Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kitsap Peninsula rocks the paddlin' world

Some people just keep moving, keep getting better, and keep spreading the gospel. One of those I'm lucky to know is John Kuntz, owner of Olympic Outdoor Center in Poulsbo, WA, at the heart of the lovely Kitsap Peninsula. John is also a member of the Olympic Kayak Club, and a strong supporter of organizations that promote conservation of open spaces and access to and from the water, like the Washington Water Trails and North Kitsap Trails. So here's what John has on his plate for 2009, all to promote paddlesports, get more people in boats and build public support for our sport:

The Puget Sound Challenge, a 1-year, 150-mile, do-it-yourself-whenever-you-want-or-with-a-planned-group paddling adventure. From Belfair, WA, at the southern tip of Hood Canal, to Allyn, WA, it's just a few miles across the tiny isthmus that creates the Kitsap Peninsula. But it's 150 miles by water and the trip covers some of the most gorgeous paddling scenery you can imagine. I've talked to people who want to do it in a weekend, and others who want to stretch it out and devote nearly every weekend from now til Fall. Whatever the reason and however it's paddled, it's all for fun and awareness of paddling, and the extra bucks go to WWTA. A great cause and it should be a chance for lots of new paddling friendships.

Paddle Kitsap, a full-service 2-day, 3-evening affair on July 31 and August 1 to support the North Kitsap Trails Association. The cost is not cheap, but the organizers are going all out with shuttles, meals, and live entertainment all included. With all the development planned for this former rural backwater piece of Puget Sound, the Trails group is playing a vital role in making paddling available for everyone.

Paddle Washington is John's other ongoing project, and he's ambitiously working to unite the many members of our paddlesports business community to publicize events like clinics, races, symposia, and paddlers' gatherings of every type. After talking extensively about this with John, and reading daily about our state's cuts to parks services, it's obvious to me that all this energy will be well-spent if we can build some synergy among our industry to get more people paddling safely, no matter how much/how little they want to spend or what type of craft they want to paddle.

Great work, John. Wish I had your energy!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Awesome day for a photo shoot

What an afternoon on Thursday. With a balmy 40-something degrees under a clear blue sky and bright setting sun, Seattle surfski racing hero Don Kiesling took a couple hours of his day to coach me on my paddlestrokes and pose for some PR shots for our friends at Costa del Mar. Don's wearing the Filament rimless frames, with dark amber lenses, an awesome combo. Just like Don, the Filament is lightweight but it packs a punch in versatility and style.

In search of the perfect stroke, Don already has the perfect shades. Here, in the shadow of century-old GasWorks Park, he sports Costa del Mar's biggest-seller, Fathom frames in black, with blue mirror glass lenses. All Costa sunglasses -- every possible lens combination in all 52 frame styles -- are 100% polarized and live up to every bit of their slogan, "See What's Out There." Incredible clarity that's easy on the eyes, no matter which side of the lens you're on.

More shots of Don right here on Picasa.

Don's top-secret wing-paddle coaching tips got me a whispered "nice, you're hitting ___ knots" as he followed my Eddyline Falcon S18 -- fill in the blank, Steve Bennett. You'll only be outta my head when I beat you. Could be next month, could be next year.

On the beach I jumped out of my Falcon and into the coolest new beach toy on the market, the little 8-footer from Spitfire Kayaks.

No, I did not need that rescue boat. In fact Don got behind the camera to prove that a 210-pound paddler still has a bunch of freeboard in this little guy.....

...and while thigh straps might be good for a hip snap, it's still pretty hard to tip over. I tried really hard, but did not take a swim!

All in all a great day on the water. Thanks Don for your help and support. Now I just need to make it worth your time and beat Steve Bennett... stay tuned...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Need a drysuit gasket replacement?

You want this to happen to your neck? You sure?
This was some creative usage of velcro and a massive load of Aquaseal by a previous owner of his dry suit, but my friend Franz decided it was time to pony up for a new seal. Ruby Creek got it on a Tuesday, repaired it that night, shipped it out the next day, and Franz was on the water Friday. Simple as that.

If you can't get down to your local kayak shop, where I always recommend you go first for service, here's how it works to get your Kokatat, Palm, Stohlquist, NRS, or IR suit's latex neck, wrist, or ankle replaced here at Ruby Creek:

1. Tell me it's coming, by email to, or phone 206-940-6269.

2. Tell me your neck, wrist, or ankle size, as the case may be.

3. Ship or deliver your suit to Ruby Creek World HQ at:

1166 Viewpoint Drive
Oak Harbor WA 98277
phone (required for UPS) 206-940-6269

4. Include a check for the following, which includes replacement gasket, installation labor, 303 protection on all your gaskets including your old ones, cleaning/lube on your zippers, WA sales tax and return shipping:
  • neck: $85
  • wrist or ankle (including latex socks; please specify open ankle seal or latex sock): $48 for one, $40 each for additional
5. I'll adjust the invoice amount if you provide your own seals, or if you'll be picking up your suit instead of having me ship it. Let me know this before you send the check.

6. Please include your shipping address, phone number, and email address when you contact me.

7. In most circumstances I can guarantee that the suit will be at your door one week after I receive it. Usually it's way faster. But confirm a solid date with me before you send your suit.

Unless you request otherwise I use OS Systems gaskets. I use Aquaseal to glue your new gasket to the remaining one inch or so of your old one. This is standard procedure as recommended by Kokatat, but is not used by everyone. I don't repair dry suit fabric, or install fabric socks.

Thanks for your business!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

LaConner on a perfect day

Showing off my borrowed multicolor wing paddle to Mark Greengo and Wade Johnson. Paddling with a wing for the first time, it felt fast but Wade was faster in an identical boat, and a Euro blade.... hmmm... must be the horse, not the chariot...

I hit the Sound Rowers race in LaConner this morning. These guys know how to put on a show. from double racing shells to 4-oared whaleboats, surfskis, sea kayaks, and Costa del Mar sponsored racer, Don Kiesling on that amazing paddleboard. Much kudos to Sound Rowers for a great job, good people, good friends. Next event is the Lake Sammamish 6- or 13-miler (take your pick), 10am March 14. Check their site for details. Sound Rowers Rocks!

You know that really good tired feeling after you completely toast yourself in a workout? Combined with the massive frustration of wanting to do better? With the potential satisfaction of knowing with a little practice, next time will be awesome? Yeeeeahhhh, that feeling.

After seven miles of chasing Wade Johnson in his nearly-matching Eddyline Falcon S18 (his is white, mine is yellow), I watched him pull away at the finish and thump me by at least a couple minutes. And he was accompanied by none other than Steve Bennett in his $75 plastic Scirocco, who snuck through the favorable currents and passed unnoticed until it was too late.

The best part of the day was trying to keep up with the 4-oared whaleboat gig from Anacortes, 4 dudes on sliding seats, a coxswain with a huge wooden tiller in his hand. They were lauging and telling stories while I struggled just to stay in their wake. They almost ran over Wade at the turn buoy, but he was sweetly oblivious to them bearing down on him. Somehow the currents in the inner channel near the finish line favor smaller boats, so I was able to grab just enough eddy to pass them with about a mile to go.

Racing is an awesome confidence builder, skill developer, and community grower. Sure everyone competes, but the camaraderie is way more important. Except I have Steve Bennett in my head. 5 weeks to get ready...

Did I mention sound Rowers Rocks!?

Say hello to my little friend... I saw this guy hanging out by the Skagit River after the race. Likely waiting for a spawned-out salmon to float downstream.

After the race, Steve Bennett left his $75 used plastic boat upside down right behind my Falcon. This was evidence that my boat was in front of his at least once today. Best thing for him now is, he knows he's in my head. I'll be gunning for him until the day I beat him.