Barlings Beach Training Weekend [38]

By David Winkworth

Please note

This article represents the opinion of the author only who is the manufacturer of the Nadgee kayak and not the opinion of the Club. For a response to this article from the designer of the Mirage kayak click here.


The Barlings Beach Training Weekend was a nice weekend — good weather, good company, OK surf and plenty of keen paddlers.

I would like to comment on a couple of things from this weekend:

Firstly, sea kayaks that are not up to the task … “Hey,” you’re all saying, “I’m going to criticise Mirages” … well, I am in a way but I mean to be constructive so please hear me out.

One of our members (possessing good skills) was paddling a kevlar Mirage 580. He removed the vulnerable rudder for our surfing sessions and out we went. Most of the surf was around 1 metre or so with the odd wave a bit bigger.

Our Mirage paddler was in a broach position on a wave when the fibreglass rear hatch cover came off and sank (it is secured only by two diagonal shock cords). This then left the neoprene cover exposed which was imploded by the next wave. The ocean went into the rear hatch and the boat went down by the stern in the surf onto the sand. The keel at the rudder position was extensively fractured and there was a compression fracture and join line split about 1 metre from the stern on the starbord side. This boat was clearly lightly built. Repairs will not be cheap.

I’d like to make a couple of points about this:

  • The owner of the boat told me that prior to purchase he specified a “sea kayak” lay-up for the craft — that is — capable of handling sea conditions on our coast. I’d make the point that surf is also part of our sea conditions. This boat should not have split in the surf conditions we paddled in. If any member is purchasing a new boat, please make the manufacturer well aware of the intended use.
  • The fibreglass rear hatch cover securing method on the Mirage appears to be inadequate for surf entries and exits. If you own a Mirage, please check it and modify if you think necessary. I suggest Fastex buckles and webbing straps.
  • I can think of three popular sea kayaks on the Australian market (Mirage, Greenlander, Pittarak) that do not have tape-sealed seams on the outside of the join…and they should have. If you are buying one of these boats in the future and you intend to use the kayak to negotiate surf, you should specify tape sealing of the outside seam. If the manufacturer won’t do it, do it yourself or find someone who will.

I mean the above comments to be constructive and I hope that members owning any of the above models (or any similar ones) will check their boats at the first opportunity.

Let’s move on.

Also on the Barling’s Beach weekend, we had quite a few paddlers carrying spare paddles for the assessments which was great. These paddlers though, should look carefully at the securing methods for the spare paddles. Some came adrift in relatively calm conditions and were easily retrieved. How would you fare in 30 knots of wind?

Spare paddles should be secure — even in surf — and easily deployed from the cockpit. Make sense? You bet.

Rolling was skill that got quite some attention on the weekend. Rolling is a great skill but it does need practice. There were a number of paddlers who were dead keen to use the “screw roll” technique but did not quite have the timing down pat.

Screw Rolls are neat — no hand movement on the shaft but leverage compared to the Pawlata Roll is reduced.

The advice of club instructors is to work at the Pawlata or the extended paddle roll until it is a truly reliable roll. Remember, it must work when you need it — not just when you’re practising. Use this as a fall-back roll when practising the screw roll.

A roll — whatever version you choose — doesn’t have to be pretty….but it does have to work, especially for those narrow sea kayaks with small cockpits where re-entry via the back deck is not a practical option. If your roll is not reliable you have some work to do. Good luck.