Thursday, 26 February 2009

Greenland Paddles



I've recently had a few chances to play around with a Greenland style paddle, both the traditional flat blade & Greg Simson's superb triangular Aleut paddle, & I'm starting to think they might actually have a place in the paddling world (postscript - OK, stop sending me abusive emails everyone, my Greenland paddle was firmly planted in my cheek when I wrote this...). I've previously considered them to be a bit of an old codgers relic, but the things you can do with them with regards rolling & strokes are quite astounding. On a demo test paddle on Wednesday morning with Tom Nicholson, I even managed a pretty clean roll with a broken end of Tom's hand crafted stick (after he actually snapped it in half), which hit home to me the teaching capabilities of these ancient designs. Rolling is actually much less to do with the paddle & much more to do with the dynamic body movement under the deck, and using a paddle with a different 'lift' to that which wing & Euro Blades offer really does make you concentrate on the pure body mechanics. Paddlers who understand that it's more about the body mechanics than the paddle invariably learn faster & become much better rollers. Given the rising interest created by the likes of Dubside, Freya Hoffmeister, Greg Stamer & Cherry Perry, we are going to stick our toes in the water & import the Horizon paddle from Peter Mitchell, the famous timber paddle maker in the US. We will have a good play around with them ourselves, & also offer them for sale, for the first time in the Australian market. Mitchell Paddles have long been the benchmark for timber paddles in the huge US market, & the Horizon is the a beautifully finished product. Keep an eye on our online store for prices.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Instructing in Tasmania

I've just returned from an awesome weekend of instructing with the Tasmanian Sea Canoeing Club, at their third annual 'White Beach Weekend', at Nubeena on the stunning Tasman peninsula. In so many ways Tassie is the birthplace of Australian sea kayaking, and it was great to finally get down there to see at least a few of the mythical paddling destinations I've read about for years, & to exchange ideas with these hardy paddlers.
The trip began with a drive down to Melbourne to meet up with Peter Treby, the highly regarded Victorian sea kayaking identity, for a bit of a play in our boats prior to me hopping on the Spirit of Tassie. Luckily the wind was up over 20 knots creating the best little wind waves you could ever get to test out a boat, & we spent a good couple of hours racing in & out of the waves surfing & messing around. Another VSKC member, Bob, also came down to beach with his Nordkapp & added to the merriment. After a couple of quiet beers in the pub across from the passenger terminal with Peter & Bob, I boarded the Spirit of Tassie. A long night in the bar ensued with another highly regarded Tasmanian born paddling identity with a big red beard, and after a brief but heavy kip, the morning brought the shoreline of Tassie into view. I then had to drive to Hobart to collect Rob from the airport, & we headed on down to Nubeena on the bottom end of the Tasman peninsula to set up for the weekend.
The first thing that struck me about the local paddlers was their attention to detail with gear, epecially immersion clothing. These guys respect the water, & it's little wonder with summer water temps sitting in the mid teens. They are almost all very well set up with safety gear, sails, 'stuff that works'. The second thing that struck me is the wonderful sense of community which exists within this club, something I rarely experience in the cut & thrust of living in a big city like Sydney. I was very jealous.....
My first session on the water was an instruction workshop on boat control, and there were several paddlers in the group who's experience went to decades - pretty bloody intimidating for a mainlander (or is that north islander) upstart like me! Suffice to say, our ideas on boat control stemming from better use of big muslcles & rotation, as opposed to paddle flourishes, was slowly contemplated by the group & hopefully everyone learned something. This theme continued on the water over the whole three days, with paddlers willing to embrace & have a go at our drills & challenges with great committment.
The evenings were laced with tall stories, a few glasses of Tasmanian Pinot Noir & some sketching.
Just joking about the sketching....
Then to top of the weekend, Tony, Laurie & Tim snaffled some juicy Abalone off Wedge island & fried them up as an entree to a rip roaring dinner at the local club.
On the final morning Rob led a session on how to teach rolling for some of the more experienced paddlers, so that this ambitious club can advance their training program and begin to develop a 'club' roll.
The experince was one of the highlights of my paddling life, and I thank Greg Simson & the club for organising everything so seamlessly & taking a punt on inviting us down to share our ideas.
Keep an eye out for this event next year, it's a beauty.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Selk Bags - bring out the Yeti in you.....

Considering the country is currently baking in a record heat wave, it's probably not the timeliest of posts about a product I'm trying to sell, but this thing is so much fun I figure I need to get it off my sweaty chest...!
A couple of years ago at a trade fair in the US I wound up at an ungodly hour in a bar with a Chilean dude who was telling me about his brand new product. It was a sleeping bag that allowed you to sleep any which way you wanted, go for a midnight pee without sacrificing too much of your hard earned core warmth, and sit around the camp site at night in your warmest PJ's, without having to pack an extra night time, campfire jacket. I thought it sounded pretty cool, especially after a dozen Budweisers, and went & checked out his display the next day. I bought one off him & have been using it ever since, on those rare & precious occasions these days when I get to camp. This summer that's only been in the backyard in my high tech mountain tent, with my 4 year old daughter & Finding Nemo or the Bee Movie on the mini DVD player....
Suffice to say, it's an awesome product. I love my super warm down sleeping bag, but I hate the fact that it's too damn warm for anything except really cold nights in my climes, & I've always felt restricted by the mummy shape. The Selk bag lets be spread-eagle myself on the tent floor, just like I'm do when I sleep in my own bed, wriggle around without getting twisted, run outside for a pee, and like the blurb says, sit in my sleeping bag with full & warm movement, while enjoying the campfire bonhomie.
We've managed to get a few into stock for you to buy & test out, in a more sensible Aussie warmth rating - I reckon they're something of a revolution in sleeping bag technology. Order them through our online store for $219 including national overnight delivery.