I Wanna Roll Like A Girl

Back in the day, I had a bombproof kayak roll. But gradually, I fell out of the habit of practising it. When I first abandoned whitewater and surf paddling in favour of exclusively ocean kayaking I kept it up. But over the years, I persuaded myself it wasn’t really essential for sea kayaking and probably wouldn’t work anyway with my sail on the boat. Besides, my brace worked fine (except when it didn’t.) Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that age made it unlikely I could recapture my roll.

A kayaker surfs a breaking wave

Displacement Hull Boat? Check. Wood Paddle? Check. Chunky PFD? Check. This must be me, surfin’ the 90s.

But this year, one of my personal and professional goals is to regain my roll. And to do it like a girl.

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Relaunch: Back On The Water

a sail on the front of a sea kayakLife events and some (non life-threatening) medical issues have kept me out of my sea kayak for a couple of months – the longest absence from paddling I’ve had in decades.

Earlier this week I took my hopefully rehabbed body out for some sea trials. My standard voyage is a straight shot from English Bay Beach to the Jericho Sailing Association, about 45 minutes of brisk paddling against the stiff breeze of the afternoon inflow. Since I was testing my recovery, I raised the sail and did a series of paddle-sailing broad tacks up either side of the wind, adding some distance and about twenty minutes to my crossing time, but reducing the load on my body to about half of paddling directly upwind.  Continue reading

The Three Essential Food Groups For Long Camping Trips

One of the many pleasures of camping out of a kayak — a boat that’s basically a floating cooler — is that for the first several days you can feast on fresh foods. But multi-week trips require provisions with reduced bulk and increased shelf life. For these, I carry a mix of what I consider the three essential food groups for extended camping: store-dried, freeze-dried and home-dried. Continue reading

All Praise Modders, Hackers And Makers


computer design for a kayak

Image courtesy Tim Evans cubenmaker.com

Today, let us praise those who are not content to passively take only what the outdoor retail market offers. All hail those explorers who tinker, tweak or make things from scratch. Sometimes economic necessity is the mother of invention: good gear ain’t cheap. Other times, it’s because what’s available doesn’t meet your purposes off-the-shelf. Or because there’s no product at all for your particular niche. Continue reading

Dancing In The Demolition Zone: Thoughts On Rocks And Ages

a pile of ancient boulders among the treesRecently, I spent a weekend camping in an active demolition area. As I hung out at the base of the southern Garibaldi range, relentless forces were tearing down the peaks that rose thousands of feet above me. Freeze-and-thaw cycles drove ice wedges ever deeper into cracks into the rock, cleaving away car-size boulders. A vast pile of them had toppled to rest less than a hundred feet from where I’d set up my tent. Out on the colluvial fan where I collected drinking water, Raven Creek was relentlessly bulldozing tons of cobbles into Pitt Lake.

The only thing that saved me from being crushed by all this activity was the fleeting, mayfly span of my life. Saplings growing out of the boulder pile near my tent showed I’d missed being smashed by a mere fraction of a millennium. And I’d dodged being ground under a wave of rocks and washed out into the lake by just a split century.

filtering water among the creekside cobblesTo humans, few things seem more permanent and unchanging than mountains. Perhaps that’s why actually watching a big rockslide happen can be so disturbing: it’s like seeing a fracture in time itself.

But if mountains were sentient, if humans registered on their awareness at all, it might be as the briefest of flashes. We’d be the occasional flicker on the edge of their vision as they got on with the eons-long business of seismically or volcanically growing into adulthood. Among the community of mountains, we’d be the stuff of myth, half-seen ghosts whose very existence was much debated.

Replacing A Drysuit Neck Gasket

notches in a drysuit neck sealA routine inspection of my paddling drysuit had revealed a pair of notches in the latex neck seal. Stress risers like these will propagate under tension into full tears  ̶  usually at the most awkward moment possible, like the first day of a multi-week tour. So it was off with the old and on with the new. Continue reading

Our Doggies, Ourselves: Breeding New Attitudes

Inuit girl carrying a husky puppyThe picture was a combo pack of cute: a little Inuit girl carrying a squirming husky pup. “That’s a nice doggie you’ve got there.” I said as I crouched down to her eye level. “Yes,” she agreed, then added very matter-of-factly, “but he’s lame, so we’re going to have to shoot him.” Continue reading