Posts Tagged ‘kayak skill’

Sometimes it is necessary to take a class after we buy a new piece of gear to add to our kayak kit.

A good friend and student of mine recently purchased a new paddle.  He was surprised to discover that after paddling with it that he had less control over his boat in heavy winds.  He paddles a Titan by Atlantis Kayaks normally with an old Scotland made Lendal Kinetik 215 cm paddle.  His new paddle is a Werner Cyprus 215 cm paddle.

forward stroke werner cyprus

I know from experience that both paddles are designed to enter the water at a high angle.  The Cyprus is lighter in weight and has a more aggressive concave spoon shape than his Lendal.  His Lendal is about 10 years old.

This past weekend I discovered a few things about his paddling.  He was accustom to a strong purchase when he paddled with his Scottish Lendal.  And he was trying to get the same feel from his Cyprus.  Consequently he was over powering the paddle and finishing each stroke in a stern rudder position.

After an hour of practicing he is back to taking short strokes and is loving the quick catch and firm purchase of his new Cyprus.  Granted he still says that he misses the strong grip that his Kinetik has in the water.


Campfires… I have spent many a night watching the flames dance and mingle among the stars on a moonless night.¬† I have heard many tall tails and ghost-stories become accentuated by the glowing embers and nocturnal sounds emanating from under a blanket of darkness.¬† I could not imagine not having¬†my son enjoy a¬†campfire.¬† But times are different.

Today we are more sensitive to soil erosion and ground damage caused by campfires.  When I first started camping it was an activity that only a few people did.  And it was easy to leave the camp the following day looking like we were never there.  Unfortunately, the outdoors are being hit by the weekend camper who is more interested in parting than melding into the darkness.  I have come across many designated campsites covered with signs of people.  There are piles of ash, burnt logs, and partially burned garbage.

I do not want to add to the damage of campfires built by careless people.  So I do my cooking over a camp-stove.  And when it is time to recapture the memories of the past I use a Fire Pan.

A fire pan can be as simple as an old cookie sheet or a complex as a collapsible concave disk.  I prefer the old cookie sheet method.  I can fold it in half.  And when it wears out, it is easily recycled and cheaply replaced by another used one from a garage sale.

For our expedition I will be using an MSR DragonFly stove, a Backpackers Oven, and I will have an old cookie sheet.  Pictures of my cooking system will be posted after the trip.


In six weeks we will be paddling the Suwannee River.¬† And the question from our friends is “Jeff…Sean how is the back?”¬† The answer is “today it is good” ūüôā


Sean and I both have suffered from lower back pain.  Some people have theorized that the pain comes from kayaking.  Our pain was due to doing stupid things on dry land…And we now practice what we preach when it comes to back health.

Kayaking can improve a person’s core muscles and flexibility.  The more we stretch, exercise, and paddle (with a safe degree of rotation) the less we experience back pain associated to disks putting pressure on nerves.

Next weeks post will go into depth on what exercises were prescribed to us from physical therapists and a spinal surgeon.

Occasional I have a student in one of my classes talking about their back pain.  Before I see them on the water I ask them to consult with their doctor about their pain.  And then I request that the student brings me a letter from their doctor informing me that it is safe for them to be on the water.  Then after an evaluation of their technique, and looking inside of their cockpit, the plausible reasons for the pain turn out to be…

  • slouching
  • arm paddling
  • no rotation
  • strangling the paddle shaft
  • no padding within the cockpit
  • too much padding within the cockpit

Too much padding and high seat backs do temporarily mask back pain.  Unfortunately, this type of outfitting can lead to the weakening of abdominal and low back muscles.  It works similar to a doctor prescribed corset used to stabilize the back after an injury or surgery.

I wore such a corset to help mend a bulging disk.

When a corset is used, the patients have to wean themselves off it through therapy because the muscles have lost their strength and flexibility.  It is these muscles that support our spine and keeps or disks in a healthy position.

The best solution to surviving or preventing back pain is practicing proper techniques.  Seek out qualified ACA instructors or BCU coaches who will help you develop a fitness-paddling plan.  Hopefully the instructor / coach will also have a background in physical therapy.  Do not fall into the retail trap of fancy paddling gadgets.  Most gadgets promise to minimize pain without focusing on improving core muscles and flexibility.

– Jeff

PS.  Qualified ACA instructors or BCU coaches should be able to show you their membership card.  If they act oddly when asked, they maybe claiming to be certified to increase their chances of making money.

PS2 РIf you are experiencing leg numbness tell you doctor.  This could be a sign of a pinched nerve.  Consult your doctor  immediately.

As the title implies this post is a dirty subject.  I am a backpacker first and a paddler second.  So the practice of handling feces in the outdoors is a natural practice.

Most of the places we paddle are sensitive environments.¬† And we need to consider using the lowest impact practices when we go number two.¬† So what do we do?¬† Well the “Bubble Street” comic strip gives me an idea…

Bubble Street 23 May 2006

Bubble Street 23 May 2006

wag bagI know that the idea of packing out your human waste can be fairly (to completely) unpalatable but there is no doubt that it leaves the least impact of any other method of disposing of human waste. Both WAG Bags and Restops are both very sanitary options for packing out your human waste.

These two products work great.  It so easy even my buddy Sean can use it.  Granted he still grimaces at the idea.

It is a common piece of my kit that I have when I go out on the water.


We need to remember that the “improper disposal of human waste can lead to water pollution, the spread of illnesses such as giardia, and unpleasant experiences for those who follow”.¬† Unfortunately when nature calls for you to move your bowels a public bathroom, outhouse, or other developed site is not redly available for human waste disposal.

I do not dig  Cat holes during the day because I am surrounded by water.  This is why I have  WAG Bags or Restops in my day hatch.  Granted some people hang their backside over the side.  But the ocean is not our bathroom.

Sean like some of my other paddling friends still prefer to make a solid deposit in cat holes.  The issue with that is it needs to be dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, animal trails, drainages, and away from cryptobiotic soil crusts.  Look for organic soil under trees for a cat hole site.

“Bring a trowel to dig the hole, and disguise it well before leaving. Ideally, the microbes found in soil break down feces and the pathogens they contain, but in [dry sandy areas], this process happens very slowly, so make sure your cat hole site is well-hidden and buried deeply so it won’t be uncovered accidentally.”

I also have met a few paddlers that leave human waste under rocks or in alcoves.  That is a stupid and lazy way to be clean.  Because excrement will decompose slowly there.

Leave No Trace Backpacker 2nd ed bookIf you dig a hole you still need to pack out the toilet paper and personal feminine hygiene products.  Animals dig and will find these things.  And everyone has found the white streamers. I recommend packing it out in a plastic bag with baby wipes to deodorizes the trash bag, and the wipes help you stay cleaner.  If I use a cat hole I prefer to use natural wipes such as grass, river rocks, sticks, and snow.  I am from Pittsburgh so snow does not bother me.  If you choose to use natural toilet paper, bury it in your cat hole, and use some hand sanitizer.

Whether it is bagging out WAG Bags ,Restops, or bagged toilet paper I always place the items in a designated black dry bag with a car air freshener in the black dry bag for obvious reasons.  I also put this bag in front of my feet within my cockpit.  Some of my friends put their bag in a hatch near their food or cook kit.  But I do not want to take the chance of cross contamination.

When I am outdoors I try my best to “take nothing by pictures, kill nothing but time, and leave nothing but a foot print” – Jeff

Check out: Backpacker Magazine, Green Armarda, Green Earth Outdoors, and Leave No Trace.