Category Archives: Reviews

Surfski paddling safely through winter

Updated January 9th 2017

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Winter upwind February 2016

First of all – thank you very much to everybody who kindly sent their own winter paddling safety tips in preparation of this post – greatly appreciated.

Putting your hands in ice water for a as long as you can is an old party game and a medical pain tolerance test. It´ll sting, bite and make you scream within one minute, it´s a scary test for a paddler, and not one you´d want to repeat with your entire body hundreds of meters into the waves.

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Proper winter downwind February 2016

Every year several Scandinavian paddlers will drown or become comatose during a winter paddle due to hypothermia. Getting out of the water fast to avoid loss of dexterity is a key feature to survival, so easy reentry is key and this just makes a surfski the perfect winter paddling craft.

 

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Christmas fun

Remount
Remount is paramount. But loss of manual dexterity comes fast. Don’t think you get five chances in choppy 0ºC/32ºF waters. Do your remount training in summer and check your skills in full winter gear.

 

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Winter remount drills December 2017 in a V14

Hypothermia
Cold water sucks out your warmth 25 times faster than cold air, if you move to keep warm in the water this rate actually increases as you´re constantly exposed to fresh cold water instead of heating the layer next to your skin. At 0ºC/32ºF you get about two minutes before you loose manual dexterity – depending on your clothes . Very important that you get out of the water. But once you’re submerged cold shock will hit you with a very direct and scary physical response as explained below. To a degree this even happens when you’re in a dry suit. Know this and try this in safe settings so you can deal with it as a routine thing and wont panic and start flailing aimlessly about loosing the warmth that you need to get out.

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Nice day for a time trial in the V12

A fall into cold water 0-15ºC/32ºF-59ºF (!) in normal clothes will do this to you:

Cold shock
On falling into cold water, cold receptors in the skin cause immediate physiological responses, the first of which is a “gasp” reflex. If this happens when your head is under water, you are in deep trouble. Next, you begin to hyperventilate, within seconds, your heart begins to race, and your blood pressure spikes. Hyperventilation may make it difficult to get air into your lungs, leading to panic and further hyperventilation. These symptoms can trigger cardiac arrest in susceptible individuals. Even healthy individuals will have difficulty keeping their airways above water without a flotation aid while undergoing these major physiological stresses. The effects of cold shock normally peak within the first minute and stabilize very soon thereafter.

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Shoveling the ski

Cold incapacity
After a few minutes, the muscles of your limbs are affected. Neuromuscular activity slows and body fluids literally congeal in the muscles. You feel the effects first in your hands and fingers. Then the deeper tissues in your arms and legs cease to operate properly. It becomes more and more difficult to perform any tasks requiring manual dexterity, such as using flares or other survival equipment. Survivors have reported that after a few minutes it was impossible to open a package of flares or to tie a knot in a line. After ten minutes immersion in very cold water, your arms and legs will no longer respond to your will. Even experienced swimmers have difficulty co-ordinating breathing and swimming strokes; short swims may be impossible. In heavy weather you have difficulty keeping your face out of the spray and you may not be able to avoid inhaling water. You will certainly have difficulty keeping your airway above the water without the assistance of a flotation aid.”

(from http://www.shipwrite.bc.ca/Chilling_truth.htm)

Chilling to say the least

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Dry or wet suit
I´ve paddled through a Norwegian winter in a 7mm wetsuit and can´t recommend it. It´ll keep you warm, but moving around gives you more resistance than you need, a bit like being wrapped in latex resistance bands.

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Get a good light flexible dry suit. Your speed will drop compared to summer and rotation will not be as easy. But its the beast way to actually be paddling through winter and enjoying it. Check the latex wrist and neck seals often, they tear and if they don’t fit tight they can send a bucket of ice water down your spine when you fall off.

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Be aware that holes render the suit useless and are dangerous. Fall off and water will be pressed through any holes and the water settles towards your feet giving you heavy legs that you just can´t lift out of the water. You´re now wearing an anchor!

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 Minus 8ºC/17ºF is not a problem in a good dry suit. This is a heavy Kokatat. Update: In 2017 I´m spending most time in a very light Ursuit, even when -11ºC. Tears easily, but flexibility is most important.

Yes it does get warm from time to time if you misjudge the temperature and  intensity vs. warm layers under the suit. But remember that you have cold water at hand. Try a remount drill to cool off.

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Update 2017: Under armour
This is not specific to surfski in winter, but specific to all winter activity. Wool on skin is highly recommended by my fellow Norwegian paddlers and friends on cross country ski. I do not like this. It´s itchy so I find a good technical substitute and add a full body fleece. Full body to avoid too many seams that´ll rub skin.

Dealing with ice
Ice is dangerous. Period. Update 2017: Check the video above.

It´s mostly a very solid object if you hit it with your carbon boat or paddle. Might not do more to your gear than a few scratches, but as you have nothing to hold on to it´ll tip you over as easily as a rodeo bull would, especially if you’re going at any speed.

Tempted to take this short cut?:

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I was, but as I shot this image the left floe 200m x 100m x 2inches  started gliding with no sound and hit the right floe crushing the edge until the left floe went under the right like tectonic plates. I should’ve known that the thick pieces of ice on the edge didn’t get there by coincidence.

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The very best scenario if I had gone this way is that the ice two inches thick would have broken my boat. Always asume that all ice moves.

Even thin ice will drift and stack in wind and can catch you and send you drifting away as well. Having a small boat at hand to break a path for you is a luxury I got today, so I got away with just some scratches in the gel coat. Not that it was dangerous at all but the line is thin so be aware of the dangers around ice.

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On thin ice

On cold windy days ice breaks up, but as soon as the wind lessens ice can form around the shore in under and hour and will do so if water temperatures are close to 0ºC/32ºF. Blocking beach access or the strait you need to go through. You can´t paddle through it, can´t hack with a carbon paddle, can’t ram your light boat through it but only up on it making you fall off, you can´t swim through it, it can’t support your weight. You need to find another landing if you can.

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 No way back to the club

Just don´t mess with ice.

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Phone
Always bring a phone. Remember to fill the bag with air so you can use it when droplets stick to the plastic and would´ve confused the touch screen. Update 2017: iPhone 7 home button is good, but not in a bag, it just doesn´t work. I´m leaning towards an old dumb-phone.

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Surfski Design
Some surf skis have a bailer that doesn´t close. Clearly indicating that the manufacturer never thought people in temperate countries would want to try this wonderful sport in winter.

When it´s -10ºC/14ºF a closable bailer is such a nice thing and actually the only thing that’ll make you able to take a rest without freezing your feet and butt off. It wont freeze.

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Many – most – surf skis don´t have space in the foot well for good winter boots or even socks in neoprene shoes. Some do and among these are the ones that figured out the bailer thing.

Choose a stable ski compared to your skill level and the conditions. Update 2017. I only paddle my V14 in winter now, all other boats are too heavy to drag through the heavy winter water, but that is only because I know my remount drills in this boat very very well! Exception is after dark, stability is needed when the horizon goes away.

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Paddles
Viscous drag increases dramatically with falling temperatures. You can almost sense how the viscosity and density increases during winters as water goes still and heavy like quicksilver.

This might mean that a smaller blade and shorter paddle is better. Winter paddling clothes will restrict your technique a bit also pointing towards smaller blades.

But most importantly go with a paddle that you’re totally familiar with, knowing exactly what it will do in and out of the water.

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Gloves
You get pogies, neoprene five fingers, toaster mitts, latex covered neoprene, open palm mitts etc…

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Controlling your paddle and knowing its position and the rotation of the blade is key to your stability and not something you want impaired by stiff slippery neoprene gloves.

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Pogies

For the same reason lots of people prefer pogies. I don´t do pogies when it’s freezing as you´d loose dexterity very fast when taking them off to fix something or even remounting. If you feel tippy don´t consider pogies.

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Gloves that has the palm cut out are good too if you need a lot of control, but mostly for autumn as they’re too cold.

In any event hand protection is probably the most personal choice you´ll  have to make.

I have a whole mountain of gloves and try to go as thin as possible. These thin NRS hydroskins are good for down to -4ºC\25ºF, maybe not really god for my skin, but better for maintaining good technique. Update 2017: They´re just too thin, read on…

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Update 2017: You´ll loose heat with split fingers. Try mitts like this. It´s clumsy off the water but will give you loads more warmth and control on water, much more like paddling without gloves. Bad for photography of course…

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Test different gloves.

 

Other safety measures
I´ve had many suggestions in preparation of this post. Like bringing an ice pick to avoid getting caught or a knife to cut a fixed rudder from fishing nets or lobster pots. Personally I don´t like to many gadgets around me on the water, but do what you find safer. Don’t need to mention pfd or leash.

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However I think it´s a very good idea to think through what sort of safety redundancy your winter paddling has. What if the hull suddenly leaks at sea – if you hit a reef. What if the rudder lines freezes – (you can work them free by continuous small left/right jerks). What if you loose your paddle?

A phone seems to be a good choice to keep some redundancy when one system fails. Maybe even a PLB or a flare especially if doing winter downwind. And if you do, bring a buddy!

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Going to the beach

 

Test your gear
It is cold I know and a bit scary. But do get into the water where it´s not too deep and see for how long you can avoid shaking and can keep manual dexterity. I aim at 15 minutes. So thats my window for remounting or getting to the shore. Swimming is not effective in winter gear at all, try it and don’t rely to much on doing it in an emergency.

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 How long can I stay here?

While I’m basking in the water people often shout at me or approach me, sort of nice to know that people care, but also tells you that this is a bit extreme. Do do remount drills. It’s more heavy and difficult than in shorts and 20ºC/68ºF but not much, and surely beats falling out off and remounting a kayak.

In an emergency remember that if you lack the strength to pull yourself completely clear of the water, any amount of your body removed from the water will extend your survival time.

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Winter training -3ºC/27ºF with Einar Kjerschow & Mats Grov

Dark
If you want to train outside weekends and have an average 8-16 job you´ll be dry paddling in a gym or paddling in the dark.

Don´t get a head lamp as the reflections from the boat will blind you so you loose the feeling of the level horizon and then you get wet.

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Snowblind

Your eyes get used to the dark, try it and take your time. This works especially well if you have a touch of city lights or moon light handy. This is enough, but stay away from the rocks and reefs at the shore that you can see in daylight, but not too far away. If there’s a risk of dark invisible ice be aware, as hitting ice in the dark at 12km/h isn’t going to end very good. Use non-blinding lamps on the boat, shoulders or head as boats can’t see you. In most places the law requires you to use lights.
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Swearing
Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University in England, has published a study where students stuck their hands in cold water.

After their fingers and hands had returned to their normal temperature, the students were asked to say a profanity of their choice over and over again while their hand was immerged the cold water again. Less pain was experienced and on an average the students were able to keep their hands in the icy water 40 seconds longer than they did when they were not swearing.

This one is optional!

 

Enjoy!
Winter paddling is a special feeling, it makes you feel close to nature and is way better than going to the gym. Take your precautions, stay safe and you’ll have a lot of fun fitness!

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Paddling with the boys

 

Surfski Film Festival 2014 – Sweden in the lead!

Surfski is taking off, no doubt about it. Nowhere as fast as in Sweden.  But without enthusiasts nothing takes off. This is just what they’ve got in Sweden. Namely the surf ski community “West Coast BAMF Surfski HPG Luck-lovers” headed by Trent Victor.

Two other VERY active members of this society are Emma Levemyr (European SS Silver Medallist, Swedish SS Gold Medallist) and Evy Lantz (Swedish SS Bonze Medallist) and many other enthusiast are found here too.

Wind and cold waters are perfect for surfskipaddling too. So Emma’s, Trent’s and Evy’ home – Kungsbackafjorden – near Gothenburg just has it all and is is THE cradle of cold surfskipaddling. And more on this later.

Now Emma, Evy  and all these creative forces have created the annual Surfski Film Festival. The world’s first & only Surfski Film Festival? What a really great idea. Here´s the trailer. Enjoy! #Entrepreneurship

Surfski clinic by Sean Rice

To readers of this blog, Sean Rice needs no introduction. Even my 4 and 7 year old sons know who Soren Ris (common Danish name) is. After a very successful trip around the Western US and Canada, Sean had once again set his eyes on Norway where the surfski sport is in    it´s infancy. And these are exiting times as the sport is growing like mad in parts of Scandinavia fuelled by wind, cold water and a very strong kayaking tradition.

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Rather than reiterating the minutes of the clinics Sean did in Oslo, I´ll try to share my own experience. How I benefitted from Sean´s ability to deliver an analytical breakdown of your paddling technique, and follow this up with a very comprehensible workaround for you to take home.

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Sean had visited Norway in May and hosted a handful of successful clinics with extraordinarily positive feedback. Back then I had just returned from a few short days a Dawid & Nikki Mocke´s Paddling School in Fish Hoek South Africa. A truly wonderful experience where focus had been surf zone training and cracking downwind runs. I had begun following an intense training program very kindly tailored by Nikki Mocke, but was painfully aware that my technique was actually bad, very bad.

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My paddling issues
I love the sport, but from time to time I felt uncomfortable in my skis without really being able to tell why. Especially when conditions were flat and no downwind adrenaline could hide my shortcomings. Together with my trusted and skilled physiotherapist I had cracked part of the code and built more core strength. But arriving at a true workaround for better surfskiing was very difficult and the solution always just beyond reach.

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Enter Sean Rice
Sean Rice dropped by Oslo in May this year on invitation from local surfski enthusiasts Einar Kjerschow. Literally two hours later I walked away from Sean´s clinic with a near complete road map to better speed, less physical strain and a much better technique.

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I expected the clinic to be hosted by a professional athlete very knowledgeable about good technique and able to outline the basic steps towards a good forward stroke. But what I and others got in May was much better – an analytical breakdown of our individual so-so paddling style and custom made technical building blocks each of us could utilise to achieve a better paddling style.

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Book a private clinic and Sean will have a better chance to watch you paddling from various angles and will keep quiet – for just a short while. Then he´ll jump in a surfski and paddle alongside you to confirm the theory forming in his mind. Now quiet-time is over and Sean will in clear text lay out what your boat is doing wrong, what you´re doing to cause this, why you´re doing this, what you should do to correct this now and what you should focus on to overcome the problem on a long term. What you should focus on as problematic for your stroke, and what you should just learn to accept as your own personal interpretation of a good forward stroke.

Sean Rice Surf Ski Session at Oslo Kayak Club from Sune Wendelboe on Vimeo.

First step
In my own case my main concern before the clinic in May was a weird stroke, high left stroke, low right stroke, force spent moving air and water in directions no all good for winning any races, very asymmetrical connection between lower and upper body.  The clinic in May and loads of training afterwards took care of a lot of this and speed picked up considerably.

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Second step
But what was worse was that I still couldn´t get rid of this sometimes uncomfortable feeling in my boats. They all felt like they´re were going just a bit left, bucket felt like it was just a bit asymmetrically built, pedals felt like my legs weren´t equally long while indeed they are. All these little things seemed like different issues until this Monday´s clinic in Oslo when Sean´s analysis tore them apart and reconnected them into one manageable solution addressing a domino effect caused by weaker left side protecting itself and a stronger right side opening up to applying full power. Pretty simple really, but to the untrained eye these things are disguised by loads of compensating paddling moves, leaving you stuck with a mediocre stroke and risk of injuries.

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Again I walked away from a new Sean Rice clinic with an big piece of a new roadmap. This time a roadmap to much more enjoyable paddling.

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Being on a fluid surface with so many variables few people will be able to self diagnose the underlying reason to their seemingly unconnected paddling issues. With access to raw talent like Sean Rice’s, surfskiing is indeed a special sport where you can actually learn from the best!

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In a few good days in Norway Sean hosted clinics for beginners, intermediate and experienced paddlers. Theory and practical sessions covering basic technique and the art of reading and using waves. Feed back from the participants has once again been outstanding.

If you ever get the chance I really really recommend that you join a clinic with Sean Rice who in addition to being one of the absolutely leading surfskiers is now using his fine-tuned analytical powers to help paddlers enjoy their sport even more.

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Third step
While Sean has left Norway to race in the Ohana Mana Surfski Race (good luck), we´re now so amped in Norway that we´re busy preplanning a longer Norwegian / Swedish / Danish(?) surfski camp next spring. Stay tuned for program later this year.

Don´t forget the exclusive crowdsourced Sean Rice interview that will be featured on surfskipaddling.com next Friday!

Radar Reflex – expensive stickers but cheap safety

On the Oslo Fiord thousands of boats are racing all summer long. Big, fast powerboats. When it´s windy some like to play in the waves like surfskiers do. On an overcast, low contrast and windy day this gets pretty dicey. What the faster boats going too close by see or don´t see nobody knows. I always assume they´ve seen nothing and very often I´m afraid this is true.

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After a few close shaves recently I decided that chasing rogue boaters to the mooring and telling them a few things were pretty unproductive. Rather I wanted to focus on becoming more visible and paint my paddle orange. But then I stumbled upon the most expensive stickers you´ll ever see – 111 $US pr paddle. But they show. Very much so. In the waves I couldn’t tell if they´re interfering with the hydrodynamics of the paddle, but it really wasn´t my impression. On a quiet day I´ll test them against my no-sticker paddle and compare, if any change, I´ll post again.

So why are the stickers so expensive compared to other reflecting bright stickers? According to Radar Reflex the stickers enhance how visible you are on a radar especially when mounted in a correct pattern explained in the pack. If true this is really cool and would be worth paying the very high price for. So naturally I asked how this radar enhancement has been achieved or is explained but Radar Reflex tell they chose to keep this piece of information as a trade secret. Since the product is put forward as having special radar effects and carries a price tag that needs to be justified accordingly I don’t understand why Radar Reflex chooses not to explain or quantify the effect in any way. So basically you´ll have to make your own decision whether you’ll take their word for it and hand over cash that would get you many times more ordinary reflective stickers.

In conclusion all I can justify to say is that the stickers are indeed very bright and visible even in hazy overcast midday conditions. Way brighter than the yellow stickers on an Epic paddle. I saw the stickers being noticed by a few other paddlers. I do feel safer. So in general some kind of reflective stickers are a great idea when paddling.

Stickers don´t change rogue boaters, but the vast majority of boaters aren´t rogue, but just simply can´t see a white surfski against white horses when doing downwind. Now they can see me a lot better

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Check it out for yourself. www.radarreflex.com
Norwegian but self-explanatory.
“Kjøp” to buy.

Surfski Malta – a brief visit

Living in Oslo gives you many fine seasons and waters to paddle. There’s nothing  wrong with gliding between fragrant pineclad rock islands on a misty winter morning on the Oslo Fiord but recently I’ve begun discovering and visiting surfski destinations around the world.

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Paddling in Oslo goes a long way

In my time off I´ve been freelancing a bit for Getty Images as a travel photographer. Photography is a great vessel to get you going to the next country, village, valley, tribe and now I’ve begun combining it with surfski travel, which has the added benefit of letting me meet many more wonderful people.

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A recent photography / surfski trip to Namibia & South Africa

I did a small piece on a surfski trip to Tarifa some time back (Surfski Center Tarifa Review), and am still trying to get my experiences in Southern Africa, particularly the Millers Run in Fish Hoek down on paper. Meanwhile a logistical blunder left me in Oslo without family or car but with my four last summer holiday-days free. So I started thinking about the surfski schools I knew of but hadn´t been to – Zolt in Hawai’i sounds great like Sydney, Kaua´i and maybe Perth do (tip me on other places please!) But four days is no fortnight so I remembered having heard about Surfski Malta, got in contact with the manager and operator Christoffer Camilleri who was quick to help me out on short notice and in the middle of the peak season.

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“So you´re going to Malta” the immigration police said, “now which country would that be located in” (sorry Malta).

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Not the biggest country, but not to be overlooked

Malta is a country and a huge travel destination blending terrific weather with a really confusing history involving Roman, Arabic, German, Aragon, Spanish, French and British rule, not to forget the Knights of St. John and independency , all this has produced a unique culture, architecture, and cuisine. Interesting and unlike anything I’ve seen in Europe. But this falls outside the scope of this article and I will just suffice to recommend a closer look at Malta and its very friendly people.
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Valletta, Capital of Malta

Back to the surfski trip. It was thursday July 24th and I got around to packing while Norway had woken up to total terror alert investigating apparent threats from extremists, live broadcast of a press conference hosted by the Norwegian Police Security Service, police choppers overhead our house and armed police stationed at focal points such as the Central Station in Oslo, the intl. airport Gardermoen and the Ferry terminal to Copenhagen. Or in other words the three transportation hubs we’d use to get the family to Denmark and me to Malta. No sweat though and we were off.

Surfski Malta was opened in 2013 and is Nelo country. It´s not exactly a school as such like Tarifa or the paddling School in Fish Hoek, nor does it claim to be. Rather it´s a surf ski rental that’ll give you good advice, take care of accomodation too. But with new investments it looks like things are moving towards a more complete package for all types of surfskiers , more on this later.

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The dedicated founder of Surfski Malta Christoffer Camilleri is President of the Malta Canoe Racing Club, has repeatedly been the K1 national champion of Malta since 2004 and has been competing in World Championships and World Cups for several years with outstanding results.

Some years back a visitor from South Africa saw Chris in his K1 in Malta and having seen the sea around Malta promised to ship a surfski – the very first ski ever in Malta. This happened to be an ancient and thus tippy Epic V10 fitting Chris perfectly and now he was sold. So in 2013 Chris went ahead and got hold of a line of brand new Nelo Skis. The choice was Nelo Vintage and Ocean L/XL, fast beautifully colorful  and  sleek designs but at a price – stability.

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My blue Nelo Ocean Ski and my green Nelo Vintage

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 My black V14 

For those who haven’t owned one and coming from one that has owned and paddled all three – the Epic V14 is sort of equal to the Nelo Vintage and pretty stable compared to the Nelo Ocean Ski. They´re fast and beautiful but they´re not for everybody or even most bodies. They´re high performance skis what have very little initial stability and less secondary stability. They´re not like the outrageously unstable beautiful Nelo 560Ski though. Bear in mind though that this comes from an intermediate surfski paddler.

But the Ocean Skis at Surfski Malta are being supplemented by no less than 11 of the very stable Nelo Viper 55 Ski. I´ve had two Viper 55 Skis and they´re sort of comparable to Fenn XT and Epic V8 by a stretch. Rounder and faster than the V8 less so than XT.

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My Viper55 Ski in action in Norwegian mid winter

This will leave intermediate paddlers with a choice of upgrading to an Nelo Ocean Ski or downgrading to a Viper from the Swordfish/Evo II/V10/etc. they likely have back home as Nelo hasn´t got anything in this  segment yet. But the Viper is actually pretty fast and surfs very well with a proper surf rudder, so the choice makes good sense to further Surfski Malta as a surfski destination for both beginners and advanced paddlers. I guess that most guests at Surfski Center Tarifa paddle something faster at home than the V8 very commonly used in Tarifa, and in the same way I actually think a Viper 55 Ski will be the right choice for most recreational skiers visiting Surfski Malta, even if we might prefer something more intermediate if we were at home.

A few intermediate boats that I guess 90% of recreational surfskiers would be happy in when paddling at home in known conditions:

 

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My Think EVO II & my Epic V10 

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My Fenn Swordfish and Eirik Verås Larsen coaching

Malta as a paddlers destination has a bit of the same Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality as a Viper 55 ski vs. an Ocean ski. You´ve got the huge bays an inlets of the North East. Vast crystal clear bodies of quiet water fitting an intermediate paddler in an Ocean Ski. But if you venture outside the bays you´re in the Mediterranean Proper and you will have rapidly changing conditions,  big rolling waves on quiet days and breaking downwind on others, it´ll be perfect for an intermediate paddler in a Viper 55 Ski.

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Matthew Schembri & Christoffer Camilleri on a windy day

Chris has cleverly set up two surfski Centres in Malta. One operating mainly in the winter (October to April) in western Mellieha Bay and one downtown in St. Julians at the end of the prevailing downwind in winter peak season (above).

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21km downwind route from western Mellieha Bay to St. Julians

It was summer during my visit so I stayed next door to the St. Julian base. The hotels here are fine tourism machines, but just next door you´ll find charming old fishing boat houses built by the old boat launches and now home to Christoffers St. Julian boats.

It´s a wonderful feeling strolling along the old boat launches at seven in the morning next to colorful fishing boats floating on inviting crystal clear waters.

Surfski shack MaltaSurfski Malta St. Julians

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While setting up your boat at the shack you´ll no doubt meet old fisherman Xavier who is back from a long night of terribly bad fishing which he´ll be glad to elaborate on. He has been in place since 1959 and his cockney accented gloomy fishing reports are a quite cool reminder of the colourful history this country has to offer.

Paddling in MaltaMorning paddle in St. Julians

Just three steps from the boat shack is the Mediterranean and you´ll launch your ski from here. Wiggle your way between colorful wooden Maltese fishing boats and enter the bay of St. Julians. Surrounded by medieval and baroque palaces and churches plus many not so medieval chain hotels, you can stare at the blue bottom 10 meters down. The bay is in wide open connection with the ocen and thus only protected in some wind directions, which is why you might experience placid water become a rolling tub in no time. It´s a touristy place for sure, but it does have it´s own considerable charm to be paddling downtown between ancient spires and old grumpy fishermen.

stjulianSt. Julian’s 

As of now Surfski Malta is a surfski rental that can also fix your accommodation without any fuss plus offer paddling advice, but it’s not a surfski school as such. You can come to train in fine boats and good conditions, but need to know what you´re doing in a surfski as there´s no one coaching you or paddling with you. To be perfectly honest I as an intermediate paddler with only 4 years of experience had no option what so ever to venture outside the bay into the open ocean without something a bit more similar to a Swordfish/modern stable V10/EVO II and without company knowledgeable about local currents, reefs, traffic, winds and runs etc. Recently though Chris has invested in a powerfull dingy stored in St. Julian’s, showing that the business plan of Surfski Malta is evolving and that in near future guided paddle trips / runs will be a part of the product line.

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Limestone arc – the Azure Window – Gozo Island

Surfski Malta just opened up in October 2013 and has already got a decent fleet and many followers on FaceBook. They held quite a few races during that short time, and many more are planned, check out their FaceBook site for the cool race reports. I believe that Surfski Malta has a great potential for beginners/intermediate paddlers as well when they take delivery of the New Viper 55 Skis and wrap a bit of a tuition package around the really fine product they actually have – slick skis, warm water year round mixed with Maltese nature, culture and cuisine. It’s a strong start and I’d be interested in visiting again later to try the downwind from Mellieha to Valletta.

I find it very interesting that more and more surfski operators are popping up. Christoffer Camilleri is very dedicated, knowledgeable and very helpful person. I have no doubt that with time this will emerge as a leading surfski destination with it´s very own twist.

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Mellieha Bay, photo by Surfski Malta

You can read more about Christoffer in his own words here Christoffer Camilleri

And about Surfski Malta here

August 2014
Sune Wendelboe

 

Review of MOCKE Deluxe Paddle Bag

Background for getting the bag

Travelling with your paddle can be a risky way to treat a +500$ purchase. But travelling without your own paddle can challenge your trip even more. Your paddle is a primary source of stability, speed and comfort and therefore it’s one thing you’ll want to bring when travelling.

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My 7yo finds the bag cool and would like to trade his school bag for one

In April I went to Fish Hoek to join the Mocke Paddling School. The conditions in Fish Hoek in April tend to be either very placid or very wild. I was lucky. It was wild, and got wilder every day and by far much wilder than ever back home in Oslo.

The first day there I had to train surf entry and exit. Something that doesn’t exist where I normally paddle. I sat in different boats like Bluefin, Swordfish and V8s, all quite or very stable boats. But I borrowed a paddle that felt and was a bit different from my normal tool which is an Epic Mid Wing. Not much different and that’s the point, because although nearly similar it moved a bit differently  in the water. So the subconscious body/paddle language that normally works to keep me upright and above the water didn’t work like normal or at least spoke with a very weird dialect. Learning new stuff was really fun and challenging, but unnecessarily included re-learning how best to shift from power to brace with this paddle etc. This is no excuse for the photo below though…

surf training

 Give me my own paddle!
Paddling in Fish Hoek    surf training 1

In new waters there are many variables to take into account and removing the paddle from the variables and adding it to the constants will make your paddling much more enjoyable. I promised myself that I’d bring my paddle on my next trip at the risk of breaking it in the process. Luckily it didn’t have to be that way.

Returning from South Africa I checked out some of the MOCKE paddling gear on their web pages and saw a paddle bag. I ordered the paddle bag and took hold of it before my next trip. I didn’t want to check in two bags and was pleased to see that my life jacket and most clothes for the new trip could easily fit in the  generous compartments.

Real world test

I was going for a few days of paddling at a relatively new surfski venue – Surfski Malta (more about this in a weeks time) – and decided to check in my MOCKE bag and nothing else.

The bag has two compartments besides the paddle compartment. Called wet and dry which makes sense. The bag seems durable and well made. It’s not cowhide or Vuitton, it’s durable and water resistant. The flights were three different airlines Oslo-Barcelona-Malta-Zürich-Oslo so the bag would be manhandled plenty. Thunderstorms had cut out normal baggage handling upon return to Oslo and loads of summer holiday bags were piled wide and high at Oslo Airport putting them all through a tough test.

St Julian

The paddle bag and everything in it survived all the transfers and handling nicely. Many many years ago I worked night shifts in an airport handling cargo, and although I expect things to have improved a lot I’m still not to keen on putting expensive fragile stuff in the checked baggage.

It has got padding, and a  bit of extra padding would be my wish for the next generation. But to be honest the bag is good enough that I just ordered a second for my other paddle. The bag has no unnecessary features but lots of nice details like hidden shoulder straps, right amount of pockets, durable and cool design. A functional product.

 

Wet compartment

Wet compartment – room for travel essentials

Like the rest of the MOCKE gear many thoughts were built into the product. Dawid Mocke has a fine video of this and the different details.

Surfski Center Tarifa, a quick review

V10 Double Boyan & Jens

A few months ago I had the opportunity to visit Surfski Center Tarifa. I knew that it was one of Europe´s leading surfski destinations, but as the sport is small up here, what did this even mean?

A short video I made trying to capture the feel of surfskiing in Tarifa

It was December and ice was forming on my home waters – the Oslo Fiord. Meanwhile in Southern Spain, not far from the major hub of Malaga,  the temperature was at a comfortable Scandinavian summer level.

The drive from Malaga to Tarifa via Ronda was winding roads making their way across Andalucian mountains and through small white washed villages. While  daylight at noon back in Norway was at the same level as at midnight in June – Spain was pure autumn wrapped in soft golden sunlight

 

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Ronda1

Tarifa is the southernmost point on the European continent and lies south of parts of Africa. As you drive nearer winds pick up, hundreds of windmills dot the landscape. The oceanic climate that makes winters warm also generates the wind that drives much of Tarifa’s tourism industry. As you descent from the coastal ranges into the plains surrounding Tarifa you see the gentle sweep of the bays on both sides of Tarifa and get a feel of the powerful winds and begin to understand why the surfski centre is located here.

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On arrival in Tarifa I was greeted by Boyan Zlatarev who runs the place and who is an expert surfskier.

Now the Straits of Gibraltar is quite an intimidating place and a quick look on Wind Guru can make you wonder what it would be like drifting all the way to Rio de Janeiro. But any hesitation just evaporated as Boyan went through the theory, security drills and checks before paddling.

As not many surfski paddlers come with any certification Boyan took me out in the V10 Double to assert skills. If you get this opportunity – take it. The ride was fast, bumpy, fun and gives you a feeling of the fast conditions in Tarifa.

V10 Double 2       dw4

V10 DoubleBoyan in the front bucket 

Customer

Another happy downwind student, Jens H. Bond, in the double with Boyan Zlatarev

Next up was downwind in a V8. Where many people frown a bit at the thought of paddling a V8, Surfski Center Tarifa uses it widely even though they have the entire range at disposal at the Centre. The V8 – the surfing machine – is very stable and catches runs easily.  On one occasion when we were 4 sort of intermediate paddlers going downwind – one chose a faster boat and was instantly passed by three happy V8 paddlers.

The V8 is a great platform to learn downwind and technique from as you don´t have to worry about stability. Stability before ability as Oscar Chalupsky puts it.

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While you sit in a stable V8 and feel like king of the world, Boyan will – typical for him – tell you to get out of the bucket into large breaking waves and far from shore. When you try to remount he will go “that looks like your comfortable side, try the other one…” and then “ok, but try it again until it´s one fluid motion”.

V8

When the driver parked the surfski van 17m further than necessary from the howling shoreline Boyan was there again with a piece of friendly advice on parking vs. carrying a light surfski in strong winds. Safety before fun and respect for the equipment that will take you across the bay in howling winds – that´s Boyan – this focus on safety and detail might come from paddling a potentially dangerous body of water everyday. We can all learn from this and in the end it makes you feel very safe as a paddling student and it lets all paddlers at the centre enjoy the fun much more knowing that all precautions have been taken.

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Tarifa has great many combinations of wind directions and currents. This produces quite a challenge but when combined with the knowledge found at the surf ski centre it also produces  new and exciting paddling opportunities every single day.

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Tarifa has the right conditions and Boyan has the right skills, huge knowledge about local runs and is a very dedicated teacher. If you come with an open mind you´ll enjoy personal instructions and will be able to take home a lot of very useful knowledge no matter what your pre-school paddling level was. Great value for money.

Basically I had a great time in Tarifa and warmly recommend it to paddlers of all vessels and levels of experience. I learnt a lot and will be back in a few months.

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-Sune Wendelboe,  July 2014

All images © 2013 Sune Wendelboe.

 

Find much more information on  Surfski Centre Tarifa’s own website:

Surfski Centre Tarifa