Central Virginia paddling

I’m excited that a new, local magazine is launching next week and the publisher has decided to feature our local paddling scene in its inaugural issue.

Paddling Buddy Dave @PdleBuddyDave and I even made the cover!

Look for it at newsstands in and around Charlottesville next week.

Unbound

And be sure to come paddle with us during our local Rivanna River Race in Charlottesville, VA on May 12.

Preparing for kayak racing season

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It has been a late Spring in Central Virginia.

I’ve only paddled ~40 actual water miles so far this year so my on-water training is behind where I’d like it to be.   This is mainly due to a busy schedule and cold weather.  In fact, as recently as this past weekend we experienced snow and freezing rain here in Charlottesville.

As a result I’ve continued to hit the gym hard but will back off starting next week and have several light weeks in a row as I get back on the water to log some serious miles and get back into paddling shape.   If the weather is bad, I’ll be ramping up the miles indoors on my kayak ergometer.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve lost much of my technique as the few sessions I’ve had on the water so far with Paddling Buddy Dave have been very good workouts and my form is still there.

I sold my Pyranha Octane and ordered a new boat which will be revealed in due time. (I don’t want my competition to know what’s coming.)  Keep an eye open as a new boat with a fresh review is always exciting!

I’ve also been busy as a co-organizer for our local river race this year, The Rivanna River Regatta Canoe & Kayak Race on May 12.

I hope you will join us on May 12.  I’d love to meet you.

2018headerStart of the 2017 Rivanna River Canoe & Kayak Race

The end of the James River Rundown

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We just found out this week that the James River Association is no longer going to host the annual James River Rundown, which was becoming a popular ultra-marathon kayaking event on the East Coast of the U.S. This is sad news because many of us looked forward to this event each year and its popularity was growing.

Years ago there was a different race to benefit a day camp, The Camp Kum-ba-yah Race, in Lynchburg on the James and that was a great event, but they, too, stopped hosting that race.

So we are left with no kayak/canoe race on the James River in Virginia.

I’m hopeful that somebody else will pick up and run with the idea of an organized marathon kayak race on the James. When they do they can count on me for support.

Paddling Buddy Dave and I have talked about hosting a 44 mile race on our local river, The Rivanna, or possibly making the race longer by extending it onto the James where we could easily turn it into a 55, 66, or 85 mile race. Dave and I might have to talk more seriously about this for 2019. If you represent a charity and would like to take on this fundraising project, just let me know.

In the meantime in 2018, the closest thing we get is a new race called The Richmond Paddle Cup hosted by Crosswind Paddle Company with the longest race being a mere 17 miles. A huge letdown for those of us looking forward to another ultra this year close to home.

To make it more interesting, a couple of us have hatched a plan. In order to make this 17 mile race more interesting and as a reminder that we don’t always need to be looking for the next fast boat or better gear, we are having an event within the event.

We will adhere to all the regular rules of the Richmond Paddle Cup but we will have our own division within the 17 mile race in which we will all have to use a boat we found on Craigslist for $200 or less. It has been dubbed, “The First Annual Craigslist Challenge.”

Let the games begin.

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DIY Kayak Ergometer Plans now available!

FinalErgDesign

I recently completed the instructional video on how to build your own kayak ergometer from a Nordic Track ski machine. The plans and part list for this new, more compact design are available at the link below for $20 as I promised on Jan. 16, 2018:

And here is the final result:

Once you purchase, I’ll send you an email with links to the parts list and instructional video.

I’m the same guy who built and shared the original design online in 2013 and since then I’ve gone through several iterations of the design to get it as short and smooth as possible.

You will find other such DIY ergometers online but many of them are very long and look like they have bed frames attached to the front of the device which causes ropes to rub, require a lot of space, and are not really portable.

Don’t be fooled.  Buy the plans from the original designer!

Thank you!
Dave

Be sure to allow email from dave (at} cvillepaddlers.com.

Buy the parts list and video plans now for $20 USD

Homemade kayak ergometer from Nordic Track ski machine

Some of you know that back in 2013 I shared a YouTube video that showed my design for a kayak ergometer made from a Nordic Track ski machine. It was the first such design, to my knowledge, that introduced rockers to the ergometer.

It actually combined elements from both my first kayak ergometer “bench” style design along with my balance trainer. All of which I also shared. You can see all three in the video below.

Since then I’ve been refining and redesigning the ergometer.

And also since then people have used my videos to build their own units and now some of these people are actually trying to sell the plans to MY design that I freely shared with the kayaking community.

I feel that’s not right. Maybe not illegal but certainly not right.

Toward the end of last year I built a new design for celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich so he could do indoor training in his office in preparation for a 100-mile trip down Bayou LaFourche in Louisiana this Spring. I knew he had limited space in his office so I set out to make the ergometer much shorter in overall length.

I accomplished that mission by moving the flywheel under the paddler’s legs which also had the side benefit of making the feel of the device much smoother while paddling.

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My “kayaker’s selfie” with Vinnie Tortorich upon delivery of his ergometer

Later I heard from Vinnie that he started to have some troubles with the forward rollers. Vinnie is a legendary ultra athlete and generally an animal when it comes to training so I knew he would put wear and tear on the unit like it has never seen before.

VinnieandSerena

Vinnie Tortorich with Serena Scott Thomas sporting DTK hats

So after mulling that over in my brain for a while, I went back into my garage over the weekend with a new design for the forward rollers in mind, and built two more kayak ergometers with subtle variations in the design between the two to see which is better and/or easier to build. These happened to be the 5th and 6th units I’ve ever built. (Well, honestly, I probably built and rebuilt the first two at least 10 times each until I was happy with them!) I’ve only made a few of these for close paddling friends.

These two new units have square legs so mere mortals can paddle them, but this design allows rockers to be easily attached and detached as desired.

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The result of my weekend in the garage. 1 unit complete and the other one 90% complete

I spent hours in the garage not only building the two units but also recording video of each build so I can edit and produce a “how to” video and then make it available for sale since so many people have reached out to me over the years to inquire about either purchasing a unit or buying the instructions from me.

I’ve greatly simplified the design and now use only hardware and parts that are stock and can be bought off-the-shelf at most hardware stores. The build is much, much simpler than the first few so I feel now the design is at a point where I can effectively communicate how to build your own and you can build one from those instructions rather easily.

It is also the first design I feel is so unique and innovative in the way its built that I’m not so willing to freely share it because there is a little “secret sauce” that I’ve learned through years of trial and error.

Now for the hard part.

With hours and hours of video you can imagine it will take me a few weeks to edit, possibly re-shoot steps that weren’t clear, and then produce a final video.

When the “How to build it” video is ready I will sell it for $20 since that is the price most people have told me is reasonable and that they’d expect to pay. I believe that is a fair price based on the number of hours I’ve spent building and refining the design to make it as compact as possible, easy to build, and fun to paddle.

I’m also accepting donations and to anyone who donates at least $5 before Feb. 1, 2018, I will make the video available to them as soon as it is ready. After that initial group the price will go up to $20.

Let me know what you think and please let me know if you would like to buy one of these units (Central mid-Atlantic of the U.S. only.)

Happy paddling!

Dave

PS – The second one is now complete (1-24-18) and it will be THE design since it is easier to build and by far the best design I’ve ever devised.

FinalErgDesign
Update March 2, 2018:
The “How to build” video is now ready for purchase!

Late season kayak paddling

I got out on the water today and was able to at least log 7.5 miles.  I was hoping for more but more than half our local reservoir is frozen so I had to do some laps on the clear parts with Paddling Buddy Dave.

The full wet suit restricts full motion somewhat, but here is a look at my wing stroke in slow motion.

Guest blog: First-time racer on the Chattajack 31

This is a guest post by my friend and fellow paddler, John McCue, who completed the Chattajack 31 mile race this past Saturday on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga Tennessee.  I was hoping race it this year but was unable to attend due to other obligations.

John finished 15th place in the Men’s Kayak division, 16th place overall.

Here are his impressions from the race…


 

johnmccueFirst-time Chattajack 31 paddler and guest blogger, John McCue

I just got back from paddling Chattajack 31, the big paddleboard/kayak/surfski race in Chattanooga.  We raced 31 miles down the Tennessee river gorge.

Waiting on the water for the race to start, it was not hard to realize this was quite different from other kayak races I have done.  None of the couple hundred paddlers lining up in the cold rain made a last minute decision to race.  Entry opened and closed months earlier, this indeed was a serious collection of SUP and kayak paddlers.

Two hours earlier before sitting in the rain waiting for the start, I chose to get out of my warm dry car and trudge into the rain.   Dozens of cars parked near the finish all doing the same thing; Discharging dry paddlers into the cold dark rain, to climb onto one of the school busses lined up to shuttle us to the start.

“Basecamp” is what they call the start area and it is alive with action.

 
chattaBasecamp at the Chattajack31
 

Everybody has stored their boats and boards overnight at the start.  Now the sea of multi colored fiberglass, carbon and Kevlar is buzzing with paddlers readying their crafts.

The clothing choices were as varied as the fancy boards and boats.   Water temp of 70, but headwind and 48 degree rain.  What to wear?

Nobody here was a causal paddler, this was not the, “ I hope I can paddle 31 miles” crowd.

Most race starts are choppy, as paddlers surge forward and a dozen blades churn the water.   It smooths out after paddlers settle in to a pace.

Chattajack, however,  has hundreds of paddles churning at the start, and unlike the smaller races I have been to, the churning continues for a while.   Experienced racers know the importance of a good start,  but if everybody is experienced, and is dong the same thing…..washing machine!   For almost 3 miles the Tennessee river was more like the stormy ocean.

My start was poor and I spent 3 miles focusing on not dumping it in the river as I was caught in a sea of SUP’s.

Drafting and draft trains are allowed but only by similar type of craft.   Kayaks can pace behind kayaks but not behind SUP’s etc.   When things cleared out I was able to make good time working with another kayak.   We traded off leading each other while drafting close behind.  It was nice to see 6.8 and 7 mph on the Garmin.

Even while making good time, by mile 4 the race for the lead was already ahead down the river.   We were able to catch and pass plenty of other kayaks and SUP’s.  But the leaders were surely working together further ahead.

My drafting partner backed off the pace around mile 18 and for the next 7 miles I continued on my own at a furious pace.  I knew the top finishers were out of sight but I still thought my time goal of 5 hours was possible.  My average speed was still 6.4 mph at the 25 mile mark despite the headwind.  It is interesting how much mental math goes on paddling a kayak!

Then I got cold.

Of course it was a cold wet day but it had not bothered me until then.   I was turning towards a power boat wake (even on a cold day they are out there) and while the hull of my epic 18x was slapping the water I felt the cold in my arms and hands.  When I am paddling in my “zone” I can block out the wind and rain….. however, choppy water, whether it is from hundreds of paddles, wind waves or power boat wakes requires a different kind of focus.   My brain was ready for more hammering down the river not capsize avoidance i.e.; turning into waves or wakes.   My hands were cold and my judgement impaired.   I did not fall in but my speed did.

Only 6 miles to go but I was now paddling fast rather than racing.   My finish time of 5hr 16min was surprising since miles 25 26 and 27 were only 5mph.

Dreaming of a warm dry car does not push a boat faster into the cold wind.

The last 4 miles I was able to pick it back up again, getting done and getting dry was the driving force, not race performance.

The winning kayaks were all surf skis that were 20 inches wide or less.

Chattajack has a simple rule for boat classification, no consideration for length but only width.   Boats narrower than 20 inches start with the surf skis (second heat) 20 inches or wider is considered a kayak.

My Epic 18X is 22 inches wide and within the normal category of “kayak” it is amongst the fastest.  However, with a rule of 20 inches one can only expect folks to take full advantage and go narrower (faster) and be included in the under 20″ category.

With the choppiness of the water (start, wind waves, boat wakes) a traditional kayak has a psychological disadvantage.  If you dump your surfski you remount and carry on.   In a kayak you may carry on but you are no longer really racing after stopping to empty out the boat.   My Epic V7 is slower than the 18X but may have better for me because of it’s (relative) raft-like stability.

I’ll be back next year for sure.  Under 5 hours in 2018!
-John McCue

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One of my favorite kayaking videos

From my race at the Wye Island Regatta, 2011.  My first win at that race and my first experimentation with “pop up video” style video editing.

The Prijon Interceptor restoration…

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Is the next project on the list over the next couple weekends.

If we aren’t going to have enough water to paddle on then I may as well restore an old boat.

Pictures and video to follow.