Paddle4Play: June 2013

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Boat Testing 101

Having working in and around kayak shops for a number of years now including some great boat deals with various brands I've always had people asking me which boat to buy. Obviously as any sponsored paddler number one reason they are sponsored is to sell boats, But on the flipside that paddler is also been sponsored because they know a thing or two about paddlesport,
If you can pull an unbiased view from the paddler then its generally a good voice to hear
Below is a review written by me from my own thoughts of what I've seen, peoples views will differ and I'm not saying this is the definitive, just a personal opinion.
With all boats number one thing to do is demo the boats, most good kayak shops have a collection of demo boats, these are to be tried and tested in a reasonable environment, these are not boats to borrow until you have cash or boat to break as you yours is still shiny. Shops do actually have to pay for boats and they are actually not cheap. For Dublin based shops the usual testing grounds -Liffey -Boyne -Avonmore are acceptable, shops don't like to hear of epic adventures on the source of the Liffey or Dargle when their demos are concerned.
Boats should always be returned clean and in as close condition as possible as when you took it, usual rules would always apply, You bend it you mend it, or You break it you buy it.
When you get the opportunity in a different boat the major points to consider,
Do you fit in the boat?
Are you falling about inside?
Foot / seat positioning and comfort
Can you engage the edges?
Are you lost in the boat?
Where does the boat sit in the water?             
Nose/tail heavy – Balance with kit
Hull ShapeFlat bottom or round hulled
Rails or not?
This is probably the most interesting of subjects for Irish Paddling, for those paddling in Ireland will know the nature of Irish rivers grade 1-3 generally wider and flatter but as you lift the grades the majority of Irish rivers turn into tight, steep, rocky runs, unlike the bigger volume alpine style of holes and wave trains through large boulders safely under the water. Irish creeks show every rock poking through the surface ready to trip or bounce you.
Boats which have historically sold well in Ireland
Dagger Mamba
Pyranha Burn
Dagger Nomad
Wavesport Habitat
Bliss stick Mystic.
Why have these boats sold so well?
Because they work!
The Jackson Villain S could be added as a late  contender to the list.
The majority of these boats are flat hulled river runners with plenty of volume, the Mystic and Habitat are still very creeky but have enough rail to hold a line the only round hulled boat would be the Nomad,
I feel the Nomad is now a classic and still works as a steep creeker with plenty of volume but slightly shorter than the newer boats making it far more manoeuvrable.
The flat hull offers a solid stable platform to plan your lines from with nice rails to provide a secondary stability to keep the boat riding high while hanging onto a line, then back in the easy stuff you can cruise about the river eddy hopping and ferrying to your hearts content.
The rounded hull allows good stability at any angle like sitting on a soccer ball. On big volume slides and drops the round hull eliminates the rail tripping for super smooth transfers.
Unfortunately some of the bigger round hulled creekers struggle in tight technical Irish Rock Gardens, with lots of volume they just want to bounce through anything you can throw at it but lacking that rail which helps manoeuvre the boat quickly in tight situations. You sometime end up as a pinball bouncing from rock to rock instead of smooth lines
All boats should be purchased for the majority of your paddling and not your single aspiration to run Niagara.
Buy something you can use and enjoy every week of the year, we all paddle to enjoy it.
Boat review time
After a nice few weeks way I had the opportunity to try a few different boats throughout Europe.
A some of you may have read my Large Shiva got stuck in Dublin airport for a few days resulting in a lend of a Jackson Karma Medium from Colm Healy @I-Canoe
I have for a while now been paddling 90 gallon plus boats in the big Villain and then the big Shiva so stepping back to a medium always gave me a sinking feeling. But I was pleasantly surprised. I loved my big villain one of the best boats I had paddled big, safe  and strong,  when I started the new job I had to give up the Jackson as my everyday boat so I was relishing the opportunity to at last try the Karma,
As a boat the Karma was like being back at home the same outfitting and seating arrangements I had been used to for a long time through three generations of All Star then the Rockstars, villains, fun runners,  through 9 Jackson boats previously. On the water the karma was responsive but I found nose heavy after some alterations with the seat she was running nose high in the safe responsive package I had always known, some people hate the outfitting but I love it, taking one fairly big impact, (I was running a slide on my head at the time, not my finest moment) she held strong and safe with no slipping of the ropes a roll in the bottom pool and I was off again..
A super boat, nice and quick in a straight line but responsive.
egua auto boof
Jumping back into the round hull of the shiva – (once it arrived from the grasps of Aer Lingus) with the extra volume we could take on any drop, a super safe boat which wants to run the big stuff, skipping smoothly away from the foaming mess at the bottom, unfortunately she does the same skipping fast and true on a big drop as she does in a 3ft drop which without the rail usually ends up charging into which ever rock is in front of you. For tight technical creeking I found the Large Shiva just that bit too big.
For top to bottom, of any easy Irish run the shiva will storm in without slowing. But realistically its a big volume Norway boat, steep big volume the shiva will fly through.
The Shiva comes equipped with the standard Connect 30 with plastic pillars and heavy footrest I did a bit of boat lightening a few weeks ago to drop the weight down
Take a look Here -
So the lightened outfitting held up perfectly, no issues at all the connect outfitting provides great control and security with comfy seat and secure backrest, I padded out the hip pads and shes ready to go, providing a secure comfy fit with good volume and space
IMG_0510I did actually try the Medium and was surprised it was much more manoverable and felt snug without all the excess volume, I think the large is just a little too wide with the knee position still very close not giving you the control to push it over.
For my second trip away after some chatting to friends I took a shiny 2012 Mamba 8.6 with the contour ergo play seat for a spin,
Having never paddled a Mamba previously.......... Ever!
I was in for a treat!

The big mamba was easy to adjust and make it fit me comfortably I left the seat central as straight from the factory, I inserted the extra seat pad and added hip pads and I was ready for the water. ive still to put in the foam heel blocks but these simply velcro in,
One thing with adjusting a boat is to fit it out with what your going to paddle in – if your using creek boots fit the boat while wearing them! it does make a huge difference,
heres some boat outfitting in playboats but gives an idea how to get a snug fit -
So the Mamba,  like being back in a familiar friend, something I instantly felt safe and at home in. The seating was secure and comfy with the new leg lifter offering a snug fit to hold the legs up into the thigh braces.
First time on the water, the Passer in Merano Italy, A cruisey run down from the football pitches to the canoe club, alpine style read and run, waves and holes, with some weir style drops the boat moved around the river well, reacting safely on edge, carving and spining with ease. The big mamba at 89 gallons was as manoeuvrable as a much smaller river runner the flat bottem allowed the boat to plane and carve with the rounded nose and tail offering a great creeking shape, The Mambas first real test was the grade 5 + gorge just above the canoe club, which after a fantastic line utilising Graemes upside down boat the Mamba sailed through,
Check out more about this trip here -
Racing the mamba was fast and furious with good hull speed and length it stayed on line and in speed, we have seen @Eoin Rheinisch  Paddling the large Mamba at this years Wacko taking the win.
Photo: Eoin Rheinisch Dropping In! Taking the win in both Individual and team time trials in Wacko 2013 Great Outdoors Great Outdoors Watersports Department Dagger Kayaks - Ireland Palm Equipment
So back to the boat, creeking in the Mamba is an absolute joy to behold, the boat is responsive and stable the mamba gives you a platform to push your limits, I felt I could put the boat anywhere on the river and really trust it to go where I wanted it, the boat wouldn't hold me back, On the Urnasch in Switzerland the Mamba enjoyed Boofs, Flares, drops and tight technical creeking on both slides and drops the Mamba performed well – Even a bit of hole surfing.
Check out the video -
Mamba on the Urnasch
Il definately be paddling the mamba some more this year, I cant wait to try it back in Ireland on familiar waters.
In short, get out their and try some boats!

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Thursday, 13 June 2013

King Of The Alps

For the second time in as many weeks I was back at Dublin airport at some cruel hour attempting to put a my boat on the plane once again.This time I had the company of ex shackelton and someone I got to know well last week in Val Sesia, Graeme. So with the boat left at oversize baggage once again with the promise it would this time actually be taken we went for breakfast beer..... It was still only 4am

We were leaving Dublin once again in search of  white beer, white snow and Weiss beer, we were heading for the Merano region of Italy for King of the Alps, the third event if the Exo Italian series.
landing into a 30 degree Verona we waited until no one was around until finally the boats showed up!

For this trip I decided the New Mamba 8.6 was going to be my weapon of choice with the new Dagger play seat and leg lifter I was interested to try it, all I did on arrival at the river was slide in the seat pad shim and a few hip pads otherwise the boat was straight out of the factory, More about the boat later.

A quick stop at the hire car office to be handed the keys to a brand new Alfa Romeo Guillietta, little did they know We were about to strap two creekers and a handirack to it.

From Verona, Merano is only a short 2 hour drive, we found the canoe club with some ease, mainly luck. On arrival we met two guys who were definately going to change our trip. On first notion two lads from switzerland who wanted to boat and planned a shuttle up to the gorge, with the water too low we headed for what we thought was the race get on to take a look at the course. A bouncy section of  class 2-4 white water fun river running in beautiful clean alpine water.

As we got to the final drops and the gorge above the canoe club we took a hike to assess the drop, a hole to punch before sticking right to avoid a syphon and then double drop with lots of water pushing up against the wall, rescue would be difficult but it looked to be flushing from the wall, O and stay away from the syphon!
As the three of us headed down Yair took a quick spin in a fast eddy to push him against the wall which slowed Graeme down as he got pushed into the wall failing to roll left his boat, with the unmanned boat on the left I took the initiative to use it as a boof platform to drive clear of the tow back, Graeme took a tough time lots of bubbles before resurfacing on the right in a daze, still clutching his blades.

A quick tow and him and his boat were reunited on the river bank just above the slalom course.

The slalom course was amazing, right at the bottom of the canoe club steps a series of boulders creating eddy's, waves and holes to manoeuvre around. This was also the site of the boater x.

That evening we found possibly the, largest pizza and beer in the area!

By Friday we had found out that the section we had run was not actually the race course but it was also forbidden by the canoe club because  of the big syphon in the last drop..... Oops

So we went to hit the race section another bouncy alpine read and run river varying in grade, the section is about 6.5km long and continuous so after a run we chilled out for a bit before hitting the Exo ramp for some boater x practice. With Ruedi having a tough time falling off the ramp and then losing some fun head to heads he called it a day I did a few extra runs looking for fast water feeling confident.

Race day came with the temperatures soaring we hit the long race 6.5km mass start with the top 32 heading onto the exo ramp a tough cut with so many class paddlers in the field, slalom racers, champions, top ww racers and big creekers, with everyone having their own battles on route, it sounded like Graeme tried to kill someone pushing and stealing their blades :-) Luckily I made the cut along with our new crazy friends

So the two guys from Switzerland the Dynamic Dudes Ruedi Gamper and ex Professional Snowboarder is Probably the craziest guy we met, the other lad Yair is a mad Mexican who loves dropping,

Onto the Exo ramp and the course not had three slalom gates in the worst possible places (obviously)  I started well, getting off the ramp and out in front but ended up in a tough fight with one of the exo team paddlers while we were pushing allowed another paddler to sneak around us, so finished a disappointing third in my heat and out in the first round, both Yuir and Ruedi also got knocked out in  the first round so after watching some more racing it was time for a shower and time to start the party.

Id love to be able to say we had some quiet drinks before an early night but unfortunately by the end of the night we had not only taken over the bar but also decided our best drunken Saturday night plan that we would drive to Switzerland the following day with the only reason because we could.

Sunday came as one of the worst hangovers ever but we stuck to our word and set about driving across the alps to Switzerland, in our subtle states we were then taken on a whirlwind tour of Ruedis Bars, going to a big show after party and some of his locals before a Mexican cooking lesson until 6am.

Luckily a good sleep and we were fired up (Graeme was feeling the worst of the epic amount of tequilas) we hit up the Urnasch river their classic home run with a good entry boof followed by boof or die and solid class 5 gorge some nice drops and lines until the get out waterfall a steep slide and a low pool with epic tow back had me and Yair surfing until Graeme almost killed us dropping in on us and a rescue by Ruedi who could just walk in and pull us out by the paddle, video should be hilarious only downside a awful amount of steps to hike  out. Overall an absolutely class run with one quick dip by Yuir who had a fight with a tree and the tree won. And Graeme had an interesting line through the entry rapid luckily missing the drop into boof or die as he was either backwards or upside down at that point :-)

I really had a great chance to test the new Mamba 8.6 on a variety of rivers and I can report it didn't disappoint! This boat was like paddling an old friend, responsive and predictable, I knew and could trust the boat would do everything I asked with out limitations, Over the course of the week I had her flying off big boofs, running steeps slides and cruising big volume waves as well as racing this boat actually did everything. I always liked, a big volume boat with a rail which the Shiva was super safe but lacked that rail, The Mamba has put me back in love with paddling! In all my years boating I had never even tried one but after a week in it she's the boat for me this season!

A quiet evening eating the best chicken nuggets in all of St Gallen and a good sleep we were heading back on a mammoth 5hour drive back to Verona, with boats loaded and car dropped back in almost the same condition its feet up and wait to land in Dublin!



Val Sesia River Festival

With the Alpine season upon us and half of Irelands paddlers heading to Europe I hopped on the bandwagon, an early flight out of Dublin into Linate had problems from the off with the Airport jammed at 5am and some unhappy faces about a boat. Once in Linate and no sign of the boat I was told it was still in Dublin and would be sent the following day but then would take another 2 days to arrive.  I had to explain I was staying on a campsite in Campertogno a town in the mountains Oh and by the way its also over 8 feet long in my best Italian which is obviously just English louder and slower.

So off I drove in my Panda (note to remember new pandas don't have roof rails and very flexible roofs.)


I landed in Campertogno to meet up with Paddy Tec and the I-Canoe van which luckily had spare boats and blades, (thanks for the lend) and Slev and his Limerick crew. That evening while sampling the finest Italian beer and wine a plan was hatched to hit up the Egua as my warm up run with Slev and his Scouts. A great plan except on the way to the plan we had some hair clipper fun with Mad Phil Connelly, Homeless Andy, C&B Graeme and Earthworm Paddy, so mullet headed I hit the Egua, a Italian Classic, steep and technical in places, beautiful smooth rocks and fast drops, as I came off of top drop I knew I was back in the game!


Some amazing paddling from Slevs Scouts some still very new to paddling but running everything with smiles, some sweetlines and lovely moves, a slow day on the egua but amazing, finishing with some of  the lads running Cylinder drop.

Next day we hit Landwasser but the entry was low and some dismantling roof racks meant repairing, and so we hit up the sorba slides a perfect series of  slides /moves and an easy walk meant laps were the order if the day,

Sorba Slides

Except for paddling Ice cream was also high on the agenda each day and wow was it amazing!

next day was race day so we hit the Alpine Sprint course for firstly the team race and then again for the individual race with the top 32 progressing to the finals, a technical course with the levels dropping meant for lots of rocks to hit and cause trouble I unfortunately finished 33rd one spot outside,  disappointing but knowing I can improve for next time.

The Sunday after the party, magically my Shiva and blades had made it to the camp site only 5 days late so we hit the Semenza  gorge a beautiful gorge section with some beautiful scenery and sweet lines, except the dirty lead in which took me for a pin and some skin from Neal's Knuckles.IMG_0512

As the lads headed off looking for water me Slev and Dave hit the Sorba slides for an evening spin before a chilled night and a spin on the Egua the following day this time getting to use the Shiva


A big boat well suited to launching off anything big, in tight technical sections consider a Burn as the lack of rail just keeps this boat driving fast, safe and straight, a great boat for Austria, Norway high volume and steep but I didn't feel in manoverable enough for Italy.


A fantastic weeks paddling at the Val Sesia river festival some great paddling with good friends and new acquaintances, Il be back!



Thanks to Neal Kelly at The Kayaking Company for the photos.