Monday, 16 October 2017

Pyranah Ripper First Look

The past week in Austria, I managed to get my hand on the new Pyranha Ripper Prototype.

Over the past few years we've seen river play models popping up with the Braap and the party Braap, from Liquid Logic. The Axiom from Dagger, and more recently the Antix from Jackson Kayak and Rexy from Exo Kayaks.
It was time for Pyranha to bring their newest boat to market. Taking what they have learnt from years of #PlayTheRiver and updating it into a modern design.

The Ripper is a evolution of the 9R Series creating a super fast hull which is fun and predictable the perfect platform to build a river, play kayak.

The top deck shows good volume distribution with volume upfront to punch through waves and enough rocker to prevent the bow from pearling, the tail is lower volume but enough to be stable yet still playful.

This is the Large Ripper Prototype, I've seen the drawings for the medium and people will be please to see its keeping the same length but an altered volume distribution and rocker profile to suit the lighter paddler.
I took the Ripper out on the River Inn, in Austria. A nice cruisey run through the Imst Gorge one of the most popular Raft Runs in the region. The section is full of big waves and wave trains to surf and play. 

I had swapped over from my 9RL to the Prototype Ripper L and immediately felt at home. The Ripper had the same characteristics the feeling of security and safety upfront.

The fun really came when you start dropping the tail. Whether to change direction, a quick squirt will have the boat turning effortlessly.  This makes the boat super maneuverable. As you approach wavetrains you are left with so many options, you can kick the edge and pull the nose high. Pull a boof and send her charging through, or flick the hips and follow through with a kick flip. 

Personally I wondered if the boat was too safe and could be a little more playful but after picking a small eddyline, I had the boat vertical and squirting with little effort. 
As I paddled the river the more I got used to sweeping and holding the edge like a slalom boat to allow the boat to pivot effortlessly, 
For guiding I was able to carry the same equipment straight out of my 9RL a little squashed but it fitted securely. On the river the speed of the boat is perfect, being able to have fun but not be left behind. The ability to chase swimmers and boats confidently with no worries of instability and the extra maneuverability really helps.
Inside the boat comes as standard with the newest Stout 2 Thigh braces, and new super soft hip pads. This gives a lot of support and confidence to the user with no flex from the thigh braces you fell like your getting out the performance you put into the boat. Fitted with the standard Full Plate footrest with plenty of adjustment means all day comfort for paddlers of all sizes.

I always believed a river play style boat was better suited to everyday paddling over an all out creek boat, improving your skill and reactions whilst giving you the ability to have some fun on the way down.
Personally I found some of the bigger boats too easy on local runs finding much more enjoyment paddling something a little more playful, but still safe. 
I think the new Ripper will suit both Advanced paddlers looking to have some fun on the water as well as intermediate paddlers looking to hone their river skills. 
I will certainly be adding a Ripper to my quiver of boats and look forward to many adventure with her. (And Jenny)

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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 The French Adventure!

2016 The French Adventure!

Experience Canoe Kayak is a Non Profit association offering fun, safe and educational experiences.

The association is a cumulative effort between Myself Adrian Durrant and my partner Jenny Ridley each bringing a individual skill set to the association.

Over the past few years both myself and Jenny have traveled a lot, paddling and enjoying the outdoors. 
For 2016 we wanted to try something new, I had fairly serious shoulder surgery in December 2015 from a kayak injury. So knowing that I wouldn't be either fit or able to paddle for about 6 months. The thought of missing an alpine season in Europe stuck watching everyones adventures was going to be a tough ask. 

We decided together that we needed a new plan in life, instead of working to pay bills, we wanted some freedom and fun back in our lives. No matter how much we both love Ireland, and have learnt to call it home. We have a huge amount of friends in Ireland, but wanted to experience something else. 
A new adventure, and Europe seems like the obvious plan, where everything is just a drive away no need for flights, and ferries. The opportunity to just hop in the van with everything you need and travel.

We set up the Association Experience Canoe Kayak in a small village of Noyers sur Cher, We had visited the region before and had found that there is little opportunity or facility to canoe locally with the vast river Cher on the doorstep we put our heads together to put a plan in place. 

One of our goals was to promote Paddlesport within the local community, by showing people what is close to home showing them places they have never seen yet on their own doorstep. We had a huge push on promoting activities for people with disabilities. 
Proving that Paddlesport can be accessible. This we have achieved with Jenny Ridley, as one of the top facilitators of adaptive outdoor learning, there really is no one better to promote accessibility. understanding injuries and needs as a Rehabilitation Specialist and offering coaching and support as a Double Paralympian, high performance athlete and Coach to some of the top athletes. Jenny has a host of experience but a love for water and paddlesports.

We have spent time building links with other local associations, we decided we wanted to use all of our own experiences to help others and teach them what we love about the sport.

The Core activity of our association is open canoe hire trips on the picturesque River Cher, as well as sit on top hire from our canal side base. 
We offer daytime trips where families and groups can bring a picnic and explore the river as it winds it's way through the Loire Valley as well as evening sunset paddles under the famous ch√Ęteau Chenonceau, 
We have a number of other more specialist options available with a number of river waves when the levels rise on the river Cher makes it the perfect location for freestyle camps and only a drive to any other River in Europe makes central France an ideal base of activities.

We managed to secure a base of activities with the local Marie. Utilising an old community camping ground, which had lay empty for a number of years. 
In reality, it is a building with toilets and small office, as well as an area of land. Situated on the corner of a canal basin on the Canal de Berry. Offering easy access to the Canal and River Cher. 

This provides the perfect location for a safe introduction. Perfect for groups and individuals, to have a go at canoeing, within the safe confines of the basin and canal.

The grass area also gives us the option for camping activities for groups wishing to stay at our base. or just for community activities, open days and BBQs its a super area for games and activities.

We have started to put in place multi day trips on the river Cher, canoeing and camping. With a variety of routes available, following the River Cher along its course. 

The river experience is something we love offering and the Cher is such a beautiful river with low traffic.
Our big push is with our community programmes, offering children and other associations the chance to try something, which will help benefit their state of health and wellbeing. 

We are one of the only providers to offer a full access guide for each of our trips online. Outlining the suitability and accessibility of each of our trips, and offering a bespoke trips suitable for individual needs, this is something Jenny has worked very hard to create and we are proud to offer.

''We aim to make as many activities as accessible as possible and can discuss any issues in depth whether a trip on the Canal or one of our alpine paddling trips we want to prove people are capable of participating by eliminating barriers.''

Since moving to France we have been working hard to learn the language. With enough French to make a conversation, we are picking it up quickly. With many clients also keen to practice their English it can get confusing. But the worry of a language barrier is something we have accepted and working on. 

We have already made a number of friends here, who are all very supportive of us and the adventure which makes things much easier as they are always happy to assist. Everyday challenges like ordering in shops or big tasks like building the website we have overcome with patience practice and at times little google translate.

We have found it best to give it a try whether ordering lunch or buying stationary, most of the time people will help you. Everyone we have met has been polite and helpful and clients love that we want to learn. The Language has been the single biggest barrier, but its been a challenge, and the sense of achievement after a successful phone conversation or booking is always a great feeling.

As well as the local paddling Experience Canoe Kayak are offering alpine adventures with the focus on taking people to some of our favourite places with Oetz one of our favoured destinations.

We ran a successful trip in October 2016 and looking to build on this with two trips scheduled so far for 2017.

We are really running these trips as experiences. We want to really show you what we love about a region with a mix of time on the river and visiting some of our favourite spots, the sight and smells or just the views. Many paddlers visit a region without ever exploring outside the river bed and campsite. 
I have been guilty of this on occasion, but having taken the time to explore and find so much more, it's always about the trip not just the river. So by handpicking the destinations that we love hopefully will allow you to fall in love with our favourite locations also.

A huge draw to living in France for ourselves is the opportunity to drive anywhere, load up the van and the dogs and head. To Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, anywhere we want. Having both myself and Jenny competed internationally in numerous sports we have many friends all over Europe. The opportunity to visit them and see them has been a major motivation. With every trip comes a new adventure.

We currently have over 50 boats between 3-4 seat Canoes, Sit on tops, Junior, Adult and Family, River kayaks, and other Specialist boats we can cater for upwards of 80 persons on the water at any one time. 
As well as our land based offerings through Pilates, Yoga and functional movement sessions the base can be a hive of activity.

We have a couple of vehicles our trusty white van, Blue 9 seat Bus and Trailer so we can move people and boats easily wherever they need to be.

In 2016 We have had over 850 People out in Canoe and Sit on top, this is great achievement in our first season. With 29% of visitors local from Noyers sur Cher We were proud to welcome other visitors to the region from all across Europe.

Our first season was hampered with a bad start, floods across central France left us looking at the Cher running in excess of 800 Cumecs (our typical summer level is closer to 10 Cumecs) Luckily the Canal held, and gave us an outlet to get boats on the water. As the levels dropped the sun started to show and gave us a busy August.

Where we are based we have both the Loire and the Cher within easy reach. With much of our emphasis on the underutilised River Cher, still known to many as the wild Cher.  

The main section we use is between Chabris and St Aignan. This Stretch is fantastic for its sights and sounds. The fauna and flora have been virtually undisturbed, unlike other busier sections of the river. We are also lucky that the stretch we use contains no weirs, (ecluses) making it safe and friendly for all the family.

With many opting to bring a picnic and spend the day exploring what the river has to offer. We also have the Canal De Berry outside our base and the Province Trois Lacs perfect for a short trip or a activity.

In the evenings we offer a sunset paddle at the beautiful Chateau de Chenonceau, one of the Loire Valley and Frances most famous Castles, built spanning the River Cher. Our trip lets you explore Chenonceau by water weaving between its grand arches with the sun setting and the hot air balloons over head. It is one of our favourite times to be on the water.

During the summer season we aim to get both tourists and locals out to experience the beautiful river, using this income generated to then fund our community programmes. working with schools and associations to introduce them to the outdoors through educative lectures and experiences.

We are proud to also offer a donate a place system, where people can purchase online a child's session for half price, these are then donated to local associations to bring out children for a canoe experience.
Take a look at our Donate a Place page - HERE

Over the coming year we have a number of other projects we want to complete both personal and to increase business but keeping the focus very much on the community we really want to get as many people on the water as possible whilst allowing us to enjoy the French climate and paddling opportunities.

Moving to France has been a huge step from the get go it was never our greatest plan but we have turned it into what is a continuing adventure.
We have made France our home and we welcome you to join us to Experience what we are lucky to see every day.

If anyone is interested in coming over for a canoe experience please check out our web page and get in touch we want to be a French base for Irish paddlers to drop in on their way to other places or to spend time with us exploring the region.

A huge thank you has to go out to the brands and companies who have supported us with this adventure so far and looking forward to a successful 2017
Yak Paddling Adventure Equipment // // Keen // Pyranha Kayaks //

To all the friends we have made along the way and people who have joined us this season Thank You and we hope to see you all again in 2017!

Experience with us.
Adrian, Jenny, Marlon and Penny

Take a look at our website
Follow us on Facebook - Experience Canoe Kayak

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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Yak Galena PFD Review

 The Galena PFD is Yak's answer to a lightweight Freestyle / River Running PFD.
Instead of going for the super slim option, with the minimum of floatation. Yak have strived to make some of the safest most floaty jackets on the market.

With a huge maritime safety influence through Crewsaver and Survitec Yak PFD's are worked on at the same level.

The Galena is no exception with 70n+ of buoyancy, in a lightweight shaped foam.
Creating one of the lightest PFDs available.
At first glance it looks bulkier than other vests but that is really just down to the position of the foam.

The Galena sits well on the torso. The breathable mesh surround, offers comfort, and stops the PFD riding up.

The 4D cast contoured cut is a great feeling, keeping the foam away from your arms, allowing you a full range of movement whilst paddling.

The colour scheme blue or lime green is perfect. (as it matches my boat) Bright and fun. with one big central zipped pocket. Perfect for holding essentials. The fastening of straps is quick and easy with specific designed release pulls to adjust straps quickly and easily. The added strap cleats keeps any extra strap safely tucked in to reduce snagging.

The shoulder straps are sewn through into the waist belt making it great for intermediate river running also.

The PFD is donned straight over the head making it really easy and comfy.

The PFD works well in all boats freestyle, river , canoeing even on a sup the cut really gives you freedom to paddle all day.

As always it's worth trying before you buy, with three sizes available, make sure you get the best fit for you.

For Kids Yak have the Galena Junior, a super small PFD for young rippers!

I use this PFD daily, and find it extremely comfortable. Being taller I have gone for the XL size, to give myself extra length in the shoulders. The PFD works really well and looks great on the water.

The PFD is well priced against other river running and freestyle PFDS, and certainly worth trying on when your looking for a new vest!


Plenty of Buoyancy
Sewn Through Shoulders
Easy Adjustment.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Pyranha Kayaks Machno Review

The past week I was lucky enough to get my hands on a shiny new Pyranha Kayaks Machno, the newest creek machine from Runcorn.
The boat had been dropped in Oetz to be shown off and paddled around the famous wellebrucke rapids. (Sickline) But whilst noone was looking we managed to sneak her off for a real life test. Paddling a low and rocky lower Vent. In high water one of my favourite runs, but in low water it is as beautiful as ever, but with more ressemblement to the everyday Irish/Uk rocky ditch, that we are more accustomed to paddling. So I really got to test it without the glam of the big water and big lines. I bounced the Machno around some boulders, and scrapped it over others. I even had to carry her around when the water left the river.
 So here we go a real life review #inaditch
So first impressions as I lifted the boat and ran from the sickline exhibitors area, where it had been left unattended for a few minutes. My first thoughts were of the weight and comfort whilst carrying, the step out pillar, as found on many models has lovely grooves for fingers. Perfect to hold the boat steady on your shoulder and the hip pads were soft and comfy to rest my newly fixed shoulder into... Wait a second pyranha hip pads have never been soft! After dropping the boat to the floor make sure I had borrowed the right boat, I took a second look. The new hip pads are in fact soft and comfortable and the first glimpse of the new thigh braces looked strong and sturdy. With the option of adding the old famous hooker thighbrace. It really felt like all my christmases had just landed at once. Perfect for keeping me anchored in the boat, the seat was the safe comfortable stout seat, and the footrest the solid bulkhead system, as found in the rest of the lineup.
As we hoisted the boat high up onto the roof of my bus, I started to calculate the weight of her. I came up with a simple option, that it was lighter than the Mamba, and probably somewhere just under my large 9r. But in all honestly it felt good, strong metal handles front and rear plus rear broach bars, meant tieing the boat up was quick and easy.
Unloading again went smoothly, noone died or was flattened by a falling Machno. I even heard one person worried it may blow away in the wind. Now she was free, and away from the big water and the prying eyes of Sickline. In this beautiful Austrian Valley, we were going to really see how she behaved.
I sat in to her and knowing the person who had paddled it before me (Baino) is both shorter and a little narrower (not as athletic as me). I did wonder how much adjustment would be needed or if I would ever fit. But even with the Yak Vanguard drysuit I just adjusted the footplate to fit my size 47 Keen boots upfront, and eveything else was almost spot on.
For sure in my own boat I would spend more time adjusting for that truly perfect fit, but for a boat straight off of the shelf, I was straight in and paddling.
The first Machno off the line is typically a Medium. I havent really paddled a medium boat in a while. Not since my old 9rM, being 6"3 88kg im not really a medium size, but I wanted to give it a try.
I was delighted to find that the boat is actually quite a large Medium, holding me and my rescue kit comfortably on the river. The space in the rear is large and perfect for splits etc.
As I bounced over my first rock I thought I was back in Ireland. The rocky runs I've come to love. But in all honesty the Machno took no getting used to. It was like meeting an old friend, and getting straight back into things. With the forgiving rails the boat rolled and slid over everything, without the tripping and aggression needed in the burn, or the 9r.
 The Machno paddled itself. Whilst flat she simply rolled over everything. But engage an edge, and the rail gripped and held its course, threading its way between the boulders with grace and ease.
Having paddled the Shiva a good bit, but finding the Large Shiva just slightly out of proportion.
Im really excited to see the new Machno is a different beast, taking the forgiving lines but making a modern day creek boat. That you really want to paddle. Something to go up alongside the tuna 2.0 and the Mamba / Nomad.
Whether its big volume, steep, or low and rocky I can see the machno working well just about anywhere she goes.
For Irish paddlers the Machno is a perfect choice. Paddling more like the ever popular Mamba, but without the excess weight. For anyone looking for a new boat, I think the forgiving rails with the extra speed will be a great option and certainly worth a try. I can't wait to get her for spin on the Dargle, or Glens.
Machno vs 9r.
 So these two boats are a tough one to break down. The 9r is the king of speed, with the medium twitchy, and a little tail happy. Where as the machno is forgiving, with a sense of safety. Not having to charge at warp 10 into everything.
 But play the Machno against the large 9r the extra length and shape of the 9r makes it faster than the Machno. But for resurfacing and manoeuvrability, the Machno is a joy to play the river. With its safe, predictable lines, and solid thigh position your really part of the boat. Knowing that where you go, the boat is going too.
Personally I couldnt pick one or the other. I would have to have both! As I love the extra speed of the 9rL for big volume and racing but for low rocky technical the Machno would be my baby.
Knowing that when the water comes and things get bigger she will take it in her stride almost reducing the 9RL back to being just a race boat. (which we know she isn't only) Both boats are unbelievably fun to paddle and I would struggle to pick one over the other.

If my arm was really twisted and I could only own one. (Never going to happen) The Machno would take me everywhere.
The trip on the vent was certainly the lowest I have paddled it. Yet still beautiful, with nice carving moves, and tight lines coming alive.
The Machno really loved being on the river, never feeling trippy, or out of her depth. Whilst in the boulder gardens, she worked the river like no other. Manoeuvrable and predictable. Then once you add water and slot drops she lifted and weaved her way. Keeping the bow high and dry.
When she plugged she resurfaced safely and predictably.
 A true 4x4 of the kayak world.
The Machno feels like a boat that can just keep giving! A true, go anywhere boat.
I cant wait to see where this boat goes. When some of the lads with more flexibility than me, start pushing her around.
She is destined to fly, wether the waterfalls of Mexico or freewheeling in the French alps. The Machno is a tough act to beat.
At the getout, I was delighted to see that the boat was extreamly dry, with very little water in the boat was a great feeling.

The boat held its own, and even before getting off the water I think I may have sold a fleet of them!
I think I managed to sneak the boat back into the Pyranha team van with a couple more scratches but in perfect condition before anyone noticed.
Im truely impressed with Pyranha, having snuck this boat into the line up. Something as a paddler and a retailer, we didnt even realise we were missing
 But now, with probably the strongest lineup of boats, from any brand. Pyranha have boats performing at the top level from racing, freestyle, steep creeking and general river fun. Pyranha have built a boat for all occasions, and for any sized paddler.
 The Machno sits perfectly as a creek boat, bumping the Shiva down, and almost out. Once paddled I think many will agree to the far superior feel, and reliability of the Machno.
Thanks to Andy and Pyranha for allowing me the opportunity to get my hands in the new boat. I cant wait to see what the small and large looks like.
Photos by Adrian Durrant, Pyranha Kayaks and Maria Cole

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