Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Lettmann Manta Review.

Lettmann Manta Review. 

Thanks to local paddler Charles Mitchell for his words on the the New Lettmann Manta.

"Having paddled a Dagger Axiom 8.5 since September 2016, I decided that I ought to get a larger
volume boat. On reading that the Manta had a slalom pedigree I was very interested coming from a
slalom background.

I paddled a few boats at AS Watersports on the canal including the Manta. It looked narrower at
the front than I had expected and was the nicest to paddle on the flat water with a good snug fit
once sitting in it.

First run, the Dart on the Loop, was at a good level with the slab covered. For such a long boat it is
incredibly quick on the turn. If you catch a patch of slower moving water, while travelling down a
rapid, it wants to turn but as long as you are driving it forward it holds its line. Going into eddies it
likes to be driven with aggression and then turns very rapidly, as quick as the Axiom. Eddies with
lots of boil and standing waves are also taken in its stride without any problems. Ferry glides and
high crosses were carried out with speed and precision, again the important thing was to drive the
boat where you wanted to go.

Second run was on the Upper Dart, slab covered and, as it turned out, rising. I had not done the
Upper at this level before. My previous highest level was just lapping on the slab. This trip was
more full on with little or no breaks between rapids and much bigger holes and drops. Bearing in
mind it was my first day on white water in the Manta it inspired confidence, handling the conditions
well, and where I made mistakes the Manta’s design allowed for correction and recovery.
Summing up, the outfitting is simple but effective. Once in the boat, with the back rest pulled in,
you feel at one. Even upside down there is no tendency to fall out as you are firmly part of the boat.
It certainly put a smile on my face, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a boat for someone who likes to take
control and enjoys the challenge of big water."

 Available to demo at AS Watersports.
 RRP: £995

More reviews and specs at Whetman Equipment.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Three Ways To Refresh Your Regular Run...

With family, work and weather finding time to go kayaking can be tough and finding time to venture further afield can be even tougher. If you have been paddling your local run a lot or maybe starting to feel a little bored, jaded or even losing your buzz for kayaking. Here are three ideas to spice up your local run with a dash of variety.

1) Different boats 

Every now and then swap out your familiar creek boat for a river runner or playboat and experience those old familiar rapids through new eyes. Spend fifteen minutes tail squirting in that super strong eddy line you had forgotten all about or enjoy a soul session on a wave with a boat that’s more suited to surfing than boofing.

Check out this video of Ian Dovey from Dovey coaching taking the chance to demo the Pyranha Kayaks 'Ripper' and enjoying a surf session on Top Wave on the Dart Loop.

How about taking out a traditional open canoe or OC1, Remember we have a Silverbirch Covert demo available at the shop

It can be just as easy as swapping kayaks with your mates for the second lap. You may find your new favourite kayak or think “why would someone choose to paddle this!?!”

Jim Ottaway mixing it up with an OC1 on the Dart Loop.
Max and David on a familiar rapid but in a unfamiliar boat.

2) Overnighter 

River Living.
How about an expedition in your back yard? Add a twist to your regular run by making it an 'overnighter'.  There are a bunch of reasons that might appeal but I’ve decided to highlight two. 

1.) Expedition paddling skills – you don’t have to be in California or India to have an overnighter, though granted it could be a bit warmer or dryer. You certainly don’t want to be miles from civilisation when you realise your sleeping bag doesn’t even fit in your kayak.

The skills learnt at home put into practice in remote locations - 

Expedition tips and articles on what to take with you have their place but knowledge and quality learning comes from experience. So go get some! Try packing light, cooking a meal on the side of the river and sleeping under a tarp for the night with the confidence you could actually walk to the car if needs be.

Liam and Ewart January 1st 2012 after a NYE overnighter on another Dartmoor Classic. (Not our firepit or shelter) 

Paddling a loaded boat feels different. If it's for the first time, It’s quite nice to hit some familiar rapids to get a feel for it. Maybe it feels awful, so you make the decision not to carry all the heavy stuff in the bow anymore. A great opportunity to learn.  If you aspire to paddle some white water overnighters it may be closer than you think, if you’re a seasoned expedition paddler maybe take someone out and if you are a club why not add one overnighter to the calendar?

2.) It's just fun relaxing on the side of the river with a stove, a few tins and some good mates.
Cooking at camp - simple pleasures. 

Max and Ewart enjoying some hot food and some cold beers on a weekday overnighter on a very, very short white water river in the South West UK. 

2) Purposeful Practice 

If you are on a mission to improve then you may need more than just time in a kayak. Head to your backyard run with an aim in mind. "Today I am going to work on my offside roll". If you happen to flip take the chance to do what you set off to do. If you don't flip find some good spots to capzise and work on your off side roll.  Another example could be " I always find myself taking lots of backwards stroke to correct" Change the theme of the day not just to get to the take out but to change something in your paddling for the better. This is a conversation you can have in your head and work on during the trip without affecting the rest of the group or the day. What can you do today to make yourself better for tomorrow? 
Emma Stokes with a clear focus in mind on a sunny day on the Exe. 

Of course it doesn't have to be about paddling skills. White water safety rescue courses are fantastic but keeping on top of those skills is as important maybe take a day to go practice swimming, throwing lines and mechanical advantages.
Low water so we spent a mornings swimming with Exeter Canoe Club - we didn't even take kayaks to the river. 
Making a mountain out of a mole hill on purpose.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

An Ode to Kayaking, Camping, Company and the Caledonian Canal

Once upon a time, seven days ago,
An eclectic group of paddlers,
Set off for an adventure,
Their excited faces aglow.
Eight people in all,
Some tall some small,
There was Nigel who with his dry humour and wit,
Along with others planned much of the trip and helped us not quit.
There was Andy who has a very lovely skill,
Of being at ease with all & gourmet chocolate was our fill,
Mike was a very helpful paddler to all of us,
Made carry straps etc. without any fuss,

Friday, 2 June 2017

1 week in the Swiss and Italian Alps – The 5 best things that happened:

Paddling the Versasca, both classic and upper section. The classic section of the Versasca is insane, lots of drops and slides built on bedrock. No choss, just clean and perfect! The Versasca is around 9 hours driving from Dunkirk or Calais, so it’s pretty easy to smash out to for a long weekend, and will run on most levels. If it’s too high to run the classic section then you can run the upper. You also have the Asola at the top of the valley which runs well on low flows too.
Paddling the Gronda and Sorbe Slides during heavy rain giving them a juicy flow. On the third day we had a mega storm hit the mountains which meant that the rivers were charging. Fortunately we had seen this coming so had driven quickly to Italy to escape a 150 cumec Versasca and hit up high level Italy. In the morning we got up early and enjoyed the classic bedrock run with spice!
Having the bluebird day of the century and ticking off a quadruple crown. The day after the mega storm, the sun came out, the levels were a perfect medium high after the day before and we energized on Italian coffee. Starting at 9am, we ticked off the Egua, Semenzina, Mastalone and Lower Semenzina Gorge. A 10 hour day leaving us all knackered in the evening but stoked after an incredible day.
Running the Mollia rapid at the bottom of the Alpine Sprint, Sesia. This rapid has always seemed beyond me in previous years when visiting Val Sesia. Either the levels were too high, I wasn’t feeling skillful enough or was too hungover. Either way all the elements were aligned for a descent this trip. Perfect crew, Medium levels, sunshine and feeling on top form. All led to a successful run!
Enjoying the simple times between runs in the mountains with top friends. A fantastic crew who were always up for charging and socialising. The Italian coffees found in the small villages were exceptional and gave us a well deserved break and time to reflect on the paddling.

Monday, 7 November 2016

First Look: 2017 Red Paddle Co 11' 3" Sport SUP

Red Paddle Co's new size in the Sport range. The 11'3" fills the gap between the lively 11' and the more touring orientated 12'6"

This is such a useful size board. It offers that bit more for the exploring paddler than the all-round Ride series.
It has the forward speed of most other 12'6"'s but without loosing stability. It has a nice balance with the wide point being right by the handle, just where your feet should be.
The tracking is great, the large 9" FCS2 SUP Touring fin really holds the line but you only have to step back a touch to free up the nose and get the board turning quickly. When you do shift your weight back it stays stable due to the wider tail. Its more stable on the back end than the Ride series, and that is down to that wide tail and large fin.
Overall a quick, stable and responsive board. Good glide for ease of paddling on longer journeys but not so big its not fun to paddle.

 The pulled in nose keeps the waterline and helps with the glide of the board.
Even at 11'3" it doesn't look big.
 The wide tail really helps with the stability for stepback turns.

 Updates to the coiled leash are good. Better neoprene padding on the cuff and loosing the adjustable webbing bit was a good move.

 RSS Battens down the rail help with the stiffness.

 New screw thread comes as standard, this will take aa RAM mount, or your favorite action sports camera. (GoPro)
 A lighter bag helps with transporting it. A nice big pocket inside for your fin and elastics to keep your paddle in place.

 Very little flex in the board due to the RSS battens.

Demo board available now. Call 01392 219600 to arrange a free demo. 

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: http://www.stinkingdaisy.co.uk/

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.