Friday, October 31, 2008

Vlieland - De strandjutter - the Beachcomber

Vlieland, nostalgia...

Strandjutten - beachcombing? - I always thought this tradition was unique for the Netherlands - but now I found the English word!

Update: November, 3rd - The video about the beachcomber is part of a new Webspecial from the Volkskrant: Springtij - de Noordzee; A magnicient multimedia project about North Sea-related themes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Safety issues – a personal supplement to Mededelingen 2008-2

“Mededelingen” is the titel of the paper-magazine the NKB Sea Kayak-committee publishes. Concept and design are a bit 1980’s. Yet, even in this age of digital media, a paper club-magazine seems to be appreciated. Beside this, I enjoy writing twice a year a short foreword as “president” of the Committee. I regard the foreword as a kind of “column”: an invitation to share personal experiences and opinions, to look at seakayaking from different perspectives, and to put things sharp with a little sense of humour – not hindered by nuances.

The latest issue of the Mededelingen is completely dedicated to safety issues. In the foreword I relativize the usual focus on safety-equipment – in my opinion it sometimes tends to predominate a bit too much above the simple fun of paddling. Without the intention to detract anything on the importance of good preparation and proper safety-equipment: there are moments that I believe it’s a bit too much – e.g. when I feel tired organizing all my seakayak-gear and when I just want to pick up a kayak and a paddle to go out kayaking, without carrying tons of gear around! That’s (part of) what attracts me in paddling the K1 kayak on flat water and what appeals to me in the Surfski-sport: bringing back kayaking to the essence: body-boat-blade…

First supplement: Last week some sad incidents around Surfski-paddling were in the news. In Australia surfski-paddler David Scheen got lost. In New York the Mayor’s Cup (a seakayak and surfski-race) was stopped about an hour in the race by the NY-authorities. Unfortunately just at that time my foreword in Mededelingen 2008-2 arrived at the reader’s homes. Different speeds in printed and digital media became painfully clear: impossible to adapt the foreword to the topicalities, sorry!

The abandonment of the NY Mayors Cup race led to violent web-debates on safety behavior of seakayakers and especially surfski-racers – read the threats and comments on Bonnie (Frogma) has written a good post about the "pfd-to wear or not to wear"-discussion and double standards on her weblog. A brilliant quote by Bonnie: “..I think that a certain level of "double standards" is a fine & lovely thing - basically, 'cause there are so many different boating situations in this country that something that makes complete sense for one group or place would be totally ridiculous in another place.” I agree completely!

Second supplement: Gerard (the author of the article in Mededelingen 2008-2 about the use of VHF-radio’s in seakayaking) pointed me at a test of handheld VHF-radio’s in the Waterkampioen. Almost all handhelds available in the Netherlands are tested. Best tested is the ICOM IC M-71, Best Buy (related to price-quality) is the Standard Horizon HX 270E. I am personally very happy with the ICOM M-71: it fits perfect in the front-pocket of my Kokatat-PFD, I like the ergonomics, battery life is excellent and sound is crisp and clear. At the Seakayak-weeks the NKB-seakayakcommittee uses the Standard Horizon – which also has proved to be a good working and reliable piece of kit (for half the price of the ICOM).

Using a VHF-radio is recently getting more common amongst Dutch seakayakers. Regulations have become more friendly for kayak use: “stand alone” use of a handheld is legal since a few years, and a once-only (free) registration replaces the old concession with a yearly (quit expensive) fee. Since 2008 you only have to do a theoretical examination (to get a license) and a simple online registration for the ATIS-code of the VHF-radio.

Update - November, 3rd: New on the Download-page of the NKB Commissie Zeekajakvaren: a manual for Seakayakers on the use of marine VHF-handhelds in the Netherlands (in Dutch).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

M. Rectus Abdominis? - NKB Update training for coaches

On the update training for NKB canoe and kayakcoaches Janine Moeken gave a lecture on kayak-relevant muscles of the human body. Janine is graduated on Human Movement Science and a talented flat water kayak racer (former member of the Dutch National Selection). The coaches were - after a short introduction on the human body (exploded views) - tested on their knowledge of the anatomics of the kayaker in medical Latin definitions. And they received practical advise on muscle training and injury prevention.
Let's share my favourite quotes:
  1. "Train your weaknesses, not (only) your strengths";
  2. "Strength training" (in the fitness room): preferable are those exercises for muscles working together in functional groups. Most injuries are related to (over)training isolated muscle-groups!

May I have your votes, please?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Biking in the dark - Nacht van Woerden

Tomorrow the City of Woerden of Woerden is dedicated to cyclo-cross: the "Nacht van Woerden": a race in the night, on a track in the centre of the city. It's the club-evening of kayakclub Wyrda - we watch the race from the water, sitting in a kayak...

Balance in the dark

Continuing yesterday's post about balance: it's all about relaxing your mind, concentration and focus (and practice, practice, practice...). Focus is to be taken literally: rule nr. 1 balancing on the rope is: "Focus on a single point. Pick one point, and focus intently on it. This will help you find and keep your balance." When you have difficulties finding a point to focus at - things are getting hard: Balancing with eyes covered or shut, or just in darkness is extremely difficult.

Some weeks ago I learned a lesson about "balance in darkness" paddling the K1-flatwater racing kayak. In the past months I had quit a lot of practice paddling this (wobbling) kayak and had gotten rather confident with its (lack of) stability. But during the last paddles on the club-evening I suddenly felt less comfortable in the K1. First I thought this was because I had an off-day. I didn't realize that the big difference actually was that I was paddling in darkness now (days are getting shorter, alas). But this became very obvious in the week after the clinic on the "Forward Power Stroke" with Oscar Chalupsky. I was a bit late on the club evening and decided to paddle alone to work on my technique paddling the K1-racer. When I put the kayak in the water it was already dark and it started to rain. After a few "power strokes" my glasses were steamy, my sight blurred and I got blinded by the lights of the cars passing by. Forget making attempts to concentrate on "body rotation": nothing to focus at, I stiffened and lost balance. Bracing failed and suddenly I swam in the canal in the middle of the city of Woerden. A very stupid action indeed: paddling solo - in a kayak without flotation - no light, dressed in a black chill-cheater suit... I should have known better!

Lessons learned:
- things happen ;-(
- use a stable platform to work on your techniques!
- bad sight is bad for balance!
- don't forget dry clothes and a towel!

So happy no-one noticed!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Balance on the rope

bal·ance (′bal·əns): ... a state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces..

Slacklining is the sport of walking on a small, flat nylon rope between two fixed points. It is practised in the backyard, on school campuses and city parks, and even 3000 feet above the ground. Some people do it for fun, others for the obvious athletic benefits, and others still for a meditative purpose, in seeking a higher state of mind (?!). The origins of modern day slacklining are generally attributed to the rock climbing scene in Yosemite Valley, California, in the early 1980s. At the NKB-Kajakfestival in Zoetermeer a few weeks ago I had fun with my kids with the first steps on the slackline. And as I am that kind of dad that selects gifts for his kids primary to satisfy his private pleasure - the family is now slacklining in the streets of Woerden.
The link from slacklining to (sea)kayaking is a bit artificial - though balancing on a rope as a sport is - in a bit other setting - invented by the Inuit long before slacklining. The Inuit did this to entertain one another with feats of strength during dark, frozen winters, to maintain the tough and demanding level of fitness required for the dangerous occupation of hunting sea mammals by kayak and as an on-land teaching exercise for learning to roll a kayak. The sport is called: "qajaasaarneq" which means "like rolling a kayak". My first introduction to Qajaasaarneq was on the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium in 2003 where Maligiaq gave a demonstration at the campsite on a rope fixed between two vans. Last week I received from Tom Sharp the instruction DVD of Dubside on Qajaasaarneq. With the clear explanations and detailed instructions of Dubside the highly gymnastic rope exercises suddenly look manageable - even for an average guy like me (sitting on the coach behind the TV..). So now I am figuring out where I can find a good spot to fix a rope - indoors would be great - but the living room is to small (and fragile). Outdoors in our street is a bit too embarrassing to start. You shouldn't share everything with your neighbours - public slacklining was enough for my reputation...

PS: recent video's of Dubside and Maligiaq doing Qajaasaarneq: on Andrew's Dash Point Pirate Blog

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Against the wind" - a Gale in the Voordelta

8Bft. 39-46 Mph 34-40 Knots Gale Moderately high waves of greater length; edges of crests begin to break into spindrift. The foam is blown in well-marked streaks along the direction of the wind.

What to do with a programmed seakayaktrip when the forecast for the day is SSW-SW 7-8 Bft, squalls up to 100 kmh (10 Bft.)? Look out for a sheltered area with good escapes and you can have fun. Today we found this area in the Voordelta. I was happy that Govert joined me leading a group of 9 enthousiast paddlers in heavy conditions.
Actually the original intention was to find a surfspot at a North sea-beach to excersize landings in breaking surf before the beach. But the combination of swell and wind was a number to heavy today - don't want to risk broken seakayaks (or worse!). Instead of this we did an excersize paddling "against the wind" . Against 7-8 Bft is a tough job - which determines quickly if you are paddling with your arms or with your torso... It's a rewarding job also: paddling back means a fast ride surfing waves..

2 different interpretations of a West-Greenland theme: my Anas Acuta next to Tom's SKOF.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Noordwijk aan Zee - MTB track, Surf

It's a windy weekend. This afternoon I had an appointment with Linda to make a tour by bike. Because of the wind (and not so enthusiast by the perspective of getting soaking wet by a shower) we decided to swap the roadbikes for MTB's. We did the MTB-track near Noordwijk aan Zee. Sheltered in the dunes and the wood, the wind was hardly noticeable. Being close to the sea (with sound of breaking surf at the background) I couldn't resist to make a short sidestep to the beach (sorry Linda!). In the past days a good swell arose, and the surf-zone was impressive: very promising for the NKB-kayak-trip tomorrow!

"All along the watchtower" - the Westhoofd

All along the watchtower, Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, Barefoot servants too,
But huh, outside in the cold distance A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching and the wind begin to howl
Lyrics - Bob Dylan, 1967

Today good news! Part of the policy of the Dutch Traffic department to economize, modernize, centralize and automatize traffic control and coastguard tasks along the Dutch coastline, was the closure of the manned post on the Westhoofd (the lighthouse near Ouddorp) on the 1th of October this year. From this date on the lighthouse keepers would have been ordered to abandon their post. Traffic control in the Voordelta region should be coordinated from a central post on Neeltje Jans. But according to the latest messages the closure of the Westhoofd-post has been postponed for a undefined period! I am told that one of the reasons to keep this post manned for (at least) the next few years is the intensive recreational traffic. So the lighthouse will stay a "watchtower" in the true sense of the word...

Needless to say (?): The Westhoofd post delivers not only a welcome service (very detailed and specific information on weather, sea state...), but is also a safety issue for the busy recreational traffic in the Voordelta region. Amongst Dutch seakayakers it's a good habit to inform the Westhoofd post about their trips. Kayaks are hardly visible on Radar-screens, but from the 50 meters high lighthouse the keepers can overview a wide part of the Voordelta - which proved to be useful in many coordinated rescue- and search operations...

The picture of the seakayakers above this post is taken from the lighthouse post (through the lens of a telescope) on Saturday, September the 13th. Please contact me if you know which group this is - I would like to get in contact to sent them more pictures. You can leave a post on this blog or contact me via the NKB-website.

"All along the Watchtower" is a Dylon-song. Jimmi Hendrix made it immortal. The Rolling Stone: "Hendrix constructed a tumultuous four-part solo that transformed Dylan's concise foreboding into an electric hurricane". Click and enjoy this hurricane ;-)