30 November 2009

Larry Gray at the Australian Sea Kayak Symposium

Larry Gray and Tess
Australian Sea Kayak Symposium, Currumbin, Qld.

“When we become one with the sea, a primal part of ourselves is released. We recover that instinct all human beings shared before we distanced ourselves from the living world around us. Ironically we feel more empowered by leaving behind all of the props of the modern world.
Perhaps, that is why so many seek the simplicity of the kayak. It is the ultimate craft for merging with the ocean, for understanding its moods and surrendering to its dynamism. When we enter the ocean in a sea kayak, we combine with a greater force. We start to understand who we truly are and what we are capable of.”
Larry Gray

Renowned Australian sea kayak adventurer, award winning documentary maker and Pittarak sea kayak designer Larry Gray was the guest presenter at the 2009 Australian Sea Kayak Symposium.

Relatively unknown in Queensland’s sea kayaking community, Larry impressed everyone with his unpretentious behaviour. His skills workshops were extremely popular after the opening night audience were kept spellbound during his presentation. Sharing his experiences honestly and with unrestrained physical animation, Larry entertained while his documentarys amazed. Tales of close calls, ingenious gear fixes and an implicit acceptance of indigenous ways, offered an insight into this unaffected man.

Larry’s style might be considered unorthodox in some sea kayaking circles, but it would be a mistake to underestimate him as a sea kayak adventurer or documentary maker.

His first kayak expedition in the 1970's began as 2 mates going for a paddle -that lasted 6 months Mallacoota to Torres Strait Island. During his documentary making career, Larry has captured incredible vision surfing through storms and breathtaking images from his 1980's expedition to Greenland.

His partner Producer Mary O’Malley and son often travel with Larry to remote locations and feature in some of his documentaries.

His continuing passion for indigenous communities and kayaking adventures ensures his life remains the proverbial ‘Boys Own Adventure’. In fact Larry’s boyish charm is evident during his demonstration of the difficult ‘Stealth Roll’.

Larry Gray 'Stealth Roll'
Larry Gray is no ‘show pony’. During workshops he demonstrates only some of his incredible paddle and boat control skills. While he obviously advocates paddler safety and injury prevention, he doesn’t say that what he does is the only way to sea kayak, or his tools (euro paddle and Pittarak kayak) are the only tools to use.
Hopefully this is only the first of many visits to Qld for Larry.
To find out more about Larry, purchase his documentarys or contact Larry Gray and Mary O’Malley visit Pittarak Sea Kayaks

03 November 2009

The Puffin Paddle - One Man. One Brother. One River

Puffin Magic Foundation

I became aware of The Puffin Paddle while reading Fatpaddler's blog. Sean (Fatpaddler), shared this incredible story of tragedy, hope and brotherly love that I now share with you.

On 1 November 2008 James Gribble suffered a severe spinal injury in a freak accident, rendering him a quadriplegic. Waiting to go Tiger fishing on the mighty Zambezi River on a terribly hot day, James merely fainted whilst sitting on a stool, falling backward onto hard sand.

The result of this seemingly innocuous occurrence was catastrophic. The impact of the fall severely bruised his spinal cord and broke his C4 and C5 vertebrae, leaving James with voluntary movement only from his shoulder up.

Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the location, it was 30 hours before James reached fully qualified medical care. This delay worsened his condition by causing fluid to collect in his lungs, leading to respiratory complications.

The Puffin Magic Foundation (PMF) was founded with the goal of supporting James throughout his rehabilitation and to expand to support other quadriplegics.
In an effort to raise funds for the PMF, James’ younger brother, Martin will attempt to kayak the length of the Murray River from Albury-Wodonga on the NSW / Victorian border, to Goolwa, South Australia.

Paddling constantly rain, hail or shine, The Puffin Paddle will take 56 days to complete the 2,200km journey and will commence on 1 November this year-hopefully Martin will finish on time and make it home for Christmas with James and his family.

Read the blog of Martin's journey driven by love of one brother for another

02 November 2009

Kayak Roll Preparation - "Pre-Rolling'

Like most kayakers, when I first started sea kayaking, learning to kayak roll was on my priority list.
I couldn’t wait to learn to roll believing it would be easily accomplished.
Rolling would be a key skill to letting me go where I wanted to travel in a sea kayak…out in the sea.

Armed with basic bracing strokes, I eagerly attended roll training with a qualified instructor. As I wasn't used to the reality of being upside down underwater, once in the rolling class, I soon realized that suddenly being tipped over underwater was not the most comfortable or familiar environment.
Anxiety mixed with the confusion of being upside down made learning the steps to a successful roll extremely difficult. I finished the training disappointed with my lack of progress, unsure if I would ever be able to master this seemingly complicated skill.

Looking back it is now obvious to me that if you are not comfortable upside down in the water, you are wasting your time and money attending a kayak roll class. 'Pre' rolling or priming is essential. It was only after a lot of getting wet and mucking around in my kayak that I was finally more confident underwater and ready for rolling.

getting comfortable underwater
I’m sure there are instructors around who will take your money regardless of your readiness to roll however GOOD instructors take the time to find out if you are confident underwater, if your kayak fits you and if you use bracing and skulling strokes.

With persistence I could roll but my technique was basic (I would roll back up with force rather then finesse) and unreliable. Introduced to the intricacies of balanced bracing by Greg Schwarz, I was ecstatic when I finally learn the "balanced brace".

balanced bracing
Learning to scull and balance brace gave me confidence underwater and an understanding of how the kayak moved in the water with certain body movements.

I discovered rolling is not about strength and pushing a big bladed paddle into the water to bring me back up. Rolling is more about aligning my body with my kayak, using my body to apply opposing forces with my leg/knee that will turn the kayak into an upright position. Not all kayakers are equal: some are more flexible than others and some have better underwater orientation, so training should be adjusted to the individual.

Hanging out with Greg Schwarz I learned another "soft roll"; the "butterfly" roll.

Greg likes to 'finesse' his rolls and he loves to teach that to others.

I am not a qualified instructor but I recommend aspiring rollers to undertake a lot of "priming" before you take that class.
Become confident with wet exits, happy to hang upside down for a minute (or two) before popping the skirt and maybe, with the help of a knowlegeable friend, start some basic sweep strokes with a paddle float to learn the motion of a roll.
The chances are that unlike my first class, a prepared student will have more luck in successfully completing a roll course than one that has never tipped upside down in his/her kayak.