Archive for January, 2010


Question: I’d like to find out what PFD’s are available for a small paddler. I’m considering a Kotatat SeaO2. I’d appreciate your comments. I’m 5’2″ tall, 120 lbs., with a measurement from base of sternal notch to waist line at 13 inches. I have a Kokatat Bahia and an Astral V-Eight. The Bahia is good on the back, great for lay back rolls, but the front is too bulky. With my short arms, a self rescue with paddle float and a hand of god rescue would be challenging. The Astral’s back is too long even with the mesh at the bottom. Dubside has a MsFIT which I tried and I liked, even with no mesh on the back. His is old, however, and with the manufacturing/design changes, the MsFit may be bulky these days. Your thoughts?

Answer: There are many kinds of PFDs out there, and most would be fine for a small paddler as long as it is the right size. I have a Kokatat SeaO2 and love it. That variety provides built in flotation, but it is low volume. More buoyancy can be added by pulling a cord to release the CO2 cartridge, or by manually inflating it. For a PFD with set buoyancy, I’d suggest the MsFIT. I have one of those as well, although I tend to wear my Kokatat SeaO2 more often. Your other option is to get a PFD with no flotation except for what is provided by the CO2 cartridge or manual inflation. I wear a suspender type. However, because of the lack of buoyancy, I wouldn’t recommend this option unless you have additional flotation, such as a neoprene tuilik.

A little TLC

Two years ago I traveled to Washington to help my friend Bob Kelim build my first skin-on-frame qajaq. I remember the excitement of taking it on the water for the first time… the snug fit, the slightly unstable feeling from never being in a kayak of such low volume, my first roll in it. I even remember hearing a Merle Haggard song playing loudly from a truck parked in the parking lot… Mama Tried. I was happy that the qajaq not only floated, but moved in a straight line… and I had played a huge part in building it.

Over the past few months the qajaq had begun taking on water. The skin was cracking, and the bottom of it clearly showed three distinct marks on each side from where my heels pressed against it depending on whether I was doing layback rolls, forward finish rolls or just out for a paddle in the majestic Pacific Ocean or one of the lagoons nestled amongst the redwoods where I live.

The qajaq needed some TLC, and I took it to my friend Michael Morris’s house, to begin the process of re-skinning it. As Michael stood over it with a sharp knife, I was surprised by all of the memories that jumped through my head. I had looked at this as a project, a chore in a way, but as I looked at my qajaq I thought about all of the places that it had been… the rolls I’d learned in it and the rolling demonstrations that I’d done. I was concerned that this project might change my qajaq. Would it be the same?

The sharp blade slowly cut the skin, and I was happy with how intact the frame remained. There were two broken ribs, the one at the very front and the one at the very back. I have never used a seat or any kind of padding, and Michael and I laughed that the rib that I sit on had taken on my shape of my butt. The cockpit had two small cracks, and there was a thick line of packed sand on the bow and stern, probably picked up from many beaches, many surf launches and landings and the sand that inevitably had been knocked off my feet from hikes on beaches that only kayakers can get to and explore.

Michael and I stood in the rain, hosing off the sand and laughing with the memories of paddles of the past two years. Now my kayak sits in his garage, slowly drying. Soon we will fix all the flaws that have developed over time, each with its own memory. It has been two wonderful years, and I look forward to the new memories that will surely form as this qajaq once again hits the sea.

Superior Paddlesports Symposium: September 1 to 2, Thunder Bay, Canada

Date: September 1 to 2

Location: Thunder Bay, Canada

Description: This symposium features Greenland style kayaking, Yoga for Kayakers and more.

Contact: For more information, course fees or to register, visit

Rolling Clinic: September 18, Big Lagoon, California

September 18
Location: Big Lagoon, California

On Saturday, Sept. 18 Helen will be teaching a rolling clinic. Although the focus of the class is on Greenland style rolling, anyone is welcome to attend. The class will take place at Big Lagoon and last two to three hours. She’ll be teaching whatever people want to learn (first rolls, off-side rolls, layback rolls, forward finish rolls, norsaq rolls, hand rolls… whatever). Pre-registration is required. To register, contact Helen at

ENC Trinidad Paddle: February 26, Trinidad, California

Date: February 26

Location: Trinidad, California

Description: Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer will host a paddle around Trinidad Harbor. Meet in the Trinidad parking lot, and be prepared to launch at 9 a.m. The estimated time for this paddle is two to three hours. Paddlers should bring water. A sea worthy kayak with a sprayskirt is required. A wetsuit or drysuit is recommended, although a few layers of synthetic clothing will also work. This paddle is suitable for beginners with practice in wet exits and rescues, unless the prevailing swell and wind are forecasted from the south. Check forecasted weather and ocean conditions and the Club’s website for updated information as the date approaches. Ocean conditions will determine our route for this paddle. We will launch from Indian Beach (at the south end of the Seascape Restaurant parking lot). Unload kayaks by the beach, making sure not to block the access road to the beach. After unloading, park your vehicle in the sandy parking lot by Trinidad Beach so we don’t impact the parking for Seascape Restaurant customers.

Contact: Helen and Mark can be reached at For more information, visit

Private Group Rolling Clinic: November 13, Sonoma, California

November 13
Location: Sonoma, California

Greenland National Kayaking Championship: July 13 to 19, Nuuk, Greenland

July 13 to 19
Location: Nuuk, Greenland

This event is the heart of all traditional kayaking events. It is organized by Qaannat Kattuffiat. It includes a short distance race, long distance race, race with portage, relay race, individual rolling, team rolling, harpoon throwing (distance), harpoon throwing (accuracy) and rope gymnastics.

Group Rolling Classes: June 8 and 9, Whiskeytown Lake, California

Date: June 8 and 9

Location: Whiskeytown Lake, California

Description: The techniques examined in these classes can be used with any type of paddle and any type of kayak. Topics that can be covered include first rolls, other-side rolls, layback paddle rolls, forward finish paddle rolls, norsaq rolls, hand rolls and beyond.

Full immersion gear is required. Bring a paddle float.
Pre-requisite: None.

Contact: To register, e-mail Kasumi at

Newsletter Sign Up

Kokata Kayak Clothing Accessories Apparel Gath Sports Helmets Sea Kayaker Magazine P&H Custom Sea Kayaks Kayak Paddles by OBlenis Paddles Thule Sweden Fat Paddler - Live. Laugh. Paddle!