Kayak – surfski Wing Paddle Stroke Analyzer

Looking to analyze your wing paddle stroke but you don’t have a self-following drone or a friend with a power boat and video camera? Try this DIY kayak ergometer to analyze your stroke on land and indoors.

All it takes is a homemade ergometer and a video camera with tripod.

Learn more at: https://bit.ly/2t7m5Ew

Homemade DIY compact kayak ergometer

A customer who purchased the video plans for my kayak ergometer was nice enough to send me a photo of the finished product and I think it looks fantastic!

finishederg
Completed compact kayaker ergometer built by Alan M. using my plans

Alan took the time to sand and stain the device and it truly looks beautiful.  He also reports the device paddles much smoother than he imagined it would.

Getting feedback like this is great.  Thanks, Alan!

Buy your video plans and part list for only $20 USD.

Read more:

Homemade kayak ergometer from Nordic Track ski machine
Buy the video plans and part list now for $20 USD.
paypal_payment_buttons

 

PS – And now I just found his YouTube video!

The Oscar Chalupsky interview on the Vinnie Tortorich podcast

Absolutely fascinating interview combining several of my passions, diet, exercise and kayaking.

OCVT

Charlottesville Area Paddling Gets Some Love

A new local magazine named Unbound hit the local newsstands today and I was happy to see our area’s paddling scene highlighted in such a wonderful way.  Not only did the editors feature local paddling on the cover, but they were generous in covering our annual river race on the inside.

ubcollageThe first issue of Unbound Magazine

I was also honored to have been interviewed as last year’s race winner and given a full page in the magazine.

I think it was somebody in Paddling Magazine recently who wrote that kayakers need to stop talking about the technical aspects of how to paddle and talk more about why they paddle.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share the full transcript of the interview before it got edited down for space.
___________________________________________________
{begin transcript}

UB: How did you get started kayaking? How long have you been doing it (on your own and with the Cville Paddlers)?

DTK: It all started at a young age attending a summer camp outside of Ligonier Pennsylvania.  One of the activities at the camp was “Waterfront” which involved canoeing and kayaking on the camp’s lake.  It was painful to have to start first in a rowboat and then progress to a canoe to prove proficiency before they’d let us paddle a kayak solo, but paddling a kayak was my ultimate goal on that lake that week and I wanted to get into one as soon as I could.  As soon as I did I was hooked for life.  I guess it represented freedom.  I must have been around 10 years old at the time, so I’ve been paddling  40 or so years.

Throughout my youth I did countless canoe and whitewater rafting trips with our Boy Scout troop and I always envied the guys and girls in the kayaks who’d pass us on the rivers.  They were always going faster and always looked like they were having more fun, so I paddled a kayak as often as I could borrow or rent one since I didn’t own one yet myself.

Fast-forward to moving to the Charlottesville area 27 years ago, I soon met a close friend and local paddling icon, Konrad Zeller, who got me back into paddling after a few years’ leave of absence as I was establishing a new life and career.

Konrad and I began meeting on the S. Rivanna Reservoir every Wednesday after work to paddle, eat chicken wings, get caught up with each other, and talk about life in general.  Shortly thereafter other friends started joining us.  That was the very beginning of what is now the Cville Paddlers Group, also known as the Rivanna River Paddlers on Facebook.  That was also the beginning of the tradition of after-work, social paddles on the reservoir on Wednesdays during the summer months, a tradition that continues to this day.

The core group of Wednesday evening paddlers now self-organize into smaller groups for paddle trips down the Rivanna and other local waters.  That organizing happens through the Rivanna River Paddlers group on Facebook and it has been fascinating to watch local paddling evolve over the years, especially as social media has matured.

UB: What do you enjoy most about it?

DTK: In what seems a contradiction, I enjoy both the solitude and the people I meet.  I enjoy unplugging and getting away from the rat race and other people for a few hours, yet also treasure the people I meet and friends I’ve made through the sport.

Most everyone you meet paddling is friendly and willing to do almost anything for a fellow paddler.  Regardless of the type of paddling we do as individuals, we share a common bond when it comes to powering ourselves across lakes or down rivers.

The scenery is almost always beautiful, there is ample opportunity to observe undisturbed wildlife, and the sense of peace and being one with nature is palpable.  It is a great way to relax and recharge while also getting great exercise.

Lastly, it is a sport that can be enjoyed at any age and like fine wine, people often progress and improve as paddlers as they get older.

You asked me what I enjoy most and I can’t narrow it down to one thing.  Is that okay?

UB: What kind of gear do you use?

DTK: That’s a hard question to answer in a short space since I have ten kayaks hanging in my garage right now, ready for just about any water condition or type of paddling.

The best boat for any particular race or trip depends on the level of difficulty of the water, the comfort and confidence level you have in any particular boat for the length of the trip, and whether you are looking to go as fast as possible or go slow and enjoy the experience.  Fast boats are tippy and require greater balance and skill which can cause fatigue fairly quickly whereas more stable boats are significantly slower.  We are forever chasing the right balance between performance and comfort for any given body of water.

My primary training boat is something call a Thunderbolt-X  kayak which is 100% Kevlar, 21 feet long and 18 inches wide at its widest point.  It is long, sleek, fast, and light and is perfect for flat water training and covering as much water as possible in a given amount of time. I can go fastest in that boat but I would never put it in an environment where I might smash it into rocks.

I have an eclectic collection of older, classic downriver racing boats I’ve restored, a modern plastic downriver racer called the Cobra Viper, various other recreational kayaks, and even a plastic surf ski, which is a specialized type of sit-on-top kayak that is long, skinny, and fast.

Regardless of the boat I’m paddling, I always use something called a wing paddle made out of carbon fiber so these paddles are strong and stiff yet light.  The paddle blades are shaped like airplane wings and when paddled correctly create a low pressure or “lift” in the forward direction of the kayak.  This can provide the paddler on the order of a 10-15% increase in efficiency once the unique stroke technique required by these paddles is mastered.

Aside from the boat and paddle, I try to keep my gear simple and functional.  Never underestimate the value of a baseball hat, polarized sunglasses, comfortable life jacket and a large water bottle.  I always keep a mobile phone tucked safely away in a dry bag somewhere in case of emergency and to notify my wife when I’m safely off the water when I’m out training alone and I also use a small GPS device to track my distance, speed and various other parameters.

UB: I see that you broke a record last year. By how much? And are you going to try to do that again this year?

DTK: I was very fortunate last year in that the water levels were very high and I had a good run during the annual Rivanna River Race.  Those two things don’t always happen.

The race starts at the bridge under Rt. 29 just north of the Doubletree hotel and ends at the boat ramp at Darden Towe Park.  I covered those 6.2 river miles in 43 minutes and 6 seconds last year, which beat my old record by more than 3 minutes.  It was one of those races where everything just came together.

The goal is always to set a new record on race day, but it is very difficult and unpredictable because so much depends on the rain the week leading up to the race, the actual water levels on race day, and boat selection.  Last year gave us near perfect conditions and a fast river so it is unlikely the conditions will be that perfect again on race day this year, but you never know.  If the water is high again I’ll be aiming for a faster time.

UB: How and when do you train?

DTK: I train year round either on the water, on land, or in the gym.

Most of my on-water training takes place on the S. Rivanna Reservoir.  When I’m in town during the summer months I do a training run right after work on Wednesdays and then join the Rivanna River Paddlers group on my inbound/return leg of the workout.  Those workouts are usually 10 miles and start at the boat ramp just above the S. Rivanna Reservoir dam at the end of Woodburn Rd. and go to the bridge at Reas Ford Road and back.

On Saturdays I typically do a longer run and paddle all the way up to the far end of the reservoir where the Meechums River feeds in, not too far off Bleak House Road.  That round trip is 14 miles and when I ramp up for racing season I’ll also paddle up Ivy Creek so it is easy to log 20 miles or so on the reservoir during  a training session without doing any laps.

reservoirmap

Two years ago my paddling buddy and training partner, Dave Segars, and I started paddling the whole length of the Rivanna River to prepare ourselves for some of our longer races and ultra marathons.  The Rivanna from Charlottesville to Columbia is about 44 miles.  Last year we did that and added some miles of the James River to Cartersville and covered those 55 miles in just a little over 8 hours.

The winter gets a little tricky as air and water temperatures drop which requires a wetsuit and makes the efficient, tippy boats more risky in case of accidental capsize.  Fortunately that’s never happened to me, but I usually paddle one of my slower, more stable boats in the wintertime just to err on the side of caution and safety and as a result paddle far fewer miles on water during the winter.

Several years ago I needed a solution for those times in the winter when the reservoir is frozen so I designed and built myself an indoor kayak ergometer out of an old Nordic Track ski machine so I can paddle indoors anytime now.  When the water is frozen I just paddle in my basement.  Much to my surprise, the device found somewhat of a global, cult following on YouTube and I’ve built a few more of these devices for friends and now in a strange twist due to popular demand, offer a “how to” video teaching people how to build their own.

sponsor1

I’m in the gym year round.  Extended cardio exercise like paddling is primarily catabolic so I try to counter that in the gym during the off season.  When paddling time is light the weights get heavy.  When the paddling picks up in the Spring, the amount of weight and total volume in the gym drops so I don’t hammer my shoulders, wrists, elbows, and back through overtraining.

UB: Briefly describe the Rivanna course.

DTK: The Rivanna River around Charlottesville is mostly flat water with a few sets of small to medium rapids to keep it interesting.  The largest rapids qualify as Class II+ under the right conditions, but those only last a short distance so the river is generally safe for a wide range of skill levels.  My daughter did her first downriver solo on the Rivanna when she was 8 years old.

The river feels amazingly remote in many sections and it is quite common to spot an American Bald Eagle or two.  It is such a gem I wish public access was a better so more people could enjoy the peace and beauty of this local treasure and enjoy all it offers.

UB: Have you done other kayaking races? Where? How does the one in our area compare?

DTK: I’ve paddled many races and they are all different.

The most comparable race to the annual Rivanna River race is the Nelson Downriver Race held on the Tye River in Nelson County the first Saturday in May each year.  It is a little longer and more technical than the Rivanna race and seems more like a wild mountain stream when compared to the Rivanna.

The Nelson Downriver used to be my first race every year until I discovered another race, “Little D on the Monocacy,” in Frederick, MD held in April that is a fund raiser for a young child, Danny Sullivan or “Little D,” who has a terminal disease.  It has become my new season-opener and last year I raced in the 19-mile version of the race and never felt more of a sense of purpose and community coming together to support one of their own.  The Monocacy River is easy technically but it seemed like the whole town showed up at the finish line to cheer on the racers so it had the feel of a much larger, more challenging event.

I’ve paddled the Wye Island Regatta in Maryland several times which is a 13.1 mile, open water race around Wye Island and the Lehigh Classic Whitewater race in Pennsylvania which was a terrifying experience for me because I chose the wrong boat which was way too  tippy for Class III rapids.  I got home after that race and immediately told my wife I needed a shower to wash off all the fear and regret.

I’ve paddled in some other races that no longer exist, and in 2016 paddled the Cumberland River Challenge in Kentucky.  That 15-mile race was an absolute hoot because of the great people I met there who made me feel especially welcomed as an outsider.  I managed to set a new race record in that race and as a result met and shook hands with the mayor of Barborville, KY at a finish line awards ceremony as he presented me with a commemorative, Overall Winner wooden paddle with brass plaque to place on my mantle.  How often do you get the opportunity to shake hands with the mayor of Barbourville, KY, for goodness sake?

Last but certainly not least is the James River Rundown, which to my knowledge is the longest race on the East Coast.  I set the 40-mile race record there in 2015, came in 2nd place to Paddling Buddy Dave in the 100-miler in 2016 and tied for 3rd place with a wonderful man named Bill Crawford last year in the 120-miler that started in Lynchburg and ended at Tucker Park in Goochland County.  Bill and I paddled neck and neck for nearly 70 miles and became instant friends even though we started out as competitors.

The James River Rundown was my first experience paddling an ultra-marathon race and it is certainly quite different than paddling the 6.2 mile Rivanna River race.  The Rivanna race is more of an all-out sprint but when you paddle the longer races a lot more planning, strategy, preparation, nutrition and other factors come into play.  During the long races you put your body into auto pilot paddling while your mind focuses on everything else.  It is a very different experience where all those base, training miles pay dividends.

Probably the next level goal is to paddle in the Missouri River 340 race.  I’ll let you know how that goes when it happens.

UB: Anything else you want to say about kayaking, or being outdoors in Charlottesville/Albemarle?

DTK: Kayaking is better than therapy or a social networking site.

I’ve made good friends through the sport and last year was contacted by Los Angeles-based celebrity fitness trainer and best-selling author, Vinnie Tortorich, who reached out to me to help him train for a 100-miler he’s preparing to do in Louisiana.  I now consider Vinnie a friend and look forward to paddling with him and alligators down Bayou LaFourche in Louisiana later this year.  We’re doing it on a diet absent of sugars and grains and it promises to be a unique experience.

The Charlottesville area is a wonderful area for training and being outdoors.  I can ride my road bike on some of the back roads and see some of the most majestic views, climb up into the Blue Ridge Mountains for unforgettable hikes and paddle any one of the numerous rivers or lakes…and maybe even do all of that in one day.  Please don’t tell anyone about the fly fishing on the Rapidan River near Camp Hoover.  That place is so special I want to keep it to myself.

The local kayaking and paddling community is very healthy in the area whether you are looking for recreational opportunities, flat water training, or whitewater thrills.  I’ve been lucky to be able to participate in the local paddling community and have enjoyed watching it grow and evolve.

My wish is that our community comes together to support our annual river race held the second Saturday each May and that the event itself evolves into a charity event or fundraiser to give it greater meaning and purpose.  It would be wonderful to one day see the whole community come together to support the event for a good cause and know that I played some small role in creating a spark to help make that happen.

# # #

And, no.  I never thought that faded Prijon Beluga I bought off Craigslist would ever make the cover of any magazine.

Unbound

Preparing for kayak racing season

littledfinish2017

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

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.

These plans assume you will be able to obtain an older style Nordic Track ski machine made from a wooden frame as you will be using some of the mechanical and wooden parts from it.  You might want to check on local availability first, but this video will also offer tips on how to get one for a great price or even free.

The device can be built with either the square legs or the rounded ones and the video discusses both approaches.

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

paypal_payment_buttons

Thank you!
Dave

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

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

The device can be built with either the square legs or the rounded ones and the video discusses both approaches.

Kayak ergometer plans from Nordic Track ski machine almost ready

Just finished the first round of edits on my “How To Build It” video. I need to shoot a little more to fill in some gaps and then the video will be ready. Definitely before the end of the month.

Update March 2, 2018:

The plans are ready!
http://bit.ly/2t7m5Ew

I’m going to feel this one in the morning

Knowing February is my last month of lifting heavy in the gym before I transition to conditioning for kayaking season in March, I went a little beast mode in the gym after work today.

2-17-18_beastmode

I’m going to feel this one tomorrow.

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.

VinnieSelfie_sm

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.

DSCF2393

DSCF2395
DSCF2399
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.

These plans assume you will be able to obtain an older style Nordic Track ski machine made from a wooden frame as you will be using some of the mechanical and wooden parts from it.  You might want to check on local availability first, but this video will also offer tips on how to get one for a great price or even free.

Buy the “How to Build” video with parts list now for $20 USD.
paypal_payment_buttons

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

The device can be built with either the square legs or the rounded ones and the video discusses both approaches.

These plans assume you will be able to obtain an older style Nordic Track ski machine made from a wooden frame as you will be using some of the mechanical and wooden parts from it.  You might want to check on the availability of this first.

Buy the video plans now for $20!
paypal_payment_buttons

The device can be built with either the square legs or the rounded ones and the video discusses both approaches.