Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Seakayak test: the SKIM Distance

René preparing the SKIM Distance for a test at the Brouwersdam, November 2006

One of my favourite paddle companions is René. René is a experienced paddler you can trust upon, always enthusiast about last minute ideas for a seakayak-activity under more challenging conditions. When we make an appointment it’s always a surprise which seakayak René brings along on the roof of his car. The last half year it was the SKIM Distance. René is continuously testing new gear. Recently this resulted in a extensive review of the SKIM Distance on “de Zeekajaksite”.

The SKIM seakayaks are rather new on the Dutch market. Distributor is Peter Grobbee. SKIM offers two different totally different designs: the Distance and the Dex. It’s a interesting addition to the market. The SKIM Distance is a long high volume seakayak. Read all about it in René’s review. Personally I am most interested in the SKIM Dex: “a playful and nimble kayak for day and weekend trips where high seas and surfs are more than welcome. A boat for those who appreciate contact in leans, edges and manoeuvres. Low volume. Low profile. Tight cockpit (= orig. Skim-text)."
That sounds good! As a matter of fact I find, the smaller and lighter kayaker is forgotten to long. Even for myself (with 70 kg and 1.80 meter, rather average sized) most popular kayak designs are quit voluminous. May be nice for this big expedition where you want to carry your whole household and food for three weeks… But to be honest: most “expeditions” are day- or weekend-trips with perhaps 10-15 kg of gear. And even for the multiple day/week trips I seldom carry more than 25 kg of gear (including food and water). We are paddling in western-Europe: a populated area… So my kayak should perform best with 80-100 kg load. A kayak designed for 130-150 kg load lies high on the water when I am paddling it. No problem under calm conditions, but with wind it will probably be far more sensitive for lee- or weathercocking…

It’s very welcome that the manufacturers are starting to offer more low-volume editions of their boats. NDK offers since a few years low volume versions of the Romany and the Explorer, Rockpool the Bach version of the Alaw. Last year Valley added a low volume version of the Nordkapp and P&H the Quest LV. While most low volume seakayaks stay close to the original designs with as main difference a lowered seam-line, the Nordkapp is totally redesigned with complete new dimensions and forms. I haven’t paddled it yet, but it looks beautiful and according to Douglas: it performs perfect! Douglas (may I say the Scottish René? ) recently tested the low volume Nordkapp, the Quest-LV and both versions of the Alaw. Tests like those of Reé and Douglas offer a lot of information and can be of great help in comparing different seakayaks. However keep in mind: you should feel comfortable in the boat. And you decide where you want to use it for, and which characteristics of the design are important for you. Preferences are very personal. So make extensive tests before you make your choice!

PS: A buyer has to make choices, a boat designer too. Tracking, manoeuvrability, weather- and leecocking are important characteristics and every design is some kind of compromise. René makes a difference into 3 global categories of seakayaks for "normal-wind-situations":
a- manoeuvrable kayaks that show slight weathercocking without using the skeg;
b- manoeuvrable kayaks that show neutral behaviour in wind without using the skeg;
c- good tracking kayaks that show slight weathercocking in wind without using the skeg.
Read the article in René's blog about the behaviour of these categories under high-wind-conditions. My personal preference has changed in the years: in the beginning I found good tracking very important, over the years I developed a preference for more manoeuvrable designs. Design “a“ has become my favourite. I am curious if the SKIM Dex is really a “type a seakayak”. So René: there still is a lot of testing to do!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Rhine

The "Emmericher Poortekerl"

Car-driving is not one of my most favourite activities. I had to spent a lot of time in the car today, picking up Lieke (She stayed some days of the school holiday with a friend in the eastern part of the Netherlands). To make a break I stopped just over the border in Emmerich (Germany) and walked half an hour along the Rhine. In Emmerich, just before the Rhine enters the Netherlands, the river is at its widest. Up to 16.000 cubic meters of water per second pass the border. Walking along this giant flow is impressive. The Rhine made Dutch landscape, ecologics, economics, transport, history, culture… It still does, and will do in the future.

I thought of my plans to kayak down the Rhine from Switzerland to Woerden. For some reason, after years, it stays a plan/an intention. Every year I make other decisions with my kayak-plans and go for the sea, not for the Rhine. To be honest salt water, tide and currents, surf, swell, sands and open crossings attract me more than river paddling… That’s one reason. The other reason is that sea-kayak activities are mostly group-activities. And the best fun is the fun you share.
But yet it’s still on my mind: a solo-paddling journey along the Rhine 1300 km’s. Two weeks paddling down the mother of all rivers. Two weeks on my own. I am going to do it. 2008 is the year for it… Sure.

It's done before. I won't be the first to paddle down the Rhine:
- Bart and Karst did it in 2001;
- Erik and Corné did it in 2003;
- Ide and Erik did it in 2005;
- Bill and Mike are going to do it in April 2007 (and intend to set a new world record, less then 7 days...).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The new playground

Sorry, I let my blogging slide a bit lately: to busy with work and the "Commissie Zeekajakvaren". So the report of the DWD try-out is delayed a bit. This report refers to Sunday, 18. February. The Sony Digicam is still in repair. The action pictures are taken at the opening Weekend of DWD in October.

The new Dutch Water Dreams (DWD) white water course in Zoetermeer offers a unique training facility for the kayak-scene. It’s no longer needed to travel to the Alpes, Norway or even further to find some challenging white water. Top sporters have already found the way to Zoetermeer: The whitewater course is NOC*NSF accredited as a top location and is therefore eminently suitable for competitive events and training at the highest possible level. The Nederlandse Kano Bond (NKB) has selected DWD as its national training centre for the kayak slalom team. Furthermore, DWD has signed contracts with a number of international sports associations and Olympic Teams who will use the white water course in the run up to Beijing 2008 and even London 2012.
The NKB and DWD however do intend to open this facility also for the more “recreational” white water kayaker. The problem hereby is that the DWD-course isn’t designed as a recreational, but as a Olympic competition course: it’s serious stuff! According to the first athletes that trained in Zoetermeer it’s one of the toughest tracks in the world.

This is the background of the try-out the NKB organises in cooperation with DWD. In three Sunday-morning-sessions 10 white water coaches are going to prepare a group of 35 “normal” white water kayakers for the DWD-course. It’s an experiment for the participants, the coaches and the organisations. The entry level for the participants is “advanced WW-III paddler”. The participants learn how to deal with a course like this, the coaches learn how to deal with a group like this and with the futures of the course, for the organisations it’s about responsibilities and to discover the potentials of white water kayaking in a the “low countries” …

When I received an invitation to take part in this try-out, I subscribed immediately. I won’t let a chance like this pass on by!

So there I was, a lonely seakayaker in the middle of a group of white water cracks, in the entry hall of DWD on Sunday-morning. Nice guys and girls talking tough stories about kayaking in wild rivers I only heard of… After the briefing (where we were told how tough the course is, but no problem: “as long as you got pressure on paddle, you are in control”, btw: who rolls in WW-4?, don’t mind when you wash out your kayak, just let yourself float down the course….) I took care to be part of one of the “beginner”-groups. We started hopping in and out the eddies in the end-basin of the course. While our group was doing exercises, the first experienced kayakers came down the course: some with and some without kayak (first comes a paddle, then the kayak, followed by the paddler – funny looks). Seeing even the cracks swim didn’t contribute to my confidence though. I can’t deny I was a bit nervous as I sat in the kayak at the elevator for my first descent of the course… Wow, what a force!
Trainer Luc said some encouraging words and gave the sign for the start. A few strokes and I was in the middle of the world of the stoppers, rollers, eddies. Not a second to waste your time, in this course every key passage is directly followed by another one. No time for recuperation, it’s bracing, paddling, bracing. “keep pressure on your blade” was the only thing on my mind. One big roller-coaster-ride: what a fun! In the middle of the passage called “the pin-ball machine” I braced where there was nothing to brace. Capsizing, rolling and the ride went on... What a giant adrenaline rush! Like a little boy I rushed to the escalator for the next ride. Just discovered a new playground!

It was a new sensation. It gave a lot of pleasure. Still have to learn a lot: this time the water was playing with me, next time I want to play with the water! The first session gave a lot of confidence, rolling skills proved to be bombproof in WW-IV. Lessons learned:
1. don’t be intimidated by the power of the water;
2. keep pressure on the paddle;
3. and always keep in action!
Looking forward for the next lessons!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

White Water Dreams!

Copyright picture:, Michael Neuman

One more sleepless night to go. One more night waking up with nightmares and visions of Hans dropping down the rapids in the Stikine, the Rheinfall in Schaffhausen and the Gorges of the Tsangpo...
Tomorrow is the day of truth. I know I am in good hands, the "creme de la creme" of Dutch WW-kayaking is present. But I feel like a little boy...

Looking forward for the Dutch Water Dreams!!!


picture by Axel Schoevers, NKB zeekamp vlieland, September 2006

As a born Brabander I must pay a tribute tot this tradition: the catholic part of the Netherlands is celebrating Carnival now. Everybody is dressed up in weird outfits. Friends know what a "party beast" I am.... Not really, but I enjoy my kids dressing up for the carnival-party at school. With a jellyfish costume, you will steal the show at every Carnival-party. The kids were not ready for this suggestion though. Jelle and his girlfriends dressed up as giant crisp-bags, Lieke as a dolphin.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Very sad news...

.. of a totally different order is the dramatic news about Andrew McAulley, the expedition kayaker who was just about to finish this weekend his crossing of the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand (a 1600 km open crossing). After a disturbed rescue call the Search and Rescue Authorities found Andrews kayak without the kayaker floating around 75km west of Milford Sound. After two days of intensive search there is no sign of Andrew. Hope fades away.

Thoughts are with the family and friends of Andrew, suffering this terrible and frustrating uncertainty.

Wenley and Derrick give more information and updates about this drama.

Sad news

Photo: Henk Langerak,

Last night a big fire totally destroyed the indoor swimming-hall "De Thermen" in Alphen a.d. Rijn. Two weeks ago "De Thermen" was the location for the rolling classes with Freya Hoffmeister. There is a shortage on indoor pools in this region. Sad news we lost one.


Getting nuts? a group of Dutch WW-kayakers and Rodeokayakers has competed in the first World Championships of Snowkayaking: . Hi Rein: I knew you as a wise guy? ;-)

I am sure they had a great time, perhaps a bit to much fun to finish on first place?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rolling Classes, Photo Albums, Weblinks and Press releases

Some attendants asked for more pictures of the rolling classes with Freya two weeks ago. I have uploaded some extra photo's to the Picasa webalbum. I discovered a new future of Picasa; clicking on the picture on top of this post gives direct access to the Photo Album.
I am sorry, I haven't got photos of all 52 rollers. And I find it difficult to distinguish the different kayakers in the black tuliuq's...

More reports of this event on the blogs of:
And 93 nice pictures of second Sunday-session in the album of:

It's fun to get so many enthusiast reactions on our first Greenland rolling activity. Guus and Ruud crafted their own Greenland-paddles after the weekend. Yesterday I was at the regular pool-session of the Kayakclub de Kromme Aar, and after a while I had 5 WW- and polokayakers doing butterfly-rolls and hand-rolling in Greenland-style...

I believe it was Heinrich Heine who once said "in the Netherlands everything happens 50 years later". That was more than hundred years ago, and I am sure we came closer to the rest of the world since, but at this Greenland-rolling-thing we are late followers again. Have a look at the blogs of Bonnie, Andrew and Susanita to see what is going on in the pools on the other side of the ocean!

Friday, February 09, 2007

The inflation of the Weather Alarm

Yesterday a weather-alarm was released: "heavy snowfall" 5-10 cm's (= 2 to 4 inches...) was forecasted. The alarm worked: everybody anticipated and nothing went wrong.... OK, we are not (yet?) living in a climate of tornado's, snowstorms and other extreme situations, but a weather alarm for 5 centimeters of snow?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Another beautiful day...

Sunday, February 4;
Another day benefiting from a high pressure zone passing by. I must withdraw the little rant I did yesterday on the non-active kayakers in winter. I saw dozens of kayakers paddling around in the Biesbosch today: all good outfitted sea-kayakers.

This morning I joined a group of kayakers from the German Salzwasserunion kayakers in the Biesbosch. A nice occasion to meet my friend Urs Steiner, and to make acquaintance with Anita and Wim (the Dutch couple leading) and the other members of the group. It was only a short paddle because I had to be back home early in the afternoon. I paddled 1,5 hours with the group, enjoyed the lunch (with Wims' very special Scottish Soup) with the group and than rushed back alone in about 1 hour.

The Biesbosch, meaning 'forest of sedges' is one of the largest national parks of the Netherlands and one of the last freshwater tide areas in Europe. The Biesbosch consists of a large network of rivers and smaller and larger creeks with islands. The vegetation is mostly willow forests, with some grasslands and fields of reed. A great area to paddle. For me it’s historical ground. I made my first kayaking experience in the Biesbosch, as a young boy with his dad, about 35 years ago. It’s not a long way from Woerden, and I still like to paddle there, but in the last few years I seldom did.

Some years ago the European Beaver (Castor fiber) was reintroduced in the Biesbosch. This reintroduction program is quit successful, it started with 5 or 6 couples and now about 120 couples are living in the Biesbosch. Paddling around I have seen a lot of traces (bites on trees), but never seen a wild Beaver before. They are rather shy. But this morning on the way back, paddling full speed, totally alone in the “Gat van de Plomp” suddenly a giant Beaver crossed my way. I was surprised about his size (assume it was a him), and he was surprised by the speed of a little kayak: he dived away at first sight. Only a few seconds, but very impressive this meeting!

One hour paddling full speed in a dry-suit is rather steamy. Back at the starting point I did some rolls to get the temperature down, very refreshing indeed! I intended to do this slow-motion Greenland-style, but with my head hanging down in the called water I changed my mind and immediately decided to do it on the quick euro-way! I don't think the anglers at the pier did notice any difference, they called me mad anyhow.

sorry: because the waterproof Sony is defect, only launching and picknick pictures...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A beautiful day

Guus in Stipyaks Kajett, testing the Brasca I wing paddle, Oude Rijn, Nieuwerbrug.

Saturday, February 3.:

Spring is in the air! Blue sky, sunshine, moderate temperature, no wind. This morning Janine went running and I took my racebike for a 60 km-ride. It was the first occasion to use the new sports-sunglasses I bought some weeks ago (a very special pair of glasses -> I will write a post about that later).
Biking in the "Groene Hart" between Woerden, Alphen aan den Rijn and Gouda, is biking along water: de Oude Rijn, de Gouwe, de Meije, de Nieuwkoopse Plassen, de ReeuwijksePlassen. Biking is perfect for rambling your mind. And so I wondered: "where are the paddlers?" It was crowded with bikers, hikers, skaters(skeelers), rowers, everybody was outdoor-sporting, but the only paddler I met was Guus (testing my Brasca wing paddle -> I will write a post about testing paddles later...).
The difference between the boat houses of the rowers and the paddlers around here: always a lively and busy atmosphere at the rowing clubs, closed gates and fences and no one present at of the kayak-clubs. Why?
Perhaps because the kayakers load their boats early in the morning on the trailers to go out at sea? I hope so, but I am afraid that's only a very small minority... I suppose the real reason is the average paddler doesn't look upon paddling as a sport. Unlike the rowers the kayakers don't feel the urge to go out training. Most people look upon kayaking as a leisure activity for warm summer-days... They are so wrong... Why wasn't I kayaking myself?

This beautiful day had also a dark side;
1. My beloved Sony DSC U 60 underwater-camera stopped working! The CCD only produces dark pictures and films....
2. The Video player has eaten "This Is The Sea (TITS) I". Exactly the piece of tape with the shot where I pass by Justine's camera got strangled around the internal-mechanics of the player. The video-player is getting personal ;-(

The end of TITS 1 tape is a pity, but will be forgotten soon when the DVD with TITS 3 arrives (although there is no Hans in TITS 3, but you won't have noticed me in the first part anyhow!). The end of the Sony is more dramatic, there still isn't any new waterproof digicam that comes near to my little Sony!