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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

European Championships

Team training is in full swing here in Cuvono for the European Freestyle Championships. Prelims start on Thursday morning with only one more day of training for Men, Women and Junior Men. Training has been going well with everyone progressing while being able to train everyday on what is a deceptively tricky feature. The whole team has been here a few days taking as much time as they can to get used to the feature here. The hole is quite shallow with regular hits off the bottom common place, however it is quite retentive without being to violent giving you plenty of control to set up for your moves.

Our last training session tomorrow morning will be used to put the finishing touches on our rides, aiming to get every move in before the buzzer sounds. With a ten strong team our team training slots have been just under an hour long allowing everyone to get in six or seven ride. The water on the course is turned off at eight o clock every evening taking away any opportunities of training under lights but despite this everyone is looking well prepared.

Unfortunately it does not look like there will be live streaming for the event but with a strong crew of supporters out here updates will be coming thick and fast as prelims unfold. Keep an eye on Irish Freestyle Facebook for updates on Thursday morning!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Right Channel Cunovo

First few days have been quiet here at the course however everyone seems to have arrived today with queues getting long. Luckily if you don't fancy waiting around in the eddy at peak times there is two awesome channels to paddle. Here's is quick look at the river right channel where the feature for the European Championships about half way down.

River left channel to come in a few days.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

First Look – New Typhoon Equator Drysuit


This autumn Typhoon are launching a new drysuit called the Equator.  It is still a 4 layer breathable material but it is a much lighter weight and spec than their Multisport 4 drysuit.


The suit features latex neck and wrist seals along with latex socks.  There are no over-cuff protectors which means extra care will need to taken when bush-whacking.  It also features a unique, above waist positioned, hinge zip which can take a while to get your head around at first.  Braces are also fitted as standard which are pretty essential to donning the suit with ease.


Entry is gained through the back of the suit, legs first and then flipping the top part on and doing up the zip.  There is no denying it feels odd at first and it can bunch under the PFD when first put on but once on the water, I didn’t notice it at all.


On the water the suit was comfortable and well cut with plenty of freedom of movement which it being excessively baggy.  The zip is certainly less restrictive and obvious than either chest or back zippers and can easily be open/closed on your own without being a yoga master.  I can see this suit appealing to two main user types: 1) It will make a great whitewater racing suit due to it’s lightweight material and freedom of movement and, 2) It will be good for beginners on a budget.  It will not be as durable as the likes of the Multisport 4 and for prolonged immersion use (SRT/RSR courses) I would still go for the Multisport 4 with it’s metal zipper and gasket covers, but this is a deliberately a lightweight suit, at a budget price and it would be unfair to compare the two directly.


I wasn’t convinced by the “urban” styling (grey/yellow colour) when I first saw the suit on a hanger but it looks surprisingly good when worn.

Two points I would make are the lack of a relief zipper (you might be able to use the entry zipper if you are very creative with a shewee and a length of hose!) and the entry zipper causing a “cold” spot across the back (may not be an issue when using heavier fleeces in winter).

Recommended Retail Price is 450 euro and it should be available for October.  Pre-order yours now before the end of September and get a free Typhoon fleece undersuit.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dagger Stratos 14.5s Sea Kayak Review

I just spent the last few days paddling the Dagger Strato's 14.5S.  Its dubbed as a high performance ocean tourer that is ideal for beginners and expert alike which is a pretty broad spectrum to cover but I think they have pulled it off. I was in the market for a new sea kayak recently and I had decided I wanted a 14-15ft boat that surfs well has good speed and would be comfortable for doing daily tours, rock hopping and some day touring. After a bit of searching online I had a few contenders to consider.(The P&H Delphin, Venture Jura, North Shore Aspect and a few more.) Then I gave Colm in I-Canoe a call to see what he had available and he mentioned he was paddling the Dagger Stratos and really liked it.
To be honest I was a little surprised as I never think of Dagger and touring/sea kayaks. Anyway the feedback was good and it sounded like it was worth a try. The next day the boat arrived and a soon as it came out off the truck you could tell there was something good wrapped up. As soon as I got it opened I was impressed, the rocker profile and sleek lines looked great. I have failed to find a picture that does the boat justice and give a good sense of the rocker profile so I didn't include one. It really has to be seen in the flesh.

Full review and video HERE

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Clifden Beach Party

The best weekend of the summer has just passed and with it the world premier of Too High, a kayaking film put together by Joe Rea Dickens and Jamie Conn. But first back to the weekend. The Clifden beach party weekend is the highlight of the not so packed Irish summer paddling schedule. With a guaranteed working feature , a rare rare occurrence in anywhere but Galway during the summer months,  the Clifden beach party draws Irish paddlers starved of some good playboating from all corners of the country. A tried and tested formula, two days of boating with a night camping at Dunloughan beach thrown in for good measure, this weekend has been a staple of Irish summers for as long as I can remember. This year we had the addition of premiering Too High on Saturday night to make this unmissable weekend even better.

The weekend kicked off on Saturday afternoon with some flat water coaching on the salt lake before the tide began to rise and everyone headed for the hole. With a packed eddy every second of the tide was put to good use with paddlers still throwing down on the flat at the back of the queue. After a few good hours paddling in the sun the tide fell, the hole disappeared  and with it everyone headed for the beach and the bbq.

With well worn tracks over the sand dunes the drive to the beach can be a little tricky at times for loaded cars but with a bit of luck everyone made it with cars and roof racks intact. With Andrew getting off the water early he had everything ready for the bbq when all arrived. Tents went up and chairs came out and the crowd began relaxing for the night.

With the sun gone the scene was set, the night sky providing the back drop to our bed sheet duct taped to the side of a caravan. Add in a borrowed projector and sound system courtesy of UL and our make shift cinema was complete. The Film Too High went down a treat with some amazing whitewater segments from all corners of the globe. Too high will soon be available online and with proceeds going to charity there is no reason not to grab yourself a copy of this awesome paddling flick.

The party went on into to night but Sunday morning came and with it some slow starters for the surf comp at Dunloghan beach. With not much expected from the waves we were pleasantly surprised by some reasonable sets rolling in. The format took on a mass jam session with the line up getting steadily stacked as the afternoon drew on. Aidan McElhinney took top honors with some nice rides making the most of the waves before the crowd descended.

After the surf comp the tents came down and people slowly made their way to the hole for the evening tide. With the eagerly anticipated inflatables class due to close the show the onus was to get everything run off nice and quick for the main event. The women took to the water first followed by junior men, men's sport and senior men with old faces making some reappearances to battle it out against the new young guns.

Marie Harrington took top spot in the women's class followed by veteran freestyler Jackie Ferguson in second and Jayne Stephens rounding out the top three. In men's sport Aidan McElhinney once again took top spot with an impressive tally. Aidan being only 16 is sure to be one to watch for the future.

Senior men was the final warm up act for the inflatables with some big moves thrown down by all . Len Kelleher was on laying it down in his heat along with Shane Little, David Higgins and myself. I managed to throw together some moves as the heat wore on taking the lead by the smallest of margins followed by Len Shane and David.

Finally with the kayaking out of the way the main event got under way with inflatables off all sizes and varieties taking to the water. A race of two heats with bonus points for getting a surf went down and after some retrospective judging Cormac Roche took the coveted title of Clifden Inflatable Champion.

A big thanks to all involved in helping out over the weekend with UL providing most of the make shift cinema, Jamie and Joe for giving us opportunity of premiering Too High and to I-Canoe and Kokatat for providing some awesome prizes for the weekend.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Easter Weekend on the Munster Blackwater


This Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, I finally got to do a trip I’d been meaning to do for some time – the Munster Blackwater.

The Munster Blackwater rises on the Cork/Kerry boarder and flows nearly 170km to the Celtic Sea in Youghal, Co. Waterford.

It’s a big volume river but without a lot of gradient which makes it ideal as a canoe/touring kayak tripping river.


We put on late afternoon on the Saturday just outside the little village of Ballyhooly, just upstream of Fermoy.  This was far from ideal as the road is elevated on both sides of the bridge which meant we first had to lower the boats over a high wall followed by all the gear.  If you are looking for a leisurely 2-3 trip, I would recommend starting further up (the next bridge upstream is in the townland of Monanimy and access looks a lot easier).  This is a lovely section of river with gentle rapids as the river flows around small islands.  If you were looking for a longer trip, you could start in Mallow or even near Millstreet which could give you a five day trip, especially if you were to go all the way to Youghal.


Even though we started much later on the Saturday than we had intended, we made good time to Fermoy passing Michael Flatley’s modest mansion on the way.  If there is one thing the Blackwater has in abundance apart from great fishing and beautiful scenery it is a vast collection of stately homes and castles.


For our first nights camp, we enquired at the local campsite in Fermoy, but they were closed to campers (don’t ask!).  After a bit of searching, we found an ideal, sheltered spot on river right, just before the town on the edge of a walking path.  There was plenty of space for our small group of 13(!) to spread out and Liam sparked up a roaring fire to keep us warm.  Personally I preferred this over a designated campsite as it felt more “wild” and in keeping with the trip we were doing.


The following morning we had breakfast and decamped and ran the first of two weirs on the trip.  The first weir is just upstream of the main bridge in Fermoy, which is a long diagonal with knarly fish boxes in the middle (see photos).  We ran it half way along the diagonal, river left of the boxes which was the best line at this level (but still not the cleanest).  If in doubt about damaging boats and gear, then a portage would be advisable.


A couple of miles of gentle paddling followed before we came to the second weir on the trip and pulled in for lunch.


This is another big weir, with many lines and shoots and quite a bit of decay leaving some vertical metal spikes exposed at the base of the weir. 


Spikes were most exposed running from river left side.


Lowering the boats down the river left side.


JP, being in the one in the most delicate kayak on the trip, was the only one to run the weir!


Some nice stretches followed with small rapids around corners and islands before our next camp in Ballyduff.


Cruising along in the fine weather.


More castles…


We pulled in under the bridge in Ballyduff just as the wind was picking up and the skies were darkening.  My plans for a massive bar-b-que would have to wait for another day (again).  Luckily there was a nice flat field just below the bridge on river right which the local land owner had no problem with us camping in and was only inhabited by some timid sheep.  With the weather continuing to worsen, some of us made a quick dinner inside the tents and hibernated while others found the local pub for some freshly caught dinner.


The next morning we awoke to a stiff head wind and resigned ourselves to the fact that it would be a potentially long tricky paddle to our finish just past Lismore.

Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but the river being so wide left little chance of shelter especially on the long straights.

It was head down and constant paddling all the way until we reached the broken weir above Lismore.


The view of the castle coming into Lismore was worth all the hardship as it towered over us perched on the hillside.


Coming under the bridge in Lismore.


The view back upstream.

We continued the short distance on to a small picnic area about halfway between Lismore and Cappoquin.  We had originally intended to end the trip at least in Cappoquin (from where it is tidal all the way to Youghal), but with the weather conditions the way they were we played it safe and pulled in sooner.  We had a massive lunch at the picnic site where we tried to use up all our left over food and I finally got the chance to light the BBQWinking smile