Monday, February 4, 2013

Stop. Break it down.

The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium has come and gone. Another success and another really fun time. I was the safety officer this year so I was a little disappointed I didn't get to coach, but I did get to ride around on the power boat and watch the other great coaches at work (and take some pictures). And I still got to hang out with everyone which is really the best part of the event for me.

As a bonus, I got to hang out with some of my good friends for a few extra days after the event. Jeff and Cate from Liquid Fusion were there and invited some of us back to their haunting grounds, so we went north a few hours to the Mendocino Coast. Not only did they show us a good time on the water, but they  put us up in their humble abode and stuffed us with great food (some of which we gathered ourselves). A good time was had by all.

One of the highlights of the paddling was a chance to test out a new kayak by P&H. Team paddler Paul Kuthe was along with strict instructions to see what it can do. It's called the Hammer, and it's meant to be a dedicated ocean playboat. Their Delphin has been a great success (at least half the coaches/students at GGSKS were in them) as a playful sea kayak that is still very versatile and easy for beginners. Their Fusion crossover was designed to handle rivers and lakes but has been popular for rock gardening (I'm not claiming to be the first to use it on the ocean, but here's a link to some footage of what I did with it as soon as it came out in 2009: ). The Hammer is meant to combine the best of both.

The Hammer has been protyped for a while and is almost ready to go to production. We had the final prototype that comes from the production mold, so only a few tweaks will be made before it hits showroom floors. We all took turns in it and compared notes. The consensus it that it's awesome! It's super playful among the rocks, surfs like a whitewater kayak, and still has enough flatwater speed to go on short tours. It doesn't have the speed and storage to work as a traditional sea kayak, but for those just looking to play it's the right tool for the job.

We also had the new Valley Gemini SP along for the fun. It's a composite boat that's designed to be super playful. I've paddled it on flatwater but didn't get a chance to get any ocean time in it on this trip. It's a little more of a full sea kayak than the Hammer (Gemini = 15'; Hammer = 13'), and the composite nature make you want to be a little gentler on it, but it was a great surfer and the lighter weight was handy both on and off the water. There's rumor of a coming plastic version which I would be super excited about. It's cool to see how boat designs are matching the trend for more adventurous paddling - ocean water with river skills.

In the video the Hammer is the orange boat that has a rounded nose (there's also an orange Delphin that pops up occasionally). The Gemini is the all black boat (it's the 'Black Pearl' boat that's been down the Grand Canyon). Paddlers kept switching so it can be a little hard to see who is in what, but I'm sure most of you just want to enjoy the pretty scenes. There's also more pictures of the boats on my Picasa page.

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