We’ve been making canoes & kayaks for over 50 years, and every year, sales begin to slow as the winter approaches. That is, until last year.
We saw the necessary re-arrangement of workstations to ensure a Covid-secure environment for our staff as an opportunity to also improve the efficiency of our factory layout and processes – a good job, as following the easing of the first national lockdown in June of 2020, we saw a surge in demand of more than double that additional manufacturing output we’d unlocked!
We worked hard to meet demand, anticipating the usual slow-down of winter, except… it never came. We were delighted to be able to retain full staffing levels throughout the winter of 2020, and yet our lead times were still growing, even with these sustained production levels.
Now approaching the winter of 2021, demand for our canoes and kayaks remains phenomenal; we’ve never seen so many newcomers to the sport, and we couldn’t be happier about that!
The problem we face is certainly not one we’re going to complain about, but we want to be open with you and help ensure you’re fully aware and able to avoid disappointment when purchasing a canoe or kayak in the coming year, whether it’s your first or your next.
A month or so ago, we invited our network of specialist dealers to place pre-orders for 2022 production; the response was overwhelming, and we’re now deep into planning our production schedule for the coming year. What is abundantly clear, however, is that we cannot possibly make as many canoes and kayaks as have been ordered.
It’s important to note that these boats have all been sold into our dealer network, and the vast majority are still available to purchase by you once they arrive with those dealers.
Global shipping is wrought with delays, and the reason dealers have pre-ordered so much stock is that demand has been exceptional and sustained, so it is still important to place your order early to ensure you have your boat in plenty of time for the adventures you have in mind, but there’s no need to panic.
We have received numerous emails from paddlers lately asking when particular models and colours will be in stock with dealers, and the truth is, we don’t know. Our small team is focused on producing and shipping orders to arrive with dealers as close to their requested delivery date as possible, but the difficulties with shipping add a generous helping of uncertainty to this schedule, and only the dealer will know which boats are available or have been pre-sold.
For maximum success in securing ownership of a new canoe or kayak in 2022, our advice is to contact your favourite dealer early, be aware that it may not be possible to get your first choice of colour, and be prepared to wait a little longer than usual.
We really, truly, sincerely appreciate your interest in our canoes and kayaks, and we cannot wait to make a LOAD more friends on the water in 2022!
We recently became aware of a number of polyethylene P&H Sea Kayaks which had insufficient thickness towards the rear of the cockpit rim and were therefore more prone to splitting in this area.
Affected batches were produced in late 2019/early 2020; you can ascertain the production date of your kayak by looking at the last 4 digits of the serial number, with the letter denoting the month (‘A’ being January, ‘B’ being February, and so on) the first number being the last digit of the US model year (changing in August), and the final two numbers being the last two digits of the calendar year (i.e. ‘19’ being 2019).
If you believe your boat to be affected, please email email@example.com with your address, the serial number, model, size, and colour of your kayak, and which dealer it was purchased from.
No other batches are affected, although it is possible that other boats may split in this region for different reasons, such as:
Frequently sitting directly on the back of the cockpit rim.
Transporting the boat with the cockpit rim against an unpadded roof rack.
Storing the boat with the cockpit rim against an unpadded rack.
Extreme or high-frequency usage.
A Cockpit Rim Repair & Reinforcement Kit is available for instances where a cockpit rim split has occurred outside of the warranty duration or conditions.
Over the upcoming months and likely into our next summer season, I’ve decided to pursue a project around what is, in a way, what I call ‘my office’. As we are now drawing toward the end of a fourth season operating Kayak Summer Isles, in the north west of Scotland, I’ve spent many hundreds of days getting to know, sharing, and exploring these islands. It’s safe to say I know them well.
I figure the next step of really embedding myself into the islands is to spend a night on them.
Some of which I do on a regular basis with our guests, but many others (the rocks and skerries) I’ve not even landed on yet. By my count there are 17 ‘proper’ islands and 15 rocks and skerries big enough to safely camp and land on, making a total of 32 nights in the archipelago.
I won’t make them all in a season, as some will mean waiting until the bird colonies move off in winter so I won’t disturb them. What ones I can do now I hope to tackle in ‘evening blasts’ after work and before starting the next day’s guiding.
What better way to start than the iconic and rugged skerry that is Stac Mhic Aonghais.
Local legend has it, that the name comes from a man who was laid prisoner on this lonely and desolate rock. Purportedly having had ‘intimate relations’ with a laird’s daughter, he was rowed out and abandoned as a ‘time out and think about what you’ve done’. Ahh, young love.
By day 3 Angus’s captors must have felt guilty, as they then rowed out to check on him. Upon landing they were surprised to discover that Angus had gone!
Combing the island, they strayed further from their boat and with a sudden race, Angus leapt from a crevice in the rocks, hopped aboard and dis-embarked, waving cheery farewell as his captors became the captives.
Some accounts say he rowed, whilst others claim he had no oars and set adrift. Either way, he landed on Stoer Head some 30km north and survived.
The boat still remains with Angus’s relatives, and there’s been bad blood between the two families ever since . . . apparently.
I wonder if he ever managed to meet the laird’s daughter ever again?
Kayaking out in the evening, I set off from shore around 7.30 pm, with little over an hours light left in the day. I was tired from a day’s guiding but equally excited to disappear for a night’s vagabond adventure, following in Angus’s footsteps for a night on his rock.
The island is 1km south of Tanera Beag and even with the wind in favour and using the tidal eddies to my advantage, the journey took an hour from Old Dornie Harbour. The light was waning.
I’d taken my ultra-lightweight kevlar/carbon infusion Aries, as I figured it’d be easier to haul up the rocks on my shoulders fully laden with camp and cookware, but in hind-sight maybe a plastic boat that I could have dragged may have been a wiser move. Arriving at high tide, I found a crevice without swell on the eastern shore and set about navigating the 40º sloped sides with the boat on my shoulder. Delicate footsteps and my free hand scrambling brought me up to a ledge where I could at last anchor the kayak.
By necessity, I needed to return early the next morning, meaning leaving at the low tide. Before setting camp, I scouted about and picked my exit route as my prior access would be untenable at the lower tidal state. A scramble, toss, and a leap seemed likely.
The stac was largely rock, with a bristling hair of lichens adorned across the top. Around the corner, on the wind-battered western cliffs, I could hear a bird colony, out of sight but not out of sound.
Many, if not all of the possible flat spots were waterlogged with bright green algal pools. To my delight on the summit, a single large flat slab presented a near-perfect bed. Surrounded on all sides by a small rocky lip, it cradled the sense of security atop the island and granted a fantastic view. Darkness was fast approaching.
Bivi bag out on the rock, I scoffed a quick dinner, took a few photos and then settled into bed. The sound of the low swell pounding below me, and the occasional whoosh of birds flying past lulled a sense of calm. The air was warm, and as hoped for a breeze kept any midges at bay.
By 2 am, the full moon had risen, bathing the island in a silvery light, enough to see without a head-torch. 20km to my east, I could see the lights of Ullapool, home, in the distance.
The breeze had dropped, as had the swell, leaving the island eerily calm. Below me, I could hear a pshhht coming from some form of cetacean nearby, most likely a porpoise, but I liked to imagine a whale.
My alarm wasn’t necessary. As it turns out seagulls also wake with the first hint of dawn, and their calls as they fledged their roosts around the corner was sufficient to wake me. A faint orange glow was rising as I re-packed my kayak and carefully carried it down the rocks, thankful for the barnacles to give some grip.
Clipped to my kayak, I tossed it into the gentle swell and leapt aboard under head-torch. Once decked on, I turned my light off, preferring to navigate by the dawn glow. It was 5 am.
Returned to Ullapool before the day begun, I arrived home, showered and packed, ready to re-pack and head back on the water with guests. I felt satisfied like I’d stolen a secret adventure through the night, unseen and unknown until dawn. Most of all however I was thankful not to leave the island and drift north to Stoer, wondering if I’d ever return again.
If you’d like to share my island adventures as I try to camp on each follow me on @willcopestake (Instagram and YouTube) and via #summerislessleeps, or better still, join me through www.kayaksummerisles.com
We zijn verheugd om aan te kondigen dat we zijn gaan samenwerken met de opkomende YouTuber, The Paddlin’ Dutchman (echte naam Lex van den Berg). Dit om zo de meer toegankelijke kant van de sport voor een breder publiek te belichten en de reis om ‘ervaren’ peddelsport enthousiasteling te worden te laten zien!
Lex, hallo! Vertel eens iets over jezelf…
Samen met mijn vrouw en kinderen (7, 5 en 3 jaar) woon ik in Nederland, waar ik 33 jaar geleden ben geboren en getogen. Als ik niet aan het kajakken ben of video’s over kajakken maak, ontwerp en maak ik videogames. Ik werk al ruim 12 jaar in de game-industrie als Game Designer en Creative Lead en maak games die een positieve impact hebben op mens en maatschappij. Als ik tijd over hebgeniet ik van alles met het label “nerdy” (van bordspellen tot Star Wars), knutselen, kamperen en muziek maken.
Kun je ons vertellen wanneer je voor het eerst een peddel oppakte en ‘The Paddlin’ Dutchman’ werd? Wat inspireerde je?
Ik herinner me de eerste keer dat ik een peddel oppakte nog heel goed. Het was acht jaar geleden tijdens een vakantie in Argentinië. Mijn vrouw en ik voeren een tandem op een prachtig meer omringd door bergen. Ik kon het varen de rest van de vakantie niet meer loslaten. Zodra we thuis kwamen meldde ik me aan bij een plaatselijke kanovereniging. Helaas – nou ja, het is maar hoe je het bekijkt denk ik – werd kort daarna ons eerste kindje geboren. Door alles wat daarbij komt kijken en “het leven” verloor ik het kajakken uit het oog. Ineens is het zes jaar later en hebben we drie kinderen. Ik had mijn gezondheid echt verwaarloosd en wilde mijn leven veranderen en actiever worden. En ik voelde direct dat kajakken mij daarbij zou helpen! Ik heb me toen gelijk ingeschreven voor een beginnerscursus. De Paddlin’ Dutchman begon vooral om mezelf verantwoordelijk te houden. Wat ik niet had verwacht, is dat ik al snel helemaal verliefd zou worden op het kajakken. Het is zoveel meer geworden dan alleen maar sporten. Het is uitgegroeid tot een groot deel van mijn leven, en ik zou niet meer zonder kunnen!
Waar heb je ontdekt waar en hoe je kon beginnen?
Ik ben altijd een grote fan geweest van “introductiecursussen”. Ik heb veel introductiecursussen gedaan, van boogschieten tot klimmen. Het is een geweldige manier om iets nieuws te ervaren en te ontdekken of je het ook echt leuk vindt. Het is daarnaast een geweldige manier om nieuwe mensen te ontmoeten in dezelfde fase als jij. Het voelde dan ook heel logisch om te beginnen door een introductiecursus te volgen. Een zoekopdracht later had ik een cursus geboekt bij onze plaatselijke kanovereniging KV Waterwolf. Ze hielpen me met alles wat ik nodig had en leerden me de basis. Na de cursus ben ik lid geworden en nooit meer weggegaan!
Hoe snel heb je je eigen uitrusting gekocht en waar heb je die vandaan? Waarom heb je de spullen gekozen die je hebt gekocht?
Eerlijk? Waarschijnlijk te snel. Mensen die mij een beetje kennen weten dat ik nu eenmaal van spullen hou. Ik ben wat je noemt een echte “gear head” en dus heb ik altijd graag mijn eigen spullen. Maar dit betekende wel dat toen ik begon ik concessies moest doen vanwege de kosten. Ik heb meteen geïnvesteerd in een goed zwemvest, maar het overgrote deel van mijn uitrusting is al meerdere malen vervangen. Het kost ook tijd om erachter te komen wat je wilt, nodig hebt en leuk vindt. Soms kost dat een paar pogingen, dat is nu eenmaal hoe het gaat. Ik zou mensen daarom ook altijd aanmoedigen om open te staan voor nieuwe dingen en af en toe te experimenteren met een andere uitrusting!
Mijn spullen haal ik eigenlijk altijd bij Kanocentrum Arjan Bloem, een begrip hier in Nederland. Zijn winkel is als een gigantische snoepwinkel! En ook al heb ik alle gangpaden al duizend keer gezien, ik kan er nog steeds uren doorbrengen!
Wat waren je ambities in het begin en hoe zijn deze bijgesteld naarmate je serieuzer werd over het kajakken?
D ambities toen en nu liggen mijlenver uit elkaar! Zoals ik al eerder aanhaalde, begon ik met kajakken om gezonder te worden. Maar eigenlijk veranderde dat al zodra ik het water raakte. Ik werd verliefd op het gevoel van vrijheid, het ontdekken, de techniek die erbij komt kijken en het één zijn met water en natuur. Vanaf het moment dat ik wat vaardigheden begon te ontwikkelen en nieuwe technieken leerde, wilde ik eigenlijk alleen nog maar meer leren en nog beter worden. Ik merkte dat het leren van nieuwe vaardigheden en technieken me hielp om zelfverzekerder en comfortabeler in mijn boot te zitten. Hierdoor ging ik zelfs nog meer van het peddelen genieten! Dat was iets wat ik met anderen wilde delen. Ik wilde andere peddelaars ook die vaardigheden leren om hen te helpen meer zelfvertrouwen te krijgen! En dus probeer ik terwijl ik zelf groei en leer, dat door te geven aan anderen.
Op welke prestatie ben je tot nu toe het meest trots? Wat heeft je geholpen bij het leren?
Zonder twijfel het leren eskimoteren en het maken van mijn eerste “combat roll”. Leren eskimoteren gaf me zo’n vertrouwensboost. Het heeft me echt geholpen om me meer op mijn gemak te voelen om nieuwe dingen te proberen en mezelf te pushen, vooral op wildwater.
Aan de andere kant was leren eskimoteren een heel andere ervaring. Het kwartje wilde gewoon niet vallen. Tijdens mijn eerste paar sessies had ik niet het gevoel dat ik vooruitgang boekte. Ik snapte er gewoon niets van! Nadat de lessen waren afgelopenkon ik nog steeds niet eskimoteren en bleef ik met een hoop frustratie achter… Maar ik moest en zou het onder de knie krijgen. Dus in plaats van wachten op nieuwe lessen nam ik het heft in eigen handen. Ik vroeg op een middag een vriend (en wildwater instructeur) om me te helpen. Het begon waar ik was gebleven, maar binnen het uur was ik aan het rollen! Uiteindelijk denk ik dat zijn andere benadering van lesgeven ervoor gezorgd heeft dat het kwartje viel!
Waren er al kajakkers in je omgeving, of heb je juist nieuwe vrienden gemaakt door middel van kajakken?
Ik kende eigenlijk niemand die ook aan kajakken deed. Maar ik heb zeker door het kajakken een aantal levenslange vriendschappen gemaakt! Het is ook iets wat ik erg waardeer aan de peddelgemeenschap; Het is een grote familie en iedereen is altijd erg behulpzaam.
Wat zijn nog vaardigheden die je wilt leren en reizen die je wil maken?
Qua vaardigheid ben ik nog steeds bezig om het eskimoteren te perfectioneren (en eerlijk gezegd is het al een paar maanden geleden dat ik voor het laatst heb gerold)! Zo heb ik bijvoorbeeld alleen nog maar in mijn wildwaterkajak geoefend. Dus nu ik de Virgo peddel, kan ik niet wachten om eindelijk te beginnen met het oefenen in een zeekajak!
Voorlopig wachten we nog steeds op het openen van de grenzen met Duitsland, zodat we weer wildwater kunnen varen. Gelukkig valt er nog genoeg te ontdekken hier in Nederland, en kijk ik echt uit naar het kajakkamperen en kajaksurfen deze zomer!
Wat zijn jouw tips voor nieuwkomers in de sport?
Zorg dat je comfortabel wordt met omgaan! Ik heb gemerkt dat veel mensen een angst ontwikkelen om om te gaan. Deze angst weerhoudt ze er vaak van om nieuwe dingen te ervaren en peddelvaardigheden te ontwikkelen. Het oefenen met uitzwemmen (altijd veilig en met hulp natuurlijk) en wennen aan zwemmen zal je helpen om meer ontspannen en comfortabeler in je kajak te zitten!
Bedankt Lex! We kijken uit naar je avonturen in je Virgo…
It has been a challenging year, but there are positives to be found, not least a wider appreciation for the great outdoors. We are eternally grateful to the staggering number of people who have given the clouds a silver lining for us by choosing to find an escape in a Venture, P&H, or Pyranha canoe or kayak.
Right now, our whole team is focused on ensuring we can meet this overwhelming demand, but we must ask your mindfulness and understanding of the challenges we face, and the steps we have taken to manage those.
Following the initial interruptions of early lockdowns, we have been working at full capacity over the last 12 months to both catch up and meet the surging demand; a highly unusual situation, as demand would usually drop with the temperature over the winter months, and we would slow production as a result.
We have trained additional staff, reconfigured machinery, and re-organised processes to increase the number of boats we can produce in any given week, but at some point, we must give ourselves a break and go paddling. The pandemic is sadly also not yet over, and occasionally some of us have had to isolate to protect our colleagues and the wider community.
Our lead times are currently therefore longer than usual, but comparatively bearable in relation to the industry as a whole; if you’re considering a purchase, our recommendation to avoid disappointment is to contact your nearest dealers early to find out what stock they have available or incoming:
We are not alone amongst the many industries which are experiencing exponential increases in demand and significant backlogs resulting from lockdowns, and the global shipping network is seeing the compounded effects of this as they attempt to handle the resultant increased movement of materials and goods, whilst having to manage the same Covid-related impacts and restrictions themselves.
Of course, Brexit and the Suez Canal blockage could not have been more inconveniently timed, but we are now seeing the dust settle on these challenges. Unfortunately, shipping costs, durations, and complexities overall have not settled down, and reliability is not yet 100%.
We will do everything in our power to get product to you on time, but due to this unpredictability, we will unfortunately be unable to guarantee lead times or delivery dates for the foreseeable future. Similar to availability, please be sure to plan ahead, confirm your order with a dealer as soon as possible, and keep in contact with them for any updates as we will ensure they have the same information we do.
One constant is our enthusiasm for driving canoe and kayak design forwards and in turn, progressing the sport; although some of our R&D team have been helping out in other areas of production from time to time, work on upcoming models has continued, and we’re now approaching final production on Scorch X and Scorch Small in the Pyranha Whitewater range, as well as the Leo MV in the P&H Sea Kayaks range. Contact your local dealer now if you’d like to secure yours with a pre-order:
Fathers play such a large role in our lives, they support us through the ups and downs, teach us skills like how to ride our bike or change a tire, and while my father did teach me those things, more importantly, he taught me how to kayak.
Throughout my childhood, I dabbled in many different sports. I played basketball, practiced highland dance, and even tried karate for a year. The sport that spoke to me the most was sea kayaking.
When I was five, my father heard about a kids’ night run by a sea kayak tour company (East Coast Outfitters) just down the road from our house. When he was younger, he had done some canoeing and kayaking through his Scout troop. Since he enjoyed it, he enrolled me in the kids program. That summer, every Wednesday we’d rush out the house far earlier than we needed to because we didn’t want to be late for kayaking. In following years, Dad started to lead the kids club and I continued to love my time out on the water. It was clear he’d taken to the sport. Instead of driving my brother to the preschool across the bay from where we lived, he adapted his kayak to carry a passenger and began kayaking my brother to preschool when weather permitted.
Kayaking became our family activity. We’d go surfing, practice rescues, go on camping trips all along, all while picking up new skills. When I was ten, I got my first kayak. From then on, whenever we wanted to kayak we’d head down our neighbour’s driveway to the bay and practice. Countless evenings we spent on the water practicing rolls and different strokes; all with my father coaching me.
It wasn’t just through his coaching that he supported me: whenever I needed a tow he’d offer his line, yell “Go, Go, Go!” from the sidelines when I tried to catch a wave, and reminded me to drink water on long journeys because he knew I would forget. He’d do all this and more because, while yes he was my coach, he also was my father. Taking care of me and pushing me to do my best is how he supports me.
Because we used kayaking to bond, my dad and I have countless beautiful memories from days on the water. One summer my family took a vacation to Newfoundland for two weeks. During those two weeks there were only five days we weren’t out on the water. One of my favourite kayaking memories is from this trip.
We started our day at our campground. After breakfast, we quickly packed up and headed off to Witless Bay. We had chosen to paddle in Witless Bay because of the ginormous puffin colony that lived on one of the islands. After about a half-hour drive we pulled into the parking lot. As we were unloading our gear from the car I saw a spout of water rise up out in the bay. At first, I thought it was some heavy fog but then I saw another. At this point I pulled Dad aside, pointed it out, and, sure enough, we saw more spouts of water. He told me to be quiet and not show my mother. Our paddle to see puffins had turned into a paddle to see puffins and humpback whales. There was one downside; my mother is petrified of whales.
We got ready to launch like everything was fine. While carrying our boats to the shore, my mother put two and two together however it was too late; we were all ready to hit the water. There was no turning back now.
The paddle out to the colony was smooth sailing. Puffins were scattered all over the water, and the whale spouts could be seen on the other side of the bay far away from us. My mother was able to stay calm, sort of. It was easy because we were all laughing at the puffins. Puffins can only take off if they are flying into the wind. In addition, they’re prone to awkward landings. This means they end up doing a belly flop spin-out, which is very entertaining to watch. My favourite was a puffin that skipped like a rock off of two waves and ended up being flipped by the third wave. After the third wave, it shook itself off very quickly, then whipped its head around as if checking to make sure no other puffin saw its awkward landing.
The paddle back from the colony made this my favourite paddling experience to this day. On the way back, we noticed that the whale pod was bubble netting the entire bay. This meant that they were swimming circles around the bay to trap fish to eat. Everywhere we looked we could see a whale spout if we waited ten seconds. It was so cool to witness this natural feeding tactic in person. As we paddled back, we realized we were going to have to traverse the circle the whales had created. This made my mom nervous since on the horizon some of the pod was breaching. But, the only way home was to paddle through.
When we were about to enter the circle, my father told my mother and I to paddle parallel to the circle in order to enter at the right spot. We did this for a bit but adjusted our angle as we observed my father to do so. My mother and I were behind him when we did this, but we figured the coast was clear since he was making the adjustment. We paddled forward for about ten seconds when the colour of the water about 15ft in front of me changed to this beautiful blue green. The coloured water began to rise and before I knew it I was staring a giant humpback whale in the eye. My mother and I both let out a scream and the whale slipped back under the water after catching its breath.
My father held in his “I told you so”.
While it was a terrifying experience in the moment, having that magical moment to connect with such a beautiful creature is something I’ll cherish forever. The rest of the paddle was easy and the whales even became more interactive with us. A calf swam beside us, with the mom following closely behind. The whales were singing and you could hear their song, and when we left their bubble net we had two whales wave us goodbye.
This magical family experience paddle would not have happened if my father hadn’t planned this adventure and as well as our initial times in sea kayaks, beginning our passion for being on the sea. Sorry Dad, it was scary but I don’t regret not listening to you on the water that day.
A Different Type of C-to-C
My father has been my best friend on the water since I began kayaking about 15 years ago. He taught me the basic skills I needed to get to the point where I am today and, while I may have a different coach now, I’ll always be his kayak partner. He helped get me to where I am today and I will continue to push myself to bring him pride.
Because of my father, I grew up being a part of the sea kayaking community in Nova Scotia. This led to me to be inspired to further develop my skills through Paddle Canada certifications and personal coaching. Achieving Level One coaching certification and joining Christopher Lockyer’s Committed to the Core Sea Kayak Coaching team, have been the highlights in my kayaking development. All made possible, because of my dad.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the sea kayak community functions like a family does. We take care of each other, support each other, and push each other to become the best paddlers we can be. This was never more evident than in 2018 when my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer which resulted in his left lung being removed. I was so touched by the supportive nature of the sea kayaking community. Since the initial diagnosis, our family has received endless support from the paddling community; drives, emotional support, and just being there for my dad, my brother and I. I truly cannot thank everyone enough.
The ol’ one lunger and I still get out on the water together. Even though he has one lung, he can still out paddle me if he really wants to.
With the pandemic, getting out on the water became more complicated. I live with my mother and he lives on his own. So for a while last year our kayaking had to be put on hold. Luckily, we were still able to salvage last season and make the most of it.
In March of this year we found out that his cancer had metastasized in his left frontal lobe meaning he would need to be treated yet again for cancer. He received his treatment and is now in recovery. The frontal lobe of our brain is responsible for personality traits and how a person acts but let me tell you, the tumor hasn’t changed a thing because he’s still as hungry as ever to get on the water.
At this point we don’t know what the future holds, but what I do know is that I love my father and we love kayaking. I also know there is endless support to be found in the kayaking community.
For Fathers in Kayaking
Happy Fathers’ Day, first and foremost. Kayaking is challenging, but raising a kid is a whole different level of difficulty. So thank you to all the fathers who give up time on the water to spend time with their families.
I’d also like to give a special thanks to the people I like to call my “Kayak Dads”. These men are people who have heavily influenced me as a paddler and provided support and guidance when I needed it. So, Dwight, Daniel, Steve, Don, and Paul, thank you all so much for being there when I needed it. I’d also like to give a huge thanks to my coach and mentor, Christopher Lockyer. A thank you isn’t enough to make up for the time you spend helping the kayak community. It’s truly inspiring how committed you are to your endeavors, you show what it means to be committed to the core.
And last but not least, Happy Fathers Day, Dad. I am so grateful for everything you have shown me. Thank you for getting me involved in this sport from a young age. It has become my obsession the same way it is for you and I’m so glad we can share experiences on the sea. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have you as my dad and no matter what you’ll always be my kayak partner. Go Team Dauphinee!!
So, fathers who kayak, let me give you some advice. I know how hard it is to be away from your family when you’re on the water, so bring them with you. The little ones, the partner… heck, even bring the dog if you want! It is a great way to bond and, if you’re lucky, you may get to form the same connection my father and I have.
We’re delighted to announce that we’ve begun working with up and coming YouTuber, The Paddlin’ Dutchman (real name Lex van den Berg) to highlight the more accessible side of the sport to a wider audience, and illustrate the journey we’ve all either been through already, or maybe are currently still going through, on the way to becoming ‘experienced’ paddlesports enthusiasts!
Lex, hi! Tell us a little about yourself…
Together with my wife and kids (7, 5, and 3 yo) I live in the Netherlands, where I was born and raised 33 years ago (so definitely in my prime right now). When I am not paddling, or making videos about paddling, I design and make video games. I have been working in the games industry for over 12 years now as a Game Designer and Creative Lead, making games that have a positive impact on people and society. If I have time to spare I enjoy everything labeled “nerdy” (from board games to Star Wars), crafting, camping, and making music.
Can you tell us when it was you first picked up a paddle and became ‘The Paddlin’ Dutchman’? What inspired you?
I remember the first time I picked up a paddle very well. It was 8 years ago on a holiday in Argentina. My wife and I paddled a tandem on a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. It really resonated with me and I joined a local club as soon as we got back. Unfortunately -well, it’s how you look at it I guess- shortly after our first child was born and due to “life”, I lost touch with kayaking. Fast forward 6 years to 2019, all of a sudden I have three kids. I really neglected my health and wanted to change my life and become more active. Kayaking would be my weapon of choice! I enrolled in a beginner’s course. At that time I created the Paddlin’ Dutchman to keep myself accountable. What I did not anticipate is I would soon fall completely in love with kayaking. Ever since I got back into a boat it has become so much more than just exercise. It has grown into a huge part of my life, and I couldn’t do without it anymore!
Where did you find out where and how to get started?
I have always been a big fan of “introductory courses”. I have done many introductory courses, from archery to rock climbing. It’s a great way to experience something new, and find out if you really like it. It’s also a great way to meet new people who are in the same headspace as you. So it felt really logical for me to start kayaking by taking an introductory course. One Google search later, and I had booked a course at our local paddling club, KV Waterwolf. They helped me out with everything I needed and taught me the basics. After the course, I joined that same club and never left!
How quickly did you buy your own gear, and where did you get it from? What made you choose the equipment you bought?
Honestly? Probably too quickly. People who know me know I am a gear head. I-love-gear. So I am always keen on having my own equipment. But this also meant I had to make concessions due to budgeting when I started. Right off the bat, I invested in a good PFD though. But most other gear I bought in the beginning has been replaced by now. It takes time to figure out what you want, need, and like. Sometimes it takes a few tries, there is no shame in that. I would always encourage people to keep an open mind and experiment once in a while with different gear!
I always get all my gear at Kanocentrum Arjan Bloem who is a household name here in the Dutch paddling community. His store is like a giant candy shop! And even though I have seen all the aisles a thousand times, I can still spend hours there!
What were your ambitions in the beginning, and how have they evolved as you’ve gotten deeper into the sport?
They couldn’t be further apart! As I touched on earlier, I started kayaking just as a means to exercise. But as soon as I hit the water that all changed. I fell in love with the feeling of freedom, the exploration, the mastery involved and being one with the water. As soon as I started to develop some skills and learn new techniques, I wanted to learn even more and get better. I noticed learning new skills and techniques really helped me be more confident and comfortable in my boat. So much so it made me enjoy paddling even more. That was something I had to share with others. I wanted to teach other paddlers the skills to help them get more confident and comfortable too! So as I myself grow and learn I now try to pass on what I learn to others, and help them become better paddlers!
What achievement are you most proud of so far? What helped you learn?
Definitely learning how to roll, and doing my first combat roll. Being able to roll gave me such a confidence boost. It really helped me feel more comfortable to try new things and push myself, especially on whitewater.
Learning how to on the other hand was a whole different experience. It just didn’t click for me at first. During my first few training sessions I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what I was doing wrong. After my classes had ended, I hadn’t learned to roll, and was left with so much frustration… But I really wanted to nail it. So instead of waiting for new classes, one afternoon I just asked my friend (and whitewater instructor) to help me out. It started where I left off, but within the hour I was rolling! Ultimately I think his different approach to teaching rolling is what made it click for me.
Did you have kayaking friends to begin with, or have you made any through paddlesports?
I didn’t really know anyone who paddled. But I certainly have made some lifelong friendships paddling! It is something I really appreciate about the paddling community; Everyone is very welcoming and helpful.
What’s next on your list in terms of skills to master and trips to complete?
Skill-wise I am still bomb-proofing my rolls (and honestly it has been a few months since I last did one)! I only ever rolled in my whitewater kayak, but now that I am paddling a Virgo, I can’t wait to finally start practicing rolls in a sea kayak!
For now, we are still waiting for the borders to re-open again with Germany so we can get back to some of that sweet whitewater. In the meantime, there is always more to be explored here in the Netherlands! But I am most looking forward to some kayak camping, and surfing this summer!
What would be your top tips for newcomers to the sport right now?
Get comfortable flipping over! I’ve noticed a lot of people developing a fear of going over. This fear really holds them back to experience new things and develop their paddling skills. Practicing wet exits (safely with help on hand of course) and getting used to swimming will help you be more relaxed and comfortable in your kayak! As many have said before, we’re all just in between swims!
Thanks Lex! We look forward to seeing your adventures in that Virgo…
We were humbled to receive the below email from one of our customers recently. Stories like David’s mean the world to us, and we wanted to share it with you in case any of the ideas, or just David’s spirit, could help or inspire you in some way:
I trust this note finds you well and thriving amidst this challenging world with COVID-19 and all.
My name is David Mercer, a longtime student of John Carmody. If the name doesn’t connect, maybe some of the alterations I’ve requested on my various boats from P&H will: performance seat with the Aries type cockpit, not installing the seat to allow for positioning the seat laterally to allow for the 25 pound lighter weight difference on my left side and most recently… the incorporation of d-rings in the front and day hatches of my new boats to allow for connecting ballast far to the port side.
I’m writing with a much belated thank you! And, in the process, want to convey what a huge impact your accommodating my specific needs and paddling P&H boats have made in the quality of my life.
I lost my left leg to cancer more than 43 years ago at age 27. I was very active and athletic before the surgery and was driven to not let the amputation slow me down. Prosthetics were not as adaptable and innovative during those times. I tended to sports where the mobility was provided. I actively pursued downhill skiing and was addicted to speed. The same with water skiing. I was riding a bike during the summer without my prosthetic but I had been in search of another sport that wouldn’t rely so much on my lower body.
My introduction to sea kayaking was quite by accident some ten years ago. My wife and I had rented a cabin on a small pond in New Hampshire that had two of what I now understand to be plastic sea kayaks filled with leaves under the cabin. I paddled every opportunity I could grab that week, while taking care not to ignore my wife. I was like a fish taking the bait. The hook was set.
Returning home, it didn’t take long to find a rental for the remainder of the summer. I spent that summer on the numerous flatwater lakes in our area. I was getting the added exercise and loved paddling. It was on a lake paddle that I bumped into a group of kayakers. Conversation ensued and I was convinced to join them on a sea journey. I had no idea what I was getting into. That trip convinced me I needed a drysuit and possible lessons or coaching. Through a twist of fate the drysuit connection happened to be a P&H paddler – Suz Hutchinson. Suz introduced me to P&H boats and John.
John has been an extraordinary coach and mentor guiding my development and progression in the sport. I quickly realized how much I didn’t know and actively pursued a course to increase my knowledge and skills.
I swear by the Swede form design of the P&H brand. It has been an extraordinarily stable platform as I deal with the significant lateral weight differential. Additionally, once having been exposed to the more aggressive thigh braces and being able to adjust them individually I have been able to more easily adjust for the mass difference from my natural leg to the prosthetic side. This has significantly benefited me by being able to develop a reliable roll. The d-rings allow me to come close to a neutral position without the need for excessive leaning by adding weight to the front and day hatch without concern that they will move around.
P&H became a socially acceptable addiction. My current collection includes Carbon-infused versions of: Cetus MV, Aries 155, and Volan MV. I also abuse a Delphin 155. My son-in-law paddles a Cetus MV and I just ordered a Virgo for family use.
Kayaking has become a healthy obsession and one for which I am forever grateful. I was on the water 106 days last year while maintaining a fulltime work schedule. The opportunities afforded me by the sport, impacting my physical conditioning, mental health and attitude are immeasurable! I firmly believe that the tangible returns of enjoying international paddling journeys, paddling with our local club, pursuing individual skill and leadership knowledge through the BCU system, rock-play and surfing would not have been available had I not had the good fortune of being introduced to P&H boats. I am a grateful and committed customer.
Deepest thanks Graham for all your help along the way!
Having spent much of lockdown reminiscing on past adventures and planning exciting new adventures (the shelf of guidebooks has had to bear the burden of a few new additions since March), we were ready to make the most of the easing of restrictions. One of the new additions to our guidebook collection was Doug Cooper’s Skye and North West Highlands Sea Kayaking. In hindsight, it seems remarkable that it wasn’t already an established and well-thumbed favourite.
With kayaking, adventures, and overnight stays more than 5 miles from home all back on the cards, a plan was forming. It seemed that high pressure was going to dominate the North Coast for at least a few days, and after our enforced time away from the water we wanted a series of day trips with the option of an overnight camp or two.
“A week could easily be spent exploring this area, let alone the islands further south.” – Doug Cooper on the northern-most of the Summer Isles.
Our plan for a few day trips around the Summer Isles and an overnight camp now formed, the P&H Virgo seemed like the perfect choice: In CoreLite X it would be light for daily lifting on/off the roof of the van; rugged for lots of rocky landings and if the swell picked up some rock hopping; big enough to accommodate our camping kit; maneuverable to allow us to explore the tightest of gaps.
The first few days were spent making day trips in Loch Ewe and around the Summer Isles. Rocky coastlines with imposing cliffs, white sandy beaches, small bays and inlets, crossings up to 8km all with a beautiful mountainous backdrop, crystal clear water and wildlife aplenty. Midway through the afternoon on our second day, as we emerged from the mist and confirmed that we had followed our bearing correctly, found a sheltered cove for a rest and bite to eat, it became clear that our lives were to become richer in two ways. Firstly the Virgo, and secondly the North West coastline that we had been exploring.
Having covered nearly 100km in the first 3 days, it was time for a slower pace for a few days. Boats loaded with overnight gear we set out from Achnahaird beach to explore the coast of Enard Bay, following the rugged coastline as far north as the Bay of Stoer. With a brisk wind blowing offshore we slowly made our way north, in and out of the countless smaller bays and between the smaller islands. Our Virgos continued to impress us, never feeling as cumbersome as some larger boats do when carrying enough chocolate spread, cheese, and biscuits to see us through. Having spent time getting up close and personal with the many seals on Soyea Island on the outward journey we took a break on islands of Fraochlan and Eilean Mor, the perfect vantage point to watch the large pod of dolphins leaping in the middle of the bay.
Local knowledge and advice often provides for the most memorable experiences and with Oldany Island coming highly recommended by Will Copestake of Kayak Summer Isles, it was the natural way to spend our last day in the area. Paddling out from the pristine beach at Clashnessie to the exposed outside of Oldany Island, with views back towards the Point of Stoer, we were soon rising and falling on the powerful swell with the crashing of the sea against the rocks adding a sense of exposure. As we rounded the island we again found ourselves engulfed in mist, adding to the atmosphere and creating a sense of isolation. With the disorientating mist and distraction of dozens of curious seals, we were soon lost in the maze of small islands, finding ourselves paddling into several dead ends before regaining the narrow channel separating Oldany Island from the mainland. The final few km along the coastline to Clashnessie provided plenty of interest and a magnificent archway to paddle under.
After a week of good fortune our weather window was closing and it was time for us to return home, our need for adventure sated for now, but with plans already forming for a return to explore more of this beautiful and dramatic coastline.
Day One: Loch Ewe Day Two: Southern Summer Isles Day Three: Northern Summer Isles Days Four & Five: Achnahaird to Bay of Stoer and return Day Six: Clashnessie & Oldany Island
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
I never thought I’d be comparing Earnest Shackleton’s famous advert to sitting at home on my sofa, yet here we are. I am locked down behind my keyboard in the times of a global pandemic. In a strange twist of fate, his recruitment to arguably the last great adventure in the golden age of exploration was posted just a few years before the previous global pandemic, the Spanish flu.
Low wages, tick.
Long hours in complete (emotional) darkness, tick.
Safe return (to normality) doubtful, tick.
Honour and recognition in event of success… thank you, key workers!
Bitter cold hasn’t come yet, but it’s entirely likely if nothing changes that come winter, many people won’t be able to afford their heating bill, so I’ll hold my breath on that one for now.
As phase 1 has arrived in Scotland and the wider UK is starting to take tentative first steps into a new normal, I can’t help but reflect on the parallels between lockdown and traditional adventure.
Can you remember the last time you watched a TV survivalist program? Bear Grylls, Stafford, Mears, or one of those survivor challenges like the Island or Naked and Afraid. Personally, I’ve binged on a few on Netflix in the last few weeks. I always seem to find myself comparing and analysing, wondering how I might fare in the same circumstances. Boom… 2020 happened.
We are now all thrown into our own survival challenge. Like the TV premised, unaware and unprepared, but less a camera crew. Some of us are in teams, while others are going solo. Some have a cushion to rest on, while others have a real struggle to survive. In this new challenge, we are not all on the same ship, but all of us are weathering the same storm in our own way.
Personally, I’ve coped by pretending lockdown was an expedition. This was largely because around the date lockdown was announced, I was supposed to be on one, paddling some 800km to Cape Horn and back in 35 days. To say the least, coming directly out of a full season of Patagonian kayak guiding to sitting on my sofa watching Netflix was quite a culture shock.
I’ll premise this to say that compared to the many who have very real problems to tackle, my personal situation is and has been relatively comfortable. I am at home with my parents and my partner, everyone is in good health, and my business will survive to re-open when the time comes. But I’m also human and, as I’m sure many of you have too, I’ve felt at times a little lost, like I’m without a paddle, although not yet floating down s**t creek.
So how is lockdown like an expedition?
Like an expedition, our food shopping is back to a planned routine. No more ‘popping to the shops’. Instead, there are detailed meal plans to last the week, the assumption that anything not on the list is forgotten until the next available re-supply. Albeit our rations are quite a lot fresher and tastier than 35 days in a kayak, no eating butter with a spoon quite yet!
Like an expedition, our contact with the outside world is limited. Those phone calls and Zooms with family and friends become all the more important and treasured in the absence of regular visits. Meanwhile my partner and I, just like my friend and I when on an expedition, are now almost developing our own language of in-jokes and mad musing. I look forward to seeing friends more than anything else when this is all over…
I wonder if we will have separation anxiety?
Like an expedition, teamwork is essential. Those of us living with families or friends throughout this will already know this, without good communication and compromise, arguments happen.
Like an expedition, routine is everything. Regular exercise within our allocated time and distance, a structured day, making new plans and goals, filling the time. A mind with purpose is a mind of pleasure. Allowing rest and recuperation as part of the urge to achieve is just as important in a healthy routine.
Like an expedition, dressing has become a little easier. I’m essentially rotating through a couple of sets of joggers and t-shirts on a loop. At least, unlike my kayak expeditions, they get properly washed in between with more than the odd wave. Bathing is at least still a thing.
Like an expedition, there is a huge unknown. No matter how well-planned things are, there are broadsides. This is the definition of adventure. Experience is found in the gaps of planning and with each new stage comes new learning opportunities.
I’m sure there are more comparisons to be made. What would yours be?
I’ll finish by paraphrasing Shackleton’s diary from the same expedition he advertised for. This time from his bleakest moments where hope was waning and a good future seemed impossible,
‘A person must shape them-self to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground’
i.e. When situations degrade and seem too tough to bare, Keep Calm and Carry On.