A brief window in the weather and a clear day in my diary gave me the perfect opportunity to make for Eagle Island on the Westerly side of County Mayo. One of Ireland's most exposed and battered islands, this rocky out crop is situated only a mile from shore, but bears the brunt of the biggest Atlantic swell and ferocious storms.
The Shannon Sprint Kayak Challenge
Kayaking the longest river in your country has to be high on every kayakers list of achievements and the River Shannon has been on mine for a couple of years now. Not only is it the longest river in Ireland it is also the longest in the British Isles. For most people kayaking this mighty river is a leisurely trip, enjoying the sights and sounds that could take weeks to complete but I wanted to take a different approach. My plan was to kayak as fast as possible from start to finish and set the standard for the "Shannon Sprint".
Cycle 200k... in a day
I recently took part in my first Audax Ireland cycling event-the Around Down 200km. For anyone that doesn't know and I would say that's most people - Audax riding is a form of long distance endurance cycling where cyclists complete a course ranging from 100km to 1200km under a pre-defined time. This is generally very comfortable time frame but the real challenge is against yourself, the distance and your watch.
Last weekend May 31st saw the first running of a new kayak and canoe race in Athy, Co.Kildare. The Blueway Canoe Marathon hosted by Waterways Ireland is the first race offering an ultra distance course for kayaks in Ireland to my knowledge. With three courses on offer, 10km, 21km and an ultra 46km there was something for everyone. Starting in Athy the courses went north on the canal towards Monasterevin with portages at different points for each course and on to the River Barrow to head south again to Athy.
This river section posed a few issues with kayak choice. I was all set on using my carbon Elio Sprint for the race but the day before I got some info that the river might not be deep enough in places to accommodate the under stern rudder and that an over stern might be safer. With that I loaded up my Vantage River K1. It has an over stern rudder and is comfortable to paddle but is slower than the Elio and has the wash hanging characteristics of a bulldozer!
AT Oracle paddle review
The Oracle is the high angle, big blade touring paddle from Adventure Technology, offering more powerful stroke and stability than their other touring paddles. I was kindly sent these paddles to try out for a few weeks. This is the first time I have used AT paddles, having seen many people using AT paddles both on whitewater and the sea I was interested to try them out for myself.
Steep Creekin' Italy 2015
On May 19th myself and Wicklow paddler Dave Holden caught an early morning flight to Bergamo Airport in Northern Italy. We were due to take our Level 5 river skills assessment on the Friday of that week, so the plan was to get a few days of paddling in beforehand to warm up on the steep Italian creeks.
Poseidon- God of the Sea
Short term review of Kokatat's latest touring PFD
The Poseidon is the latest addition to the Kokatat range of touring PFD's (Personal Flotation Device). A completely new design offering lots of versatility to the user. Sea kayaker's require a lot more storage in their PFD's than river runners and the Poseidon has you covered. The Poseidon comes equipped with a chest pocket that has three compartments and a knife tab. It is also possible to put a water bladder in the back of the vest. In addition to these features you can buy extra accessories to add to the vest including, a belly pocket, shoulder pocket, tactic back pack, water bladder and electronics pocket. Depending on what you want to carry and how you want to carry it, you can set up the PFD to suit your paddling preferences.
In the last few months a whole load of new river shoes and boots have come on the market. With the choice bigger than ever its a buyers market. I have been wearing the NRS Velocity river boot for the last couple of months and I have to say I am very impressed. The design is neat and very clean even with laces.
They have a really nice feel to them, offering good support but not feeling heavy or bulky. The soles are fantastic, lots of grip for wet slippy rock and thick enough to absorb shock and keep your feet insulated. Long term it will be interesting to see how these boots hold up. But at the moment I have no complaints.
Available from I-Canoe
My old Astral Water Tennies (above right) have not worn so well. Lets hope the Velocity lasts better.
A surprise package..
A crossover boat that truly excels in any water, the Katana was designed to inspire confidence in the paddler with a balanced rocker profile for speed in the flats and maneuverability in whitewater.- Dagger
I was kindly offered this kayak to paddle for a few weeks and to see what I thought of it. To be honest I was a little sceptical, as I have never paddled a "crossover" kayak before and I had some preconceived ideas that it would be too big and awkward for whitewater and to slow for flat..
Senior K1 Race
The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon or DW, is one of the toughest canoe and kayak marathons in the world. Held every Easter since 1948, the course covers 125 miles (201km) from the small town of Devizes in Wiltshire all the way along the Kennet & Avon Canal and the River Thames to Westminster Bridge in the heart of London City.
Over the Easter weekend there are two races taking place. The non-stop K2 event starts on Saturday and crews paddle non-stop through the night until they reach Westminster on Sunday morning. The second event is a four day stage race for senior K1's and Juniors that starts on Friday and finishes at Westminster on Monday morning.
This year I was taking on the senior K1 event for the first time. I completed the non-stop K2 race in 2013 with Jim Mescal in a time of 20:49, but the K1 race is completely different challenge and there was a lot of unknowns going into the race. Like would I be able to get up each morning and race long distances 4 days in a row?
The first high pressure system of the season settled over Ireland during the last week and as most people were recovering from St. Patricks day celebrations or a late night watching the Aurora Borealis, myself and Helen Fairbairn were gearing up for a trip to one of Irelands most exposed headlands.Taking full advantage of the wind and swell conditions we headed out West to the Mullet Peninsula.
Kokatat's repair service is like their drysuits legendary! If you have a Gore-Tex drysuit you can send it back to be serviced more or less indefinitely. They will go to work on it and magically return it to dry or near dry condition. I have used the service in the past, before I was Kokatat ambassador. My suit was leaking but there was no obvious hole or cuts. They tested it and found hundreds of tiny pinholes caused by briars and gorse bushes while out scouting rivers. Unbelievably they sent it back to me with all the holes painstakingly patched and the suit nearly 100% dry, all for the nominal fee of $20. Kokatat suits may demand a high price but you are getting more than just a drysuit. You are getting the best customer and repair service in the industry.
Before this year you had to send your drysuit to their American factory. But luckily now they have a new service centre in the UK which will make the turn around much faster for E.U. customers.
Check out this little video about the service HERE
Escaping the winter chill..
The second week of January as snow began to fall here in Ireland I boarded a plane for Malta and some winter sunshine paddling.
Kayak instructor, athlete, business owner and outdoor enthusiast from the west coast of Ireland.
Paddle & Pedal Blog HERE