Monday, March 26, 2007

Cold? 2 - No more - the Palm Sidewinder Drysuit

The idea behind blogging is uncomplicated direct publishing, resulting in short and quick reports, with no delays. It used to work for me this way, but lately I am afflicted by an increasing number of unfinished drafts of posts. Tired after work or spending the evening with all either kind of (often seakayak related) buzz.. Grrrr… The following post on the drysuit is one of the long time unfinished ones. As I am publishing it, “winter” (what winter?) is definitely over, sun is back and temperatures are getting really pleasant. So: posting now about a drysuit, a piece of winter gear? Isn’t that a bit late? At least the participants of the NKB-coldwatertraining know better! As a matter of fact the coming period is from the view of hypothermia the most dangerous of the whole year: with the warm air temperature it is tempting to paddle lightly dressed, but the water is still very cold…

After a period of doubt, a year ago I decided to buy a drysuit. In the Dutch touring and seakayaking scene drysuits are not very common, most kayakers wear neoprene wetsuits in combination with anoraks, also in winter. So did I. But soon the Drysuit became one of my absolute favourite pieces of gear. It’s comfortable, it’s practical, it’s ideal! I’ve used it intensively on all kinds of kayak activities: on shallow waters around Woerden touring and training with the local kayak-club, on single and multiple-day seakayak-tours in spring and winter, during severe white water runs (ending up “swimming” in WW-IV…), endless rolling sessions, coaching surf classes (which means standing hours in the water) in late autumn, and so on. It’s a incredible versatile piece of kit. It opens totally new dimensions to kayaking: no fear for outdoor rolling sessions in winter! One of the highlights was floating like Bibendum in cold water surrounded by ice…

The Drysuit is a Palm Sidewinder Classic. It’s the basic version of the Sidewinder Torrent about which Erling has written an extensive review in the UKseakayakguidebook. The reason why I preferred the basic version:
- The Classic has the entry zipper over the shoulder, the Torrent has the zipper on the back. I find the zipper over the shoulder better reachable and easier to operate without help;
- The Torrent offers sewn-on booties. Sure dry feet are more comfortable, but I am worried about the vulnerability: my experiences with Goretex socks and shoes are not good. So I prefer latex cuffs on the legs…
- The Classic is about 50 euro’s cheaper (I agree: a very Dutch argument!)
Other differences between the Classic and the Torrent:
- The Torrent offers a separate Relief Zipper, the Classic not. But the zipper of the Classic opens so deep you don’t need one! (Presuming you are (1) male and (2) a bit flexible).
- The Torrent offers a double waist seal system for the sprayskirt. That’s a nice future, I would really have liked it. But with a tight fitting neoprene spray skirt leakage of water in the cockpit is limited and in a drysuit you don’t mind a few drops of water in the cockpit.

In the kayakshop I choose this real British design of a renown British kayak outfitter, so I was a bit disappointed when I discovered (back at home..) a label “Made in China”. That’s globalisation… Perhaps I should be happy with that. I am not quit sure if the Drysuit would have had the same built quality when it was made in Brittain. It’s a complex construction with a lot of different panels, used materials (a mix of Palm XP 150 and Cordura fabrics, Neoprene cuffs, latex seals, Velcro adjusters, Zippers and so on). The finish is perfect, the Chinese have shown real craftsmanship! After a year of intense use it still doesn’t show any sign of wear. All seams are still waterproof.

Some practical experiences:
- With a warm core, uncovered extremities are also less sensitive for cold: hands and feet keep longer warm. Paddling in neoprene I always had to use gloves or poggies in winter: now It can be much colder before I feel the need…
- Don’t expect miracles of the breathability of a drysuit. I think the Palm XP 150 material performs well in this aspect, but with the lower part of your body locked in a closed kayak cockpit and the upper part for 80 % covered with a Pfd there is hardly any way for humidity to get out… After some hours paddling clothing you wear under the drysuit get damp. But with technical underwear and a layer of thin fleece that’s no big problem. Just bring along an extra set fleece on a multiple day trip.
- Once or twice I had some water-leakage along the latex cuffs: my fault with inaccurate dressing up, resulting in the end of the sleeves of the fleece shirt trapped in the latex seals.
The “minor points”:
- For real sporty kayak-sessions the combination of a drysuit with fleece underwear is (to) hot. For touring it’s ideal. Just stay paddling on the “below sweat-zone level”. And when the sun really comes back drysuit-time is over. (Last year that lasted until June!).
- On multiple day-trips with the chance of changing temperatures the drysuit option lacks flexibility…

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Respect. That's what comes in my mind after the second session on the DWD course this morning. Respect for the power of the water, respect for the control of the WW-coaches on the water. After two succesfull runs on the white water track during the first session, I had good hopes about the second session. But this turned out to be a lesson in modesty. I swam a lot today. Look at the clip of the training session of David Florence on the DWD-course. David makes the track look like a piece of cake. With a single bladed paddle. I can only have great admiration for a performance like this...

And now something completely different: In the afternoon Lieke and I visited the finish of the first edition of the Pro-tour de Ronde van het Groene Hart here in Woerden: 1. Wouter Weijlandt (Be), 2. Graeme Brown (Aus), 3. Gerg van Avermaat (Be). 203 km in 4.23 hours. Great admiration for this performance too; a hard course on a windy day. For a distance like this, I need a day, these guys do it in the afternoon... Respect!
It reminded me of an earlier lesson in modesty I had about 10 years ago, when I attended a cycling trainingweek in Mallorca. On the first day of this week I joined the training of the group of elite racers -> a level below the pro's. A big mistake: I learned there is a world of difference between a racer and a tourer in the cycling-world. I have never been so exhausted as I was after that day...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cold? 1 - NKB Koudwatertraining

Both pictures of floating kayakers in and on the water are taken during the Coldwatertraining organised by Pieter de Haas last week for the NKB Seakayak-program. Despite the sunny images, it was a cold day (Water temp 5 degrees Celsius, Air temp 10 degrees Celsius) with a chilling wind (6 Bft). Perfect conditions to experience the effects of hypothermia. Pieter, Arie and Sien reported me about this event. I couldn't attent myself -> you can't have it all!

The Coldwatertraining began with an extensive lecture of Watze de Vries on "everything you should know about Hypothermia". Afterwards the participants were encouraged to experience the impact of cold water themselves under save and intensively monitored conditions.
For most participants it was an absolute eye-opener how fast hypothermia develops. Some guys thought they were well dressed up! The participants used a wide range of different kayak-outfits: only technical underwear under an anorak, fleece gear, aquashell, chilcheeter, neoprene long johns with anoraks or drytops, drysuits etcetera. After 5 minutes some kayakers couldn't grip anything anymore with their hands, after 12 minutes - just before real hypothermia occurred - the test was stopped. Some swimmers needed more than an hour to warm up... The superior outfits proved to be drysuits (with a warm fleece underlayer) and the extra thick neoprene longjohns in combination with fleece and a drytop. A warm covered head als o made the difference. For many neoprene long-john users (the most common outfit under Dutch seakayakers) cold arms were the weak spot.
Everybody was enthusiast about this initiative of Pieter. It was found highly instructive. As a result we have got lots of requests to do this every year. Some even said an event like this it should be a standard part of the NKB-schooling-program. Thanks to Pieter and Watze for organising this perfect day! It was great to be able to use the facilities of Zeil en Surfcentrum Brouwersdam Let's give it a follow up!

Going to extremes: in the papers this week was an advertisement showing "the Ice Man", Wim Hof preparing for a new expedition to Mount Everest - he intends to climb the mountain in his underwear. Wim Hof is sponsored by a producer of refrigerators... Wim has been swimming naked under pole ice, ran a marathon in Finland without shoes and climbed snowy mountains in his shorts. All activities in the category "don't do this at home". It's not a trick, it's a kind of dealing with cold and hypothermia that's given few of us. You can argue how wise an approach like this is, better prepare and prevent! But Wim shows us that dealing with cold has also a mental aspect....

A more sensible article on hypothermia, with special attention for open water sports is on the site of the American Canoe Association (thanks to Bonnie for this link!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


At 00.07 CET last night the sun could be observed to be directly above the earth's equator. In astronomy this is called an equinox, it marks the beginning of astronomically spring on the Northern hemisphere. And that was just about time. Let's forget the winter we didn't have. With 6.5 degrees Celsius average it was the warmest winter ever measured in the Netherlands. A warm and also very wet and gloomy winter; lots of clouded days and hardly any sunshine (157 hours against 172 hours on an average Dutch Winter). It was so dark the battery power indicator of my solar powered watch turned on low level last month. That never happened before...

Meteorological spring starts 1 March. It made a good start with some really pleasant sunny days, soon the watch was back on high power-level again. The picture above was taken last Friday: the falling barometric pressure graphic predicted the deteriorating weather period we are in now. It's a little miracle this "watch": timekeeping, compass, barometer, thermometer, altimeter, world time, countdown timer, stopwatch, alarm... It all works with great accuracy. A nice toy, but to be honest: nowadays the added value of the private weather forecast based on local changes in air pressure is limited, since you have (even on a multiple day seakayak-tour) continuously access to professional wind- and weather-forecasts by Radio, GSM, VHF and internet...

It's not in the manual, but I discovered an other great feature of the watch: the power-indicator functions as a personal "Seasonal Affective Disorder Depression (SAD)-indicator", when it turns low it's time to get out that dull and dark office and to go out kayaking, to prevent the winter-depression... Pfff, hope real spring comes soon ;-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dutch White Water...

Finally we have got some white water over here, And it's great!!! Next sunday is the second session of the NKB-DWD-Try out. Maarten sent these pictures of the first session.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

This is the sea 3

Yesterday at the premiere in Zaltbommel Axel and Nico offered a first impression of This the sea 3 (TITS 3). I watched the full two hours(!)of the DVD this morning. Now I am even more impressed. The DVD offers a fascinating mixture of travel reports and a series of interviews with special personalities of the seakayak-world, often in a great scenery with impressive wildlife. And Dutch seakayakers are well represented by Axel. After watching this DVD you just want to go out with your kayak. I can't wait to paddle myself in the tidal races of Anglesey in June. But this afternoon it's swimming pool-time again: indoor excercises with Kayakclub Wyrda. Let's try rolling like Freya and Cheri!

The trailer of TITS 3 in this post is some kind of premiere on its own. The first moving pictures in my blog! It took a long time, but finally I figured out how to add a video. It's surprisingly simple with You Tube. Next step -when I learn how to upload videos to You Tube- are my own videos. The world must be waiting for rolling videos from Woerden ;-)

Of course all credits of the trailer are for Justine Curgenven. You can order a copy of TITS 3 directly from Justine over her website, Justine delivers worldwide and fast. For Dutch enthusiasts: Axel and Nico sold out all the Dutch copies at the premiere yesterday, but Axel is on his way to Wales. Axel returns at the end of next week with a new supply of TITS 3 DVDs. Contact Axel or Nico for orders.

TITS3 - premiére in the Netherlands

picture by Patrick Dousi

It's said before: in the Netherlands everything happens 50 years later than in the rest of the world. But we are catching up at high speed. Yesterday-evening we had the Dutch premiere of This is the Sea 3. That's only 4 days later than the world premiere and launch party at Canoecopia in the States!
Thanks to Axel and Nico for organising this nice event in the swimming pool of Zaltbommel. In the afternoon everybody got the chance to try out the complete collection of NDK-kayaks, in the evening the DVD was shown on big screen. I enjoyed the day together with a big group of Dutch seakayakers that came from all edges of the country to watch Christine Curgenven's DVD: a must have!

In the pool I coached different kayakers with rolling exercises. And tried out the NDK boats myself. The picture above is me handrolling the NDK Explorer (taken by Patrick Dousi). The Romany's and Explorers are surprisingly suited to do all kinds of tricks. The key-hole cockpit offers an instant fit to almost anyone... Great!

1. Another report on Axel's blog
2. For the photographer: Happy Saint Patrick's Day! (Thanks Bonnie!)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

River paddling: high water on the IJssel

The Rhine is getting more and more a rain-river. It rained a lot in the river basin of the Rhine lately, so the water level is pretty high. At some places along the IJssel quays flooded last week and ferries were taken out of service. It's great to paddle on a wide river and a strong current, so I immediately changed my plans when Joris phoned with the spontaneous idea of a Sunday-paddle on the IJssel. We parked a car at start and one at the end and paddled downstream from Dieren to Deventer (33 km's). I have forgotten the GPS, but according to the km-signs along the riverbank average speed was above 12 km/h. A great sunny day: spring is in the air!

Joris was paddling his new Point 65 XP-kayak: a long, sleek and fast Swedish design. Joris is a powerful and fast paddler anyhow. A fast boat helps, but it still is the paddler that makes the speed, not the kayak! I enjoyed this paddling trip with Joris today!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Kayak Shower

Since swimming pool "the Thermen" is burnt down, all swimming activities in Alphen are concentrated in swimming pool "de Hoorn". As a result of this, schedules have changed and a part of the kayak training of the Alphense kanovereniging now takes place in the recreational family-pool. Showers, whirl pools and an artificial rapid offer new fun to indoor kayaking.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sony fixed it! Missing the nuts and bolts and...

Sometimes I feel a bit lost in this digital era. Deep in my heart I am a man of nuts and bolts and screws. I manage with electromechanical systems, have a bit of affinity with the world of electronics, but digital techniques are far beyond my understanding. OK, as a user I should be able to handle it. It works, mostly. But it doesn’t feel good. I want to understand the stuff I am working with. I want to be able to fix it myself. It feels bad to be surrendered to Bill Gates and co. But there is no choice. The digital guys are intruding every niche of my life.

This lost and helpless feeling came up once again as the screen of my favourite Sony DSC U-60 underwater camera suddenly turned black some weeks ago. I whined for the good old days I could repair my cameras with a screw-driver (I got quit some practice to this, due to the inferior built quality of the East-German Praktica’s in the late 70's). But then I found out Sony issued an advisory notice about a problem with the CCDs used in its digital cameras. I contacted Sony Netherlands and sent in the camera. Within two weeks Sony returned the repaired camera, free of charges. Service was perfect, thanks Sony!
Besides: the problem with the CCD had less to do with failure of digital techniques, but was more of the mechanical kind: a bonding wire used to joint a CCD chip and a lead frame failed.