NSW Sea Kayak Club – About Training … [62]

By Training Coordinator Harry Havu

By the time this article is published, the training programme for 2005 will have been completed. So, this is a good time to look back and consider what eventuated and what we can learn from that to do better in the new year. I hope I’m not too close to the issue to make meaningful observations – but risking a slightly myopic view on the subject, my impression of the overall composition of the 2005 programme can be summarised as: an effective mix of skills training events; successfully and safely delivered to a consistent and high standard, to a large number of club members.

The Sea Skills award (our Grade 3) continues to be the main benchmark for paddlers in the Club and as such is pivotal for the set-up of the training program. The format of training delivery for it took a significant change from the previous year. While quite effective and popular with the trainees, the course in 2004 required an on-going commitment from both the participants and the instructors over many months. This year, two Sea Skills programs were delivered in compact, two-weekend packages. Of course, it is not reasonable to expect anybody to be turned from a novice to a Sea Skilled paddler in just two weekends. That is why the stand-alone modules offered throughout the year were so valuable and as a whole, formed a comprehensive program framework without forcing a large number of trainees and instructors to commit to a multi-month schedule. By picking several of the events throughout the year, club members were able to piece together a complete program to suit their schedule and needs.

Training events included specific sessions for rolling, landing and launching through surf, and forward paddling technique. For the first time, we also offered “Introduction to Sea Skills” weekends. This module is designed to introduce relative novices to the range of basic strokes and skills, which form the core of the Sea Skills award. It provides a logical first step in a learning path for a new member. As discussed above, by choosing from the stand-alone skill modules and the Sea Skills courses a fully rounded program was able to be constructed. The rest is up to the individual paddler wishing to improve his padding. Putting in the time and effort outside of club-run events is a prerequisite for improving ones ability and fitness. Experienced club members were also catered for by offering surf skills and forward paddling at the appropriate level.

The size of the Club Training programme delivered this year has been impressive: the number of trainees multiplied by number of days of training represents one measure of the magnitude of effort expended by our volunteer instructors. The figure for this year comes to 299 (note: does not include the numerous Tuesday and Thursday night training paddles put on by Rob again this year, this alone is a hugely valuable resource to club members). This measure might be repeatable enough to provide a basis for comparison in the coming years, or to other organisations. Just stop and think for a moment: this is equivalent of taking one person out to for training each working day for well over a year non-stop.

Training formats and standards easily provoke a passionate discussion in the paddling community. While there are endless permutations available to construct a training programme, the consistency, flexibility, standard of tuition and sheer volume of training delivered in 2005 makes me take my hat off to the volunteers behind making it all possible: Rob Mercer, Sharon Betteridge, Andrew Eddy, Keith Oakford, Mark Sundin, Stuart Trueman, Richard Birdsey. These club members have set a standard which is hard to maintain, but with everybody’s support we hope to repeat, or even improve on the results of 2005.

… and Grading

As some members would be aware, the Committee has been looking at ways to improve the current club paddler grading system. Feedback from trip leaders indicates that there is a need to lift the standard of Grade 2 paddlers, and to make it more consistent. Currently, paddlers are able ‘self assess’ themselves to be at Grade 2 level. It is hardly surprising then, that the actual skills and abilities of paddlers presenting themselves for Grade 2 trips vary considerably. A better-defined basis and a means of confirming that the paddler has reached this level would be useful.

Why hasn’t a new standard for Grade 2 been set yet, after some 6 months of deliberating on the issue? The initial idea was to use the AC Intro to Sea award as a basis for our Grade 2. It would provide a readily adaptable, defined standard in a similar fashion to the Sea Skills award. However, on closer examination the Intro award requirements do not seem to represent the needs of the Club. Also, the impact of delivering training and assessing members to this standard would require quite a lot of Club resources, which are precious and few – despite the fact that we (soon will) have 3 assessors (Rob, Andrew and Stuart). Your Club Committee is now sounding out the pros and cons of a new internally developed standard, and the means of determining when paddlers have reached it.

NSW Sea Kayak Club — Sharon Betteridge [62]

By Elizabeth Thomson

When I attended my first Rock’n’Roll in 2001, my first training experience was with a woman called Sharon. My first thought was how could such a petite, shy woman be a sea kayaker? But I wasn’t wondering for long. She was my rolling teacher that day and has been my kayaking role model ever since.

Sharon Betteridge is an unsung hero of the NSWSKC who tends to do extraordinary things quietly. Well, it’s time some of these things came to our attention. So read on to find out what they are!

Sharon is an all rounder. Whether it be competitive or recreational kayaking; flat water or sea kayaking; kayaking skills or kayaking stamina; or even kayak building, Sharon has attempted it and succeeded, more often than not, ahead of the pod.

In 1994 she started kayaking in her first boat, a three metre plastic Minnow. In 1995 her first sea kayak, a Mirage 17, superseded this and then in 2000 she added her homemade Baidarka 16. It is a stitch and glue boat that was made in the hallway and lounge room of her inner city terrace home. Having built her Baidarka, she decided to test run it on a short paddle from Sydney to Jervis Bay! However, typically these days she paddles a Mirage 530.

Early in her paddling career, Sharon participated in the Hawkesbury Classic — three times, coming second in her first attempt in the Open Mixed Long Rec. Double class in a Mirage Double with Rob in 1995. Not to mention her coming second in the Open Women’s in the Waggabidgee Canoe Classic in 1996. In the same year, she joined the NSWSKC and was introduced to the sea. Her first sea kayak trip was Palm Beach to Maitland Bay and her first overnight trip was Broughton Island! From this beginning she went on to tackle many of the significant and challenging paddles along the eastern coast of the mainland, Tasmania and New Zealand including the Whitsundays, far north Queensland, the NSW Central coast, the Sydney and Wollongong coastline, Honeymoon Bay to Currarong, the Murramarang coast, the Nadgee coast, the Freycinet Peninsular, Tasman Peninsula, and South Bruny Island, Marlborough Sounds, the Bay of Island and Northland.

Along with taking on the challenges of the sea, Sharon took on the task of gaining sea kayaking qualifications, receiving Sea Proficiency Certificate in 1999. In 2000, she became one of the first Club trip leaders to receive the Australian Canoeing Sea Leader Award and Level 1 Instructor Award in 2004. On the way to these awards she participated in many Club training sessions as a trainee and many of us have since been under her wing on the water in a range of contexts as a trip leader or instructor doing a wide range of skills development activities.

However, perhaps her most unsung achievement was her third trip to far north Queensland in 2004 from Cooktown to Seisia (Torres Strait) — 810kms over 23 days, averaging 41 kms per day with the longest open crossing of 60kms. She coped with tidal currents, winds, big seas, sharks, crocodiles, sandflies and group dynamics, graciously explaining, “Despite the remoteness, the sheer length of the trip, individual personalities and our different paddling speeds, a common goal of commitment to the trip and to each other, combined with an ability to have a good time meant we were able to work together harmoniously”. Most women whom I know wouldn’t have had the skills or resolve to manage such a trip. And that’s why she is my role model.

So thanks, Sharon. Thanks for paving the way for more women in the Club. Thanks for being the quiet achiever making it easier for the rest of us to join in. And thanks for your loyal support of the NSWSKC over the years. You qualify as one of our new Old Farts!

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Pain Alternatives [62]

By Sally Jacobs – Sport and Remedial Therapist

Many people struggle to understand their injuries or know who to turn to for help. The purpose of this article is to help you differentiate between various types of injuries and the different types of treatments available.

Chronic verses Acute Injuries

Chronic Injuries can be defined as persistent injuries with an insidious onset. The injury develops over time and is a result of a range of factors which include our postural habits, the physical stresses we place on our bodies, nutrition, hydration and stress. The human body is not designed to remain in the same posture for several hours a day. Doing so will create imbalances in muscle function and altered posture, which in turn increase stress on joints and other tissues, leading to pain and dysfunction. Examples include chronic musculo skeletal pain, tendonitis, bursitis and Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI). We often fail to seek treatment until the odd twinge or recurring injury become regular fixtures in our lives. The longer the injury exists, the longer it will take to resolve, so taking action early can save a lot of pain, frustration and money.

Acute Injuries arise out physical trauma, they include fractures, dislocations, open wounds etc. The coverage of these injuries in this article will be limited as they all require the same treatment protocol, being first aid and, depending on the injury, may require medical attention followed by physiotherapy.

Symptoms indicate which tissue is involved, it can be one or all of those listed below, in varying degrees of severity, and more than one tissue may be involved.

Nerve impingement:

Nerve impingement refers to pressure placed on a nerve or nerve root by surrounding tissue which may be bone, disc, muscle or fascia. Hernias and tumours can also increase pressure on nerves. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, pins and needles, weakness and sometimes a degree of loss of control of an affected limb. It is for example, impingement of the sciatic nerve that leads to a temporary numbness in the buttocks, legs and feet when you are paddling, caused by muscles tightening around the nerve. This may be due to poor technique, poor posture or poor boat fit, for example, due to direct pressure from the seat or having the foot rests too far back. You might ask an instructor to check your form and boat. Stretching the gluteal muscles and sports/remedial massage can help prevent and relieve these symptoms. However, if the symptoms persist after the activity which caused them has ceased, or they recur frequently, then medical advice should be sought. Your doctor may then recommend that you see an osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist.

Numbness in peripheral areas such as fingers or toes, or around the mouth can also be indicative of a viral inflammation or a metabolic disorder and should be discussed with your doctor.

Nerve impingement is often neglected as the symptoms are not severe enough to prompt action, yet it can be a precursor to nerve inflammation, a very painful and serious condition.

Nerve inflammation

An impinged nerve can become inflamed. The inflammation further increases pressure on the effected nerve and causes its dysfunction. This is symptomised by sudden sharp shooting or stabbing pain, which follows the nerve pathway, therefore it tends to radiate from an epicentre to another part of the body, for example, along a limb. It can cause muscle spasms and reduced function in the affected limb. In both nerve impingement and inflammation, the symptoms can occur with or without movement but are often worsened by specific positions. Sciatica, for example, is inflammation of the sciatic nerve and causes pain down the side and back of the leg, the inner thigh and into the foot. Viral infections such as Shingles also cause nerve inflammation.

Nerve inflammation can be excruciating. You should seek medical advice as soon as possible as permanent nerve damage can result if the cause is untreated.

Muscle spasms and strains

In the absence of an impact or accident, very few musculo skeletal injuries are “sudden”. They occur as a result of long term muscle tension, often brought about by remaining in one position for several hours a day, that is, sitting at a computer. A wry neck (torticollis) is an excellent example, where a normal neck movement can result in agonising pain and restricted movement.

When muscles remain in a state of prolonged contraction, blood flow through the tissue is restricted, thus reducing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle and impeding the removal of metabolic wastes. Surrounding connective tissues and the nerves which run through the muscle are also affected; adhesions form in the myofascia – the slippery gel like connective tissue that is integral to the muscle tissue. The fascia not only provides the tensile strength of the muscle but also acts as a lubricating surface to facilitate the smooth glide of muscles and other tissues over each other. Adhesions in the fascia account for many of the postural changes which occur in our bodies and a significant amount of pain in musculo skeletal injury. Pain can refer through the fascia, resulting in a variety of symptoms from sharp jabbing pain on movement to burning and tingling. The latter is a result of nerve sensitisation caused by the fascia and or muscle impinging on the nerve endings and a build up of metabolic wastes in the tissue. Trig points form in the muscle, areas of hyper reflexivity in which dysfunctional nerve function will cause muscles to spasm, and shorten, thus reducing the normal range of motion. Any attempt to lengthen the muscle or achieve normal range of motion will evoke a “stretch reflex” which leads to increased spasm and pain. In this state the muscle is highly susceptible to injury through sudden movements or loads, and stretching should be avoided.

Before you get to the stage where you are experiencing the symptoms above, you will receive plenty of clues that all is not well. Over a period of time you will experience dull muscular aches, stiffness and muscle fatigue that is likely to be worse in the morning due to the build up of toxins overnight. Pain tends to dissipate as activity increases. These are signs that you need to take action! At this stage applying heat to the area and remedial massage can restore normal function and prevent injury. If you choose to leave it until you are unable to move without significant pain then you will need a longer course of intensive treatment. Regular massage and preventative exercises such as Yoga and Pilates can increase your performance and prevent injury.

Care should be taken if you have an injury – don’t forget most muscle injuries are overstretch injuries so seek advise from a sports massage therapist or physio before taking up new activities.

Acute muscle injury

If redness, swelling, turgidity or bruising are present as well as loss of or reduced function, massage and heat are contra indicated and can cause further damage. It is unlikely these will occur without some form of trauma, so the principles of acute injury management apply: first aid and see either a doctor or physiotherapist.

Tendon injuries (strains)

Tendons are the inelastic ends of the muscle which attach muscle to bone. A torn tendon will usually result in spasm of the muscle with corresponding pain and reduced function of the muscle and joint. The symptoms usually occur at the time of the trauma and, as with any acute injury, will worsen as the inflammation sets in. The tendon may be tender to touch, and there may be some swelling. It is important to see a doctor or physiotherapist for early treatment as you risk a permanent reduction or loss of function without judicial treatment.

Important! Do not stretch the muscle if any of the above symptoms are present. Seek treatment.

One of the problems arising out of tendon injuries long after the pain has gone is a perceived weakness. You may have badly sprained an ankle and found thereafter, that you roll the ankle for no good reason, that is, on perfectly flat ground. The likely cause of this is damage to the proprioceptors in the tendon which relay spatial information pertaining to the limb to the brain. When these receptors are damaged, the brain doesn’t know where your foot is in space, so that you may be putting your foot down on its side rather than the sole, hence you keep rolling your ankle. Special exercises are required to re-program the proprioceptor cells to prevent the injury recurring over and over again. A physiotherapist will be able to provide this information.

Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon which usually arises out of excess friction of the tendon due to poor biomechanical function. This in turn may cause impingement of the tendon as is common in rotator cuff injuries of the shoulder. Pain and stiffness occurs on movement and there is usually restricted range of motion due to the pain. The tendon can feel tender or bruised to touch and, as with most inflammatory conditions, pain is worse after rest. This injury requires immediate attention. It will not self resolve. Stop any activity which exacerbates the pain and see a physiotherapist. They may refer you to a sports massage therapist for adjunctive treatment. Acupuncture can also be effective in treating tendonitis, but you should have the problem diagnosed by a doctor or physiotherapist.

Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the tendon sheath, occurring with or without tendonitis. The symptoms are similar to those of tendonitis, though the pain can be over a greater area. Again, seek immediate treatment from a physiotherapist. Massage is not usually appropriate. Acupuncture may be of benefit.


Bursa are fluid filled sacs which lie between tendons and bone and protect the tendon from excess friction between the tendon and bone. They are found around most joints. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa due either to an impact or excess friction from a tendon. Pain occurs when pressure is placed on the bursa from lying or leaning on it or on movement as the tendon rubs on it. If the tendon and muscle are tight enough to result in bursitis, then the underlying cause is almost certainly a significant biomechanical discrepancy and it is likely that you are experiencing muscular and joint pain in other areas. The treatment may well require a multi disciplinary approach involving a combination of physiotherapy or osteopathy, massage and possibly a podiatrist, if the lower limb is affected. Rehabilitation is usually a lengthy process as the body has to go through a number of biomechanical changes for healing to occur. This problem will not self resolve.

Ligament and Joint Injury (sprain)

Ligaments attach bone to bone and provide stability of the joints. If the joint is overstretched ligament and cartilage may be damaged and the joint may be misaligned. Sprains are painful on movement or weight bearing on the joint and, because of inflammation, are likely to cause discomfort at rest. Often it is difficult to find a comfortable position. The pain is sharp and usually localised to the joint and corresponding muscles. The joint will feel weak and unstable. See a physiotherapist as you will need specific exercises to restrengthen the area as part of the treatment protocol. Ligament injuries are slow to heal and the resultant joint instability can give rise to other compensatory problems, for example, a weak knee can lead to hip, back and neck problems. Massage as an adjunct to physiotherapy or any of the above modalities will hasten your recovery and help in preventing the development of secondary problems. If the joint can not be realigned through soft tissue therapy, then manipulation may be suggested. This should only be attempted by a fully qualified osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist. Do not let anyone else manipulate your joints, ever! It could lead to a stroke or permanent disability!

To sum up, if pain persists or continues to worsen beyond 3 days, if you have an injury that recurs every few weeks or months, if you experience any symptoms mentioned above on a regular basis and they move around your body, seek advice.

If in doubt, see your doctor for advice on whom to go to for treatment. They will normally recommend physiotherapy or massage. Other options include chiropractic and osteopathic therapy.

The physiotherapist approach is generally focussed on treating the immediate problem area. If you have a neck problem, they focus on treating your neck. Physiotherapists are vital for treating acute injuries and providing rehabilitation programs after injury or surgery. Other modalities provide additional options for the treatment of chronic injuries:

The chiropractic and osteopathic perspective on health and disease emphasizes two fundamental concepts:

  1. the structure and condition of the body influences how the body functions and its ability to heal itself; and
  2. the mind-body relationship is instrumental in maintaining health and in the healing processes.

If there is a neck problem, then both chiropractors and osteopaths will look for other areas in the body and look at a person’s lifestyle.

Central to chiropractic philosophy is the importance of neurological function and its effect on the body’s ability to heal. Chiropractors work on the basis that by restoring structural integrity through chiropractic manipulation of the spine, neurological function and, therefore, the overall health status can be improved. Chiropractic treatment therefore is focussed more on manipulation of bone than facilitation of soft tissue and this is where they differ from osteopaths.

The osteopathic perspective is equally global but the difference between the two philosophies is that osteopathic principles are based in restoring and optimising circulation throughout the body without which cells cannot receive the nutrients and oxygen required to survive or remove metabolic wastes. Therefore an osteopathic treatment is more focussed on soft tissue therapy and facilitation rather than manipulation of bone structure.

Massage therapists are trained from osteopathic principles and focus on restoring muscle integrity. Often in the case of chronic injuries, several treatments are required, in order to condition the muscles to be able to accept change. That is, the removal of spasms, adhesions, trig points and correction of abnormal reflexes are critical for correct function to be regained. Massage is often used alone or as an adjunct to other therapies and is a powerful tool in the prevention and rehabilitation of injury.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Old Sea Dog’s Sail and a Pittarak [62]

By Peter Osman

It was the Old Sea Dog’s sail. He had described it in the New South Wales Sea Kayaker magazine and later with more detail in Sea Kayaker. It was the kind of sail which could be rigged and stowed away with a minimum of fuss while coping with a choppy sea. A sail that placed no restrictions on paddling or rolling, whether stowed away or in use.

The pressure to fit such a sail had become intense. Sharks were being reported almost every week in Australia and careful investigation showed that over the decades they had bumped into a kayak, a rowing skiff, an Olympic canoeist, and even a lawyer’s boat insured with the NRMA; but none had ever interfered with a kayak carrying a sail — especially not a sky blue one 🙂

Andre is a most courteous man from Poland who makes kayak sails in his spare time. He is a fine and meticulous craftsmen and probably the most skilled kayak sail maker in NSW. He cut this one from three pieces, fitted a batten and reinforcing tape and described the intricacies of the mast design with details I would never have contemplated. Once we are engaged in discussing kayaks it is not possible to stop. Andre lives in Surrey Hills in a small house with just enough room in the lane at the back to set up the boat. It was the first time this design had been fitted to a Pittarak whose sloping deck and narrow bow imposed tricky constraints on the three stays and halyard. It took two evenings to fit. And much serious thought and discussion, with a committment and method that I will freely pass on to any Pittarak owner who asks.

On the second evening, as the sail rig took shape in the back alley, an emaciated, wiry, nut brown man cast a discerning eye over the work and engaged in a long history of his time on prawn boats in Northern Queensland. The poor fellow was a heroin addict and well known in the neighborhood. Andre warned me that the contents of my car were probably at risk and apologised for the man. But there was no need. The prawn fisherman told his history well. It was worth listening.

On to Johno who is a boat builder and we kayak together. He knows exactly how to reinforce the boat so that the mast can pull in any direction without cracking the deck. Johno once rescued me in the surf using a very strict protocol that guaranteed our boats would not be scratched. We lift the boat into his shed where he waits for a fine day then applies three layers of woven fibreglass mat in a cruciform pattern under the universal joint which holds the mast.

So comes the day. It has taken me all morning to fit lifting and steering lines on the boats rudder and I have carefully selected a time when none of my friends will be watching. So off to Clontarf with the sail neatly stowed and over I go. The roll back up is blissfully normal. So now to rig the sail and try it again. I take it from under the bunjee, pull on one loop to lift the mast and the boat is ready to fly — but first — over the boat is tipped again. Under water the rigging has collapsed and the sail has part folded towards the cockpit. I release the loop and roll. The only difference the sail makes is the need to place the paddle so it doesn’t catch in the halyard. Now the sail is in the water at the side of the boat and is folded up within a few seconds to be stowed under a bunjee on the deck.

At last the sail is rigged for real and I firmly resolve that despite the paltry two knot wind I will not lift a paddle until reaching Balmoral. We race along at half a knot. The navy divers are conducting an exercise and look quizzical. Various paddlers and a fairy penguin overtake me but there is definite progress — a micrometer would judge it well. Two hours later the keel gently grazes Balmoral beach and its time for a triumphant cup of tea.

Three weeks pass and it’s Easter Sunday. The sky is dull and clouds are scudding northward. A gentle. grey mist of rain covers the sea between Balmoral and Clontarf. I’ve spent almost an hour paddling two kilometers into the wind so now its sweep and turn and pull on the halyard. The mast lifts and straightaway the sail fills and pulls. At first the movement seems imperceptible then I look back and see that within a few minutes the boat has covered almost a quarter of the distance. As the fetch increases the boat picks up, marker buoys waft by and the boat is overtaking my paddling mates. We pass the point at Chinaman’s beach and there’s the strange sensation of keeping a boat stable in a confused following sea, without any paddling strokes and no need to work at all. As my dear partner, Beryl, would say, “I could get used to this”.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Turning a Useful Device Into an Even More Useful Device [62]

By Matt Bezzina

For a multi day expedition you might take a VHF Radio, EPIRB and maybe even a satellite phone. These types of communications devices are accepted as being important safety items whilst at sea for any vessel but I doubt you’d find them carried by most sea kayakers on day trips along their local coast line. A lot of us wouldn’t even own one but we probably do have a mobile phone.

Together with a waterproof gadget bag (available from kayaking & marine shops) the humble mobile can be tethered to a PFD to become a basic safety item that in dire circumstances could be used to raise the alarm and initiate a search & rescue. You can also use it to notify authorities of illegal fishing activity, injured marine life, pollution spill or to phone your partner to come and pick you up after that round trip becomes a destination paddle.

The Aquapac brand bag is totally waterproof and lets you use the phone as you would normally. You might just need to turn up the volume and get used to finding your ear!

The only things you need now are a few …

Important numbers to add to your phone book:
Name Phone Description
Coast Guard (02) 9337 5033 Report a vessel in trouble – including your own
Fish Watch 1800 043 536 Report illegal fishing activity
Fisheries after Hours 0438 304 446 AH Alternative for above
Marine Emergency 1800 641 792 Initiate a Search & Rescue
Marine Weather 1900 926 101 BOM Report (Pricey)
Water Police 1800 658 784 Catch a thief
EPA 131 555 Report Pollution
NPWS (Sydney Harbour) (02) 9337 5522 Report injured wildlife (check for your local office)

And if you’re in a real panic you can always call 000.

Keep in mind that reception can be patchy or non existent in many places. CDMA phones have better coverage than GSM phones but you should still verify that your network provides coverage in your intended paddling area. It’s also worth remembering that your phone becomes ballast as soon as the battery goes flat!

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Advanced Kayak Kits [62]

By Mike Snoad

Advanced Kayak Kits started life in January 2001 on Deal Island in the middle of Bass Strait (Deal Island seems to be a re-occurring theme in my life story). It was a question I posed to my fellow kayak expeditioners that started it all. How can I share with other kayakers my recent creation, a purpose built plywood composite sea kayak? This new kayak was proving to be a well-balanced high performer with no apparent vices that was exceeding my expectations on this demanding first trip.

The rest is history. For the last five years Advanced Kayak Kits has been producing ‘build yourself kits’. We now produce kayak kits in four different models in our workshop at Nelligen on the South Coast of NSW. These are all variations of the original Deal Island kayak, which is still in use and has clocked up thousands of kms on expeditions including three Bass Strait crossings. All models are capable of being customised to suit individual requirements in a way often not possible with mass produced plastic and fibreglass kayaks. Accessory kits including our very popular sail kits are part of this customising process.

Our philosophy is simple. Our kayaks must be well-balanced performers. They must be robust and also look good. We test the prototypes of all new models in a wide range of conditions including long expeditions to ensure that they meet our high standards.

We believe that it is important to use the materials that come from environmentally sustainable sources in Australia wherever possible. For instance the marine plywood we use is manufactured in Australia from plantation grown Hoop Pine. This is a timber species native to Australia and it is also significantly stronger that most imported plywood. Other kayak kit manufacturers typically use imported plywood manufactured from tropical rainforest timbers.

Most importantly our customers must have ongoing access to us for advice especially during the kit assembly stage.

The most rewarding part of The Kayak Kits adventure is the positive feedback we get from our customers.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Kayak Essentials For Women Part 2 [62]

The Eskimo Roll

By Sally Jacobs

For some peculiar reason, all kayaks share a major design fault. They capsize. Apparently this is all down to physics. If you want a boat which is capable of moving at any tangible speed, then it has to be narrow and long. The faster you want to go, the longer and narrower it has to be. But the faster it is, the more unstable it gets, so more speed equals more time upside down. So why do we buy a boat that we know is designed to tip over and drown its occupants?

Well, if you want a kayak that doesn’t flip over, it needs to be wide. If you really stick your neck out and demand guarantees in this matter then you are looking at something the width of a football pitch and your own personal fleet of tugs to manoeuvre it.

Apparently it was the Eskimos who first devised the solution to this problem. For centuries, kayaks have been their chosen form of transport for commuting between their igloos and their office. They figured out pretty quickly that being upside down in frigid water with the odd Orca or two probably wasn’t the best recipe for the survival of their race. Somehow they discovered that if they twisted their torso one way at the same time that they twisted their hips in the opposite direction, that by some miracle, their upturned kayak would right itself. Perhaps it is their apparent surprise that this manoeuvre actually works that explains why the head is the last part of the body to leave the water. This strange phenomenon is called the Eskimo Roll.

Having ascertained that physics is behind most anomalies that surround kayaking, it will hardly surprise you that learning how to Eskimo Roll involves several illogical, counter intuitive actions:

To start with, your instructor will insist that you don a PFD, spray deck, and dive mask, and if the water is particularly cold, a wet suit, too. Any sensible person will immediately realise, before setting foot in their kayak, that something sinister is about to beset them. Why would anyone strap themselves into a kayak with all this safety gear, designed to keep them warm, dry and hopefully upright, just to be told they are expected to voluntarily capsize, and get wet, cold and upside down, and oxygen deprived? Which leads me to ask – why stop at a dive mask? Why not go the whole hog and include the full sub aqua regalia?

If you proceed lemming-like to the next step, you will find yourself attempting to master the knee lift and hip flick. If you are going to try this at home (which I can’t recommend for reasons of legal liability) then I suggest you first measure your room to ensure it is at least twice as long as your paddle. Clear the surrounding area of all breakables, including family members and pets, and tightly draw the curtains – practicing the Eskimo Roll in public, on dry land is definitely not socially acceptable and could get you arrested or sectioned.

I recommend that you try the knee lift and hip flick in the standing position as you are less likely to concuss yourself or remove any vital body parts. Hold your paddle out in front of you, arms and legs slightly bent. Keep your hips and legs facing forwards and rotate your body with the paddle parallel to your chest around to your left. Adopt a limp-wristed “I’m a teapot” pose with your hands and imagine you can feel the side of the kayak on your forearms and wrists. Now slowly start to rotate your body and paddle to the right and your hips to the left, watching the forward blade of the paddle all the way. Avoid doing this to music, especially not “Let’s twist again” by Chubby Chekker, you could be overcome by 50’s nostalgia and find yourself performing a vertical take off. Most of the power comes from the torso, not the arms. Try balancing something valuable on the end of the paddle to discourage excessive arm movement. Be careful in your choice here. I started with a pint of Tia Maria but on polished floor boards it was a disaster and I had to be rescued from a close encounter with the gold fish.

In order to try the hip flick in the kayak, you will need:

A stiff scotch, a competent instructor (see Kayak Essentials for Women Part 1), a pool or ocean and of course, a kayak. The role of the instructor is to provide physical & moral support and clear concise instructions. Don’t let him bully you on matters of self preservation. It is perfectly natural to experience several urgent calls of nature just prior to commencement of the exercise and for your eyes to roll back in your skull as you try unsuccessfully to faint. If you catch him playing solitaire on your upturned hull as you struggle to orient yourself under water, you may need to find someone that is more attentive.

Try to meditate before you begin, putting aside all the silly notions about the great white shark wriggling up through the drains and marauding around the pool, or the instructor’s insistence on being the sole beneficiary of your life insurance policy. You need to fill you head with positives such as:

As you saunter toward your kayak, you know you look your sexy best. The PFD lingering tauntingly over a rubber clad thigh, your face mask turning your eyes into saucer like windows to your soul, and your upper lip drawn up under your nose to tantalisingly reveal your Mosman mudcake teeth.

And, as you climb aboard, you know that things can only get better. The effects of gravity are reversed when you are inverted. There are many cosmetic benefits here, starting with your eyelids, boobs and butt. The average person only weighs approx 16kg in water. This is the fastest weight loss program ever! Very few people can eat underwater – what better way to diet! And lastly – thousands of Eskimos can’t be wrong.

You’ll begin practising the hip flick by placing your hands (and life) either in the hands of the instructor or on the side of a pool, or the bow of another kayak. Moving and sinkable objects such as dead classmates, sharks etc. are not suitable for this exercise.

For practice purposes, if you are right handed you will push up from your right side. As you rotate your face and torso towards your right, bring your right knee up and rotate your hips to the left, pushing your face down into the water. Pretend it is your favourite beverage and you are very thirsty. With luck you will find yourself upright again. If you don’t, fire the instructor, and go and find some of your favourite beverage.

After mastering the hip flick, the next step is the sweep stroke. Again from an inverted position with some support from the instructor, you rotate your body, which sweeps the leading blade back to your right hip, at the same time as you execute your knee lift/hip flick. Watching the blade constantly means that you will always know exactly where it is. If the angle of the blade is wrong you will be on the bottom of the pool, but at least you will be fully aware of it. If you get the hip flick and sweep stroke right, you should end up in the upright position. Beware of getting over excited here. It’s quite easy to fall straight over again and without the controlled conditions of a voluntary capsize, it’s quite likely you will lose your composure and drain the pool of its contents in your efforts to resurface. This is a common form of mid boat crisis that afflicts thousands of kayakers every year. Learning to roll is all about practice, stiff scotch, practice and more scotch.

The benefits of the Eskimo Roll:

  • Increased confidence: soon you will be able to venture out of the kid’s paddling pool and into the ocean proper where you will quickly realise the merits of the kid’s paddling pool with its predictable tide and surf conditions.
  • Increased credibility: your kayaking peers will respect you, novices will be in awe of you, everyone else will think you are stark raving bonkers.
  • Increased freedom: you will be able to explore the new limits of your universe and all that is great in it – cappuccino, mud cake, sea sickness..
  • Increased oxygen perfusion: breathing is good, it enhances endurance so you can get yourself into serious trouble more efficiently.

Disclaimer. This article is meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, a vodka sour and an olive. Any resemblance to actual fact is entirely coincidental and not my fault. The author accepts no liability whatsoever for injury, death, damage to property or third parties, or marriage breakdowns resulting from attempts at any of the manoeuvrers described herein. Before learning to Eskimo Roll it is recommended that you see your psychiatrist.