Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Camping, cycling, climbing, hiking, riding a motorbike and kayaking: protecting valuable paper maps, and sensitive optical or electronic gear against water has always been an issue. After a low-cost start in the 70's - when I used plastic garbage-bags to wrap the camera, the dry clothes and the sleeping bag in - a huge number of waterproof cases and pouches has passed by in my outdoor life. Manufacturers claimed their products to be waterproof: some were, most were not. I have had a lot of bad bargains, after natural selection the better designs survived. The cases on the picture belong to the better ones, but the perfect waterproof case is still to be found.

Seakayaking puts a waterproof case to the ultimate test. Cases that never leaked using them while hiking or on the bike (and even on the motorbike - speeding down the German Highways in non-stop rain on "naked bike" is an exposed session for a map case) don't guarantee the needed protection to the elements on the deck of the seakayak or in the pocket of the PFD.

Roll closure systems with Velcro are spray-waterproof and do out-stand a lot of rain, but don't offer protection against submersion -useless on a kayak deck. Roll closure systems with a buckle perform better, depending on the stiffness of the fabric - and are a good solution for dry bags. The problem with smaller pieces like map cases and little pouches is that there isn't enough room and resistance to close them properly.

The simple principle of squeezing the plastic fabric of the pouches together, proved to be best way to create a hermetic seal. The clip of Aquapac does a good job (of course it's important is to keep it clean of any sand!). Very annoying with the Aquaclip system is it's tendency to get separated from the pouch - especially with the small opening of the waterproof case for the VHF-Radio this often happens. The critical point of all waterproof cases are the edges - when they tear in (as shown on this picture) it's over with waterproofness.

Another proven system is the Zölzer-system - shown above is the recent edition where you don't need to disassemble the complete rail to open the case: you can slide the case in and out. I do prefer however the simple old system, where the rails is bolted through the fabric of the case. This takes more work to open and close the bag - but the edges of the case in the new system are (to) fragile for the sliding operation. Although the new case was always used with care: within a year the edges split up. The old case of Zölzer is more robust: the edges of the case are still intact after 8 years of intensive use. Minor points of the Zölzer-design are the unwieldy character of the aluminium rail and the little pieces - I have dropped several screws in the water...

The best waterproof case? Home made cases like Elko, Axel, Paul and Reinout make... So satisfying that "Do it yourself " performs better than money can buy! ;-)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

High Tech Kayak Helmet System

The collage is a first experiment with the trail-version of Corels PaintShop ProX2. This software offers an impressive amount photo-fixing and editing tools. According to Corel it's "an easy and fast way to make professional looking photos", said so, I can't call myself easy nor fast. Making the collage has taken me hours! And the kayakers in the surf in the background are not even manipulated, they are real. I do need a lot of practice before I manage to create a real natural looking composition "easy and fast"....

In the discussion after the incident with a (almost) lost seakayak in the surf zone at Vlieland last year, communication (in and between the groups) was a big issue. A conclusion was that -with all its limitations - in situations like this a VHF radio is indispensable. One of the people involved lamented she had her hands full with keeping in position, reassuring and navigating her group out of the surf zone and that it would be a hard job under such circumstances to get a VHF radio out of the pocket of the PFD and pushing buttons to communicate. The lady in question is of the innovative kind, so she suggested an integrated solution with communication- and navigation-devices integrated in the kayak helmet. A perfect idea!

Nothing is new in this world. I was reminded of this idea as I saw Dutch soldiers on a mission on TV. The Military industry is a hot spot for technical innovations. Soldiers are equipped with helmets with day and night-vision glasses, GPS-devises, ear plugs and microphones for the Radio. And because, just like a paddler should have his hands free to hold a paddle, a soldier must have his hands free to hold a gun-> most of these Military devices are designed to be used hands free. It should be little effort to make these military devices salt-waterproof for kayak use? A little design job will make them look a bit more sexy. For some inspiration I did a little Photoshop-job on the Felin-Helmet and made it a bit more colourful. With digital lipp-gloss and sun-tan I tried to make the soldier face look more happy, in this aspect my makeover is not quit successful.

I could have spared the effort: a new, stylish kayak helmet with integrated radio and microphones is announced to come at the market within a few weeks: the Voz Multy-link system and it offers promising specifications:

Electronics Features:
· Voice-activated, wireless two-way radio communication via 14 FRS channels with 38 privacy codes
· Waterproof (IPX7 rating -30 minute submersion at 1 meter depth)
· Bluetooth® Wireless Technology (Version 1.2) with profiles for stereo music, mobile phone headset
· NOAA weather receiver
· Voice prompted menu for user configurable settings
· Directional microphone with noise cancellation
· Waterproof, protective high-fidelity stereo ear speakers
· Patent pending antenna design increases range over standard FRS walkie talkies
· AA battery operation for easy field replacement

Helmet Features:
· Multi-sport design: snow, skate, bicycle and non-motorized water
· Includes summer and winter washable liners
· Lightweight high impact ABS shell with soft touch finish
· Multiple-impact 100% low density EPP liner
· Skull Clamp™ dial adjusted fit system
· Anti-Bucketing design
· Internal soft adjustable fit system
· Removable, protective ear covers
· Includes a head shape fit kit

Courtesy helmet pictures by Felin-industries and VOZ-Sports equipment.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Against the wind...

It's a stormy day. At the coast wind is blowing up to 9 Bft WSW, and here in the inland it's also quit windy with 6-7 Bft. Fortunately the region around Woerden offers a lot of sheltered paddling possibilities. I had a appointment with Guus for a relaxed Sunday morning paddle. With this wind the route Woerden-Oudewater-Montfoort-Woerden is an attractive one: the Lange Linschoten and the Montfoortse Wetering are sheltered, paddling with the wind in the back on the Hollandse IJssel. Oudewater and Montfoort are cute little Dutch towns with a historic centre. A part of this kayak route is an official kayak route presented by the ANWB as a touristic day-trip, for locals it's a nice Sunday-morning exercise.
The surprise of the morning was that the passage of the Hollandse IJssel in Oudewater turned out to be blocked - due to Restoration work on the old lift-bridge.
As we didn't like to carry the kayaks a long way, we decided to change route and to paddle westwards on the Hollandse IJssel, to return to Woerden along the Dubbele Wiericke and the Oude Rijn. This meant a paddle full against the wind on the Hollandse IJssel and a fight against strong side-winds on the Wiericke. A perfect Sunday morning workout!

The Sunday-evening wasn't to bad either: coaching at the pool-session of Kayakclub Natsec in the pool in Maassluis. Perfect organisation by Patrick! Pictures of the pool session: click here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Wadden - no World Heritage site...

Video courtesy of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality

UNESCO: Reflecting the natural and cultural wealth that belongs to all of humanity, World Heritage sites and monuments constitute crucial landmarks for our world. They symbolise the consciousness of States and peoples of the significance of these places and reflect their attachment to collective ownership and to the transmission of this heritage to future generations.

After many years of preparation in working groups, NGO's, governments and parliaments the Wadden-region almost made it to the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. I say "almost" because today the government of the German city of Hamburg finally declared to be against the proposal. And because all parties should agree: it's all over now.

Is this good or bad news? What does it mean for seakayakers? The Wadden region is such a fantastic seakayaking site because of it's outstanding natural beauty, landscape and wildlife. We do have a serious interest in adequate preservation measures. The inscription of a site on the World Heritage List brings an increase in public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site. When these are well planned for and organised respecting sustainable tourism principles, they can bring important funds to the site and to the local economy.
I am convinced seakayakers respect sustainable tourism principles and as an optimist by nature: I believe we would have profited of the UNESCO status in the long term .
But will it chance much? Is the Wadden Region lost and unprotected without the UNESCO status? Don't worry: the protected status comes anyway for a big deal from National and European rules, and not from the UNESCO. It won't make much difference.

The sad thing about this news: despite all good words policy makers and governments are still thinking in opposites between economical interests and ecological principles. There is a long way to go for a more sustainable future.

Update 30-1-2008:
The 'first conclusion that the "No" of Hamburg's parliament would stop the complete process of nomination for the Wadden Region was premature: Dutch and German National government decided to proceed with the nomination for the rest of the Wadden region - see
this document with the recent letter of Minister Verburg for the Dutch Parliament - the meaning of the UNESCO nomination and the relation with is clearly explained in this letter.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kouwe Klouwentocht KV Wyrda

Kayakclub Wyrda had the New Year Reception with Glühwein and Champagne and "lekkere hapjes" (= Good Snacks) this afternoon . The club offered a paddle as a starter: the "Kouwe Klouwentocht"(Cold Hands-tour). 7 tough members showed up for the paddle-tour. At a temperature of 8 degrees Celsius you can hardly speak of "kouwe klouwen" - this is no winter, this is almost spring? It was the wind that made it at least a bit chilling during the break.

I paddled with the traditional Greenland paddle for the first time on a distance - this relaxed paddle on 10 km was a good occasion to give it a try: in the beginning the feeling was strange and uncomfortable: the narrow positions of the hands, the elbows near the corps, the movement low above the deck of the kayak, new muscles to use. But at the end it started to feel more natural. "New Years resolution" with Guus: we are going both to practice with the Greenland Stick, starting Next Tuesday.

I was a bit disappointed that I was the only one for a New Years Club Rolling Session ;-) As a result of the limited enthusiasm only a small number of (but highly exclusive) public was left to watch my show. But perhaps this was better. According to Greenland Rolling Experts "you should see water as your friend" for successful rolling - this afternoon my friend was very cold and my performance lacked a bit the usual finesse ;-) Fun was it anyway..

Btw: "Cold" is a bad excuse:
..."Greenland rolls were developed out of necessity. The water is lethally cold, and hunters were sewn into their kayaks, so exiting the boat was not an option. Learning these rolls prepared hunters for these dangerous conditions."...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Playing in the pool

It was a joyful pool-session this evening with René, Axel and Patrick. Of course I did try out the new Anas Acuta with the greenland stick: a dream to roll! And thanks to a tip from Axel I finally found the clue on palluussineq (chest sculling). Almost ready for the Greenland Rolling Championships? ;-)

Patrick will soon be famous for the perfect headstand.
René for the same move with head up.
And Axel brings the balance-brace to perfection

Double fun with the Anas Acuta!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kayak Revolution

The timing was perfect: when I sent out invitations for the Presentations on Greenlandstyle kayaking in Alphen, Stef and Monique returned a mail about the "Kayaks to Schools" project. A fantastic opportunity to give something in return to the people that invented seakayaking. You can support this project by making a donation on the Kayak Revolution.

In the Kayaks to Schools project, kayaks are delivered to as many village schools as possible in remote areas of Greenland. The first aim is to support schools in Appilatoq (Cape Farewell) and Isertoq (East Coast), total about 50 children.
The hunting villages in Greenland are the poorest areas of the country. Poverty leads to cultural erosion and kayaking as a living part of our culture is coming to an end. This project brings traditional equipment and training to some of the worst off villages, in the hope that cultural appreciation fosters self esteem in the young. Help to give a little back to the people of the kayak!
Each school receives 4 youth sized and one adult size Learning Curve Kayak, together with necessary gear and teacher training, to BCU standards. The qajaqs are built in Greenland in the workshop of Baldvin Kristjansson. Of course all equipment is supplied at raw cost.

Do I need to say more?

Greenland fans

Watze and Tom: Experts talk!

The public was great at the presentations, yesterday in Alphen. People were very interested, debates were lively and experts on seakayaking, kayak building and even on Inuit culture were present to comment and to add to our presentations. A big part of the group stayed for an extensive aftertalk. It was (too) late when I arrived home. I was so exited of the evening that, despite the late hour, I could hardly get asleep. Getting up in time was a hard job this morning!

Some people asked for more information - here are the promised weblinks:

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Presentation: Paddling activities in Greenlandstyle

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It's about a year ago we organized a weekend of rolling clinics with Freya Hoffmeister in Alphen a.d. Rijn. The local kayakclub AKV de Kromme Aar invites to a presentation about Greenlandstyle kayaking on Wednesday-evening, 9th. January. Tom, Dick and I will give a talk about the activities of the NKB Commissie Zeekajakvaren and
If you want to visit the presentation (btw: Dutch spoken!)- you're welcome! - please contact me or the AKV (Herman van Huis).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Saturdaymorning on the river: de Lek

Old and new bridge of the Highway A2 crossing the Lek, near Vianen, ZH.

One of my favorite winter paddles in the Woerden-region is a daytrip on the river Lek. It's only a short ride by car (about 20 km's from Woerden to get to the Lek) and it offers the feel of paddling on a serious stretch of water. When I want to paddle on more lively "big water" (Kajaksport op groot water ;-) but can't spent the whole day on paddling, it's a perfect alternative.
And more attractive points: (1) the scenery of the Lek from Vianen to Schoonhoven is one of the most exciting river-landscapes of Holland. (2) Birdlife along the river in winter is fantastic.

The Lek is regulated by a complex of weirs (Amerongen, Driel, Hagestein). Hagestein is the most seaward weir and locker site. And although it's about 60 km's to the Northsea: tides have up to the weir of Hagestein noticeable influence on level and current of the Lek. The actual effect is rather complicated - it doesn't only depend on the tides out at sea, but also on the amount of water coming down the Rhine and whether the weirs are closed or open). For a daypaddle on the Lek I don't bother about tides and stream - I just paddle some time upstream and when I have got enough I turn and paddle downstream. When the current is (to) strong, it's possible to go eddy hopping ("kribbetjes varen").

Even a familiar place sometimes has its surprises: "recreatiegebied" Salmsteke is a good point to start - parking place direct near the water, sandy beach to set in. I mostly start here. But this stupid barrier is new for me. It's just a few centimeters, but the car with the kajaks on the roof didn't pass through under the 2 meter bar -> little inconveniences...

The second surprise came after the halfway break. During the morning wind was roaming and increasing. The last 10 km got tough: paddling against a steady breeze of 5 Bft. combined with a surprising strong upriver current meant hard work - not quit what paddlers expected from paddling down a river! But we enjoyed it - a good work-out!

Data: Salmsteke - stuw Hagestein - Salmsteke: 29 km, temp. 6,5 gr. Celsius, wind Z-ZW, 3-4 later 5-6 Bft. -> My maiden trip with the Anas Acuta!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Reindeers of Woerden plunge gracefully into the New Year

After 7 editions it's a traditional party: the "Woerdense Nieuwjaarsduik" sponsored by Café de Pompier. Very brave.
I was just spectator - no participant... I stick to New Years Kayakrolling - in drysuit - with fleece underwear (and I am fully aware this shows a severe lack of courage ;-).