Written By Adventure Blogger, Nick Carlson
After leaving for Greece just under a month ago to take on an exciting sea kayaking adventure vacation, Cutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter, reports back with intel on her experience with the Adventure Technology Quest Paddle.
Finding the Right Paddle Is No Easy Feat
Have you ever noticed that people who paddle are picky about their paddles? There is a wide assortment of picky, paddler types out there. Like a Greenland guy, or a paddler hung up on high-angle, or a lady who likes long, light and low. However my buddy Brian, the BCU coach in Greece, who with tongue in cheek, says “rubbish”! (Truly, you haven’t lived until you listen to a Scotsman from Glasgow roll his “R’s”, drop his consonants and say “It’s quite a load of cr*p.”)
For years, Brian has been supplying his sea-kayaking customers on Poros Island with durable equipment that must be one-size-fits-most, rugged enough for rocks, suitable for salt and tolerant of temperature. He bought new paddles this year and they are all 220 cm, 60 degree (!) feather, heavy plastic blades and sturdy aluminum shafts.
So in I come; always showing up to push Brian’s buttons and rattle his world a bit. Just like every other year, I arrived on Poros with a padded paddle bag packed with an assortment of carbon fiber, high and low angle blades and adjustable ferrules. He wouldn’t dare admit he had paddle envy, until now.
Enter the Adventure Tech Quest Paddle
This year I packed an Adventure Technology Bent Shaft Quest from ACK. This is a beautifully made paddle and I think it will be great in salt water since the two pieces easily slide together and lock with a little lever. It’s simple to rinse at the end of the day and shouldn’t get clogged with salt. The adjustable ferrule accommodates significant length adjustments, right or left hand offset and any style paddlers can dial in the degree of feather. Personally, I always paddle at 30 degrees right. The blade seems to rotate for a perfect powerful catch when you recover with a good elbow lift from the hip. (But we’ll leave the other components of a safe, strong, effective and efficient forward stroke for another time.)
Barb Tells Herself Not To Be Picky, But…
For this trip, ACK sent me off with an Ergo (bent) shaft version of the Quest. For many years, I paddled with a bent-shaft touring paddle and ultimately decided to go back to a straight shaft. My personal preference for the straight shaft is flexibility. I counsel a beginner paddler to use a specific hand position and then put imaginary super glue on the palm. Beginning paddlers need to memorize their blade orientation, have effective hand separation and learn to lighten up the common death grip. But I like to move my hands to different positions for sea conditions and different styles of strokes, rolls and (of course) the party tricks that paddlers learn for showing off. Therefore, I would not normally chose this ergo design. I keep my grip loose enough that wrist position is not a big problem for me. Another issue I have with the AT bent shaft is how it weights the paddle. If you put your hands into effective paddling position and loosen your grip, the shaft rolls down disorienting the blades. Quite annoying. However by the end of the day, I got used to it and learned to keep a strong control hand, but over long distances this is more tiring and should not be necessary.
Initially, I also had a problem with the shape of the blade. For the most part, I am a high angle paddler but I do adjust my stroke for sea and weather conditions. AT describes the blade as versatile for high or low angle stokes, however my first thought was that it was good for neither. But don’t be such a picky paddler, Barb! By the end of the first day, I discovered that, indeed, it is a very good low-angle design and when using an occasional high-angle stroke you will get an effective stroke if you employ the “salmon spearing catch” (again, we’ll talk about this another time).
The cool comfort of the carbon blend shaft is my favorite part. It is a smooth matte finish that never gets hot or feels slick.
So in all, even Brian thinks this paddle could work for him and actually didn’t want me to take it home . Have you ever negotiated with a Scot? He drives a very hard bargain.
After leaving for Greece just under a month ago to undergo an exciting sea kayaking adventure vacation, Cutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter, reports back with intel on her experience with Bomber Gear’s Solar 50 Rash Guard.
Dress for Your Environment
Have I mentioned that in June it is hot in Greece? Not hot like Texas, the humidity is much lower so you don’t sweat just stepping outside. If fact, in Greece we live outside. It’s just 50 yards from our blue front door to the blue, blue sea, there is always a light breeze and the nights cool down, so sipping a Mythos (local beer) at the sidewalk Taverna is a perfect after dark pass time. But I digress. I was talking about heat and what to wear while sea kayaking.
To my paddling customers visiting Greece I always recommend wide brimmed hats and loose fitting long sleeved shirts to protect from blazing sun, but what I say and what I do are different. I put on poly shorts with a sleeveless top, slather on SPF 30 and don my Cutter Aquatics cap. It’s my Greek paddling uniform. Truthfully, I put off trying out the Bomber Gear Solar 50 Rash Guard that Joseph at ACK asked me to pack for Mediterranean paddling. I thought it would be too hot.
Wrong! This shirt is made of comfy, comfy fabric. The seams are nice and flat and the shirt feels wonderful under my lifejacket. It never felt sticky when I was wet and it dried very quickly. I got a couple of compliments on the color, too. Who says gray is boring? With the teal stitching it is a great combination.
Understanding the Sizing for the Solar 50 Rash Guard
The big question is fit. How do you like to wear your shirts, ladies? I usually buy size large these days. I have a good sized frame, broad shoulders and an aging middle. The collar, neckline and sleeves of this shirt felt very good, but for a size large, I think it should be just a bit broader through the shoulders and, frankly, I need more room in the waist.
Take a look at these pictures:
The first is of a woman who usually buys size Small clothing. I think the shirt looks great on her, but I understand that Bomber Gear may think rash guards should fit snugly under a wet suit or PFD.
The next photo is a young woman who is a competitive cycler and very fit. She buys Medium sized clothing almost all of the time. I think this is a good fit. Shoulder seams look like they are in the right place, too.
Sadly, the final shot is me. I’m starting a diet just as soon as I finish all this great Greek souvlaki (skewered chicken, beef, lamb or pork served with tzatziki, wrapped in a fresh pita) and Mythos!
Cutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter left for Greece just under a month ago for a sea kayaking adventure vacation. With her she brought a few new pieces of gear from Adventure Technology and Bomber Gear such as the Vanguard Spray Skirt and thought she’d share how it performed.
Tales of a Travelling Sea Kayaker
Traveling to Greece is no picnic. It’s a nine-plus hour flight from DFW to the chaos of London Heathrow, 4 more hours to Athens airport and then you’re met by blast-furnace heat outside of baggage claim. Cross your fingers that the A-C will be working on the X96 bus to the Port of Piraeus or sweat for an hour and a quarter. Now drag the suitcase, balance the paddle bag and sling the daypack aboard an odd-looking water taxi that the Greeks call the Flying Dolphin. In just one more hour you can disembark on Poros Island totally jet-lagged. But waking up the next morning to a sea kayaker’s paradise to totally worth the effort.
My first morning on Poros I’m invited to join a group of six Brits and Scots finishing a four-day BCU Three Star training. I am promised that we all speak the same language, but it is hard to tell at first. We laugh at all the accents and different terms we use. “Fit your buoyancy aid (lifejacket);” “Tuck up that spray deck (skirt),” they say.
Breaking Out the Vanguard Spray Skirt
They admire the Bomber Gear Vanguard spray skirt that I’ve brought along and I am thrilled with the wide “hook & loop” band on the neoprene tunnel. It is nice and wide with durable pull-tabs that adjust easily for a really comfortable, snug-as-you-like fit. Another feature I discover on this cool new skirt is a very handy slide release buckle on the grab loop. Our BCU coach, Brian, is a bit of a safety nut (a good thing) and makes sure that everyone tucks up the decks of their spray skirts into a strap or something on their lifejacket. When out of the kayak this keeps you from tripping over unseen rocks and such. The extra little strap and buckle on this skirt is perfectly suited to this safety practice and will also make it easy to hang the skirt to wash and dry later in the day.
Before leaving Texas I worked with Joseph at ACK to choose the correct spray skirt size for the large cockpits on our Rainbow Oasis boats in Greece. XL seems like a good choice. It snaps easily onto the stern cockpit of the big tandem boat I’m assigned with my buddy. We launch out into the blue, blue sea and follow the 3-star candidates to the Poros lighthouse.
By lunchtime we have reached a beautiful beach on the far side of the island and there are a few scrubby trees under which we can find some shade. While others dig into dry bags for lunch I grab one of the solo boats to try some rolls. The spray skirt fit so easily onto the cockpit combings I want to make sure it is snug enough to keep out water while upside down. Besides, the heck with shade trees, the water is absolutely the best relief from the heat.
Admittedly I am surprised but the cockpit stays dry. The roll trials were great. Now everyone wants to try and we spend the next hour working with lots of different folks to learn to roll. There is success all around. This beautiful clear water with the sandy bottom turns out to be a better teaching space than a Texas swimming pool and Greece is a perfect place for a picnic after all.
Five days and counting until καγιάκ περιπέτεια! (Kayaking adventure in Greek of course :-))
It’s time for Cutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter, to head out for the twelfth Cutter Aquatics Greek Adventure Vacation – Sea Kayaking in the Mediterranean.
Barb has been guiding paddling trips close to home and around the world since 2004. Destinations range from exploring the swampy bayous of Caddo Lake and Steel Magnolias trips down the Cane River in Natchitoches, LA to New Zealand, Scotland and, of course, Greece. Every year Poros Island has draws kayakers around the world back to the cerulean blue waters of the ancient Hellenic Republic, rich with history and culture, lively music and dancing and, of course, a magnificent and fresh cuisine.
An Instructor Trainer Educator for the ACA in Coastal Kayaking, River Kayaking and Canoe and Stand-up Paddleboarding, Barb enjoys leading paddlers, who have a passion for sharing the skills of the sport, through methods of teaching and coaching that will encourage people from all backgrounds to experience life on the water.
ACK is excited to have such an expert sea kayaker reviewing some of our most popular gear. Stay tuned for updates from Poros, Island Greece, to see what Barb and her sea kayaking clients like most about the gear.
Do you take paddling vacations? We want to know! Comment below with your top destinations for paddling getaways.