Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sandy Robson.

I first met Sandy a few years ago, about 1nm SE of Cape Banks. She had just paddled from Melbourne, visiting Sydney enroute to Cape York so I organised to escort her to Sydney Harbour and show her around.

When I left La Perouse to find her there were camera crews lining the shore hoping to snap photos of a Great White shark that was reputed to be eating pelicans and stray dogs around Botany Bay. As I launched you could almost feel the air of hopeful anticipation that I would lure up the monster and become a newsworthy victim in gory full colour.

Long before I spotted Sandy their hopes were thwarted as I became an ever diminshing but intact dot on the horizon and a story of far more substance quietly paddled under their noses.

The next chapter in Sandy's adventurous story is planned to commence next year when she retraces the first leg of the epic voyage of German adventurer, Oskar Speck who paddled a folding kayak from Germany to Australia arriving in North Australian territorial waters at the onset of WW2.

She was recently in Sydney to research the Oskar Speck archives retained at the Australian Maritime museum and also test paddle some boats while she was here.

Sharon and I were lucky enough to catch up with her for a meal, share some paddling stories and to talk about her upcoming trip.This is a fascinating project and one worth following over the upcoming months.

I will put up a link to her new website as soon as it goes online.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

QSKC Big Weekend.

(photo courtesy Eddie Safrik)

Last Friday night members of the Queensland Sea Kayak Club were out in force to hear what three of their most adventurous members had been up to out on the Capricorn Cays. This trip has caused a buzz of interest along the east coast; especially North of the border where there is a sense of excitement that a trail through the offshore cays has been forged and pride that local QSKC kayakers made it first.

I suspect google earth has received a hammering from many of the eighty plus members and guests who crammed into the beautiful old Yacht club in Brisbane and were inspired by the Capricorn Cays story. It may very well be that even as I write this report cyberspace is buzzing with virtual trips as many ask themselves whether they might have a crack at this logistically convenient but challenging voyage that has been waiting so many years to be paddled.

It was a really upbeat and positive night and I was honored to be invited to introduce the boys and speak about the significance of the trip.

From their presentation we learned how team work and cohesion helped them through their toughest day on the water and it was a relief to see the contrast of paradise juxtaposed with the hardship of getting there. There were images contributed by all three paddlers with photos, chart extracts and GPS tracks arranged so we could match the images with their location and chronology. The teamwork that had served them so well on the trip was in evidence throughout the show with the guys working together to convey to the audience just what it was like to kayak out among the cays. I was especially impressed by some of Eddies beautifully composed seascapes and the groups underwater wildlife images.
Commodore Graham (aqua) Dredge and his team of volunteers are to be commended on a great night. There was strong sense of community in the waterfront clubhouse making it feel very cosy despite the wind flogging the rigging of nearby yachts, and rain lashing the weatherboards. As I looked around the room I realised how many of these people I had paddled or trained with over the last few years and knew I was among friends. So I settled in, enjoying the good vibe, trying not to think about how I would manage the training scheduled for next morning.

The following day didn't really dawn at all. The cloud hung low maintaining a deluge over Gary's place on the ''Sunshine Coast'' and the sky stayed a dull predawn colour until just before we packed the car and headed for Mooloolaba Beach.

With a Gale forecast and the closest coastal observations at Cape Moreton already recording mid thirty to low forty knot gusts we opted for a morning of stroke blending and balance skills on the coffee coloured canals of the Mooloola River. As we lined up to launch I was pleased to see the vast majority were skeg boats well suited to some of the tight turns and other tricks we were going to try.

The plan had been to use the sheltered corner of the ocean beach to start the day then work out into more exposed conditions just before lunch, but the wind kept us inside the river all morning. Fortunately I had designed a plan B program with Gary late the night before and this kept us busy until lunch.

In the afternoon the group composition changed a little with some of the morning group retiring to warmer places and some new recruits joining us for a session on mentoring skills aimed at guides and leaders. Peer review and role play exercises raised some interesting questions and a few laughs.

Throughout the day I was impressed with how receptive paddlers were to new approaches and different techniques. I think local instructors and senior club members should be pleased with the way their next wave of adventurous kayakers are developing, it is a credit to all involved. The QSKC is a relatively young club but they are definitely coming of age as the skill base continues to deepen.

I have always enjoyed paddling with the Queensland Club, the hospitality is warm and the passion for paddling is hot even when the weather isn't. Special thanks to Gary, Eddy and Paul for a fine presentation and the invitation to come along to the show, Commodore Dredge and his team for hosting the evening and organising the training day, to Gary again for being an exemplary host and fellow instructor and, most important, to all those who attended training on Saturday for your commitment and good humour.
Above: All smiles, whatever the weather. (photo Graham Dredge)

Above: Gary helps Martin fine tune his roll. ( photo Graham Dredge)

Above: The group tries a rotation exercises I picked up from Ginni
(Photo Eddie Safrik)

Above: Commodore Dredge pictured admiring the new club support vessel named in his honor.
(photo Eddie Safrik)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Making The Grade

(Above: posed rolls in flat water are only the beginning. Photo: Sharon Betteridge)

During skills assessments I always take the time to remind participants of the artificial nature of certification, after all it is the skill and judgement and not the piece of paper that matter. In a tricky situation the most futile strategy would surely be to wave your nicely printed certificate at an angry sea.

Just the same, a valid assessment provides a good opportunity to demonstrate both physical and communication skills in swell, sea and surf. The best rolls happen spontaneously and effective boat control is proven during rescues or other realistic tasks at sea. It is simply not possible to second guess how paddlers with apparently solid skills on the flat will adapt to dynamic water; some paddlers who work with the waves actually look better when it is lively whilst others operate with little or no feel for the sea. To 'keep it real' I often postpone assessments because the day offers too few or too many challenges.

Last Wednesday I drove past twenty of Sydney's favourite ocean beaches through heavy traffic, en route to Barrenjoey. The reason for the extra drive was a heavy 2-3 metre southerly groundswell that was hammering the open coast producing surf way beyond the: ''surf to 1 metre" specified in the award.

The extra driving provided us with a short paddle to surrounding headlands where we worked through rescue and towing scenarios in rebound and a freshening sea breeze. These activities were intensive but not unrealistic when you consider how often rescues, self rescues and towing happen in clusters in real life. At lunch we negotiated the surf at Umina Beach and as planned, the waves were worn down to manageable size by the natural breakwaters of Broken Bay, Lion Island and the reef off the southern point.

Sitting off the point of Umina it was still hard to imagine that the two metre plus mounds rolling under our boats had really lost much power as they pounded the middle of the beach and everyone seemed pleased with the easier landing through smaller surf and reflected waves close to "kiddies corner". After lunch and a stretch we took to the surf to demonstrate support strokes,control strokes and rolls. By this time the break zone had become more erratic with onshore wind chopping up the surface and a few rips cutting across the break to add an element of surprise.

The debrief is always a tough time for me. There are clear guidelines for the assessor and all the boxes need to be ticked for a successful performance. This is easy when you are reading through the document in a comfy chair at home, but on the day, there are always many shades of grey. As always the big hurdles seem to be surf and the reentry and roll in open water. These are also the easiest ones for the assessor; a roll that doesn't finish with the paddler upright is is obviously not working no matter how you view it and support strokes that don't work in small waves are also pretty plain to see. What is harder to measure is the attitude that will make a safe sea paddler. Fellow assessor Stuart Trueman once commented that skills without judgement just increase the ability to find trouble and if we focus on self rescue as the answer to every situation then some paddlers will make their plans based on getting out of trouble rather than staying out of trouble in the first place.

At the end of a long day, despite a generally strong performance everyone still had some work to do to complete their assessment, so it was rewarding that the group viewed the exercise as a valuable learning experience in its own right and a chance to take stock of personal progress. Beyond the piece of paper it is this self awareness that will stand these paddlers in good stead as they "make the grade".

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Onshore Winds

Recent winter westerlies and pulses of groundswell have created some clean and heavy surf against the coast. Serious surfers live for the alignment of these wind and swell events but for sea kayakers these conditions mean hard launch/landings on open beaches and a perilous slog across embayments or when returning from offshore islands.

In contrast, the onshore winds that shred the swells and ruin the surf, also kick up steep sided wind waves right against the coast providing hectic but often enjoyable kayaking conditions.

In deep water the rounder and more majestic swells travel far faster than we can paddle. According to the "Users Guide to Australian Coast"*, deep water swell waves with a 15 second period between crests will have a wavelength of 350metres and be travelling at 45knots! These are the impossible rides we try to catch as they roll under us at sea, and by the time they are are slow enough to catch they are in shallow water with almost vertical or barrelling faces that munch sea kayaks.

By comparison, even large wind waves of comparable height produced by a recent change will travel at only a fraction of the local wind speed thus providing steep close spaced waves that may travel within the sprint range of kayaks and other paddle craft and dissipate into foamy turbulence when they approach the beach.

Initially the new wind produces ''chop" travelling at around twenty percent of the wind speed. Over time this will approach 50percent of the wind speed as the waves reach a fully developed state, at which time they will be around 5 times as steep as swell waves of the same height.

So local winds produce waves that are steep, relatively slow, and close together even in deep water. When these winds are onshore, typically from the southeast or northeast, we are fully exposed as soon as we reach the sea and with careful planning or good luck we can often enjoy a downhill ride home at the end of our exertions.

The following shots were taken paddling into a fresh ENEaster earlier this week, there was almost no underlying swell off Sydney so almost all the wave action was the result of existing local conditions. When we had finished our workout we turned downwind and the following seas provided some excellent runners for everyone. There are no downwind images because :

1) The return paddle was over too fast.

2) I was having too much fun to take photos.

3) I was too busy listening to the skeg hum.

Hans approaching some wind driven waves .

Note the difference in elevation between Matt and I. This is a good indicator that things are getting steeper.

Henry in the foreground with the Stern of Alan's boat pointing skyward in the background

Alan about to get wet. Sooner or later the toppling crests dont break somewhere else.

*For an excellent discussion of wind, waves and swell see "The Users Guide To The Australian Coast" by Greg Laughlin, New Holland Press 1997.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This week I cancelled my Tuesday night paddle and headed to the Blue Mountains for the launch of Vicki McAuley's book, SOLO.When I returned home just on midnight I started reading and after just a few pages I was compelled to read the whole book in one long sleepless sitting, I simply couldnt put it down.

The book stands as Vicki's personal tribute to husband Andrew McAuley and a chronicle of her personal voyage as she learns to live with her loss and find the courage to keep going.

It is a powerful and honest account and through the pages you get the feeling that Andrew's spirit of optimism and passion continues to support and inspire her. It is an exploration of what drives an extreme adventurer written by the person who knew him best.

Many modern adventurers claim to be ordinary folks who just want to do extraordinary things but this book avoids this cliche to present Andrew as a gifted natural athlete driven by an impulse to explore the limits of human performance. To those of us who paddled with him at one time or another I think this is a far more honest appraisal; he really was an elite adventurer without being elitist.

Anecdotes covering earlier kayaking expeditions and climbing adventures are interwoven into the text to illuminate the bigger issues of outdoor adventure, self sufficiency, and community attitudes to risk. Also included in the book are emails and letters that cover a broad range of opinions along with Vicki's responses, but the key to the success of the book lies in her willingness to write from the heart.

It has been famously said of adventurers that if you need to ask the question then you will never understand the answer. For those who ponder these issues Vicki's brave words will help to enlighten.

If you buy a copy through the EK website, Vicki receives all the proceeds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday Night Light

A few shots from Tuesday night.
Great location, fine company and beautiful twilight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lively Conditions Off Sydney Cliffs.

The two photos above are from the same general vicinity. I have included the first shot, taken on a gentler day, to give some sense of proportion for the second shot. As most paddlers know, it is difficult to convey a sense of scale when paddling in strong conditions and it never quite looks the same on a still image but I couldnt resist snapping a few shots last Friday when Chris James and I headed out for a short paddle off Sydney Heads and down to Diamond Bay.

With the ferry services cancelled due to the weather the only other watercraft was a huge tanker that bludgeoned its way through the waves and seemed to bounce around a lot more than our tiny craft as it headed for deeper water.

If you look carefully along the waterline in the left hand portion of the photo above you will see Chris's cap just above the wave.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Northern Epic - They made it.

At 6.30 last night Gary called from Gladstone - mission accomplished.
Before they even arrived back on the mainland the trio had traffic issues to negotiate, dealing with the big boats moving in and out of the Harbour. They used VHF radio to report their position to the Harbourmaster who plotted their course and relayed their position to shipping. Fortunately their communications were well received.
With the last big crossing behind them and their final destination in sight they left Facing Island after a quick break and headed into the Port in fading light for a very satisfying 65klm final day of paddling.
Last night they spoke of a day of contrasts: in the morning, surfing across coral bombies in water so clear that the well submerged reefs looked treacherously close to the surface and in the afternoon, dodging heavy shipping in a busy port.
The other notable comment from all the boys last night was how well they had been treated by the good people of Lady Elliot Island Resort and the Rangers, Marine Researchers and yachties they met along the way. I have the impression the kindness of these people will form one of the enduring memories of this big paddle.
So congratulations, to Gary, Eddie and Paul on your Unique unsupported sea kayak adventure out to the Capricorn Cays and back. I know there are many of us looking forward to hearing the whole story through your words and images sometime soon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Northern Epic - Almost There....

One of the few mariners calculations that I remember is: "the square root of the height of an object in feet is the distance in nautical miles that it is first seen from the seat of a kayak". If the sea is flat you can add an extra three nautical miles (but this is hardly ever the case) so I just allow the extra as a margin for error.

So what has this to do with Gary, Eddie and Paul's big adventure? Well, by looking at high points on charts for the Capricorn Cays and the adjoining mainland it becomes obvious that on most days of this trip they have paddled on open ocean toward an empty horizon without the comforting visual reassurance of seeing land until their last few nautical miles.

Tomorrow however, they will be paddling to the mainland from Masthead Island. This tiny isle has only a few metres of elevation and is less than one nautical mile in length. Their destination for the day will be Facing Island off Gladstone. As they approach, the hinterland will appear as isolated high points like small islands and then slowly consolidate into the vast land mass of the East Coast.

When their boats grind up onto the sand of Facing Island and they look at the busy shipping lanes out of Gladstone Harbour what will they feel? My guess is a mixture of deep satisfaction at the adventure they have shared, relief that they have achieved their goals safely, and trepidation at how they will adjust to what we call the "real world". For a while traffic will sound louder, the air will smell heavier and everything will seem just a little too complicated. On the upside they will look forward to family and friends, and to sharing their adventure with us.

Tonight's update from Masthead Island included: another serious shark encounter for Paul; a chance meeting with a marine researcher who owns a vintage Nordkapp and lives on Heron Island; and a lunch break on Wistari Reef as the tide slowly reclaimed it for the sea. The guys were also pleased to add sea snakes to the lengthy list of wildlife that have been checking out their inaugural northern migration.

I can't wait to see the photos.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Northern Epic Continues...

When it became obvious to me that I wasn't going to make it to the starting line for this adventure I offered myself as weather monitor and land contact. It is not the same as being there, but I feel privileged to be offering forecasts and plotting their progress. This way I can share some of the adventure vicariously as the boys island hop through this remarkable chain of coral cays.

At Lady Elliot Island they were happy to stay put through a cycle of weather changes that included moderate to strong nor-easters and assorted offshore winds. With no need to force the pace to catch another weather window they used this time wisely, swimming with Manta Rays and reef fish in the pristine waters, refuelling and reflecting on the lessons learnt from their first big crossing.

When I spoke to Gary about the relatively ''short'' 40km hop to Lady Musgrave I could tell that he had really started to live and breath with the rhythm of the outer reef environment and was very tuned into weather shifts and how they would affect conditions.

On Sunday afternoon they easily made this crossing to Lady Musgrave and settled down to a couple of days of fishing, snorkelling and chilling out.

Last call was at lunchtime today from tiny Hoskyn Island where they had stopped for a break.

It is possible to visit this remote archipelago just by jumping on a charter boat for a day or to take your tent and camp for a while, or even to hit the resort with nothing but a few clothes and a credit card; but I reckon there is something special about arriving and leaving by kayak, in your own time, on your own terms, with a sense of freedom and adventure worthy of such a place.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Sea Kayakers around Sydney are getting tougher or the clothing is getting better. Just last week I had an 8.00am rolling lesson with air temp at 7deg C and water temp 19deg C; and the Tuesday night paddling contingent continue to stop for a few deep water rolls in the inky dark waters off the cliffs of Sydney and Botany Bay.
Warm water and cold air are a great combination for Autumn/Winter surf training; the cold air keeps the swimmers away and the warm water reduces that slap in the face feeling when punching out. The lack of competition for small surf gives sea kayakers a chance to stretch out a bit.
With a clear and wide line to the beach I snapped the self portrait above practising reverse endos at lunchtime at a surf training day.
Why is it whenever I pull this stunt everyone is looking the other way?

This shot of Neil was taken the same day using a one handed low brace with camera in the other hand.

A couple of resilient Kiwis in OZ just to test boats. "We never get weather like this back home."
In the last few months I have hosted visits from USA, Canada, New Zealand, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania,Victoria and from regional New South Wales. Some have come along to try boats but most have been here for tuition or some guided paddling in warm open water. It is very rewarding to be part of the global paddling community, to share ideas and proudly show off
the waterways that make up my "office"

Sharon leads the way around Point Perpendicular, The Beecroft Peninsula. On my day off from kayaking commercially I often find myself drawn to this part of the coast and when I get there I cant resist going for a paddle.

Sharon's Saturday morning paddle, rain hail or shine. This paddle has become a regular fixture for Sydney kayakers. I think the success of this paddle lies in the simple formula of regular exercise, supportive environment, friendly crew and fresh coffee.

Seals are where you find them, and this one was happy to stay put regardless of interlopers in kayaks. The cool conditions have brought a number of these Southern visitors up to the city for winter.
Around Sydney the urban paddler can expect to see more dolphins, whales, seals, sharks, fish and seabirds than ever before, there is even a couple of turtles if you know where to look. To find a time of more abundance in the waters around Sydney would probably predate our use of sea kayaks in the area. Maybe the seasonal visitors of my childhood including, hairtail and slimy mackerel will return in due course.
I know we can never do enough as a community to protect our natural heritage but we need look no further than the way sea life has bounced back as evidence that recent initiatives to manage the city fishery and water quality are helping. Imagine if we all did a little more....
Photo by Eddie Safarik of me checking out a rock garden just north of Sydney Heads. I can't wait to see Eddies pics from the Bunker/Capricorn Expedition when they have successfully returned. (see last blog)
Rae about to be engulfed in the soup. Another fun day with a small group and gentle waves on the Central Coast.

Gina surfs across the edge of the rock platform at Malabar. Things to remember when kayak surfing at Malabar:

  • Wear a helmet.

  • Tuck if you capsize.

  • Don't broach right.

  • Don't drink the water.
Colour photo of a monochromatic day.

Paul demonstrates some of his Greenland skills. This is a growing niche with more and more paddlers enjoying the physical and technical challenges of traditional techniques. The low volume Greenland style boats are great for getting the feel for these skills.

The boat and the paddle: just add water - If rolling is on the agenda these are the right tools for the job.
No, this isn't world renowned kayak instructor Ginni Callahan directing traffic while Ian takes a nap.
This is part of a workshop on Greenland Rolling and Ginni is describing the relative angle of the boat to the water surface. Meanwhile, Ian is showing how it works when your back bends the right way. (don't try this at home)

Ginni shows how it is done. Her flexibility and finesse were inspiring. Although her visit coincided with the end of the really warm weather many of us have persevered through the cooler months so I am expecting there will be some noticeable improvements in the gentle art of Greenland rolling by the end of this summer.

Gina backs into a sea cave off the Toll Gate Islands. With the occasional bigger set coming through backing in was a good strategy. As with many rocky play spots, good control forwards, backwards and sideways make the whole activity safer and more fun.

Sometimes your forward stroke is your best defence. Gina running a tight gap off Gorilla Bay, South Coast, NSW.
This is Danny Blackwell heading out with the Tuesday night group for one last paddle before heading off to Africa to paddle across Lake Victoria with a couple of his mates. Since this photo was taken the trip has been successfully completed.
Well done Danny. A big adventure to raise money for a very worthwhile charity.

Part of Sharon's Saturday group off Bradley's Head. The historic lighthouse marks the big left turn that all shipping has to make after on its way to Sydney Heads from port facilities further up stream. Kayakers get one last look for heavy traffic before heading North towards the outer Harbour.

Days are finally getting longer again and the city skyline is often still illuminated by the afternoon sun as we leave for our evening paddle.

The winter southerlies have provided some great opportunities for getting out in the breeze, riding the waves and practising skills in open and moving water. As local paddlers get more skilled and keener to advance they are realising that Sea Kayaking can be year round sport and there is no need to lose all that hard earned paddle fitness and skills just waiting around for summer.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Northern Epic

At 7.24pm on Tuesday I received the phone call I had been waiting for all day as a very relieved Gary Forest, Eddie Safarik and Paul Wilton recounted the travails of their big crossing from Sandy Cape to Lady Elliot Island.

In a straight line this is 85kms of open water and about the same distance paralleling the coast. Apart from the likelihood that this is a kayaking ''first", the group were initially drawn to it because of the unique paddling environment to be found at the maritime crossroads between Fraser Island and the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.

Like many other points of convergence between major geographical features around the world, the turbulent waters filling the void between the worlds largest sand island and the world's largest reef system are notorious among mariners for producing difficult conditions. To this you need to add the 35kms of shifting bars and shoaling water known as the Breaksea Spit that runs North of Fraser. In his famous guide for cruising yachts Alan Lucas says of the area to the north of Sandy Cape: "the most predictable currents on this chart are those setting across the Breaksea Spit. It is dangerous to underestimate their strength which easily reach 2.5knots in places and will cause a heavy break against an easterly swell."

The boys were well prepared but challenged by the intensity and relentlessness of the conditions. As well as a 2-3m easterly swell they had winds at the upper end of the forecast with ESE gusting 20-32knots all day (Lady Elliot AWS). The resulting sea worked across the swell and currents to kick up a churning surface with breaking waves and almost constant clapotis. To make matters worse, rain reduced visibility and robbed them of the moonlight they were relying on for a visual horizon before sunrise. As a group they battled with: seasickness, exhaustion, an extremely inquisitive 4 metre Mako shark, another that tried to rip the paddle from Gary's hands in the darkness, and a trawler that almost ran over them on dusk.
The final tally on their GPS was 95kms in just under 17 grueling hours. When I asked Gary about the extra 10kms he said most of it was the aggregation of short detours as they were broached off course by breaking swells and intersecting wave patterns.

These are committed sea kayakers who trained diligently to prepare for their trip through the Bunker Group. I know they have done some long days in bumpy conditions and some serious technical paddling in big surf and on turbulent river bars, so when they talk of numerous capsizes and frequent support strokes it is very clear to me that this is an extremely difficult stretch of water and it is not just the sheer distance offshore that has kept Lady Elliot out of reach of kayaks for so long.

When I spoke to the team yesterday after a good nights rest they spoke in awe of the heavy conditions and relentless white water. Eddie spoke of the wild beauty of the seascape and the images of boats perched high on steep and twisting wave faces; images not captured on film in such difficult circumstances but vivid in his words, but the overwhelming feeling they all shared was pride and relief that the group stuck together and helped one another through this epic day on the water.

They intend to head off in light conditions for a comparatively "short" 40km crossing to Lady Musgrave Island tomorrow as they work their way north through the Bunker Group.

This trip is shaping up to be a classic Aussie adventure and this begs the question; Have these guys discovered another paddling icon? Is this the Queensland answer to Bass Strait?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Summer Paddling - Sydney

Commodore Steinfeld beating into a steady Sou'Easter.

Tim paddling along the golden cliffs of the Royal National Park in the twilight.

Freshly hatched Cicada drying wings in time for the early morning wake up call

Bob with clifftop audience.

Wattle Bird trying to get some shuteye despite noisy campers.

Sad discovery - a dead Sea Dragon with eggs.

Paul in new boat on open water, all smiles.

Tracy's test paddle. Sunset over the Sydney skyline.

No room for kayaks - the weekly Laser invasion begins.

Grey sea, Grey boats, Grey sky.

Tuesday paddlers heading south past Macquarie Lighthouse.

Surfing in warm water in warm rain. A pleasant contrast from the intensity of the sun.

Matt in the hat. Real kayakers wear real hats.