28 July 2010

Technique: the Thong Rolls

I had to perform 47 rolls on Saturday, plus one for good luck.
In my paddling circles that’s the norm.
On one’s birthday, we don’t just eat cake or get drunk, we get wet.
The celebrated paddler must execute a roll for each year of his/her age.
Adventuretess started the trend last January and now we all do it.

Despite the rather cold temperatures, 7 other paddlers joined me for the on-water celebrations.
While my rolls were not really a great challenge I was glad that I wore a neoprene hood: water was nippy in the bay.
After my mandatory rolls my friends performed the “Mexican Roll” where, all lined up in a row, they rolled in sequence like in a Mexican wave, then back again.
It was good to see that the skill level of my paddling circle has advanced to the point that we now all roll consistently.
Interestingly enough we were all in rudderless kayaks too …

Vanilla wanted to gift me with a special roll.
Never performed before he proceeded to execute the “Thong Roll”.
As a true Queenslander he wears thongs (flip flops, in US and A), and wanted to see if one could be used as a norsak.
His Thong Roll worked well and he was ecstatic about it, while I captured it on film.
Adventuretess was a bit miffed about Vanilla’s success and decided to demonstrate her version of the “thong” roll: she went for the American “thong”.

Following the famous Magnum roll, the Thong Roll is now part of a new movement: The Australian Rolling style

26 July 2010

Surfing with a stick_part 2

While the "Mexicans" (South of the Queensland border) paddlers have to contend with much colder waters right now, we "banana-benders" are graced with sunshine and ocean temps that don't require much more than a Reed top.
Some locals however still regard the conditions too "extreme" and most popular surfing spots are much less crowded than in summer.
That leaves me so much more room to enjoy sea kayak surfing:
Adventuretess surfing
Adventuretess in Sialuk (Nordkapp LV)

Smiles all around.
Ah, I forgot, they were right: those "sticks" are not good for much else than kindling :-)

21 July 2010

Winter rolls with Adventuretess

Here in the Southern hemisphere we are in the dead of winter.
It's the time of the year when the water of Moreton Bay is the clearest but also the coldest.
Most powerboater don't venture out in Queensland relatively mild conditions (ocean temps around 20C) and leave a lot of popular spots free of traffic.
On any given summer day my favorite destination is buzzing with the noise of the engines; in winter I can often enjoy solitude.

Dressed in little more than a light fleece and a windproof top I like to roll in the clear waters.

This post marks the 100th article for this blog, now at over 80.000 hits.
I would like to thank you, the reader, for your contributing comments.

19 July 2010

SAFETY: training for accident avoidance

Sea kayak surfing poses inherit risks of capsize and trashing from the force of large waves.
Controlling a relatively large craft (compared to a surf board) on steep waves is often very difficult.
I really enjoy sea kayak surfing with my friends and occasionally we come in close proximity to each other when careering down a wave.
My natural reaction when facing harsh contact with an other kayaker is to roll my kayak and avoid collision.
The immersion of my body into to sea stops the speed of my kayak in a split of a second.

Recently, at a training session I asked my instructor what would be the best way to minimize the impact of a kayaker heading my way at great speed.
To really best explain the occurrence my instructor wanted to demonstrated the action.
I was asked to voluntarily "spear" him.

Although initially apprehensive, I have however great respect for Craig McSween as an instructor and proceeded to give my best in "running him over"
A waited for a decent sized wave and surfed towards him with purpose.

Just before collision Craig rolled his kayak away from me offering his hull instead.
My fast moving kayak hit his hull but my sloping bow slid over it with almost no force exerted to Craig's kayak.
I was surprised that I barely felt the impact when running over him.

A second later I peeled off the wave and facing back to sea I saw Craig had rolled back up and was smiling at me.
After his demonstration I was totally convinced that learning this safety technique will help avoid future injuries in instances of unavoidable collisions.
I believe that giving each other space when surfing is probably the best tactic however in the heat of the battle things occasionally do go wrong.
I hope I will have the presence of mind to execute this safety move next time somebody is racing towards me, fails to bail and proceeds to spear me.

16 July 2010

VIDEO: surfing with a sticks

Camera: Adventuretess, Vanilla and Gnarlydog. Music: Stephen Robin

Video footage of surfing small waves near shore using Aleut paddles.
Capturing the "big stuff" from a kayak while in the rough is rather difficult...
I am working on it. Stay tuned :-)

06 July 2010

FEAR: the lurking of the monsters

I keep on hearing/reading about shark attacks.
The media loves a gory story and any incident (anywhere on the globe) is reported in details designed to reinforce fear into the public.

According to some local paddlers there is always a shark lurking around us when we paddle, waiting for its chance.
Too often I hear comments about sharks when paddling in a group.... usually told by paddlers of limited skill who like to make newcomers afraid.
On occasion, I have been called a total fool for voluntarily wet exiting my kayak in "open" waters to practice rescues.
And I have lost count on how many times people have commented on my unwise choice of paddling locations like Currumbin (commonly know as "Shark Alley").

While paddling takes place in the environment of sharks, I have rarely been lucky enough to actually observe one.

Only on one occasion it was just big enough to possibly pose a threat to me.
The skeptics however tell me: it's not the one you see, it's the ones you don't...

The talk of potential attack has made me think: what is the real danger of a shark attack while sea kayaking?
While tall stories of ferocious attacks and lucky escapes from the jaws of the monster are bandied about, I wonder if the fear of the unseen is bigger than it should be.
The most common question asked by a new acquaintance (once I reveal to them that I am a sea kayaker) is:
"Aren't you afraid of the sharks?"

I often would like to play up the story of narrow escapes and portray myself as a real macho man but instead I just smile and reply:
"My fear is getting hit by a bus..."
Or that 18 wheeler careering down the road in my lane travelling the opposite direction...

To put things in perspective I would like to reproduce this comment:


Using the most recent U.S. data available, (here is) a list of unsettling threats and their far riskier counterparts.

Murders (2008) - 14, 180
Suicides (2006) - 33, 289

Children abducted by strangers (1999) - 115
Children who drown in pools (2006) - 288

Burglaries (2007 - 2.2 million
Identity thefts (2005) - 8.3 million

Shark attacks (2009) - 28
Dog bites (annual average) - 4.5 million

Americans killed by terrorist attacks around the world (2008) - 33
Americans who die from the seasonal flu (annual average) - 36,171

Deaths by allergic reaction to peanuts (annual average) - 50-100
Deaths by unintentional poisoning (2006) - 27,531

Women who die from breast cancer (2009) - 40,170
Women who die from cardiovascular disease (2006) - 432,709

Fatal airline accidents (2005) - 321
Fatal car crashes (2008) - 34,017

Americans audited by the IRS (2009) - 1.4 million
U.S. Deaths (2007) - 2.4 million

*from: "Parents under fire for letting kids cycle to school " 06JUL10
ww.ABC.net.au reader GregW commnent

NB All images (from respective authors) used under the Creative Commons license

01 July 2010

GEAR: paddling shoes review.

Sea kayaking takes me to paddling locations where good footwear is essential equipment.
While the climate I paddle in does not require insulated footwear I only occasionally frequent beaches where footwear is not necessary.
I need protection for my feet.

The kayaks I paddle have small footpegs that don't offer a platform large enough to push off with bare feet.
My heels also need cushioning when paddling.
Since I started kayaking a few years back I have always worn some kind of footwear in the boat.

My first choice was the obvious inexpensive "water shoe" that is sold at many chandleries and discount stores. It seems to be popular for snorkeling.

The shoe was cheap but did not suit my paddling needs.
It quickly became evident that a shoe with a soft sole, absence of a proper heel, inferior fabric and lack of decent foot retention would only last me so long.
I lost those shoes a few times in the surf when I wet exited.
My heel was getting rubbed and fortunately I had to move on.
My second choice was only marginally better then my first.
While the quality seemed better and the Velcro strap would keep those shoes on my feet, the heel was even worse than the first shoes.
The heel area is square and not stiff enough to prevent it from collapsing when resting on an angle inside the cockpit.
this soft heel would collapse when feet are in the cockpit of the kayak
After a month of cursing them I decide it was time to actually get a shoe that offered support and was suited to walk on a beach with sharp coral or cone shells.
I purchased the Merrel Waterpro shoes.
Adventuretess wearing her Merrell Waterpro
Finally there was a sole that I could trust on the sharp rocks and oysters.
A shoe with a Vibram sole that would not see me skating at the boat ramp (siping of the sole makes them stick even to wet surfaces).
This shoe has a decent lace-up to conform to most foot shapes and stays put when walking in the shore waves.
They dry fast and don't stink like neoprene booties do.
They do however collect sand inside the shoe, that occasionally does not drain that well.
Sitting in the kayak cockpit and wiggling my feet overboard usually dislodges the annoying sand...
The men's version of the Waterpro lasted me just over a year and then the sole started to separate from the upper.
A new pair proved to have the same problem after just two months, starting at the ball of the foot.
A bit of contact glue repair keeps them going for a while longer.
delaminating fabric coating repaired with contact glue
I then purchased a lower volume kayak where my size 11.5 (US) Waterpro would not fit that well under the deck.
I needed a low volume bootie.
Searching for a sole stiffer than a scuba-diving-bootie I found the Teva white-water boat shoes.
They had all the right reinforcements, low profile, good volume (for my slender feet) and traction.
the stitching used to have black rubber strips...
While not exactly easy to put on (some serious wiggling was necessary) the shoe would fit in low decked kayaks.
After half an hour of paddling I noticed that the fabric big toe divider inside the shoe was annoying and rubbing.
Some really tricky cutting inside the shoe eventually removed the web.
The shoes however started to fall apart.
The cosmetic rubber strip placed over the stitching (no longer visible in the attached image) ripped off in several places.
After a few outings there were rubber strips dangling over the shoe... I cut them off.
This shoe proved not to be all that comfortable.
Adventuretess wore out her Merrel Waterpro and purchased some Chaco water shoes.
The fit, finish and sturdiness of these shoes is impressive.
Adventuretess sporting Chacos
Chaco's reputation for long lasting sandals seems to cross over to their shoes.
However these shoes have a bit of padding in the fabric that absorbs water and takes longer to dry than other light shoes. Not a real problem in 90F heat but a bit annoying in the middle of winter.
Vanilla (maker of Vanstix) has a wider foot and he prefers the Teva Sunkosi.
Onto his second pair, he finds them very comfortable and perfectly suited for paddling, or those short hikes up a mountain in the Whitsundays.

Vanilla's Teva

After some searching I came across these Merrells.
Not marketed as water but as running shoes the design is minimalistic.
There is no padding in the fabric and plenty of ventilation.
The sole is very close fitting to the shape of the shoe (no "air" or "gel" here) and the heel is stiff enough to be supportive.
The Merrell Robotic are low volume, small enough to fit under low deck kayaks.
They don't slip on wet concrete and have plenty of traction for an exploratory hike.

The fabric is light but reinforced with "rubber dots" to prevent premature wear.
Unfortunately they are only a few months old and I can't report yet on the durability of these.
I am sure that some readers might be laughing at me with this "obsession" for good footwear just for kayaking but after witnessing a few cone shells pierce a light bootie and injuring the kayaker's foot I am glad that I seek firmer footwear.
Foot injury on long remote trips could spell disaster.
On the other hand I have observed people paddling in thongs (the Australian type, a.k.a as flip-flops on the other side of the pond) or Crocs... puzzles me how they keep them on their feet when landing on wavy shores.