Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Surf City

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Marquette is a small city – but sometimes has Big Surf!  I was out in the small stuff with Sam a couple days ago.  Sam was out in the big stuff yesterday.  We were playing with pictures and video cams both days.  Too much fun.

Check out my new helmet!

I tested out my new helmet, from Shred Ready (though, I don’t really feel ready to get shredded).  Very well constructed, super comfortable and easy to size.  Sam needed to put on his sunglasses – said it was a little bright.  I figure I want to be visible… especially if other surfers are out there – on boards or boats.  Or, in the unfortunate event the coast guard ever comes searching.  But, I don’t expect that to happen – just want to be prepared if it does.  I didn’t test it in the true sense – no head bumps (thankfully).

Got a second helmet – a Super Scrappy.  This is a little smaller – easier to carry on a trip, as in going to Newfoundland, but less coverage, so likely to use the Standard Full Cut helmet most of the time.

Click on the titles of the images below to  link to video of Sam and I!

Surf Jive with Nancy

Middle Bay Mayhem -Sam

Gearing Up

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Today I bought a new sleeping pad and ordered a new tent from Down Wind Sports!!

Currently I have a Mountain Hardware Viperine 2 tent.  I bought it in 2007, when I was heading over to Ireland to join Sam on his expedition.  It is still in great condition, and held up well in the wind and rain.  However, I can just barely sit up in it, so it is not so pleasant to be holed up in during bad weather.  And when it is warm (which it never was in Ireland, and may not be in Newfoundland!) there is not any cross ventilation.

I figure if I am going to be living in it for 4 weeks, in a place with few trees and lots of exposure to wind, rain and sun, I wanted something a bit more comfortable to sit in if I have to hibernate for a few days.  Not to mention something with a bit of cross ventilation if it gets on the warm and sunny side.  I have decided on a Mountain Hardware Skyledge 2.

It is compact and light, has 2 doors, which provides ventilation and 2 vestibules.  It is 39 inches high – and roomier in general than my current tent.  Mountain Hardware tents come with an internal guy system to help “stormproof” them.  I don’t have it yet, and look forward to trying it out.

I have been using the  same basic 3/4 length thermarest for over 15 years.  Never had a hole or a problem.  But, my body has had some issues.  I am susceptible to nerve problems in my hands as well as a few other things here and there.  I find I sleep much better and have fewer symptoms with good padding under me.  So, it was time to look for something new.  There is a new style of ultralight air mattresses – which aren’t self inflating, but pack up super light.  I tried one at Down Wind today and decided to buy it.

The Thermarest NeoAir is a  luxurious 2 1/2 inches thick – and lots smaller than my current mattress.  I look forward to trying that out as well.



Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Last weeks pool session gave me a chance to check out a new video system, the VIO POV.1 (click here). VIO is a company that is surprisingly located in Marquette. It initially started out similar to YouTube as a place to upload and view video shot in the outdoors. Lots of mountain biking video was there. Eventually the founder, Dave O., decided to develop their own systems.

Here is a clip shot at last weeks session using the POV.1:


It is waterproof and built to military specs. Turns out it is being used in Iraq as some previous VIO customers are over there in the military.

Excited about the possibilities this offers both during instructor classes and during trips. Just need to come up to speed on working with video.


Securing the Boat

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Securing a boat over night is one of the key activities for me after camp is setup and dinner is done. There are many steps, most involved in getting ready for the next day to minimize time between waking and launching. Tasks such as refilling the hydration pack, making sure snacks & sport bars are restocked and any packing that can be done is done (ie stow the dinner bag, fuel bottle, etc.).

Below is a photo with the boat secured for night.

Note hatch covers are closed, paddle secured to the boat along with the spare paddle and a cockpit cover is used. In the cockpit the PFD, sprayskirt, booties, wetsuit and paddling clothes are stored over night.

Why am I concerned about securing gear? Several things, high winds will scatter it possibly causing it to be lost – not all high winds get forecasted. In the middle of the night, if the seas and/or tides come up and you misjudged where the high water mark is, you can quickly move everything. Finally, animals. In the Pukaskwa I encountered Porcupines, famous for eating the latrines for the salt from the urine as well as in the glue in the plywood. They also liked to sample items touched by sweaty hands. One glance with a flashlight will tell you if anything is near your boat. Nancy had one eat her water bottle top and sample her hatch covers. The water bottle top was done for, fortunately the hatch covers only had teeth marks.

Finally, when possible, I like to use my tow rope and secure the boat to a tree. (The above photo was take in Ireland and there wasn’t any trees nearby). Below is a thumb from another trip where you can see the blue tow rope going out of picture to a tree.

Why is that important? Obvious I like to think but here is a photo taken in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) to make the point.

Yep that’s our boats floating and tied to the dock post. Thing is, we carried them up there at low tide for a LONG way and then ran to the ranger station to get our permit. We misjudged the tide and the time to get the permit. By securing the boats and all the gear, retrieved the boats instead of spending the first morning trying to track down our boats and/or gear.

Still think it is extreme? Here is a photo from Garnish, a small villiage in the west of Ireland.

I encountered some of the strongest winds of the trip here. There is no way I could move that row boat by myself, yet it is tied with two ropes to the sign and the oars are secured inside.

Think winds that strong don’t happen here? Think again, I’ve seen empty kayaks in the wind move several hundred feet along the beach at the symposium in Grand Marais, MI. I’ve heard of a double getting picked up by the wind in Lake Superior Provincial Park and thrown onto it’s paddlers who landed because of the building winds.

Securing the boat right now is a habit, I don’t even think about doing it anymore.


Dry at Last!

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

I got to use my new Seals (Pro Shocker) sprayskirt for our paddle under the Mackinac Bridge yesterday – and will report the driest cockpit I have ever experienced. I believe the only water that got into the cockpit was from my boots dripping, and the little wave that splashed in when I landed. I am looking forward to my expedition to Newfoundland this summer – sitting in a dry seat at last!


Team Seals

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Nancy and I have been selected to be members of Team Seals, paddlers whoseals.JPG represent Seals Sprayskirts (click here). We are very happy to be associated with Seals. I have been using Seals sprayskirts since 2005. I was desperate to find a sprayskirt that would keep me dry. In the rough waters off the west coast of the Queen Charlottes, I thought my foot pump was going to wear out because my sprayskirt leaked so much.

My first experience with Seals was the skirt didn’t fit. After a second skirt did not fit, I was ready to move on but the sales person told me the owner of Seals, Joe, wanted it right. This was quite the change for me as the previous sprayskirt company told me their skirts don’t leak and even tried to convince me that I had worn the skirt out after only one season of use. Seals got the fit right. Obviously they stand behind their product.

Seals sponsored Ireland 2007 (click here), my circumnavigation of Ireland and an expedition that demands the best gear. Needless to say it was great to have a skirt that kept me dry – the way it should be.

Nancy and I both selected the Pro Shocker (click here), the best skirt out there and the skirt you see in the photo. Product innovation and being a good citizen  to Seals is more than a motto – click here.

Amazingly, even their nylon skirts hardly leak thanks to their rim grip feature. It is people like this I would like to see tackle something like world peace or ending poverty. If that could happen, everybody would know about Seals, not just paddlers.



Wednesday, April 9th, 2008


One of the things about paddling is that you should not be afraid to be in the water, no matter the temperature, even if it is 34 degrees. That is why you wear a drysuit, to keep warm in water that cold. The photo above is my testing out a new drysuit, an Immersion Research Double “D” (click here).

What’s it like in water that cold? Provided you have worn enough layers under the suit, it is like stepping into a freezer – you notice the cold but it takes time to get chilled. Far different than a wetsuit, where you immediately feel the cold water against the skin and you do feel chilled as your body’s heat warms it.

For the amount of paddling and instruction I do in very cold water, I need a drysuit. In may at our instructor workshop in Big Bay, I will be in the water for around 90 minutes being the swimmer on rescues or demonstrating self rescues. Before I needed a drysuit, I used a drytop and a wetsuit which works well.


About the IR drysuit, it is a good one. The arms are articulated so there is little interference for the forward stroke. It has a streamlined fit on the upper body and fits more like a lightweight paddling top than a drysuit. It has the features you need – a relief zip and a neoprene cuff at the waist so it stays up even when not being worn on the upper body. (Useful when packing up the boat prior to launch or looking stylish buying groceries at the co-op after the paddle.)

One of the things I was unsure about was the rear entry zipper. After using it 6+ times now, I see the advantages. Primarily it comes from putting it on and taking it off – no more wrestling match type struggles – it makes that part easy. First time I used wore it, I immediately noticed the zipper, it rubs up against the back of your arm if you pull your arm at shoulder height backwards. Good news is that one doesn’t notice it when paddling after all that is approaching an unsafe arm position (ie shoulder dislocation) and should be avoided anyway. Only drawback is in zipping/unzipping it, it does take some yogi like dexterity I have not needed before but it is possible.

The only drawback I see is the size of the pants on it, they are baggy. Baggy in a drysuit means more air inside the suit to purge out. In this case in means a walk into the water after putting it on or using the relief zip to push the air out. My previous drysuit I could do the same just by crouching.

Overall the suit is a good one and I excited to have it. It was good to see IR expand their line of paddling gear to include drysuits just as my old drysuit was wearing out.