Archive for January, 2012

Review: The Fat Paddler

People kayak for many different reasons. Some of us do it because we enjoy the solitude of a crystal clear lake surrounded by magestic mountains. Others do it for the adrenaline rush that can be found in complex ocean rock gardens and surf. Time in a kayak can be an escape from the “land world,” a Sunday ritual with friends, a time to work out problems or contemplate the meaning of life. But for most of us, it’s all of these things. Kayaking is a lifestyle. It’s a spiritual, wonderful thing, and Sean Smith’s book, The Fat Paddler, is proof of this.


The Fat Paddler by Sean Smith.


I picked up Sean’s book last Wednesday, and immediately found myself sucked in. For Sean, kayaking has provided meaning, purpose, solitude, spirituality, healing and appreciation of the world.

Our stories are all unique, and Sean’s is no exception… although what makes him different is that he’s not afraid to share his story, often in graphic detail. This book is Sean’s story about his life as a rugby player and a dramatic series of events that changed everything. His story recounts the Bali bombing and two car accidents, which left Sean nearly dead and in the hospital. These and other events eventually led him to a state of depression.

Sean also writes about the challenges of daily life, which can often be quite dramatic… the dread of going to a stressful job, the fight against obesity and quitting smoking, as well as the joys that life brings, such as marriage and having children. Sean’s story takes the reader around Sydney, Australia (where Sean lives) and the wilderness of Alaska. It also travels through the journey of training and competing in the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. Of course, the book comes complete with some of Sean’s favorite food and rum drink recipes.

The Fat Paddler is well written, and a book that all of us (kayakers or not) can relate to on some level. All of us face challenges at some time or another… that’s called life. It’s learning how to take these challenges and grow from them that makes us strong, and The Fat Paddler is one person’s example of how healing and happiness can be found in being outdoors.

The Fat Padder is available internationally on iBookstore. For the U.S. store, click here. For other countries, search your local iBookstore.

For more information, visit

Bay Area Paddlefest: April 21 to 22, Fremont, California

Date: April 21 to 22

Location: Fremont, California

Description: Come paddle a range of the newest stand up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes from leading paddlesports manufacturers. Try out the latest gear, take a class (we’ll be teaching rolling), meet other Bay Area paddlers and have your questions answered by the pros. Bring the whole family and stay for the day. There’s something for everyone!


Fixing a Sinking Balance Brace

Question: As promised at the Storm Gathering, I’m trying to hand roll. I’ve been using a single paddlefloat on my right hand, and successively reducing buoyancy until it’s probably got about a litre of air left in it. This works fine – I can do a “hand” roll like that and am happy with a Balance Brace. However, when I decrease the air to nothing I can no longer do the balance brace, my nose ends up a couple of inches underwater and I can’t get myself back up. Interestingly, in the same pool session I was trying re-entry and roll and with a half-full kayak the balance brace without paddlefloat was no problem – presumably because more of me (at least one leg) is already below the water line at the other end, and the lip of the cockpit is lower. In fact I did manage a slow but full 360 hand-roll like that. So am I doing something wrong, or is it quite likely I simply can’t balance brace with no flotation support?

Answer: It’s great to hear that you’ve been working on your rolls. When doing a Balance Brace, you want to think about your upper and lower body being separate (the division is at the waist). Your lower body should stay engaged, keeping the kayak as upright as possible. Your upper body should float on the surface. This means that you need to bring your upper body as perpendicular as possible to the kayak, so that both shoulders are flat on the surface. You may need to arch your back fairly aggressively to get your body over the cockpit and into the water while keeping the kayak upright. Your arms should be relaxed, and your head should be in the water without any tension. A couple of common mistakes with the Balance Brace are not having both shoulders flat on the surface and not having both arms relaxed. If both shoulders are not flat, your body is in a sinking position, not a floating position. If both arms are not relaxed, then the tendency is to pull down on the paddle/paddle float/etc. Play around with body position, and keep practicing… it’ll come.


Sprayskirts for Ocean Cockpits

Question: I’m using a Tahe Greenland for rolling and daytrips along the Baltic and North seas. For rolling I use a Brooks tuiliq. I think that I can wear it also above my drysuit. But for the daytrips I have when there are just small waves, I get a lot of water in the cockpit. So I’m looking for a new sprayskirt, and I hope that you can recommend one for the Greenland with the LC cockpit.

Answer: The Brooks tuiliq is wonderful for rolling, and we wear ours over our drysuits all the time. For paddling however, sprayskirts are often more comfortable. We use the ones made by Snapdragon, and prefer the all neoprene ones. You’ll need to get the cockpit size xxs, and the tube size will depend on your size.


BCU 3 Star Sea Assessment: April 29, Trinidad, California

Date: April 29

Location: Trinidad, California

Description: This discipline specific test is designed to show that a successful candidate has the appropriate level of skill to paddle safely in moderate water conditions on coastal journeys, and they may consider themselves an intermediate sea kayaker. They can do this in a competent manner as part of a led group and have the knowledge and ability to help the smooth running of a trip in this environment. The assessment will be against criteria set out in the BCU 3 Star Sea syllabus and will cover the following areas:

Personal Paddling Skills

  • Lifting, carrying and launching/landing
  • Efficient forward paddling
  • Reverse paddling, stopping
  • Maintaining direction
  • Changing direction
  • Moving sideways
  • Supporting
  • Rolling
  • Securing

Rescue Skills

  • Deep-water rescue
  • Contact tows and use of tow line
  • Eskimo rescue (self rescue sit on top)

Safety, Leadership and Group Skills

  • Personal risk management
  • Awareness of others
  • Paddle as part of a led group
  • Theory
  • Equipment
  • Sea safety
  • Weather
  • Hypothermia/First Aid
  • Access
  • Environment
  • Planning
  • Group awareness
  • General knowledge
  • Navigation

PrerequisitesBCU 2 Star Award, or equivalent

BCU Information: For syllabus details, visit the BCU North America website.

Contact: For more information, course fees or to register, e-mail

Surf Zone 101 (during the GGSKS): February 18, Sausalito, California

Date: February 18

Location: Sausalito, California

Description: Surf Zone 101 is an introduction to surf zone dynamics, swimming in surf, bracing, launching, landing, group management, communication, safety and basic surfing techniques.  You will learn how to use foundation skills and others in the dynamic environment of the surf zone.  If you paddle in a coastal environment or just like to have fun in your kayak, this class is for you.


Developing Greenland Skills (during the GGSKS): February 17, Sausalito, California

Date: February 17

Location: Sausalito, California

Description: This class is intended for those paddlers already using a Greenland paddle. This is a great chance to work on skills you have already started developing with some of the best coaches on the west coast. You will work on Greenland paddling strokes and skills in flat and moving water as well as a variety of rolling techniques with a Greenland paddle.  Any sea kayak is suitable and a selection of Greenland paddles will be provided.


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!