Posts Tagged paddle

Product Review: RPC3 Wing Blade Paddle is very very good!

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How’s training going? I can tell you that with the purchase of a new paddle and my first ever fully carbon fibre paddle that training is going very well mainly because of the paddle I chose as the one to get me through the Yukon River Quest in a couple of months. The RPC3 wing blade paddle has what I needed in both price and overall performance. I have only used a wing blade on a pair of occasions in the past and though short-lived I seemed to take to the feel and different style of paddling.

Having never kayaked or paddled with aggression before this new world of finding more performance and speed from both myself and my kayak is new to me. I knew that the long distances required to get me all the way from Whitehorse to Dawson City were daunting and my old faithful straight paddle would most likely take its toll on my shoulders over time. I needed to go faster, easier and longer.

I chose to go with a paddle maker I had not heard about but after reading a few reviews and seeing the price point I decided to give Recreational Products of the Carolinas a shot. With baited breath I waited until one day upon coming home from work I found a long box leaning up against my front doorstep. My mail courier is also a kayaker and must had guessed as to the what this was and dropped it off directly! I changed and got on the lake as fast as I could. On glass flat waters in February I took the first tentative strokes with the new paddle hoping against hope that I had made the right choice in style and size. I was not disappointed. Though I had to work on my forwards stroke and adapt to what this paddle wanted of me I had fun that first afternoon doing lengths of St. Mary’s Lake.

Since then, my training has increased as well as my continued refining of my forward stroke with this fine paddle. Within weeks of that initial trial paddle I found that with that refinement my flat water average speed increased notably! The blade grabs the water and sends me forward easily and though it is a more aggressive stroke than I have been used to all of these years touring in a kayak I am finding the paddle forces a more efficient style of paddling from me and that, breaking old habits can only be a good thing. Light-weight and sleek the RPC3 wing blade is a must have and rivals the other brands that I have used. Now, for its final test, 715 kms of the Yukon River!

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Paddling the Summer Away

I declare it to be summer.

I base that statement on the very real fact that if you can do the same outdoor activity two days in a row without uncomfortable weather conditions, it is summer. The lack thereof of any kinds of weather. Rain, high winds, coldness, big seas, and combinations of such make it unsummer. This chain of not-so-great June-uary weather took a long weekend over the past few days allowing me to get out in my kayak not just once, but two afternoons in a row! The only weather-ish item to greet me on my second outing was a slight northerly breeze that was actually welcomed as it was overly warm, another hint that summer has finally arrived.

I was keen to get out there. Not just because of the desire to sit in my boat, but I had spent a week retrofitting the stern end to accommodate a Smart Track Rudder System. The kayak really doesn’t need a rudder. It tracks like a razor through the water. I decided, if reluctantly to add one simply because I am tired of working so hard to ferry across currents and wind the old-fashioned way. I am not as young as I once was. The rudder will not get much in the water time usually, but for those above reasons and the fact that focusing a camera while the paddle is tucked under my armpit to attempt to steer…not easy. new rudder 2

I am a believer in paddle skills and after many years without a rudder, I have good skill sets so I don’t owe anything and will not rely on the rudder much, unless conditions require. Wind, currents, combinations of both and perhaps in the next year the flow of the Yukon River at my back. This leads to the subconscious decision-making while I explored the local islands over this lovely sunny beginning of summer weekend. As I worked hard against the tide cursing the fact that the kelp leaves indicated my opposing course against the forces of nature mt mind wandered to fanciful visualizations of paddling the 714km Yukon River Quest Paddling Marathon. I must be nuts! But the addition of a rudder makes any last excuses based on navigation on a river fade away. I find myself thinking more about logistics. Borrowing an extra tent so my wife has a place to sleep at the midway rest stop at Carmacks. What type of food will I have on the route? Making a list of gear I will need and checking it against what I already have on hand. I’m doomed! If I can muster the funds to enter the race next year, I’ll be on the river. Can I finish? Well that is the real question isn’t it. I’d like to think I have what it takes mentally to get from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the require time. I do have a year to prepare and a good friend offering his knowledge and assistance as my crew who has already paddled it, (2 1/2 times) finishing twice and last year winning his class. The list of reasons not to enter are shortening.

The Yukon River Quest 2014 edition begins in two days and I see in the roster of paddlers a few familiar names. I wish them well. As for me, I will paddle the summer away. Occasionally checking my speed to see if there is improvements and staying fit.

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Being on Land is Harder than Being on the Water

No wonder I was so stressed out all those years before I first sat down in the seat of a kayak and by pushing myself away from the safety of the dock, friends, home, work, bills, more bills, and the million and one small niggling items that take away from the real, the bigger picture I became free. It is harder to be on land than it is to be on the water especially when you have discovered the joys of kayaking. If you have ever had the experience of paddling once the foreign nature of the vehicle, and the perhaps precarious tippiness subsides you begin the fall back in time, fall back to nature to a place in our collective forgotten neglected memories of living in the natural world, not attempting to lord over it.

A terrific day of paddling from Hot Springs Cove to Vargas Island.  Photo by Peter Mede

A terrific day of paddling from Hot Springs Cove to Vargas Island.
Photo by Peter Mede

In a kayak I have had the time during those inevitable longer days in the saddle to delve into those thoughts that there isn’t much time for when I am on land, at home distracted by life. The closest to this comes on long hiking days, but they are somehow not the same. Perhaps it is the method of paddling, the repetition of the strokes, the breathing the wind and water and a slow-moving along distant shores as a meditation? All I know is what I have seen and felt and experienced in over a decade of being a paddler. The title of this blog post says it all. For me, being on land is much more a dream than when I am in the reality of kayaking.

The small stuff, bills, work, and a million and one small niggling items are pushed away in the back of the junk drawer and replaced with real stuff. The weather, what will the weather be like tomorrow when I peek out of the door of my tent in the early hours of the morning like some drunken squirrel. Will the wind be up? Will the tide be favorable for an easy day. Will there be rain. Oh how I hate packing wet gear in the morning. The small stuff is a list of items mainly concerning what the irrationally off-her-meds bad parent Mother Nature will conjure for me, mixed with the small comforts of a good camping experience, if I can find a good camp that day. My worries are not of the bills to be paid, taxes due or the price of rice (though I do pay attention to that as it is a mainstay of my camping menu). My worries are simple, less to do with underlying anxieties about daily life as they are more of the just staying warm, dry and alive concerns.

I am at my best on the water and as the months drag on over winter and my paddling days diminish to ‘now and then’, I do feel I regress to a sullen state. To my salvation this spring, it has been mild and the conditions have been truly inviting to be on the water even if the skies are gray and dour. The hardness of land has been easier to take, if by a small measure this year. However, I do have to be careful of other dangers of land living. Where a rogue wave may threaten to capsize my mere speck of a kayak in the big ocean, a day of hauling heavy wood from one pile to the other on the weekend has left me feeling in worse shape than the days after my recent around Salt Spring Island marathon. I can blame the land, yes I can! It is not that I am out of condition for a full day of heavy-ish labour. No, it is the fact that being in a kayak even on a rough day is easier to take than whatever being on land may dish out. So I nurse my pulled hamstring and hope that by Sunday I can get back into the relative safety of a kayak for a good long paddle around the islands just north of here.

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Lucky Kayak Kids

Is there anything better to a person with a paddling passion than to have an opportunity to sit in a brand new-never-before paddled kayak? Let alone a kayak that has been hand-built meticulously cedar strip by cedar strip? Well, this paddler can honestly say that there is in fact, nothing quite like it.

One of two hand-crafted cedar strip kayaks out for the maiden voyage.

One of two hand-crafted cedar strip kayaks out for the maiden voyage.

I was offered just such a chance, my ride pictured here for this overcast Sunday afternoon was a new kayak built with its sister side by side in the spacious workshop of my kayaking friend Gus. He had built an 18 ft. cedar strip racing kayak last fall, and it is a stunning piece of craftsmanship in itself, but he wanted to recreate it in smaller 14 ft. versions for his two kids. Very lucky kayak kids indeed! They were given the task of designing the patterning that would appear on the decks of each kayak and a peek at the original drawings would tell you that they had wide ideas. None of which would work with the materials at hand. A scaled down set of artwork was drawn up and with some negotiation both of parent and of wood they now appear in stark contrasts of red and yellow woods, grains mirrored and under layers of fibreglass, epoxy and coats of marine varnish on the narrow decks.

The hatches held in place by a bungee cord system allows for the decking to be virtually clean with the exception of the necessary safety deck lines and bungee. There is an Epic kayaks seat system that allows the paddler to adjust the distance to the rudder peddles as well as the seat position. I liked this feature.

Once I had sat on shore in the kayak to get it fitted properly I lifted the lightweight craft (a whopping 36lbs) and gently lowered it to the water. I was keen to get going and slipped my legs in the cockpit and sat only to feel the immediate nature of how playful the boat was and had the urge to brace with the paddle to save from tipping over. It was lively!

When Gus joined me on the water, he too experiencing the newness of the kayak feel and we laughed at how cautiously we dibbled away from shore. The initial awkwardness subsided as our bodies, naturally wanting to stay upright and centered did just that. Within a few short minutes we were paddling like we had paddled these kayaks a hundred times before. I lowered the rudder right from the start thinking a shorter kayak will not handle well without the aid of a rudder. My own, now ancient Current Designs Pachena, the 13 ft. wonder kayak that took me miles upon miles of coastal shoreline on kayaking trips much longer that the weekender it was designed as, will not go straight without the rudder down. It is like a curled leaf on a breezy pond and fishtail this way and that unguided by that strip of metal hanging from the stern point. Would this narrow, short and playful little kayak let loose willy-nilly (I cannot abide willy-nilly anything) if I lifted her rudder out of the water for a second. I gave it a try on our way back in the harbour into a wind and against the tidal current. This little woodie stayed straight. I had to switch my brain to paddle-steering mode after struggling to turn it off before as my own kayak is rudderless. A few hard strokes and I picked up speed. We sprinted and the GPS indicated we were running at about 10km/h. Not bad! Later in no current or wind we tried another sprint to much the same result.

Upon returning to the boat launch I reluctantly handed over my little kayak with the arrowhead design on the decking created with a rainbow effect of coloured woods. I kicked some seawater in, and a few blobs of shore mud but I managed not to sink or scratch it. Buzzing from the fun we had it was measured by the sudden realization that a set of car keys had gone missing. A mad search of the area and the wayward key was found in his pocket, and so it goes. tragedy averted we drove off, he with kayaks and me, oddly with nothing on the roof rack.

If these were a commercially made kayaks I could sit here this afternoon and write a long review that is both glowing and filled with starbursts. I would post hyperlinks to the kayak website and rave about the new era of small kayaks. Alas, these were a labour of love and not for sale, although I am sure Gus could be persuaded to build another for the right price.

Tested to float, safe for the kids it will be they who get all the fun next time. What lucky kayaking kids they will be and maybe they will let me paddle in one again sometime.

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