Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010 Vancouver Island Paddlefest

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A warm sunny day today -- a perfect day to head up to Ladysmith for the first day of the 2010 version of Vancouver Island Paddlefest, an annual celebration of paddling and spending money on gear.
Louise, Marlene and I drove up from Victoria, while Paula and Bernie planned to take the train up. Tracy was up island on other kayak-related business, so she drove down and spent some time at Paddlefest as well. Richard was busy elsewhere this weekend, so it gave us a good chance to talk about him behind his back.

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Almost as soon as we arrived, however, the day turned surreal and amazing. As we stepped out of the car and began walking towards the beach, the couple in the next car stopped us. "Excuse me, are you John?" they asked. When I replied that I was, they said that they recognized my voice from the videos posted here on the blog! Holy smokes -- our first encounter with fans! And me without my stack of 8x10 autographed glossies! As it turns out they were from Medicine Hat but they used to live in Victoria (in fact, not far from where Louise and I live now) and they like to read the blog to keep up on kayaking activities in their old home town. (They also follow Richard's blog but they noted that he seems to disappear for weeks at a time. See? I told you we were talking Richard behind his back.)
We bid them adieu and began our initial reconnoiter of the beach. The first thing we saw were these amazing wooden kayaks....
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...built by 8 Dragon kayaks on Gabriola Island. Gorgeous boats. My pictures do not do them justice.

Next we checked out Delta Kayak's new rotomolded twin-hulled sit-on-top, the Catfish.
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By this time Paula, Bernie and Tracy had arrived. We told them about the couple from Medicine Hat as everyone gave the Catfish a good grope.
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After that, it was time to hit the water and try boats!
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Paula, as usual, was first in the water.
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At first, Louise and I took out some Current Design boats, trying various permutations of the Solstice family, the GTS, the GT and the GT Titan. (I made a big list of about 20 boats I was hoping to try -- the Solstice was the only one on my list on the beach.)
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They didn't make any really impression on us. Not to say they were bad boats -- they're clearly not, they're well made and kitted out -- but they just weren't the boats for us. Louise found that they seemed to hit her in a tender spot in her hips and that made them uncomfortable for her to sit in. I found them acceptable but uninspiring. But that's just us. Your mileage may vary.

Next, she tried a Current Design Storm, while Paula took out a new Advanced Elements model, the Airfushion.
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Louise had wanted to try a Storm for a while now, as she has admired the look of them for many years, but again she found something in the way her hips connected with the boat to very uncomfortable.
Paula on the other hand found the Airfushion quick and sporty, for an inflatable anyway.

Then Louise tried a Valley Aquanaut.
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She liked it, but it was probably too large a model for her to really get a feel on it. I'd wanted to try some Valley kayaks as well but there was a dearth of them on the beach. Next year, more Valley, please!

Then Paula took out an Old Town Vapor, or she jokingly referred to it, The Deathtrap.
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See how dangerous it is? People were falling over just to get out of her way!
Why Paula calls this a "deathtrap" is that the kayak is just sea-worthy enough that she can visualize young or inexperienced paddlers having a lot of fun in this boat up to the point that they get into a lot of trouble in it. (She's the mother of twins. She knows all about this sort of thing.) On the plus side, there is a version of the Vapor that is made from 100% recycled post-industrial plastic.

After watching Mike Jackson and his friend do a rolling demonstration, we tried some Wilderness Systems kayaks.
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I went out in a Tempest 180 Pro, while Louise was in a Zephyr 160 Pro. I gotta say these were the best boats we tried all day. We found them to be quick and nimble, and Louise didn't experience any hip issues, and thought it was the best fit of what we tried.

Having had enough paddling, Louise and I moved out of the water and out of the way of the rolling lesson...
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...and changed back into our dry land clothes, where we caught up with Paula and Bernie who were having a late lunch with the couple from Medicine Hat! It seems that Paula and Bernie got recognized, too!

Soon our attention was drawn to a strange-looking craft in the parking lot....
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...a Huki S1-R Surfiski with Gullwing outriggers. I immediately knew that I needed at least three of these. Why I would need them, I had no idea, except that they are awesome cool looking.

And finally the day drew to a close, and the last thing to do was to win a door prize, something we do every year here. No, really. I kid you not. Our luck with these things here is phenomenal. The last four years we've won hats, t-shirts, a dry bag, and a PFD.
And the streak continued as Louise won a free double kayak rental from Sealegs Kayaking in Ladysmith. So it looks like another trip up here is in the future sometime this summer!
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Trip length: 2.5 km
YTD: 63.96
More pictures are here.


  1. I was recently at the east coast kayak festival in South Carolina - I blogged about it - and Got to meet Mark Hall one of the owners of Delta, I would imagine he was there, as you are much closer to his home than I am.

    I paddled the catfish, which if I were a fisherman would be a great platform. Unbelievable stable.

    I think events like this are sensational for trying out new boats, and getting a feel for what they are really like. They may look good in pictures, but they have to paddle well, and here is the key, with YOUR body in it. If it doesn't fit well, it doesn't matter how pretty or amazing the boat. is.

    Glad you had fun.


  2. Although he's been here before (in fact it was Paddlefest in 2006 when we first met him), Mark missed it this year, probably because he knew we were going to bug him about getting us some Delta kayak hats.
    Yes, these are great events to try out new boats. You may not know after a five or ten minute paddle if a boat is right for you, but my experience is that you can tell pretty quick if a boat is WRONG for you. And that's good information to have.

  3. I always love the paddlefest blog entries :) Makes me all excited about kayaking again, even if all my gear is still out with you guys! I'm hoping to catch the MEC tester day this year, tho I haven't seen any press for it yet.

    I hope Richard learns that you were talkign about him and gets his act together. Missing the annual Ladysmith trip? unacceptable!

    Also, I wanted you to know that Yves and I are trying to plan our honeymoon to involve as much kayaking as possible! We're currently looking into the southeastern islands, which you can kayak between, apparently. (now I just gotta teach Yves to swim!)

  4. Wow, you mean I'm not the only fan from Medicine Hat. That's cool, maybe there are more paddlers around here than I realized... Paddlefest looks so fun, I might have to come out exclusively for that some year.

  5. Paddlefest was indeed fun. It's the kind of event where you BRING and MAKE your fun, not one where someone hands it to you. If you want to try a couple of different kayaks to see which works well for you, this is the place to have fun doing so. Richard tried paddles last year, and came home with a beauty. This year, Bernie went on a long hike around the trails marked on a map at Transfer Beach... good times. This year, we didn't get to the little restaurant with the Best Cheesecake On The Island. but we did have some damn fine pizza on Roberts Street just across the highway from the Transfer Beach entrance. Fun is what you make it!
    This year the Paddlefest was held on a separate weekend from the big Ladysmith family-oriented festival, so the Paddlefest organizers made sure to have a couple extra family-oriented things going on.