Wednesday, May 30, 2012

For a more personal interaction...

If you want a more personal interaction, with smaller daily updates, and conversation check out my Facebook page. Posted this week was a link to a world meditation day on the solstice.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

While I am not a fan of waterfall videos..

I think they do a disservice to amazing whitewater paddlers, they also teach the non-paddling public that 'this is what whitewater paddling is' which is very wrong. I very much like this video. Called 'Huck' which is an expression meaning essentially 'jumping off something' it shows the thought that goes into doing things like 70 foot waterfalls on an almost daily basis. Beautifully shot. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The official start of the summer paddling season.

On tuesday I finally had what I consider the start of summer in my paddling season. I'll explain.

I don't stop paddling when the weather gets bad or gets cold. In fact, I seek it out. I live about four hours from the coast. My regular paddling and the instruction I do is on lakes. This is actually very convenient because I generally don't have to worry about conditions. They are almost always safe and controlled which is a good learning environment. It means when I am working on skills or when a new student is working on the forward stroke neither of us are fighting wind, waves and currents. The water is a nice stable platform for mastering new skills.

The problem with this is when I want to play in big water it isn't readily available. So I seek out bad weather. When it is windy, and paddlers are sitting in coffee shops I go paddling. When it is cold out, and people have found 'winter' pursuits, I put on a dry suit and go paddling. I stop paddling when the water is frozen. That's the only time.

Tuesday had two things occur. I had my first student of the season. A young women who is considering taking part in the next expedition. She has minimal kayaking experience but in a conversation a couple of weeks ago she said she had watched Paddle North and was inspired to do a trip like that. She then came up with all the reasons that people come up with to not do a trip like that. I challenged her and told her the only thing that keeps people from going on expeditions is themselves. It is very easy to come up with reasons - that may be very valid - why a trip like that can't occur. My work, my spouse, my dog, my money are the big four, and not necessarily in that order. So she is starting to paddle and thinking about it. But the addition of a new student doesn't mean that summer is here.

For me, summer has arrived when I start rolling without a dry suit. rolling for pure fun. I did a handful of rolls - the first in many months - and they felt pretty good. I think the first was actually the best, proving that thought only makes a roll worse. Just relax and roll. Which brings me to my summer project. While the beginning phases of planning have occurred for the next expedition - I am not ready to divulge it yet, but I can say that Sarah from Paddle North is doing everything she can to take part (insert those reasons here) and emails and discussions are flying fast and furious from my coast to hers. - My summer plan is unrelated. Here is my plan.

The Greenland roll. I have always loved the grace and fluidity of the Greenland roll and I have been searching for some time for someone to teach me. I have found no one, and so I am ordering "This is the Roll". We are going to see if someone can learn to do a Greenland roll on their own with just a DVD. We are going to find out! It should prove to be an exciting summer! I will be doing updates here on the summer project, but if you want to follow it closely you should head over to my Facebook page where I will be doing more frequent updates on this topic. If you want to take part, I encourage that too. Work on your Greenland roll and lets compare notes on what does and doesn't work on Facebook.

So that is summer plan! What are you doing this summer?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


This isn't kayaking related. This just angers me. Why are smokers allowed to litter?
I never understood why it is unacceptable to litter, unless your a smoker. Then you can drop a cigarette butt wherever you want. For a very long time my wife worked as a researcher in smoking cessation, she is still a public health researcher. So the facts I am going to give are from a - somewhat no longer connected to the industry - professional, who happens to be sitting next to me.

Approximately 20% of the population smokes. I should say, they STILL smoke, which dumbfounds me, that people still smoke. It is a bit higher where I live in the American south. I know someone that literally grew up in a town called Tobaccoville. I live 25 minutes from the town of Winston-Salem. I am not kidding.

When I am in a parking lot, Why do I see this?

I grew up in a home with both parents as smokers. If you grow up with parents as smokers you are twice as likely to smoke compared to children of non smokers. I don't - and have never - smoked. That doesn't mean I am better, it means I am a freak, an oddity. 

A dear friend of mine decided he would quit smoking around a fifteen years ago. He did it by himself and without help of any kind. I find this amazing, as I know that it is harder to quit smoking than to quit heroin.  Smoking is more addictive than heroin. I'm not kidding. 

So back to my original question, why is it okay for smokers to throw a butt on the ground? When I rode my bike to work - hey! it's bike to work month! - I would see McDonalds garbage on the side of the road - that is another post, people still eat McDonalds! Seriously? With such good food in the world? I have this fantasy where McDonalds comes out and says 'Hey, we realized we are killing our customers. We are going to make food that is fast, healthy, yummy, and locally sourced!' A man can dream can't he? I digress - Where was I? Right, garbage on the side of the road, and I also wondered why people would just throw garbage out of their car. Is it out of sight, out of mind? Or is it that they just don't care? 

One day riding to work I saw someone throw a bag of McDonalds out of their car window, and I wanted to pick it up and throw it back in their car. I figured they would run me over at the next traffic light, so I did nothing. 

I regularly see people at traffic lights disposing of ashes from their cigarette or entire cigarettes out their window. I still don't know why this is acceptable? 

A lot of people take very little responsibility for the world around them. I'm no angel, I drive a car that uses gas. I use paper towels.  I try and take responsibility for myself but I am far from perfect. I don't understand how people can't understand the impact their actions have on the environment, or that they don't care for the environment enough for it to matter to them. 

I think part of it is a disconnect from the world around us. I work with many twenty year old mountain bikers, and I am regularly amazed by how conscious - and conscientious - of the environment they are. They don't ride their bikes if the trails are wet, because it creates erosion. They know that even on mountain bike trails they yield to hikers. Hikers who shouldn't be on mountain bike trails! They do it because it's the right thing to do.  

I still don't have an answer to my original question, and this has become a bit of a rant, and I apologize for that. I am not trying to blame anyone, but I do think that our culture is disconnected from the world around us. I think we are out of tune with the very planet we live on. I also think that is dangerous. I think there are many things we can do to get back in touch with our surroundings. A kayak, or a bike are a great start. You see the world differently on a bike than you do in a car. You are more connected to it. 

Thanks for putting up with a non-kayaking rant. Shortly I will be unveiling my summer plans, which does not involve a big paddling trip. This summer I have a special kayaking skills project I am going to work on, which I will unveil shortly. I have hinted to it on my Facebook page. if you haven't already you should head over to and give it a like. We just completed a really wonderful 21 day meditation challenge, people seemed to really enjoy it. The book is still in proof reading, and probably won't hit my self imposed June deadline, but it won't be much beyond that. At the End of the summer I will reveal the next big paddling expedition. I am in the early planning stages and I need to make sure it is feasible before going public. Finally, if you live near an REI they are having a sale with kayaks marked down 15%. See you on the water!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting a handle on things

I recently found myself in a retail store with a lot of kayaks. Most of them were recreational kayaks, and you know how I feel about recreational kayaks. I noticed how boat designers have gone to great lengths to change up the handles on bow and stern of their kayaks.

The upper right is the weakest of the three. I give it one summer of hard kayaking. The strongest is the bottom left as it is molded directly into the hull of the kayaks. the middle two are pretty good, in that they are 'close' to doing what we actually need it to do.

But, I can hear you say 'do what we need it to do? It's a handle, It's for lifting the kayak!' Well, yes and no. These handles are clearly designed for lifting the kayaks. But believe it or not it is not what they are designed to do.

When I worked for the school in Alaska, the first thing we taught students was that to lift your kayak you ignore the handle, and lift the hull of your kayak. In part this was because so many students moving through the school created a lot of wear and tear on the kayaks, But the bigger reason was handles aren't for lifting.

I do lift my kayak by the handle, but usually just to get it off the ground, and then I grasp the hull. When lifting someone else's boat - or helping someone with their boat - I follow their lead and lift their kayak the way they do.

So what is the handle for? Well, handles like these are designed as handles. But originally these handles weren't called handles at all, they were called swimmer toggles. they were designed to be long handles that could swing free of the bow or stern if you were rendering aid to a kayaker in the water.

Look at how the handle hangs on the bow and stern of this Nigel Denis Explorer. In my opinion they could even be a little longer to keep the swimmer a bit more of a distance away from the kayak. The handle can spin in any direction. Think about holding onto that while in the water, with both you and the kayak moving in rough seas. Now think about doing that with one of the short or molded handles at the top of this page.

If you paddle a lot and you lift by the handle you will eventually see the handle or webbing begin to wear. 
It is always possible to replace the handle when it becomes worn but I actually think it is easier to lift the kayak by the hull. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cradle Problems

Before people get on the water, I frequently see some of them already working too hard. It is when loading or unloading kayaks from the roof of their SUV. First let me start with a little background. there are two types or styles of kayak cradles. The J style, or the flat style.

The J - cradle (left) puts your kayak on its side on your roof, while the flat cradle (right) keeps your kayak resting on its hull. The advantage of the J-Cradle is that with the kayak on its side, you have a lot more space on your roof for other boats or bikes or car top boxes. J-cradles usually are less expensive and many will mount directly to factory cross bars. So they are an easy option. They are also simple to install, and generally in the purchase phase are a bit easier to figure out.

Flat cradles usually require a base rack, you need to make a couple of other decisions - do I want rollers, or something like that on the back? 

Both can be purchased for a wide range of prices and a wide range of vehicles. I feel like I see many more J cradles than flat cradles. But there is a problem. 

J cradles work great on cars. They don't work so well on SUV's or light trucks, particularly if you are under six feet tall, and/or don't have that much upper body strength. Flat cradles can be difficult to make work for people who own multiple kayak and have small cars, because the recommended cross bar size simply isn't wide enough. 

Despite this I see many J cradles on SUV's. Here is the problem. To get your kayak into the cradle you have to lift it above the height of the roof of the car, and above the height of the rack system, and then above the bottom of the cradle itself. On my Yaris it isn't that bad. I have to lift it my 50 pound Delta to just above shoulder height, but put this cradle style on an SUV and you are lifting your kayak well above your head. It isn't as bad with two people, but it is still a chore. 

The solution is to use flat cradles on your tall vehicles. Then you never have to actually lift the entire kayak. Lift the bow and put it in the rear cradle - or lay it on the rear cross bar. Then Lift the stern and slide it forward. So much easier than lifting the weight of the entire boat above your head. You can use flat cradles on your small car as well, but you may have to use longer cross bars than is recommended, and then watch your head getting in and out of the car. 

I used flat cradles when I had a Toyota forerunner, but when I switched to a small Toyota car I switched to J cradles. 

I am not saying that if you have J cradles on the roof of your ford expedition that it's wrong. I just think it is more work than it needs to be. And why would anyone want to work harder than they have to?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Okay Paddlers...

Or other adventurers,

I just watched a wonderful video:

Which got me to thinking, if you could paddle anywhere in the world, where would it be? For myself - someone with an Alaska problem - meaning I refer to Alaska as 'my drug of choice' - I have to say Patagonia pretty much tops the list. I am in the early stages of planning a trip that isn't in Alaska, I don't want to say where yet. But I am also drawn to the paddling in Iceland and Greenland. Scandinavia also intrigues me. The Arctic as well... Actually, If it is cold and wet, chances are I would like to paddle there. Maybe that is my problem.

So where would you like to paddle - or if your primary pursuit is other than paddling, where would you like to cycle, climb, hike or whatever? When I drove to Alaska I was impressed by the people riding their bikes on the Alaskan Highway. But I think I will limit my cycling to the trip I did a few years ago.

Yikes, two embeds, I am getting out of control.
Seriously though, where would you like to take your next adventure?
Let me know in the comments.