Tuesday, May 26, 2009


There is one word that best describes Alaska - BIG!

I have been lucky enough to have been invited to Homer, Alaska by my friend Tom Pogson who runs Alaska Kayak School and organizes the Immersion Skills Symposium over Memorial Day weekend. After a couple of easy, and at times spectacular flights to Anchorage and a very pleasant drive down to Homer I arrived to see a stunning view of Homer Spit and the mountains and glaciers of the Kenai Peninsula.

I am staying with the Todd's whose gorgeous house sits on the bluff 1200ft above Kachemak Bay, overlooking the Kachemak Bay State Park and the Kenai Mountains. They have been amazing hosts and we are all going on a three-and-a-bit day kayak trip along the north side of the Kenai Peninsula starting Thursday.

Today I helped lead a trip across the Bay to Gull Island and into an exquisite inlet where the minus tide had exposed some plumose and christmas anenomes and hundreds of sun stars, sponges and even a large clam that Rob Avery almost turned into sushi.

After an hour of sunbathing on the beach:

Yes! Sunbathing in Alaska I kid you not - we headed back and saw tufted puffins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tufted_Puffin on our second pass of Gull Island as well as thousands of murre, black legged kittiwakes and, of course, lots of gulls.

Tom Pogson, Alaska Kayak School

The crew did really well on the crossing back and it topped off a really successful symposium for Tom, Ryan and the rest the the AKS team. Well done you guys!

If you are looking for a world-class destination for sea kayaking then look no further than Homer, Alaska. Tom Pogson is one of the best instructors I have ever had the pleasure to work with. He has a deep understanding of what his clients need combined with profound knowledge of both the technical aspects of expedition sea kayaking and all aspects of the Alaskan wilderness.

Family fun

One of the advantagesJustify Full of working as a rep in the paddlesports industry is going to beautiful places and sometimes Gina and Shea Bella get to come too.

These pictures were taken at Lake Del Valle, near Livermore, CA during a demo for Sunrise Mountain Sports.

Thanks Kim and Allison!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Full Swing!

So the demo season is in full swing. It started with the SW Kayak Symposium in San Diego hosted by Jen Kleck and the team at Aqua Adventures. It was a good omen for the season with great weather, a good turn-out and a real buzz at the event.

I had my Kokatat booth set up along with some demo Pyranha, P&H sea kayaks and Feel Free recreational kayaks. I was pleased with the response that I was getting from these boats and I am excited at the potential for the Pyranha range in California.

The Reno River Festival earlier this month was the busiest event I have ever done. They reckoned approximately 40K attended the 3day event. Even if only 10% of those are ever likely to sit in a kayak it is still an optimistic sign that perhaps this season is not going to be as tough as we had feared!

On my way up to Reno I gave a slide show presentation at Feather River College in Quincy. What a cool place. I wish I'd had the opportunity to go somehwere like that when I was a student. I might have actually graduated! Jared Licht is a student there and he went out of his way to include me on three whitewater river runs: Virgilia on the middle arm of the North Fork of the Feather River, Indian Creek, and Pauley Creek.

Me shooting Indian Falls, Indian Creek, Feather River drainage, NorCal in the Pyranha Karnali. My first ever waterfall!

Jared styling it in the Z.one.

These are all solid Class 4 runs, especially with the good flows we are having just now and it was great to be back on some whitewater again. I used Pyranha's new creek boat, the Karnali which is slightly longer than the Burn and super forgiving. I loved the comfort of the Connect 30 seat and outfitting. Jared used Pyranha's new Z.one which is a classic river/play boat and he was loving the way it surfed. I could tell he was having fun in it because he was boofing off every rock on the river!

It was the perfect antidote for me as a temporarily land-locked sea boater. Thanks Jared!

Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival

Although technically I didn't have a booth at the event this year as it was Valley's booth and thus Rob Avery's gig, I helped him out a little. It did allow me to focus on the surfing for a change and this was a big factor in me reaching the finals of the Men's HP where I was beaten into third by Chris Harvey who took the title for the second year running and Galen Licht who is studying at UC Santa Cruz and was surfing brilliantly.

So I can't say I was too disappointed; I have never reached the finals at Santa Cruz before and just to make it through to the Sunday is always tough due to the level of competition at this event. This year it was made especially hard because the waves were tiny until the tide dropped on Sunday. But the swell did finally arrive and we had pretty much perfect conditions for the semi-final and final some high wave scores and just three points separating the top three, making it an exciting finish to this world class event.

(photo courtesy of Mickey Stowell)

From Valley to P&H

Due to my desire to spend less time on the road and more time with my growing family I resigned from my position with Valley Sea Kayaks in December 2008. It was a difficult decision on several levels: Valley have been very supportive, they have invested a lot of money in the business on the west coast and I consider the owners personal friends, and I would miss the money! But I felt I had to do what was right, not just for me and my family but for Valley as well.

Rob Avery (Kayak Kraft) had been working for me for the last couple of years on a casual basis and he had expressed an interest in taking on the whole west coast. His kids have left home and thus he has more time than me to put into what is a very demanding role. I believe he will do a great job for Valley and we will continue to work together to ensure that the Valley dealers in California do not suffer as a result of me leaving.

In March 2009 I joined the esteemed ranks of Team P&H.

A British sea kayak manufacturer, P&H have been building custom sea kayaks since the early 70’s. They are part of the Pyranha company which includes the famous whitewater range of kayaks as well as Venture touring & recreational kayaks and FeelFree recreational kayaks & sit-on-tops. Whilst I am a team paddler and not a sales rep for Pyranha, I will be helping the west coast rep, Jamie Klein who is based in the Pacific Northwest by keeping a selection of kayaks down here in the Bay Area of CA and taking them to various events.

I am really excited to be working with P&H. The build quality of their kayaks is unsurpassed and they have some great designs. I hope to contribute as much as I can to developing new products and growing the business on the west coast and around the world.

Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium

The inaugural Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium was blessed with almost perfect weather and sea conditions. Temperatures in the mid 60’s F, light winds, a small but solid long interval ground swell and big ebb tides in the afternoon ensured there were ideal conditions for almost everyone. I say almost because the BCU 5star assessment crew were unable to find the really testing conditions they needed but for everyone else and especially for me as Safety Officer it was the perfect conditions for a first time event.

What was gratifying to me was that so many people were willing to put their faith in us as organizers of a new event and this included the coaches who dedicated their time and the participants who parted with hard earned cash in advance to enable the event happen. Whilst the symposium concept was mine, it was Jen Kleck from Aqua Adventures in San Diego who encouraged and guided me through the planning process and helped promote the event. But the person who actually made the event possible was Matt Palmariello who put in many hours on the computer updating the website, answering emails and putting together class schedules and rosters and he deserves all the credit for the way this first-time event went ahead so smoothly.

I also want to thank a few other folk:
Bob Licht and Steve Hayward from Sea Trek Ocean Kayaking Center in Sausalito who donated the use of a truck and trailer and crucially, their rescue skiff, skippered by Bob’s son Jared whose expertise and professionalism impressed everyone.

(photo courtesy of Dominick Lemarie www.stormick.smugmug.com)

Keith Miller, President of CCK California Canoe and Kayak. Keith donated one of his lead instructors, Bryant Burkhardt who helped by leading several classes over the weekend.
Garth Schmeck (Captain Penguin) from Penguin Paddlers who donated his time and brought down some beautiful P&H kayaks for folk to try and whose energy and generosity both on and off the water helped make the event a success.

I also want to thank the several local paddlers who gave up their time to act as safety boaters and share their local knowledge with visiting instructors. Finally I want to thank all the coaches and instructors who supported the event and you can be assured that you are all invited back next year, THE DATES FOR WHICH HAVE ALREADY BEEN SET - January 29/30/31st 2010.
Keep checking http://www.ggsks.com/ for the latest updates.