Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays....

....and season's greetings to the paddle community at large. I have a had a wonderful few years writing this blog, and I am thankful for all the readers - and commenters - that I have. I have many things planned for 2013, leading to another big trip in 2014. I also have another book in the works, so stick around, there should be good times to come.

I hope you have had as wonderful a year as I have, and I hope the next one is even better! See you on the water.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From the craftsman series.

I am a transplanted New Yorker. I moved to the american south for my wife's job. People ask me if I miss living in New York, and I tell them the only thing I miss is the food. I mean no disrespect to other parts of the country, but if you want really good bread you have to get it in lower Manhattan. Bagels, pizza, corned beef, all things I seek out when I go to New york.

The south offers its own food specialties, Biscuits, fried chicken, sweet tea, Bar-b-cue (Ironically, years before moving here I came here to eat BBQ with a couple of friends - one of whom is a chef - we did a circle of North and South Carolina for BBQ, amazing) are among the things that the south does well.

Something that I thought I knew, but didn't know, until I came to North Carolina are doughnuts. In New York we had Dunkin Donuts. Which in retrospect isn't really a donut. I have come to learn that a real, good southern doughnut can be amazing.

Here is yet another beautifully crafted doughnut - not made in the south - and a beautifully crafted short film.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Got HERO Trouble?

The two posts I have done this month about my new HERO 3 Black have generated a lot of hits, and a number of them are coming from search terms indicating that the searcher is having a problem. On there is a GoPro 'subreddit' that has a HERO 3 issue FAQ that is very helpful.

Here is a direct link.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hero 3 Black - The app!

The Hero 3 has built in wifi, since I skipped the hero two I didn't have the ability to use an app with it, today I was very excited to get the update for the firmware for my Hero 3 and download the app onto my iPad.

To install the firmware update is simple. Go to GoPro's website and follow the instructions with easy info graphic. It is really very simple with step by step instructions.

On the next screen you register your camera, and then on the following screen you name and password protect your camera. This is optional. I suppose the concern is someone can take control of your camera, the only reason I did it was that I wanted to see the entire process. You download the firm ware, which gets installed on the camera, and then disconnect the camera and shut it down, power it up and then it installs. This takes a few minutes. While it was installing - the camera turns itself on and off a bunch of times - I was installing the free app on my iPad.

My one complaint with the camera is that my aging eyes occasionally have trouble reading the small screen - I do need new glasses as well as having old eyes, but I digress - The app completely solves this. Once you activate the app, turn on wifi on the camera and select 'Go Pro App' instead of remote control your device - for me iPhone or iPad syncs to the wifi the way it would any other wifi network. Not only do I get a full preview - with a slight delay - video and audio, but I also get full camera control . I no longer have to struggle with reading the small print on the screen.

Let me just put this in simple terms, I can mount my camera out of reach on the bow of my kayak and not only operate it, but change the camera settings. Again I will let you know how this plays out in real usage, but this is very exciting.

Here is my one concern - and it is minor - in order to connect to the camera from my iPad I have to go into settings and attach it like a wifi network. When I have two cameras running I would like to be able to do it within the app itself. I plan on picking up a Hero 3 Silver shortly and we will see how they play together.

Chasing Ice - A follow up

The filmmaker behind chasing ice - Jeff Orlowski - has written a short piece at the Daily Beast about the impacts of Sandy and what their goal was. It makes for a short, interesting read in the vain of 'what can you do?'

I would also encourage you to spread word of this film in any way you can, not because I think the film needs help to be seen, but because I think the message needs to be spread as far and wide as possible.

Here is why:

This is a photo of a paddler who set me on the path towards where I am now and also instilled in me my love of Alaska. I want as many people as possible to be able to have experiences like this, and see sites like this. I also don't want peoples lives to be submerged by rising oceans. You can chose which of those two things you think are more important. Here is that link again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Balance - the video

Balance is what I strive for. I don't mean balance in my boat, though I work on that too, I am talking about work life balance. A decade and half ago I left a job that was interesting, fun, I worked with intelligent, creative people, and had the potential for me to make a lot of money.

In 2000, several years after a divorce, I took a NOLS course and realized what was missing from my life. It wasn't enough for me to make a lot of money, or work with cool people. I wanted to be having my kind of fun, and to be doing that I wanted to be working outside. I found my path, and while I am still not outside enough, I am working in the outdoor industry and loving it. I will never make a million dollars but I will be much happier.

With that in mind is yet another series of short films, about a whitewater kayaker, a mountain biker, and a snowboarder, all seeking balance.

Here is episode 1

Balance Ep.1- At Ease from Lee Visual on Vimeo.

Two notes, at the end of the "stocking stuffer' post I said it might be my last post for the year. How wrong was I?! At the beginning of this post I mention and linked to the 'balance' lesson. There is a much updated version of that lesson - along with new video and new techniques - in my book. Enlightened Kayaking, which is on sale the month of December for $5.99.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Urban Outlaw

In my continuing series of 'craftsman' short films, this one is about a guy obsessed with Porsches. From 1964 to 1973, he collects and restores, adding his own touches. Shot beautifully this one is a little longer than some of the other ones I have posted, but enjoyable just the same.

What I find most interesting is he says a lot of the things I say. He talks about feel, how it clears his mind, and he focuses on nothing but the driving. He meditates and he doesn't know it. Enjoy.

URBAN OUTLAW - THE MOVIE from Tamir Moscovici on Vimeo.

Is there a source for well crafted short documentaries? If there isn't there should be.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Buddhism, simply put, in western terms.

When people find out I am Buddhist they are generally surprised. They then wait a week or two and come back to me with questions, which I am happy to answer. I live in the American south, and a lot of the population is Christian - of some form or another - and they are generally amazed that I don't believe in a deity. Many think that Buddha is considered a god.

Recently I found a description of the basics of Buddhism on Reddit. It was so wonderful and in such simple western terms, I had to steal it. So thanks to Redditor Phillydrew, here is a simple, westernized view of Buddhism, for those of you interested. Pardon the harsh language. 

There was this guy named Buddha. He realized that people can be really selfish and sometimes really stupid. They get upset because their lives are really sucky and all they did was blame other people for their problems. He felt bad and tried to figure it out. Aside from the inevitables like, birth, growth, illness, and death, he figured out there was a way to not be so affected by the situations that life presented. He presented four absolute (noble) truths and 8 ways to realize them.
4 noble truths:
  1. life can suck.
  2. it sucks because we get attached to the stuff that we imagine makes our selves "unique" and "special."
  3. There is a way to not be affected by the suckness.
  4. If we open our eyes and follow eight simple methods, we can be freed from letting the suckness affect us.
8 fold path:
  1. No one is absolute nor omnipotent. We're all pretty ignorant.
  2. If you don't learn to stop and say, "hey, i don't know" you're not going to change yourself in a way that's going to free you from the suckness.
  3. Don't open your mouth without considering wtf it's going to sound like to the person on the receiving end.
  4. You're not the center of the universe. Your actions not only affect everything around you, they can affect everything around the people around you. Don't do stupid shit that's going to hurt other people or yourself.
  5. Don't take action that's going to make life suck for other people at your benefit.
  6. If something pisses you off, figure out if you need to fix yourself first. Otherwise,
  7. Know the consequences of your actions, you dumb fuck. Moreover, everyone has their own reality and their own right to their own level of dumbfuckery. When you make a mistake (you will), don't be proud, admit it, and be open to remedy yourself and the situation. And when in a group take care to not act unless it benefits the group in someway.
  8. If you don't pay attention to the task at hand you're going to have a bad time. (Stop texting and pay attention to the wheel, you dumb fuck)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December only - Enlightened Kayaking for $5.99

For the remainder of December I am offering Enlightened Kayaking for the reduced price of $5.99 - a 35% savings. Unfortunately you can't give an iBook as a gift - how about working on that Apple! - but you can give an iTunes gift card and use that to redeem an iBook. Nothing says Christmas like refining your forward stroke.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition - First impression

I have been using the GoPro Hero for a long time. I used a company owned Hero - the last version before the first HD. I liked it. It ran on a AA battery (or was it AAA) and did a pretty good job. When I heard there was going to be an HD version I jumped on it. I literally bought the first one I could get my hands on.

Here is a little quick history. I used to work in the film industry in NY - before realizing that my life goals weren't the same as everyone else's! When I worked in film I had an opportunity to work with a company called REBO studio. They were one of the first companies in NY to work with HD. This was  late 80's early 90's. Back then an HD camera was the size of a full size studio camera, and it was attached to a truck. Every time you moved the camera you had to 're-register' it, which took around 30 minutes. When looking at the monitors in the truck I couldn't believe how sharp the video was. I had never seen HD before as it didn't really exist yet in the United States.

When I got my hands on the first HD hero I couldn't believe 20 years had shrunk the camera down to 3 ounces, and could be worn on a helmet. It still amazes me. I got a lot of use out of my Hero HD. I shot every video on this website, the videos for my book, and all of Paddle North. If my father was alive he would say, that camera doesn't owe you a dime, and he would be right.

I skipped the HD 2, but as soon as I saw the Hero 3, I knew it was the way to go. I also went for the black edition, as it came with the remote. This meant I could mount the camera to my bow, and control it with the remote from my wrist. It finally arrived today. After charging both the camera and the remote, I added a card. The 3 uses micro SD cards which means that a lot of my accessories from my HD1 wont work on the 3. That is a bit of a bummer, but I understand it. The first most striking thing is that this camera is actually about half the size of the HD Hero and the HD hero 2. And when you go to install the battery, you realize that half of the 'camera' is actually battery. (The batteries from my Hero 1 don't work on it either, and I have 8 of them!) The camera doesn't come with all the accessories that the HD1 and 2 came with. No vented helmet strap. No head strap. You get the Camera and remote. usb charging cables for both, and the remote cable is special. 1 curved and 1 flat baseplate (down from two each in previous models) 1 rubber thingy. 2 elbow joints, one quick release plate, and one front of helmet mount. You also get one vented back door - to be used when you need better audio, though when using it you of course lose waterproofness. With my previous camera, I didn't like putting the wear and tear on the housing, so I bought a skeleton case for it so I didn't have to change back doors. I will probably do the same thing this time. The housing - and camera underneath it - have an additional button compared to previous GoPro cameras. It is located on the side of the housing on the right side. More on this later.

The large flat baseplate that is used to hold the camera in the box is one of my favorite accessories, I use it under the bungies on my kayak. That is now glued into the box. Good thing I have three from previous cameras. So while you are getting fewer accessories in the box, you are still getting a fairly complete kit.

The first big hurdle is pairing the remote to the camera. I read the directions, and they didn't work. I found a video online, and that didn't help. I finally went to trouble shooting on the site, and got the two to pair. I am not exactly sure what I did differently reading through the directions, but as long as they paired I am not to worried.

The remote can do everything the cameras buttons do. There is a display on the remote, that shows what the display on the camera is showing. You can even turn it on, but in order to do that, you need to have the wifi on. That is where the new button the side comes in. This turns on the wifi and makes a little blue light flash. I will need to figure out how long it can be in wifi mode.

I also need to see how long the battery on the camera lasts compared to older GoPro cameras. So that is my first look, stay tuned for video.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stocking Stuffers for the Paddler in your life 2012

The follow up to Christmas gifts for the paddler in your life, what to put in the christmas stocking to make a paddler happy. These are in no particular order, and are all under $25.00.

#1 Frakta from Ikea $.59 That's right! 59 cents! This large mouthed bag is perfect for paddling gear. The material is water proof, and impact resistant. and did I mention it is 59 CENTS!

#2 Floaty back door $15.00 shooting with a GoPro in the water? Time for the floaty back door. Bright orange so it is visible floating on the surface when the crazy mount you tried doesn't work quite as expected.

#3 GSI Titanium Kung Foon $16.95 Because I like chop sticks and titanium sporks. This is both. How cool will you look eating your ramen noodles with wooden chopsticks on the coast of British Columbia!

#4 REI Hiker First aid kit $22.50 As I realized last spring, even on simple outings you can cut the tips of your fingers. Always keep a small first aid kit in your cockpit. This one is nice and small. If only they made a paddler specific version in a tiny dry bag.

#5 REI Doppio $10.50 Another REI product that I really like. A tiny vacuum coffee cup with a sip lid. Designed for espresso, that isn't what I use it for....ahem. it's perfect for whiskey.

#6 REI personal pack towel $9.95 and up. This list ins't subsidized by REI, I promise. These awesome towels come in a myriad of sizes from tiny to huge, and are super absorbent. I have one connected to each of my paddling duffels and one in my cook kit.

#7 Enlightened Kayaking $8.99 I may be prejudiced by I think this is a great book. Designed for the iPad it covers everything from getting into a kayak, to rolling. each lesson accompanied by an HD video. Since putting up this post, I decided to offer Enlightened Kayaking for $5.99 - a 35% savings. This is going to run for the remainder of December 2012. 

#8 Multi-tide app $FREE  A simple tides app for your iPhone. Easy to use, and in the palm of your hand. Much simpler than finding a tide chart for where you happen to be going.

#9 Tibetan Prayer Flags $5.00 and up Whether you are a Buddhist or not, prayer flags look beautiful hanging in your yard. I have multiple sets above my kayaks.

#10 Insight Timer $1.99 If you read this blog you know that I am a huge fan of meditation. Much like Green tea, the list of things meditation cures is almost endless. I have been using this timer for a couple of years and absolutely love it.

Here is last years version of this list. 

This may be my last post for the year, it depends on how often I get out to paddle. If it is, please have a wonderful holiday, paddle straight through December and into the new year. Be safe and Healthy.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I am really enjoying the REI 1440 project. A day is made up of 1440 minutes, and at this website you can add a photo of yourself doing something in the outdoors. It is a simple idea with a great user interface.

As times full up - there may be four or five photos for each minute - you can vote to move a photo to the top.

I am curious if in the future they will also add dates, as at the moment it is one 1440 minute block with all days ganged together into 1 group. Head on over and add a photo.

I would love a video version of this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chasing Ice

As a paddler that likes cold, wet places, I have been inundated by global climate change, and I have posted about it here a few times. I apologize if this isn't why you come to a paddling blog but it is impacting me, personally, enough that it feels important enough to talk about. A lot of the trips I plan, and in fact the trip I am planning now, are timed to coincide with the times the shore is 'ice free', and so I become more and more aware of those times, and their lengthening periods. It also affects wildlife, and how I have to plan around them. The details of which I can't go into yet.

I feel strongly that this has become simple science, and yet people deny it. In part because a large population of the US vilifies science. People like Bill O'Reilly who claims there is no way to explain the tides. For the record Bill, I can teach you about tides if you have an open mind, and can accept the fact that Earth is not flat, and gravity exists.

I was touched to see on Reddit this morning a woman whose world view was changed by seeing a movie. She was a climate denier, and now believe in the science - I wonder what made her go see the movie in the first place - This needs to be a larger part of the our countries discussions. For that people need to have an open mind.

Here is that video.

And here is the trailer for Chasing Ice.

Please spread this trailer around. The film is currently in limited release.

While a lot of the information about global climate change is saying that we are already past the point of no return, I am hopeful in one sense. As we see people like the woman above wake up, and realize what is happening, we will at some point reach a tipping point. When that happens you will see great changes occur. When we work together there is nothing we can't accomplish, and that will be a sight to see.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The 2nd Annual Kayaking Christmas

Well, it's the day after Thanksgiving, and I hope you had a great day. Last year - much to my surprise - one of my more popular posts was a list of gifts for the kayaker in your life. Since people liked it so much, I decided to update the list for this year. So from least expensive to most expensive, here ya go. Your kayaking christmas list for 2012:

Seal Line Map Case $26.95 I have used every map case imaginable, and they all stink. Either you can't open and close them, or they aren't waterproof.... or you can't read through the material. Seal line finally gets it right. Easy to use velcro/folded closure, completely waterproof, and soft pliable material.

Black Diamond Cosmo $29.95 You have to have light, and this newly updated head lamp has a very bright 70 lumen punch for a very reasonably $29 bucks!

Timbuk 2 tool shed $35.00 Yup! it's made for cyclists. Deal with it. It is the single best kitchen tool kit in the world. Easy to clean, holds a lot, and packs flat in your kayak. Bar none, the best!

Kokatat Seeker $62.00 Last year the shoe I listed was the NRS desperado sock. It has since been discontinued. While I am still wearing a pair, when they die - which by the smell is not far off - I will switch to this nice looking shoe by kokatat

Liquid Logic Speedloader $78.00 The beauty of this speedloader is in the name. easy and fast to reload after use. The front of the bag opens wide, almost flat. This will be my next throw bag. 

MSR Whisperlite Universal $139.95 Why choose between liquid fuel and canister fuel? They both have their advantages and disadvantages, so get both with one stove. Plus Kerosene and unleaded. This does it all.

GoPro Hero 3 Black edition $399.99 Don't mess around with the silver or the white. You are just going to end up upgrading. With the addition of a remote control you can mount your camera on your bow and turn it on when you need it.

Garmin Fenix $400 Navigation is key, and with this watch it is never further away than your wrist. It has all the functions of an ABC watch (I swear by the barometer on my suunto vector), plus the added benefit of GPS. Not much bigger than the watch I wear now, it offers a lot more usability with a basic moving map. You can even set the units to Nautical. (and if you think this is a lot of money, the Suunto ambit has the same feature set for $100 more!)

The North Face VE-25 $619 Expeditioning this summer? This is THE expedition tent. roomy and bombproof. I have spent a bunch of nights in this tent and she is a winner!

Necky Looksha Carbon $4400 I love my Delta but I have a craving to paddle carbon. There are very few options out there, and since the Looksha was my second choice, might as well try it in the carbon version.

A couple of additional items that came close to making the list - This is the Roll - the best rolling DVD ever made. It helped me this summer nail my greenland roll. $29.99. Level Six's hydrophobic shirt, it is going to change paddle clothing and I can't wait to get my hands on one, BUT they aren't available yet, and I don't have a price. Finally, I love this lantern from snow peak, but it is $89.00, which is a lot for a compact lantern. The cool thing about it is that when there is sound (think wind) or it moves (again, think wind) it flickers like a candle. A friend of mine has one of them, and I made fun of him for spending so much on a lantern, but now I want one... It is very materialistic of me, I know.

So that is my list this year. Last years list is here, and in a week I will have this years version of the 'stocking stuffer list', and on that list everything is under $25.00

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The four season tent dilemma

I frequently talk to people that tell me - adamantly - that they need a four season tent. I generally ask them a few questions to determine why they need a four season, as opposed to a three season tent, and the answers are rarely the correct answers.

"I need a four season tent because it is going to be really cold where I am going, and four season tents are warmer." while this is true, sort of, it isn't the reason to buy a four season tent, and there are actually a number of reasons not to buy a four season tent.

The first and most important reason not to buy a four season tent is weight. My three person tent weighs right around 10 pounds. Your average three season, three person tent weighs around 5 pounds - a quick search showed me a 3 person tent that weighed 3 pounds 15 ounces! - so more than double the weight.

The second reason is ventilation. Three season tents are loaded with mesh - which is one of the reasons they are so light - but the real reason for that mesh is airflow. You keep airflow moving through the tent even with a rain fly on, and that means you sleep dry. Four season tents have done away with all that mesh - because they are really designed for mountaineering, and all that ventilation isn't as big of an issue.

Four season tents are a bit warmer than three season tents. But it is a by-product of the lack of ventilation. Think of your four season tent as a rain shell jacket. It's job isn't to keep you warm it's to protect you from the elements - wind, rain, snow. If you want to be warm under your rain shell you add a fleece jacket or other insulating layer. If you want to sleep warmer in your tent you don't add a warmer tent, you add a warmer sleeping bag (the insulation layer!)

So why does anyone buy a fore season tent? Why do I own a four season tent? Most of my gear was purchased planning the inside passage trip - and other trips -ahem- that may be in planning now. I like paddling in places with extreme weather. Places where it can be beautiful when you go to sleep, and at three in the morning you are awakened by freight train winds. That is where a four season tent is worth its hefty weight in gold. This is why you buy a four season tent.

By definition, a four season tent is a one that can withstand winds in excess of 70 miles per hour. (a well made three season tent can do this too) and remain structurally sound under a heavy snow load. Try and visualize this, you go to sleep at 12,000 feet, and tomorrow morning is your summit push. Before you go to sleep you step outside, and marvel at how clear the night sky is, you can see more stars than you have ever seen before. Tomorrow should be a great day. After you get in your bag and drift off to sleep though, the weather changes. A storm front rolls through bringing, heavy wet snow with it. You awake to a foot of new wet snow and perfect avalanche conditions. Time to retreat down the mountain. If you had been sleeping in a three season tent the poles wouldn't have supported the heavy snow, and you would have woken - if you were lucky - to the sound of the poles snapping and nylon pressed heavily against your face. Good luck trying to find the zipper to your bag, and tent.

For most people a good three season tent will suffice, unless like me, you like to paddle in places like Alaska, or Patagonia. My four season tent is my only tent, and in the summer in the south it isn't ventilated enough. But on a beach in high winds it doesn't move, and that is why I like it. I don't mind the weight because it is going into my kayak and I am not carrying it in a back pack.

A final word about three season tents, when you buy a tent its rain fly should cover almost all of the tent. It should come all the way down towards the ground, stopping just 6 inches or so from the ground. Half rain flys and rain flys that just cover the very top of your tent are useless. You shouldn't have to pitch a tarp over your tent to keep you dry.

good camp from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In august, I posted one of my rare editorials

I talked about the overwhelming evidence that global climate change is real, and my confusion when so many people choose to ignore it, or say it isn't man made, or say 'so what?'

I recently discovered that there are 928 peer reviewed journal publications by climatologists that draw undeniable links between global climate change and mans activities. There are exactly zero that refute the connection.

Then Sandy happened, and the questions started. Is this because of global warming? The answer is actually no. Though the fact that the northeast US got two 100 year storms in two years does seem a little puzzling, global climate change did not cause this. But what it did was make it worse. The oceans and the air are warmer than they have been before, warm air and water are what make hurricanes. I really like these two analogies for what global climate change did to Sandy.

It didn't cause it, but it was like the steroids that made it possible for someone to achieve seven Tour De France victories, or hit a record number of home runs in one season.

But cut through all the science, and I think Bloomberg says it best:

CNN had a great article as well. please check it out.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Forgive my absence..

I have been very busy. I have spent most of the past month teaching, in one form or another.

I am thrilled to be an instructor for - in my opinion, the best wilderness medicine school in the world - The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute. (the name was just changed and I hope I got it right. I teach two day wilderness first aid courses. This month I taught two of them a week apart. I became a lead instructor for the school in March, and so each course still offers a number of challenges.

The first course I taught, I was thrilled to be teaching with Eli Helbert - The Canoe Guru - that is right, A paddling otaku and a canoe guru working on the same course. Eli is a two time world champion freestyle canoeist, a hell of a good guy. We had a lot of fun teaching, I don't care what he is teaching, he is good at it!

Here is Eli in thick of it.

The guy has a heck of a beard too!

This month I also had a number of private lessons (Eli charges more than me, but he is a two time world champion!), a couple with recurring students and one with a pair of new students, I hope to see them again soon as they were a lot of fun. I finished teaching last Sunday in Atlanta and headed immediately home, because the following afternoon I had to head to Montreal.

That is right, as Sandy was bombarding the east coast, I flew to the great white north. I think I had the only flights that didn't get cancelled. I took off in 30 knot winds, and landed in winds gusting to 45 knots. For reference I heard them close the Cleveland airport because the wind was in the high 20's. So while I am not sure why my flights kept going, I am glad they did.

I will say the flights were pretty boring, but the landings and takeoffs were a bit scary. However, if you are a pilot, and you flew in the weather last weekend, thanks. You did a great job.

I hope to squeeze into a kayak this week at some point, and that means that it is time for the dry suit. Keep paddling people!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Now available in Canada....

Enlightened Kayaking is now available in Canada.... And Brazil, and The UK, and Argentina, and well, everyplace there is an iTunes store.

Follow the link on the right.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I have an affinity for finely crafted things. I don't have many possessions, but a lot of the things that I own are beautifully crafted. That isn't to say ornate, I like simple, functional design. For the past thirty years - maybe more - we have been pushed into mass produced, inexpensively made, poorly designed products. But I am starting to see this trend reversed.

I also very much like finely crafted films - this goes back to a life in the 90's when I worked in film and photography in New York. I left photography because I didn't like the effect that the digital revolution had on it. Digital took a lot of the craft out taking a still photograph. You had to know whether you had the image on film, you had to trust your gut. When I did my first kayaking trip in Alaska in 2000 I brought 100 rolls of slide film with me. I didn't see that film processed until weeks after returning home. Today I can take a picture and see on the spot if I got the shot. If I didn't I can keep taking photos until I do. As much as I hate the effect that digital had on photography I love the effect that digital had on film. Twenty years ago you needed a studio backing you and a crew of 100 to make a film. Now you need a handful of people and a camera and a computer. It is truly an amazing time, I can go kayaking with an HD camera mounted on my boat or myself, go home and edit the footage, then upload it to vimeo and show it to the world. In 1986 I worked at a studio called Rebo on west 17th street (I think it was 17th) and got to see one of the first HD cameras in the United States. It was massive, as big as a kitchen table, and had to be hooked up to a truck to work. That is the kind of change I am in favor of.

So it is wonderful now that I can see crafted short films about crafted projects. Perhaps you need a knife? I like that he makes reference to the ten thousand hours.

Made by Hand / No 2 The Knife Maker from Made by Hand on Vimeo.

There are recurring themes today about people whose careers didn't work out. They then chose to do something they loved. Like making a knife, or a bicycle. This resonates with me, as I changed careers myself. I would love to say that I make a living from PaddlingOtaku - maybe someday - but the important thing is I am happy. I am not going to a job that I despise. I do have the benefit of a wife who would rather I be happy than working a job I hate, which is something I am thankful for everyday.

There are also companies that choose to make something in an old fashioned way, because that is the way they have always done it. Their are easier ways to do things today, but some choose the more difficult path. I was once given a hard time at the end of a NOLS course by a senior instructor. He made a disparaging remark about me drinking a 'cheap' whiskey. I don't think he meant it to be hurtful, but because I respected him it cut pretty deeply. I respect a company that makes its own barrels, and will continue to drink their fine whiskey, as I have for close to thirty years.

The Birth of a Barrel from Travis Robertson on Vimeo.

I would very much like to see Werner Paddles make a short film - I would gladly do it for them - about the making of their paddles. I find them beautifully crafted, and they have an elegant feel that I have never felt in any other paddle. I have said before that I would like to have a custom made fiberglass boat, but I have neither the finances or the skills to do it myself. I am not sure where my craftsman like skill is - probably as a teacher which is what I think I am best at, but I feel that isn't quite the same.

There is something about pounding steel on an anvil. Its simplicity, its power. Taking a block of steel and heating it and turning it into something useful is a truly wonderful enterprise. Though as useful as an axe is, I would rather a sword.

The Birth Of A Tool. Part I. Axe Making (by John Neeman) from John Neeman Tools on Vimeo.

This one I have posted before but it is so wonderful I have to post it again. We are seeing an explosion in the cycling industry, as gas prices rise, and we get ever fatter from lack of exercise food seemingly designed to kill us. There is something about getting on a simple bicycle and going for a ride. I think the only thing more simple than going for a ride, is going for a paddle.

The Inverted Bike Shop from Show Love on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Notes on packing

As I concluded a nice three day trip to Cape lookout in eastern North Carolina I had some time to reflect on the prep for the trip. Prep for a trip like this for me is pretty simple. My gear is almost always the same and that makes it easy for me to slide gear into bags and then into my boat. But what I realized was that isn't the case if you haven't done this a couple of hundred times. I fielded many text messages, emails and event he occasional phone call before the trip as people were curious what to pack, and how to pack it. I've gone over my gear list before so I thought it would be a good time to talk about 'how' I pack, some of it may surprise you.

The first surprise is that I use fewer drybags than you would think. I have a 35 liter taper bag that gets all my clothes. the system I used to use for clothes was two 20 liter drybags. One full, the other half full. They would both start out as bags of clean dry clothes, and then over time one would become 'clothes that were wet', and the other 'clothes that are dry'. On long trips I put a white garbage bags in my taper bag for 'wet clothes' to help segregate them from the dry clothes.

I have a ten liter drybag with all my personal goodies. A book, a headlamp, toiletries, batteries, iPod, things like that.

A five liter drybag that is my deck bag. Compass, powerfood, chemical light stick, sunglasses, sunscreen. Any little odd or end that I may need while paddling.

My sleeping bag is in a waterproof compression stuff sack to get it as small as possible. My first aid kit is in a dry bag.  Five drybags, that is it. The following items are in their regular stuff sacks:

Tent (poles separate)
stove (inside my pot set)
Sleeping pad
Table - yes I pack a little table

If it is raining these items are going to get wet or be wet anyway. If they get wet in the boat and it isn't raining they will dry quickly in the sun. If you stuff the tent well, the waterproof floor will encapsulate the tent body and it stays dry on the inside. I am toying with putting the tarp and my tents fly in compression stuff sacks to make them smaller, but they will then also be hard (because they are compressed) which will make them harder to fill in spaces with)

The only thing that is left is food. For close to two decades I have been using a small gym duffel with a waterproof liner inside. I don't use the ziploc closure I just twist the top closed. I like the large opening for finding things inside it. Those liners are getting hard to find. I think I am going to switch to a dry duffel bag from NRS. I know many people that don't use drybags at all, just contractor grade trash bags inside stuff sacks. It works surprisingly well.

I should point out that the great Gordon Brown says to use lots of little bags instead of big bags. His reasoning is that you pack less air and more gear. He is right, but I am not organized enough to have many little bags. I prefer the big bag method, but by all means do what you think works best for you. All this gear fits in my two over sized mesh duffel bags. One for the bow, one for the stern. They are the last things into the boat, and the first thing out of the boat.

Here is all my gear waiting to get loaded into the car.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The new shape of down.

A big part of the life of a kayaker is that I spend a large part of my time in a wet environment. That may seem obvious but what isn't obvious is that it effects some of my gear choices. Add to the equation that I like to paddle in cold wet environments like Alaska - two days ago someone I was paddling with said "you don't have any desire to go the caribbean, paddle beach to beach and lay on a white sand beach?" my response was something like "never gonna happen."

One of those gear choices that was influenced by the cold and the wet was insulation. I use a wonderful primaloft jacket that is super light, incredibly warm and compressible. Before that I used fleece. A down jacket has never graced one of my dry bags. I use a synthetic sleeping bag in a waterproof compression stuff sack. I once had a dry bag leak and when I unpacked my bag the bottom half was soaked. I had to wring it out. I went to sleep that night in a clammy bag, and when I woke up in the morning it was dry. Try that with a down bag and you are flirting with hypothermia. Down doesn't insulate when wet, and is almost impossible to dry in the backcountry.

That's not to say that you can't use down if you're a paddler. When I did my NOLS instructor course Sarah - of Paddle North Fame - used a down bag. She was just incredibly careful with it. I am not that brave, or at least I haven't been in the past.

This week I had a conversation with a rep from Mountain Hardwear. He talked to me about Q shield, which is the MH version of Sierra Designs Dridown. I think though - and someone may correct my on this, I think calling it "Sierra designs" isn't fair because I would bet the process was invented by some scientist in a lab who will get exactly zero credit for something that could change the outdoor industry. It is also the same process as Liquipel.

I am going to destroy the science here - because I am not a scientist! - but it is something like this. A nano-coating is applied to the down that is completely hydrophobic. So, in theory, the feathers can't get wet.

The rep from MH handed me two water bottles. One half filled with water and untreated feathers. Frankly it looked like roadkill. The other bottle was filled half way with water and feathers treated with Q shield. As I shook the Q shield bottle the feathers would submerge and then pop to the top of the bottle when I stopped. There are a few feather floaties in the bottom of the bottle. This is an amazing display, but I want to see what this looks like in real life. I would love a beautiful lofty down bag that I have no concerns about getting wet. Or at least no more concerns than getting a synthetic bag wet. Sierra designs says that Dridown dries seven times faster than regular down - but seeing how regular down doesn't dry, I don't know what that means.

MH Q shield from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Sorry for the quality of the video, it was shot on my iPhone.

I suspect we are going to see nano coatings on everything in the future. In theory, could a drysuit by a thin film that slides over your body like that worn by a swimmer? The rep from MH said that the process wasn't suitable to jackets but worked very well for insulation. But still, in five years what will this technology look like? Will a nano coated hydrophobic kayak slide through the water faster?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Assisted Rescues

I don't normally teach assisted rescues. I didn't do a lesson for it on the blog, and they aren't included in the book. I formerly taught for the National Outdoor Leadership School and they were a big part of the curriculum. They are wonderful in big groups, when the group doesn't have a lot of experience.

Two weeks ago I spent some time with a superstar student. She is interested in going on the next expedition, and she made this decision with no real paddling experience. Essentially she responded to a challenge. In response to seeing one of the Paddle North Videos, she said 'I would love to do something like that." I said you can, we are planning another trip. What keeps you from going? She started to come up with reasons and realized they were all pretty weak excuses. She then dove in whole heartedly. She bought a kayak, and has been working pretty hard to get where she needs to be - skill wise - to do a trip like the inside passage trip. So we spent a day working on assisted rescues, balance drills and we also did paddle floats, and scrambles. To her credit she is the first person I have ever seen successfully complete a scramble on their first attempt, and her kayak - the perception essence - has fairly low primary stability.

I like the assisted rescues because in a big group they are faster than the paddle float, it also gives other team members something to do. The key is body contact. One person - the assister - is holding the swimmers kayak. The more contact between the assisters body and the kayak the more stable it will be. She does a pretty nice assisted rescue, mine isn't bad either.

I think the important thing is to make a day like this fun. We certainly had a lot of fun messing around with boats, and rescues.

Assisted Rescue Fun from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Touring or Sea?

Recently after paddling I found myself running some errands. As it turned out my kayak was still on the roof of the trusty Yaris. It gets some funny looks as I drive around town. A big kayak on a little car. On this particular day as I was loading groceries into my car a woman came up to me and asked me if my kayak was a touring kayak or a sea kayak.

People get very much into distinctions in the names of kayaks, and I find people get equally confused by brand names - it's an ocean kayak, so you can use it in the ocean, right? I told the woman that there was really no difference between a touring kayak and a sea kayak, but it got me thinking. Was I right? is there a difference? So I looked around.

At Delta Kayaks website, under the products tab is a drop down menu that lists "sea kayaks" followed by sit on tops, and recreational kayaks. They have every sit in style of kayak listed as a sea kayak with the exception of a ten foot kayak. So according to Delta, 12 feet and up is a sea kayak, and the word touring is never used.

P&H breaks boats down by "expedition" "play" and "versatile" and there is a great deal of overlap in sizes.

Wilderness systems avoids the words sea kayak, but uses 'recreational', 'touring' and 'touring performance' with the differentiators being length. They also add 'expedition' which is boats 16 feet in length or greater - regardless of sit in, sit on, or materials.

I decided to try one more manufacturer, Valley kayaks doesn't use any of the above, preferring to break down by materials, with off shoots for 'greenland' and 'sports and fitness'.

I intentionally chose manufacturers from Canada, the US, and England to see if the difference was national.

The only place I could really find the touring kayak/sea kayak separation was on REI's website. They break it down by length. Sixteen feet and up is a sea kayak. I don't know if I agree with this. But at the end of the day I don't think it matters. I am just happy to go for a paddle.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The answer is in the bag

There is a piece of gear that very few people think of, and it really makes all the difference in the world, for both day trips, and on multi day trips - and it is really so simple.

It is an oversized mesh duffel bag, I use one similar (but bigger!) to this. Unfortunately REI no longer makes the exact one I use.

It makes going on day trips super easy, I grab my bag, and paddle (which is in its own bag), load the boat on the car and I am good to go. I know that everything I need is in the bag. PFD, spray skirt, bilge pump, paddle float, paddling shoes, my little deck bag with sun screen, a water additive, some power food like clif mojo bars, a throw bag, a water bladder, rain shell and rain hat. Not all of this will go on all my day trips, but if I want it, it's there. I can then put the bag back in my car, or in one of my storage compartments. In the winter I add my dry suit along with other paddle clothing options - dry suit isn't always the right option - Pogies, wool hat.

On one end of a bag I have a medium size quick dry pack towel, and on the other side a carabiner to hold my shoes so they can dry. Because the bags are mesh my wet gear is much more likely to dry out.

With all that gear, I don't have to make multiple trips to and from the car to the boat, and I know that everything I need is there. As convenient as this is, it is an actual life saver on multiday trips and expeditions, where I use two of them. All of the gear I carry - From tents to cook sets, to food to radios - fits inside two of these extra large duffels. One for the bow hatch, and one for the stern. When I load the boat in the morning one bag is situated at each hatch and it makes the packing process much faster. The last thing into the hatch is the bag - water resistant bottom, facing up, which tends to catch water that has gotten through the hatch covering. When I arrive at the beach The first thing out of the hatch is the bag. Shake any water off of it, start filling it from the hatch. I make two trips from the boat to where my tent will be pitched, and then a trip with the kayak itself.

This seems like common sense, but I have done so many trips where people make multiple trips from the beach to the tent site with arms full of gear

This is a video from a test pack for the inside passage - just to make sure everything fit. - the only things that aren't in the duffels are a black pelican case that held a camera (that case didn't end up going on the trip), the largest food bag and my paddle - yes, my paddle lives in a fleece 'cows, chickens and sheep' bag.

Packing from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

There is one last piece of this puzzle that really makes it work. I bought a dry suit primarily because no matter what solution I tried, my feet and my bottom where always wet. I go to great lengths to protect the socks attached to my dry suit. When I am paddling I am wearing NRS desperado socks over them, but when I am putting on or taking off my drysuit I use this. I can stand on it, so I am not standing on rocks or sticks or in mud, and I can ball the drysuit - or anything I am wearing that is wet - into the pad. It has a draw string that pulls it closed like a big dumpling.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Question:Phone or tablet Apps?

Do you have a phone, or tablet app for kayaking that you love? A friend recently showed me an android app that did currents, and I have found some apps for tides, but very few for kayaking? Do you have an app that you love? Let me know in the comments and include an email address so I can ask you some questions.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Now available on iTunes

I started this blog in March of 2010 as a tool to force me to write. I had been working on a book for some time, and 3 or 4 times I had gotten through the bulk of the writing and decided that I didn't like what I had. The fourth time it was followed by a hard drive crash - thereby losing everything.

After replacing my computer I decided to start over using a blog, which would force me to write - I had a self imposed schedule of three posts a week - and also be a built-in back up, as everything would be saved on the web. I finished writing around a year later, but then the really hard part started. I had no idea how much work was involved after the writing was done. So two years and a few months later it is truly completed. Enlightened Kayaking: A clear path for new paddlers is now available on the iTunes store for iPad ($8.99). The reason it is only available for iPad is the 28 HD videos included. The final form is very different than the form on the blog - including a section on paddling like a zen monk, which I think should be T shirts and water bottles! - There are also videos in the book that aren't on the website. I think it is a great resource for new paddlers, and a new way for experienced paddlers.

I have to say thank you to Mark From Geckopaddler for writing a portion of introduction. Also thanks to Karl from Pinin for the fjords for some great insight. A massive thank you to Catherine from the Confessions of a pugophile for doing an amazing job editing for me - I owe her big! And I couldn't have done any of this without the assistance of my wife who writes at Dirt and Rocks

Check out the book, maybe pass it along to a friend who is interested in paddling. I am very excited to have it done, but now daunted by the work ahead. The next project, and expedition.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Once again, the allure of whitewater...

Whitewater paddling is frequently used in marketing, marketing like this:

It makes for great visuals, dramatic and cutting edge. It is a great way to showcase products. I vaguely recall a Nissan xterra ad that had a sea kayaker, the paddler was an older man with a beard who couldn't find his take out because of fog. So he hit the button on the key fob, and the horn sounded and the lights went on and off on his car, and he was able to see it through the fog. Slightly different kind of marketing.

But most of the people using the new otterbox armor series won't be white water kayakers. They won't even be people who need that kind of protection. They will however THINK that they need that kind of protection. I guess whitewater is an easy metaphor for the life people wan't to have, people with nine to five jobs want to wake up in a tent or get out of their hammock and go paddling, while documenting it on their iPhone. Adventure marketing is one of the oldest forms of marketing in the US, going all the way back to the Marlboro man. I guess sea kayaking doesn't offer much of a 'Marlboro Man' quality.

I guess that is my goal, to give sea kayaking a bit more of that allure. if you can think of marketing around sea kayaking - where the image and feel of sea kayaking is used to sell a product -  let me know.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Editorial - Global Climate Change

This morning I paddled on a lake with water Temperature around 90º, a few degrees warmer than I have ever experienced. This summer wild fires raged across the west, which isn't unheard of but they were fed by the worst drought in 50 years. Because of that drought farmers are expecting the worst corn crop in decades - bad enough that they are trying to get the ethanol law lifted so what corn there is can be used for food. Of course, the corn used for ethanol can't be eaten by humans, it will be fed to cows that will be eaten by humans, but that is a discussion for another day. The ice sheet on Greenland is melting faster than anyone thought possible, and a chunk of the peterman glacier - also in Greenland -  broke free, but not to worry because it was only twice the size of Manhattan.

They - meaning climate scientists - told us this was going to happen. In fact, it is happening faster than they said it would. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that global climate change is a direct result of heavy industry combined with deforestation. 99% of climatologists think global climate change is man made. Here is a nifty infographic I found:

If that isn't enough, the CEO of Exxon agrees. He says global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels, but that man will adapt.

These are people that are all smarter than I am, I am notoriously bad at math, but when I look at the things in front of me, and what scientists are saying, it makes sense to me. In this case 2+2 does equal 4.

Here is what dumbfounds me. I talk to people on a daily basis who believe some part of the following:
       A) Global climate change is not happening
       B) it is happening, but it is part of a natural cycle
       C) Scientists have a secret agenda that benefits from making climate change man made.

These are intelligent people who see the same things I see, but still think that we shouldn't change any of the things that we do, to make the world a better place. They are against using any form of renewable energy - 'it isn't financially viable will be their argument' - despite the fact that if solar energy got the same subsidies that the oil industry got, solar would be cheaper. Again, I am not the smartest guy in the world, but if we pushed solar energy in the US wouldn't that create thousands of jobs?

If that same CEO of Exxon said 'We know fossil fuels create global climate change, and that is why we are getting into the solar and wind business, and we won't rest until every home in America is powered by solar' wouldn't you buy gas for your car from Exxon?

I know that change is hard, and I am far from perfect - I drive a car, and have electricity in my home. But couldn't we make these kinds of changes without dramatically impacting our lives, and still have a dramatic impact on the planet? I ran a little poll on the sidebar, and while the participation numbers are small the vast majority of people that come to this site accept that global climate change is man made. But what if we are wrong? What would the consequences be of making these changes, and then we find out that global climate change is a plot by scientists:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Level Six's incredible new shirt

I just stumbled across this video from the most recent Outdoor Retailer. In general the coverage of OR was great - I think Gearjunkie is the best coverage - but as usual there wasn't a lot of paddling specific coverage. I have decided I am going to go next year if I am not in the final planning stages of an expedition. I have always wanted to go, and a friend offered a place to stay.

But to the clothes! This is a wicking/sun shirt for paddling that I suspect has the same coating as Liquipel for phones. Looks amazing, but I am wondering what happens when you fully submerge it? Available spring 2013 and I will be online to buy it as soon as it is available.

Monday, August 6, 2012

This is what it should look like.

There is no better way to see what a correct forward stroke should look like, than to see a skilled racer do it. Remove all the layers - the PFD, the Spray skirt, The paddling jacket and you see perfect torso rotation. You see legs pumping, you see arms straight. It looks so simple, yet it takes years and hundreds of thousands of paddle strokes to perfect.


We all have something to shoot for.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Life of your PFD

A question that gets asked a lot but doesn't get answered very often is "When should I retire my PFD?" It was asked of me the other day and the only answer I had I couldn't trace back to a source. What I said was retire a PFD when the color in it starts to fade. This is showing deterioration of the nylon. What this has to do with flotation I have no idea, so I started doing some research.

I started hitting the FAQs of various PFD manufacturers. I started with Astral Buoyancy since that is what I use, this is what their FAQ said:

PFDs are made of nylon fabric, buoyancy inserts (either plastic foam or Kapok) and some hardware. Over time these components may degrade or lose their structural integrity. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend that a PFD should be replaced every 5 years or after 300 days of use (whichever comes first). Also, we recommend an annual inspection of the PFD at the beginning of every season.
I think this is good solid advice. I also think this means that my PFD is dangerously close to needing to be retired.  So lets check out what some others say:

Extrasport has a little video for care and maintenance, and at the end of the video they recommend doing a flotation test at the end of the season. Simply float in your PFD and see if you notice any difference in the amount of flotation compared to previous seasons.

Stohlquist says it is all about care. Store in a cool dry place, don't place it under deck rigging (it can cause a lot of wear to the materials) and that a PFD can last from two months to 20 years! With an average life span exceeding five years. 

Kokatat didn't have anything on their website about care and maintenance of their pfd's - they did have a lot of info about care and maintenance of drysuits however! - So I sent them an email, and they said that PFD's break down over time, resulting in a loss of flotation. They also said that everyone was at Outdoor Retailer and that I could get a more technical answer in a week or so. My fault for doing this during OR!

So what does this mean? To me, it means there is no hard and fast rule, but you should be vigilant in checking your PFD for signs of wear and tear. When it is getting frayed, and discolored, when you see hardware breaking, or a loss in flotation it is time for something new. I also think a lot of this does depend on storage of your PFD. Which brings me back to Astral Buoyancy's site:

Q. How should I care for my jacket between uses?

A. Proper care and storage your jacket will help your jacket to maintain its structural integrity and buoyancy. It’s easy, here are a few tips:
If you used your PFD is salt water or water that seems especially dirty, rinse your jacket thoroughly with fresh water. (If you just used it in relatively clean fresh water, you can skip this step.)
  • Thoroughly dry your jacket after each use.
  • Store your PFD in a cool and dry place.
  • Do not keep your jacket in direct sun for prolonged periods of time.
  • Avoid unnecessary compression of the jacket, especially during storage,
  • Do not store your jacket in extreme heat.
I am guilty of storing my jacket in extreme heat. I rarely take my gear out of my car in the summer because I am paddling so frequently. I think I will have to stop doing that. Which brings me to one last PFD topic. It may seem pretty obvious but your PFD doesn't do you any good unless you are wearing it. It - surprisingly - doesn't work if it is on the deck behind you under the bungies. I think wearing a PFD is like wearing a seat belt. No one plans on getting into an accident. So be prepared. 

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    It's about customer service

    One of the things that makes the outdoor industry special is customer service. People spend a lot of money on their gear, then we take that gear and beat it mercilessly. We still expect it to perform well. I may have written about this before, but in 2006 as I completed my instructor course with NOLS I had a  very old (12 years I think) Patagonia shell jacket delaminate. Delamination is when the inside of the jacket peels off and showers you with what looks like snow flakes. It renders the jacket useless. This occurred in April in British Columbia, a bad place to have a rain jacket become useless. A couple of months later I finished working my first course with NOLS - this time in Alaska - and I had an equally old North Face jacket do the same thing. I was in the process of balling it up and throwing it in the garbage when someone said 'send it back to them, what do you have to lose? The price of shipping! Give it a shot!'

    And so I took a shot. I packaged up both jackets along with a note about how great a product it had been right up to the point of failure. I told them I knew they were old, but if there was anything they could do I would appreciate it. The response wasn't fast, but it was good. From The North Face, I was offered 50% off anything in their product line. Not bad. Around 8 weeks after I sent the jacket to Patagonia, I called them. They said I should get something in the mail in the next day or two. What I got the next day was a Patagonia gift card for the original purchase price of the jacket. I found that very impressive.

    Patagonia had previously impressed me. Years before, getting out of a tent I brushed a candle lantern. I was wearing a loved - and old - patagonia fleece. It had a very intricate, almost aztec pattern. After brushing the hot candle lantern it had a hole in the sleeve near the shoulder about the size of a fifty cent piece. I sent it back to Patagonia. I told them how much I loved it, how special it was and that the hole was entirely my fault! I got it back about a month later. Someone had found a bolt of the old fleece material, and done a fairly good job of matching the pattern.

    This is the kind of customer service that we expect in the outdoor industry. It doesn't exist in most of the retail world, so we should count ourselves as lucky. I have gotten great customer service from Delta Kayaks, Werner Paddles, and Kokatat. But this week I really felt like Immersion Research Outdid themselves. 

    The product was my loved and trusted IR sprayskirt. Because I love rolling, and paddling in cold and wet (I guess everyone paddles in wet...) I use a heavy duty whitewater spray skirt. I have had too many touring spray skirts leak when I roll, and a few that just won't stay on when I roll. So I have put an IR skirt through it's paces. While working on my greenland roll - the post is coming - I realized how badly my skirt was leaking. Upon inspection I found that most, if not all of the tape covering the seams was coming off. So I gave them a call. 

    A guy answered the phone, I wish I could remember his name - Grant maybe? - I said I wanted to talk to someone in customer service, and he said 'you can talk to me.' This is a good start. Either, everyone at the company does everything or the company is so small everyone has to do everything. It was really nice to not have to go through a decision tree hitting '1's' and '2's' or saying 'customer service' and having the computer think I said something else entirely. 

    Grant - I'm gonna call him Grant because I can't remember his name! - said that their primary goal was to keep gear out of land fills. They would look at, and determine what if anything could be done. He said most repairs cost around $20. I expressed a concern to 'Grant' that if it wasn't going to be bomber, I would rather just buy a new one. I didn't want it to fail in Iceberg Alley. He said to send it in and they would be in touch. He also said it would take about a week, and they would pay the shipping return in the same manner I sent it to them. So, I followed the instructions online, got an RA# and sent it off to IR in Pennsylvania. 

    I got an email when I created the RA# saying they would keep their eyes out for it. I got an email when they got it, and what they were going to do to it. I got gently admonished for using aqua seal to fix some holes as it made it near impossible to make anything stick to it. They told me what to use in the future. I got an email that it was done and being shipped back. I had it two days later. Total time away from me, seven days and one of them was the fourth of July. This is the box it came in. 

    Sure enough, they like keeping things out of landfill. On the left is a sticker on the box that says IR 'hearts' ugly boxes. On the right is the box. Reused many times. I don't know where Villa Frizzoni is, but now I want Italian food.

    Nice work Immersion Research. You've got a fan for life! 

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Hydration - myths and systems

    I've got some real issues, with the issue of Hydration. It is vitally important to stay hydrated when we are doing things in the outdoors, everyone knows this, but most people do it wrong. I had a conversation with a friend, Beth who is a personal trainer. She has a degree in Kinesiology. She said most people should use drink additives for recovery and that you don't need an additive when you're working out - or doing whatever your outdoor pursuit is - unless you are at 80% of your max heart rate for long periods of time. Essentially endurance athletes. As my son is riding cross country on his bike - doing centuries most days, and in areas with high heat - he needs additives in his water. When I go paddling for four hours I don't. Our conversation actually started over dinner, we were talking about people at my gym, and she was saying that they are taking in calories they don't need. Water is the key. When I paddled the inside passage and I felt myself getting sluggish I used a water additive called zip fizz. It worked beautifully but I think primarily because it had caffeine in it. I am sure it was helping me hydrate as well, but the nature of a kayaking expedition means that water will work just fine.

    My Astral PFD has a sleeve in the back panel that can hold a water reservoir. I stopped using it after a few days in Alaska because it only held 1.8 liters of water which simply wasn't enough. I also found it hard to fill. When I used a Lotus designs PFD there was a small backpack accessory that I used which held a bladder. It too was too small.

    Which brings me to my biggest dilemma. Staying hydrated while paddling. Some people put a water bottle under their deck bungies. This works well on a day paddle, but not for extended trips. I have put reservoirs under my spray skirt, but it can be difficult to work with as the hose has to come up through the skirt. If it comes up through the bungie on the side water can get in to the cockpit. If it comes up through the tunnel on the skirt you have to deal with it every time you get out of your kayak. Think about doing a rodeo re-entry with a three liter bag of water dangling between your legs. Getting tanged in the boat while you're trying to get back into the cockpit. Water bottles under the spray skirt never work, as you can't quickly access them. When on expeditions I generally have most of my stored water in the cockpit in an MSR dromedary. This way if I need water, or have access to flowing water and can refill my water supplies I have easy access.

    What I would really like is a large reservoir that lives in the cockpit directly under the deck. With a quick release port on the top of the deck in front of my cockpit. Then when I am paddling I could just click a hose into the side of my kayak and drink from the bag below the deck. I may just use a camelbak Unbottle and leave it under my deck bungies.

    In terms of making water safe to drink there are many methods you can use, but first you have to understand that water can be filtered, or purified, or both.

    A filter - which may be a pump or gravity fed - uses some sort of material with very small holes. The water is forced through these holes, which are big enough to let water through, but small enough to trap Giardia and Cryptosporidium - the two major causes of intestinal issues that can lead to dangerous diarrhea and then dehydration. The material itself often removes flavors and odors.

    Purification uses one of a variety of methods to kill Giardia and Crypto as well as viruses. You can do it with Chemicals (chlorine based) or UV light (Steripen or Camelbak Allclear). You can also boil your water. If you bring water a rolling boil it is purified. Most pathogens are destroyed between 165º and 180º so by the time you get to 212º the water is safe to drink. Despite myths and legends about needing to boil water for ten minutes or two minutes, once it's boiling, it's done.

    In Alaska we used a combination of things. We used the sawyer complete four liter system, and we used Aqua Mira. We chose which we were going to use based on whichever was more convenient at the time. Frequently we would paddle past a small waterfall, stop and fill dromedaries, add Aqua Mira, and keep paddling. By the time we got to camp the water was safe to drink.

    Here is another myth - I pumped/treated my water, and the next day I had diarrhea. So the device/method I used clearly didn't work. According to the Center for Disease Control both Giardia and Cryptosporidium have an average incubation time of around seven days (though Crypto can strike as quickly as two days after infection). The methods described above are effective only if done properly. Which means waiting periods for chemicals need to be followed, and you need to be careful about the process. A big area where people make mistakes is this. You fill a bottle with water by scooping the water out of a lake or stream. You treat the water in the bottle. The contaminant is still on the mouth and threads of the bottle and you get infected anyway.

    None of these processes are difficult, but you have to follow the instructions, and know the limitations of whatever system you have chosen.

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Beating the heat

    Thinking about buying your first kayak? I have two posts that will tell you -almost- everything you need to know:

    The first - Here - will give you the basic info you need to pick out your first kayak.

    The second - Here - will talk about all the gear you need to kayak safely.

    There is a big 'buy in' to get started kayaking, but after that it is a relatively inexpensive experience. Then when you're ready to start paddling, go Here to learn all you need to know with video lessons.

    Then have fun on the water, and soon you will be here!

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    An update on Patagonia inc.

    A footnote to the post a few weeks ago. Yvon Chouinard has a new book called 'the responsible company'. From the website:

    In The Responsible Company, Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, and Vincent Stanley, co-editor of its Footprint Chronicles, draw on their 40 years' experience at Patagonia – and knowledge of current efforts by other companies – to articulate the elements of responsible business for our time.

    I read somewhere that Yvon had been working with Wal-Mart in an attempt to make them more environmentally sensitive. I think that is amazing as Wal-Mart historically has been atrocious to the environment, and Mr. Chouinard is a driving force in making companies better to the environment, both globally and locally. Literally transforming the business world. 

    I am very interested in reading this book, but ironically it is only available - currently - as a paper edition. I can't download a digital copy that would have no impact on the planet, except for the $1.38 of power per year to charge my iPad. 

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    It's expedition season, and I am at home.

    Well, expedition season is in full swing, and you have many to choose from:

    WithLandOnOurLeft - is three young men circumnavigation Britain for charity. And they are going the wrong way around. By the looks of their blog they are spending a lot of time on land as the wind isn't really cooperating. But I guess that is to be expected when you go the opposite direction of everyone who has ever done the trip before you. I am very curious if they have the perseverance to make it happen.

    Aluetians 2012 - this one is already completed, and blows me away. From Dutch Harbor all the way out to the end of the island chain, Herbert island. There is no good weather where they paddled.

    Pacific Kayaker - I don't have a lot of information here, apparently this gentleman is going to paddle from California to Hawaii. His departure date is TBD (July 2 to the 4th). I am pretty sure that this route has been done once before - that makes it no less insane.

    There is one more expedition I remember reading about and this morning I can't find the link. A pair of kayakers is going from Juneau to Patagonia. This is the Inside Passage and then some!

    As for me, I am thinking about potential dates, and talking with Sarah. Last year at this time I was somewhere in the vicinity of Wrangell, Alaska I was almost certainly cold and wet, and having the time of my life.

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

    Things that have been on my mind:

    My sons route cross country - on his bike for charity, if you haven't been paying attention - is heading south through Colorado, headed towards Colorado Springs. They can turn east anytime now.

    I spend a lot of time looking at videos. I used to work in the film industry, and love well made short films about the outdoors. I am amazed by the number of excellent short films about whitewater paddling. I am equally distressed about the low number of sea kayaking videos. Viewers definitely like the high energy feel of whitewater, but it is interesting to me that the large growth of the sport is in recreational kayaking. Whitewater growth is pretty flat. I expect we will soon see growth in Stand up paddle board videos that include whitewater and girls in bikinis.

    I also spend a lot of time - as I have mentioned - watching people paddle. The vast majority still paddle incorrectly, which is no great shock, I didn't expect a change. But I started formulating a list in my head of the things that I see that indicate a person is paddling with their arms. This will be a post in the future - or I may slide it into the book if it ever gets back from the proofreader.There is a meditation lesson that is also going to be slid into the book.

    I had an invitation to join a group paddling in Maine in September. I just found out I have to teach  wilderness medicine course at the same time. Which means I need to head to the Outerbanks. I may go solo, but I think there may be someone who wants to go on the next expedition. hmmm.

    This October will mark the third annual Paddling Otaku Expedition Skills Camp. Leave a slot open on your calendar.

    My sprayskirt is leaking. Seriously leaking. Its seams are coming untaped. It is a very old Immersion Research that was a permanent loan from a friend. Do you think IR will repair it?

    I discovered my sprayskirt was leaking while working on the balance brace. The balance brace is very hard to do in my kayak.

    I started working on the balance brace because I started watching 'This is the Roll'. It is really quite good. A full review is coming, but can I just say that it is 2 hours plus. A lot of material. Beautifully put together.

    The charts for the next expedition have arrived. They will go up on the wall this weekend.