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: https://vimeo.com/20373314 ) 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 www.grgadventurekayking.com


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
£89.95



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! 







Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Pyranha 9R Customer Review

As a 50 yr old boater I need a boat that will look after me, fear creeps in once you reach 40 no matter how much you fight against it.

I have paddled and loved my Medium Burn 3 for just over a year now but demo'd the 9R purely by chance on a Slab covered Loop swapping boats with Amy Elworthy. I was unsure at 1st as the nose sticks up so high and it sits on top of water high, at the time I had no intention of buying one but enjoyed how it glided over features and kept the speed up all the time.
It caught me out a couple times sat on the eddy line and had a couple rolls which was surprisingly easy.



It wasn't until I got back in my Burn and started to get splashed in the face and sink a few times in features on the Upper Dart that I realised how good the 9R had been. I watched some vids, read some reviews and took the decision to get one from AS Watersports, 2 days later I was testing it on the East Lyn at a nice level from Brendon to Lynmouth, I was again unsure of it at 1st and after a mile I was wondering if I should've stuck with a boat I knew for a committing river, but after Triple Drop and a few boofs over holes I was getting used to it and starting to realise its potential.
The biggest thing I noticed is it's fast! I twice boofed over the paddler in front so a bit of space is needed or stay in front.

It's not as forgiving with the little rocks that catch you out as I found out once nearly getting turned over but once we reached the Gorge the 9R started to come into its own staying high and boofing every drop and hole with ease, I am fully aware it was more the boat than the paddler but if it helps me to paddle bigger water I'll take it with open arms.
In summary the 9R is great for the adrenaline junkies but it also has a place for the lesser ability paddler like myself who needs every help he can get. Cant wait to get out again with it!

Mark


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Yak Rakau Buoyancy Aid Review

This is the first review to come from our team of AS Ambassadors. Find out more about the AS Team here.



I have recently been paddling with the new Yak Rakau buoyancy aid, testing it in kayaks, canoes and on the water during white water safety and rescue courses.
I have been really pleased with it, in all areas.It comes in Red or Green, with a front pocket and a safety harness system, the foam is cut really well so you get lots of body movement.


In a kayak it's cut well for leaning forward and rotation. The neoprene around the chest area is really warm and helps to conceal any excess strap from the shoulders.

On the shoulder straps there is extra padding and a non-slip patch for boat carrying, the side straps have a nice rubbery quick release tab to pull and everything is easily adjustable when on.

Yak Rakau

The front pocket has 2 internal compartments for things like tape, food ect, and a large pocket for a sling and crab plus a few extra bits. The front has a clean line so getting back into a boat (canoe) is

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Venture Islay 14 Sit on Top







Over the last week or so, I have been paddling  and working from the Venture Islay 14 Sit on Top, this is the final Prototype with a release date still to be set!

If you haven’t got much time and are just flicking through, let’s summarise at the beginning, this boat is a great touring sit on top, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and I’m ordering some for my tuition fleet!

If you would like more info carry on reading.




Venture is new to the Sit on Top scene but is certainly not new to kayaking.  Venture have been designing, innovating and moulding some of the best-selling touring boats made over the last decade.  
Venture is also the sister company of Pyranha kayaks, a UK brand that has pioneered kayak design. 

Rest assured these guys know what they are doing and you can definitely see that in their Sit on Tops, these are boats designed to perform.



This is just my first impressions and there will be a full review coming because this boat has some tricks up its sleeve. Those who like sailing and fishing watch this space!


Storage – The Islay has a day hatch at the bow of the boat and a large well at the stern of the boat. This will take plenty of kit and allow you to distribute it evenly across the boat ensuring it still paddles well. It could comfortably carry enough kit to camp from this boat.

Built in handles – this is a big plus for me. This Allows for easy handling off the water and much sturdier than rubber or webbing handles. I am tough on kit, dragging them, stacking them and generally using them.  Built in handles are much better for me. Another advantage of these wide built in handles is that they are really easy to locate and grab when turning the boat back upright in case of a capsize.


(Built in handles much easier for carrying)

Comfort and connection – The Islay features adjustable foot pegs (rather than moulded ridges) this allows you to connect to the boat better. Applying pressure on the pedal whilst pulling on the paddle also allows you too transfer power much more efficiently. Firm footrests helps you brace to the boat and keep good posture also. This is especially important when controlling the boat and to handle the boat when the weather gets rough. The final material seat hasn't been confirmed yet but the shape of the boat is well thought out and sculpted and the boat feels comfortable even without the seat.





Performance - this is what matters and the Islay Sit on top doesn’t let you down!  The Islay is 14 foot long and sleek and narrow at the front. This equates to the boat being fast and smooth through the water. However the boat widens up underneath the deep sitting position. This lower centre of gravity and extra width gives great stability. Great secondary stability too, as you can see in the photos.

Manoeuvrability - Now we are talking! This boat has something to offer which is quite rare in Sit On Top kayaks; A skeg, common in all of Ventures touring kayaks they have seen sense and introduced a skeg into their touring Sit on Tops.  The Skeg enhances tracking and is particularly useful in windy conditions but also for general cruising. 

(Built in handles and Drop down Skeg)




However, bring that skeg up and apply edge and this boat can manoeuvre too. Great for rock hopping or taking it down mellow white water (If a canoe can do it, this boat can do it)
I will have a demo as soon as full production is up and this boat will be available in our very popular Guided Trips and Sit on Top Skills and Safety courses.


Finally…..



Gone fishing?!

Venture kayaks have got some great plans to make this boat very easy to upgraded into a fully featured  fishing kayak….watch out for the full review.


 (Happy Instructor)















Tuesday, 2 December 2014

More to the floor, pedal to the metal, another 9R review!

Oh yeah, Ewart has been tearing it up in the 9R. Charging local runs like the Upper Dart and winning races at the Pots Rodeo.
Check out his review over at his blog: http://3bsports.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/9r.html

Monday, 17 November 2014

The ever popular Small Pyranha Burn!

As a smaller female paddler I was asked to review the new small Pyranha Burn 3. I am 5'0”, weigh around 60kg and not particularly flexible. I currently paddle a Zet Veloc, with a brief time paddling the Dagger Mamba 7.5 before and during a trip to Nepal. I confess I have never tried the previous small Burns because they never appeared to be small enough.

My first thoughts were that the red, white and grey colour scheme was wonderful. The footplate was easy to adjust, and moved close enough even for my short legs, although slightly too narrow. I would probably have used the larger footplate that I believe is available, but it was fine with the one that was fitted. In my current kayak I have moved the footplate further forwards and covered it with chunks of foam for the same reason. I did not try adjusting the seat position, as I found it comfortable as it was. The ratchets for the backrest worked well, and my throwbag fitted well under the central strap, although I would have liked more than just one elastic loop for my water bottle.


Paddling the Dart Loop with the water level just below the slab was a fun test for the Burn. Doing an early practice roll really showed the advantage of the lower profile for a smaller paddler. Instead of sitting deep in the kayak, losing most of my trunk rotation, I was able to reach the surface with my paddle with ease. The usual answer to the problem of sitting deep in the kayak is to add layers on foam on the seat. This creates new problems for the short paddler though, as you are less stable when paddling, and have to reach even further to get the paddle to the surface when rolling. I feel that many people really don't understand how much a paddler with a short body loses flexibility to clothing, buoyancy aid and seat position.

The Burn's handling was fun and responsive. Turning for S bends at the shoot just below Spitchwick was completely reliable with the sharp edges giving turns a crisp accuracy and ferry glides were smooth thanks to the flatter hull. Deciding that I needed to test the kayak out even more I had a go at surfing at the bottom of the Webburn, something I have never had much success with in my more rounded Veloc. The Burn inspired such confidence that I continued down river looking for more challenges. I didn't quite manage eddy-hopping down Lovers Leap (something that is still fairly new to me anyway), but the kayak tracked really well, and responded perfectly to the adjustments I made on the route down. Instead of fighting the kayak to get it to change direction, I just had to make small corrections, giving me a much smoother paddling style.

At Triple 1 I dropped down and deliberately stopped paddling to see if I would get tail squirted or sucked backwards, no chance! Breaking in and out of the current was easy, and I didn't find myself catching the edges at all on eddy lines, even quite tricky eddies such as river right just below Triple 2. Having successfully negotiated Triple 2 and 3, I found my challenge, the wave after Triple 3 was somewhere I have never managed to surf properly. With confidence in the edges and hull riding high, I started to surf on my second attempt. When I inevitably capsized, there was never any doubt that I was going to roll up.

Finishing the run, I had to admit to myself that my thoughts had progressed from review topics, to “I really don't want to love this kayak”, ending up with “I really love this kayak”! I need to demo it again, as I am slightly concerned that there might not be enough room to store a drybag and my medium sized SLR in an Ortlieb Aquazoom bag either side behind the seat, as the height of the nearest part of the rear deck was a lot lower than I am used to. However, if I can squeeze the bag under this part, there is certainly more space further back! Perhaps I'll just have to buy a GoPro...

All in all, Pyranha have finally come up with a small person's kayak that really feels properly thought out, not just a scaled down large kayak. Congratulations to Pyranha, thanks to Liam and AS Watersports for letting me demo the boat.