Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kokatat Global Ambassador and SUP Paddler, Norm Hann Finishes the Iconic Yukon River Quest Race

Earlier this year I was on the phone with Kokatat Global Ambassador, Norm Hann discussing his adventure-plans for 2016. I was very excited to hear that he had a plan to stand up paddle (SUP) the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson as part of the world-renowned, Yukon River Quest race.

The Yukon River Quest was created in 1998 as a complimentary summertime race to the very successful Yukon Quest. For the first time in x years, race organizers were opening up a new class and it would be SUP – experimental only. The catch: only 11 entrants and no eligibility for prize money and you had to stand up for 3 days.
Mark and I knew we were going to be up in the Yukon around the time of the race as we had business with some of our Yukon Dealers (KanoePeople and Up North Adventures) so I promptly offered our support crew services to Norm (and fellow SUP Paddler, Lina Augaitis – Werner Paddles).

On Tuesday, June 28th we met with Norm at our friend, Kalin (Pallett’s) home and hammered out the details, the race was starting the next day, June 29th at 12 noon. I was a bit nervous having never provided this level of support at an event but Norm was very reassuring and his partner, adventure-racer, Jen Segger told me if all we had waiting for him in Carmacks (the first mandatory rest stop of 7 hrs) was Brussel sprouts, he would eat them. We had a plan and our job was simple, ‘execute the plan and never let him quit. Unless he was hurt, real bad.

Photo: Mark Klein

With a 400 metre le mans - running start, Norm was greeted by Mark on the gravel bar where the competitors SUP boards were set up for launching. Racers would face one of the biggest challenges of the 735 km/400+ mile race at the 87 km/54 mile mark, the crossing of the Lake Laberge (made famous by Klondike poet, Robert Service). The SUP paddlers knew this section of the race could make or break the race for them and they had 14 hrs to reach Lower Laberge.

Photo Nikki Rekman Sales
Following the paddlers on the race tracker we “saw” that they were having unbelievably good fortune on the lake. We figured they were going at a crazy-fast pace or had a bit of a tail wind, and/or both. It turns out it was both. Favourable winds out of the south meant no heads winds and with the likes of long distance endurance racer, Bart deZwart (USA) and our very own, expedition paddler, Norm Hann in the lead the pace was high for all 49 km of the lake. They were paddling side by side the last couple hours on the lake and entered the 30 Mile section of the Yukon River in 9 hrs, 34 min.

Photo by Elise Giordano
The first mandatory rest stop was in Carmacks a mere 216.5 km away. Here we would be ready for Norm’s arrival with food, a place to sleep (tent), big hugs and encouraging words. I knew when Norm arrived he would be utterly exhausted from paddling 24.5 hours straight and as he forewarned me, “pretty quiet”. The exhausted part was true but he was more talkative then I had expected.  His first words to me, “we just paddled 300 km in 24.5 hours at race pace” followed by, “my legs are not working properly”. As per our “plan” we got Norm’s feet elevated and gave him a big Bacon Cheese burger and a double order of fries, Miss Vickie's Salt & Vinegar potato chips, some apple, banana, water and hot tea. A quick call home to his family and then it was time to get him into bed (we managed all of this in about 45 minutes, we needed to maximize his sleep/recovery time). Important to note is that Norm crushed the 35 hour time allotment with his 24.5 hour arrival time.

One tired dude eating his meal of choice after standing up and paddling for over 24 hrs. bacon cheeseburger and 2 orders of fries (with ketchup). Photo: Nikki Rekman Sales

The earliest Norm could depart Carmacks was 19:37:52 and the nice thing about his arrival time was that his departure time was not at an ungodly hour, like 3 am. Thanks for that, Norm. After an almost 5 hour sleep Norm was up and we were getting him fed and ready for the next leg. My favourite memory of our time in Carmacks was when Norm and fellow SUP racers, Jason Bennett and Lina Augaitis were sitting around and they were all kind of giddy saying, “this is just stupid” – LOL!
Saying goodbye to Norm in Carmacks was tough, support crew were not permitted at the next mandatory rest stop of 3 hours, at Coffee Creek however his last words to me were pretty funny…”Nikki, never will I be so happy to see you as I will be when I get to Dawson!” another epic 402 km non-stop.

Photo: Nikki Rekman Sales

Norm departing Carmacks right behind SUP category leader, Bart deZwart. Photo: Nikki Rekman Sales

We woke up at 3am on Saturday morning and I met up with my friends to make signs to welcome in the first three SUP paddlers in Dawson – Bart deZwart, Norm and Jason Bennett. Based on the race tracker all three SUP paddlers were paced to arrive in Dawson under the 55 hour mark (the cut off for prize money). Bart was 15 minutes ahead of Norm and Jason. I spotted them through the binoculars and it took FOREVER for them to get within yelling distance and boy, did I yell. I was so excited to see them and knowing they were do it in under 55 hours was amazing.

Photo by Elise Giordano
Feet up and Miss Vickies Potato Chips in the van shortly after finishing. So proud of this guy! Photo: Nikki Rekman Sales
Norm completed the 18th annual Yukon River Quest in 54 hours, 56 minutes and 47 seconds for a 2nd place finish making history and along with his fellow SUP paddlers proved that SUP paddlers have a legitimate place in this iconic race.

Mark and I with OUR YRQ SUP finishers. What an experience to share with them and to be a part of SUP's first year in this iconic race! Photo: Steve Knaack

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review of the Kokatat Women's Idol Drysuit with SwitchZip Technology

Thanks to Recreational Canoeing Association of British Columbia - RCABC whitewater canoeing instructor, Allyson Phillips for the following review of the Kokatat Women's Idol Drysuit.

"I recently had the opportunity to try out the Kokatat Gore-tex Idol drysuit with switchzip technology.  Lyle Dickieson and I were teaching an advanced open boat course in April on Vancouver Island.  The weather was hot and sunny, and the Nanaimo river was cold – perfect conditions to test out this suit.  First of all, getting dressed was so easy!  Once I learned how the zipper mechanism worked, the suit was so easy to put on and take off, with no awkward physical manoeuvres required.  On the water, it set a new standard for comfort with no zipper underneath the PFD.  The zipper placement is well chosen and allows free, comfortable movement.  At the end of each of our paddling days, we had long, hot portages back to the vehicles.  It was so simple to remove just the pants of the suit, just the jacket, or the whole suit.  Next time I need a new drysuit, I’ll definitely look for these features for superior comfort and versatility. Kokatat has always provided friendly and professional service and the Kokatat rep, Nikki is always wonderful!  Thank you Nikki, for the use of the suit!"

Contact your local Kokatat dealer for demo opportunities or follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Nikki Rekman Sales to find out where we will be next and ask about trying any one of the drysuits in our demo fleet.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Norm Hann Joins Nikki Rekman Sales Team and Kokatat Global Ambassador Team

At Nikki Rekman Sales we have the privilege of meeting and working with some of the industry’s best ambassadors and Norm Hann is one of those people. I can’t remember the first time I met Norm, I think most likely in the early days of the Kal Classic. (Hosted by Werner Paddles FIRST land-locked stand up paddle dealer, Kalavida Surf Shop). He had already started his Standup 4 Great Bear conservation initiative and the documentary, STAND was filmed (you can view it here) and EVERYBODY knew Norm and his red shorts (part of his SUP race attire). 

I have wanted to work with Norm since this time and in early 2016 the stars aligned. Kokatat announced that Norm would be a part of our team as a Global Ambassador. The fit is perfect. Norm is a person of high integrity and loyalty. He also has a desire to paddle safely, comfortably and most importantly stay dry. As an instructor and guide, Norm needs to have the best gear possible whether he is touring up in the Great Bear Rainforest or Belize, introducing folks to river SUP on his home river in Squamish, the Mamquam or making his morning coffee run down Howe Sound.

Norm’s Kokatat gear list is as follows:

PFD – touring – Orbit Tour/river – Maximus Centurion
Insulation - Woolcore
Paddling Suit – Goretex Surge Paddling Suit

*his much loved red shorts have been replaced with the Men’s Destination Surf Trunk

If you are lucky enough to take some instruction from Norm ask him about his gear and why he trusts Kokatat. I could tell you why I do but I’m not as cool as Norm.

Norm, thanks for being a part of the Nikki Rekman Sales team and the Kokatat family. We are thrilled to have you.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Yukon River - Prepping for the Adventure

Anyone that knows us, knows that March is the start of the busy season for us, April is crazy and well after that it's full on and there is never a dull moment until our last event at the end of October. This April has been particularly busy with phone calls, emails, dealer visits, clinics, community river cleanups and a LOT of prep.

In June we will be living, working and playing remotely in the Yukon. We couldn't be more excited but the work that needs to be done before our departure is epic. This is because we have such a variety of things that we will be doing that month, clinics, a 2 week canoe trip and our involvement in the Yukon River Quest as a support team for World Champion, SUP paddler and new Mom, Lina Augaitis and film-maker, conservationist and SUP explorer, Norm Hann.

I thought it would be fun to show you a little bit of the prep for the canoe trip. We will be paddling from Whitehorse to Dawson City, 735 km over 15 days. This is the same route our friends, Lina and Norm will paddle in probably less than 3 days!!!

We have had paddling adventures all of the world, Grand Canyon, Antarctica, South Georgia, Green River, British Columbia's West Coast and more but none have been this long in duration or distance.Out came the dehydrator, the Excalibur (recommended by our late friend, Pat Peacock - the Queen of camp cooking!) and it's been running quite a bit the last couple of weeks.

Purchased on line from Green Health Canada

In the photo below you can see a little of what we have dehydrated.

bananas, apples, red/yellow/orange peppers, jalapenos, cabbage, leeks. The black beans and pinto beans we purchased from a great shop in Victoria called, Lifestyle Market
The menu has been made, a lot of the food has been purchased and now it is time to switch over to gear organization. I will save those details for another blogpost.

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin