Product Reviews [45]

Paddle bag

Do you keep chucking your split paddles in the boot and wondering where all those chips and scratches are coming from? The solution is here with a nifty foam padded paddle bag (try saying that five times really fast). Made of durable Cordura nylon with a stainless steel zipper, internal partitions to separate your paddle halves and handy pockets inside, this little beauty is sure to keep your paddle spick and span for years to come. $98.50 from Ocean Planet.

Hood ornaments

Forgotten how hard sand is? So had the Editor. It’s too late for his sorry excuse for a mind, but you can still protect your brain with a helmet when you’re in the surf or playing near the rocks. Various models start from $49.50 at Ocean Planet.

Waterproof cases

Perhaps you don’t carry quite as much paraphernalia as the Editor when you go out on the sea, but if you have anything even remotely valuable or something that doesn’t like the sea salt (come to think of it – what does?), then a hard, waterproof case is the thing for you. Coming in a l-a-r-g-e range of sizes and colours, the Pelican case is the toughest in the world. They start from $69.65 at Ocean Planet.


From the President’s Deck [45]

by Robert Mercer

Rob paddles off Eagle Rock, Royal National Park

I watched in amazement from the top of the cliffline just south of Sydney heads. A lone kayaker skidded down the steepening face of a two metre swell, wallowed in the trough and then accelerated off the crest of the next roller. I had just purchased my first sea kayak but had always considered the ‘sea’ in ‘sea kayak’ referred to the water contained in sheltered estuaries. This paddler was revelling in the open sea conditions and doing it in exactly the same make and model of craft I had just purchased to splash around Sydney Harbour! I instantly knew  I wanted to be out there, but I also suspected I had a lot to learn. Now, six years later I regularly paddle that stretch of coast. It’s even more fun than it looks and I still have a lot to learn.

For most of us freedom from bureaucracy and regulation are part of the personal experience of paddling the trackless sea and it remains the principal challenge of our Club to reconcile the demands of exciting and challenging trips on the one hand and responsible trip leadership on the other. This is further complicated by the relative nature of ‘safe paddling’. What is considered ‘safe paddling’ for some of the Club’s ‘bruisers’ may be too demanding for some of the Club’s less fit or less accomplished members.

A couple of years ago, when the Committee held an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the future organisation of trips, it was decided by popular vote that Sea Proficiency be used as a mandatory requirement for paddlers on trips graded three and above. The influx of new faces had made it very difficult for trip leaders to assess prospective starters on their trips, self assessment wasn’t working and Sea Proficiency was chosen as the yardstick. When put to the vote an overwhelming majority of members present voted in favour of this. From my memory the meeting room at Currarong was filled to capacity. This was not a decision pushed through without the support of the membership. So why did such a large number of people vote for the use of a qualification that almost none of them had? Firstly, the members wished to show their support for an initiative which would make the trip leader’s lives a little easier. Secondly, the use of a qualification designed and endorsed by a third party, the Board of Canoe Education, seemed fair and saved designing our own. To encourage active acceptance of this new policy the Club began an ongoing programme of training and assessment for Sea Proficiency. If you review these requirements one by one you will see that there is nothing in the assessment criteria for Sea Proficiency which is not important or indeed essential to safe paddling on our exposed coast.

I suspect that any enlightened  kayaking club committed to open sea paddling will end up with a formal set of requirements. The Sea Kayak Association of British Columbia use a two part scheme:  A-D for skill level and 1-4 for the length/endurance of the trip. This system has much in common with our own. We use Sea Proficiency as a reference for the skill component, and add distance and speed requirements in much the same way. The major difference is that we have moved away from a trip grading system to a paddler grading system. The paddler is the focus for assessment, not the trip, after all you can’t grade the sea.

In preparing for assessment for Sea Proficiency you will also be expected to participate in trip planning, navigation and interpreting the weather. You will develop better self assessment skills in the process. Learning to make sound decisions about when to paddle and when not to paddle is the skill most likely to save your life.

Consider being assessed for Sea Proficiency as a means to an end, not an end in itself. When you get there you will realise it is a very small amount to have learnt, but you will have truly begun to learn about paddling on the sea. Learn the skills, be assessed and get involved.

Since the Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend the Club has had fifteen successful Sea Proficiency candidates. Congratulations to Rick Angel, Kevin Brennan, Adrian Clayton, Michael Culhane, Tim Dillenbeck, Greg James, André Janecki, Huw Kingston, Paul Loker, Vicki McAuley, Andrew McPhail, Richard McNeill, Debbie Miller, Mark Windsor and Alan Whiteman. I suspect Alan holds a new record. He has progressed from complete beginner to proficiency level in less than three months.

More Than Meets The Eye [45]

by Peter Sanders

There is more than just the obvious visual differences between sea and whitewater kayakers.

Each has a different emotional stability, critical in experience. And although I personally question the sanity of those who feel compelled to forge down waterfalls and launch into boulders, perhaps we are no better… floating around in the ocean, far offshore, challenging the winds, tides and currents.

Whitewater kayakers wear helmets keeping brains in and rocks out (good conventional wisdom!). Sea kayakers wear hats, each sea kayaker searching to create his or her own identity – reflecting individual abilities (to outsiders we’re all crazy).

This hat takes on the personality of its wearer, extending an image (a posturing, a projected attitude, carriage and stance, position and rank amongst peers) for all fellow sea kayakers to see. Hats can show involvement in past kayaking symposiums, favourite baseball teams, or even just to boast a symbol of a sport by manufacturer/catalogue supplier. Some, perhaps, can even be stylish, like the wide-brimmed hats made of Gore-Tex. And then there are always the super wide-brimmed hats with different SPF ratings – and these hats float too! Hopefully, when the ‘ole wind blows most people are anchored into their kayaks, lest they be carried off as seen in the old sitcom The Flying Nun. There are still other hats – from the Bimini style (reminiscent of the French Foreign Legion) to the specially designed airflow caps with Neoprene peak, Velcro adjustment and retainer cord.

For years I have been searching for the perfect hat. Of course the word ‘free’ had to be a prerequisite. Well, things got out of hand last year when I started to wear a ‘MAD’ hat. For all of you invested parents who believe in building up your child’s moral character – not to mention cultivating their sense of humour – purchasing a subscription to MAD magazine is the answer! And they’ll send you a ‘free’ hat to boot! Although I tend to lose hats rolling or training in very bad weather, this MAD hat stayed with me all the way. Unfortunately, at 6′ 3” and thinner than most – sometimes towering over others – the hat makes me look rather silly. This painful fact was confirmed in a photograph taken of me on one of the trips last year. Imagine actually volunteering to look silly!

I’ve noticed in my travels that many people avoid this issue altogether and wear no hat at all. They carry hoods for the rain, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen for the sun, and plenty of water – occasionally pouring it over themselves to offset the sun’s rays beating down on them.

In the ever-growing sport of sea kayaking, I am planning to propose that American Paddlesport sponsor a fashion show, where different manufacturers could display their line of dry suits – both single and two piece, as well as personal flotation devices, thermal heaters, neoprene, fuzzy rubber, Polartec, and boots – full neoprene, semi sneaker with mesh siding, sandals and hats.

Maestro… music please. Hey isn’t that Cindy Crawford walking down the runway? (damn, she’s wearing a MAD hat – how come I don’t look that good).

Yes, it’s been a long winter and I’m looking forward to warm weather – and the sooner the better!

In Memoriam [45]

by Mark Pearson

Tragically, Mona Hessing, long time companion of Norm Sanders, was killed in a car crash near Braidwood on Saturday 21st April.

Mona, a person of some renown in the art world, was not a ‘water’, nor even an ‘outdoorsy’ person, but was always the perfect hostess for the paddlers who so often dropped by, or stayed, at their home in Tuross. Mona did however attend, and enjoy, a couple of Rock ‘n’ Roll weekends. She had a wry appreciation of what we were about, and why we felt the need to talk incessantly about foot pumps and epoxy resin.

But to me, and I suspect many others, Mona was simply one of those special, unique people. Last winter, during a period of some trauma in my own personal life, I spent several weekends at Tuross. Untypically, I found myself talking openly to Mona about my troubles. I was rewarded by gentle words of wisdom born of her own rich and traumatic life journey. I invariably came away from those conversations feeling both enlightened and uplifted. The world did not seem such a dark place. I am sure my experience was not unique.

Mona’s sudden loss is especially deeply felt by her friends and loved ones, and our thoughts are with Norm in this difficult time. Her spirit lives on in those that knew her.

Forum [45]

Readers’ Letters

Dear Editor

Re: NSWSKC 2001 Murray River Trip

Having prepared myself mentally and physically, and being well-equipped, I was hoping to enjoy paddling down the river in good company and feeling the ambiance of the environment instead of doing a solo with a view of backs off in the distance in front of me.

And, more than three years of OSD experience (it was recommended in the magazine’s calendar) did not prepare me for this trip.

Jan Murrell

All letters and e-mails to NSW Sea Kayaker must carry the sender’s contact details for verification. Letters may be edited for clarity or space. All letters published in this magazine may be reproduced by the NSWSKC on the internet, CD-ROM, by photocopying and by other methods.

The Old Sea Dog’s Gear Locker [45]

Pre-Emptive Surf Rolling, Kayak Hatches And Industrial Sewing Machines

The Old Sea Dog has long been concerned about getting trashed in the surf. Over the years he has slowly gained much wisdom and a few skills which have helped him to generally avoid ignominious and potentially damaging incidents. A good brace is, of course, essential. However, even the strongest of braces is useless in the face of a humungous, snarling wave which is about to drop countless tonnes of water on the foredeck. The OSD once used to charge full speed at these monsters and hope for the best. The best was usually a severe slap in the chest which bent him backwards over the coaming, followed by a savage pummelling in sand filled, murky water hopefully followed by a roll, which unfortunately was often just in time for another round of punishment. The worst… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

What to do? Initiate a pre-emptive roll, that’s what. Roll over in front of the wave, tuck into a set-up posture over the deck and let the bottom of the kayak take the force of the break. Instead of being hurled beachward, the kayak will more or less hold position due to the drag of the kayaker’s body being acted on by the seaward moving water (‘undertow’) beneath the wave. The kayak is generally pointing out to sea after rolling up. With luck, the kayaker will be able to pop over the top of the next wave. If not, well it’s time for another pre-emptive roll.

Timing is everything in pre-emptive rolling, like most things in life. Charging up the face of an approaching wave and getting airborne off the lip is one of the most exhilarating facets of kayaking in the surf. Many kayakers (including, it must be said, the OSD), are incurable optimists and wait until the wave is dropping on them and all hope is lost before rolling. This is too late. The kayak must be stabilised upside down before the wave hits.

There is another situation where pre-emptive rolling is of value. This occurs when surfing a wave and then attempting to carve off the face and head seaward before it breaks. Nothing fills the OSD’s heart with dread like the sight of a tube forming over the bow of his kayak while broadside to the wave. Instinctively, he hurls a massive brace into the wave, but to no avail. Up and over he goes, rolling with the wave. About 50% of the time, a small voice says, “Put your paddle out.” The paddle blade bites into the water under the wave and the kayak rolls up, now making good time across the front of the broken wave. This is a wonderful feeling, but the manoeuvre is almost never observed by others in the party, who scoff at the excited claims.

One day recently, the OSD got to thinking about wave dynamics. Waves in shallow water are fascinating things, and a lot is going on. Swell peaks up on entering shallowing water which is about 2 times the wave height. At a depth of 1.3 times the wave height, the wave breaks. The water then rushes shoreward as a wave of translation and may reform and break again if it enters deeper water in a gutter.

Before it breaks, water particles in a wave describe a more or less circular path, with the rotation in a direction having shoreward moving particles at the top of the wave and seaward at the bottom in the trough. Upon breaking, the orbital motion cannot be maintained and the unsupported wave top releases its energy by falling into the trough in front. Dumpers on steep beach slopes release energy quicker than spilling breakers on shallow slopes.

Since the whole wave form in a dumper is collapsing in a rotary motion towards the beach, a brace seaward into the wave is useless.  So, reasoned the OSD, why not roll inside the wave, in the direction of the beach, so that the rotary motion actually helps roll the kayak up? Why not indeed! The first time he tried the manoeuvre, it was in a 1.5 metre wave on the Tuross Bar. Although he made A BIG MISTAKE, the roll was successful. Upon inserting his paddle into the seaward moving water under the wave, he popped to the surface. His mistake was to attempt to trip the kayak by putting the blade on the beachward side of the kayak at the start of the roll. The paddle didn’t break, and his body suffered no lasting damage, but there was a lot of stress.

Far better to set up in roll position and lean towards the beach. Carving left, set up for a left hand roll. Carving right, set up for a right hand roll. Even if the off-hand roll isn’t normally very reliable, the technique works because the massive power of a paddle blade in seaward moving water combines with the rolling force of the wave on the hull. Voila! Right side up, every time (well, almost).

Of course, rolling in the surf, or anywhere else for that matter, requires watertight hatches. There is no argument that the best of all hatches is the 7 inch, round Valley Canoe Products model. This is followed by the VCP oval hatch and a wide variety of others, many peculiar to particular kayaks.

Wooden kayak designers have invented a number of hatches with varying degrees of water tightness. Some simply strap a piece of plywood over a hole in the deck with nylon straps and Fastax buckles. Weather-strip foam glued to the plywood makes the seal. Others use a wooden coaming and a wooden hatch cover, again with foam seal and nylon straps. The OSD favours a recessed hatch, seating on foam glued to a wooden lip. The hatch cover itself is the piece which was cut out to make the hole. Instead of nylon straps, he uses shock cord and, you guessed it, an OLIVE CLEAT.

Very early on in his kayak building career, the OSD developed his famous aft bulkhead-mounted VCP hatch. He simply couldn’t bear to cut a hole in the magnificent after deck of his cedar strip-planked kayak. It turns out that the bulkhead hatch has a lot of other advantages: ease of loading and carrying long items, extreme water tightness, ease of carrying spare paddle on after deck, etc, etc. Some are concerned that items may get stuck in the stern, but the OSD avoids that difficulty by tying a line to the dry bag.

At first, the OSD had trouble in fitting the VCP coaming between the deck and the kayak bottom, but solved the problem by slanting the bulkhead aft at the top. It is true that some old-fashioned, inflexible kayak designers from the NSW Far South Coast are very negative about aft bulkhead-mounted hatches, but they are vastly outnumbered by enthusiastic users of the system.

For much of his long life, the OSD coveted an industrial strength sewing machine. Then, several years ago, he scored a 1932 Singer with a 1 hp motor from a friend who paid $150.00 for three of them at an auction of Newcastle gear. There are quite a few old industrial machines around as globalisation shuts down Oz’s local garment industry. They are regularly advertised in the various Trading Posts. The OSD had his old Singer completely serviced in Canberra at Alan’s Sewing Machine Centre in Fyshwick. Alan, a dedicated sewing machine enthusiast, also sells used industrial units.

There is one major difficulty with industrial machines – they are FAST! The electric motor runs at a constant, high RPM. The OSD’s machine has a foot operated clutch which engages with little slippage – from 0-100 in about 1 millisecond. The skilled operator (not necessarily the OSD) taps the pedal with a calibrated movement for short runs. Long runs are easier, but require pretty precise directional control. The OSD got a smaller sheave (the smallest possible) for the drive motor shaft  which slowed the beast down by 50% and increased the already massive power at the needle.

Having gained the necessary skills, the OSD now zips through webbing, Velcro and heavy nylon in fashioning deck bags and other kayak paraphernalia which is strong enough to withstand any amount of pounding on the Tuross bar on the rare occasions when pre-emptive rolling fails. Happy Paddling!

Flotsam and Jetsam [45]

This time round Flotsam is steering away from controversy and is dedicated exclusively to innovations in the sea paddling world… Those bright ideas that make our sea paddling lives just a little bit easier. And so we present… a special Flotsam product review.

Peelutions P-pumpO

So you’ve got your water bag on your back, and you’re wisely drinking steadily to maintain your body fluids during those long paddles? Everything’s great isn’t it? But what about the fluid your body doesn’t want? It’s a real problem…pee bottles and scoops are not only difficult (and sometimes dangerous) to use, but these annoying calls of nature interrupt our natural paddling rhythm, and just when we’re getting ‘in the groove’ too!

Well, not any more! Peelutions Inc from the good ole US-of-A have advised of a new product that just might solve this annoying problem for ever! Introducing the P-PumpO, a clever combination of the basic kayak foot pump but with the addition of an intake pipe that is actually permanently attached to the ‘male member’ by way of a ‘comfy fit’ end piece.

P-PumpO designer Art Grinkle enthused, “No more stopping and peeling back the old spray skirt for a leak… from now on gun paddlers will be able to strap on the P-PumpO then clock up some serious kilometres while relieving themselves whenever they feel like it! Imagine kilometre after kilometre without having to drop a stroke… never having to drop a stroke… just let it go and pump it out… this is the perfect system for all you Aussie Bruisers!”

Impressed by Art’s sales pitch, Flotsam organised a couple of our dedicated staffers to try out the P-PumpO system.

MP – male, 180 pounds, 6′ 2” (in his dreams), tried the P-PumpO in a 6-foot swell and confused seas.

AE – male, 165 pounds, 5’10” used the device in strong winds and during a short surfing session.

MP, an Inuit Explorer paddler, advised that he found “the end fitting rather small and therefore very difficult to put on” and also cautioned “it hurts like hell if you pumped too hard.”

AE thought the system “worked well, even in a Baidarka” and “did not interfere with lean turns or rolling lay backs.” But AE “felt nervous during a short surfing session at the thought of wet exiting while still ‘attached’…” and cautioned “with the pump exit hole in front of the paddler, the system is not very hygienic into headwinds.” In rough conditions MP found he “was able to pee and brace simultaneously, which was easier and more satisfying than I thought.”

At the end of the day, AE was “generally impressed by the product, because although I’m not really a Bruiser, I have a notoriously weak bladder.” MP concluded that “with a better fit this product could definitely take the piss” and asked, “Is there was a P-PumpO fitting for my girlfriend, a budding female Bruiser?”

Designer’s Response

“I would like to thank the Flotsam test paddlers for their valuable feedback, and offer the following information in relation to their comments:

“We acknowledge that the size of the end fitting was designed primarily to fit Nadgee and Mirage paddlers, who are the target paddling demographic for the product, but we will of course be offering larger sizes for other sea paddlers.

“Over-vigorous pumping is not recommended, but with time, we think most paddlers will ‘feel’ the required pump rate to evacuate the urine efficiently.

“We also caution that the P-PumpO is primarily a ‘set and forget’ device designed to be worn during long, open crossings, so we advise against using it during surfing sessions, where uncontrolled wet exits could possibly cause traumatic injury. Also, we realise that headwinds can be a problem for ‘compulsive’ pumpers, or the incontinent, and we are looking at fixing a different outlet angle to overcome this in our Mark II P-PumpO.

“On the issue of a female fitting, we have decided not to provide such an option at this stage, as our research has shown that while men seem to actually quite like it, ladies have a real problem with such a flamboyant expulsion of bodily fluids.

“Again, I’d like to thank the Flotsam product reviewers for their valuable comments.”

Art Grinkle – Designer

New Pull-apart Nadgee Expedition

This message extracted from the Mallacoota Examiner

Lost: At Bemm River; front end of Nadgee Expedition sea kayak – orange deck/yellow hull, approximately 1.4 metres long. Last seen rapidly sinking to the bottom. Unattractive bulbous shape but strong sentimental value. Reward offered. Contact David Winkworth.

Despite the above, Flotsam has discovered that designer David Winkworth was actually as pleased as punch following the ‘de-nosing’ of his beloved Nadgee on the Bemm River bar.

David told Flotsam, “My boat hit the bottom hard, and yet I still was able to paddle what was left of her back to shore unharmed… most boats would have been torn apart by that wave and the paddler injured.”

David continued, “For years I’ve wanted to make a boat that destroys itself scientifically and this Nadgee is it… I’m also working on another advanced feature I’m calling the ‘Skink’ option… in the event of the stern of the Nadgee being attacked by a large shark, the rear section will immediately detach itself, thereby distracting the shark and allowing the paddler to make his escape… to cover such losses, eventually my aim is for all my customers to get a couple of replacement prow and stern sections with each new boat…”

Tip of the Month

Ever had a vigorous surfing session, got upside down a few times, and had problems with water getting into your head and not coming out?

Well, surfing legend Robyn Harris of Monash, ACT has the answer. Robyn contacted Flotsam to say “I’d often return from the surf with this really heavy, sinusy feeling, and later on, say at a romantic dinner with my new spunky boyfriend, I’d be really embarrassed when half a pint of sea water would suddenly flood out all over my entrée!

Robyn continued, “But now I’ve found a way to empty my head out while still in the boat and carry on surfing and having fun. And its so simple anybody can do it… just lean your head forward, tilt it to one side, block the lower nostril and blow… it’s that simple! And I’m usually amazed at what emerges with the water… seaweed, cigarette stubs, once even a live crustacean… this technique really flushes the nasal cavity out!”

And in case members are cynical about the effectiveness of Robyn’s unique blowing technique, she has kindly volunteered to demonstrate it LIVE at the Next Step Weekend.

Bad Tip of the Month

Rather than miss out on some exciting surfing in strong 2-3 metre Bass Point swells, Matt ‘The Spurter’ Turner tried out cling wrap as a replacement for his forgotten neoprene rear hatch cover. Later, from his hospital bed, our Matt told Flotsam, “It was a total disaster, and I nearly drowned, but someone’s got to try these things out… next time I’ll know to put on two layers of cling wrap…”