Monday, November 24, 2014

The Dynamic Duo: Bringing Family and Friends Together on the Water

Today, we welcome again, Guest Blogger, Lori Neufeld.

I knew we had to own a Jackson Dynamic Duo after paddling one for only a few minutes.  While the 12 foot boat may not seem practical for Manitoba rivers, we actually used the Duo a lot this summer.  With only a few mishaps and a lot of laughs, our family and friends got to experience kayaking either for the first time or in ways they had never thought possible.

Being a “Go Big or Stay Home” kind of season, Finley spent most of her time paddling the Duo at the beach.  It was during one of these days that my mom went kayaking for the first time and Finley's friends got to join us, too.  Who knew that a kayak could also serve as a daycare?
Finley and friends, Carter and Landon enjoying the water with "Cool-Mom", Lori.  Photo: Cheryl Falk
The Duo was our go-to boat for after work adventures on the rivers within the city.  The swifts and eddy lines were fun to experiment on and it was good practice for bigger water.  The Duo is stable, fast and very manoeuvrable, and it didn't take long for me to feel in control and confident while paddling it.  There's often a stigma about Winnipeg's rivers that they're dirty and dangerous, so many people stay away from them.  But thanks to the Duo, the proper safety equipment, and an experienced paddler in the stern, a number of people got to see our local rivers from a whole new perspective. 
Lori, Finley and Grandma, Marilyn.  Photo: Cheryl Falk
But it was the days that we took the Duo out to Sturgeon Falls that really stand out for me.  Dan and Finley happily watched from shore as my friends and I punched through giant foam piles and surfed the waves.  While I left the attempted airscrews to the boys, I thoroughly enjoyed carving back and forth.  Communication and feeling your partner's movements were key in getting the Duo to surf smoothly.  I loved those days on the water.

The Dynamic Duo bringing folks together on the water.  Photo: Lori Neufeld

Our Dynamic Duo brought people together this summer.  From experienced and sponsored boaters to newbies and toddlers, everyone who sat in the Duo came out smiling.  It was a fantastic teaching tool and I'm looking forward to introducing Finley to whitewater with this boat.  The Duo is really one of a kind and I glad we invested in one!

The Duo from Dan Neufeld on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Taking Your Retail Business to the Next Level

During my time repping, south of the border, I saw a big difference between the retail market in the Western USA and Western Canada.  We were lagging behind a bit up here but I am happy to report that a few of my larger dealers are investing with their dollars in the on line sales world.  I remember, chatting about online sales with long-time retailer (he's been in business for over 30 years),  Mike Garcia owner of Northern Lights Trading Company (Bozeman, MT).  He told me, "Nikki, if you can't beat them, join them".

The convenience of online shopping is known to all of us, you can do it from the comfort of your own home and have items delivered right to your door.  Perfect timing for retailers as we head into the very busy, Christmas shopping season.

Aquabatics in Calgary, AB and Western Canoeing and Kayaking in Abbotsford, BC are two of retailers who have shared with me over the last while their commitment to on line sales.

Both, retailers have invested significant dollars in re-doing their websites to efficiently and easily handle e-commerce from customers across Canada.  The biggest surprise is both retailers, shipping rates.  Aquabatics FREE for orders over $75.00* and Western FREE for orders of $100.00 or more*

*this does not include canoes and kayaks.  Please check out their websites to review their shipping policies.

I have mentioned to both retailers that I am expecting to see an increase in their overall sales with this commitment they have made.  This is only helped by the fact that the Canadian dollars is low and hopefully, Canadian consumers will have more interest in doing their shopping here in Western Canada.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

T'ashii - meaning path on land or on water

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining friends on a magical paddle to Meares Island via a dugout  canoe in the First Nations' Nuu-chah-nulth tradition.  We left from Tla-o-qui-aht Territory aka Tofino with T'ashii Paddle School's guide, Tsimka (pronounced Sim-ka) in a canoe her father, Joe Martin carved.

Marina with Meares Island in the background

Tsimka discussing the dugout canoe.
Tsmika's family history goes back 5000 years on this part of the coast and her passion for keeping this history alive for future generations and visitors like us, is very evident.  Her knowledge of the territory and the plants and animals within it, just made us want to know more.

                                                                       The canoe was impressive and its performance even more so.  The canoe was stable and fast.  It was very exciting to be in a traditional Nuu-chah-nulth canoe particularly given me experience in modern day canoes made of modern day materials and crafted with the help of computer software.  I liked the quiet of this traditional, truly hand-crafted canoe and knowing the history of it.  It made the experience of being on the water even more special.

View from the bow

The weather was typical, "Wet Coast" weather but we were clad in our Kokatat Gore-Tex Anorak / Kokatat Gore-Tex Full Zip Jacket and Goretex Paclite Shell Boater Pants to keep us dry.  Paddling over to Meares Island in the rain listening to the traditional songs Tsimka sang made for a very beautiful and mystical experience.  Thank you, Tsimka!

Mark on the boardwalk
Stopping to check things out.
Once we arrived on Meares we were greeted by a couple of groups of sea kayakers who were also there to enjoy the beauty of the Big Tree Trail.  The Big Tree Trail takes you through stunning old-growth forest via a cedar boardwalk maintained by the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Park.  Learning about the ways the forest has provided and continues to provide for its people was very interesting.  It feeds, clothes, shelters and so much more.

I highly recommend that if your travels take you to Tofino that you get out on the water with Tsimka and the folks at Tashii Paddle School.  Thank you, Emre for the suggestion it was a highlight of our Thanksgiving weekend.

T'ashii Paddle School is First Nation owned and a proud supporter of Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Park. 1% of revenue is donated to the Tribal Park to help the grass roots initiative of First Nation lead sustainability in Tla-o-qui-aht Ha'Houlthee.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

4th Annual Aquabatics Film Competition

For all you, aspiring film-makers check out the Aquabatics Film Annual Film Competition.

Entries will be received until Wednesday October 15th.  They would appreciate a "teaser" before that date, if possible.  Email them through there website HERE

The 2 categories of films are:  Paddling Porn and Lifestyle and Adventure

The Paddling Porn category is for those films mainly made up of waterfall descents and boating on hairy rivers.

The Lifestyle and Adventure category is for films showcasing trips, comradery, scenery, and the characters from the paddling community or works of comedic genius!

The winners will be announced at Schanks Sports Grill (NW Calgary) on Thursday October 30th at 7PM

Tickets are $5.00 if purchased in advance at the shop or $10.00 at the door.

Kokatat and Werner Paddles are proud to be involved again!  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mother-Daughter River Trip

As many of you know earlier in September we took some friends on our annual Fraser River Float Trip.  Two of the participants were a Mom and Daughter, who had never done a river adventure before.  Mom, Teresa has had a number of outdoor/camping adventures pre-kids (she's got 3 of them) and her daughter, Kennedy is 7.5 years old and was pretty much game for anything!

I thought it would be fun for them to share their perspectives on the trip, in hopes of encouraging other families to get out of their comfort zones and enjoy some paddling adventures!

Kennedy - I loved it (the Fraser River trip).  I hated waiting to get into the boat while they were packing because I loved being on the water.  I would definitely go again.  I liked the first stop - it was a really sandy island and I liked running and making foot prints in the sand.  I had the only foot print that size.  It was nice having another kid on the trip too.  His name was Owen.  I'm glad I wasn't the only kid.  The water was cold but it was really hot out.  We had campfires outside on the beach.  The moon was really bright the last evening.  It gave us light.  We roasted marshmallows that night.  And Auntie Nikki made chocolate and caramel cake.  Our canoeing buddies caught a sockeye fish.  They had it for supper that night.

Enjoying their first river trip photo:Nikki

Teresa - I was very excited about going on this paddling trip since it had been years since I had done a trip like this - prior to kids.  I was very grateful to be able to go with friends that have all the gear and experience!!  Being able to take my daughter on such a trip was an excellent opportunity that I hope we get again.  I love being outdoors and active and this trip was it!  We had amazing weather and I even got a burnt bottom lip - don't ask me how that happened since my daughter didn't get burnt and I don't remember applying sunscreen to her lips! 

Paddling on the river was very peaceful - especially in the bow - and the views were amazing!!  Taking a try at steering the boat from the stern was a great learning experience.  I can't wait to get another opportunity - though it is definitely more work!  I too, like my daughter, would get impatient while the boats were being loaded - I couldn't really help too much and was eager to get back on the river. 

Seeing Owen, the three year old on the trip, made me excited for bringing my youngest next year.  It was great seeing Kennedy love her time on the water, ask endless questions to all the adults around and enjoy exploring the new campsites each evening.  I hope she will remember this trip as well as I will.  I can't wait to have another experience like this with all of the rest of my family!'

Teresa aka Mom, trying her hand in the stern photo:Nikki

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baby Steps - Kayaking with a 2 yr. old

We welcome back, guest blogger, kayaker and Mom, Lori Neufeld!

Mom, Lori and Finley checking out Cook's Creek photo: Dan Neufeld aka. Dad
Kayaking with my 2 year old has forced me to change my way of thinking.  Around here, high flows are crucial for good river runs and 60 000 cfs need to be pumping through Sturgeon Falls for great surfing.  But those levels aren't exactly toddler friendly.  So Dan and I searched high and low for the perfect paddling destination for Finley and we ended up finding it in a friend's backyard.  Cook's Creek is hard to spot on a map, but its shallow waters and slow moving current were ideal for introducing  Finley to kayaking outside.  Dan and I weren't sure how Finn would react to seal launching into the murky waters, but we were pleasantly surprised!

Dad, Dan and Finley photo: Lori Neufeld aka. Mom
We spent all morning paddling/drifting downstream and towing Finley back up.  A small restriction in the river provided enough current for Finn to get a taste of moving water and she asked to do it again over and over.  (see the video clip below)  I couldn't have asked for a better day with my family!  We've spent a number of days on the water with Finley since then.  One step at a time Finley's learning all the small, yet important elements of kayaking that I tend to take for granted.  She loves to rock the boat back and forth, practice low braces and get pushed from one person to another.  She watches us carefully and tries to mimic what we're doing.  Her Fun 1 and Werner Amigo are still a little big for her, but she's very stable in the boat and can easily reach over the sides to dip her blade in or stare at her reflection.

Father-daughter bonding on the "river" - love it!  photo: Lori Neufeld aka. Mom

As a working mom, I feel blessed every time I get out on the water.  But there's something extra special about going paddling with my family.  I will always be drawn to warm, sunny days at Sturgeon Falls surfing the big waves, but I look forward to spending more time on smaller rivers with mellow flows, watching Finley take her first strokes.

Cooks Creek Paddle from Dan Neufeld on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Columbia Gorge SUP Challenge by Eli Fischbuch

Last month, was the Columbia Gorge SUP Challenge in Hood River.  This two day weekend event was packed full of excitement and races.  All the pro paddlers were at this race – like Connor Baxter, Kai Lenny, Danny Ching and it was very cool to be at the same event as them and to see them race.
Down-winder start photo: Taine Fischbuch
We arrived in Hood River a couple of days early and when we first drove into town the wind was HOWLING. There were big waves on the river – this is why this race is so popular but I have never seen anything like that before. I really wanted to get on the river to practice paddling in those waves but we realized that I couldn't just jump on this river by myself.  Luckily for me some paddlers from Vancouver that I have met at other racers were there and took the time to take me down the river a couple of times and give me some tips. I am really grateful to them for taking the time – thanks to Jason Lexa, Yannick Michaud, Tim, Dave, James and co.

Day one started out with the technical course race.  This was supposed to be the downwind race day but the wind had totally died down so they moved the downwind race to Sunday. This race was four laps with one lap being a mile long and had a lot of buoy turns.  It was a very long race for a course race! Even though there was a lot buoy turns, a lot of people were on 14 foot long boards.  I was on my 12’6 Naish javelin LE and was using my Werner Grand Prix S1000.

Eli rounding the buoy photo: Taine Fiscbuch
The groms went before every body else and they did two laps. There were tons of kids in this race which was neat to see.  After them it was the open women and the junior girls, they did four laps also.  After they finished it was the open and junior men. There was probably about 60 plus people in this race.

At the start I was really close to the people beside me so when the horn blew and I tried to get my first stroke I immediately hit the rail of the board beside me. I barley even got my blade in the water.  I went to try to paddle on my other and that was no better.  It was like this for a few more seconds and then I finally got a solid stroke.  By this time I was in the tail end of the middle pack. 

By the time I made it to the first buoy I almost came to a stand still because there was about 25 people trying to turn to go to the next buoy.  When I finally made it around the first buoy I actually passed a couple of people.  It was still a full out sprint to the second buoy even though there was a lot more paddling to come.  When I did the 180 degree turn around the second buoy I got into a nice pace for the longest stretch of the race.

When I started my fourth and final lap I started to get really hot and a little tired but I knew I had a little more gas in me to finish the longest course race that I have ever done. I was pretty tired at the end but felt good to have been a part of this race. 

The elite paddlers raced after the open races and it very exciting to watch them. All the pros were introduced before they went down to the beach. We got to watch Werner Paddles team member Lina Augaitis take second in her race – exciting!

Lina Augaitis going around the buoy with Annabel Anderson and Candice Appleby photo: Taine Fischbuch
The second day of this event was the down winder.  I woke up in the morning hoping for wind but sadly there was not even a breeze in the air.  I went down to the event site and there was still no wind.  After the skippers meeting there was still no wind.  But when we were driving to the start of the race the wind start to pick up and you could start to see little bumps in the water.  This was awesome because that is all you need. 

By the time the race was supposed to start the wind was really picking up – it wasn't as strong as when we did our practice runs but still much better than Saturday.  The start line was even more packed full of people because they had the men and women go at the same time.  I started to think that I might have an even worse start than the first race.  The horn went off and I jumped onto my board and started to paddle. To my surprise there was no body right beside me and I could get a good stroke in.  With this great start I headed to the middle of the river because you have to go around a buoy plus the wind is stronger in the middle of the river.  After I made it to the middle of the river I start to get into a nice rhythm and I started to surf a couple of little bumps.  I was having a lot of fun doing this, for a moment I forget that I was even in a race. 

About half way through the race the wind started to pick up a little more and made some bigger waves.  With bigger waves I had to focus a little more on not falling off my board.  While I was doing this I was keeping my head down and a huge sailboat just came up behead me.  This surprised so much that I almost fell off my board.  The good news is that this made me realize that I had to make way back to the south side of the river. When I finally got where I wanted to be I was basically towards the finish of the race. I just had to paddle around an island and then to the beach, so I started to paddle a little harder.  Then I made it to the last buoy I almost fell in turning around it but luckily I did not.  Then I made my final sprint into the finish line and sprinted up the beach to the finish line where I managed to finish second out of the junior men.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fraser River Canoe Trip - Kid & Beginner Friendly

The "Mighty" Fraser River may be one of the most under-utilized and under-appreciated waterways (by paddlers) that I can think of and it's one of my favourites VERY close to home.

The Fraser is the longest river in British Columbia, named after explorer, Simon Fraser.  The first nations name (which I actually prefer) is the Sto:lo River and it flows from, Prince George, BC through city of Vancouver, BC to the Pacific Ocean.

Teresa and Kennedy
I was first introduced to the idea of paddling on the Fraser, by my husband, Mark and in our early dating years I thought he was crazy.  The idea of paddling down this particularly river frightened me and thankfully I got over this and ventured out with him one weekend.  I am happy to report that there have been many more Fraser River trips since then and the most recent was experienced by experienced, novice and first-time paddlers, not to mention, 2 kids (7 yrs old and 3.5 yrs old).

Our youngest paddler, Owen!

A bunch of our "motley" crew
 I love the beautiful sandy beaches and the non-technical aspect of the section between Hope, BC and Chilliwack, BC.  Hazards on the river are namely wind, power boats, immersion and some bridge pilings (all pilings are completely avoidable).  This year, the anglers in our group, happily enjoyed the record sockeye run and Mark ("Englishman") got the title of successful hunter this trip!

Mark with his catch!

Janyne trying out the stern position during her 2nd trip down the Fraser
We typically do the trip in September and October as the river is running quite high during the summer months and most available campsites will be under water.  Friends and family have an open invitation to join us particularly if they can gather a few more experienced paddlers, our goal is always to have as many experienced paddlers as possible so we can share the adventure with those that would be unable to do so on their own.

Group shot (L to R): Morgan, Owen, Mark, Liz, Mark, Kennedy, Eric, Teresa and Janyne

I hope you enjoy a few photos from our recent trip.  Thanks to Janyne, Teresa, Kennedy, Eric, Mark, Liz, Morgan, Owen and my husband, Mark for sharing the adventure and the beauty of the Fraser River with me recently. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SUP and the Shuswap River with Eli Fischbuch

This season has been a bit different for me than last because I am not doing as many races.  I decided this year to just commit to four races over the summer and this has given me some time to do some other kinds of paddling and adventures.  I have done some long paddles on the Shuswap, spent a day paddling at Adams Lake and helped with some kids camps at Kalavida Surf Shop.

One super cool paddle that I did was on the lower part of Shuswap river (lies Northeast of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia).  This part of the river is wide and slow moving which makes it a nice relaxing time on the water. Even for the more beginner paddler you can still have a fun time on this river. 

 I started at Grinrod Park and I finished at Mara Lake, which was a total of 18 km.  This may seem like a lot but you are on a river that does have a current so it is not so bad, there are even cool places to stop along the way for a lunch break like little islands in the middle of the river.

One of the reasons we decided to paddle this part of the river is on July 27 the Lower Shuswap River Stewardship Society held a “No Wake Flotilla” and paddled this stretch of river to raise awareness about the effects of power boats on the shoreline and the river. We had planned to take part but then couldn’t go that day so went the next weekend instead.  When we were on the river we could see the effects from boat wakes – there are lots of trees fallen in the river because the banks have eroded away.  When we got closer to Mara Lake there were a few boats towing wakeboarders or tubes on the river.  So even though this is a very easy river to navigate you still have to watch out for boats. Most of them do slow down but you should still keep to the side and just keep an eye when you go around blind corners. 

Since this is a river I used an all round surf board just because it is more stable than a race board and I was in no hurry to get down.  I also used my Werner Nitro M, which I found worked perfect for this river because the paddle blade does not have a huge surface area so it would not put a lot of strain on my shoulders.  You want to be comfortable for when you are paddling for along time. 

Next up for me is the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River which I am super pumped about.

***we will be seeing Eli this weekend at the Kalamalka Classic in Vernon, BC hosted by Kalavida Surf Shop and we are sure we will hear all about his Columbia Gorge experience.***

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jackson Karma RG (Rock Garden) - Review by JF Marleau

A huge thanks to JF Marleau for taking the time to get out in the Karma RG on the West Coast of Vancouver Island near his home in Ucluelet and providing this review.  JF is a kayaking guide, an instructor and a co-owner of SKILS (Sea Kayak Instruction and Leadership Systems).  He is also a member of the Kokatat Regional Team.

The first day I was surfing the Karma RG was with whales around the surf zone. Unfortunately, the photos are not great of the Karma RG and the gray whales.

Coming from a sea kayak surf kayaking background, this kayak is a new paradigm. I had some very fun surf sessions with this ultra maneuverable kayak.


I felt extremely comfortable in the Karma RG. I am 6.1 and 220 pounds. I love the easy and quick adjustments for a tight but comfortable fit provided with the Karma RG. Furthermore, I like how the foot rest absorbs the shock while I am vertical facing downward.

I like a lot the low back deck that makes rolling very easy.

A female friend of mine, 5.5 and 145 pounds tried the Karma RG and it was too big for her despite all the adjustments possible and the addition of extra padding. At this point JK is not planning to offer a smaller version of the Karma RG to cater to smaller people. I have a feeling that this kayak will be successful among kayakers and consequently this could possibly change.

Form and Performance

The shape of the kayak makes it ultra maneuverable. The speed of this kayak is slow when compared to a regular sea kayak but faster than some other whitewater kayaks.

It does track well and hold a line very well in the surf. Sea kayakers surfing long kayaks will need to adapt their wave selection as the Karma RG’s length and capability to catch small waves is different.

The heavy duty Go Pro mount is very reliable and solid. You can rely on them. This is refreshing as I have seen many failures of Go Pro Mounts in rough waters.

The whirlpool handles are so handy in assisted rescues or in case you swim with your kayak. This feature is great. I also have this feature on my sea kayaks. I recommend to anybody with a sea kayak to get whirlpool handles ,it makes rescues easier and save your fingers and hands from possible injuries.

Jackson Kayak has improved the tightness of the hatch cover from their first prototype for the mass production of the Karma RG. Despite having good hatches covers, it is recommended to ensure you have proper floatation in your hatch (s). The Karma RG has only a rear hatch. My experience over the years tells me nothing in kayaking is dry if you challenge rough enough conditions.

Like other whitewater kayaks, it has a drain plug. When I was emptying it in the hard sand, the drain plug hole was buried. This is not a big deal. Ideally for my needs I wish the drain plug was 1 or 2 inches higher.

This kayak has a lot of metal safety brackets. I was impressed to see so many of them. This feature makes it easy to lock your kayak where it's likely to be stolen.

The handles to carry the kayak were comfortable which makes long distance carry much more enjoyable.


I only used the kayak during 3 sessions in the surf due to my busy work schedule. Unfortunately the surf was not great. I wish I had time to use it for rock gardening. This Ocean Play Boat is very versatile for surfing, rock gardening and also for the river or overnight trip. I have to admit the very large stern hatch provides a substantial amount of storage for overnight camping on the ocean or the river. If I was guiding, teaching or acting as safety kayaker, I would love to use this kayak to carry extra safety equipment. Furthermore, the large stern hatch allows for typical sea kayak rescues like the T-Rescue.

Calling it RG (for rock garden) might influence people to think it’s only for rock gardening. Believe me, this ocean play boat is very versatile. I truly enjoyed playing with it.

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin