Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Circumnavigating the Channel

Very early tomorrow morning I start on my way to St. Malo in France to the ferry that takes me to Jersey. There I am for a sea kayaking week for the Dutch TKBN club. Instead of returning to the Netherlands via St. Malo, I take the ferry to Weymouth and make a fortnight de-tour via Anglesey and return to the Netherlands via Hull. An interesting 'circumnavigation' of the Channel by car and ferry and with a sea kayak on the roof rack. Oops, I forgot to make a selection of clothes to take with me. What to select for the Channel Islands AND Anglesey? Hmmm, Better take at least one pair of shorts with me. And what about a Jersey?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

1st Lower Columbia Kayak Roundup

I just booked my flights for attending the 1st Lower Columbia Kayak Roundup from August 24-26. This new symposium on the Pacific Northwest coast is organized by Ginni Callahan of Columbia River Kayaking. The week before, there is a whole range of BCU courses scheduled. The whole Lower Columbia River and the Pacific coast of Oregon and Washington have excellent paddling locations, beautiful coastal scenery and history. If you have met and paddled with Ginni, you will probably already have this event marked in your calendar. If not, this is a not-to-miss opportunity.
Rounding-up all those ace-high sea kayakers; GO WEST! JUMP INTO YOUR kayaks AND paddle... IT'S ROUND-UP TIME IN THE WILD AND swelly WEST! Hey dude, leave the Old States! Just follow the signs for 'Lewis and Clark' and stop at the Slow Boat Farm in your best bib and tucker. Maybe you can smell the bear sign and bend an elbow. But don't get half seas over and don't beat the Dutch! Pony up and sign-up! Until then I am at sea!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Worlds' biggest Cat Race

Annually Texel hosts what they call the "worlds' biggest cat race". About 500 catamarans started at 1 PM for the "Round Texel" and the first one finished 3 hours and 15 minutes later.
For sea kayakers "Round Texel" has it's own meaning. By sea kayak this is generally a weekend overnight trip or, for long distance paddlers, a one-day (11 hour or so) challenge. I paddled my first "Round Texel in one day" in 2003 with Nico and Jan. Since then Nico and Jan have done the day-trip variant regularly. The most challenging sea kayak racing event in the Netherlands is currently the "Elfstedentocht non-stop per zeekajak"; a 200 km continuous race following the same route as the legendary winter ice skating event. The last ice-skating "Elfstedentocht" was held in 1997. Warm winters have prevented another ice-skating Elfstedentocht ever since. Maybe there is a place for an annual sea kayak racing event around Texel, but definitively not on the same weekend as the cat race... I do not want to be in the claws of any big cat!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rider on the Storm

Yesterday, Thursday evening I had a meeting of the NKB coaching committee in Nieuwegein near Utrecht. I 'conveniently' combined this with getting some lent-out sea kayaks back to Nico in Wageningen. Two days en-route from Texel, Den Helder, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Rijswijk (overnight), Utrecht to Wageningen. Very fuel and mileage efficient. Wednesday was a long days' travelling rendezvous. Highway traffic in the Netherlands has become a nightmare. Many years ago I had become 'numb' of the then 'heavy' traffic. But I am no longer used to this 'exploded' increase in traffic. I am amazed by the very long delays that people appear to have gotten used to (even out of rush-hours). The delays are now so common that traffic-jams are only called out on the radio when they are 'unusual'. So an hour delay might not even be called-out because it is common on a route. I missed my evening meal yesterday, because the hour that I had planned for it before the meeting was spent crawling on the highway. Coffee and soft drink filled the void. Friday was spent in Wageningen checking and repairing the Romany and Explorer sea kayaks of the Wageningen kayak club; two of the most heavily used club boats. While Nico and I finished work on the boats a heavy thunderstorm passed over Wageningen and we saw a big plume of black smoke coming off the roof a student apartment building close-by Nico's place. Guessing the cause, either lightning or tar roofing work gone astray, or a combination of both. Three loud explosions, later contributed to exploding gas cylinders. No people got hurt, we later learned and the students of the top floor are homeless for a week or so. Next off course the whole of Wageningen is a traffic mess because of road closures near the fire scene, taking me a long time to get on the highway again and then into the evening rush hour traffic worsened by the frequent thunderstorms and downpours. Back to Rijswijk, unloading/loading, continuing to Den Helder. Now it is only the downpours that overtake me in the heavy traffic. Finally making the last ferry to Texel. I actually got the very last available, close-by, car parking spot. Very unexpectedly when one knows that this is the evening before the Round Texel Catamaran race and the radio mentioning ferry waiting lines earlier... Loading up with french fries at the ferry terminal cafeteria. The downpours even follow the ferry, slowly greying the blue western skies, drowning a sinking yellow sun.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pacific Horizons

Bryan Smith has not sit still. After helping to create the highly successful sea kayak school Body Boat Blade International (with Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé), he broadened his paddling horizon into Canada where, among other things, he now is in the process of finishing his first sea kayaking film "Pacific Horizons". I felt privileged paddling and working with Bryan on various occasions. First a chance-meeting in Anglesey and later at US sea kayaking symposia. If you have seen This is the Sea II, you will remember his stunning performance in the Skookumchuck tidal feature. High on my list of "thrilling things to do" is to paddle Skooks. Getting thrashed there is probably a more accurate description. Bryan is not new to filming and editing. I have seen some of his excellent video diaries. Justine, you have major 'competition' here ;-) The trailer is now on-line on Bryan's Pacific Horizons blog. WOW!!!, cannot wait for the release! Something new, just on the horizon.
On YouTube I found another sneak preview of Dubside in Pacific Horizons.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The art of sea kayak reviewing

For more than 20 years René van der Zwan has reviewed sea kayaks that are available on the Dutch market. His reviews always are very extensive and thorough. Sometimes taking several months to seek out extremer conditions (6/7 Beaufort winds and heavy surf) to put them through a full test. Some of the reviews are of brands and/or models that are no longer in production, but prove to be a very valuable resource for people buying second hand kayaks.

Yesterday I read on René's blog that he has (for now) stopped the reviewing and even took all reviews off his website. A big 'shame' when one reads the reasons for this! His reviews were always honest and leaving room for manufacturer/dealer comments and even updating the reviews for modifications.

My involvement in sea kayaking by now has resulted in 'many different hats'. First and most, I am an enthusiastic sea kayaker with strong personal opinions on sea kayaking. Next, I am a sea kayak coach that has enjoyed and appreciated cultural differences of sea kayaking in (so far) the Netherlands, United Kingdom and the USA. For the last four years I paddle a sponsored Nigel Dennis Kayaks Explorer sea kayak and together with Nico Middelkoop promote and sell NDK sea kayaks in the Netherlands. And I run a sea kayak coaching and guiding business.

Whenever somebody asks me what is the 'best' sea kayak it is a question that I cannot possibly answer. I will respond with: "look for reviews and ask various knowledgeable people for advice!". Don't trust a salesman if his advice/story is not backed-up by others or in reviews. Hmm... if a salesman (me) says: "don't trust a salesman!", what to trust? Anyway, never decide on a sea kayak before you had a chance to try it out 'in conditions'. The good shops have arrangements for you to try-out their kayaks. A sea kayak is always a 'compromise'. There are many well designed sea kayaks around.

René, thank you for all the valuable and independent information over the years. I do hope that your sea kayak reviews will be available again soon on !
P.S. The Sea Kayaker Magazine Newsletter of 6 June informs us that SK is working to make their extensive archive of sea kayak reviews available on-line.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Freedom and Adventure for All

Returning home and weeding through the mail my eyes fall on the kayaking magazine "Paddling" of the Svenska Kanotförbundet. A picture that I took at the Southwest Sea Kayak Symposium made it into their publication and it is always nice to see how the picture was used (thank you Richard Öhman for the article). I can hardly understand any of the articles. But it has an article on sea kayaking's 'all-time' great adventurers with many familiar (and some unfamiliar to me) names. From Oscar Speck's 50.000 km (!) voyage from Germany to Australia from 1932-1939 to Rotem Ron's solo circumnavigation of Iceland in 2006. Frihet och Äventyr för Alla.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pirates of the Vliehors

Today, Karien and I crossed the Eierlandse Gat to the Island of Vlieland. The southern tip sand flats is called Vliehors and during the week this area is the scen of 'zero altitude' fighter pilot target practice. On this (for visitors) 'car-less' island we encounter three 4-wheel drive vehicles that scavenge the shoreline. The former 'Reddingshuisje" (rescue hut) is no longer serving it's original function; it is locked-up. Instead it has become a pirate's camp. When a motorbike cruises over the sand flats I am no longer sure whether we are in a scene of Mad Max or Pirates of the Caribbean. Today we are the Pirates of the Vliehors.