have a split paddle up front either; really the best place it the rear deck.
Northern Light sectional carbon paddles seem to almost have been designed in conjunction with that kayak; the split NLP sits incredibly well in the recess of the deck.
NLP on read deck_6

NLP on read deck_3

No other paddle that I have tried sits as secure and has such a low profile.
Retrieving the NLP is much easier than my Euro paddles, that must be secured by a tight bungee wrapped around the shaft to prevent dislodging in heavy seas.
While the carbon Greenland is a real strong paddle I was wondering what would happen if I had to retrieve and assemble one in bumpy conditions.
Would the inserted shaft really fit tightly enough to paddle for a while and, without being screwed together, not come apart?
Well, I never really tried it but I didn't want to find out by accident.
I kind of like things to be really secure and after discussing the idea with Paul from Northern Light I sourced a little plastic plug that can be just pushed into the metalthread instead of having to use the Allen key stainless steel screw.
Xmas tree plug_2_c
Of course I will remember to have a few of those nifty plugs handy in my PFD.

Xmas tree plug_3_c

After some testing, the plastic plug seems to really secure the paddle together and no amount of pulling managed to separate it.
The NLP approach to positively assemble the sections with fasteners instead of a snap-together style joiner is in my experience a better solution.
On my carbon Euro paddles the so beautiful tight joiner, that would fit perfectly together when new, soon developed a bit of slop; eventually the paddle would wobble so bad that it needed to be replaced, luckily under warranty.

An alternative to a full size paddle it to carry a Northern Light paddle in the "storm" format.
Every NLP comes with a joiner that transforms a full size paddle into a short one that has a very short loom. A storm paddle sits perfectly fully assembled on the back of my deck without much protrusion past the stern.
NLP on read deck_5
NLP on rear deck in "storm" configuration
 A storm paddle is a fully functional alternative to a full size GP but it takes a bit of practice to develop a solid sliding stroke.
A skilled paddler can use a storm GP as efficiently as a full sized one but for now I am not confident to use a storm paddle in the surf; my rolling however seems to be unaffected.


15 October 2011

Weather: dodging bullets

Outings planned for the last two Saturdays had to be amended because the spring weather that has been rather erratic.
Usually a bit of wind or rain does not bother me but the recent thunderstorms have been intense, so I pay attention when they are forecasted.
Vanilla at Cape Byron_2 (c)

Lightening should be avoided when on the water since the tallest object often happens to be myself.
A carbon paddle is very conductive and, as pointed out to me by Paul at Northern Light, I did not want to become the guy who "Put another kayak on the barbie" (quoting Paul Hogan's Australiana).

A careful assessment of the forecast indicated that I had enough time for a quick outing to my favorite destination (Peel Island) and back in time before the afternoon storm.

Notice the sudden increase of wind speed!
I kept a watchful eye on the distant horizon to see if any mushroom clouds were forming but the storm only hit once I was back at home with kayaks stored in the shed :-)
A change in weather against the forecast would see me sit out the brief storm on the shore of the island to then resume my paddle once the storm had passed (it only lasted 1/2 hour).


11 October 2011

VIDEO: true artist

I have come across this video of Warren Williamson Greenland rolling the new Pygmy Murrelet.
This guy really has incredible skills.

Warren is a true artist at his craft and can execute Greenland rolls with finesse that is just jaw dropping.
As well as being such a smooth roller Warren can also rip it up in tidal races, not to forget him trailing just behind Wayne Horodowich in speed races, all done with a GP.


DIY: nose clip for rolling


As my sea kayaking advanced I realized that rolling was going to become a necessary skill.
I started to venture into the surf zone and inevitably I was getting tipped over.
"Cowboy" self recoveries in the bumpy seas didn't work for me and assisted rescues became tiring.
I had to learn to roll.
For my first rolling lessons I used a snorkeling mask that allowed me to see what I was doing underwater. I didn't like the feel of the mask but I guess it was necessary, as a novice, to be able to orient myself underwater.
Once I got the basic roll down I realized that to become proficient I had to practice my rolling regularly, not just twice a year or so. I wanted to roll every time I would be on the water but I didn't always pack my mask with me. If I did, it was a pain the get it out of the dayhatch and put it on my face.
I tried rolling without a mask but water seems to get into my nostrils and sinuses when hanging upside down. It was OK for a fast few "combat" rolls but I could not do it for an extended rolling session.

I noticed that good experienced rollers were using nose clips and the diving mask was more kind of a "beginner" tool, I thought. Unfortunately the common nose clips sold at sports stores (used for swimming) did not do the trick: they were too small and didn't stay on when rolling repeatedly.
I purchased specialized white water nose clips that honestly are way overpriced.
Those noseclips finally sealed my nostrils but the bridge is made of rather too soft metal that seems too loosen up and bend open again. I had to squeeze that clip again and again to reposition it too frequently. I knew I could make better nose clips than the commercially available ones. The key was sourcing the right materials.
For my nose clip's spring I found that bicycle spokes would offer just the right amount of resistance, could be bent into shape and above all, they are made of stainless steel so the clip would not rust.

I use pliers to shape the spoke into a gentle even curve making sure it's wide enough to go over the nose.

I add a couple of loops at the end of the clip to create a platform for the pad material.

I use diagonal cutters to trim the excess spoke off to close the loop neatly.

These noseclips would be rather spartan and probably would hurt if they didn't have some cushioning pads that spread the load over a wider area and create a better  squeeze on the nose.
Steavatron found this incredibly nifty material: Sugru.
It feels like putty but cures to a rubbery silicon.
I shape the material with my fingers over the end loop on the nose clip and smooth it out to a pleasant surface.

I let the finished noseclips air cure for 24 hours and the putty becomes solid but not hard. Sugru is indeed  a great material that could be used in so many DIY projects.
I attach a clip with a thin string to each of my PFDs and tuck it away in a pocket to have it ready to use at any time I plan to bust out a couple of rolls.
The clip is compact and very effective. I no longer have a stream of water run out of my nose at the least opportune moment hours after I have finished rolling (like ruining my lunch :-) )
And the snorkel mask?
These days I feel that is best used for finding out hidden treasures under the seas.


06 October 2011

VIDEO: Tidal Race Surfing with hard chined kayaks


We can only watch and envy the brilliant conditions that some sea kayakers have. Where I live there are no tidal races worth playing on with a sea kayak: there are no decent standing waves to surf.
What we have to content ourselves with is a medium tidal flow (up to 3 knots) over a flat sea bed that produces just ripples.

But not all is lost: given the right conditions one can find a mock tidal race.
If a strong wind opposes fast flowing water moderate size waves are created and caught on the right day one can dream to be at the Skooks (not really).
The waves are generally short and not really standing: they form and peak for a short time and then fall again.
The flow is there but the waves are not constant; getting a ride on one of those waves requires a bit of effort (furious paddling) that is rewarded with a short glide.
It is similar to short wave surfing but the waves generally don’t crest and break.
The weather forecast was indicating that Sunday was going to be rather windy (20-30knots) and touring onthe Bay would have been hard work (unless we decide to kayak sail).
Since the tide was flooding to midday and the wind would be pushing against the flow, in the morning we hoped to find a spot that would produce waves to play in.
It was weird to be pointing the bow out to sea to surf our kayaks, usually one would be coming in with the waves onto shore.

select 720p if you have fast Internet connection


I find that an ideal boat for such conditions is a shorter sea kayak with rounded chines that can be edged well and that is responsive to the paddler’s input.
A short British style boat comes to mind where one does not rely on the rudder to manoeuvre the boat but uses the hull shape turned on its edge to carve a turn.
My Zegul 520 is not exactly a boat that fits that description; it’s a bit on the long side (at the waterline) with not a lot of rocker and it’s hard to turn since I find that with my weight the extended keel does not released when edged. A lighter person would find the same kayak perform way differently.
I have kayaks that would surf those conditions way easier than this hard chined, low rocker narrow low volume boat.
So why do I use it? Because it’s challenging and makes me a better kayaker.

I assume it must be the same reason why some motor enthusiasts disable the auto traction control to have “more fun” when driving their cars aggressively :-)
Probably why some mountain bikers choose to run a single speed on steep and rough terrain instead of a cluster of gears.
I have to work hard not to fall in the water; hard chined boats are less forgiving as rounded ones. I am heavy and I push the hull deeper into the water; edging the narrow hull does have less effect on manoeuvrability compared to my higher volume British style kayak. I have to sweep stroke aggressively to make that kayak turn.
The kayak does bury her bow into the water when surfed down a steep short wave and gives me a few moments of mild panic hoping it won’t pitch me over.
Hard work but more fun since it keeps me on my toes.

Greg Schwarz also likes his hard chined low profile/low volume kayak for surfing small waves. His kayak is maybe  a bit shorter than mine (at waterline) and has less volume, it's more manoeuvrable but requires good technique to keep it upright in textured water. He finds the Tahe Greenland an excellent kayak for rough waters but Greg is a very skilled kayaker.
With a shorter waterline that helps quickly accellerate the kayak down the wave, the flat bottom puts it on the plane to allow fast runs. Turning that kayak is a real breeze. Carved turns are very effective but sloppy technique would make using that kayak in rough water a handful.
I feel that hard chined kayaks seem to surf better than round hulled ones as long as I concentrate and handle the grabby nature of hard chines.
In the meantime I am learning on how to become more relaxed in bumpy conditions trying to gain better balance.


03 October 2011

Photo: fun surfing on a tidal race

This is the closest I can get to enjoy a "standing wave" on a tidal race: surfing wind formed waves on a fast tidal flow.

Tidal Race surfing_1
hard chined kayak with Northern Light Greenland paddle

Video coming soon