Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wasn't that a mighty storm!

Hello from the shop! I'm back from BCU Week at Tybee Island, Georgia. Not too battered, bruised or bloodied!

No 4 stars for this Sneech. Steve Maynard and Shawna Franklin cancelled the assessment at the beginning of the second day of the assessment. Not enough wind. We had a good day training, got good feedback, and had a ball surfing. It was a great 5 days, but I was glad to get home.

So far on this Saturday, a quiet day at the shop. We should have held a class out front today!

Some additional shots of the flood can be found by clicking here. That's all for now, hope to see you in the shop or on the water soon. -Scott

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tybee Day 2 — BCU '08

Hello from Tybee on BCU Day 2! Yesterday we had some time in the classroom with Nigel Dennis leading a navigation class, and a short time on the Back River heading from Inlet Avenue to Little Tybee. Warm - almost near 80! Today we landed on the old Tybee Lighthouse for lunch.

A day with a lot of highlights - not the least of which was Nigel almost capsizing laughing at my "mucous joke." And it was great to share some laughs with, and at the expense of, my old friend Tom Nickels.

Tom taken from the top of the lighthouse:

Big day in Charleston, I understand. Deb Mitchum won a few ribbons in the Folly Surf competition, and she won a surf kayak from our friends at Savannah Canoe and Kayak in a raffle drawing! Click here if you would like to see some more photos from today.

Well, that's all for now. I'll check in when I have a chance. -Scott

Thursday, October 16, 2008

BCU Week '08 at Tybee ISland

BCU Week at Tybee Island, Georgia

Hello from Tybee! I arrived on Tybee Island after a 3 hour drive (or so) from Charleston. It's always great to see our old friends at Sea Kayak Georgia. I'm signed up as a student for coastal navigation on day 1 with Nigel Dennis, then 4 star sea training on days 2 and 3. I'll finish up the experience with a 4 star sea assessment on days 4 and 5. Whew! I'm a bit stressed out about leaving the shop (but it's in good hands) and the BCU experience. But I'm already running into old friends, and making new ones.
Coupla mugs above!

Pretty ladies below!

BCU, ACA, stars and levels

Scott is going off to Georgia for some BCU training. BCU is the British Canoe Union, so you may be wondering why he is going to be trained by some Brits in paddling a canoe (After all, we're an American Sea KAYAK shop, right?)

When I first started paddling and looking for instruction I encountered all these various alphabet soup organizations and talk of stars and levels and it was all very confusing. Since many of you are likely new to the sport, I thought it might be helpful give a brief explanation of these organizations and what they do for us.

When you are looking for instruction in a sea kayak, you want to find someone that has accreditation and training in teaching people to kayak. That way you know you are learning safely and learning good technique. Here in the US there are two organizations that provide instructor training. The ACA (American Canoe Association) and the BCU (British Canoe Union). Don't be put off by the "canoe;" These organizations both focus on kayaking in addition to canoeing.

The ACA is a US based organization with an extensive curriculum of courses in kayaking. These courses are taught by ACA certified instructors. To become an ACA certified instructor, you must complete several days of Instructor Training, pass a multi-day Evaluation and be proficient as a paddler. The certifications come in different levels of proficiency (both as a paddler and as an instructor). To maintain certification, an instructor must continue to take updates. Scott, Deb and I all have ACA certifications. The courses we offer at the shop are based on the ACA curriculum.

The ACA has recently added a way to assess your individual proficiency in paddling. Sometimes we like to know where our skills stand, receive feedback for ongoing skills development, see how we match up to others, etc. The ACA has created a program of Level Assessments. If you want to 'earn' a Level Award, go to the ACA website to see the skills needed to earn a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 Award, then sign up with an ACA instructor who is certified to asses your skill. At our shop, Scott is available to assess for Coastal Kayaking Levels 1–4.

So that's the ACA.

The BCU is not just for the British!
The BCU has an excellent cadre of coaches that travel around the world to raise the level of paddling skills – including here in the US. The BCU does not provide a curriculum of courses. In their system, you receive coaching from BCU certified Coaches. When you have received enough coaching and had enough practice, you can be assessed for a Star Award. A Star Award is an indication of your paddling proficiency, seamanship, and leadership (at the more advanced star levels).

Scott is off to get his 4* award. To make things more complicated, the BCU is currently changing their star requirements - Scott is going for the NEW 4*. He has his NEW 3*. Deb has an OLD 4*, Sue has an OLD 3*. Deb and I need to upgrade : )

The BCU puts aspiring coaches through a quite rigorous course of training. Coaches are rated as Level 1 - 5 Coaches. (These Levels are not to be confused with the ACA Level Assesments. Oy.)

See how simple?

Basically, if you are looking for someone to teach you kayaking skills, look for an ACA certified instructor or a BCU certified coach. If you want to have someone assess your individual paddling skills, either the ACA or the BCU will be happy to do that for you.

Good luck to Scott! He will be learning from and being assessed by some of the best sea kayakers in the world: Nigel Dennis and Steve Maynard.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rainy Day Swap Meet

The rain was an on-again, off-again sort of thing last Saturday for the first Lowcountry Paddler's Kayak & Gear Swap Meet hosted at the shop, but that didn't stop folks from swinging by, and it didn't stop us from keeping the doors open — we just moved under the awning as required! Inside the shop was a fine place to be too, with drinks and snacks, and a bunch of new stuff on the shelves, including the snazzy new Kavu Hats with the SKC turtle embroidery!

By the end of the day we'd seen some 75 folks – local paddlers and visitors attracted to the scene. Gear was swapped, from flashlights to paddle racks and boats: In fact, every boat brought to the swap meet was sold! And several demo and consignment boats from the shop found new homes as well. So lots of happy paddlers left with new gear that we hope will be used and enjoyed by the new owners.

It was a great day for mixing and milling about the shop, meeting new folks and old paddling mates. As something of a "new guy" in the wider paddling community, it was nice to realize I'd already enjoyed meeting and kayaking with quite a few of these paddlers before. Good company, snacks and music seemed to keep everyone happy – there were only a few times when there weren't at least 15 or 20 people around, catching up, story telling and comparing notes and opinions on boats and gear.

I have to admit, I also got a dog fix from our several k-9 visitors, and that's never a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

Now I'm looking forward to the second swap...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hooray for Hats!

Sue in Blue (Navy Blue, that is!)

I'm not normally a hat guy. Kayakers need 'em, to keep the sun off their noggins. And off their faces. The brim can't be too large, or else it gets floppy in the wind. That's about it. Hats. Like other kayak clothing, synthetics are superior to cotton. Or as the Lowcountry Paddlers chanted -- "Synthetics are sexy!" "Cotton is rotton!"
But I'm excited! Our new Kavu synthetic strapcaps just arrived from our friends at Palmetto Outfitters. We're selling them for $25; and they are the quintessential kayakers cap.

We've got different colors; and smalls, mediums and larges -- for diffent sized heads.

Can you tell? I'm really excited about the Sea Kayak Carolina hats! I've even taken a picture of myself in the mirror!

Sad, really!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

P&H Scorpio Low Volume

As Scott said, he and I went out in the ocean yesterday (October 7) to try out some new boats. I normally paddle an Impex Force 3. The Impex is a long, skinny, fast boat that is tough to turn unless I put it up on edge (but then it carves a nice turn!). The folks at P&H think that the Scorpio LV would be to my liking.

Immediately upon sitting in the boat I discovered one challenge - When I adjusted the footpegs as close to me as possible, they were not close enough. I know my legs are short... but this is something I think P&H needs to address. Otherwise, the cockpit fit me pretty well. I would need to pad out the sides a bit, but that is all. The knee braces were comfortable and allowed for a high knee position while paddling (see Ben Lowry's forward stroke technique!).

As we paddled (sustained wind of about 15 knots with gusts up to 20 knots; confused seas with waves between 2' and 4'; pretty strong current from the incoming tide) I couldn't help but compare it to my Force 3. I also tried to compare to the Capela 161 that I have paddled some recently. The Scorpio punched through the waves with gusto. It is a fast boat. It did weathercock a bit more than my Force 3 -- just about any boat would -- but it didn't take much effort to correct my direction and stay on course.

Before getting too far into the waves and wind I needed to see if I could roll the Scorpio LV. Halfway through my roll (while hanging upside down), I realized that the cockpit fit (both side to side and the footpegs not getting close enough) caused me to fall "down" out of the seat. Hhhmmmmmm this would be a challenge... After a few attempts, I was able to roll up, but I had to really focus on my lay back (which the boat does allow for). I think once fitted properly, it would roll easily.

Onward into the clapotis! I felt very comfortable and stable in the Scorpio LV. The boat reacted predictably to the wave action and was lively in response to my strokes. I was pleased to feel safe and very sea-worthy in this plastic boat!

Overall, I like the Scorpio LV. It is fast, adequately maneuverable, and fun in the waves. It is definitely an option for medium-sized women and some smaller women (but unless the footpeg position is changed, not an option for most small women) who want a quick, ocean-worthy plastic boat.

There were lots of dolphin in the area this day. They were very active - tail slapping, circling. The dolphin must have been driving the fish to the surface because the pelicans were diving and taking advantage of the dolphins' work. I caught a couple of glimpses of a very small dolphin with its mother - the small ones are so cute! And one larger dolphin came up about 10 feet from me and gave me a really good lookover.

I hope to see you on the water soon. Paddling this time of year is quite comfortable in the cooler weather, but with the water still warm. - Sue

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

P&H Cetus versus...

Hello, Happy Paddlers! I paddled the P&H Cetus for a few minutes at the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival in April 2008. On the lake at the James Island County Park. As you can imagine, I was a bit preoccupied as Sea Kayak Carolina was making its public debut that weekend. My initial reactions were "fast" and "maneuverable." That was all; I literally paddled the kayak for less than 15 minutes.

The first two Cetus arrived at the shop last week. From England, via Asheville, North Carolina, then on to Charleston, South Carolina delivered from our friend and P&H rep, Scott Sullivan. Scott and I unloaded a bunch of nice new kayaks, and put the shops new grey over white demo Cetus, and his plastic Scorpio, on my car. We went to Folly Beach for some surfing. The wind was onshore, 15 knots gusting to about 18 knots. Two foot waves, sloppy and choppy. An occasional 3 footer.

Well, I was in a pickle! Not the kayak, but an emotional dilemma. I have been paddling a NDK Explorer for a number of years, in all kinds of waters. I wanted to give the Cetus a fair shake; but all I could think of was how the boat compared to the Explorer. I had a long relationship with the Explorer, and felt a bit guilty about even paddling another boat. On the other hand, P&H has been supporting Sea Kayak Carolina tremendously; and we have been impressed with their line, especially the Capellas. I wanted to love the Cetus as part of our support for P&H. But again, I wanted to give the boat a fair evaluation.

The waves were choppy and sloppy. Scott Sullivan was having a blast in his Scorpio. At some point I decided to forget about the Cetus vs. Explorer dilemma; and enjoy being in a sea kayak on the ocean. I was, however, and bit loose in the cockpit. I need about an inch of foam on either side of my hips. This modification will be similar to how I have padded out my Explorer. So, not fitting too well in the cockpit, and being in an unfamiliar boat, my surfing was not up to par. My impressions from the day: "need to pad out the cockpit to fit me," "fast," "maneuverable."

The bow and stern compartments were bone dry after an hour of surfing, punching thru waves, and a few rolls. The fourth hatch was completely dry as well. There was a few tablespoons of water in the dayhatch. I will replace the "snap top" hatchcover with a standard hatchcover. While the snap top hatchcover is easy to put on and off, it is reported to leak a bit.

Sunday (October 5, 2008) I paddled the Cetus on Lake Moultrie, thru the locks, and in the tiderace canal. The shop led this trip as part of the Berkeley Blueways Paddlefest. 5 shop staff, 14 participants of various levels of experience. I was like a sheepdog herding sheep. I was able to race from the back of the Pod, to the front, circle it. Smiling a big smile, tongue lolling out occasionally like the aforementioned sheepdog. Fast! Maneuverable!

Today Sue Kershaw and I launched from Fort Moultrie into Charleston Harbor. Recorded wind speed was close to my approximation: 16 knots gusting to 19 knots. Winds were out of the east. This caused some whitewater over the breakwater, and some interesting clapotis on the way out to the breakwater. Sue was evaluating the P&H Scorpio LV. (Look for her review soon.) My impressions of the Cetus were the same. Fast, maneuverable and I need to pad out the sides of the seat to keep my skinny little behind from sliding side to side. Once I do that, I just may paddle the Cetus next week in Tybee. BCU Week. 4 star training with... you guessed it... Nigel Dennis! Stay tuned!