Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

2010 - a paddling year in pictures

For the last post of the year I picked 12 pictures as a little paddling-year-in-review exercise. Not a selection of the "best/most beautiful" photos, nor a complete report, but just a random selection of typical moments for "my 2010". I often feel that I paddle not enough - and this year that feeling was at times particularly strong, because I had to cancel several kayaking-activities (due to work, weather or lack of participants). For the first time since may years I didn't participate in the NKB-Vlieland-week ;-(. Nevertheless, looking back on 2010: it was a good paddling year, I enjoyed the trips I was able to make with my paddling friends. Thank you all for the great time! Up to 2011!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A reflection on advances, innovation in the outdoor and kayak -industry...

Blowing the dust off the (more than 20 year) old set of Cross-country skis some days ago, I remembered a blogpost about "innovation" I started to write 2 years ago. For some reason, I never finished and published that post. The intention was to write a few words about the internal struggle in dealing with the fascination for "new" ideas - especially when it is "gear/equipment-related". On the one hand I am a gadget freak, early adaptor: interested in new technology - always one of the first to play around with new stuff (the SNS binding on XC-skis, the self-inflating Therm-a-rest, suspension and click-pedals on the MTB, the first series Garmin GPS, the first series PDA/pocket-computers (remember the Psion in the early 90's?), the Waterproof Digicam - this list is endless...). On the other hand I can also be pretty conservative. I appreciate good quality stuff that functions for a long period. Once happy with some good piece of equipment I usually stick to it. I don't easily swap to something new. This can grow pretty extreme: like the old ice skates - which I bought at the age of 16 and I have used 30 years...

In the perfect winter 2 years ago, I rented a pair of modern Nordic skates and discovered that, for an occasional ice skater like me, the Nordics are a far more better choice. The comfort and handling of the Nordic Skates were a revelation. OK: on a closed track, on perfect ice and a short distance I am able to squeeze out a few kmh extra top-speed on the classic racing skates. But on everything longer than 400 meter, on natural ice I am faster with the Nordic Skates. And finally I skate with painfree feet and ankles! Totally convinced by this experience and with sweet memories of all the tours I made with my old skates, I swapped to the Nordic skates. I regretted afterwards I didn't make this decision years earlier...

In the blogpost of 2 years ago I made a parallel with kayaking and compared the skate-story with a similar experience in kayaking: I discovered that I paddled faster and more confident and comfortable in a modern touring-surfski than in my old competition-racing K1.

A quote from the draft of the blogpost 2 years ago:
The run with the K1-racer reminded me of my skating experiences earlier this year. Just like my old speed-skates the kayak is a twenty years old design made for competition racing. Made for speed, not for (any) comfort. Trained athletes don't bother and just go for maximum performance on the racetrack. Recreational/incidental sporters in suboptimal conditions put a lot of energy in stability and hardly manage in the beginning to perform a proper technique in this kind of specialized gear.

Comparing designs with different goals is not fair. The point to make is: look around, be open for new developments and don't mind crossing borders.

And now to the sea kayakers: that's a quit conservative community in the Netherlands. To some extend I appreciate that: it's good to see that some classic design still perform great, that you don't have to paddle with the latest stuff to have fun, happy not to follow every hype.
But what I regret to see to often:
  • beginners struggling in old second-hand Baidarka's and Nordkapps - great kayaks, but it's so much more fun to get into the sports with an easier handling and more forgiving kayak;
  • the (older) paddler squeezing himself in a small cockpit - the modern keyhole cockpit makes life much easier;
  • smaller persons with dated paddles: too long, too big (blades), too heavy - even in Dutch shops also paddles shorter than 215 cm are available and a solid paddle doesn't need to weight a kilo nowadays...
  • experienced paddlers with old bleached-out PFD's - it's not only that modern PFD's are far more ergonomic and offer more freedom in movement, but it's also a safety issue: ever wondered what 10 years exposure to UV and salt-water does to foam and nylon?
Btw: I still enjoy experimenting in the old K1 and I have good fun these days with the vintage XC-skis (though I do regret that the shoes of my Nordic skates don't match with the bindings on my skis... ;-)

Kayakclub homeless?

Hard times for the local kayakclub Wyrda: the town of Woerden has ordered the club to leave the boathouse before the end of the year (this year - 2010!). A quit dramatic development...

More details on the Dutch version of this blog or on the website of KV Wyrda.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

XC skiing along the kayak route

"Rondje Kamerik" is one of my favourite kayak routes around Woerden: 10 km with 2 portages, just right for a nice evening paddle or a quick workout in the K1 . Today Linda and I did this route on XC-skis. It was good fun. Btw: paddling is faster!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Polar Night of Groningen on Solstice

The shortest day of the year would looked like the perfect moment to visit the Polar Night-event in Groningen. Alex and I bought 2 daytickets of the NS (Dutch Rail) and headed to the most Northern capital of the Netherlands. Travelling long distances by train in winter can be some challenge with Dutch Railways. We did meet several delays and a blocked route, but we managed to arrive in Groningen (and did come back to Woerden!). The Photo-expositions of the Polar Night event were not really worth the effort - which isn't due to the pictures, but more to the presentation. So I would not rank them "*** vaut le voyage/worth a special journey" - but when you happen to be around in Groningen - nice to see. Besides this Groningen is of course always worth a visit! And in our case: "reizen is het doel, niet de bestemming" - it was a great journey, I enjoyed the day.
The shown Greenland kayak is part of the exhibition "faces of the Scoresby Sund" in the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmusueum. It's a plywood copy of a Greenlandic kayak - in bad condition.

The 5th. birthday of

Dec. 2005 - the first blog post: a report of an early morning winter-paddle with Alex and Guus on the Nieuwkoopse Plassen in a very calm state.

It's social media, and yet I almost missed this anniversary: Five years (and some days ago) I typed up the very first blog-post on To be exact it was the second start of Kajakwoerden: I started my seakayaking related blog in the MSN-Spaces-portal a few months earlier, but changed over to Blogger because I got irritated by the weird limitations of MSN. I wrote the first blog-posts in Dutch, and was surprised to notice that the blog from the very beginning attracted a serious number of foreign visitors. A few weeks later Mark Rainsy published a link to the Kajakwoerden-blog on the UK Sea Kayaking Forum and made a joke about the funny Dutch language. I reacted with a first post in English but didn't give the experiment more than a month. Soon more than 70 % of the visitors was non-Dutch. I never expected I would write more than a hundred English-posts a year! Actually I have to thank you - the reader - for making it to this long and intense experience! I would never have put this effort and time in the blog if it weren't for all the contacts with the people while doing this! It's social media - and a discovery for this clumsy Internet-user.

In five years a lot has changed. In the early years most visitors came to the blog by referring URLS on blogs of other seakayakers (some fellow bloggers of the first days: Axel, Bonnie, Derrick, Wenley, Michael) or International Kayaking Forums. Blogs related to sea kayaking were quite rare, now portals like Playak or list hundreds of them. Most visitors now find their way to the blogs by bookmark or by Google-search. Since early 2010 the number of visits is slowly decreasing. Blogging seems to be over its top. Is Facebook the new medium? The network is the same. I suppose that the 250 friends on Facebook cover a big part of the regular visitors of the blog. I admit that recently (especially since I've got a Smartphone) I am also more active on Facebook than on this blog. But it's no replacement - I like the Blogger journal - the first journal I kept more than a week...

Paddling also changed in five years - a flashback with pictures of the December posts on over the past five years (nice memories!):

Dec. 2006 - an epic winter trip with Bernhard, Freya, Guus, Nils and Tanja - rescues in breaking surf, a Hilleberg tent heavily damaged in the storm...

Dec. 2007 - everything green - is this winter? Paddling on the Grecht with Guus.

Dec. 2008 - Turbulent, grey and cold water: the North Sea in the Voordelta - testing the performance of some new seakayaks with René.

Dec. 2009 - Winter paddling with Govert in the Biesbosch - very cold, most creeks were frozen - it was difficult to get access to the water because the banks of the river were frozen.

Dec. 2010 - Stuck in the snow - skipped several sea kayaking activities because of the chaos on the roads...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Paddle to Seattle Film - online

Watch the full episode. See more Reel NW.

Paddle to Seattle is an entertaining film about two friends as they build their own kayaks and paddle together for 97 days through the wilderness on a journey from Alaska to Seattle. It's available on DVD (or buy it in Europe from Justine), but now for a limited time also streaming live until January, 25th. 2011 on PBS. Enjoy it, have a good time with Josh Thomas and J.J. Kelley!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Don't let snow and ice stop play!

ANP-news December, 6th: This weekend it was colder in the Netherlands than in Canada and West-Greenland. Quit unusual.

These days ice makes paddling impossible on the channels and lakes around Woerden. And I noticed that the cold weather keeps more (otherwise winter-proof-) paddlers inside. Ice-skating is no alternative, the ice conditions are poor due tot the wind and the snow. Followers of my Facebook-pages will have noticed that I take up biking again. Not on the road (too slippery, too much salt for the road racing bicycle), but off-road with the mountain-bike. Often I bike with another canoe-enthusiast, it's good fun playing in the snow.
On the link-list I've added a category for the bike-blogs I like. The first blogs in the lists are the blog of Rose - a passionate Dutch road cyclist who now also is discovering the fun of cycling off-road and the blog of Jill, a real adventure cyclist - living in the Western part of Montana. Compared to the conditions in Montana our winter is peanuts and winter-biking here is child's play compared the trips Jill makes in the fantastic scenery of the Mountains in Montana! (note: Wanderlust!).