Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pimp My Ride
A guide to outfitting a white water canoe

Me and my Taureau, Ribo, Tessin, Switzerland. Photo by Sanne

There has got to be hundreds of different ways to set up and outfit a white water canoe. Here is a quick guide to how I outfitted my Esquif Taureau with some tips and tricks for pimpin’ your ride.

The bits I used; foam, bungee cord, rope, plastic pipe, old straps and nuts and bolts.

The tools, not much cos I like simple and easy.

I cut out the retaining foam for the rear airbag and cut the back of the saddle so it is vertical. I find I slip less in the saddle when the back is vertical. I remove the air bag retaining foam from the back of the saddle to allow the airbag to come forward over my feet thus holding them down. For me the factory saddle is the right size and glued in the right place. If you need to trim the saddle or bulkhead to fit do this before starting on the rest of the customisation.

Cutting back the saddle, I measured it up before I started sawing.

Cutting the back airbag foam out.

Step one finished.

To anchor my thigh straps I use a piece of plastic pipe that fits tightly into the equalisation hole on the bottom of the saddle. The pipe has some webbing bolted into it as strap anchor points. This system requires no gluing and allows straps to be added quickly and easily to the canoe should you desire.

Drain pipe, some old strap sewn together and a nut and blot. a super easy strap anchor system.

The strap anchow system in place, this is the simplest solution I know of.

I glue foam to the floor using contact glue, extending from the foam knee pads right back to the foot rests. This helps to support my shins and takes up some dead space that water would otherwise fill up, foam is much lighter than water!

Foam glued into the hull, it is comfy, warm and takes up water space. It's great!

I drill a pair of small holes on either side of the front deck and thread some 6mm bungee cord through to act as attachment points for gear. I clip rescue gear in on one side and a small dry bag containing a first aid kit in on the other. Storing gear in a Taureau is tricky and this is one of the best ideas I have on solving the problem.

Drilling the equipment anchow holes.

My rescue gear clipped in, photo from inside the canoe.

I found that I often use the bungee cord on the water bottle and throw bag attachment points to lift and carry the canoe. This sucks because the bungee cord is not designed for this purpose and it will break when you least want it to. So I added some more carrying handles to the deck. I drilled holes, threaded the rope through added washers and knotted the rope.

My new carrying handles, superb.

Using a short length of webbing, metal D rings and bolts and washers I make an anchor point for the other end of my thigh straps. Attaching the straps to D rings allows for rotation and makes it easy to add straps without the need for tools.

D rings from inside, note the rubber pipe on the end of the bolts to protect my heals and the airbags.

And from the top.

To make inflating my airbags as easy as possible I cut out holes through the front and back of the saddle to allow me easy access to the inflation tubes. I used length of old paddle shaft to cut the holes out.

Cutting out my airbag tube holes with a bit of old paddle shaft.

In my opinion hip pads are one of the post performance enhancing additions you can make to a white water canoe. I make my own out of foam, craving and shaping them to fit using a rasp and sandpaper. It is sometimes easiest to carve the hip pads to approximately the right shape, glue them in using contact glue and fine tune the fit when the glue is dry.

Hip pads, they rock.

I also carry a spare airbag stored under the front airbag and a split paddle stored under the rear airbag, repairing a broken airbag quickly and easily is almost impossible and carrying a spare paddle is common sense.

I try to make my outfitting as simple and as effective as possible, I would much rather paddle my canoe than fiddle with it!

My Kober split paddle fits neatly in the back of the canoe, safety first.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to send me an email.

Paddle safe,


Friday, November 13, 2009

Grand Canyon
A deluxe multi day paddling adventure

The Grand Canyon. Photo by Me

Quite simply put the Grand Canyon is awesome, it's awesome for many different reasons. The stunning environment sets it off, blue sky, red rock walls and green water and the complete isolation from the outside World, it is just you, your friends and 17days of multi day deluxe!

17days of food and beer all loaded up on the cargo rafts at Lees Ferry. Photo by Me

We organised our expedition with help from Canyon Explorations, superb guides, excellent cooking and an incredible knowledge of the environment, the funny stories were the icing on the cake. Yes they really did cook several yummy cakes and ice them, in the middle of the Grand Canyon!

Looking downstream from Lees Ferry. Photo by Me

Several people have since asked me to report my experience and give a few pointers for those who are intending to make the journey through the Grand Canyon by open canoe. First up what boat to take, I choose the SpanishFly. It is a small white water canoe and was ideal for hammering through the big rapids and not too slow on the flats. I know several friends who have chosen bigger canoes, Spark or Vertige etc. for their adventures. The GC runs at about 300cumecs or 10,000CFS, as long as you are prepared for and comfortable paddling your chosen canoe in big water then you will be fine, the pool drop nature of the GC makes picking up the pieces after an over enthusiastic line easy!

Me running through a big hole in House Rock rapid, I was glad I had the SpanishFly for this line!
Photo by Ralph Rhein

A friend asked me some questions last week, here are my answers, he is going in January;

Cruising the Canyon, it is stunning. Photo by Lilli

1. How many days were you in the Canyon? I think we are supposed to be in for 22 days, probably due to the shorter days.
17days it was super, how far are you going down? We got out at diamond canyon.

It looks lovely and warm, the water isn't take warm clothes to paddle in. Photo by Ralph Rhein

2. What sort of warm clothes did you take and how many of them? Is there a limit to what can be taken on the raft? Washing/ shaving stuff, what to take? How big a tent did you take? Down or synthetic sleeping bag?
I took 2sets of thermals, a thermal core top, down jacket, hat and socks, oh yeah and boardies. We had about 50litres clothes space, 50L sleeping stuff and a tent separate. There is a surprising amount of space on rafts, its just extra kilos. Washing stuff yes, shaving no, but I don't like shaving much so any excuse! The tent we had was supplied by the outfitter, it was 2person sleeping size tent, no porch. Synthetic s'bag and a warm one, it was sometimes cold at night for us, for you it will be colder.

US immigration is a pain in the arse, they have got a lot of nice places to defend though! Photo Lilli

3. Any info on US immigration, I've never been to the US (I've sorted my ESTA)? Did you use the address of the outfitter as your address in the US? Who did you fly with? Any problems with kayaks/ canoes? I'm flying with US Airways.
Outfitter address was fine, they just wanted an address. We flew Condor pre-booked boats, no drama. They forgot to charge us on the way out and it cost $30 on the way back.

Tim the Tarantula and Sam the snake. Photos by Me

4. You saw rattle snakes and tarantulas... Were they scary? ;-)
No! The spider was funny but I am not scared of spiders. I am scared of snakes but the camera made me brave, it was ok. I think most animals are lazier when it is cold, snakes for sure, so for you no problem.

I don't have any moisturising photos, but this is very pretty! Photo by Me

5. Moisturiser... Apparently its very dry and your hand's and face will fall off if you aren't careful. Did you notice this?
Yes its very dry! Sand everywhere! Take moisturiser, I am a lazy moisturiser and survived without my face falling off, my hands would have benefited from more moisturising though.

6. Who was your outfitter?
We went with Canyon Explorations they were superb, we all had a great time. I would go again tomorrow!

Me rowing whilst my airbag repair was drying. Photo by Lilli

7. How much boating kit did you take? Is 1 set enough?
1 set was fine except that I didn't take any spare airbags for my canoe, 1 got a hole and luckily we had some aqua seal. All the sand makes the GC an abrasive environment for kit, take a little repair kit, we needed aqua seal and tape for repairs.

Party time at Tequila beach. Photo by remote Me

8. Anything else I should know or take with me? Anything you wish you'd taken?
If you get your Assassin drysuit before you go, take it and wear it and be a smug warm man in a dry suit, take some zip oil too, to stop the zippers getting sandy and sticky. Everybody I asked this question to before I went said "take more beer" I agree take more beer! And tequila. I took 2crates of beer, so did most of my companions. It was all drunk, and we could have drunk more. The secret is to pack at a bottle of spirits for every night, that solves most parties! I took an airbrush cleaning thing for my camera, brushing and blowing is much better at cleaning sand from a camera than a cleaning cloth because sand scratches.

We all do. Photo by Me

A massive big up to everybody that helped to make this trip an experience of a lifetime(until the next one!); from CanX, Swiss, Cam, Mike, Dave, Josh, Jamie, Sarah and from Kanuschule Versam, Mak, Ciccio, Kasi, Claudia, Franc, Kathi, Ralph, Bruno and Lilli.
Any more questions feel free to drop me a mail,
Paddle hard and love life,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Thirty five out of Fifty

Photo by Flo

That's how many days I have spent canoeing since I last blogged, lucky me! After my disappointing performance at the Freestyle Worlds this year I was pleasantly surprised to receive this video of me doing something at Thun.

Filmed and edited by Chris Nobel

I enjoy being a photographer but every so often I get pissed off that I have so many nice photos of other people and very few of myself. Thankfully I have some good friends who also know their way around shutter speeds, apertures and ISOs.

Photographer: Beni, Location: Soca and Koritnica.

The Spark is one of the greatest canoes ever designed, the Soca is one of the nicest rivers in the World, a superb combo!

Photographer: Ralph, Location: Grand Canyon

The SpanishFly is my all time favourite whitewater canoe; rodeo, creeking and multiday all in the same boat, sweet! Next Spring the 'Fly will be 10years old, bring on 'FlyFest.

Photographer: Flo, Location: Vorderrhein

Last weekend it took the new Raven for a spin , for a fat boat it turns and accelerates very quickly and is very dry. If the Spark is too much of a canoe for you, try a Raven it is a friendly Spark!

Photo by Me

I will write a report on the Grand with some tips, tricks and advice for prospective GC canoeists when I get some more photos to show off!

Paddle safe

James x