Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Silverbirch Broadland 15 Duralite Review - By Alain Cook

I was given the opportunity to 'test drive' the Broadland 15 following a chance conversation with Liam at AS Watersports a few months ago. All they wanted in return was an honest review and a few photos. Well, I knew the Spey was on the cards again but not until September…
  • Could I wait that long?
  • Would it still be around? 
  • Was it worth sacrificing the comforts afforded from my Explorer 15 after years of tweaking?

I wasn't sure at first, but the answer was most definitely yes to all of the above. I should say I’m no expert, whatever that maybe, but I have been mucking about in canoes and kayaks for approximately thirty years with the last eight or so solely in a canoe.

This review is a personal opinion based on my experiences, with a bit of input from my tripping companions Clive, Graham, Matt S, Matt R, Paul, Nick, Pauline and Dave; between us a mixture of 3, 4, and 5 star paddlers. A big thank you for their practical and photographic input, especially Matt Rea for his expert stalking along the way, you’ll find his photographic work if you follow the link here:

The first test for me has to be the carry and load test - how easy is it to load on top of my Landy?  Well loading is easy, relatively speaking, it is no more difficult than loading my Explorer. Carrying wise, like any boat it just needs a bit of personalisation, some padding on the yolk for me is essential. 

The second test is my wobble test, no matter how secure or far back I place my Royalex Explorer on the roof bars the front end will shake about and 'wobble' anything above 30mph. The Broadland felt and looked rigid, even on the motorway at the supersonic speeds my Landrover does! Well ok it got tested to about 55 or 60 mph and gave me no reason for concern.

Finally the third and fourth pre paddling tests included a visual inspection and comparison with other boats and its packability. Well it's a nice looking boat, this one is blue; there’s a reason they choose blue for catering plasters! Amongst the beautiful and slightly wild backdrop you get from the River Spey surroundings, I did initially feel I stood out somewhat, not helped by the fact that, unintentionally, everything I was wearing and carrying seemed also to be blue!! It could have been worse of course, it could have been pink ;-) I understand Silverbirch offer flexible colour options, (including pink) on this occasion it was just what AS Watersports had available. I prefer to go for the faster green boats!

Getting cleaned in the washing machine!
It has simple lines with what seems like a prospector cut and I like the groove line just under the gunnel, I’m not sure it does anything but it’s a nice touch. It has a flat bottomed hull which seemed to have some very gentle lateral ripples in, I’m not sure how much use this boat has had and in what conditions, it will be interesting to know how this fares in the future. I am being critical, as this is a review, but it was certainly no cause for concern. The Duralite plastic is tough for its weight, it is a short 15 and on the narrower side with a short freeboard. As for packability, well loaded with four days worth of gear for a solo paddler, it was absolutely fine. I was carrying all the usual stuff; camping gear, cooking gear, clothes, all the paraphernalia we seem to collect as open boaters and it fitted fine and without upsetting performance.

Morning Yoga has never been so well balanced…
So how did it fare on the river? As an 'off the shelf' set up, (I think) the seats seemed further in towards the centre of the boat than I’m used to, AS Watersports kindly fitted a kneeling thwart which, to allow room for rear seat, was set at approx 350mm from the yolk. Some of the larger guys in the group found this a bit tight, it was perfect for me however, and with this in mind with some personalised outfitting think it's certainly a great solo boat. As a tandem it works but with larger adults just seemed a bit small. Smaller adults or youngsters might benefit from this for day or weekend paddles, you'd need to pack diligently for tandem multi day expeditioning.

I had no difficulty keeping up with the Explorers, Esquif Avalon, and new Voyager Prospector canoes. I’m not so sure how I would fare on longer slower rivers such as the Thames, the Broadland 16 a likely better option here?
This is a manoeuverable boat whilst still feeling very stable and forgiving. It will turn on a sixpence when edged enough and I had no trouble picking and following a chosen line down bigger water, indeed picking a line and being maneuverable was essential if I wanted to stay dry due to what seemed like quite a low freeboard! Pushing directly through a wave train guaranteed a wetting, even quartering and maneuvering smaller waves didn't guarantee staying dry due to the low cut; I wonder what adding just a inch all round would do? (disclaimer, better paddlers might stay dry?)
In the rapids, (no more than grade two on this trip) the Broadland 15 wants to be playful, I was happily eddy hopping, crossing big waves and I even found a little bit of surf from one feature, not enough to really judge but what I caught was fun.  

The Broadland immediately instilled me with confidence, as a smaller weedy, (I weigh at best eight and a half to nine stone) paddler this boat fitted me well and I would happily recommend to the slight paddler, (male or female) as well as perhaps making an excellent first boat for a younger paddler, (I have my eleven year old daughter in mind) I’m putting it on my wish list…

Additional Review By Team Members Graham Thomas & Nick Davies

My usual open canoe of choice is a Royalex Mad River Legend which is narrower than most and flat bottomed which makes it slower as a tourer but great in moving water. So the first noticeable point which I liked in the Silverbirch Broadland 15 Duralite was how narrow it is. This makes it great for easy cross deck work and weight transfer for maneuvers. Its prospector style hull shape makes it track really well and has good cruising speed.  The hull feels really stiff and rigid with no flex which is a tribute to the Duralite material.
It was difficult to really compare how well it manoeuvred compared to my Legend and the other canoes I paddled on the Spey partly because we were all carrying a weeks gear and the others all had fitted matting which gave more confidence for bigger edging and better boat contact. However once you are in a stable position it behaved well although I did feel the gunwales are a bit low for bouncier sections and it would take on a little water while quartering. 

Graham Thomas
Level 4 WW Leader.

My thoughts

The boat tracked well, has a low gunnel, but ok for grade 2ish stuff a bit more rocker would help its manoeuvrability, (big word for me) but other-wise nice shape and paddle, oh and the seats are a bit tight if you want a kneeling thwart.

Nick Davies
4 Star River Leader

Friday, 2 September 2016

Dagger Nomad 2016 review, the "Newmad"

A.S Ambassador Gary Peverill was one of the first folks to pick up the new Dagger Nomad from the shop. He's been away in the French Alps and beyond with the boat this summer, coaching and paddling for pleasure.

Check out his thoughts below.  Size large available for demo now. Call the shop on 01392 219600 to book a go in the latest version of the world famous creek boat.

For years now I have been paddling a Nomad 8.5, which I loved but always found it a bit small and quite unstable. I always hoped Dagger would add an extra size up, and now they have!
The 2016 Nomad has 3 different sizes of boat and the large one is bigger than the old 8.5.
They have changed the hull shape to give more speed and stability
So I ordered a new red one in large and haven’t been disappointed. A few weeks later I spent 10 days in the French Alps kayaking, which gave me a great opportunity to test it out.
So here are the things I found better than my old boat:
  1. The Nomad is big, it holds all the kit you want such as: splits, 1st aid kit, repair kit, rescue kit, phone, wallet and keys, lunch, drink, throw bag and the kitchen sink. I got 2 big airbags to keep the kit as close to me as possible in the boat and for any rescues on the boat.
  2. I moved the seat forward as  much as possible, this kept the boat slightly bow heavy to engage the edge more and loosen the stern and allowed my hands to paddle at the lower/narrower part of the boat.
  3. The seat  has an extra insert which lift your body up for better reach over the boat and make you feel less low in the boat, I am not very long in the body and being 5’9 and 16 stone I found big boats an issue for reach etc, but the nomad felt good.
  4. The fitting out foam for the foot rest, seat, hip pads ect was very secure and very comfortable and never gave me dead legs which is a first.
  5. The boat has loads of rocker which meant it didn’t get caught out in holes or pushed around by random flows, it also made it very manoeuvrable yet didn’t hinder its forward tracking or speed.
  6. The hull is slightly flatter with edges, this helps for stability and carving turns. However it still boofs and flairs and lands well after drops. 
  7. The boat surfs quite well, easy to carve and hold position as well as flat spins and control in holes and stoppers.
  8. General river paddling has been made easier which gave me more confidence, but still being able to change direction when needed and set a new course.
  9. The boat ran through waves and stoppers with no problem
  10. The boat was easy to role and hold on a large edge
  11. The fitting out of the boat and plastic is good quality
My overall impression of the boat is excellent, from paddling and playing to comfort and confidence, this boat has it all and I would highly recommend it.
Now the Nomad comes in Small, medium and large sizes, it’s worth taking a demo out as the sizes overlap the old 8.0 and 8.5. The new design has improved an already great boat.
Gary Peverill, AS Ambassador

Director of Inspiring Adventure 

 Don't catch Pokemon, catch waves. Catch them all! 

 Safe, solid and great for carry gear. Gary's perfect coaching platform.

 Big Nomad, Big volume, Big fun.

 Fully functioning Contour Ergo outfitting with lots of in cockpit adjustment for tweaking on the fly.

 The Nomad is still very agile.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

What a Blast – Kokatat Blast Shortie Review

What a Blast – Kokatat Blast Shortie review. I bought myself a Blast. I’m 5’10, with a 42 inch chest and 15.5inch neck and really comfortable in a medium. I love this cag and thought it time to make some noise about this great value shortie cag from Kokatat. 
Kokatat are deservedly famous for their Gore Tex dry suits but if you look through the full range there are some absolute gems.

The Kokatat blast is one of my favourite items in the shop. The shortie is made from their own brand “Tropos” waterproof, breathable fabric. Kokatat have been making paddling kit for a long time (check out this 40 years in the making video: ) they know what they are doing as a result this top had a great cut for and freedom of movement.

The Blast has a combination of punch through coated Lycra® stretch cuff on sleeves for a nice firm fit, smoothskin neoprene waistband with adjustable bungee drawcord and a neo cinch collar which adjusts easy and stays in place. This results in really comfy seal that keeps out the water even through the choppy stuff. This cag has zero latex which appeals to a lot of people. The lightness of the cag mixed with these seals makes it a great cag for either Sea Kayaking, white water or surf. I love it and if you want a new shortie this is one to look at. Get some Kokatat in your life.

Photos courtesey of

Monday, 1 February 2016

Werner Nantahala Canoe Paddle Review

I have used Werner paddles for over 10 years now and they have never let me down.
My Favourite canoe paddle is the Nantahala, I use it for white water and open water canoe paddling.
It is really light but incredibly strong, I have bashed off many rocks and pushed myself along punting off the river bed with no problems at all.

The white blade is easy to see if you drop it in the water, as well as giving signals from a long way away.
The blade is symmetrical so it pulls and cuts though the water really easy with no change in direction.

The glass shaft is very strong; I use my gunwale to guide the paddle and to pry off, the paddle handles this with no problem.

The shaft is slightly oval so it makes it easier to get a good grip when transferring the power.
The shape of the blade gives instant power but with a slight flex in the shaft it’s very controllable with no flutter.
I use the Nantahala for white water and open water, I find touring with it no problem due to the lightness of the paddle, and it’s also really useful if it is bit windy just to get that extra power.
The T grip gives control and comfort; I glue and rivet mine into place once I have set it to the right size.

There are many different guides to sizing your paddle, but I think it is a lot to the type of paddling you do and your body size, I like a shorter paddle length which allows me to recover it quickly, but I gain power though my body and tactical paddling, if you go for a longer paddle then you gain on leverage but movement is a bit slower to recover.
I am quite a stocky paddler, my height is 175cm tall and my paddle is 143cm long which is about 7cm below my chin, I generally paddle with short stokes and keep my hand about 4cm above the gunwale as a norm.
The best thing to do is try different shaft lengths and see what suits, before you cut your paddle!

My best stroke for the Werner is Forwards power with a Stern Pry to get maximum power and control which in turn gets the canoe moving and gives you steerage.
This is a paddle which I would highly recommend and will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Silverbirch Covert 9.3

Silverbirch Canoes are the new kids on the Canoe block. 
Despite being new to canoes the team behind the brand are far from new in manufacturing paddlesports products. They also produce the fastest growing Sit on Top brand in the uk and have a long history of boat design including high performance surf craft and using  top end high performance materials.  

The Covert 9.3 is the first OC1 from Silverbirch and has come at a time when the much loved  Dagger Ocoee is rarer than hens teeth. (no new production, just well loved 2nd, 3rd, 4th hand ones). 
The Esquif L'Edge is probably the most similar thing to the Covert. Ever seen one? 
So if it's OC1 fun you want for white water river running and playing the Covert is the stuff of dreams. UK designed and made this boat could not have come any sooner. 
Staffer and open boat expert (complete with beard ) Jim took the AS Watersports demo Covert out for a spin on the famous "Loop" section of the River Dart. 
This run is full of fun, wave trains and holes. The perfect testing ground for a nimble white water boat. 

                                                   Setting up for the first surf of the day. 

Silverbirch covert 9’3” first thoughts.

From the outside the Covert looks like a no nonsense river running OC1, with plenty of volume, good outfitting, knuckle friendly tumblehome and bags of style.
Having jumped in the impression continues. The saddle and thigh braces are comfortable and well shaped, while the Yakima footrests offer a solid but adjustable contact point for your feet, which help to maintain a good connection with the boat. Foam lined sidewalls in the cockpit area help to reduce the volume of water the boat can take on while paddling.

The covert comes complete with a full foam saddle, Yakimas footrests, Ankle pads and big internal foam sidewalls. The Ash gunwales are also fitted as standard as is the rope for lashing in the airbags. 
(Air bags are extra. Here we have fitted Yak 48" ones)

 On the water the Covert is stable and confidence inspiring. My OC1 skills have become very rusty, not having paddled anything like  this in over 3 years, yet as soon as I got on the water the Covert just felt natural and easy. The secondary stability was very impressive and helped to bolster my confidence. Breaking in and breaking out felt smooth and predictable, even leaning downstream on crossdeck strokes felt easy as the secondary stability allowed me to keep the boat edged well, meaning I could concentrate on my line and strokes and not worry about my balance.

Breaking into the flow.

Looking well balanced, high and dry. 

 The flared sides and high bow kept the boat very dry while running rapids. Even crashing through the waves and holes on Lovers leap and Triple drop on the Dart Loop the Covert took on very little water. Less water in the canoe means it's easier to control when you need that extra control. Having a swamped boat in the middle of a bigger rapid with more rocks and holes to dodge is never a fun or rewarding experience!
                                                                          Surf's up! 

Crossdeck strokes are easy to reach.

One run of the Dart Loop successfully  under my belt and with minimal out of boat experiences along the way the Covert has inspired me to brush up my OC1 skills. I will definitely be out in it again as soon as possible!

To Book a demo or make an order call the shop on 01392 219600
Place an order online click here: Silverbirch Covert 9.3 RRP £1595.00 (plus air bags, £120.00 for a pair of 48"'s)

Jim and the cheeky boys, Max and Dave about to hit the river for a Sunday shred. 

All photos By Ewart Aylward. Copyright AS Watersports

Thursday, 10 December 2015

SOT Self rescue

Sit on top kayaks are one of the most accessible and stable ways of getting on the water. From time to time you can find yourself in the water.
Here is a quick video of how to get back on.
Thanks to Steve Whetman from Whetman Equipment

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Bring Back the Flair! - Tom Rainey

I’ve only just returned from my trek across the Atlantic, but I’m already dreaming of my next paddle on the water. Since being on solid ground all I’ve dreamt of is kayaking. But, due to not doing it for a while, I have a lot to work on before I can hit up rivers such as the Little White in the US or the Teigdalen in Norway.

I am starting from scratch. Back to basics, and making it as hard as I can for myself. That means no big volume boats, no super forgiving displacement hulls, but sharp whippy boats that teach you the fundamental basics of white water kayaking.
You know the dart. But how well do you really know it?
Everyone in the South West likes to comment on what level they’ve run the dart at. But why does that matter? I’ve seen logs go down it at 7th step! And logs are terrible at fine art kayaking.

You want to impress the girls? Carve some lines, make ridiculous break outs, treat small drops like 60 footers and peel out into the flow and boof them like no mans business.

Small hole, deadly consequences.
Summer 2012 – I thought that I knew what it took to run a big drop. But I underestimated the basic, simple and vital tools to run a waterfall. The small hole at the top which you can see me goating my way through led to what was a catastrophic crash down one of Norways most notorious drops – The Teigdalen Double Drop.

What I’m trying to say is, forget the photo glory of flying off waterfalls if you haven’t mastered the small stuff.

So, what’s my advice?

Re-think how you view the river. Instead of crashing down and feeling success having mainlined the rapids, why not look for a new line you’ve never tried before?

It must be nearing a 300+ runs down the upper dart for myself, but every time, I look for a new line. That’s only recent, but it’s a way of trying to better yourself each time.

Reconsider how you view the river – change your perspective!
Re-invent your mindset – Try to have the most fun out of your paddling, and by that I mean make up crazy moves. Bring back the flare and grace of old school kayaking.

Most of all – look at the elders who taught you to paddle (that’s if you’re a young gun reading this). Most of the more experienced paddlers I speak to come from a slalom background that taught them balance, fine paddle placement and edge transfers as well as how to read the water impeccably.
Relish nailing new moves and new lines that have escaped your view

Friday, 1 May 2015

Bouyancy aids for summer, 8 of the best

Wow, there is just so much good kit around at the moment. All our stocked brands have really raised the bar with the 2015 offerings.

To help you out we have selected eight of the best PFD's available in store that are great for summer use.
Not just summer of course but as the white water season slowly fades away ( apart from you lucky folks chasing the sun and snow melt across Europe) our paddling changes so our kit needs to reflect this.

Some of these are new and others have had a facelift or subtle tweaks to recharge them.
Old boy and kit junky Ewart gives us a run down:

In we go in no particular order.

1, Yak Kallista.

The cheapest PFD on the list, our go to every day recreational PFD. Its the PFD we chose for our hire business and basic tuition.
Why? The construction is solid, bar tacked shoulder strap for extra strength, super soft foam that is really comfortable and moulds to the body well. A non intrusive cut that allows for easy paddling. shoulder, waist and chest strap adjustment and only £54.95! Junior, s/m, m/l, xl and xxl

2, Palm FX.

The FX has been around for 3 years in its current guise. It doesn't rest on its laurels and keep proving itself as one of the most versatile buoyancy aids out there. Low cut foam that hugs your body, a massive pocket for all your ice cream and beer money. Oh and possibly some safety essentials like a phone and Sun screen. (don't giggle, the sun is on its way) xxs, xs/s, m/l, xl/xxl

3, Yak Galena.

Nipping at the heels of the FX the Galena is the new kid on the block. This PFD is so fantastically light I just don't know how the do it. Well actually its down to the layered foam inside and the Fusion fit technology. This wrap around foam and figure fitting padded mesh panels in the front and back.
Pocket wars! This front loading pocket certainly competes with the FX and might actually be bigger. Max says "nice colour!"  Three colours to be exact. Red, Blue and bright neon green.
 s/m, m/l, xl  £79.95

4, Astral Sea Wolf.

We have had this in store for about 2 years now. Its a quiet one, a bit like a Wolf bit it definitely has bite!. Max has had his for a while now and loves it. Again its light weight, ideal for the warmer weather and has a low profile fit. Its the little things about this PFD that make me love it. The sneaky pockets on the side panels, a fleecy hand warmer in the front with the Clam shell pocket on the front. Ok so you expect this kind of stuff but it will also take a chest belt (chest harness what ever you want to call it) so its great for towing situations. It also has a space in the back for a hydration bladder. Wins all round.
£129.95  s/m, m/l, xl.

5, Astral V8.

One for the Sit on top crew. The most American looking (if there is a thing) pfd of the bunch as its covered with mesh in most places so you can see the light weight foam. The foam even has spaces in it to allow your body to breath and stay cool.  Most SOT's have high back rests these days and the V8 has a reduced foam cut on the back to allow for this. Light, with pockets and cool (in every way) to wear.
£89.95  s/m, m/l, xl.

6, Yak Xipe,

Updated for 2015. A little underrated pfd I reckon. Ok, so the internal chest belt adjustment isn't obvious straight away but get this on and it feels great. I think this is one of the best touring buoyancy aids available for under a hundred quid. The new 2015 updates include two solid colourways with a nice bright and safe orange and a trusty red. The highlights that set these off are the new coloured blue and yellow zips, very snazzy. A massive hydro bladder compatible pouch on the rear will take up to a 3 litre bladder. Enough juice for the thirstiest paddler.
£99.99 Jun, xs, s/m, m/l, xl, xxl

7, Palm Kaikoura.

The badboy. Top end and fully loaded. Do you want more from your pfd? Well you can't have it as this pfd has it all. The choice of kayak anglers, expedition sea kayakers, open boaters and anyone who wants the best. Massive amounts of buoyancy, loads of storage, fleece hand warmer pockets a big hydro pouch/pocket at the rear.
£159.95 xs/s, m/l xl/xxl

8, Palm Peyto.

 Hot off the press and straight to a top selling position. The Peyto is a fantastic competitor to the Yak Xipe. For an all-round touring buoyancy aid you can't go wrong with either. 
A huge reshaped rear hydration pouch pocket, fleece lined hand warmer pockets and super snug wrap around Comfort fit foam give a great fit. Smooth profile for easy re-entry in to your boat if you fancy a dip and the 3D anti ride up waist belt keeps every thing locked in place for the more wild adventures. 
xs/s, m/l, xl/xxl £99.95

Of course there are lots more buoyancy aids to choose from but this selection fits most needs for non white water paddling.  Pop in to the shop for expert advice on what's right for you and the correct fit. 

Happy paddling!