Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Atlantic II Double

We'll be landing a couple of the excellent Atlantic II double sea kayaks in our next shipment due in April. The Atlantic II is rather a unique boat in the limited market for seaworthy doubles in Australia, in that it retains much of the user-friendly characteristics of the Atlantic single, while still providing a reasonably quick ride with good carrying capacity. The feature of all of the good British designed doubles is their effectiveness when things get rough, however in the Atlantic II, North Shore have managed to come up with a kayak that deals with the 'skill imbalance' which is a reasonably common feature of double paddling partners. It achieves this by reducing length - at 20 feet long (6 metres) it's eminently handlable by a single skilled paddler, while a beam of just 65cm (only marginally wider than some of the single production kayaks on the market) keeps the boat moving long at a good cruising pace. Those who have seen the North Shore boats since they landed earlier this month have all commented on the amazing finish of the aerospace vacuum bagged layup, and this cutting edge manufacturing process will keep the Atlantic II reasonably light, tipping the scales around 30kg.
We'll have a demo boat for interested paddlers in the April shipment - contact us to arrange a test paddle.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

North Shore now really famous....

I had the slightly surreal experience of taking part in a photo shoot for Lexus this arvo at the Toyota ad agency. They needed a premium quality sea kayak to show off their newest Lexus, & asked me if they could borrow one of our stock North Shore Atlantic's as the 'talent'. In a photo studio the size of a tennis court, with whited out walls that made it impossible to distinguish wall from roof from floor, photographer Bill took a few well aimed shots. Look out for the North Shore on the roof of the new Lexus, on a billboard coming to you....! Unfortunately you don't get a free one when you buy your Lexus, but the most famous sea kayak in the country is still available from stock for anyone interested....

Monday, 26 January 2009

Thursday Morning Paddle - now on Fridays...!

I've had to move the Thursday morning fitness paddle from Thursday's to Friday's from now on. My youngest daughter has started pre-school & Thursday was our only choice. Same venue, Kyeemagh Boat Ramp, same kick off time, 7am sharp. Numbers have been good lately, get along if you're looking for a good workout, but maybe not good conversation (heads are down & there's a lot of grunting).....
12.5km return trip, about 80-90 minutes of just-above-comfort-zone paddling.
Click HERE for a map of the launch point.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Night with the Hoff.

Freya Hoffmeister, Sharon Betteridge, Rob Mercer & I enjoying a few pre-circumnavigation drinks.

I had the great pleasure of spending an evening with Freya Hoffmeister, the famed lady in black, who is about to attempt to emulate Paul Caffyn & circumnavigate Australia. This Sunday, all going well, she will depart Queenscliff in Victoria & paddle anti-clockwise 20000+km around the continent. Most Europeans have a vague notion about the size of our wide brown land, but Freya is under no illusions about the scale of her odyssey. Breaking her trip into sections, you can just barely get an idea of what she will face. Starting with a 2500km stretch from Victoria up through the East Coast surf zone where just about every single day you will have a very serious surf landing & exit with a fully loaded boat. Factor in the afternoon Nor'easterlies that predominate through the 2 months of her journey north, & her goal of 60km + per day, & she will have very early starts & a very solid pace to beat the demoralising headwinds. Then the 'pleasure' of the protected reef zone, with the onset of the trade winds, 25-30 knot daily winds which produce technical, almost surfing following paddling conditions. Then the vast loneliness of the top end, with the crocs, huge tidal zones, heat & humidity, & the lack of regular re-stock. Consider that this stretches right across the top of the continent, eventually giving way to the rugged WA coast, with it's unbroken cliffs stretching as far as 130km at a time. Clear that & you hit probably the biggest surf zone in the country, down through Margaret River & Esperance, where 16 second wave periods create miles of unlandable surf, then turn the corner to the Great Australian Bight for the 'run home'. Don't be surprised if this lady has a go at a 'complete' circumnavigation if she makes it as far as western Victoria. I'll leave it to the Einstein’s to work out what that might entail....
So, from being a bit skeptical about this attempt, I now think she has as good a chance as anyone I have come across to pull it off. Her apprenticeship looping the South Island of NZ was a microcosm of the sorts of paddling she can expect in Australian waters. If experience, drive, determination & out & out focus (hate that word…) count for anything, I reckon she will give this thing a bloody good shake. Keep an eye on her journey through her blog.
Go Freya….!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Paddling with the Fire'ies

I took a couple of local firemen out for a paddle this morning in the Valley RM boats. Peter Lewis plans to paddle 2200km from the Albury to the sea in SA in April, & Trent Brown, a former Roosters & Wests Tigers rugby league pllayer, is trying to work out a way to tag along for some of the trip. Both of them picked up the gist of good paddling technique pretty fast as you can see from their excellent high angle forward strokes......
Here's a short clip of the morning's paddle - another beautiful day in Sydney.


Friday, 9 January 2009

Rock & Roll 2009

Not a Woodstock for kayakers, but rather the premier Australian sea kayaking event on the calendar. This year being held at Umina beach, about 60km north of Sydney, at a venue which allows everything from serious ocean paddling & coastal exploration, to calm river cruises, & the most sea kayak-friendly surf breaks to be found anywhere. The NSW Sea Kayak Club takes safety very seriously, so you'll need to be either a member or a member of an affiliated club to attend, but I can't imagine a more comprehensive three-day dedicated weekend of all things sea kayaking. A keen paddler could do as many as 5 half day trips with qualified sea leaders, guides & instructors, and still have time to take in a forward stroke instructional session, a photography seminar, paddle more demo boats than you can throw a Greenland paddle at, as well as have two rip-roaring nights of socialising, listening to guest speakers & making some new paddling friends. We'll be there exhibiting our range of gear, & will have every single one of our demo kayaks on hand for paddlers to take out to paddle for a few minutes, or on one of the trips if they so desire. As the Platinum sponsor, both Expedition Kayaks & Rob Mercer's Balanced Boater are offerring prizes ranging from a Reed Chillcheater pack, to a Valley Storm Surf Kayak. Whether you're new to the sport & don't really know which way to jump, or are a salty old paddler who has maybe not ever been bothered with these sorts of soirees, I can't recommend Rock & Roll highly enough. Click on the funky dolphin graphic above to find out more or to register.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

North Shore Atlantic

I got to have a brief paddle over the weekend in our newest arrival, the North Shore Atlantic. Touted as a more user-friendly rudderless kayak, suitable for a broader skill level than some of the more advanced boats, I found the reality to be little more impressive. On first appearance the Atlantic has the sporty look of the famous NDK Romany, although a full foot longer, for a higher top touring speed. Out in some 1-2m wind waves off Bare Island on Botany Bay, the boat performs every bit as I have always expected something like the Romany to perform, having seen Romany's & Avocet's (which I can't bloody well fit into...) on the tide race videos carving it up. Once planing on a wave, the Atlantic takes off, bouncing along the face beautifully, but with the very reassuring feeling of a buoyant soft secondary chine. I couldn’t imagine a better kayak for someone who maybe already has a long waterline expedition boat, but who is starting to get bored/jealous watching their mates play around in higher performance boats, and is starting to think about a better boat for the fun stuff. For a beginner, it has a similar bouncy secondary stability to the Impex boats, but in the hands of a paddler seeking out moving water it is a fun machine up there with the best of them. The extra waterline length gives the paddler a good burst of speed not always available with designated play kayaks, and the build & construction are top-notch, being Valley manufactured with the North Shore brand. They are also very light, laid up with the brand new Aeronautical Vacuum infusion technology, and the new moulds produce a clean, mirror-like impressive finish.
We have just two of these boats left, after the first 2 went within a week of them landing, so be quick if you want to organise a test paddle.
(all photo's Rob Mercer & Sharon Betteridge).

Riding the Nor'easter

Sydney sweltered yesterday with temperatures in the high 30's, and the BOM forecast was predicting our saviour sea breeze to come in early & reach 25 knots. On a slow work day - you've gotta love the first couple of weeks of January when everyone is still pretty relaxed, even in a big town like Sydney - we decided to do a car shuffle from Watson's Bay to La Perouse & have a bit of a blast down the coast. The predicted wind & a sea rising to 2.5m would have made for a pretty exhilarating run down the 20km of open coast between Sydney Harbour & Botany Bay, but alas the Bureau got it wrong & the strongest gusts we had to push us along were only about 20 knots. The remnants of a good southerly blow from the night before made the sea state a bit confused, further hampering the 'perfect wave' we had envisaged, but we nonetheless had a great time on a dramatic looking afternoon, bustling past the millions of dollars of prime real estate that line Sydney's Eastern Suburbs cliffs.

Rob & I were were both in our Aquanauts, which are complete bliss on this sort of half surfing, borderline technical paddling trip. We made pretty good time - South Head to Cape Banks in a little less than 2 hours, and both soaked up the opportunity to go out on the open sea & enjoy the brilliant conditions.
A thousand thank you's to Sharon for driving us to Watto's Bay & then picking up Rob at the end of the paddle so I didn't have to drive him home....

Monday, 5 January 2009

Sydney to Hobart Start Mayhem

After a planned catch up with some old mates on Boxing Day got canned, I thought it might be a good idea to go for a paddle among the spectator fleet watching the start of the famous Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Sydney Harbour.
Rob was happy to join in my lunacy, so we arranged to meet down at Vaucluse Bay & paddle across to South Head just before the race start. We weaved our way through the fleet until we reached Camp Cove, where a Waterways guy motored over to check our credentials.



Rob greets his legions of admirers on South Head
Deciding we knew what we were doing (just as well he did because I wasn't so sure) he pointed us to the best spot & advised us to stick in tight to South head once the gun went off. Anyway, as we reached South Head a bunch of ski paddlers went tearing past heading for the edge of the course - at this point there was about 5 minutes to go before the gun. I convinced a reluctant Mercer that it would be a good idea to go out to the edge as well, so we threaded through again for a better look.

Rob Mercer - 'Are you sure this is a good idea, mate?'

A big police jet ski then picked us out & the smiling fuzz gave us a very friendly warning that he couldn’t guarantee our safety once the fleet started to move. We decided it might be better to head for the cover of the reef at South head.
Then.....
The gun went off & the Maxi's started to charge, and the spectator fleet fairly raced out to the heads alongside the yachts. It was like a 16 lane freeway of churning whitewater with Sydney's flotilla of Gin Palaces tearing along at breakneck speed - think the running of the bulls on water.

Wakes rolling through the heads


The risks the motorboat skippers were willing to take with their own safety & ours on the shallow reef at South Head was something to behold – we very quickly had 40ft cruisers tearing past within a boat length of our spot on the 3m deep reef to get a gap on the rest of the spectator fleet.

Boat shoes, striped shirts, big boats, no brains

Obviously they’re wealthy enough to own one of these beasts, so they’re also wealthy enough to pay for the repairs. If we had stayed where I had wanted to go – note my preference, not Mr Mercer’s – we would have most likely found ourselves in game of dodgem with 10,000 charging half-pissed skippers in boat shoes & striped shirts.
The water surface went from a small chop being spun up by a 10 knot Nor' Easter, to an awesome frothing whitewater which presented us with some great technical paddling. This of course was the real reason I went out there......

The Gin Palace charge

Within about 10 minutes the combined boat wakes were pushing metre+ waves out of the harbour, so to our delight we caught a few waves out of Sydney Harbour, which was a first. Anyway, we caught wave after wave from the South head reef all the way around to the Gap & had a ball.

The crowds on Sydney's Gap
We stayed clear of the mad buggers in the Gin Palaces & rode their wakes & wash for the next hour or so.

Only the masts are visible above the wash
It was only a bit later in the day I realised that we & the mad ski dudes were the only paddlers out in amongst it, probably for good reason.
We followed it up with a six pack on the sand at Watson’s Bay & paddled back to our cars.

The crowds depart Watto Bay while we suck on a few Boags....
An awesome afternoon, but think twice about mixing it with the boats if you plan on going out next year…!
Eventual Winner Wild Oats leaves the heads

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Latest shipment has arrived....


Our latest shipment of Valley, SKUK & North Shore kayaks has arrived. You can see from our stock list (on the Kayak Prices page of the website) that we have precious few boats remaining from this shipment available, with just a single Rapier 20, two Aquanaut LV's, three NDK Explorers & the new North Shore Atlantic's. If you've been considering a superbly made British performance sea kayak for this summer, please be quick - we've had several disappointed buyers who have missed out to procrastination......
We will also be re-ordering within the next couple of weeks, for our next shipment landing in early April. If you'd like a custom made boat - maybe a carbon kevlar lay-up, a customised bulkhead or your own specific colour - let us know before January 15.