Salmon 1 – Lazy 0

31 08 2012

Oak Bay – Vancouver Island BC…

In Baja Mexico I am an experienced fish assassin, but until recently I was a Vancouver Island fish slaying virgin. Not that I caught any fish on this particular trip, but I tried!

My recon trolling track…

I checked local fishing reports and the area around Oak Bay seemed like a good local spot to try for some spring salmon. There was better fishing further west towards Sooke & Port Renfrew, but I didn’t have the time to drive that far and until I get rid of my kayak fishing rust I want to stick close to home.

Oak Bay Marina…

I parked at the Oak Bay Marina. You don’t need a boat ramp to launch a kayak, but there is a fair bit of paddle and fishing gear to haul to the water so being able to rig the yak at your vehicle and pull it to the water on a cart is handy if not absolutely essential.

Necky Dolphin kayak…

My kayak is a 14′ old Necky Dolphin sit-on-top that’s 12yrs old. I bought it new when Necky Kayaks was a Canadian company and they made their boats in BC. The company has since been bought by Ocean Kayak in the US and this design is no longer made at all. Too bad because it’s proven to be a very capable recreational boat for me. It handles rough water well and can carry enough cargo for some light touring.

Got fish?

This kayak has been with me on a lot of Baja adventures. It’s a great fishing platform because it’s stable allowing you to confidently fight your catch when you hook up and it still paddles efficiently to cover ground to hunt for fish. The roto-molded plastic hull is rugged enough to haul over rocks or accidentally run into something in the shallows without any damage.

Spare paddle and pump…

I don’t have a waterproof camera at the moment so I wasn’t able to document my fishing mission from the water. My main goal was to make sure all my gear worked and iron out any kinks in the system when there was no pressure to accomplish anything. I checked the weather and tides so I wouldn’t be battling any wind, waves or current. Once away from the marina I just headed out into the Straight of Juan de Fuca to an area there were some fishermen in powerboats trolling.

Kayak gear…

I saw some bait fish jumping, but didn’t get any bites. My rod is a medium action spinning setup and the large sinking weight the fishing store sold me to get the salmon flasher and lure down to where the fish are was a bit too much for my gear. In Baja I use the same gear to troll small Rapala lures so it’s not shocking that it’s not ideal for salmon hunting off Vancouver Island.

Killing ‘em in Baja back in the day…

I won’t spend much time talking about fishing gear until I sort out what works and have some salmon to prove it. Here is a link to a good PNW salmon fishing resource if you are keen to learn more from someone who actually knows what the heck they are doing.. ;)

Cruising the Sea of Cortez on a fish hunt…

My buddy Sean has the same kayak and has expressed an interest in fishing with me. Hopefully we’ll have some yak fishing tales to tell this fall.





Seaward Kayaks Factory Tour – Part 5

31 05 2012

Click on image for more photos…

I took another trip up to the Seaward Kayaks factory in Chemainus BC last Friday to poke around and snap more photos. If kayak factory porn makes you smile click on either image in this post to jump to my Seaward Kayaks Flickr set. The bottom 60 or so photos are new.

Click on image to see more photos…

Click here if you want to read some of my other Seaward Kayaks blog posts.

Click on image for more photos…





Seaward Cosma Kayak Review

22 02 2012

Seaward Cosma waiting for me to get going...

The nice folks at Seaward Kayaks lent me a 16’2″ Cosma touring kayak to paddle for a few days in December. I have spent many months sea kayaking and touring, but almost all of my experience has been down in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez off the coast of Baja Mexico in low performance plastic sit-on-top boats. I am an competent paddler whose never been in a state of the art boat. So getting a chance to try out a sweet kevlar sea kayak put a big smile on my face.

Long and lean...

Although looks are not the primary reason you buy a sea kayak it’s always nice to be stoked about your boat. I was in a rush the day I picked up te Cosma so I didn’t spend much time looking at it. I just strapped it to my car and drove it home. I stashed it in my backyard in the dark and went about making dinner. The next AM I walked out on to my deck and was totally mesmerized by the clean lines and sleek profile of the Cosma. My plastic kayaks have served me well, but to be honest they are F-ugly! I didn’t appreciate how gnarly they looked until I had this Seaward boat sitting in my yard 3′ from the old boats.

She looks fast even on grass!

Once I got over the sleek lines and general sexiness of the Cosma I spent a hour checking out all the cool details and expert craftsmanship that went into making her. I get fascinated with beautiful sea kayaks, mountain bikes and surfboards because they look so amazing and at the same time their purpose is to go out into some of the harshest environments and perform reliably for us. So their beauty is very deep – it’s the beauty of their appearance, the beauty of how they perform and the beauty of how tough they are.

Kevlar...

Getting over the visual appeal of the Cosma I had to move it to the side of my yard and enjoyed how light it was. My other kayaks are not as long as the Cosma and they can’t haul as much, but they are a lot heavier. I could move the Seaward with one hand and without feeling like I was in a weight lifting competition. That would prove very handy for loading onto the roof of our car solo.

Deck bungees...

All the deck attachments are very robust.

Rear hatch...

On my longest kayak tour 4 months in Baja I developed a love-hate relationship with my boat’s hatches. They were small so loading unloading was a chore, but they kept water out which made me happy. The Cosma offers the best of both worlds with large waterproof hatches so you can get what you need easily. This is a must have feature for any boat I buy.

Self-rescue system...

Coming from SOT kayaks one skill I need to work on is my ability to re-enter my boat in the water. Having a proven paddle rescue system on the Cosma made me feel more confident about going through that process. Even though I was too lazy to spend a bunch of time in the cold water during my short test.

Welcome to my office...

A comfortable cockpit is critical to happiness in a touring kayak as much as saddle comfort is important on a touring bike. You spend all day sitting in your boat with limited opportunities to get out and move around. I found the Cosma’s seat and backrest were comfortable for the half day length of paddles I was able to fit in. If I was keeping the Cosma I’d spend some more time tweaking the fit, but as it stands I was pretty happy right out of the gate. The rudder pedals were also easy to adjust and comfortable. I didn’t deploy the rudder as I was having too much fun leaning the Cosma to steer it. I tend not to use my kayak’s rudder unless absolutely necessary so it’s a feature I want to have, but as long as it’s there and works I happy to let it sit on my stern most of the time.

One issue I had with the Cosma’s cockpit was that my legs felt cramped. It’s a very low profile boat and I have long legs with big feet attached. When I get a chance I’d like to try one of Seaward’s high volume boats as I think I would prefer having the extra room. If you are taller that’s something you may want to consider when ordering a kayak.

Rudder deployment control...

A nice feature on the Cosma is having the rudder deployment controls in front of the cockpit for easy access and having them recessed so that you don’t snag anything on it.

Bow details...

Lots of deck rigging options on the bow.

An unusual perspective of the Galloping Goose Trail...

So I want to be clear that I did not test the Cosma to its full potential. Mainly because my kayak skills are rusty and being new to high performance sea kayaks I didn’t want to end up as a statistic in some ocean safety report. I can only report about how she handled for easy day paddles on calm water unloaded.

Here are my thoughts:

  • easy to get into and out of  on shore [strikes a good balance between small cockpit opening and ease of entry]
  • hard chines provide excellent stability
  • you can set the Cosma on edge nicely to turn the boat
  • comfortable seat and backrest
  • very efficient boat
  • glides well and tracks straight

Here is a review from Canoe and Kayak Magazine.

Seaward Cosma specifications - click here...

Click on the image above to read all the Cosma specification details on the Seaward website. I won’t regurgitate the same info again here so let me summarize by saying the Cosma is a great day tripping and light touring boat. My initial impressions have been positive and I’m hoping to get a chance to borrow it again to test in some more demanding paddling conditions.

View from the cockpit...

You can read user reviews of the Cosma over at Paddling.net.

Cosmic beauty...

You can read my Seaward Kayak Factory Tour posts here.





Vibram Five Finger KSO 2yr Review

1 02 2012

Click on image for my previous review...

Let me summarize my long term review of the Vibram Five Finger KSO booties/slippers by saying 3 things:

  • if you kite, windsurf, SUP or surf on the beaches I frequent in Canada and Mexico you either wear something on your feet or you get cut up badly.
  • these KSOs are the best footwear solution I’ve found for these sports in warm to cool water.
  • there is significant room for improvement of this product for the water-sports crowd.

If you want to read my pervious review click on the image above. I’ll only be discussing my long term experiences with the KSOs in this post.

Virtually no wear on the Vibram sole...

The Good:

  • they fit my odd shaped feet reasonably well
  • they don’t interfere with the bindings on my twin tip kiteboard
  • they provide decent board feel on my strapless kiteboards, SUPs and surfboards
  • they provide excellent traction
  • they provide excellent protection from sharp rocks, coral, urchins, glass, etc…
  • soles are very durable
  • available in black so you don’t attract too much attention!
  • reasonably priced for specialized sports footwear

Shredded fabric lets toes our and rocks in...=-(

The Bad:

  • they don’t fit some people
  • not much good in cold water
  • sole is much thicker than needed for protection or durability for board sports
  • thinner sole would provide much better board feel with no downsides
  • fabric tops are not very robust [mine have been ripped open between the toes several times now]
  • once the fabric rips small rocks and sand get in as you walk down the beach and get into the water. This really irritates the feet while you are riding for 3hrs and your skin gets soft.
  • glue is letting go between rubber and fabric along the sides

Bottom line I love how these slippers work compared to a regular neoprene surf bootie, but it’s sad to know I’ll shred the tops after a couple months of beach use while the soles are good for 10 years of abuse. I’ll keep buying them because for now there is no better alternative for warm and cool weather water-sports.

My KSO's have seen better days!

Here is how to improve them for water board sports:

  • make sole 30% thinner for better board feel.
  • they rip mostly between toes when a rock gets in there are rubs the fabric so wrap a thin layer of rubber up the sides of each toe to add to the durability.
  • change top fabric to something 50% more abrasion resistant.
  • to make the Flow neoprene model better increase size of each toe box to account for thicker neoprene material compared to KSO. Currently Flow toe boxes are too small for many people’s feet.
  • make a high top side entry Flow so you can tuck the top under a wetsuit leg to stay warm in cold conditions.

As I said in my original Five Fingers review – kudos to Vibram for brining such a novel and highly functional product to market. They rock in many ways and I’ll be buying a new pair of KSOs now that I have shredded and repaired my 2yr old pair so much they can’t be fixed further. I hope Vibram takes some notice of the concerns listed here. Everyone I’ve met on the beach who uses Five Fingers has had the same experience.





Seaward Kayaks Factory Tour – Part 4

21 01 2012

Painting the seam...

You can read my previous Seaward Factory Tour posts here.

Painted seam drying...

I visited the Seaward Kayaks factory in Chemainus BC in December with my new Canon S95 camera and a tripod. I had hoped to video tape/photograph a thermoform kayak being produced, but my timing was off so I settled for simply taking some better photos of their operation. With a tripod I could make the best of the less than ideal indoor lighting. So here is a bunch of photos from the visit.

Bird's eye view of kayaks in progress...

Seaward Passat tandem...

The other side...

A tandem partially built...

Nicely contrasting hatch and cockpit combings...

Sweet fade deck paint...

High volume boat for the bigger paddler...

Thermoform boat being joined together...

Thermoform hulls trimmed and waiting to be built...

Colourful thermoform decks waiting to be built into boats...

Thermoform plastic hull and deck with seam installed...

Deck, hull and seam taped into place will glue cures...

CNC machine building new kayak form...

Router in action...

Partially finished hull...

Bird's eye view of router...

Prepping interior of kayak...

Thermoform kayaks with transparent bottoms being glued together...

Short recreational plastic decks waiting for a hull...

Glued boats waiting finishing details...

Inspecting glued deck and hull while transparent bottom is being installed...

New prototype rudder system...

Retracted position...

Recessed rudder control...

Current model Seaward rudder...

Rudder control...

Rudder deployed...

I’ll be taling to Seaward and hopefully getting a video made of a thermoform boat being built. Stay tuned if kayak porn interests you…=-)

Bow seam/bumper detail...

Seaward Cosma 16' 2" Kevlar touring kayak...

Seaward was nice enough to lend me a Cosma kevlar single kayak to try out. I’ll be posting my thoughts on it next week.





Seaward Kayaks Factory Tour – Part 3

5 11 2011

 

Seaward kayaks in action...

In Part 1 of this tour we talked about how Seaward Kayaks made their thermoform ABS plastic kayaks. Part 2 looked at the fiberglass/kevlar boats and why they were so nice. In this installment I’m going to discuss which Seaward kayak I’m keen on and why.

Single or Tandem

I spent a long 4 month Baja paddle trip with my friend Anna in two single kayaks. We had an amazing time, but we both agreed that we would never embark upon that sort of trip again unless we had a double kayak. Our paddling speeds were so different that even at my most relaxed pace I was usually 1 bay ahead of her so I would close my eyes and nap while she caught up and I’d leap ahead again. You might say just paddle slower and I tried – I really did. I felt like I’d have to paddle backwards to go any slower. We still ended up miles apart after a couple hours. The second issue is that when the wind picked up and things got rough Anna was not as confident in her paddling skills [she was a novice] so we had to head for the beach early to get her to safety and when we did stay out in the waves she was anxious.

A tandem would have allowed us to stay together for social reasons and make the trip safer. It would also have allowed us to cover 50% more distance each day and made camp in the evenings more fun since nobody would be tense! I was convinced about a tandem kayak years ago, but my recent experiences with a tandem bicycle just confirmed that opinion 100%. Especially in the more dangerous waters of the North Pacific Ocean I’ll feel far better about Sharon and I being in the same boat.

Tandems aren’t all roses they are crazy long, heavy, expensive and you can’t paddle one solo. Trying to move and store a 22′ long boat is pretty epic! On the plus side it’s easier and cheaper than two 18′ single kayaks.

Praying we don't get into a fight today due to vastly different paddling speeds!

Material

All my previous and my current sea kayaks were made of rotomoulded plastic. The dull soft kind that you see for rent at the beach. These boats are cheap, heavy and tough. They tend not to be very efficient due to the limitations of the shapes allowed by the rotomoulding process and because they are targeted at the less hardcore end of the paddling market. I’ve always wanted one of those shiny fiberglass kayaks I see down in Baja that glide through the water so easily and look so nice. So the one thing I was certain about was that I would not be buying another rotomoudled sea kayak.

The tour of the Seaward factory confused me a bit at first since the thermoform ABS kayaks had solved a lot of the things I didn’t like about my old plastic boats while retaining the lower cost compared to fiberglass. They are lighter, stronger, better looking and can be made into more complex shapes than a rotomoulded boat. For a recreational boat I think it’s a no brainer that a thermoform plastic kayak is the best bang for your buck.

The fiberglass boats do offer some important benefits though:

  • 100% customizable
  • can be built in any complex shape for highest performance
  • strongest/stiffest construction option
  • easily repaired and repairs can hardly be noticed [ideal for a long term boat]
  • 30yr+ service life

A morning fishing paddle on the Sea of Cortez...

This makes them best suited for the challenges of long tours with a lot of gear and supplies. On my long Baja tour we each carried 40L of water that weigh 80lbs on top of food for a couple weeks at a time and camping gear. Now double that and put both people in one boat on a rough sea pounding from wave to wave and crashing up onto a beach in a storm. The stresses are phenomenal and orders of magnitude greater than what a recreational boat experiences on a relaxing flatwater paddle.

It’s not surprising then that Seaward’s thermoform line up of kayaks are largely recreational boats suited for less demanding use and their fiberglass/kevlar boats are more focused on the performance touring/expedition market. Since I can only afford one boat it has to be suited for casual day paddles in the Victoria Harbour as well as a 2 month long trip down the Sea of Cortez. If I’m going to spend a lot of $$ on a sea kayak I want to customize it so it works optimally for us which means a fiberglass or kevlar boat.

Kevlar offers the same strength as fiberglass at ~10% less weight, but it costs more. I’m not sure if I would be interested in that feature yet. That’s a decision I’ll leave until just before I place an order. I’m hoping to demo similar kayaks in fiberglass and kevlar to get a hands on feel for the practical differences.

Passat & Passat G3...

Which model?

Based on what we’ve discussed so far the only two Seaward models that fit the bill are:

The key difference is the large center hatch on the G3. You gain a little weight and lose a touch of performance for that feature, but my experience on a long kayak tour says the connivence of easy access to gear is well worth it. These kayaks are very strong, stable boats with rudders for keeping on course with varying winds and waves. Totally overkill for a casual paddle, but you have to get to know your boat close to home in friendly waters before you set out on a challenging tour in new territory.

You can read more about the Passat G3 below or click here to jump to the Seaward G3 product page.

Passat G3 marketing spew...

Colour and Features

Now onto the really important stuff like what colour I’d get?…hahaha…=-) Sharon will get to pick the colour, but I’m leaning towards something simple and classic like the red/black/white scheme shown below. Seaward has a custom colour tool so you can mess around with whatever combinations you think might be nice and see them on a boat.

As for the features I’d order I’m not really sure yet. I need another trip up to Seaward to chat about what the options are and what the pros/cons are for each one. Doug appreciated that this is a huge purchase and was willing to talk about it as much as I wanted to which is cool. I’ve learned so much in that first visit that my brain was on overload. Now that I’ve processed everything it’s time for round two and more detailled questions.

Red is faster right?...=-)

What’s next?

If time allows I’d like to visit Seaward’s factory again and get some more info. I’d like to demo a kayak or two if I can and I’d also like to shoot some video of kayaks being built.





Seaward Kayaks Factory Tour – Part 2

28 10 2011

Sign that welcomes you outside the factory...

In part 1 of this factory tour we had a look at how Seaward’s thermoform ABS plastic kayaks were made. Part 2 will cover fiberglass/kevlar kayaks. Seaward has been making fiberglass kayaks since it started operations 25yrs+ ago compared to making thermoform kayaks for only the last 7yrs. Although fiberglass/kevlar technology isn’t new it still provides the means for Seaward to build its finest kayaks.

This is because:

  • it’s a totally customizable hands on process
  • it provides a very light and strong structure
  • extra material can be utilized in highly stressed areas
  • it has a proven track record of success under extreme conditions
  • it can be easily field repaired
  • factory repairs look 100% good as new and are as strong as new
  • the lifespan of a fiberglass/kevlar kayak is 30yrs+ with minimal maintenance

Kevlar cloth is yellow and fiberglass is the white cloth below...

It’s funny to me that the fiberglass/kevlar section of the Seaward factory has a whole different vibe to the the thermoform areas. Thermoform production feels like a factory and the boats feel like they are being assembled. While the fiberglass production has a craftsman working on a piece of art vibe. There is no sense of mass production and everything is slower and made by hand. It all starts in the room where sheets of fiberglas or kevlar cloth are pulled out onto a big table and cut into the required shapes for each boat.

Kayak hull, deck and hatch patterns...

With patterns and mould available for every boat Seaward has ever made they can reach back into time and build anything they need to which is very cool. Unlike the thermoform boats each fiberglass/kevlar kayak is customized and unique. If you need a bigger volume boat to accommodate you size 15 feet they incorporate that into the production process. Need all the deck line and deck bungee attachement points reinforced? – no problem. A custom colour scheme and just about any feature you can imagine are all possible just ask. Doug mentioned to me that as the process to build a fiberglass boat started he talks to everyone involved and goes over any special customer needs to insure they are incorporated properly.

A deck mould prepped and ready to start building a red deck...

The correct deck mould is pulled from inventory and coloured appropriately for the customer’s order. In the image above a red deck is being built. Cloth and resin are carefully laid down into the mould by hand. This is a very labour intensive process that gets quality checked at each stage to ensure the kayak is being made as designed. The fact this is a hands on job accounts for the ability to customize each boat and also the reason for the higher cost vs. a thermoform boat. Typically a fiberglass kayak takes over 4 times longer than a thermoform one to produce. That’s a difference of about 40hrs vs. 9hrs.

A white hull mould prepped to go with the red deck above...

Unfortunately I didn’t see a fiberglass kayak being built during my visit to the Seaward Factory. I’m hoping to get a chance to pop back up there one day and watch both processes more closely. The engineer in me can’t help, but enjoy geeking out on how these boats are built!…=-) I was interested in how their QC process worked and found out that each step of the construction process was compared to the build ticket and the craftsman starting the new step signed off that the previous step was done correctly. If there was a problem observed it was rectified before production continued. At random points during the build and at the very end the production foreman inspects each kayak to ensure it meets the customer’s order perfectly. The love and pride put into these boats is clear from the way everyone at Seaward talks about them. They aren’t churning out mass produced widgets that are a commodity. The thermoform and especially the fiberglass/kevlar kayaks are treated like floating objects of art which I thought was cool. It’s nice to know the folks who made your boat care so much about it.

The inside of a kayak being built...

Once the deck and hull are ready they are joined with fiberglass seams on the inside and outside. The outer seam also gets it’s own 2 layer gel coat in any of the 15 Seaward colour options. You can order a custom colour pallet for each of the following kayak components: deck, hull, seam, hatches and combing. That makes for 15 x 5 = 75 combinations so you can have a totally unique boat if you want to or you can stick with something more standard.

Glassed in bulkhead...

The interior bulkheads are made of composite materials are glassed to the deck and hull. This combined with the glassed seam makes for any incredibly strong and light kayak.

Nicely contrasting combing...

Doug pointed out that Seaward takes special care to finish the interior of each combing and hatch so that it’s smooth. This ensures there are no rough edges to abrade you or your dry bags. My current plastic 14′ sit on top kayak is great, but it has a small front hatch and rough edges inside so getting gear in and out without compromising their waterproofness is a huge PITA. These kind of small details don’t seem super important in the showroom, but trust me on day 25 of a long trip you’ll be on the edge of insanity if none of your dry bags are keeping your gear 100% dry anymore.

Each combing is glassed into the hull to ensure it’s very secure.

She's nearly done...

One of the cool features that will be installed on the boat in the image above is a a Seaward Smart Rudder. This is a custom handmade rudder built by Seaward out of aluminum and stainless steel for strength and corrosion resistance. Rudder lines are run under the deck in low friction teflon housing to keep the exterior of the boat clean and free of any unnecessary snag points for safety. The rudder cables appear back on the deck just in front of the paddler so they can easily deploy/retract the rudder without having to twist around behind them and risk getting unbalanced like on  many kayaks. The rudder pedals are unique in that they are attached to the boat’s tracks solidly to allow for effective bracing even if a rudder cable were to break.

Rudder and handle have their own bungees for secure transport...

One of my least favourite transport rituals with my current plastic kayak is to duct tape the rudder and carrying handle to the boat so they aren’t flailing around at 110kph on the highway – potentially getting damaged and certainly marking up the boat’s finish. I was happy to see that Seaward has thought of this and each part has its own bungee so you can secure them in a couple seconds without hassles and without leaving tape residue on your lovely boat.

Hard 2 part hatch...

Seawards Greenland style kayaks use the smaller rubber hatches I talked about in my previous post about their thermoform kayaks. The larger North American style boats use a 2 part hatch like the one shown above. It is made up of a hard exterior hatch with a neoprene seal underneath. This provides the optimal combination of waterproofing and durability for hard use like expeditions or tour operations.

Note the bungee partially over the hatch combing...

Although these hatches are tough it’s possible that over the course of a couple decades you could damage or lose a hatch. This could be a major problem on a tour when you need a seaworthy boat to get you safely home. Seaward has thought of this and addressed this potential problem in 3 ways:

  1. both the hard outer shell and neoprene seal are attached to the deck with bungees so they can’t blow/float away
  2. in the image above you can see a hatch bungee partially over the combing…you can use any fabric [tarp, garbage bag, tent fly, etc...] to create a DIY waterproof hatch cover by placing it under both hatch bungees – very cool!
  3. Seward has used the same hatch shapes for a couple decades and doesn’t plan on changing so when you call them for a replacement hatch cover for your 20yr old boat after you run yours over – the answer will be “…sure no problem!…”

Quick release paddle float rescue system...

Their fiberglass boats get the smart quick release paddle float rescue system I discussed in my previous thermoform production post. I really dig this feature and it makes me feel much safer as I consider paddling in the rough waters of Vancouver Island.

A bunch of Seaward kayaks waiting to travel to their new homes...

I feel like I am not doing these high quality kayaks justice. There are many features and design elements that Doug passed on that I’ve forgotten and others that I know I am just unaware of. However, I am learning a ton about Seaward and their kayaks which was my goal. Trust me when I say that being around a bunch of finished Seaward fiberglass and kevlar kayaks is like walking around a Ferrari factory…glossy high performance goodness all over the place! Given my humble kayaking resume I feel unworthy of such beautiful boats that have carried expert paddlers on amazing expeditions all around the world…;-)

Some of the Seaward Kayaks pallet of colours...

Now that we’ve looked at how Seaward makes their thermoform and fiberglass/kelvar boats the obvious questions are:

  • what style of kayak should I buy?
  • what type of material should I be after?
I’ll tackle these topics in my next two Seaward Factory Tour posts.




Seaward Kayak Factory Tour – Part 1

25 10 2011

Seaward Kayaks HQ...

Buying a quality sea kayak is a big investment. The Seaward Passsat G3 boat I’m keen on will run around $5000.00 depending on the options you choose. I’ve known Seaward’s factory was on Vancouver Island for a while, but with a busy summer of outdoors adventure happening I only got around to contacting them about a tour of their facility in the last week. I was surprised when Doug Godkin called me up within 30mins of sending them a brief email. He was very friendly and happy to show me around the facility. Since I was on a roll I asked if he would mind if I took some photos so I could blog about the tour and received a positive response which was cool – thanks Doug! We got around to discussing scheduling for the tour and Doug mentioned he had time the same day if I could make it up to Chemainus BC where they are located. It was a sunny warm day and I hadn’t been out on my KLR650 for a while so a 75km ride up the island seemed like a great idea.

The road north to Seaward Kayaks...

Chemainus is a lovely town I visited for a BC Randonneurs 200k cycling event last year and the same place I volunteered for their 600K later the same week. It’s famous for its many beautiful murals and a theatre group that does booming business year round – not to forget the stunning costal scenery and friendly people…=-) The 75km ride was fun and I managed not to get any speeding tickets in the uber slow 70km zones along the highway north! Seaward’s factory is an unassuming blue building located just off the Island Highway. I like these first glimpses inside a factory when you know that the plain exterior hides a slick team of people and machines that are building something cool for folks all around the world.

Seward Kayaks showroom...

Doug met me at the door – alerted by the thump…thump…thump of my bike. He was very personable and didn’t mind answering all my goofy questions nor spending a good chunk of his afternoon away from the important things that I’m sure were piled up on his desk. In fact he was so helpful that at one point in the middle of a detailled explanation of how the bulkheads were fully bonded to the upper and lower deck of their fiberglass/kevlar kayaks he stopped and asked me…”…are you going to remember all this?…”…I nodded weakly and realized I better pay back the time he was investing in showing me around by not messing up the technical details of their boats too badly! To that end I’m going to tackle this tour report in a few parts so I can devote a decent amount of time to each one.

Large thin sheets of Solar Kote ABS...

Seaward offers two different product lines: thermoform ABS plastic kayaks and fiberglass/kevlar boats. I’ll cover a breakdown of the differences between these two options later on once we’ve seen how each material is used to make a kayak, but the basic idea is the thermoforming process is faster/easier which results in lower cost boats – while the fiberglass/kevlar process allows for a ton of customization, but it takes a lot of time/effort so it costs significantly more. Before you can build either type of boat you need an excellent design and a prototype from which to build moulds. I didn’t see this part of the process during my visit to Seaward, but a look at the owner reviews on Paddling.net makes it pretty clear that Seaward is putting its 25yrs+ of experience in making kayaks to good use. I did see some moulds getting tweaked to make improvements and Doug was talking about new designs they had in the works so Seaward is continuing to innovate as they get feedback from paddlers.

A kayak deck mould...

Thermoforming process starts with large sheets of thin ABS plastic in a variety of colours depending on what the final product needs to look like. An appropriate deck or hull mould is selected and mounted in a large oven. The ABS plastic is placed above the mould and both are heated until the plastic sheet is almost a liquid. Then the mould is pressed up into the soft plastic and with the help of some vacuum action it takes on the exact shape of the mould. After some time to cool down the mould and hull or deck is separated and the process repeated.

A partial view of the oven and a mould in action...

By using an oven and mould Seaward can efficiently make thermoform boats that are identical and they can also switch up moulds easily so that customer orders can be addressed as needed with minimal loss of production. That’s a smart way to make kayaks.

A bunch of kayak hulls ready to become boats...

As you can see from the photo above there is a significant amount of excess plastic around the kayak hulls or decks once they come out of the oven. Seaward deals with this in two ways. The first is to use as much of each sheet as is possible by adding various smaller parts to a boat mould when possible as seen in the image below.

Two bulkheads at the end of a hull...

These bulkheads will be cut out and used when the deck and hull and joined together which means less work for Seaward and less unused plastic. The second way they deal with the excess ABS is to chip all of the trimmed plastic on-site and ship it back to the manufacturer to be recycled into new sheets of plastic. That’s a good way to lower costs and reduce the environmental impact of building each kayak.

Small parts moulds...

In addition to the big oven where decks and hulls are made Seaward has a smaller oven that is used to thermoform various parts like hatches, seats and bulkheads that are needed to complete a kayak.

Small parts waiting for a boat to need them...

One cool detail Doug passed on was that Seaward used a limited number of standard hatches in their boats so that owners wouldn’t have any issues getting spare parts 10 – 20yrs down the road. In a culture that is moving towards disposable products it’s nice to see a company not only build products that have a service life measured in decades, but also think about what support their customers will need to keep a boat happy in the long run.

A hull fully prepped and ready to be built into a kayak...

Each part of the kayak is trimmed of excess plastic and prepared to be joined together. This takes skill and some time, but it’s critical to producing a quality product.

Kayak decks being prepped for assembly...

All the folks I met a Seaward, from the managers in their offices to the guys in the shop assembling each boat by hand, shared two things – a passion for making a great kayak and a lot of skill. It showed in how they talked about their work and the results I could see at each step of the production process.

A kayak is a team effort!

Once both halves of the boat have been thermoformed and prepared they are joined together using a special adhesive and a rubber strip inside and outside. You can see this in the photos above and below as well as a protective bumper on each end which is one of the many small, but important details incorporated into these kayaks.

Inside a Seward Infinity...

I must admit I was geeking out so hard during my tour at Seaward that I didn’t take all the photos I needed to document my post. So I cheated by taking some extra pics of some Seaward kayaks at Mountain Equipment Co-op – one of Seaward’s dealer network. The boat in the images above and below was an Infiniti with a skeg. You can see the bonded in bulkhead above as well as adjustable foot braces.

Deck details...

Even though their thermoform kayak line is the lower cost option at Seaward they don’t get the budget treatment in any respect. The fit and finish is excellent and they incorporate many cool features like the comfortable carrying handle, abundant deck lines and waterproof rubber hatches shown above.

Rubber hatches - easy to use and waterproof...

Seawards Greenland style boats, like this Infinity, get rubber hatches. I like them because they are easy to use one handed and waterproof.

Open day hatch for small items you want easy access to...

As I am writing this post and processing the photos I took it’s cool to see how nice the finish is on these affordable plastic kayaks. That’s something I wasn’t expecting when I started the tour. I knew that Seaward’s fiberglass/kevlar boats would be beautiful to look at and touch, but I assumed incorrectly the lower cost plastic boats wouldn’t be that attractive. It’s nice to be wrong sometimes…=-)

Skeg retracted...

The Infinity has a retractable skeg to keep the boat tracking straight in strong winds and waves – while letting it be very maneuverable when you want it to be.

Elegant skeg control...

On my plastic kayaks and all the other kayaks I’ve used in the past the way you deployed the rudder or skeg was an ugly set of lines on the deck that you pulled on. It worked, but it was a hassle to use and added one more thing on your deck to deal with. Seaward uses this slick slider next to the cockpit that you move back and forth to deploy or retract the skeg – one of my favourite features!

Skeg deployed...

On my longest kayak expedition in Baja I had a Greenland style plastic roto-moulded boat with leaky hatches and no skeg – I would have paid just about anything to have a skeg and better hatches so these details are near and dear to my heart. I vowed not to go on another long paddling trip without a quality boat.

A QR paddle float rescue system...

In the image above you see two nylon straps behind the cockpit that are used in conjunction with a paddle float to stabilize the kayak so you can get back in and pump the water out. That’s great, but on most kayaks you have to reach around and really expend some effort to release the paddle which often means you capsize again in rough seas which leads to a very tired paddler in a dangerous situation. Seaward designed their paddle float rescue system to be quick release so an easy tug on either side releases the paddle and lets you stabilize yourself quickly.

A comfortable adjustable seat is important...

Kayakers, like cyclists, spend a lot of time on their butts so a seat that is comfortable and adjusts to different body shapes is important. I like the way the Seaward seat looks, but I’ll have to report back when I’ve been on one for several hours without a break.

Deck bungee and reflective deck line...

The last couple details I noticed were the standard issue deck bungees and deck lines. Not sexy, but essential on the water. One fun boat I had seen at the Seaward factory and at MEC was a shorter recreational boat called the Intrigue with a see though bottom for enjoying sea life.

See through bottom...

Well that’s the end of part one. Hopefully you’ve gained some insight as to how Seaward makes their thermoform kayaks and some of the features these boats have. If you have any questions about their thermoform kayaks leave me a comment and I’l track down the answer.

Next up I’ll post about their fiberglass/kevlar boats.





Seaward Kayaks Passat G3

19 10 2011

Click on image for a larger version...

I’m an odd sea kayaker. I’ve spent months kayaking daily in the Sea of Cortez. I’ve done a major kayak expedition and a bunch of smaller tours. The only thing is my kayak experience has come in a few months long trips down to Baja. When I have sea kayaked I’ve done it like mad for weeks at a time, but then I’ve gone a year or two without touching a paddle. I can blame a bunch of that on living in Calgary for 15yrs. There are lakes and rivers to paddle on, but it’s hard to get stoked about paddling on a lake you can see across when your last paddle was an 8 week tour down the Sea of Cortez!

Now that I am living in Victoria BC – an international sea kayaking hot spot up there with Baja Mexico – it makes sense to get my paddle on at home. I own a 14′ plastic SOT [sit-on-top] kayak which I love. It’s ideal for fishing and short day trips. It’s not the most efficient paddling boat and it struggles if you load it up for a multi-day camping trip.

One of the things my time touring on inefficient plastic kayaks down in Baja has taught me is that I could really use an efficient boat. I’m not the strongest paddler on the planet and in order to cover a decent daily distance on tour pushing a barge through the water is not ideal.

One of the things I learned in the last year from cycling is how much more fun it is to travel together with my weaker partner on a tandem Bike Friday. Having experienced similar problems of unequal power and skill kayaking I can see how beneficial it would be to have a tandem kayak for Sharon and I rather than investing in two single boats. Not only does it keep the team together on the water for the sake of enjoyment it also makes paddling much safer. That’s an important consideration since sea kayaking has an element of risk, due to tides and bad weather, that isn’t present in biking.

Click on image for larger version...

I have always admired the sleek shiny fibreglass and kevlar sea kayaks I’ve seen on top of cars headed to the ocean and on the water down in Baja. Not only are they beautiful, but they glide smoothly and efficiently through the water while carrying a week’s worth of gear. I’ve held off buying a high end kayak simply because I felt my intense, but infrequent paddling schedule didn’t justify the cost. Now that I am living in a sea kayaking paradise I’m of a different mind so I started to do some research talking to everyone I saw with a boat, visiting paddling shops and checking out what people are saying online. One of the name’s that stood out was Seaward Kayaks. Owners’ and reviewers alike where impressed by the quality of their construction, their performance on the water and the excellent customer service. I was stoked to find out this was a Canadian company and then even more stoked to find out that their factory was just up the road in Chemainus BC.

My experience with Bike Friday has really shown me the benefits of buying from a small company that values quality and performance. I love being able to visit the place where my gear is made and talk to the folks whose hands have crafted the product I’m using to propel my adventures. I also really really like knowing that if I have a problem down the road there are real people I can call/email/visit who care and will help me out. Something you do not get with a low cost high volume made in China item.

Of course buying a Seaward Kayak isn’t cheap and a boat like this will last the rest of our paddling lives so I want to get it right. Each boat is customized for the owner[s] and I want to understand all the options so I get the right boat for us. So far that seems like a Seaward Passat G3 in fibreglass – hence the kayak porn in this post…=-)

Since I’ve always owned plastic boats I need to educate myself about the different material options available and the different features. I’ll be posting about what I find out on this blog – sort of a Buying Sea Kayaks for Dummies series…hopefully with a Seaward Passat G3 review and Baja tour report next winter…=-) Doug at Seaward Kayaks has been kind enough to agree to showing me around their factory and answering my questions. My mission is to learn a ton without being a PITA!





The Tao of Wow!

19 10 2011

Person, paddle and SUP - all you really need...

Over the years I’ve been exposed to a number of spiritual traditions.

  • My dad is Hindu.
  • My mom is Protestant.
  • I went to a Catholic high school.
  • I practiced yoga daily for over 3yrs when I was younger.
  • I’ve read extensively about Buddhism and other Eastern traditions.
  • And I’ve had friends that came were on many different spiritual paths.

Now that I am in my 40’s I find myself spending less and less time reading books about this topic or going to places where spirituality or religious experience is the focus. Not because I have no interest in that part of my life. In fact as I get older it seems to me that this is the whole point of life – to get a handle on your life and what it means. I’m finding that the most rewarding place to explore the experience of my life and to understand what it means to me is not in a yoga studio or in a temple, but in the everyday moments I live. There is no spiritual guide to help you down this path. Surfing and cycling don’t have a religious dogma to learn or spiritual instructional program. But, there is no reason that you can’t connect with God just as well flying through the air kiteboarding or gliding along in your sea kayak as you can in a yoga studio or church.

In fact I think that engaging in the direct experience of all that life has to offer in these ways has a benefit. Since there is no book, no manual or lexicon your mind is not being channeled down specific paths of thought. Your experience is beyond the bounds and constraints of language. Without words or a set of ideas someone else taught you you can engage with your life on a deeper level.

That lets paddling a SUP become a moving meditation. A consciousness expanding voyage into your reality. An appropriate metaphor when you picture a tiny SUPer floating on a vast ocean.

Your bike can be rolling along on two big prayer wheels as you pedal.

The wave that rises up behind you and pushes you along on your surfboard has travelled from halfway around the planet to interact with you in this one brief moment which makes it easy to appreciate the infinite connections we have with everything else.

Just to be clear I’m not down on churches, yoga studios or any other spiritual tradition. I figure there are so many flavours of humanity out there not everyone is going to get turned on to the same thing. Find what makes you passionate and embrace it.





Seal Line E-Case Initial Review

13 07 2011

Seal Line Small E-Case...

I’ve spent a lot of time at outdoor stores checking out their waterproof cases in the hopes of finding something I liked for my iPhone. Until I found the Seal Line E-Case there was nothing I could see myself using. My complaints were generally awkward sized cases, hard to use and couldn’t operate phone while inside case. The iPhone’s smooth finish wants to stick like glue to any rubberized surface making sliding it inside a dry bag next to impossible. I had sort of given up hope until I had a breakthrough idea – leave some paper or slippery plastic in the dry bag so the phone can slide on it. This has two benefits:

  • the iPhone slides in relatively easily
  • the other surface holds it nicely in place once inside.

Robust easy to use waterproof opening...

With the addition of a bit of paper the Seal Line E-Case is easy to operate and allows full use of the iPhone including making and receiving calls.  The case is waterproof to 1m for 30mins. Having said that I don’t suggest trusting any case like this for regular submersion of a $700 device. The waterproof zipper can easily be compromised by dirt or you could fail to use it correctly. My plan is to use the E-Case in rain and for accidental submersion like falling off my SUP. The case has a couple loops so you can tether the phone to yourself or your gear. The screen of the phone is much easier to read than it would seem based on my top photo.

A bit of paper on one side of the case is key!

One additional tip is to cut away a small area of the paper/plastic sliding material you use so that the iPhone’s camera is exposed. If not it will think your hand is covering it while talking and the screen won’t light up during a call. The E-Case is offered in 3 sizes. I’m using the small one for my iPhone and they make an iPhone specific case that is marginally wider and a bit taller. They also make a case specifically for the iPad.

I’ve been using Seal Line dry bags while sea kayaking for over a decade with generally good results. I’m hoping this case provides equally positive results. I will report back in a few months.

 

 

 

 





Water Ladies…

23 09 2010

Sharon passing under the wooden MUP bridge near our place...

I took Sharon and Tanya out for a SUP and sea kayak session on the gorge waterway near our house.  Tanya had never been in a kayak or on a SUP and Sharon doesn’t have a lot of paddling experience.  So I spent some time working on the basic strokes to get them moving efficiently.

Tanya SUPing it up!

They did great on both platforms.  I think Sharon really liked being in a kayak and since I’m a faster paddler when I go SUPing next time we’ll try her in a kayak to even things out.  Tanya didn’t fall in the water on the SUP and got the hang of a decent propulsion stroke really quickly.

The colours of paddling...

I’m really happy to have such a tame place to take new water people so they can learn and get confident in a relaxing spot before tackling more challenging conditions.

My SUP photos from the last year or so are here on Flickr.





Vibram Five Fingers Review

10 09 2010

Vibram Five Fingers Flow...

Read my Vibram Five Finger KSO 2yr Review here.

Vibram Five Fingers are a very unique type of sport sandal that allows you to walk, run and play as if barefoot, but with some extra grip and protection from sharp things!  I’ve been using them since last spring and have really enjoyed the benefits of barefooting.

Theory

I’m not an expert in how the human foot works so I won’t pretend I really understand all the details of the Vibram Five Fingers.  Have a look at the videos above/below and check out the links I provide below if you are keen to learn more about the technology behind the design:

If in doubt talk to your doctor before trying these shoes out.

The Five Finger Basics

There are quite a few models of Five Fingers, but they all have some basics in common:

  • rubber Vibram sole [very grippy]
  • individual toe boxes for each toe
  • upper fabric that keeps foot it and debris out
  • heel pull tab to assist in getting them on

Models

I’ve used 3 different models of Five Fingers:

Vibram offers the Five Fingers in 11 different models.

Five Fingers Sprint...

Sprint

The Sprint is an open top Five Finger model that features a velcro strap on the instep and the heel to get a secure fit for athletic pursuits.  This is important when you can’t afford your footwear coming off such as in a river.

  • they are a great general purpose model of Five Fingers for folks that are active
  • I’ve skateboarding, run, biked, SUPed and hiked in these sandals
  • they stay securely on your feet
  • the sipped rubber sole is very grippy wet or dry
  • the open top allows debris to enter which is a problem if you use them in a place with small rocks for example – ouch!
  • the velcro strap means they take a moment longer to get on than Five Fingers that don’t have this strap

Vibram Five Fingers KSO model...

KSO

The KSO [Keep Stuff Out] model of Five Fingers is very similar to the Sprint discussed above, but it features a mesh fabric top that reaches the bottom of the ankle to keep debris out of the sandal.

  • all the points noted above for the Sprint apply, except the problem of debris getting in
  • the mesh top keep most stuff out without being hot
  • occasionally small rocks can get in and you will have to remove them, but it’s 98% better in this regard than the Sprints
  • fine sand will also get in, but this doesn’t hurt – however at some point enough gets it that it must be removed as well
  • because of the extra fabric it takes a bit more effort to get these Five Fingers on

Flow

The Flow model of Five Fingers is similar to the KSO, but the whole top fabric is made of 1.2mm neoprene for warmth and the insole is 2mm EVA to provide additional insulation.

  • these are the warmest Five Fingers I’ve tried
  • all the notes under the KSO apply, but the neoprene fabric keeps out sand and small rocks much better
  • because the material used is thicker top and bottom these fit tighter than the same size Five Fingers in the Sprint or KSO model
  • I found I couldn’t get a good fit since my toes didn’t have enough room in the toe boxes and if I bought a bigger size they’d be too loose on the rest of my feet to stay on well
  • using them in water for 2-3hrs I actually injured the skin of my toes as it became soft and was squeezed by the tight Flow toe boxes
  • Vibram needs to make the toe boxes bigger to account for the thicker materials used in this model
  • I ended up returning them and rec’d the KSO’s in exchange which fit much better

Pros

  • Once I got used to them I really enjoyed how the Five Fingers felt on my feet
  • revolutionary design with nothing similar on the market
  • I don’t wear shoes at home so it’s nice to be able to go out and feel the same way, but with some protection
  • being able to feel the ground or board under your feet lets you interact with it in a way not possible with thicker footwear [fun while walking and critical for board sports]
  • provides good protection from typical debris in the city and on the trail/beach incl scorching hot pavement/sand
  • my feet feel better when I walk barefoot a lot and the Five Fingers allow me to do more of this
  • excellent customer service [Vibram replaced my Flows with KSOs even though I was outside the warranty period]

Cons

  • requires some practice to get efficient at putting them on
  • requires some break in time to get your foot used to them if you don’t walk barefoot much
  • won’t fit odd shaped feet/toes [only one option for shape is available]
  • doesn’t provide cushioning so you have to use your body to absorb shock [not a real con, but be aware of this]
  • if debris does get inside it cannot get out unless you remove the Five Fingers and dump it out
  • debris inside is painful as you are forced to walk on it
  • durability problems [see my detailed explanation below]
  • fit problem with Flow model due to thicker material used
  • takes more time to get on and off than other sports sandals [might be a problem if you have to remove them many times a day]
  • expensive considering the materials and construction

Sharon wearing KSOs to kiteboard...

Durability Problems

My main problem with Vibram Five Fingers is that they use a sole that’s good for 3 seasons of hard use and top fabric that is not going to survive 1 season of hard use without multiple repairs.  If you use your Five Fingers for any activity where small bits of rock or other sharp debris get between the toes you will have rips forming in short order.  Unfortunately if you use these sandals anywhere other than in a yoga studio, sailboat or on pavement/grass you will have small bits of debris abrading the fabric between and around your toes.  I’ve also had the seams give out on my KSO around a couple toe boxes simply due to stress from movement of the foot.  So I’ve pulled out a needle and thread to repair my Five Fingers a few times already and expect it will continue.  The sad part is as I’m fixing the uppers the soles looks nearly minty fresh and will clearly out last the fabric on top by several years.

What Vibram should do:

  • wrap the rubber sole up between the toes so debris between the toes wears on rubber not fabric
  • use reinforced stitching on toe boxes or use all rubber toe boxes
  • make the soles thinner for better ground feel since we don’t need soles that out last the tops by a factor or 3x
  • thinner soles will also provide better board feel for surfers, SUPers, kiteboarders and land longboarders.

Why I wear Five Fingers kiteboarding...

What do I think?

I’ve got some real criticism for the Vibram Five Fingers in this review and I cannot give Vibram 2 thumbs up, but this product is so revolutionary and so much better than anything else out there for sports like kiteboarding that I’ll continue to support Vibram in the hopes they correct the main short comings of this footwear.   I use neoprene surf booties when I’m kiteboarding and the water is too cold for my Five Finger KSOs.  They work okay, but being able to feel the board underneath you and use your toes independently is a huge huge benefit so I’m always grabbing my Five Fingers if I can handle the water temperature.  A lot of kiteboarders go barefoot because of this, but at most beaches there are sharp rocks, glass, coral, barnacles or other pointy things to cut your soft feet.  I’m just not willing to deal with multiple foot injuries so I can kite barefoot and with my KSOs I can get 80% of the board feel with 0% of the injuries.

So in general I think the benefits of Five Fingers out weigh the problems.  My feet are healthier and happier wearing them and they provide excellent foot protection with most of feel of going barefoot.  Since I wear my Sprints mostly on pavement or grass they are going strong and should last a few more years.  My KSOs have only seen 1 summer of kiteboarding [which keep in mind is 99% on the water with no debris around] and have been repaired a few times.  I’ll keep them going as long as I can.  My hope is by then Vibram will have improved the design so that they last longer.  I’d love to have a pair of Flows since they are warmer and the water in Canada is cold, but until they redesign them I simply can’t use them.

Note my feet are Five Fingered!...

Should you try them?

Yes. They are worth a shot.  Start with a basic model like the Sprint, the Classic or the Moc.  Use them around the house, yard and around town to strengthen your feet and let you see what you think about the Five Finger concept.  Since this type of use doesn’t cause a lot of top fabric wear you won’t experience the durability issue I talk about.  After some use your feet will be happier and you’ll be 100% on the sizing you need. At that point you can check out some of the more sporty versions of Five Fingers.

When you get your first pair of Five Fingers wear them for a short time and then take them off.  Start with 1hr a day and increase slowly.   If you don’t walk barefoot a lot your feet will get tired and sore.  As long as it’s not acute pain this is normal. Just wear them for shorter durations until you get used to them.  Eventually you’ll be able to wear them all day.

SUP fingers!





How to clean and dry your surf booties…

9 09 2010

Booties a necessary evil...

It’s the time of year that most of us water sports enthusiasts have to dig out our surf booties to keep our feet warm. To be perfectly honest I’ve been wearing mine on cold days this summer because I get chilly easily!  The problem is that neoprene booties don’t dry very easily and they get stinky very fast.  I like my music funky, but I prefer my footwear to be funk-free…=-)

So what do you need to do to keep your booties in good shape?

  • rinse out your booties with clean fresh water
  • dry them out completely as often as possible
  • dump out the water and let them hang upside down with the toes higher than the heels [it’s always faster to let water drip out than evaporate
  • I leave them in the sun when I can to dry out [this will shorten their lifespan due to UV damage, but I'm prioritizing quality over quantity here!]
  • use a boot dryer if you have one as long as it doesn’t get too hot [you can buy 12V DC models for use in your car]
  • if you can’t dry your booties very easily or often then rise them out with a mild vinegar/water solution or use Mirazyme to keep bacteria growth in check between uses
  • if you can buy two identical pairs of booties and alternate them so that each pair can dry out more between uses

What fatal mistakes can you make?

  • leave wet booties in the hot trunk of your car for a few days
  • put the booties somewhere uber hot to dry [next to a fire or really hot radiator]
  • lend them to a friend who lets them stay wet and get their funk on

The good news is that surf booties are relatively cheap so you can always buy new ones, but with a bit of care they should last a long time and remain stink free.

When you are shopping for neoprene footwear some brands/models are touting anti-bacterial treatments or materials.  This has been a growing trend in the footwear industry as a whole and I just haven’t noticed stark contrasts in stinkiness between my footwear that has these treatments and the ones that don’t.  I certainly don’t think it’s a bad idea, but if you are choosing between two options I’d go with the best fitting and best quality over a feature like an anti-microbial treatment.

BTW – almost all of this advice applies to any athletic footwear that gets wet a lot – such as sandals, water shoes, trail runners, hiking boots, etc…





Ocean Rodeo Predator Drysuit…

25 07 2010

Ocean Rodeo Predator Drysuit

Update: here are some Predator drysuit kiteboarding action shots. I got my Predator from Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham.

Even though Victoria BC has Canada’s mildest climate the fact is the Pacific Ocean is darn cold!  In the summer the air temperatures make wearing a 3mm to 5mm wetsuit comfortable.  In some lakes/inlets you can even skip the wetsuit entirely.  However the rest of the year you need some serious insulation to play in the water for any length of time.  Staying warm is important for having fun and can even be a matter of life and death when you find yourself in the cold water longer than you had planned.

Your choices for staying warm are either a crazy thick wetsuit 6mm-7mm+ or a dry suit.  A really thick wetsuit is stiff and cuts down on your mobility quite a lot.  A drysuit is a waterproof shell you can add layers of insulation underneath to match the temperatures you need to deal with.  Although some drysuits are bulky Ocean Rodeo makes a special drysuit [The Predator] that combines the warmth of a typical drysuit with the flexibility of a light wetsuit…the best of both worlds.

The way the Predator drysuit works is using a 3 layer system:

  1. fleece insulation layer [matched to water/air temperatures]
  2. waterproof breathable layer [keeps you dry]
  3. stretchy neoprene skin [keeps the whole package sleek]

See this web page to understand how you put the Predator on.

The insulation layer is the same as any other drysuit, but the typically there is a baggy waterproof skin on top of it.  By using a thinner waterproof membrane and then a stretchy neoprene out skin the suit gets pulled tight against your body and looks just like a wetsuit.  This is critical for any sports in the waves…like surfing, SUP and kite surfing.  If a wave hits you in a baggy suit it will take you with it and give you no ability to control what happens.  The force may even rip your suit and if it fills with water you are dead.  In a skin tight suit the wave has nothing to push against other than your body which allows you to swim through a wave and get some control back.  As a result prior to the OR Predator you would never see anyone wear a drysuit in the waves…now you can.

Main Predator benefits:

  • flexibility of a 2mm wetsuit
  • buoyancy of a 3mm wetsuit
  • warmth of a 7mm wetsuit
  • easy to swap in dry insulation layers for each session
  • breathable to expel moisture from sweat

Check out this set of detailed photos of the suit.

Putting on a cold wetsuit is pretty horrible..especially when you are freezing to begin with. Using a drysuit you can replace the insulation layer that gets a bit damp from sweat, even in a breathable suit, with a fresh dry one and head out for another session nice and warm!…awesome…=-)

I’ll be ordering up one of these suits so I can keep my watersports going into the winter.  Although Ocean Rodeo is headquartered in Victoria BC the best OR dealer I’ve found is Bellingham Kiteboarding.  I got my OR Mako 140 board from them and was happy with the killer price and the great service.  I’ll be calling them up once it gets chilly up here.

Check out this video of a Predator drysuit in the surf.

I’ll be using this drysuit for a bunch of different sports:

  • kiteboarding
  • SUPing [flat water and surf]
  • sea kayaking

Ocean Rodeo Pyro-Pro drysuit

Ocean Rodeo also makes a more conventional drysuit called the Pyro [pro version shown above].  If you are not going into the waves this suit is cheaper and a bit easier to get on as there is only one layer to put on over your insulation layer.





Victoria Approved!

2 07 2010

iHaul!

The Lazy Rando World Headquarters has moved to Victoria BC! After 15yrs in Calgary I had the opportunity to move to Vancouver Island so I jumped on it.  I’ll be doing the same work just from a new location.  I’ll also be back in Calgary a fair bit as the company I work for is maintaining their corporate HQ in Alberta.

Vancouver Island...

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island…shown at the red pin in the image above.  It’s a ferry ride away from both Vancouver BC and Seattle WA.  It’s also very close to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.  The climate is similar to Vancouver’s, but with only 50% of the rain and a lot of sunny days. In fact it is the northern most North American city that has a Mediterranean climate.

Victoria...

Victoria is situated on a small peninsula about 30kms north to south and 19kms east to west. This means we are surrouned nearly 360 degrees by the Pacific Ocean and lots of beaches. Not surprisingly Vancouver Island is a sea kayaking mecca as well as one of the nicest spots in the world to kiteboard.  The bike touring and mountain biking are world class as well.  To top it off Victoria is one of the most bike friendly cities I’ve ever seen that wasn’t in Europe!

I’m really excited to explore the island and to be able to sea kayak, SUP and kiteboard at home…=-)

There are a few downsides of course:

  • Victoria is wetter than Calgary.
  • The cost of living and taxes here are higher.
  • Leaving the island is a minimum of a $40 ferry ride with your car…more for my trucks.
  • The job market here isn’t as strong as Alberta.
  • I’m 4-5hrs away from Whistler, Mt. Baker and Mt. Washington for snowboarding…rather than 2hrs from great ski hills in Calgary.

The low cost of life in Alberta is one of the main reasons I haven’t left prior to this.  When considering the move to Victoria I had to ask myself – do I want the cheapest lifestyle or the most fun?

I have a new mailing address and a new cellular #…all my emails have stayed the same…if you need a contact info update drop me a line.





Olympus Stylus SW850 Update #2

4 03 2010

Olympus Stylus SW850

In my last update for this camera I noted that Olympus repaired a cracked LCD panel on the back of the camera.  Unfortunately they seem to have let something contaminate the CCD inside.  All my photos with light backgrounds had an annoying dark blur on them in one spot.  Since I didn’t notice this until I got back from Baja I was well past the camera’s one year warranty. I sent it back to Olympus with an explanation of what was wrong unsure if they would fix it as a warranty repair or charge me.  Happily they just fixed it and returned the camera.  Service was very fast just like last time.

Although sending the camera back twice was a bit of a pain it’s nice to know the folks at Olympus Canada provide fast repairs and are happy to support their customers.  I’m glad to have this camera back and hopefully will get lots of great adventure shots from it.





Klaus’ Photos

31 01 2010

Photo: Klaus Kommoss

One of the interesting people I’ve run into in Baja several times over the years is Klaus Kommoss.  When my path crosses with his it’s always a treat to share some time chatting about life and our travels.  Klaus has posted some of the great photos he takes in Baja and other spots around the world on his Flickr site.  It’s definitely worth a look.