explore the world of kayaking
Volume 20, Issue 4
FREE at select outlets and
online or by subscription
Tricked out kayaks
We add gear galore
to create the world’s most
tricked out kayaks ever
Hitting the water
We take you surf kayaking and
There’s more online in our first-ever multimedia edition
2 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
This month’s features:
8 Scavenging on the Edge
Cleaning up the Coast on Haida Gwaii
10 Paddling with a Shamrock
Images from Ireland
14 Kayaking with Cannibals
The Solomon Islands
by Dave Cauldwell
24 Our Most Tricked Out Kayak Ever
32 Surf Games
by Neil Schulman
36 Surf Kayaking 101
Everything you need to know to start
20 Tours and Services
22 Paddle Meals
by Hilary Masson
40 Planning and Safety
by Michael Pardy
by Alex Matthews
44 Fishing Angles
by Dan Armitage
38 Up for the Challenge
45 Rainforest Chronicles
by Dan Lewis
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 3
The First Word
Winter 2010 Volume 20, Number 4
PM No. 41687515
Editor John Kimantas
Advertising Sales Brent Daniel
Copy Editing Darrell Bellaart
We took everything from sails
to electric bilge pumps to the
beach at Pipers Lagoon in our
hometown of Nanaimo to trick
out a pair of kayaks (one was not
enough for all our gear). Join
us for this major pimping-out
project on page 24.
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ISSUE AD DEADLINE DISTRIBUTION
Spring 2011 Feb. 4 March 1
Summer 2011 April 15 May 16
Fall 2011 July 1 Aug. 1
Winter 2011 Oct. 1 Nov. 1
A product of:
Wild Coast Publishing
#6 10 Commercial St.
Nanaimo, B.C., Canada, V9R 5G2
Ph: 1-866-984-6437 • Fax: 1-866-654-1937
by John Kimantas
Green dots: a sign of the future
I remember a paddling trip in winter 1999 with then-Wavelength Magazine publisher
Alan Wilson. I told him by coincidence how I had recently downloaded and read a copy
of Wavelength Magazine online. At the time it was one of the few magazines available
on the ’net. Good on Alan for the foresight.
It’s no surprise that the presence of magazines online has since exploded. The
standard now is a page-flip format mimicking the page turning of print magazines
(I suppose to make readers feel more comfortable with the
transition to electronic media). Most magazines are using a
service provider to create these electronic copies. And most
simply offer a digital version of the same content in print.
So it’s cute, but limited. I had to think: in print, kayaks will just
sit there. But online, those kayaks could actually be paddling. So
why aren’t they?
Since we couldn’t make the kayaks paddle with any of the
existing service providers, I decided to develop our own version
in-house. This is the first issue to show the results. And yes, the
kayaks can now paddle away. In fact, they do on this very page in the online version.
Watch for these three buttons in the online version:
Click on the “T” button and a central text box will appear allowing you to read the
text on the pages you are viewing without having to follow the various columns
and dips and doodles of the magazine page. If it’s still too small, hit the zoom feature.
This should make the text large enough to accommodate the most short-sighted among
us. Click on the “T” again to turn off the text and return to the regular page view.
When you see this multimedia button, things get really interesting. Click on it, and
watch for additional content not available in the print version. For instance, click
on the button on this page in the online version and the kayak pictured below will meld
seamlessly from this inert picture to a high-definition video of the paddler (Leanne)
paddling away. And if reading a magazine with kayaks actually paddling doesn’t at least
make you go “hmmm, that’s interesting,” then no problem. Just keep reading the print
version, which we have no intention of abandoning.
For me the key is adding content to make both the print and online products work
together. For instance, it’s one thing to read about surf kayaking. But in the online
version, you can see a video detailing the skill involved. A great extra.
Another exciting thing is the potential for advertisers. For instance, check out
the videos tied into the Blue Water Kayak Works ad on page 23. This is our first ad
specifically designed to incorporate multimedia into a print ad campaign.
If you check the results online, look for details of our major 2011 promotion (teased
here on page 46, with more details online). We’ll be giving those who visit us online a
chance to win gear every month plus a grand prize of a new kayak.
Okay, it’s bribery to get you online, but with a new kayak hanging in the balance, it’s
the best kind of bribery. So happy surf kayaking the internet!
- John Kimantas
© 2010. Copyright is retained on all material (text, photos and graphics) in this magazine.
No reproduction is allowed of any material in any form, print or electronic, for any purpose,
except with the permission of Wild Coast Publishing.
Some elements in maps in this magazine are reproduced with
the permission of Natural Resources Canada 2010, courtesy
of the Atlas of Canada. Also, our thanks to Geobase for some
elements that may appear on Wavelength maps.
Wavelength Magazine is dedicated to making self-propelled
coastal exploration fun and accessible. Safety and travel
information is provided to augment pre-existing safety
and knowledge. A safety course and proper equipment are
advised before any exploration on water. See a list of paddling
instruction locations at www.wavelengthmagazine.com
Another perfect evening, Vancouver
Island style. Click the green button
online to join us on this outing.
4 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 5
Joe O sets new record for rounding Vancouver Island
There’s a new time to beat in the Great
Joe O’Blenis pulled into Nanaimo’s
Brechin boat ramp the evening of Saturday,
Sept. 4, just 16 days, 12 hours and 14
minutes after starting out – a time fast
enough to unseat Sean Morley’s 2008 record
of 17 days, 4 hours and 49 minutes for
the fastest circumnavigation of Vancouver
Island by paddle.
To put that into perspective, that’s
covering the 1,150-km trip with an average
of 70 kilometers of paddling per day.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing, with
several days spent battling headwinds of
30-plus knot winds, and one collision
with a rock near Tofino that knocked the
skeg completely out from his Nigel Foster
Greenland Pro. That incident forced him to
wait for much of the day in Tofino while his
second boat, a Tahe Wind 585, was shipped
from its storage at Wavelength Central in
The Tahe managed to stay in one piece
for the dramatic conclusion, a 90-km day
photo courtesy Michael Jackson
of paddling from Victoria to Nanaimo that
happened to coincide with a kayaking corn
roast on nearby Newcastle Island hosted
by Atlantis Kayaks – allowing a welcoming
flotilla of kayaks at the finish line.
Apt was a greeting there by Colin Angus,
complete with celebratory beer. Colin had
also planned an attempt at the Great Island
Race title this year in a rowboat, but had
to postpone it due to back issues. He’s still
as he closes
in on the
planning to retry next year.
For Joe, the trip – his second recordsetting
venture around the island – was
another chance to appreciate Vancouver
“Just doing the trip is worthwhile, even
if you’re just rushing by and everything’s a
blur,” he said.
You can read more information about
Joe’s circumnavigation at joeoblenis.com.
6 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
How dirty is our coastline? Plenty dirty, readers find
Virginia Harris doesn’t have to go far to
find debris clogging the beaches. All it takes
is a walk with her three dogs near her home
in Halfmoon Bay near Desolation Sound to
find loads of trash.
Kayak trips can be just as filthy.
“When I do get out on the water I end
up coming back with a pile on the bow of
my kayak consisting of plastic bags and
other floating debris,” she wrote when
entering Wavelength Magazine’s Clean Up
the Coast contest.
“We have a pristine beach here in a
provincial park called Sargeant Bay. I walk
there often. I usually end up finding a fair
bit of garbage and I can’t help myself and
start picking it up, filling bag after bag.”
She laid out one morning’s find on a
tarp, then snapped a picture.
“I brought it home and laid it all out on
a tarp (also found on the beach). As you can
see there is an enormous amount of plastic.
We have plastic fish farm feed bags, feminine
product plastic applicators, Christmas light
bulbs, balloons, Copenhagen tobacco tins,
The results of one morning’s haul from
Sargeant Bay near Powell River, BC. Virginia
Harris won an under-deck bag from Atlantis
Kayaks for her entry in Wavelength’s Clean
Up the Coast contest.
styrofoam (bits everywhere) you name it, it’s
there on the beach.”
Virginia was one of the participants in
Wavelength Magazine’s Clean Up the Coast
contest, which recognized participants in
cleanup efforts from paddling clubs on
Vancouver Island to Suwanee River cleanup
participants in Florida.
The contest was held to recognize
continuing efforts to clean our coast, plus
to inspire people to pick up instead of
passing by. Prizes in the contest included
items from Klepper in Canada, Kokatat,
North Water Paddlesports Equipment,
Atlantis Kayaks, Seaward Kayaks, Solo
Rescue Assist, Peregrine Kayaks, SeaSpecs,
Kayak Kaboose, Peregrine Kayaks and
Terracentric Coastal Adventures.
Not all participants stopped at simply
collecting trash. Brad Atchinson has spent
the last 42 years decommissioning hundreds
of campsites, including their fire rings and
scorched and scarred rocks.
“I am a NOLS graduate (1970s) and
have been a proponent of minimum
impact camping techniques, long before
the Leave No Trace movement took root.
In all likelihood, being a biologist and an
environmentalist since the 1960s provide
context for these cleanup efforts.”
Brad won a Kokatat Outercore Top
for his efforts. Also winning was the
Marine Sciences 10 class from St. Michael’s
University School in Victoria, BC, for their
beach cleanup efforts. They earned a model
Aerius II from Klepper in Canada.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 7
Clean Up the Coast Contest
by Liam McNeil
Scavenging on the edge
Kayakers get the
dirt on Haida Gwaii
PADDLING the west coast of
Vancouver Island in 2009, from
Port Hardy to Tofino, Genevieve Burdett
and I hatched the plan to paddle Haida
Moresby Island, home of Gwaii Haanas
National Park, attracted our interest due
to its mystique and challenge. While the
east coast attracts hundreds of paddlers
every year (for good reason!), the extremely
challenging conditions of the west coast
of the island, coupled with the lack of
accessible landing sites, keep the vast
majority of visitors away. By planning
during the winter months and getting some
support from the MEC Expedition Fund,
our dreams became a reality.
Moresby Island, the long mountainous
southern half of Haida Gwaii (formerly
Queen Charlotte Islands), is a place of
extremes. The rarely visited west coast is
distinguished by steep cliffs, few landings
and little hope of assistance. For days,
no other boats passed the horizon, and
even weather forecasts drifted in and out
of reception as we passed the mouths of
deep inlets. (By contrast, the east coast
of Moresby is a paddler’s paradise, with
hundreds of islands, bays, inlets and
numerous cultural sights to visit.)
The wind had whipped the water into
whitecaps as we slipped our boats into
the water to begin our journey. Skidegate
Channel lay ahead of us, as did the west
coast of Haida Gwaii. Over the next
few weeks, as the shoreline waters of
Moresby Island passed beneath our hulls,
we witnessed the natural and cultural
wonders of these remote islands, along
with the reminders of our global society.
Even though the rest of the world seemed
so remote, it presented itself in the refuse
washed upon the shores. To remove all the
8 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
photos by Liam McNeil and Genevieve Burdett
Top: Genevieve Burdett scans Woodruff Bay for waste; above left: some of the hundreds of
plastic bottles that dotted the remote shorelines of Haida Gwaii; above right: the holy grail of
beach garbage – a Japanese glass fishing float found on Kunghit Island.
garbage found would have required dozens
of boatloads. As a compromise, every night
we collected a single piece of garbage to
pack on our journey.
We found very little local garbage. In
fact, the amount of garbage washed up
by ocean currents stood out starkly on
the beaches. On one beach, we collected
hundreds of plastic bottles bearing the
writing of both North American and Asian
societies. Plastic refuse was everywhere.
Round fishing floats, random plastic bits
and objects of distant origin dotted this
Just prior to rounding Cape St. James,
the extreme southern tip of Haida Gwaii,
we found our most treasured piece of
garbage, a glass fishing float.
Heading north along the east coast
of Moresby the nature of waste changed
abruptly. The rate of foreign debris
dropped, and in its place were signs of local
life: sections of rope, beer cans and fishing
floats from BC’s fisheries. At paddling
campsites we found bread tags, zip-loc bags
and even a broken kayak paddle.
We returned with an eclectic collection
of plastic toys, shoes, bottles, bags, broken
kayak paddles and our treasured glass
fishing float. While limited in our capacity
to carry, we can all do our part to clean up
our coast, and learn to reduce the amount
of plastic products that litter our oceans.
Liam McNeil is executive director of the Sea
Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia.
SKGABC supported Wavelength Magazine’s
Clean Up the Coast Contest by sponsoring a
Werner Kaliste paddle as a prize. It was won
by Nanaimo Paddlers kayaking club.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 9
IF THERE IS one place in the world worthy
of naming a destination for a kayaking
pilgrimage, my vote would be Skellig Michael.
It’s not because it’s an ideal place to visit. Quite the
contrary. It lies in the ocean nine nautical miles off the
southwest coast of Ireland, one of the two huge and
forbiddingly spectacular rock islands set in a stormy area
prone to wind, current and swell.
But travel to the island by paddling isn’t insurmountable. In
fact, it has a long history of self-propelled visits dating back to
the 7th century, when the island was first inhabited by monks.
Their occupation lasted the next 600 years and survived the
incredibly harsh conditions as well as several Viking raids. The
story and images by John Kimantas
monk residents are responsible for the incredible vertiginous
steps that crisscross the island, the six intact clocháns (stone
beehive huts), oratories, grave slabs and a striking monolithic
cross – all of which are remarkably well preserved even today.
(Quite the legacy for a group of pioneering paddlers.)
The spiritual impact of the island is profound. Part is the
awe at the thought of the difficult life suffered by the monks
in such a remote location. And the natural features are equally
awe-inspiring: dramatic stone pillars reaching 218 meters,
created during a great upheaval 200 million years ago. It
takes 600 steps up cliffsides and alongside
jagged stone pillars to reach the Hermitage
and the monastery ruins, well preserved
enough to earn it designation as a UNESCO
World Heritage Site. Equally spectacular
but not as accessible, the smaller of the Skellig Islands, Little
Skellig, is a dramatic assembly of peaks home to thousands of
nesting seabirds, most notably Ireland’s largest gannet colony.
It provides a surreal backdrop.
Kayakers aren’t likely to attempt the crossing. Even the tour
boats often have trouble getting here. Landing on the island’s
one small concrete dock can be an adventure in swell, with
high tide water rushing right over the dock, and the boat
crew biding time between waves to retrieve or disgorge
10 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
Images from Ireland
is rated by
as one of the world’s
great coastal locations.
The steep steps were
carved by monks as early as
the seventh century A.D. Far left:
the final climb before reaching
the monastery; left: Little Skellig;
right: the ancient beehive huts of the
monastery; above right: protruding
rocks on the steep descent.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 11
Not all Ireland is as harsh as the Skelligs,
of course. But quick changes in the
weather, strong winds and strong ocean
currents are typical, which can make Ireland
a challenging and sometimes impossible
coast to paddle. Secluded bays, inlets and
collections of nearby islands along much of
the coast offer the protected and relatively
serene waters that make the Irish coast an
ideal place for a day paddle – especially
if you can sneak out to some of the
spectacular cliffs that typify the outer coast.
For Jim Kennedy, operator of Atlantic
Sea Kayaking and one of Ireland’s most
veteran paddlers, the southwest coast of
Ireland makes a great base for exploring. A
trip from Castletownshend, for instance, a
picturesque former naval base village near
Cork, leads on a short journey to seven
uninhabited islands, past upwards of 33 sea
caves (Jim is always finding new ones) and
wildlife that commonly involves dolphins,
whales and a grey seal rookery.
This is a perfect day-trip adventure,
possibly ending at the little harbour town
of Baltimore 16 kilometers away. Or
from Baltimore, Roaringwater Bay offers
a multitude of islands to explore, one of
which is home to an old castle that sits
enticingly across the harbour.
The problem with kayaking in Ireland is
the multitude of land features, meaning you
don’t want to just kayak if you travel here.
Ring of Kerry
Ireland is dotted with thousands of years
of history reflected in the many medieval
castles, monasteries, ancient stone forts and
portal tombs that date back 6,000 years or
But adventurers always push the limits,
with a circumnavigation of the island
growing as a popular goal of experienced
kayakers. The fastest time so far to
complete the 1,200-mile journey is 33 days;
reportedly the longest, by journalist Jasper
Wynn, took three and a half months –
probably a better way to enjoy Ireland: by
taking your time, visiting communities and
photos this page courtesy Atlantic Sea Kayaking
Left: caves near Castletownshend; top: urban
paddling in Cork; above: one of the south
coast’s many wonderful sand beaches.
If you go:
Most tour operators don’t rent kayaks
due to liability issues; instead, expect
escorted tours offering a selection
of mostly day trips. With a Europeanwide
accreditation system for paddlers
coming into effect, the restrictions may
ease on rentals for qualified paddlers.
Here are some options:
Atlantic Sea Kayaking: Trips include
the sheltered Killarney Lakes in a treed
national park setting to picturesque
Dingle Peninsula. Owner Jim Kennedy,
a Level 5 instructor, also offers a unique
paddle coaching program by video.
Sea Kayaking West Cork: Options
include overnight trips to Bere Island.
Seapaddling.com: Day trips from
On land: Driving in Ireland is difficult
as the roads are narrow with little
clearance, making it a high-stress way
to enjoy the island. We recommend
cycling as the best way to view the
rolling countryside, preferably by the
small, rarely-traveled back roads. We
traveled with West Ireland Cycling
12 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
The spectacular Cliffs of Moher, capped by
O’Brien’s Tower, built in 1835; left: one of the
colorful bars in the Temple Bar district of
Dublin; below left: a traffic jam,
Aran Island style.
We discover: castles, pubs, cycling, not many kayaks
Our kayaking adventures in Ireland were doomed before we
arrived. We couldn’t find a multi-day kayaking itinerary in our
pre-trip online research longer than overnight, and were advised
by the experts like Jim Kennedy at Atlantic Sea Kayaking that day
trips were probably preferable, or overnights at B&Bs lest you
be weathered out. As it happened, strong wind was a dominant
feature of our time in Ireland, which essentially sidelined hopes of
kayaking for most of the last two weeks. But infrastructure didn’t
help. Kayak rental operations were rare, at least in terms of visibility
at the multitude of coastal locations we visited. (It was very
disappointing to pass by the Cliffs of Moher and find no kayaks
in Doolin to explore this magnificent coast right next door). And
even if you find an operator, Jim says renting isn’t really an option,
given liability issues and the dangers associated with Ireland’s coast.
Escorted tours are the norm, though that may relax a bit when the
European Paddle Pass, a level system of accreditation, becomes
Our goal in Ireland was to mix various adventures: hiking,
kayaking and cycling. Cycling took eight days of our trip, with an
itinerary covering the Burrens in western Ireland and much of the
spectacular coast in County Clare including the Cliffs of Moher and
the Aran Islands. On the Aran Islands we found an old-style Irish
life coexisting with some terrific history, including Dun Aengus,
a prehistoric fort that dominates the tallest cliffside and hilltop
of Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. Dotting the rest of
Inishmore were traditional thatched cottages, various medieval ruins
and the defining maze of drystone walls.
The highlights of our trip? Too many to list them all, but Skellig
Michael has to be at the top, with Inishmore not far behind. Dingle
Peninsula would have been particularly scenic, but our only full day
of rain doused the impact. We spent our last night in Kilkenny, my
personal favorite of the trip – a town rich with medieval history
evident along just about every streetscape.
Then of course there are the pubs – the colorful assortment
in the Temple Bar district of Dublin to the myriad that dot
the countryside at every small Irish village. All are full of great
character and charm, with a personal favorite of mine one in the
little coastal village of Crookhaven. I had seen a picture prior to the
trip, and enjoying a pint there was a very low-level dream come true.
While not the most successful kayaking adventure ever, the best
trips are often most enjoyable not because of the quality of the
paddling, but of what you discover along the way, which hopefully
includes a colorful mix of culture, history and countryside.
Fortunately, Ireland abounds in all three. <
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 13
story and images by Dave Cauldwell
DON’T LIKE the way Raba’s smiling
at me. He looks mischievous, what
with his red lips, orange betel nut–
stained teeth and a twinkle in his eye.
“Just stand there,” he says.
I’m underneath a tree whose leaves
are drooping under the midday sun. Next
to me, propped up against the trunk, is a
woman with a rock in her hand smashing
nuts out of their shells. In front of us
children play in the sea; one boy catches
waves using an off-cut of polystyrene as a
Shouting brings my gaze forward. A man
races from one of the leafhouses that skirt
the shore. His face and chest are covered
in black paint, and he charges towards me
with a club in his hand, stopping just short.
‘I want to kill this man!’ he shrieks. The
whites of his eyes are prominent against
milk chocolate skin.
One by one, four axe-wielding men
appear from the jungle and take it in turns
to lunge at me, pulling back only at the last
moment. Skulls are crudely etched onto
The spokesman shrieks again. “Who
send this man to our village?”
I pause. “Er, Wavelength”’
“We want to eat this man!”
Clearly they don’t have subscriptions.
Before axes cleave open my flesh, a
man wearing a wig woven from coconut
straw enters the fray. He carries a large bow
and arrow and holds off the warriors. It’s
the chief and thankfully he’s on my side.
Holding a clam shell aloft, he barters with
the warriors to spare my life. They demand
a bigger shell so the chief gives it to them
(these things may look like a giant polo
mints, but they’re actually currency around
here). Eventually the men disband and I’m
left with all limbs intact.
“This is traditional welcome,” says Raba.
“I’d hate to see them when they’re
angry,” I reply.
Although this performance was
somewhat contrived, it was what awaited
explorers who bravely charted Marovo
Lagoon, the world’s largest saltwater
lagoon, back in the early 1900s. This was
when missionaries sailed into Solomon
Islands’ waters, their sails billowing with
religion, in an effort to spread Christianity
and stop the “barbaric” practice of
headhunting. Before the widespread
acceptance of this religion, there’s no
14 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
way the chief would have dug into his
clam stash to save a white man; rather,
he would’ve been carving into him with
a large knife. Oddly enough, some of the
missionaries actually wanted to end up as
main courses, believing they would die as
martyrs and thus gain a quicker passage to
If the missionaries had looked at
Marovo Lagoon, they might have realized
heaven was already in sight. Its crystalline
waters teem with sharks, manta rays and
fluorescent fish. Rainbow-colored reefs
form ethereal underwater worlds, while
secluded white beaches make what’s above
the surface just as magical. The main mode
of transport here is kayak or canoe. And
for most of my seven-day sojourn with
Raba, I traveled by kayak to explore the
mysterious backwaters of paradise, and to
uncover the area’s grisly headhunting past.
MY JOURNEY began from an
island shaped like a hammerhead
shark arching its back. Uepi Island is a hub
for adventure seekers and the best place
in Marovo from which to embark on a
guided kayaking expedition. And paddling
is the best way to explore this vast aquatic
It’s not long before Raba has forged
ahead. We’ve been dropped off in the
Mbili Passage, a forty-five minute boat ride
from Uepi. Once the passage ends, we’re
Top: a traditional welcome to the Solomon
Islands. Above: paddling in the mangroves of
Bapita Passage. Background: taking a break.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 15
paddling in open sea. Water undulates
beneath my kayak and Raba disappears
intermittently between troughs of swell.
He takes three leisurely strokes to my ten,
before resting to soak up the view. I’m
just getting soaked, mistiming my strokes
and not making much headway. Although
there’s no real danger of capsizing, my
stomach turns over.
Raba gestures to an outcrop, pointing his
paddle at a distant roof almost camouflaged
by jungle. I can’t be sure whether this is the
eco-lodge we’re staying at tonight, but it’s a
long way off.
When we finally reach the shore, a
breeze caresses my face and ruffles the
leaves of coconut palms. The eco-lodge at
Ropiko is run by Barry, a sixty-eight-yearold
English expat who’s married Jenna, a
local girl thirty-five years his junior.
White coral paths snake into the bush
between papaya trees, and there’s the wreck
of a Japanese war plane that was gunned
down during WW2. It’s now a glorified
plant-pot for Barry’s orchids.
After an evening listening to Barry’s
hilarious stories about things such as
excrement-eating fish (stay away from the
bright blue ones), we take a boat to the
custom village of Mbiche for my traditional
‘welcome’. From here it’s a rugged 15-km
walk back to Ropiko, and then a three-hour
paddle to Kajoro where I’m meeting John
Wayne – not the bowlegged gunslinger, but
a descendent of a notorious headhunter,
Kanijomo. This was a man who lived to kill
until missionaries persuaded him to trade
his axe for a bible.
In what seems like a biblical moment,
the heavy rain which has been tumbling all
night and morning suddenly parts and I’m
under the sun’s scorching spotlight. The
wind has also changed direction and I’m
paddling into it.
Rounding a point, a rickety stilt house
appears on the shore. Mangroves poke out
of the water, crooked fingers which beckon
the sun’s rays into the lagoon. Underneath
a sheet of aquamarine they wriggle like
golden eels before being swallowed into the
A man with sunshine in his eyes stands
on the shore. John Wayne helps us haul
our kayaks out of the water, and we sit
on the veranda with buzzing mosquitoes
New Georgia Islands
overlooking the lagoon.
“The spirit always gains strength from
chopping heads,” John tells me as rain
pitter-patters on the roof. Although it’s
only mid-afternoon it’s dark, the only light
coming from a gold-tinged horizon.
“Kanijomo could only sleep for an
hour at night,” says John. “He was always
thinking about killing.”
He shows me a picture of his great,
great grandfather that was taken in 1920.
In it he wields an axe and wears clam shells
like Mr. T wears bling. There’s a psychotic
smirk on his face.
Headhunting was actually a very spiritual
San Cristobal (Makira)
(and highly superstitious) practice. Skulls
were gathered for their mana, or energy,
stored inside them. It was this energy,
headhunters believed, that warded off evil
spirits and brought prosperity to the village.
When Kanijomo and his band of
warriors arrived in an enemy village one
day, they were greeted with a banquet
instead of a battle. Missionaries had already
converted the villagers to Christianity, and
in the face of religion Kanijomo realized
his jugular-craving spirit was powerless.
Although he was ready to hang up his axe,
the headhunting spirits inside his head
weren’t so keen.
16 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
“At night they banged on the roof
and doors of his house,” John tells me,
“demanding that he cut more heads. They
haunted him for two months before finally
Raba and I leave the next morning. The
lagoon is a sheet of glass reflecting dappled
clouds. Children in bright purple uniforms
canoe to school and the water massages
our kayaks as we drift to the sound of
schoolchildren singing in assembly. As one
song fades behind us, angelic voices from
another school up ahead resume the chorus,
their dulcet tones rippling across the lagoon
like a siren’s serenade.
I ask Raba if he likes music.
“Boyzone,” he replies, chewing a betel nut.
Before my brain has chance to override
my vocal cords, I’m singing Love me for a
Reason (the Cat Stevens version, obviously).
Raba nods in approval, spitting out a jet
of red saliva. His lips and tongue are blood
red and he looks like he’s just bitten the
head off a chicken.
Behind us, John Wayne’s lodge fades
into the haze of an approaching storm.
The lagoon opens up and gets choppy,
and the current comes at us from the side.
Eventually the storm catches up and rain
cascades, pinpricking the surface of the
lagoon. In seconds I’m drenched, ample
punishment for my woeful singing.
STOLE my wife,” says Morgan, a
“I friendly local with bleached blonde
hair who helps Raba and I beach our kayaks
at Olovotu Point, a two-and-a-half hour
Top: Serenity and kayaks awaiting a perfect
day’s paddle at Uepi Island; above: a more
eerie image of chieftain skulls near Olovotu
paddle from John Wayne’s. In Malaita,
one of nine provinces in the Solomons,
where Morgan met his wife, it’s custom
for grooms to pay a bride price to the
“Some people pay SD$100,000 (roughly
AU$16,667),” he says as we make our way
to a sacred site where the skulls of three
great warriors are kept. ‘Then they have to
buy land, a boat and other things on top
of that. My wife and I ran away. For two
years her family didn’t know where she was.
Eventually I wrote them a letter and they
came here. I paid them SD$3,000 (AU$500)
and off they went.’
We stand before a mass grave cluttered
with bones. Morgan reaches in and pulls out
the bottom half of someone’s jawbone. Ten
teeth remain, amazing considering they’re
over seventy years old.
“These are chief ’s skulls,” he says. In
headhunting days these would have been
displayed in special A-frame houses along
the shore, a warning for passing tribes to
The sky rumbles and within moments
rain falls in a torrent. We run for shelter,
sitting underneath a leaky roof. As Morgan
bounces his one-year-old son on his lap,
I find it hard to believe that his ancestors
used to eat babies. On each headhunting
raid, after slaughtering an entire village,
warriors kidnapped babies or young boys,
known as veala. They were imprisoned
and fattened up. On the eve of the next
headhunting mission, the veala was
sacrificed and taken to a special stone where
it was gutted alive. Before this happened,
the unfortunate child was tossed from
warrior to warrior to make the meat more
tender for the chief.
WE’RE IN THE KAYAKS again
and a blanket of low-lying cloud
lingers over tree-clad hills. “This area is
being logged,” says Aerum, pointing just
below the clouds. “Asian companies offer
landowners big bundles of cash. They
don’t think about the future and in the end
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 17
they only end up with a small amount and
ruined land.” Most of the money goes to
the people who broker the deals.
By now the lagoon is like a lacquered
surface, and in the distance is a small island,
Matikuri, on which sits an eco-lodge, the
place where we’re staying tonight. This
is a good location from which to access
the Bapita Passage, a narrow system of
waterways and a great place to kayak.
Bapita immediately swallows you into its
mangrove belly; the smell here is pungent:
I imagine this is what it must have smelt
like back in headhunting times, when
freshly severed heads were left for a month
or two to decompose. Once the skin was
eaten away or peeling off, the brains were
emptied and the skulls buried.
On entering the passage, the water turns
into a sheet of shimmering emerald. Stripy
fish dart past my paddle as we approach
an isolated village. Fishermen are out in
numbers catching food for tomorrow’s
Sabbath feast. A teenage girl sings in one
of the huts and for a fleeting moment our
eyes meet. They twinkle with longing, and
as I paddle past she sings louder. Eventually
her voice is lost to the mangroves, replaced
by a strange birdcall that hoots like an
owl before sounding like it’s coughing up
We pass underneath a logging bridge.
The Australian navy bombed this part of
Bapita to create a shortcut through the
passage. This meant locals no longer had to
haul their canoes over mudflats.
The passage opens out and cliffs of
mauve, grey and gold curve over my head,
along with overhanging trees. Beneath
our kayaks is a sinkhole where divers can
descend 28 meters before a horizontal cave
traverses 20 meters horizontally. There
the ceiling ends and the cave widens into
a canyon which holds the remains of a
battered American barge.
Another good diving spot near Matikuri
(roughly a two-hour paddle) is Hele Bar.
Here, on the edge of a reef that plummets
40 meters, lies another wreck: that of a
35-meter Japanese tuna fishing boat, Taiyo,
which ran aground on its maiden voyage.
The captain was drunk and decided to
take a shortcut instead of sailing around
Above: Heavy clouds give a welcome respite
from the South Pacific sun. Inset: Raba and
the author pose together.
the passage. A failed salvage operation has
rendered the Taiyo completely vertical.
Near this wreck is a small island, and
by the time Aerum and I reach it my
sunburned hands feel like they’re covered
with hot embers.
Aerum points vaguely to where the
wreck should be, and I wade in with my
snorkel. The path to the edge of the reef
is convoluted: the water is shallow and
if I try to swim over the needle coral I’ll
end up scraping the skin off my stomach.
Instead I follow a series of troughs until the
reef ends and murky blue water stretches
18 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
For more information:
• To embark on a Marovo adventure, log onto kayaksolomons.com.
All kayak trips start from Uepi Island and the resort owners have
excellent knowledge of the area and can organize varied itineraries.
They can also arrange boat transfers (at an additional cost) between
ominously in front of me.
A big wave surges in and I’m thrown onto the coral. I cut
my hand and blood spirals. Sharks swim around inside my head.
Mildly panicked, I try to get away from the reef, but another wave
pushes me into a piece of coral that resembles a giant brain. This
time I cut my knees and feet. Sea urchin spikes are inches away
from puncturing my stomach and giant clams look as if they’re
mouthing ‘Go back’. I abort my mission and swim ashore before
I make a wreck of myself.
‘You didn’t see it,’ says Aerum as I stumble ashore.
‘Never mind,’ he says, taking my snorkel off me. ‘There are
some things you don’t need to see.’
That’s true, but the Marovo Lagoon isn’t one of them.
Dave is a Melbourne-based freelance writer whose work has
appeared in a variety of travel magazines Down Under. He is
currently writing a travel memoir about Australasian fringe dwellers,
part of which will feature his Solomon sojourn.
Kayak Repair & Refit
Meet Blackline’s kayak
specialist – eight years
of manufacturing and
• Component Replacements
• Gel Coat Refinishing
2072 Henry Avenue West
Sidney, BC. (250) 654-0052
• Keel Line Rebuilds
• Structural Repairs
Vancouver Island South
One more great gift idea
Maps: always appreciated by
the kayaker who has everything
Find a great selection
of BC maps online at
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 19
Tours and Services
Tours and Services: British Columbia
Online: Hold the cursor
over a listing to see
where tours are offered.
Click on a listing to visit
Eco Adventures & Education since 1991
Eclectic itineraries in the Spectacular Gulf Islands
Kayak Desolation Sound
Rent kayaks from waterfront locations in Lund or
Okeover Inlet. Try the Famous Aquarium Kayak Tour or
snorkel at Urchin Alley. All-inclusive multi-day trips into
Desolation & Mountains.
Phone: Toll free 1-866-617-4444
Kayaking Day Tours, Expeditions,
Youth Camps & Guides Courses
Two Kayak friendly accommodations
on Salt Spring Island
1 888 529-2567 • 250 537 2553 • www.islandescapades.com
Paddle with sea otters
Kayak transport between Zeballos and Nootka Island,
Nuchatlitz Park and Friendly Cove. Kayak rentals.
CEDARS INN rooms and restaurant in a historic
Zeballos lodge. Good food, friendly service.
Web: www. zeballosexpeditions.com
Lund Kayak Tours & Rentals
Kayak tours, lessons, rentals & marine delivery.
Desolation Sound, Mitlenatch Island, Copeland Islands
marine parks. Personalized service, stunning scenery,
fascinating history, delicious organic lunches. Family /
child friendly programs.
Phone: 1.888.552.5558 OR 604.483.7900
Wilderness Sea Kayaking
Family sea kayaking tours with wilderness retreat
camping comforts, spectacular kayaking options,
diverse wildlife, cultural activities, and professional
guides. Sharing the remote Kyuquot area, Northwest
Vancouver Island since 1972!
Phone: 1.800.665.3040 or 250.338.2511
Sealegs Kayaking Adventures
Sealegs’ Eco-Adventure Centre offers waterfront access
at Transfer Beach Ladysmith. Guided wilderness tours,
rentals, lessons and sales from our pro shop. Multi-day
adventures, FREE lessons with tours and rentals.
Phone: 250-245-4096 or 1-877-KAYAK BC (529-2522)
BC Ferries port; Gateway to Northern and Central
BC Coast destinations. Sales, Rentals, Lessons, Trip
planning, and Custom Tours. 8625 Shipley Street
(across from the Post Office) Port Hardy.
Phone: 250-949-7392 or cell 250-230-8318
Winter Guiding in Belize ‘10/’11
Island Expeditions is looking for professional guides
to work winters in Belize. Sea kayak, river experience,
marine biology or strong naturalist background.
Minimum two seasons multi-day guiding experience.
Email resume: email@example.com or call
Tours and Services: East Canada
20 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
Tours and Services
Tours and Services: British Columbia
Tours and Services: Alaska
Elements Women's Travel
Adventure tours for women. Unique day and multi-day
tours in the coastal waters of BC. Custom itineraries for
women, all designed to 'get into your element'!
Gabriola Sea Kayaking
Kayaking adventures in the Broken Group, Clayoquot
Sound , Broughton Archipelago, Kyuquot Sound ,
Nootka Island and the Gulf Islands. Unforgettable
paddling and great people since 1995. See you on
Kayak Transport Co.
A Mothership Serving SE Alaska. Kayaking from
the comforts of a mothership for a week. Paddling
our boats and exploring fantastic scenery and wildlife.
Eating fresh caught Alaskan seafood. How good does
Phone: (206) 719-0976
Tours and Services: Yukon
Kayak Haida Gwaii
Among the world's top paddling destinations, Gwaii
Haanas is an awe-inspiring oasis of wilderness at the
southern tip of Haida Gwaii. Enjoy memorable, safe
and affordable multi-day kayak adventures.
Kanoe People Ltd.
Explore Yukon's great rivers and lakes! Rentals, sales,
guided tours and logistic services. Cabin rentals
summer and winter on the scenic Lake Laberge.
Outfitting on the Yukon for over 35 years.
Tours and Services: Tropical
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 21
by Hilary Masson
A sailboat trip to the South Pacific
allowed Ryan Masson to discover
what may well be the perfect beer
bread recipe. The sacrifice involved
For this issue, I have two different recipes that are
excellent on their own, and go especially well together.
Ryan, my older brother, spent over two months crewing
on a 46’ sailboat last spring. He sailed from La Paz Mexico,
near our winter kayak operations, across the Pacific Ocean
to French Polynesia in the South Pacific. While on the
boat one of the other crew members made this really easy
beer bread. It uses the yeast in the beer to raise the dough;
it requires no kneading and is fast to make. This summer
we perfected the beer bread and discovered that whether
anchored in the turquoise waters of Moorea or Tahiti, or
kayaking the west coast of Vancouver Island or Baja, it’s a
fun, quick, and easy bread.
The second recipe is one that I make a lot, and can be
adapted to whatever ingredients are available locally. The
recipe is based on my Dad’s famous seafood chowder.
Every year my parents host a New Year’s seafood party
and this is one of the many local dishes served. My
brother and I have adapted the recipe for when we’re
paddling in Baja by incorporating local seafood and
Beer bread made easy
1 ½ cups all purpose white flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 can of beer
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
Sprinkle of dill and basil
Mix the flour and baking powder directly in your Outback /
Dutch Oven pan (no need to dirty a mixing bowl), then stir in a can
of beer. Sometimes to get the right consistency you may need an
additional 50 ml of liquid. You can use water, or it’s a good excuse
to open another can of beer.
For this recipe, I added grated cheddar cheese and herbs to go
with the seafood chowder. If you’re adding cheese or herbs, you can
add them to the mix before putting in the beer. This easy beer bread
requires no kneading or rising time; just mix and bake.
In my Outback Oven it takes 35 to 45 minutes on “bake”, or
about 40 minutes at 400 degrees in a conventional oven.
22 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
Beer Bread and Chowder
3 stalks of celery
1 pound (or more) fresh local
seafood. We use clams, oysters, cod
2 cloves garlic
Dill, basil, salt or Miso to taste.
1 cup cream, milk, or sour cream
Use a large soup pot. Chop and
brown the onion in oil or butter. Add
the veggies, chopped into small cubes.
Add seasoning: In this recipe I used
dill, basil and a tablespoon of Miso
soup paste (instead of salt). Cover
with water, bring to a boil and cook
until almost soft. Now you add your
I have used local oysters and clams
that I picked from my favorite spot
here on Gabriola Island. I also added
350 grams of local cod that I cut into
bite-sized cubes. At the very end add
your cream, milk or sour cream. All
work well. Usually I go with whatever
needs to be used first on my kayak
You can really play around with
this recipe. While working in Baja I
use veggies with a more Mexican flair:
onions, carrots, red and green peppers
and finely diced jalapeno peppers. You
can also add cans of diced tomatoes
or corn, and even cream corn is a nice
addition to this chowder.
I have made it with a Thai theme
using seasonings like cumin, thyme,
turmeric and shrimp or prawns; and
I always suggest going with whatever
seafood is fresh and local.
It doesn’t matter where in the world
you are; making simple beer bread
and seafood chowder is the perfect
addition to any sailing or kayaking
Hilary Masson is a guide and part owner
of Baja Kayak Adventures.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 23
Win some of these items
Wavelength Magazine is offering
online readers one prize per month
in 2011, and a grand prize of a new
kayak. Read online for details.
Cargo cockpit cover
(Beluga Outdoor Gear)
Trayak bike trailer
Outrigger rescue device
(Solo Rescue Assist)
Electric Bilge Pump
About our tricked out kayaks
Turtleback Deck Bag
No sooner did we announce this
project than kayak manufacturers offered
boats for the project. Imagine having to
turn down a kayak to test! We ended up
picking a Seaward Passat as a large (22’)
double with the necessary deck space to
accommodate the many items. It has a
well-earned reputation as a heavy-duty
and fast touring/expedition double, most
notably being a perpetual winner of the
Yukon 1000 race.
The second kayak for this exercise
is the Delta 17, which we’re finding
to be a good, light, easy-to-paddle
day-use or weekend touring kayak
made from forgiving thermoform.
We picked it because it’s part of the
Wavelength roster, meaning we could
poke holes to accommodate gear
without restriction – a sometimes
necessary evil if you really want to
trick out a kayak.
Reflective deck tape
24 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
Our Tricked-Out Kayaks
One of the great things about kayaking is the inherent
simplicity. All you really need to get started is a kayak, a paddle
and the basic safety gear.
But like all hobbies, we can complicate things as much as
we want. And nothing has the potential to complicate life as
much as gear. It can improve our kayaking comfort, efficiency
and convenience. But it can come at the cost of forsaking the
simplicity that helps define kayaking.
But this article isn’t about simplicity, so minimalists, put your
Seat and Bilge Sponge
Cargo cockpit cover
(Beluga Outdoor Gear)
(Beluga Outdoor Gear)
basic nature aside as we explore the world of kayak clutter. Just
as car lovers can deck out hotrods, so can we kayakers deck out
How far can we go? Well, our goal here was to create the
ultimate tricked-out kayak. And in the end we actually needed
two kayaks to accommodate all the items.
So is our life better now? Sometimes. But not always.
Everything has an upside and downside, so in our brief appraisal
of the items that make up our tricked out kayak, we take a look
at our impression of the pros and cons of each item. u
Under deck bag
How we selected the items
We didn’t. Instead we put out a cattle-call
email to various gear manufacturers to take part,
at no cost to them to participate, and this is the
result. We tried not to exclude anyone, but a few
items offered to us fell off the rails mainly due
to deadline restrictions. We got swamped!
Because of the complexity, the contributed
kayak sails didn’t get a complete workout.
Instead, we’re going to outline the four sails we
were offered separately in a later issue. Also, we
fully intend to improve our tricked out kayak
over time, so if items are missing, we’ll fill in
the gaps later. To nominate items for inclusion
in a future “tricked out kayak beyond all belief,”
Check out our tricked-out
kayak in video online
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 25
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 25
For the cockpit
the actual packs can be detached). Requires
removing sprayskirt to use.
Interior mounted cockpit bags
These simple gear bags can increase
storage space inside your cockpit. North
Water offered two options for our tricked
out kayak: the underdeck and interior
mount styles, with the latter best positioned
along the cockpit side next to the seat.
Advantages: Potential great use of empty
space, plus quick release tabs to remove the
bags from the anchors. Quick, easy access.
Disadvantages: Be sure you have the
necessary cockpit space, for both comfort
and safety. The bags aren’t waterproof. The
anchor pads must be glued and become a
permanent addition to your kayak (though
If comfort of the posterior is a priority
(and when isn’t it?), then the Skwoosh seat
cushion will add necessary padding. This is
a staff favorite field tested for many years.
Advantages: It’s a no-brainer installation
– just put it down. Comfortable, durable
and well constructed. More stable than
inflatable seat pads.
Disadvantages: A slight (oh-so-slight)
rise in your kayak’s centre of gravity. Could
be lost in event of a wet exit.
Versatility: Use it outside your cockpit
at your camp on the beach or on rough logs.
Cargo cockpit cover
Beluga Outdoor Works
When kayak camping, a cockpit cover
can help keep out dew, rain, bugs and even
raccoons. Since the cockpit makes a great
place to stash gear, it only makes sense that
the cockpit cover provide quick access to
the gear. Enter Beluga with this offering
that features a zipper to gain inner access, a
mesh lining for gear storage and a strap to
lift the whole package when needed.
Advantages: Suspends gear to potentially
keep it out of the ‘wet’ portion of the
cockpit. Adds a layer of versatility to the
otherwise static cockpit cover.
Disadvantages: The mesh pocket is large
so gear may still fall into the wet portion. Be
sure to get right size for your cockpit.
26 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
Our Tricked-Out Kayaks
Electric bilge pump
Blue Water Kayak Works
A specialty item, this system utilizes a
highly efficient mini pump, battery and a
magnetic switch to empty a kayak in about
50 seconds, with an hour’s battery life. That
can be doubled by adding a second battery.
Advantages: This allows the safety of
emptying the cockpit with hands-free
effort, allowing the paddler to concentrate
on kayaking rather than bailing – a huge
safety benefit. It also enables effort-free
emptying of the cockpit during training so
you can build skills instead of draining your
energy by manually emptying the kayak.
Disadvantages: The installation takes
several hours, requires drilling a hole in the
kayak and permanently placing the tubing,
electrical and battery and pump, which can
be nitpicky. Elements can’t be removed
(including the battery) when not in use
without dismantling the system. The system
adds three to four pounds to the weight of
Versatility: Blue Water is adding options
for a solar panel and an adaptor for other
uses such as a USB connection, adding
the potential for a great electrical power
source during remote long-distance trips,
with additional benefit of the safety of an
Beluga Outdoor Works
The half-skirt covers the front portion
of the cockpit, providing some protection
from sun and water. A layer of mesh
underneath the half-skirt offers unsecured
cargo space. A staff favorite for the design.
Advantages: Get the freedom from the
confinement of a sprayskirt while covering
the area most prone to paddle drips.
Protects from sun-burned upper legs. Extra
cargo space is a bonus.
Disadvantages: A fair-weather product,
it won’t provide the safety features of a full
sprayskirt. Cockpit could get waterlogged.
It’s not so much a sponge as it is a highly
absorbent, soft material. Smaller than
regular sponges, the small size is either a
benefit or a drawback. A loop can be used
to secure it to your kayak.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 27
Dry cases are standard these days,
especially for anything electronic. New
from Advanced Elements is a dry pouch
with a twist: an extendable arm keeps the
pouch upright at roughly a 45-degree angle.
Clip it to existing deck lines for a better
Advantages: Simple clip-on setup, aids
visibility of electronic gear, potentially
making viewing hands-free.
Disadvantages: The extending arm
bends rather than pivots on a hinge.
Rigidity suffers and is best if item in the
pouch is near the size of the pouch.
Blue Water Kayak Works
This new product is made of a highly
scuff-proof plastic designed to protect your
kayak’s finish. Cut the Yak Armor to size,
then simply lay down flat to apply.
Advantages: Easy to apply and replace. It
is virtually indestructible and invisible.
Disadvantages: Bends in the shape
of your hull have to be accommodated.
Artistry in trimming will help the look.
Turtleback deck bag
This is an adaptation of the classic deck
bag in miniature. It will fit a camera and
snacks but not much more.
Advantage: It’s easy to clip into place
and contains its own flotation. It is small
enough that it is highly unlikely to impede
your paddling technique or obstruct views
of your compass, for instance.
Disadvantages: Difficult to use with
other items like the Tech Pouch.
This removable holster is designed for
quick installation by snapping onto existing
deck lines. It keeps a water bottle within
Advantages: Protects deck from
scratches that will occur if, for instance,
your water bottle is secured to your deck
under your bungy cords. It also allows onehand
access to your water bottle. Plus the
odds of losing your bottle diminish.
Disadvantages: It pretty much precludes
a deck bag or other foredeck use as it straps
across the width of the foredeck.
Versatility: Can be used around the waist
when not paddling.
This will be of most interest to the
kayak fishermen among us, though other
kayakers might find a suitable use. It is a
heavy cast iron construction that is every
bit a traditional anchor, with a handy foldup
Advantages: A truly well-made product
that is high durable and likely to last a
lifetime of use.
28 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
Our Tricked-Out Kayaks
Disadvantages: Users should know the
risk of entanglement, and place it only in a
manner where a cutaway is possible should
the anchor become caught.
Versatility: Can be used to club bears.
Natural West Coast Adventure Gear
Simple and efficient, it will link your
paddle to your kayak, which is desirable
should potentially all three of you (your
kayak, your paddle and you) otherwise part
ways. A tried and true design.
Versatility: The paddle leash is
underrated as a secure way to store other
items. For instance, we use it to secure the
stand for the waterproof housing on our
video camera. Should the stand fail, the
Natural West Coast Adventure Gear
A traditional paddle cover option, it
covers both the blade and the shaft and
connects the two ends with an adjustable
strap. By protecting the paddle, when used
as your spare paddle strapped to your deck
it can project your hull and your paddle
Blue Water Kayak Works
This simple pair of connected plastic
tubes fastens to the bungy cord on the bow
of your kayak. By sliding the ends of the
shaft of your spare paddle you gain quick
access to your spare paddles.
Advantages: Bow storage of your
spare paddle with quick access – perfect
for paddlers with paddles for different
Disadvantages: Unlike North Water’s
Paddle Britches, the Stick Holster isn’t easily
removed when not in use. Some may not
like the look of the tubes when not in use.
This versatile paddle float unfolds to
fill a number of other possible uses. One
is a beaching pad to protect your kayak’s
hull when landing on rocks or barnacles. It
can protect your car in the same way when
loading your kayak into a cradle. It is also
billed for use as a sleeping pad and chair.
Advantages: It combines multiple uses
in one product that is otherwise a static
and rarely used item (in comparison to a
traditional foam paddle float). Useful as a
pad or cushion in camp.
Disadvantages: The padding is too firm
for use as a single sleeping pad. Consider it
extra padding under your tent instead. The
seat isn’t firm for sitting upright.
Versatility: You could dream up any
other number of uses. For instance, use
it as a mat for car repairs when you break
down on the way to your launch site.
Natural West Coast Adventure Gear and North Water
Two options were rigged to our trickedout
kayaks. NWCAG offers a basic beltdeployed
tow rope that is nicely compact.
North Water offered its Sea Tec Tow Line,
which deploys around the cockpit combing
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 29
connect. Can be quickly dropped onto the
deck when the need arises.
Disadvantages: The design is downwind
only. We found it difficult to refit into
the stow bag. Care needs to be taken in
the process, as the light frame can snap,
rendering the sail useless.
Disadvantages: It’s heavy.
Versatility: Can be used to club bears.
to transfer the stress of towing from the
kayaker to the kayak. A quick-release tab
ensures an easy jettison, if the need arises.
Outrigger rescue device
Solo Rescue Assist
While paddle floats assist through
buoyancy, this outrigger provides stability
for wet re-entries through a cantilever and a
Advantages: The weight of the water is
very effective for providing stability during
Disadvantages: Bulkier to store on a
kayak than most paddle floats.
Versatility: Can be augmented by a
ladder. Two such outriggers would provide
near-perfect stability for a kayak. Great
potential for overnighting during expedition
We quickly decided that in terms of
tricking out a kayak, a sail went one step
further by transforming the use into a whole
new skillset. We were offered four types of
sails for this project, and present two styles
to whet the appetite for this option. We are
planning a followup article to examine sails
and kayak sailing in more depth.
This simple, effective and highly
portable design quickly clips to the bow of
Advantages: Quick, light and simple,
especially as the sail uses carabiners to
This rates as a more complex design
by far, with greater benefits. The design is
rather ingenious, and effectively mimics a
sailboat with features adapted for a kayak.
We can’t wait to more thoroughly test this!
Advantages: Can be used for upwind
sailing. Careful thought to the design
essentially transforms the kayak into a fullfledged
sailboat complete with outriggers.
Disadvantages: Holes in hull required to
mount, plus a sailing skillset is required – or
will need to be developed.
Beluga Outdoor Gear
Operating akin to the famous Club for
securing the steering wheel of cars, this
heavy-duty extendable bar extends to clamp
across the cockpit of your kayak, then locks
Advantages: While no guarantee by itself
that someone won’t steal your kayak, in
conjunction with a locking cable it adds an
extra measure of security – plus provides a
place to tether the cable.
This extra-heavy-duty locking cable is
designed with two loops on either end.
Wrap around the kayak on either side to
take up the slack and secure around your
car’s kayak rack or a post, then secure in the
middle to reconnect two ends. Locks with
keys or combination.
Advantages: Sturdy, secure design with
lots of latitude for use.
Disadvantages: Weight of the locking
portion means care is necessary when
looping to avoid scratching your car. A
sliding protective cover would help.
Leave the car at home. The Trayak offers
a versatile, portable, lightweight yet strong
design. A staff favorite.
Advantages: It is surprisingly efficient
for towing the kayak, requiring little
additional pedalling effort. Good strong
construction. Adaptable design includes
possibility of a cargo container. Can be
adopted for different lengths of kayaks.
Turns on a dime. Plastic tires allow backing
the trailer into the water to unload. A
carbon-neutral product. Simple tightening
fasteners. Quick to assemble. Well designed.
Disadvantages: Hills, dogs and cars and
all the usual impediments to cycling. <
30 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 31
story and images By by Adam Neil Schulman Bolonsky
Trade in that ‘sofa’
for something to
ride the waves –
if you dare
GRIMACING, I cram myself into
Dave’s bright red, shiny fiberglass
surf kayak, which is a bit too small
for me. The fit’s tight, but tolerable. I push
off into the soup and start to paddle out.
Immediately I realize I’m in a different
world. For starters, the boat doesn’t seem
to go anywhere. Several strokes later, the
stern is still bottoming out on the sand and
I haven’t moved far off the beach. When
I urge the boat forward, it fishtails, even
more than my shortest whitewater kayak.
I’m sitting up a few inches higher, which
should give me some more power, but it
also adds instability.
And then come the waves.
With my lack of forward speed, I get
pushed backward quickly by the first small
dumpers. I struggle to make it out of the
soup zone, and then I try to catch a few
short rides to warm up to the new craft.
The short stern of the boat gets whipped
in circles quickly, and the hull behaves very
differently than I’m used to. A couple of
short “rides” (or at least I like to think I
was catching rides) and I’m upside down.
Then I discover something else new:
surf boats are very hard to roll. On the
second attempt I swim, and as I empty
the boat, Dave comes flying by in my
river kayak, exclaiming, “This thing is
like paddling a sofa!” Welcome to my
first experience with the funky but high
performance kayaks specifically designed
for the surf zone.
It may be the wave of the future.
Like everything in the kayaking world,
surf kayaks have gotten increasingly
specialized. We’ve now got whitewater
boats specially designed for park-and-play,
for running waterfalls, for downriver racing,
and sea kayaks for expeditions, play and
fishing. Surf boats are the logical next step,
and they’re extremely good at it (assuming
the kayakers know what they’re doing.) But
there’s a lot to get used to.
The difference between the surf kayak
and my whitewater boat is obvious. Most
dramatic is the bottom. The surf boat’s
underside is dead flat, even more so than
planing-hull whitewater boats. Like a
surfboard, it’s got fins, which are often
movable and interchangeable. The flat
surface, like a surfboard, rockers up at the
bow to allow the boat to fall down the wave
without digging in and locking in position.
And where my whitewater boat is boxshaped
in cross-section, surf kayaks are
very clearly wider at the bottom of the hull
with very distinct rails. From there the boat
narrows as you move above the waterline.
The stern end is minimal, with very little
boat aft of the cockpit, often in a variety
of rounded shapes designed to loosen the
stern to make easy turns possible. The
sides of the boat are convex. This is to
aid switching the sides of boat lean on
the wave without catching edges. Most are
fiberglass rather than plastic, and about the
length of the shorter set of whitewater play
boats, about 7’6” or so.
Like anything specialized, surf kayaks are
good at one thing at the expense of others.
The obvious purpose is to surf waves. Not
32 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
Student and instructor
wait for the right
conditions for a launch
into surf on the beach at
Cape Kiwanda, Oregon.
just to ponderously ride a wave into the
beach like sea kayakers, but to be able to
turn, cut back, spin and even catch air. For
this they trade speed, stability and ease of
rolling, which means a
steep learning curve and
a lot of paddling effort to
get to the surf lineup.
After a few runs and
some pointers, I begin
to get a better feel. I
realize that while the
flat hull doesn’t seem to
be affected much by a
knee lift and hip edge, an
aggressive upper body
lean – toward the sea,
just like surfing any other
kayak – is critical. Leaning
back sinks the tiny stern
and frees up the rockered
bow, often whipping the
boat around in circles. I
throw my body further
forward and get some
As I get tired, I go over
a few times and rediscover
the difficulty I have with
rolling, so I take a few
minutes to watch Dave,
Chris, and Zach. I notice
a few things. First of all,
they fall down the face
of the wave a lot faster
and more aggressively,
staying on the unbroken
part of the wave. They’re
using the pocket, where
a sea kayak or even a
whitewater boat quickly locks in too much
at the bow and broaches. Almost all turns
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 33
are made with onside lean, as opposed to
leaning away from a stern rudder as sea
kayakers do to avoid broaching. When they
capsize, I don’t feel so bad. It often takes a
several attempts to flip over the flat, finned
bottom, often ending with a scull. If rolling
a sea kayak is like rolling a log, rolling a surf
boat looks more like flipping over a sheet
Surf kayakers also usually seek
different conditions than sea kayaks, or
even whitewater boats playing in the surf.
The desirable condition is an offshore
wind, which will steepen and shorten the
incoming waves—exactly the opposite of
what I’d look for if I wanted to surf in my
“short” 16-foot sea kayak, which demands
Using steeper waves also means a new
type of etiquette. Since I’ve mostly surfed
whitewater or sea kayaks, I found that I
didn’t conflict much with board surfers,
since we were looking for different waves
and used different sections of the break.
In surf boats, you’re using the exact same
spots as board surfers. After all, you’re
basically on a surfboard with a cockpit. You
Chris Bensch surfs a broken wave at Cape
still have a lot more maneuverability than
they do – you have a paddle and an easier
time getting into position.
“It’s important to understand a few
things,” says Chris. “First, when we’re
waiting for a wave, we have a tendency
to paddle back and forth, since it’s more
stable. This makes them nervous.
“Second, they work hard to paddle out,
and they can’t accelerate as quick, so they
may be waiting out there for as long as 30
minutes for a wave. So wait your turn.”
Lastly, never drop on someone who’s
already on a wave, and stay clear when
paddling out. When in doubt, turn and
paddle toward the broken part of the wave.
Folks riding the wave in will be surfing the
shoulder in the other direction.
By the end of the morning I’m
exhausted and feel anything but competent.
But new approaches are never easy, and
this is no exception. I’m certainly envious
of the moves my friends have been able
to make, and the grace they show doing it.
Then I get back into my whitewater boat to
paddle back. It really does feel supremely
stable, slow, and forgiving. Kind of like
paddling a sofa.
Neil Schulman has been told that paddling
a surf kayak is kind of like driving a racing
car, but he’ll have to take your word for it. He
lives in Portland, Oregon.
34 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
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WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 35
by Christine Brice and Wavelength Magazine
Understand the difference in kayaks.
With a longer bow and a short, stubby stern, the surf kayak is an unstable
beast that in some ways resembles a whitewater kayak but is designed solely
for riding waves. That feature makes it very unwieldy for anything else but
waves, meaning sea kayakers are going to need a whole new skillset to take
up surf kayaking. There is no simply stepping inside and paddling away.
Make sure the boat fits like a glove.
The first thing you want to do even before you get in the water is see if you
fit in it. You’re looking for points of contact – as many points of contact as you
can. Make sure your feet are set on the footpegs and your heals are flat on the
bottom of the boat. The more points of contact you have the more control
you have. So you want your knees and thighs to be jammed in there, and you
want to be hitting at your hips and your butt. Proper fitting of your boat is
very important to get the required performance from your surf kayak.
Know how to exit your kayak.
One of the first things that is going to happen is you are going to catch
an edge and you’re going to go upside down. Surf boats are difficult
to roll but you don’t need to know how to roll to start. It’s just more
exhausting if you need to get out and swim. As the bare minimum you
need to know how to pull your sprayskirt off and wet exit just like you
would for any other form of paddling.
Check to make sure there is nobody else around
you. There’s an etiquette that board surfers follow
that kayak surfers should follow as well. You want
to make sure you’re not near anyone because if
you have to bail out of this and your kayak is full of
water it’s very heavy. It can hurt other people and it
can break boards.
36 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
101 Here’s what you need to know to get you started.
Will Brice goes through the paces. The
camera on the bow of the kayak was
used to create the video shown in the
Start slow and easy.
A beginner usually starts in the impact zone as it is known: the area where you see the white waves and the white wash.
This is where surf kayaking is much more enjoyable for a beginner, because a surf kayak will surf the foam pile. You don’t
have to get outside the surf line and you don’t have to get on a green wave to start.
Head straight into surf.
The paddle to use is a whitewater paddle. Use a
fairly short, deep stroke. As you first head out into a
whitewater wave you want to hit the wave face on.
Wait for it to break and make for the foam pile. That’s
the easiest conditions for crossing. Place the paddle
blade in the water and lift your body up to throw the
boat up and over the foam.
Ride a wave.
When you get to the spot you’re comfortable, start with
some side surfs. Place your kayak parallel to the whitewater
wave and feel how it pushes the boat along. You’re going to
put your paddle blade in and lean into it. To start you want a
little speed so paddle and lean a little bit forward. Once you
feel yourself picked up by the wave, depending on where
your comfort level is, you can back up a little bit and ride
the wave in. In a surf boat you’re not going to be heading
straight to shore. It’s going to try to curve along and you’re
going to follow the wave so you want to be prepared to be
able to lean into whichever way you turn so you can stay
upright no matter which way you go.
See all of this explained in action. Click to view the first of
Wavelength’s new video training series – plus awesome surfing.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 37
Bowron Lakes prove ideal for standup paddleboarding
EVER SINCE Laura Demers saw
the first boards come into the
store where she works, she was
fascinated by the concept.
“I tried out some demo boards from the
store and I was hooked,” she says. Standup
paddling still takes a back seat to her love
of whitewater kayaking, but it has definitely
added another dimension to her paddling
“After spending some time on a standup
board, along with some encouragement
from my employer, Marlin at Western
Canoeing and Kayaking, I decided to
tackle the Bowron Lakes on a standup
board. My boyfriend Dave and I decided
September would be the best time to avoid
Bowron Lakes is a 116-km circuit
located in a provincial park northeast of
Quesnel, BC, that starts and ends in the
Bowron Lakes Provincial Park
same place to create the perfect circuit. It is
a series or portages, lakes Vancouver and rivers.
The most frequent question Laura
got was, “Where are you going to put all
your gear?” Dave acted as the sherpa and
carried most of the gear in a Tripper S
Clipper canoe set up for solo canoeing.
“I chose the Starboard Free Race
because it’s a fast touring board and my
paddle was a Werner Spanker that was
really light,” she says. “Dave and I did time
trials to make sure the two craft were of
comparable speed and the board easily kept
up to the canoe.”
The gear for the trip weighed in at 180
pounds, with Laura stowing two 20-litre
packs on her board.
“We had originally planned on taking
seven days to complete the circuit and
thought even that might be pushing it for
time and energy. In the end, it only took us
six days. We paddled an average of 20 km a
day, which took us about six to seven hours.
As luck would have it, it rained four days
out of seven and we had a headwind most
of the time.”
Her Kokatat drysuit helped to keep
warm and comfortable the whole way.
“By the second day, my abs were feeling
the core workout. I was surprised that my
38 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
legs never got tired,” she says.
Setting up a paddle sail wasn’t an option
because of the unfortunate wind direction.
Plus any break from paddling meant
“People we met along the way called
me crazy and snapped pictures like the
paparazzi. The German tourists we met
had never seen nor heard of an SUP and
they took pictures to verify their stories
about the crazy Canadian when they got
Her run of the “chute” on Isaac River
caught everyone’s attention.
“They were all expecting me to fall off,
and I didn’t disappoint them. I made it past
the first couple of big waves and then came
crashing to the water. I managed to rescue
myself and hop back on the board for the
rest of the river. Thank goodness for that
helmet and board tether I brought.
“The trip was a lot of fun, and yes, I
stood up the whole way!”
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 39
Planning and Safety
Kayaking with flare
a widening array of
in case of an emergency. VHF
radios, Spot, EPIRBs and satellite
phones are all options when
planning a trip. Flares are more
commonplace, though, long
considered a basic safety item for
any maritime adventure.
Flares are pyrotechnic
emergency distress signals and
can be harmful when inappropriately
used. There is potential for serious injury,
especially if they are accidentally discharged
and strike the user or another bystander.
They can also occasionally misfire or
explode. Please read the instructions
carefully before using. When not in use on
the water, flares should be stored in a safe,
dry location and be replaced every three
to four years. There are four categories of
flares: types A through D.
Type A flares, or parachute rockets, are
the most powerful pyrotechnic available to
paddlers. When launched, these flares reach
a height of over 300 meters and burn for
at least 40 seconds. Because of their height,
they can be seen over a long distance,
especially on clear nights.
Type B flares are also called multi-star
flares. The most common Type B flares are
the Very Pistol and the Skyblazer. The Very
pistol was named after Edward Wilson Very
When all else fails,
pyrotechnics can get
(1847–1910), an American naval officer who
developed and popularized a single-shot
pistol that is able to fire flares. Reaching
a more limited height of 100 meters and
burning for no more than 15 seconds, these
flares are visible over a shorter range than
Type A flares. Type A and B flares are less
effective during bright sunshine, and next to
useless in low clouds. In these conditions,
Type C and D flares are more effective.
Try to remember the last time you saw
a car accident. You might have noticed
police officers dispersing a few lit sticks
with powerful red flames around the
scene of the accident. These flares
ensure drivers are aware of the
accident ahead. Hand-held marine
flares look the same as accident
flares, but are held in hand away
from the eyes. They are designed
for the marine environment and
work well during the day as well as
at night. In a pinch, they are also
excellent for starting a fire in the
Smoke flares round out our flare
types. Movies or documentaries about the
Vietnam War show these types of devices.
Soldiers throw canisters that produce a
great deal of smoke to enable helicopters
to pinpoint a position. The smoke signaling
device works approximately the same,
except the device can be thrown in the
water or be held in your hand. The flares
produce a dense, oily orange or red smoke
visible during the day. Although they are
awkward to carry, the dense smoke is
certain to attract attention.
So which flares should a paddler
choose? Your final choice will depend to
some extent on your paddling locale, but
one Type A and three Type B flares are a
practical combination. In an emergency,
launch the parachute flare first to alert as
many potential rescuers as possible. Once
you notice a plane or boat moving in your
direction, launch one of the Type B flares
40 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
to help them pinpoint your location. As
the rescuers approach, launch the last two
Aerial flares should be fired at an angle
into the wind. This encourages the flare
to gain altitude so it can be seen over the
greatest distances. Calculate a firing angle
of 1 degree for each knot of wind. For
example, if the wind is blowing 20 knots,
you should fire the flare against the wind
with an angle of 20 degrees. If there is no
wind at all, you should fire the flare directly
over your head. With high wind velocity
such as storm force winds, lower the angle
to a maximum of 45 degrees.
Flare manufacturers use a variety of
firing systems. Review the instructions
carefully before you need to use them. You
need to be familiar with the operation of all
flares in your possession, and ideally have
attended a flare demonstration.
Aerial flares are designed to extinguish
in water. If a flare misfires, handle it with
caution. The ignition might be delayed. Wait
at least 30 seconds, and if it still hasn’t fired,
place it in water until you can dispose of it
Are flares obsolete?
Considering electronic options such as
GPS locator beacons and the question
of whether flares will be seen, are they a
worthwhile piece of safety equipment
now? Join the discussion at
Here are some safety tips for using flares:
• Launch an aerial flare at arm’s length
away from your face.
• Look away from the flare when you
• Treat a flare as if it is a firearm: don’t
point it towards anyone.
Paddlers must also sort out how to store
and carry flares on the water. Flares need
to be kept dry but they must also be kept
at hand in the event of an emergency. I
recommend using a waterproof container
such as a welding rod container or in a
heavy duty vacuum sealed plastic bag. To
facilitate opening the bag, seal a large nail in
the bag with the flares.
Flares are valid for four years from the
date of manufacture which is stamped
on each flare. It is hard to find a place to
dispose of outdated flares but try calling
your local fire department or police station.
Flares cannot be recycled and throwing
flares in with household trash poses a
Remember that it is illegal to fire flares
if you are not in distress. Only in rare
instances, possibly at a training session
organized by a training organization,
would you be able to discharge a flare in a
non-emergency situation and not break the
One significant drawback to flares is
that they communicate one way – you don’t
know if anyone has seen them. Paddlers
should also carry a two way communication
device such as a radio or cell phone.
Nevertheless, flares are a recognized and
effective emergency signalling device. Used
properly, they form an important part of
most paddlers’ emergency communications
Michael Pardy lives in Victoria where he runs
SKILS Ltd. He can be reached at email@example.com.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 41
By Alex Matthews
photos by Dave Aharonian
THE “HAND OF GOD” is a
rather extravagantly named rescue
that is very effective when aiding
an unconscious or injured paddler who is
unable to exit their capsized kayak. Because
it’s quick and keeps the paddler in their boat
(which reduces the stress and fatigue that
swimming would impart), it’s also a terrific
general-purpose rescue for instructors
and guides coaching beginners in easy
The concept is simple: the rescuer rolls
the capsized kayak, and its occupant, back
upright. While this rescue does require a
certain amount of brute strength, as with all
skills, proper technique can go a long way to
making it much easier.
Start by closing the distance as fast
1 as possible, maneuvering your kayak
into position parallel to the capsized boat.
Next, drape yourself across the
2 overturned hull, securing a solid
grip on the far side of the kayak’s cockpit
Do not be afraid to fully commit your
weight onto the overturned boat – its
flotation will easily support you, and this
committed position puts you into a great
stance to right the kayak.
With your hand closest to the
3 capsized boat securely gripping
the far side of the coaming, place your
other hand on the capsized hull’s chine
opposite your gripping hand. By aggressively
weighting the chine closest to you (pushing it
down) while pulling with your far hand, it is
42 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
The Hand of God
very easy to roll the capsized kayak halfway
At this point, move both hands to
the gripping position on the coaming
and pull the kayak towards your own,
closing the gap between the two boats. This
effectively ‘locks out’ the capsized kayak’s
position, holding it very securely on edge.
Now shift hand positions, reaching
your outer hand out to secure a grip
on the paddler’s PFD, while the other hand
retains its grasp on the coaming. A key
step at this juncture is to move the boats
apart again in order to create enough space
for the angled kayak to roll fully upright.
Complete the rotation of the capsized
kayak by pulling down at the coaming and
hauling the paddler upright over their stern
Once the kayak is righted, the
rescuer must continue to provide full
support in the case of an injured kayaker,
as a compromised paddler may well capsize
again if not effectively stabilized. Wrap an
arm around the paddler, get a good grip on
a deck line and lean into them. Signal for
assistance and have a paddling partner tow
both boats to shore.
The hardest part of this rescue is
completing the final rotation upright.
Some kayaks are harder to rotate than
others, and smaller rescuers will struggle
to right heavy paddlers. But even if you
find it hard to complete the full rotation to
finished upright position, the Hand of God
should still be in your repertoire because
in many instances that first half rotation is
enough to make a huge difference. In calm
conditions, when dealing with anything
short of an unconscious paddler (which is
thankfully very rare), simply rotating the
kayak up onto its side is usually enough to
allow a struggling paddler to bring their
head to the surface and breathe. From this
position, the rescuer can communicate
Kayak Academy (Seattle)
Experience IS Necessary! Since 1991, the Kayak
Academy has been providing the best sea kayak
experience you can get. Count on us for all your
Phone: 206.527.1825 or toll-free 866.306.1825
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for those pursuing a career or employment in the
outdoors. Certification courses include: Paddle Canada
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our Longhouse. Meals and overnight stays available
with the capsized paddler. Talk them
through a wet exit, ask them to lie well back
onto the stern deck to make rotation easier,
or await assistance from another paddling
Adapted from “Sea Kayaking Rough Waters”
by Alex Matthews available at
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 43
Some anglers think that unless the sun
and the moon are aligned, you may as
well stow your tackle and go for a paddle
rather than ‘waste’ time fishing…
IF YOUR ANGLING EFFORTS weren’t as productive as
you wished this season (and whose ever are?), perhaps it’s time
to consider some outside factors that can influence your catch
rate. One of those influences originates from far above, in the form
of gravity from Earth’s closest celestial body: the moon.
Well known for its gravitational effect on the ocean and large
lakes, there is a strong body of evidence that shows the moon
and its forces also affect the feeding habits of game and fish. The
influences of the lunar phases on nature were documented by
ancient societies and, to this day, publications like the Old Farmers
Almanac, which has been published since 1792, have listed the best
fishing days based on the phase of the moon.
In fact, there are numerous charts, books, software programs
and even entire websites devoted to the theory that the position of
the moon (and the sun) can affect fishing success. All are based on
the fact that the moon revolves around the Earth about every 29
days, while the Earth revolves around the sun. As it does so, the
distance of the moon – and its gravitational pull – varies as it relates
to Earth and its water bodies.
The lunar period between the new moon and the full moon,
when the gravitational effects are at their strongest, is generally
regarded as the best time to catch a fish. The pull of the moon’s
gravity at that time causes the water on earth to move more than at
any other lunar phase, and that water movement is said to trigger
fish movement and feeding activities.
Taking the concept even further, an avid angler and author
named John Alden Knight in 1936 developed a table of moon and
sun phases to help fishermen schedule their efforts. In his Solunar
Table, Alden noted that, based on the position of the orbs, there
were major and minor movement and feeding periods created each
day. He suggested that the best time to fish on a particular location
on Earth was when the moon is directly overhead or directly
underfoot, calling these “major periods.”
“Minor periods,” according to Knight, occur just before the
moon rises and the hours after it sets, and also result in good
To his credit, Knight originally considered 33 factors that might
have an influence on the activities of fish, whittling them down to
the three most apparent, upon which he bases his popular Solunar
Tables: the sun, the moon and the tides. Among his findings during
the research period, Knight discovered that some 90 percent of 200
record fish catches occurred around a new moon.
Knight’s original findings, often combined with various other
scientific information on the matter, form the basis for most
recommendations in modern-day fishing tables found in periodicals
and on the web. And going by the popularity of the tables among
fishermen – commercial and recreational – there are a great
number of anglers
who consult the
tables to learn when
their efforts may be
rewarded. For a fee,
sources offer custom
tables for particular
The effects of the
sun and the moon on
fishing success is pure
theory, of course, since nothing can be proved outright. But if you
want to have as much going for you as possible on your next paddle
fishing trip, you just might want to time your angling hours on the
water with what many believe to be the peak time for the fish to be
As for me, any time I can find to go fishing from my kayak is
more than worth the gamble.
Dan Armitage is a boating, fishing and travel writer based in
the Midwest. He is a licensed (USCG Master) captain, hosts a
syndicated radio show, and presents kayak fishing seminars at
44 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE WINTER 2010
WE HAD BEEN sea kayaking
in Clayoquot Sound for a week.
The weather forecast had
been warning daily of the potential for
thunderstorms, but none had materialized.
The final morning while packing to
head home it began to rain quite hard – our
group was stunned by the sheer volume of
water falling from the sky. The intensity of
the rain was picking up rapidly, and in less
than five minutes the water running on the
beach was already an inch deep.
As we paddled away from shore I was
nervous. The forecast had again warned of
possible thundershowers, and you could
feel it in the air. We were about to round a
point and paddle down a rocky outer coast
exposed to ocean swell, with few options
We were passing the last sand beach
when the forebodingly dark cloudscape over
Foam Reef suddenly erupted in brilliant
light. A streak of lightning issued forth,
bridging the gap between sky and earth. I
began to count seconds but got no further
than one before the clap of thunder hit me.
The lightning had struck a fifth of a mile
In times of crisis it is important for a
leader to remain calm. I was of course quite
shaken, and personally would have bolted
for the beach. But I could not precipitate a
panic – must maintain equanimity!
I calmly edged my boat and swung it
around toward shore with sweep strokes, at
a rate I figured the students could match.
My plan was to announce that we were
to proceed at once to shore in an orderly
Way too late. Bonny, paddling at the rear
of the group, said later “when that lightning
struck, it was instantly everyone for
A drab tarp can become
a lifesaver when lightning
suddenly turns an outing
into a panicked scramble
for shoreline and safety
themselves.” She had never seen a group so
quickly turn their boats or sprint for shore.
Once on the beach, we didn’t feel a
whole lot safer. The sand beach was open,
making us the tallest standing structures.
Not good. But along the edge of the forest
there were lots of trees, and we felt it best
to stay away from the trees in lightning.
To make matters worse, people were
cooling off quickly in the windy deluge
(ah! summer on the coast) and if we didn’t
take action soon, we could easily become
hypothermic despite our wetsuits and
There is a trick for such situations. I
pulled out a drab nine-foot x 12-foot guide’s
tarp. We fetched some bags of snacks, and
set them on the ground. Standing around
the tarp holding the edges, we centered it
over the snacks. Then everyone took one
step forward, and ducked under the tarp,
pulling it over and behind themselves, and
sitting down on its edge.
Now at this point we were all squished
into a tight space with the tarp down on our
heads. It took a bit of jostling accompanied
by much giggling to get settled in, but we
were soon scarfing back handfuls of trail
mix to provide the rich fuel needed to
In such a confined space the heat of ten
people accumulates in no time, and soon
we were quite comfy while the storm raged
overhead. There was nothing we could do
to escape the wrath of Zeus, but it felt good
to hide from the sight of the Storm God
Half an hour passed, and it seemed the
downpour had abated somewhat. Coming
out from under the tarp, our first instinct
was to dive right back under – it was cold
After a period of careful observation
it seemed the worst was over and we
proceeded cautiously toward Tofino, making
it home without further incident.
Should you ever find yourself close to a
lightning storm, you are in extreme danger
and need to take steps to ensure your safety.
If there is no way to get to shore, stay 15-20
feet away from other boats, lean forward
to reduce your profile, don’t touch metal
objects and make sure you don’t have ropes
trailing in the water.
If you can make it to shore, avoid
isolated tall trees, high ground or open
spaces. Maintain a low crouching position
with your feet together and hands over
ears to minimize acoustic shock from the
If someone is struck by lightning,
they are safe to handle. Treat with CPR if
needed and get medical help as they may
have internal injuries. Eighty percent of
lightning victims survive the shock.
In thirty years of kayaking the coast
this was only the second time I’ve had
such a close and thus deeply humbling
encounter with lightning. It’s not something
we typically encounter, but it is good to be
Dan Lewis operates Rainforest Kayak
Adventures in Clayoquot Sound.
WINTER 2010 WAVELENGTH MAGAZINE 45
A Small-Vessel Guide
Those who venture to remote Haida
Gwaii off the British Columbia coast,
whether by kayak or sailboat, are going to
be hungry for information on where to
go and how to get there. For years, Neil
Frazer’s Boat Camping Haida Gwaii was the
bible for self-directed visitors, particularly
kayakers, as it was the only resource
available. Worse yet, it went out of print,
making copies treasured for those lucky
enough to find one.
For 2010 Boat Camping is back, and
updated with all the necessary information:
camping, navigation, heritage sites, maps
While light on color (all photos and
maps are black and white), detailed
and useful information compensates.
Particularly helpful is the use of latitude
and longitude coordinates at key points, a
feature likely to be helpful on the more wild
outer coasts for tracking features such as
rivers. No doubt this new volume will be a
feature in hatches or chart cases of kayakers
and boaters alike venturing to Haida Gwaii.
A common sense guide
to cooking and camping
By David Barnes
Food can often make a trip, especially a
relaxed kayaking venture in a group setting,
when cooking can take on a whole social as
well as culinary experience.
There are numerous resources available
for cooking these days – for instance, for
backpackers as well as kayakers, or just
quick, easy and portable recipes that can be
adapted for the beach.
David Barnes takes a look specifically
at the kayaking set in his entry The Hungry
Kayaker, offering not just recipes but trip
advice from float plans to packing. In the
end it’s a bit recipe book, a bit entry-level
kayaking trip planning guide.
But mostly it’s recipes, and they run the
gamut from routine pancakes and gorp to
more involved offerings such as zucchini
risotto and curries.
A dearth of photos and a lack of color
help keep the offerings from jumping
off the page. Instead it’s all a bit grey and
uninviting. But the good news is anyone
is likely to find a few recipes to tempt the
taste buds. So should you be new kayaker
starting out, or a veteran hoping to spice up
your culinary repertoire, The Hungry Kayaker
will be worth a look.
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