Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I Shouldn't Be Alive: Swept Away

By coincidence I came over a seakayak-related item on television yesterday: an episode in a series of Discovery Channel with the “promising” title “I shouldn’t be alive”. The storyline in short:
Two best friends set off in seagoing kayaks to tour Washington State's San Juan Islands. One does not admit that he's a complete novice kayaker. Having originally met on the athletics track in school, the friendly competition that brought them together now leads them toward disaster. As night approaches, they fall victim to stormy conditions and surging currents. The novice is making no headway at all, and will soon be sucked out into the Pacific. The experienced kayaker decides to leave his struggling friend and paddle on alone. Has he gone to get help ... or is he saving his own skin?

The documentary of this testosteron-driven kayak tour is so extreme that it’s just ridiculous. Everything one shouldn’t do, is done in this story:
- starting a multiday tour at night with an inexperienced and unprepared kayaker;
- leaving to late, not respecting tides and currents;
- insufficient equipment;
- bad communication;
- leaving the victim alone;
- swimming away from your kayak in a rescue situation;
- not learning from mistakes: one bad decision follows the other;
- and much more…
Luckily the novice kayaker wore a drysuit: otherwise he would never have survived more than 6 hours in cold water.

I was struck by the stupidity of the so called “experienced paddler” and found the relationship between the two paddlers a bizarre interpretation of friendship. Though it’s a rather clumsy documentary, overdone and over dramatized, and though I hate the continuous interruptions by advertisements on Discovery Channel, I had my fun watching it.

There is a trailer of this episode on the Canadian website of Discovery Channel. The program schedules of Discovery Channels are inscrutable, with endless many repetitions: "Swept away" will surely be repeated in the next time.


In the post about the kayaktour in “de Venen” I used the word “swampbird”. I received some questions on this word. I am not a bird-specialist neither a great linguist. With the swampbird I meant a bird living in a swamp. In Dutch we distinguish the category of “moerasvogels” (moeras = swamp, vogel = bird). I am not sure if you can make the contraction of both words in English. I found some hits on Google but they were relatively rare. So I suppose in English there is an other word used for birds living in a swamp? And what about "meadowbirds"?

A nice reason to show pictures of my favourite swamp- and meadow birds in the Venen!
All the pictures are from the website of IVN Vechtplassen. If you are interested in Dutch birds it's sure worth a visit! IVN is a Dutch organisation for nature and environment education.




Zwarte Stern




Sunday, June 25, 2006

The paddler in front of me...

The man on the picture is Gerrit, member of kayak club "De Kromme Aar" in his beautiful carbon-kevlar Nordkapp Jubilee . Today Gerrit was leading the yearly kayaktour through the region of "de Venen" on the Marathon distance of 42,195 km. I am still not sure if Gerrit did this because of the predicted showers and thunderstorms, but he made a speedy trip of it. Whatever: I enjoyed this sporty tour. For training on speed, nothing works better than the motivation of a fast paddler in front of you.
To get a reference for upcoming experiments with the wing-paddle I paddled with the GPS as a speedometer today. Conclusions about my speed with the Valley Pintail and the Lendal Nordkapp-paddle:
- 8 - 8,5 km/h is a comfortable cruising speed on long distances;
- 8,5-9 km/h requires more effort but can be maintained for a long time without exhaustion;
- 9 - 9,5 km/h is possible for a sprint of 5 or 10 minutes to get back to the paddler in front of you, but is exhausting!;
- above 9,5: pffff....
I am sure I need a lot of training before I get real profits from paddling with the wing, so please don't expect conclusions at an early date.

Don't think we were only speeding today. "De Venen" is Holland at it's best. It's a peat-soil region with a fascinating variation of meadows, swamps, lakes and little rivers. It's a breading-place for lots of otherwise rare meadow- and swampbirds. And it's a perfect region for kayaking on placid water. So I wondered why there wasn't more interest for this kayaktour: 1o participants on the 42 km and 8 on the 21 km -distance. The organization by KV de Kromme Aar was perfect. Thanks for this very nice day!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A superb paddle!

The superb quality and outstanding performance of BRAČA-SPORT paddles is highlighted by the number of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals won at World Championships and Olympic Games by athletes using our products. The majority of today’s world class paddlers make BRAČA-SPORT their #1 choice.
BRAČA-SPORT paddles enjoyed great popularity at the World Championships and the Olympic Games of the millennium in Sydney. An overwhelming majority of the finalists used our paddles.
The Braca I is the original design and our most widely used paddle. A number of our other models were developed from this ever-popular classic shape. It is recommended for male athletes. (picture and text -
http://www.braca-sport.com )

My newest toy is this high tech carbon fibre wing paddle! On his continuous quest for perfection one of the team members of the Dutch National Flatwater Kayak Selection changed his paddle brand. So I could take over an as good as new Braca I. I am so happy. Since a long time I want to experiment with a wing paddle. Once in a while I had a change to borrow one for an hour or so, but now I have got my own one and really can work on it!

First impressions after an hour paddling this morning: Wow! It feels enormous powerful and gives a great speed sensation. However, I must admit that, after just one try-out, it’s very difficult to say if it’s more than only the suggestion of power and speed. Checking with the GPS I noticed that there was no difference in the max speed I could make with the Euro-paddle or with the Wing. With both paddles over 11 km/h it felt as if I was paddling against a wall and I couldn’t make any more speed. As the Pintail isn’t known as a seakayak with a high hull speed, it is probably not the best kayak to do this test. I also tried out a flatwater-touringkayak of Wyrda. I could paddle that kayak on a higher speed level without fighting against my own bow wave, so I suppose in a faster kayak there should be more difference noticeable in max speed between the Euro and the wing.
It is even more difficult to make objective comparisons about cruising-speed. I paddled the Pintail with the Wing comfortable at 9 km/h, but I can’t say if that took more or less effort than with the Euro-blade. I suppose it costs less energy. I did my favourite test round (“het rondje Singel”) paddling fast, without pushing it to the limit, in 17.45 min. My best time before with the Pintail was 18.20 min. My personal record on this course is (with the Svalbard - a faster seakayak than the Pintail) 17.20 min. I made that record the first time I did “rondje Singel” with a stopwatch, more than a year ago, and since then I never came close to this PR.

After trying out speed, I did some experiments with the handling of the Wing paddle. Rolling left and right didn’t give any problem. The butterfly-roll (one of the rolls I learned from Freya) also went perfect. But that is no wonder: as a matter of fact you don’t need a paddle for the butterfly-roll (without a paddle: call it a hand-roll!). The big surprise came with the re-entry with an extended paddle: normally one of the easier exercises, but this time: I hardly made it! It took me 3 times before I could come up with the Wing Paddle. I really had to figure out how to keep the paddle-blade from diving. The asymmetric shape of the blade requires much attention. Sculling also proved to be a challenge, but I made it on the right side.
The awkward thing about the handling of the wing I found the behaviour with all those small corrective strokes you normally make without even thinking about it. With a moving kayak and strokes like the bow draw or rudder the wing blade tends to “bite” suddenly in the water. I have to work on that!

Altogether: I do realise I still have to learn to adapt my paddle style to the wing. That will cost some time, and I am looking for an experienced wing-paddler near Woerden to coach me. First I want to concentrate on the forward stroke: hoping for more speed on longer distances. There is an old K1-racing kayak at Wyrda, no one uses it: in the next months it’s mine!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's day

Today was "Father's day", a yearly happening overtaken by manufacturers of electric shavers, men’s odours and other trash. Of course family Heupink doesn't participate in such a commercial happening. Poor Hans. However, there is still hope: the kids at primary school always produce some goodies for their father at Fathers day. Until now the creativity of the primary school teachers focused on coloured wooden or paper neckties. This year Lieke surprised her father with a scribbling-block decorated with a sea-kayak (note the day-hatch!). And while most Father days-presents end up in a drawer at papa’s office, this one goes on the world-wide-web!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Circumnavigation Schiermonnikoog

Due to technical problems with Blogger.com (and being to busy to spent much time blogging lately...), publishing of some posts as well as reacting on comments is delayed. Sorry!

Bram van Ankeren and I organised a two days trip around Schiermonnikoog for the NKB this weekend. We intendend to do this in two stages, bivouacing on one of the sandbanks on the east side of Schiermonnikoog. Alas: since shortly the rumour goes bivouacing on this sand isn't tolerated anymore (more on this will follow soon!) so we had to change our plan. Checking out the time table and the stream atlas it occured that saturday was a perfect day to circumnavigate Schiermonnikoog in one day. This changed the character of the trip (early up, a long paddle, and a 20 minutes walk with fully loaden kayaks from the harbour to the camp-site!), so we informed the participants previously of the weekend about the changing plan. Luckily most liked it, some were even enthousiast about the change to do a long paddle. Finally we kayaked with a group of 10. And while the rest of Holland was suffering a hot day (29 degrees Celsius), we paddled some hours in the fog and were shivering during the break on the beach on the north side of Schiermonnikoog...

day 1: HW Delfzijl 12.06, HW Schier 10.26, LW 16.15, O/NO 3 later 4 Bft. 56 km.

day 2: HW Delfzijl 12.45, HW Lauwersoog 11.06, SO 3-4 Bft. 8,5 km.

Thanks to Paul Stoop for the tracklog (blue = day 1, red = day 2)!

Snapshots of the trip on MijnAlbum.nl (next time I clean the lens before taking photos...)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Heddes Bouw Triathlon Woerden 2006

On Whit Monday Woerden is dominated by the Triathlon. Two distances: the 1/4 and the 1/8 triathlon with 250 participants swimming in the Singel, biking in the Green Heart from Woerden to Kamerik and running around the historical town centre.

Kanovereniging Wyrda was asked to supervise the swimming part, together with the diving-team of the firebrigade. Because of the low watertemperature (15 degrees Celsius) the organisation expected some drop outs. Only one swimmer gave up: Rob was his rescuer, he picked the exhausted atlete up with the bow of his kayak. The rest of our job was guiding the first swimmer along the course and keeping other boats away. In practice that's mainly just a bit drifting around. The kayakers were dressed in the Wyrda-cluboutfit to give local publicity to the kayak club. I doubt if that's very effective, but we had our fun. It's an odd sensation kayaking in the middle of a field of hunderds of swimmers.

One of the triatletes was my partner Janine. She finished first in her category (1/8, D40)! The Wyrda paddlers were very enthousiast and the idea came to participate next year with a team of the kayak-club. I am affraid this winter is going to be hard training: my running and swimming condition is not very good...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rolling with Freya - updated 06-06-06

Spiekeroog offered a unique opportunity to combine the NKB-SAU kayakcourse with a Greenland rolling class with Freya Hoffmeister. Many participants of the course made use of this occasion and all were very enthusiast about it. Of course I took my chance too ;-)
Kaat relaxing

If you read a kayak blog once in a while Freya probably won’t need any introduction. When you are new in this world: have a look at her website (it seems that some mr. D is involved in the making of). Freya is a great ambassador of Greenland style kayaking. QajaqUSA promotes the traditions and techniques of Greenland kayaking while seeking to further the appreciation and development of Greenland-style kayaking in the United States. It seems to be a big deal over there, with a lot of highly frequented Greenland Style symposia. In Europe Greenland style kayaking also is getting more attention. Since last year there is a Dutch qajaq-organisation, and with the Veluwe Rally in September 2006 the second Dutch Qajaq Meeting takes place.

At Spiekeroog Freya offered the interested a Rolling class starting with a (groupwise) theoretical introduction with a demonstration of the different rolls that lasted about 1,5 hours, followed by 2 individual lessons of each half an hour in one of her Greenland Kayaks. More than 20 people took part in the lessons, so you can figure out how many hours Freya spent standing up to here middle in the chilling cold water of the North Sea…
As I was busy coaching the Dutch-German group I didn’t have time to do a complete class myself (alas!). But I didn’t want to miss the experience so I made an appointment with Freya for an extra half hour session Saturday-afternoon, after Govert and I had delivered our groups safely back in Neuharlingersiel.

The rolling session with Freya was my first real introduction to Greenland Style rolling. I had never paddled or rolled a Greenland kayak before and also the Greenland-paddle (the stick) was new for me. Freya explained me the static brace, the butterfly roll, some different rolls with the Greenland paddle finishing forward and backwards and finally hand rolling. Quite a lot in 30 minutes, but I did ask for an overall-impression…
1. It was a great experience. I am very impressed:
by the perfect control and the natural feel the Greenland style kayaks and paddles offer when rolling;
2. it’s so easy to roll, that you can roll in slow motion and completely concentrate on body movement and the coordination of the roll (and coordination is complex with some Greenland rolls);
3. but most of all: I am so impressed by the way Freya did her classes! She talks fast, but she takes so much time and patience in teaching you the Greenland skills. I was her last pupil: before my private session, she had been standing three days, 25 hours in the cold water and yet she still was addicted to give me a complete impression of Greenland style rolling. Thanks Freya!

I did the session with Freya in Sexy Hexy, the Japanese carbon fibre Qajaq. After the lesson Freya loaned me her skin-on-frame kayak to try it out myself. I noticed some difference in comfort but the handling was very equal. It rolled just as perfect. I love it. I think I am going to have a good talk with Hakola in the near future…
Today I tried some of the Greenland techniques with my euro-paddles and my own kayaks in Woerden. A static brace in the roomy Svalbard with an euro-paddle is the perfect way to get drowned. It lacks boat contact, and I can’t lean far enough back on the Svalbard. The Greenland techniques worked better with the ww-kayak and the Valley Pintail. Though I had to adapt the Pintail a little bit: I added a block of 10 cm foam on my upper legs, slided forward on the seat and took out the back support. Nice for rolling, not so good for paddling.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Spiekeroog day 4-9

Looking back at the item I posted about the first 3 days on Spiekeroog, I am not completely satisfied with the text I wrote.
That’s partly because of the presentation of the weather conditions. The daily marine weather forecast suggests it was all very heavy. Ok: it was not comfortable. It was pretty cold (10-13 degrees Celsius), but the wind was (mostly) not that dramatically as the forecast predicted. The marine weather forecast regards the whole German Bucht, the region of the Ostfriesisische Inseln is somewhat sheltered with winds from SW to W. So we could paddle every day, only making longer trips was out of the question. The most heavy winds (up to 7 Bft) occured at Sunday, when the group was already back home and Govert and I left Spiekeroog as some of the last kayakers. Just an hour before us Freya, Bernhard and Andreas took off for Neuharlingersiel. They were towing the 3 Greenland-kayaks of Freya and had a very hard job.

Sundaymorning, ready for leaving Spiekeroog

The main point why I am not totally content with my text, is however because it only describes the “technical” program of the course. And the pleasure in organising and guiding a week like this is not just working through an interesting “educational-kayak-program”. The essence lies for a big part in the social element: working and living close together with a bunch of individuals that become a group within a few days. I find it difficult to express by writing (in English…) the atmosphere of the week. So many things make the difference: The beautiful and restful scenery of Spiekeroog. The people in and around our group: Lars and his relaxed camping shop/café at the campsite. Old Laramy - the pub where we finished in the evening. Discussions with Silke about German economics and politics, with Bernhard about the German and Dutch kayak-philosophy. The stories of Kai and Anke travelling around the world. Hakola first leading the third kayak-course in his beautiful built Greenland-skof-kayak, and later coming back with his family in an original Umyak. All the other people I don’t mention now. And the outstanding culinary qualities of the German cooks: we had a great stylish dinner in the restaurant Inselzauber, and the absolute recommendation is Siwalu. The “Kutterscholle nach Finkenwerder Art” accompanied by great glass of wine “Gewürztraminer” are in itself a reason for a visiting Spiekeroog.
Let's finish the Spiekeroog report with a photo-impression.

Preparing for praktizing the high brace with support

Playing Cinderellas' shoes with Freyas' kayaks
Balance brace on the green
Forward stroke with Bernhard
Family Hakola arriving with Umyak
Back in Neuharlingersiel: fish and chips