Kayakers Rejoice! Kokatat Re-Invents the Dry Suit – The Idol

24 01 2015

This week I was one of a few privileged souls to witness a revolutionary development in the kayaking world: The unveiling of the Idol dry suit by Kokatat, Inc. Why is the Idol dry suit revolutionary? Answer: The Idol is the first dry suit in history that can be zipped into two pieces – and each can be worn independently.idol-drysuit-leaf-small

Why Own A Dry Suit?

A dry suit is an expensive proposition. A top notch Gore-Tex drysuit from Kokatat or Sweet Protection can set you back $1,100, and that’s not chump change. So, what is the big deal? Your life. If you exit your whitewater or sea kayak in 50-degree water, and you don’t have a wet suit or a dry suit, you are a goner in short order. So, you ask, why a dry suit instead of a wet suit? There are several reasons. Suppose you are paddling and the water is 45 degrees. You’ll need a wetsuit north of 10mm to be safe if dunked more than 30 minutes. And you must get wet to even get warm. When dry, that wetsuit is useless. Wind goes right through it. Now, imagine paddling with that. With a Gore-Tex dry suit, all you need is a dry, comfy fleece layer under that dry suit. When out of the water, you’ll be warm and dry. It shields you from wind. The Gore-Tex will move your perspiration out of the suit. If you do take a spill, this doesn’t change. Even under water, Gore-Tex moves your sweat to the outside environment.

Dry Suit Trivia

Are dry suits something invented for 21st Century adrenaline junkies? Nope. Dry suits have been the immersion wear of choice going back to ancient times. Fact is, Arctic Inuit hunters invented dry suits centuries ago. They discovered seal intestines had the ability to pass sweat in one direction and keep water out. They used dry suits in their whale hunting exploits.

What is the big deal with a two piece dry suit? Well, for one thing, in a one piece dry suit you are stuck when needing to relieve yourself. Manufacturers have come up with rear zippers or front zippers. But still, kayakers have to wear this garment with neck and wrist gaskets even when it’s warm outside. Always a source of irritation. And it’s all or nothing because it’s one piece. Garment makers offered Gore-Tex pants or Gore-Tex tops. But if you are capsized, either meant total immersion in icy water as water enters at the waist. Therefore, for many years, the vast majority bought a one piece dry suit.

The Challenge – A Zipper That Can Do the Job

The Holy Grail was to somehow make a two-piece dry suit. And one that can be three garments in one. A dry top, dry pants, and a total dry suit if zipped together. The challenge has always been a waterproof zipper capable of the job. Metal zippers when worn around the waist are just unforgiving and uncomfortable-after all, a spray skirt has to fit over the zipper. The breakthrough is an upgraded T-Zip plastic zipper, and its SwitchZip technology and Ringseal closure. The plastic zipper is waterproof and much more flexible than a metal zipper.

idol dry suit,kokatatThe Kokatat Idol drysuit can be split into two separately worn pieces. The top can be worn as a standalone dry top. The pant can be worn as a waterproof breathable pant-with included waterproof breathable socks. That means on warm days, kayakers can launch their boat completely dry and paddle comfortably without having to wear the whole dry suit. So while the Idol drysuit costs $1,100, it replaces two additional garments! Not only that, it makes relieving oneself in the great outdoors so much easier. Whether you need to go #1 or #2 you can separate the pants and perform the duty much easier than performing the whole machinations necessary with a one-piece dry suit!

OK, I Wanna I Wanna! How Can I Get My Mitts on One?

To order one of these amazing products, you must visit a Kokatat retailer. In Portland, Oregon, visit Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Kokatat says the Idol will be available in the 2nd quarter 2015. But you can order today.

Here’s a Kokatat Video on the Idol Drysuit





I’m Back – From a Back Injury, that is…

8 03 2014

You may have noticed I have not posted to my blog in months. If you’ve read my blogs, you know I’m a very active individual. My hearts desire is to be outside, breathing the air, being active. Whether hiking, trekking the Himalayas, paddling surf, or skiing the Wasatch, I live for outside activities. Travelling overseas is especially rewarding to me, whether soaking up cultural experiences or adventuring rivers or mountains.

My lifestyle is also my work. I have taken kayaking/paddlesports and wrapped into a way to earn my keep. I’ve been a brand manager for Feelfree Kayaks, a company that imports New Zealand-designed, Bangkok manufactured kayaks into the American market. And I’ve converted countless couch potatoes into outdoor enthusiasts as kayak guide / instructor for Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. I never tire of getting great gear into a customer’s hands and then hearing their stories of their adventures using it. To put it mildly, I am a tireless evangelist for outdoor recreation.

But my passion does involve risk. It can’t be avoided. It can be managed, and minimized, but not entirely eliminated. When it comes to kayak instruction or guiding, lifting boats is part of the work. I carry boats to the dock for renters. I set up lakeside trade show affairs involving dozens of kayak models. When guiding, I sometimes have a trailer of kayaks and have to lift then on/off of the trailer. I’ve done it thousands of times. I’m in my early 50’s.

So, the reason I have not posted to this site in months is a mistake I made loading a kayak onto my car. One day, in August 2013, I was in a rush to get extra boats to a kayak class and purposely grabbed a boat and heaved it onto my car. Not the right way. I have paid dearly for it. I strained the illiolumbar ligament in my back. It connects the 5th vertebrae to the hip. When it’s strained, it “refers” pain down the hip. For months, I had pain when sleeping in my back and hip. I could not get going in the morning without 20 minutes loosening my leg. I could not sit in a movie without writhing in pain.

I have been on workman’s comp since August. I still work, but on “limited duty.” I have cancelled a September trip to Yellowstone National Park, and a trip kayaking down the Mekong River from Vietnam through Laos and into Vietnam. Plus a two week ski trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming and Park City Utah. It has been depressing. Yet I have never skipped one single physical therapy routine.

If you’ve had back problems, you know my plight! But I am a fighter. I have been with a chiropractor and massage therapist. I have been with a physical therapist. I have been with a osteopathic doctor. And now, Pilates. Thousands of hours of work later, I am much improved. Slow, steady progress. So, I continue my daily two hours of physical therapy work. Yes. Two hours.

I have content for a few things I have done, some hiking trips and ski trips. Stay tuned, they are upcoming! And in just a few weeks I am snorkeling/camping/camping on the barrier reef in Belize!

I’m blogging again because I am proof positive HARD WORK PAYS OFF! I can engage in activities again. There will be new content very soon! You may see some content about working with physical limitations! I will never give up.

See you soon!

Rod





Shadowing Kayak Classes with Alder Creek

26 03 2011

I’ll be helping Portland, Oregon’s premier paddling retailer and instructional center, Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe this summer!

Most of my experience in the paddling world has been on the business side – managing the marketing and branding for an emerging kayak importer/distributor Feelfree Kayak USA. In that capacity, I was creating a brand, marketing to dealers and consumers. For Alder Creek, it looks like I’ll be selling directly to consumers, guiding, and instructing. Should be fun!

Getting ready!

So recently I have been preparing to teach kayaking by “observing” their kayak instructors teach classes. I’ve shadowed two beginner sea kayak classes and one three-day Full Immersion Sea Kayak class.

Introductory kayaking classes involve classroom, pool, and real on-the-water time outdoors. In my most recent class the instructor was Teresa Flodin. She’s a British Canoe Union Four-Star (individual) paddler and BCU Two-Star Coach.

We spent a Thursday evening in the pool at the North Clackamas Aquatic Park. Students learned the basics of edging their kayaks in the safe and warm environment of a pool. We also practiced some Eskimo bow rescues and assisted rescues.

Saturday we spent some time in the classroom going over resources available for kayak navigation, trip planning around Portland, and general literature on kayaking. Then on to some more discussion on what to bring along on a trip and planning for a particular trip. Plus, we also went over on-the-water communication-meaning hand signals and paddle signals.

Edging practice!

So then it was on to the water!

Saturday we did a lot of games and rescue practice.

Rachel and Sabrina practiced edging and strokes.

The water was Coooooold! But Rachel and Sabrina managed!

Rachel and Sabrina rescued each other. I think they both did a great job and stayed calm and on task during the exercise!

Rachel empties Sabrina's boat!

Sunday was our third day of kayak instruction. As the grand finale, we all went up to Ridgefield, WA, and paddled 10 miles around Bachelor Island. So for everyone we had a good three kayak sessions together!





Photos & Videos from Lumpy Waters Symposium

9 11 2010

Paddling through Three Arch Rocks - Photo Sean Morley

In the past couple of weeks some new photos and videos came out about Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe’s Lumpy Waters Symposium 2010 in Pacific City, Oregon.

Some of the best photos were taken by Sean Morley of rock gardening & caving. These photos capture elements such as the three dimensional aspects of rock gardening – boats quickly change elevation relative to each other when the swells come in. And action!

Hey you down there! Photo Sean Morley

And P&H Custom Sea Kayaks posted really nice photos of the coaches playing out in the rocks / caves / haystacks.
Some of the boating was through narrow caves!

Below see a nice video of the weekend including nice rock gardening action by the coaches! It has some of the other elements of the Lumpy Waters weekend, too!

Photo Sean Morley





Lumpy Waters Symposium 2010 Sunday – Three Arch Rocks

25 10 2010

OK Sunday morning at Lumpy Waters Symposium I was feeling the effects of three days on the Oregon coast. Definitely a bit worn out.

Badge of honor-dry suit rash from NRS and Kokatat...1 per day

And showing the effects of a tight fitting neck gasket! Gotta do something about that.

I was scheduled to do a Three Arch Rocks tour, and I knew several paddlers had to be rescued there Saturday and one guy threw up seasick. On the other hand the weather had calmed somewhat. But I just had to be there because two of the instructors would be Leon Somme and Shawna Franklin of Body Boat Blade! They are two of the best instructors in the country and I couldn’t miss a chance at experiencing instruction with them! And Mark Whittaker of Columbia River Kayak School was also teaching. In fact, Rob Avery of Valley Sea Kayaks and Karl Cohagen of Kokatat were paddling.

Coaches Leon, Shawna, Rob and John

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is a really special place. It’s an Oregon landmark. Home to cormorants and gulls, it’s also a nesting site for tufted puffins, storm petrels, common murres, and pigeon guillemot.

It’s also a pupping site for the 2,000 lb stellar sea lion. It’s rare to get close to the rocks, because Federal regulations prohibit watercraft from coming within 500 ft of the rocks from May 1st to September 15th – the time when it’s calmest!

It was spectacular weather! As dawn broke frost covered grass and windshields. But the day was to warm to near 70 degrees! At breakfast everyone was talking about how crazy incredible the weekend’s weather was turning out! THREE days in a row of clear, pleasant weather in OCTOBER on the Oregon Coast? And, no fog whatsoever! WOW. It’s so unlikely especially as those of us who were trying to practice the weeks before the event kept finding the coastal conditions big – swells often over 10 ft and smOur destination comes into view!all craft warnings. We couldn’t get over our good fortune!

We headed to Oceanside, about 30 minute drive north. The route winding along the coast revealed vista after vista of fabulous headlands and gentle seas! Here’s what I saw as I neared the town.

The Three Arch Rocks tour had 24 students signed up. So it was split into three classes, and I got Shawna and Mark Whittaker! I was so excited not only to watch Shawna paddle, but to experience how she teaches.

Yeah, I knew the dry suit was open. I just threw the PFD on while carrying stuff to the beach!

Since there were so many students and coaches it took a while to get organized, but it was such a lovely morning. Everyone was in great spirits. They put some rocks on the beach and drew some lines representing Three Arch Rocks and the wave energy surrounding. Sunday’s swell was 5-6 feet max, and there was calm wind when we started. There would be some reflected waves on the north side.

Launching was pretty basic, except that once a little beyond the beach the surf was breaking in two directions, meaning you’d punch through one and then there would be another coming right at a 45 degree angle – so you’d need to quickly turn the kayak into it. Once beyond the small breakers it was nice!

Like Saturday it took me a few minutes to settle in. One problem was the paddle. I figured since it was a “tour,” and calmer I’d use the low-angle Werner Kalliste paddle. But right away, getting out through the surf zone and into the moderate swell, it didn’t feel right. Right then Shawna was talking with another student about using high angle for dynamic conditions and with that, I switched to my high angle Werner Cyprus. I should have loosened my thigh braces out a click, though!

It was 3/4 mile to the rocks. Very pleasant paddle, and as the rocks drew closer we saw there were some caves and smaller outcroppings. Plus, various birds and some small sea lions about. The sea lions, probably pups, watched us closely and once we got too close they jumped in the water and made their escape! I witnessed a brutal struggle amongst sea birds. A cormorant came up out of the water and swallowed a fish – then flew up 30 feet onto a steep ledge. Almost immediately two gulls began harassing the cormorant, until it eventually regurgitated its hard fought catch – and one gull immediately wolfed it down. So, even a swallowed fish is still in play! Not fair!

Here’s a video by Chris Lockyer, one of my Saturday instructors, of what it is like paddling in the area! Kind of hard to watch.

Watch the video by clicking on this text.

Shawna and Mark Whittaker were my coaches. Watching Shawna paddle, and experiencing her coaching was like watching a symphony performance. No matter the rocks or water surging around – every stroke/rudder movement was smooth, and all the while smiling, remembering the students’ names and giving everyone personal attention. She’s very re-assuring, calming nerves, telling students to breath deeply. We made some moves in and around the rocks near one of the big arches.

We found a small sea cave too!

Then we moved out to the weather side of the arch. There, the conditions were different as the swells reflected off the arches. But it wasn’t as unsettling as off Cape Kiwanda Saturday. Shawna suggested we paddle the surge in between two of the arches. That was fun and exciting! The swell surges in between, squeezing through the arches, and you kind of get “pushed” along as on either side of you it crashes along the rocks.

The group paddled through the arches. Randy tried to do a re-enter and roll in the swirly conditions in between the arches, but after several attempts gave up and got an assisted rescue from Mark Whittaker. Laura, back behind the arches did a nice cowboy self rescue! I didn’t feel like it because I already did that the day before. But now I regret not doing a roll out there just for kicks.

We played around the rocks for another 45 minutes, and then heard one of the other groups needed to head back because they had a sea sick paddler. We eventually decided to head back to the Oceanside beach, too.

I was one of the first to try the landing, and I picked up a little surf and rode it in, only to capsize and get thrashed in knee deep water. No matter. I forgot my Feelfree Kayak Snap Pack was hung around my neck with my non-waterproof camera inside! I dreaded opening it but was excited to find my camera 100% dry inside!

Well, the day was done. I was really stoked to have Mark and Shauna as my coaches, and maybe I’ll just have to take a session with Body Boat Blade. What a great weekend of ocean paddling!

Here is a 14 minute video of some of Lumpy Waters 2010!





Lumpy Waters 2010 Saturday

23 10 2010

Another day of Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe’s Lumpy Waters Symposium!

Saturday broke beautiful and blue bird clear! My class for the day was Cape Lookout Tour. It was to be an all-day class and I was really looking forward to it. In 2009 I did only half day classes, which are good, but I wanted to experience a full day on a major landmark on the Oregon Coast.

My cabin-mates Stuart, Gary and Dave all got along well. Friday night everyone was crashed out early to re-energize by getting a good night’s sleep. At six a.m. I motivated to grab an early shower and get refreshed. Once done I headed to the “kitchen shed” where All Star Rafting’s staff put together a spread of breakfast goodies for the hungry paddlers. Everybody was in a terrific mood looking forward to an epic day on the water!

Classes gathered at 8:30 for a meet and greet and to set out the day’s plan. My instructors were John, Chris and Ron. Unfortunately they told us we couldn’t do a Cape Lookout tour because the swells were north->south, meaning very rough conditions on the north side of west-pointing Cape Lookout. Friday evening Neil Schulman told me a story of a time when he had a group launching on the north side of the cape and most wound up swimming. Later, Mark Whittaker told me he and Ginni Callahan had paddled down from the north one time to scout the put-in on the north side and described the conditions as “catastrophic.” Although there is a way to put in on the south side of Cape Lookout, it’s a complicated logistical problem with property rights/access issues.

The upshot was John proposed an alternative of rock gardening by Cape Kiwanda, then heading out beyond the cape to see what the north swell was like, then heading south to check out the haystack rock and maybe paddle to the mouth of the Nestucca River and up back towards Pacific City. That’d be a very long day but at that time we were up for it.

We launched and headed out into the swell coming into the beach at Pacific City. Weather report said it was a seven foot swell. Not all the waves incoming were that big.

Wind had dropped from Friday. Anyway we were given instruction on rock gardening in and around the rocks near Cape Kiwanda. It takes time to get used to the wave action but it’s manageable. You can surf down an incoming wave in between rocks.

We practiced along the rocks...

We did a bunch of laps. Then they asked us to try it backwards. Like surfing, rock gardening requires patience. You do OK if you pick the right surge to take in between the rocks. Everything isn’t as hard as it looks.

Then John said let’s go out into the ocean, beyond Cape Kiwanda. There’s a buoy off the cape, a good meeting spot. The swells were coming around the end of the cape and bending into the beach. The plan was to paddle beyond the cape, in between it and the haystack rock, and head north to check things out.

The swells entering the beach at Pacific City were all reduced swells – meaning despite their size, they didn’t have their full energy since they were wrapping around the cape. Also none of them were reflected. But once we rounded the cape we experienced their full energy, plus reflection off the cape. My kayak was going uphill on the incoming swells and downhill on the reflected waves.

North (left) side of Cape Kiwanda was much worse Saturday

Then there were “lumpy” waves, wind waves in between the swells. For me, even looking at the cape was unsettling. The swells were crashing against it. I had to look out to sea. I was not feeling sea sick, but I was feeling a sense of adrenaline making my body stiffen up. What was bothering me was that I knew I should be loose – my lower body should be able to be loose from the upper but I kept transmitting too much of the wave action from the boat to my upper body. Usually this feeling goes away in 10-15 minutes. Making things worse was I think my foot braces were a click too close, meaning too much body English /wave energy was being transmitted from the boat to my body, making it seem more unsteady. Out there, reaching under the deck to my feet to adjust the braces seemed unthinkable.

All smiles, besides pitch poling twice!

I was the only one feeling that way Saturday afternoon. Everyone else was comfortable. Either way, John decided to ask us to meet at the buoy, which was much further out to sea away from the reflected waves. One thing all the instructors told us was to keep moving if possible. They said think of it like a bicycle – it’s hard to stay upright if stopped, easy when moving. Same in a kayak.

Once we neared the buoy, I felt much better. Out there it was mostly incoming swells, less reflected. We headed down and planned to gather past the haystack on the south side. From where we started it looked to me like the swells were breaking way out on the seaward side of the stack. But John assured me it was just foam moving out to sea. That turned out to be the case, though it sure looked from afar like breaking waves!

So we spent some time messing around the rocks on the back side of the haystack. We all did some rescues back there. No problem. At least I can say I did my first deep ocean rescue! It seemed not much different than anyplace else I’d done it. Just the fact that the water was moving up and down 7 feet. It reminded me of rolling a kayak. It is all about nerves. If you calm yourself down, all the points are the same, just a different environment. If you do the same steps, so what if you are out in the ocean? You just remain calm and go through the steps. So I need to do a roll out there. It would be the same thing, just settle your brain down and do it. In fact they often say doing the roll calms your whole body down. Like getting wet – once you are wet it is all over and you are used to it.

Then it was decision time. Choices? Either head back to the beach for more rock gardening/surf session, or a long kayak to the Nestucca River mouth and another 7 miles up the river. We chose to head back to the beach area to practice.

Window shading!

Testing out the surf!

When done, I hung out on the beach watching the “Fear to fun in the Surf” class.  Here’s a video with lots of kayaks going back and forth, some succeeding, most not! And then…a paddler makes her way in and someone else doesn’t make it!

Here’s a 2009 video of Lumpy (conditions were more difficult) but there is one shot of me in the orange/black Pyranha burn heading out…

I even saw a woman pitch pole (rolling stern over bow) twice!

Later in the evening we had another happy hour and pizza! Then Karl Cohagen of Kokatat put on a fun trivia contest. Lots of schwag for prizes, all about kayak trivia! The unruly crowd was hard to control! One of the trivia questions concerned a pair of instructors from the Pacific NW…

During the trivia contest Karl did a shout out to all the instructors who came to Lumpy Waters!

Here’s Carl’s shout out for all the instructors!