Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Which Surfski for Me?

Surfski paddling on the new breed of ocean racing skis, has moved very quickly in recent years from the exclusive domain of elite surf lifesaving athletes, to one where even the most modest of recreational paddlers can now enjoy the rush of chasing a wave in these sleek boats.

The turning point, without question, was the breakthrough Epic V8, released in 2010 & offering a super stable ski, and genuine performance for paddlers entirely unskilled in the sport of ski paddling. The attraction was easy to identify. These craft are light in comparison to most kayaks in the same price range, simpler to paddle with a very responsive rudder, with the advantage of hull speed for fitness, and stability for the fun part of the sport on open water. If you're not looking to journey or develop kayak-specific skills, they're a very uncomplicated & accessible craft.
Other manufacturers have followed on with their own more user-friendly designs, so the picture for a prospective buyer is now much more clouded, for anyone attempting to weigh up the relative merits of different skis, in different stability & performance categories.

To simplify, but by no means comprehensively define these different skis, we've put together a guide to the boats we have both paddled enough to gain a good appreciation of the attributes of each, and also sell as part of our stable of skis from the leading brands Epic, Fenn, Think & Vajda. We have demo boats on hand for most of the designs summarised below if you'd like to give one a try in live conditions.
photo by Alan Coker (
Note, our impressions of these boats are based on our own paddling. Both Rob & I consider ourselves competent enough on each of the skis listed to paddle them well in moderate conditions, so we're not speaking from the perspective of elite ski paddlers, more for the viewpoint of enjoying the skis in the conditions for which they were designed.
We have coached & instructed scores of paddlers over the past couple of years specifically aimed at making them competent enough to enjoy open water in their ski, as opposed to shaving a few minutes off their race time. In many cases our views vary slightly from the manufacturer's own spiel; we're attempting to simplify this at-times confusing market place with a simple statement about how each ski differs, from our brand-neutral viewpoint.

The sorts of typical conditions I enjoy paddling are summarised in the short video below, to give you an idea of where we paddle these skis & the kinds of adventures you can have! It's not a race, it's not scary, it's just great fun, accessible to all with the right boat & a bit of dedication.

Broadly, the sport has evolved into three categories; Entry Level, Intermediate, and Elite:

Entry Level Skis
With the starting point that surf skis are designed for moving water, each of these ski designs combine varying degrees of glide and 'run' in the following seas in which they excel, with stability to allow the less experienced paddler the opportunity to get to know the dynamic environment of the ocean.

Vajda Raptor (ABS Plastic)
An entry level ski made from a tough, durable & incredibly stiff thermo-formed ABS plastic known as Styrolite. A flat planing hull provides stability, while the narrow forward section of the boat provides a close catch & excellent ergonomics. Features the same durable snap closing KajakSport hatches that feature on Rockpool & Tiderace expedition kayaks, ensuring a rear hatch seal with integrity, and enough capacity for a long weekend away camping. Suited to slightly lighter paddlers, with a weight range up to about 95kg. 
Length 534cm
Width 53cm
Weight 20kg
Paddler Weight 55-95kg

Epic V7
The new Epic V7 sets a new standard for rotomold performance. It is lightweight, extremely efficient, and easy to handle. The V7 is outfitted with the same high quality fittings as every surfski in the Epic lineup, including the carbon fiber footboard and pedals and the hugely popular Epic designed bailer. In addition, it features an aft storage compartment with a lightweight hatch. 
Length 520cm
Width 54cm
Weight 20kg
Paddler Weight 65-110kg
Fenn Bluefin
A super stable, heavily rockered ski designed to catch waves & run on the sea. If you're looking for the perfect boat to get you out into rough water & actually riding waves, there isn't a better boat on the market to inspire confidence & do what a surfski is supposed to do. You can see a video of the Bluefin in action HERE
Length 590cm
Width 53cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$2600 (Fibreglass - 17kg) $3100 (Vac Glass 14kg) $3500 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4200 (Carbon 10kg)
Think Eze
Unquestionably the best entry level ski on the market for smaller framed paddlers. Short, nimble, light & quick for it's length, with Think's renowned disciplined seating position. 
Length 520cm
Width 51cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 50-85kg
$2995 (Performance - 15.5kg) $3995 (Elite 12.5kg)
Think Big Eze
Along with the V8 the base line ski in the market, designed to be easy to paddle for even the greenest paddler. Features carry handles, and also the lightest ski for the price. 
Length 522cm
Width 53cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 75-110kg
$2995 (Performance - 15.5kg) $3995 (Elite 12.5kg)
Vajda Hawx 52
A cut above the pure entry level skis, but one you're not likely to grow out of as you improve. The fastest of the stable boats, with Vajda's excellent carry strap system & peerless European build.
Length 553cm
Width 51cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-95kg
$3490 (Racing - 14kg) $4690 (Elite 11kg)
Epic V8
The ski which single-handedly broadened the sport of surfski when it was introduced a few years ago. Stable, solid on the water, and built to Epic's exacting standards. The easiest surfski to paddle on the market. You can see a video of the V8 in action HERE. 
Length 549cm
Width 56cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Intermediate Skis
Intermediate level skis by definition should look after a paddler with good technique, allowing them to get the boat out into more challenging water and enjoy it, rather than dread it. Fast enough to ride ocean runners but without the sheer glide of the elite skis, these are designs that are sympathetic enough to allow a good percentage of improving paddlers to graduate into.
Fenn Swordfish
A dynamic, nimble, surfing ocean ski in the Fenn tradition of producing skis that are meant to be in waves. Now with an improved seat & 'hump' position, manufactured in South Africa. The Swordfish is a unique ski, with performance just below the true elite level, whilst maintaining stability to burn. You can see a video of the Swordfish in action HERE.
Length 610cm
Width 45cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$2600 (Fibreglass - 17kg) $3100 (Vac Glass 14kg) $3500 (Hybrid 12.5kg) $4200 (Carbon 10kg)
Think Evo II
A n extremely well reviewed surfski, with almost universally approval for the intermediate paddler looking to progress to the ocean. Considered to be as fast an any in the genre with excellent glide, and all of the extras that come as standard on Think surfskis. 
Length 625cm
Width 48cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-100kg
$2995 (Performance - 15.5kg) $3995 (Elite 12.5kg)
Vajda Hawx 46
Alone as an intermediate ski for the lighter paddler, and a logical step up for smaller framed paddlers from a design like the Think Eze. Stable even for top heavy blokes, and proven to be among the very fastest of the intermediate skis on the flat. 
Length 588cm
Width 46cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 55-90kg
$3490 (Racing - 14kg) $4690 (Elite 11kg)
Epic V10 Sport
Like the V8, a trailblazer into intermediate skis when originally it was an elite ski or nothing. Now even more stable, big & buoyant & as reassuring in the rough stuff as any design ever was. 
Length 600cm
Width 48cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 75-110kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Elite Skis
As the classification suggests, elite skis for paddlers with an elite attitude to developing & maintaining their rough water skills. Nowadays almost universally stable enough for an average paddler to handle on dead flat water, but require dedication to master on moving water, let alone in the dynamic environment of the sea.
Think Uno Max
You only have to sit in the Uno Max to appreciate the pinpoint ergonomics, this boat just feels fast. As stable as any of the elite designs, with an incredibly disciplined feel on the water. Sea Rice's craft of choice as he powered his way to the World Championship.
Length 645cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$2995 (Performance - 15.5kg) $3995 (Elite 12.5kg)
Think Ion
A buoyant and dynamic ski which feels light on the water & accelerates beautifully. Sits with the Epic V10 just below the stability & ability of the true elite skis. 
Length 642cm
Width 44cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$2995 (Performance - 15.5kg) $3995 (Elite 12.5kg)
Epic V10
The ski which popularised the ocean racing genre, with plenty of glide, predictable, stable for it's minimal beam & designed for the rough stuff. An icon with a new configuration, bailer, and shape. Probably the most user-friendly elite-level ski doing the rounds. You can see a video of the V10 in action HERE. 
Length 650cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 70-110kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Epic V10L
A stable elite ski for lighter paddlers, reconfigured to drop off the wetted area & increase overall acceleration. A very different animal to the original V10L, hugely popular with smaller-framed, skilful paddlers. 
Length 615cm
Width 44cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 50-85kg
$3195 (Club - 17kg) $3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)
Epic V14
Along with the Think Uno Max a true elite ski for elite paddlers. Used to great effect in flat water races like the Hawkesbury Classic where it can generate K1 speeds with higher comparable stability, but in the purest form an ocean racing performance beast for paddlers with advanced skills. 
Length 640cm
Width 43cm
Weight See Below
Paddler Weight 65-110kg
$3995 (Performance 15.5kg) $4995 (Ultra 12.5kg)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Tiderace Evoke - Rob Mercer

Some thoughts on the Tiderace Evoke, and a video of him surfing it on some fun waves last week.

"When tiderace themselves described the Evoke as offering: "world class rough water handing and light touring in a compact ruddered format to sit nicely at the professional end of the recreation market." there was none of the usual jostling at EK Central to be first in country to jump in this cute, short, wide boat.

After all words like "recreational" teamed up with the overall dimensions we would usually associate with a fishing kayak had us thinking of the Evoke as a reliable and seaworthy little ruddered boat best suited to entry level paddlers; a valuable niche but with nothing much to offer us personally. Eventually when all the other new toys had been passed down the line and my regular favourites were out on test paddles I decided it was time to give the Evoke a run.

Not surprisingly I found it was an easy boat to push along at sea kayak cruising speeds and very capable at catching runners. When you look at the plumb bow it probably has one of the longest waterlines for any boat in its class and although it seems heavily rockered for a cruiser this doesn't seem to slow it down much in open water and waves, and the hull just feels efficient. The big surprise however, happened for me when i finally pulled up the rudder to catch some small surf and suddenly found myself in one of the loosest tracking but responsive and lively sea kayaks I have ever paddled. 

Since then I have surfed it, paddled rock gardens in it and covered some decent miles in the company of fast tourers up to a metre longer and not found the boat lacking. At 85kgs and almost 1.9 metres tall I was expecting the boat to be a squeeze and i am certainly on the longest setting for the foot pedals but I could still pack light for a few days without overloading it.

For a lighter paddler with a moderate load this could do some serious sea miles and do them in rough water and in great style. If you are in the market for a short light efficient tourer/day tripper that turns into a dynamic play boat with the simple haul on the rudder line then you should give it a try, but please let us know well in advance because these days it never seems to find its way from my place back to the EK warehouse!

Rob Mercer, April 2015.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

New to the EK Store – The Big Face Paddler Mirror

When world ski champion Sean Rice visited last month for a training session with the Dolls Point Paddlers, one of his mantras was to relax, let your jaw stay loose & controlled, in order to stop yourself tensing up when paddling.

It reinforced something that I have been long advocating in both sea kayaking & ski paddling, the importance of relaxing, staying calm & enjoying your time on the water. Sometimes it’s only when you point out that a jaw is clenched, shoulders are hunched, does the person alongside you in the water actually realise how tense they’ve become, especially in rough water.
Sean Rice - "Relax that jaw...!'
So how to stop this detrimental activity in the first place? Often you can see it when you play back a video of yourself paddling, many a time I’ve thought ‘bloody hell, even though I’m looking pretty damn good there, I am a little tense, if only I’d realised’.

Whilst nutting out the final engineering on the Big Foot Plate system last month, I asked our manufacturing whizz Herschel how hard it would be to mount a stainless mirror onto a Ram suction cup. He worked his magic over the next couple of hours & came up with the Big Face Paddler Mirror. Better than a GoPro because the imagery is in Real Time without the need for batteries or electronics, impossible to doctor up in post production with stabilising software, just pure, brutal honesty-on-a-stick, showing you just how well you’re doing.

Oscar & Boyan testing out the mirror at Tarifa

We thought it would be a good idea to have the mirror big enough to reflect an accurate picture of your face from forward of your legs, and wide enough to act as a rear vision mirror as an extra safety consideration. It had to be made from the same tough marine-grade aluminium as the Big Foot, yet still light enough to be a minimal inclusion onto an expensive super lightweight ski.

The optics on the mirror had to be sharp, and we went for the same mirrors used on Tuna boats in the mid-Atlantic, treated with a Rainex-like anti fog to stop water forming ugly streaks and ruining your view of yourself.

The result was our first prototype, finished about 3 weeks ago, and since then we’ve sent out demo’s to test at the Tarifa ski centre, and even had one tested in the recent King of the Harbour race in Auckland, where feedback was brilliant. Oscar took the prototype for a run when he was here in Sydney recently & had this to say:

‘Fantastic instant feedback, a great instruction tool, and the optics even made me look very passable. I think I could probably make one 35% better than this, but for now this is really excellent!’.

Herschel has the first production batch of 50 finished, and they’re now for sale through our ONLINE STORE for $79.95, with $10 from every sale going to the Derek Zoolander Center.

These first Big Face Mirrors are essentially designed for surf skis, where so far the demand has been incredibly strong, outstripping what we could even have thought possible for something as simple as a full-time mirror pointing back at you. We’re working on a range for sea kayaks, where obviously the mirror will need to be mounted a little further aft to compensate for the general eyesight limitations of the slightly older demographic.

Get in fast to grab yourself a Big Face, and lose the tension…..!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Nick Cunliffe Coaching this Friday in Sydney

The NSW Sea Kayak Club's Rock & Roll weekend is over for another year, and this year's event featured British sea kayaker & instructor Nick Cunliffe.
Having seen footage of Nick shredding tideraces & surf waves over the best part of the last decade, it was great to meet him and share some quiet chats over a cup of tea or two. Guys like Nick, through the videos of Justine Curgenven, have broadened the scope of what we can do in sea kayaks, redefining them as more than a simple craft of journeying into something we can use for huge fun.

Nic & his buddy Kate Hives from the Hurricane Riders in Canada ran plenty of on water sessions over the weekend & also made themselves available to talk to one & all about their paddling, swapping stories & giving some pretty damn fine advice along the way. They're a particularly gregarious & engaging couple and were a big hit at the event.
The delightful Kate Hives with Rob at RnR 
The good news for those of you not at RnR, or even those that were & might want another crack with Nick & Kate, is that they're booking up spaces for a full day of instruction on the harbour this Friday.

Spaces are limited, but there are enough for the full day or half day courses remaining if you get in quick. Please contact Rob mercer, on 0417 227 627, or through to book yourself in.

Here's some footage of Nick in action &b the kinds of things you can expect to learn

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Plastic Fantastic - The Epic V7 & Vajda Raptor Arrive

There can be no questioning the boom in surfski paddling over the past 5 years, driven exclusively by the innovative ski designers who have made this fast & rewarding craft accessible to all, through the development of super stable hull shapes.

Probably the only thing holding the crossover fishing kayakers, sea kayakers & sit on top paddlers back, was the high price of the mid-range skis, mostly starting in the early to mid $3000 range & rising.

Epic & Vajda have addressed this glaring lack of a true entry level, budget-priced ski with the respective recent launch of their V7 & Raptor Surfskis. Both designs are shorter than the standard skis at 5.2m and 5.3m respectively, so manageable in an average home garage, or on top of a city sedan.

They're both light in comparison to kayaks, weighing in at 19kg & 20kg respectively, and in testing both have laid strong claims to genuine surfski performance.

The Raptor is made from a lightweight form of ABS called Styrolight, whilst the Epic V7 is a rotomoulded ski, made in very much the same way as our hugely popular Valley sea kayaks. Both feature the full fit out & hardware that their more expensive higher-end models display, and you have to look hard at them pair of them before you realise that they're not composite, but instead plastic fantastic.

Both boats are now in stock, with pricing hovering around the $2200 mark.

Full specs & details on both of these entry level surfskis can be found below.

Epic V7
The new Epic V7 breaks that mold and sets a new standard for rotomold performance. It is lightweight, extremely efficient, and easy to handle. The V7 is outfitted with the same high quality fittings as every surfski in the Epic lineup, including our carbon fiber footboard and pedals and the hugely popular Epic designed bailer. In addition, it features an aft storage compartment with a lightweight, waterproof hatch.
Length: 5.20 m     Width: 54.00 cm     Depth: 35.00 cm    Weight: ~19kg    Capacity: 135 kg Storage: 100l  Material: Polyethylene

Vajda Raptor

A 20kg, 5.3m long entry-level ski designed for a great combination of stability & speed. Made from Styrolite, a lightweight ABS plastic with tremendous stiffness and impact resistance. The ski comes with Vajda's handy carry strap & points, has carry side & end handles, and a rear hatch with capacity for a light overnight trip. Quick enough to have won a recent short course Sydney Harbour race, yet as stable as the steadiest entry level design.
Length: 5.34 m     Width: 53.00 cm     Weight: ~20kg    Capacity: 110 kg  Storage: 95l    Material: Styrolite

Monday, 16 March 2015

Expedition Kayaks Coaching & Training

Many of you will be aware that EK now has both council & waterways permission to operate individual & group coaching & training on Botany Bay. 
We're also a fully accredited National Training Provider registered with Australian Canoeing, delivering training programs in the sea & flat water categories. Since launching our new training arm in October we have been busy developing a program of coaching around the most commonly sought after categories of instruction.

Broadly, these involve two levels of lessons. Firstly, kayakers looking to begin their paddling with a solid base of skills & drills so as to get off on a technically correct path, & surf ski paddlers starting out & looking for the same type of initial instructions. Secondly, paddlers of both types of craft who are looking to broaden their range of paddling conditions, by experiential coaching under more demanding sea & weather conditions.

Our coaching & instruction for sea kayaking is based on more than 25 years of combined sea instruction, with local tide & weather knowledge of the Bay & surrounds that allows us to put you into the conditions you need to get the most of your three hours on the water.

For ski paddlers, our focus isn't on getting you into the top 50 in the 20 Beaches, but rather getting you out on the water on more days than you might contemplate at the moment, by encouraging first competence & then confidence in rough water. We have seen first hand through our association with the Dolls Pt Paddlers, just how quickly a flat water ski paddler can make the jump to open water with the right guidance & skills. If shaving a minute off your 14km race time is your goal, we're not the guys, but if you want to greatly increase your confidence and enjoyment of moving water in your ski, we have all the tools to get you to your goals.

Our 'Paddling in Pairs' session is designed to make you & your regular paddling partner both safe & self reliant on the sea. It's a great option for those of us who have a buddy they spend most of their days on the water with, as it allows you to take away a set of skills & drills to work on together.

We've set up six lesson plans that have proven very popular with our students over the summer, and have now formalised them into the following program:

Session 1 - Intro to Ski Paddling
This is a three-hour class for new paddlers or those who would like to review the basics. The focus of our surf ski coaching is maximising your enjoyment of your ski. Our aim is to broaden the number of days you can take your ski out for a paddle, to build confidence in moving water.
Includes: setting up your ski and paddle, safety and basic weather knowledge, posture, hand position, bracing and balance exercises, stroke basics, the rudder, remounts and assisted rescues.
Cost; Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 2 – Paddling With Waves
This is a three hour class for ski paddlers who are comfortable in flat water and want to progress to areas with more exposure and a little wave action. Mark and Rob have decades of local knowledge to ensure conditions to match your abilities. This session will provide challenges in a safe and positive learning environment. The focus of our surf ski coaching is maximising your enjoyment of your ski. Our aim is to broaden the number of days you can take your ski out for a paddle, to build confidence in moving water.
Includes: Understanding wind and waves, how your ski responds, bracing, acceleration, timing, positioning on the wave, turning, remounts and rescues in waves. Botany Bay provides a fantactic learning environment for paddling skis in wind, without the consequences of serious open water.
Cost: Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 3 – Intro to Sea Kayaking
A three hour session for new paddlers or those at any level who would like to review their foundation skills. Starting in flat water with a gentle progression onto the more open waters of the Bay.
Includes: Setting up your kayak and paddle, safety and basic weather knowledge, posture hand position, stroke basics, edging, bracing and balance, self and assisted rescues.
Cost: Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 4 – Kayaking With Waves
A three hour session for kayakers who want to refine their paddling, rescue and boat handling techniques out on the bay in more exposed conditions.
Includes: Weather, rudderless boat handling, close quarters manoeuvring, rescue options, bracing, catching small waves, strategies for dealing with the wind.
Cost; Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 5 - Safe Paddling for Pairs
Do you paddle with a regular partner? Are you confident that as a pair you'd be capable of rescuing one another if you had a problem, or do you enjoy learning new skills together, so you can go away & practice them as part of your normal paddling routine? We have found that training as a pair is a very effective way to not only take in new information and techniques, but also to go away & work on new skills with a clearer focus on peer appraisal. In this session we focus on safety for paddlers operating as a pair, and techniques & drills which can be worked on later.
Cost; Individual Session - $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Session 6 – You Decide
A three-hour session for 1-4 individuals based on a specific technique/s that you want to focus on.
Includes but not limited to: Forward stroke coaching, remounts and rescues for skis, kayak rolling and re-enter rolling, Wave riding sessions, essentially you tailor the session to the skills, techniques & knowledge you feel would enhance your paddling. We're happy to make suggestions based your level of skill & ambition.
NOTE: Ski and Kayak classes will always be run separately.
Cost: Individual Session $160
Group up to 4 - $80 each

Since the training arm of business began we have been heavily subscribed & the feedback has been very positive, not only in general for our coaching & instruction, but also in allowing us to hone in on the things that paddlers most want.

You can contact Rob or Mark to book a session, or order directly through the EK Training page on ONLINE STORE .

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Rob Mercer - The EK Big Foot Footplate System

If you look at your foot and then at the size of the standard commercial foot peg or peg-pedal combo you will probably notice three things. First, the peg is a lot smaller than the area of your foot and second, because the right and left units are fixed to the sides of the boat somewhere near the deck to hull join, they are wider apart than most paddlers would choose for a comfortable paddling posture. Finally, if you look closer you will notice that the peg is almost vertical even though most of us prefer to angle our foot about 30 degrees forward. Comfort isn’t the only issue here; a larger plate and pedal area makes it easier to engage your legs for more power and control. One solution is to have your boat supplied with a custom bulkhead but this requires forward planning, extra expense and limits possible future buyers and borrowers.

After some frustrating experiences with a few composite aftermarket plate systems that always required fiddly spacer bolts or customized tapered spacer blocks I decided to make an expanding footplate that allowed the tracks to be fitted parallel on the sides of the boat.

After making a very clunky first prototype that seemed to work OK and gave me some key dimensions and angles for further development, I headed off to my mate Greg Davis who owns and runs an immaculately maintained metal-work and tool making workshop. It helps that Greg is an avid sea kayaker and bay surf aficionado, so all of my theorising and bad pencil sketches were accepted in good grace by Greg as he worked his magic; bending, drilling, grinding and punching out some tricky shapes from alloy and stainless. As we closed in on the final product Greg displayed the uncanny knack of dealing with every challenge by making the product simpler and neater.

Rob's bow goes airborne during testing of the prototype Big Foot in 2014.
Two more prototypes were made and fitted to Tarans and Paces and these were tested with full footplates and half footplates. We very early decided that to make the system easy to fit we would design it to replace existing side-track assemblies without resorting to any spacers or other tricky parts. We also decided to avoid potential stress points along the keel line or floor of the boat by avoiding any fasteners glassed to the hull or any system that involved localised downward pressure to be applied to the hull by the plate.

The current design has been tweaked repeatedly in response to testing across a number of boats with a range of paddlers for almost a year. Although everyone who took part in the testing speculated that they would enjoy a full heel foot-plate before the comparative trials, the angle and height of the standard half plate made it the overwhelming winner.

The half plate allows your heel to move a few centimetres forward and under the plate and for many paddlers this provides a leg stretch with the leg completely straight. Many of us appreciate this leg stretch to ease the strain during a long paddle, but personally I also found that allowing the leg to straighten completely facilitates better hip rotation for kayak-specific body movements like edging, sculling, sweeping and rolling techniques, which a full heel plate designed more for racing, can actually inhibit.

Ultimately there will be those who still want a full length angled plate and for them, a custom overlay cut from plywood, sheet plastic or aluminium can easily be screwed on to the existing half plate using the width adjustor screws to fix to the existing threaded backing plate. This allows an individual to customise their own extension to fit individual hull profiles.

Key Features of the System:

  1. Easily field serviceable. Uses standard Marine Stainless for all screws, nuts, washers and hinges. No tricky springs or special clips.
  2. Durable. Made from tough 5504 Marine Grade Aluminium. We recognize that these plates will be used under demanding conditions on the ocean, they were tested to the limit under these very same conditions, and are built to perform.
  3. Easy to maintain. No hidden voids to clog with sand and grit, no tight tolerance parts to jam. Easy removal for occasional cleaning
  4. Lightweight. Simplicity means that despite the robust construction it weighs only 120gms more than the most common toe pedal system used in large-scale manufacture.
  5. Pedals adjust for width fit around a glovebox. For those using the shorter leg position in boats with glovebox hatches the pedals can be set to clear these and other-under deck obstacles.
  6. Four way Adjustable. Width, length, toe-pedal angle, pedal spacing.
  7. Easy to modify. Provides a sturdy base for custom fitting of full plates to suit your needs.
  8. No need to drill. These tracks use the same hole spacing as most popular factory fitted foot peg systems.
  9. Designed by us, manufactured by Greg in his factory a stone's throw from our Miranda warehouse. Made by sea kayakers for real kayaking conditions.
We’re very pleased with the performance and build quality of this custom designed product, and look forward to seeing how it will be received in the sea kayaking world. All of our extensive testing in the past 12 months has been positive and feedback from users has been a significant driving force in the final design. We thank everyone who took the time to offer generous feedback, knowing they were assisting us in the development of a new product.

We have plenty of stock, and the Big Foot plate system is available now to order through our online store for $320 including delivery nationally. Note also, a simpler plate without gas pedals will also shortly be available for non-ruddered boats, for $250

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

New to the EK Store - The Axel Pack Chart Case

Dutch paddler, instructor and expeditioner, Axel Schoevers was a visitor to these shores a few years back, running instruction sessions up & down the East Coast with his buddy Ginni Callahan.
Rob & I with Axel when he visited Sydney
He had an intriguing piece of kit that he had developed himself, a very practical & waterproof chart case. Why bother to make a chart case when there are so many around to buy? Simple, Axel had found that every map case he bought leaked when he took it sea kayaking. Tired of ruining expensive maps, he developed his own, and even Rob, notorious for picking the tiniest fault or likely fail point on any piece of kit, was well pleased when Axel was kind enough to present him with one at the end of his Sydney stay.
Axel about to launch down the reef at 'the Bower' - Sydney 2010
Fast forward to Lady Elliot Island, 80km from the mainland, and a messy but ultimately successful attempt to bust across a heavily breaking coral reef & out onto a heaving beam sea. Chris first, unscathed, then me, losing a GPS & Kayalu Light, then finally Rob copped a snorter as he went over the shallowest part of the reef, braced hard, but broke through to join us in the relative safety of the open sea. Two minutes after we set course & headed off towards our next island some 48km away, I heard a muffled sob, and turned to see a misty eyed Mercer bemoaning the idiocy of our breakout, because that last big breaking wave had cost him his Axel Pack. 'Big deal' I said, in typical empathetic tone, 'just buy another one'. 'Mark', said Rob in his best instructor voice, 'you can't buy them, Axel has to give you one!' You'd have thought he had lost a finger....
The reef at Lady Elliot Island, resting place of Rob original Axel Pack!
Anyway, Axel’s chart case is one of the only truly waterproof chart cases we've found and is a gem. It's double ended rolling closures keep water out even under extreme conditions making it one of the few variable width chart cases on the market.

The plastic tubes slide off to allow you access to your maps and also provide protection when the map is on your deck. Clips on both tubes allow you to clip the map case to your deck-lines. Something tells me Rob hadn't quite managed to get those clips in on Lady Elliot....

These chart cases are hand made by Axel in Zuid-Holland, Netherlands, and now you don't have to wait for Axel to give you one, as we have stock exclusively in Australia. We have a limited number of Axel Packs for sale for $79.95, including free freight nationally, check out our ONLINE STORE (under 'Paddling Accessories').

Justine Curgenven had this to say about her Axel Pack "I have used the same one for years and even put my passport in it on one trip. It's the best map case I know for keeping your precious maps & charts dry & safe.”

Friday, 27 February 2015

An Evening with Sean Rice

Last night my mates at Dolls Point Paddlers hosted World Surfski Champion Sean Rice for a coaching clinic and 'Q&A' dinner.

It was an opportunity to get an insight into the makings of an elite paddler, and also to garner a few pearls of wisdom on our own paddle strokes, set up, attitude and also work through some excellent drills aimed at identifying the true source of paddling power.

Sean began the session with a short theory lesson on posture, hand positioning & boat set up, with an emphasis on the biomechanics of harnessing your big muscles.

From there we headed out into some very mild bay chop for over an hour of on-water skills, drills, balancing exercises & a series of short bursts each focusing on a different aspect of stroke. Mindful of the journey most of the DPP guys have taken this summer from flat water to moving water, he pulled together a series of drills that graduated from form & posture, to balance, and finally to fitness and conditioning.

I noticed a lot of tired core muscles by the end of it, and I don't think I was Robinson Crusoe.

Despite the large group, he managed to get around to each & every paddler, taking the time to offer advice on individual boat set up & paddle length, as well as few short & uncomplicated words of advice on the water, aimed at improving what he could see. For me it was the small observation that my knees are consistently too far apart. I corrected my posture & immediately felt a lift in the amount of power I was able to generate. A really small thing, but the sort of golden tip which I always appreciate. 

A dramatic, burning post-storm sunset greeted as we paddled back to the club, where after a group photo we adjourned to our clubhouse for a counter dinner with Sean & Emily & a cold beverage or two, where Sean held court with tales of the world surf ski circuit. I had no idea that he is the only surf ski paddler in history to be bitten on the head by a seal, which is something you would think will endure as a first, long after he's stopped winning world championships! 

Suffice to say we had a great night, came away with enough food for thought to take away & improve our own paddling, as well as getting a very personal & at times outrageously funny glimpse into the world of the ultra elite champion paddler.

Sean is heading around the country & over to NZ in coming weeks, but will be back in Sydney for another session at Dolls Point on Wednesday March 18. Cost per person is $80, which includes dinner & a Q&A with Sean at the Sailing Club afterwards. There were quite a few people who missed out on this one, so please either give Mark a shout at, or contact Sean Rice direct through his website ( if you'd like to come along. 

Sean's coaching is excellent; it's inclusive, universal, good humoured & extremely professionally presented, and everyone in attendance last night was thrilled with the experience.