Monday, October 31, 2011

Sports Cars

I recently tested out the new P&H Delphin 150. It's the smaller version of the Delphin 155 which has been one of the most popular boats this past year. And in looking around at some of the other 'hot' new boats out there you see a lot of exciting, playful designs. Boats like the Tiderace Xstreme, Sterling Reflection, etc. While it is cool that there are new designs coming out and boats that are really designed to perform in rough and challenging conditions, it's also a bit of overkill.

These boats are the equivalent of sports cars in the kayaking world. How many people really need to drive a sports car? Even if I owned a Porsche I wouldn't get to work any faster. And I certainly couldn't carry as much stuff with me. Even if you're a really good driver are you actually going to need the performance of a Porsche? How often do you need to get up to 60mpg in 4 seconds? Most of us drive sedans, SUV's and minivans for a reason. I take that same approach to kayaking - I want what is going to work for me in a practical way for how I paddle.

Don't get me wrong - I loved the Delphin 150. And these boats are great for the people who have the skills and opportunity to push them to their performance limits. Or for those who can afford multiple boats. But I see more folks with high performance kayaks than I see high performance kayakers. But I guess sea kayaking isn't about what's practical for most people. At the end of the day they are just toys, and I guess paddlers are like everyone else - we want the shiniest, sexiest toy we can afford. Having access to a fleet of kayaks through work maybe I'm not in a position to judge. But as to what I own I'll stick with my Ikkuma and my pickup truck.

Here's some video of both sizes of Delphins. Not even approaching their maximum performance...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Back to Basics

I just got home from the Lumpy Waters Sea Kayak Symposium and there was a bit of a recurring theme to my thoughts during the weekend. The first was that it was great to get back to the simple stuff - what originally drew me into paddling. I started as a sea kayaker. Playing in the ocean with friends, just having fun. And then teaching - again, something just plain fun. This weekend felt the same - doing a little teaching, hanging out with old friends and new, and definitely playing a little on the ocean. Even the twelve hour ride up (and back) went smooth and passed quickly.

The other thing I noticed is that Lumpy and other similar symposiums (GGSKS) attract some good paddlers. They have experience, take classes and practice their skills, have nice kit and are great people to hang out with. The symposiums are set up for them with lots of advanced classes: rock garden safety, long boat surfing, combat rolling, etc. The students learn a lot and really enjoy the classes. But if truth be told, when I look around and think what should these people (and most paddlers) spend their time learning or working on? the answer comes back: the simple stuff. Forward stroke technique; T rescues, general seamanship and navigation. Those are the skills that are used all the time and make you a safe and effective paddler who can go explore and have fun. And far too many 'experienced' paddlers come up lacking in the basics when you really look at the details.

Symposiums are really cool and a tremendous learning environment. It's a great chance to push yourself beyond your normal comfort zone and get instruction in an environment that you might not get too very often. It's an opportunity to pick up wisdom from new people and to advance your knowledge base. But people too often move on to what's new without fully mastering the old. Just because you've had a class or worked on a skill in the past doesn't mean you are done. The great paddlers, the safe paddlers, are the ones who kept working on fundamentals until they were second nature. Rescues become quick and correct, knowing where to go is automatic, covering distance no problem. That is the result of working on the basics and those are the people who are a joy to paddle with. So the next time you are out for a paddle think about the things you learned when you first started and honestly evaluate yourself - if you really want to be a better kayaker you need to start at the beginning.

But speaking of people who are a joy to paddle with: once again several of the coaches went out to Three Arch Rocks for a little play session after the event. The surf was a little bigger this year and took some timing to make it out. Once out there we had some big action in the arches and a couple pour-overs. Then we headed to the point for a little surfing. Paul, Sean and Matt N. really got some great rides, easily 20 seconds on a wave. I had the distinction of the best wipeout on the way in  when two waves merged just behind me and sent me ass over tea kettle - the feeling off weightlessness as you are spat out of a wave and then the unbelievable soft landing in the foam is amazing sensation.

I only took my new little waterproof camera and didn't shoot too much, but I think I got some really nice shots so please check out the slideshow below: