Archive for the 'kayak building' Category

Jul 26 2011

The Ladies’ Project

Yes, you’ve heard Goldilocks’ tale – “This kayak is too wide, this kayak is too deep, this kayak is too heavy, this kayak is too slow, this kayak is uncomfortable, I can’t reach the foot pedals, I can’t stretch a spray deck over the long cockpit, my butt doesn’t fit in the seat . . .” Gosh, the same thing happens when I try to shop for clothing in the men’s department. DUH!!! There are significant anatomical differences between men and women.

Of course, I am not the only Goldilocks. Many women paddlers face these same issues. There is no ladies’ department for kayaks so we end up shopping in the men’s department and making due with what we can find that fits best. In doing so, we compromise comfort and performance.

The learning curve for a beginner in whitewater kayaking is steep especially when trying to paddle boats that don’t fit properly. I remember my first lesson when the instructor was teaching edging and said to apply pressure with my right thigh in the brace. My thigh was no where near the thigh brace. Many women give up on paddling or are limited to flat water paddling because they don’t get the body-boat connection necessary for developing confidence and skills.

Kayak manufacturers have started offering more size options to accommodate a wider range of paddlers, but no one has really scientifically looked at how the anatomical differences of men and women (lower center of gravity, shorter arms and torso, lower muscle to weight ratio, different pelvic structure, and narrower shoulders) effect a kayak’s performance.

The Ladies’ Project is a step in this direction. Risa Shimoda is a whitewater paddler and advocate for rivers and whitewater accessibility. She has enlisted Carnegie Mellon University’s engineering and design department to take on the challenge of developing a kayak design for women. This fall, students will be posed with this challenge (provided the materials and lab fees can be raised).

Let‘s rally to help and be a part of this movement to further kayak design for women. Donations are being sought to cover the $7000 material and lab fees. $25 is the suggested donation amount but any amount will help fund this ground breaking project.

Even if a solution is not found – we are furthering awareness and knowledge. You can help make kayaking more accessible to women by spreading the word and making a donation by 7/31.

To donate to The Ladies‘ Project, click here.

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Oct 19 2010

Tradional Arctic Kayak Symposium

Last weekend, we journeyed off the Mendocino Coast with our sea kayaks and greenland paddles and headed to Trinidad, California for the Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium (TAKS). Beautiful weather, calm wind and ocean conditions, and an eclectic gathering of sea kayakers interested in traditional kayaking made for a fun weekend.


The ocean was very calm and allowed for mellow paddling around and between the rocks of Trinidad Bay.

We fit 9 kayaks in this particular slot. Bob in his beautiful stitch and glue wooden kayak was very happy to have my plastic Avocet as a buffer between his boat and the rocks.


A pair of harlequin ducks added to the color of the weekend.


John Peterson of Shaman Kayaks organized the event. His kayaks are truely works of art. It was fun to see several of them on the water this weekend.


Greenland skill demonstrations included rolling and bracing. Jeff and I thought that the resting brace position looked great for an on water nap.


Wolfgang Brinck paddles over in an Aleutian Kayak sporting an Aleutian hat. Wolfgang is the author of The Aleutian Kayak and teaches skin on frame kayak building in the San Franscisco Bay area.


Despite the roll or drown motto of paddlers dedicated to greenland paddling techniques, Dan and Andrew demonstrate a rescue and recovery of a swamped boat.


Our friend John Henry observes the lunch break from the deck of Jeff’s kayak before going back into his drybag.


We paddled around Trinidad Head – home of the Smack Wall. We paused for a couple of rides on the refractive waves that come off of the Smack Wall. Here’s a link to Ralph Johnson’s video of Tony’s wild ride on the Smack Wall.


Cheri Perry and Turner of Kayak Ways and Jeff of Liquid Fusion Kayaking held a surf zone training and practice session at college beach. Here is Marcella of the local kayak club Explore North Coast catching a wave.


Admiring the handmade kayaks and listening to presentations on the history of kayaking and kayak designs provided much food for thought over the weekend. Here is a photo of Andrew paddling a baidarka into the surf zone. Much debate ensued over the weekend of the unique bow design of the Aleutian kayaks. Any ideas?


I left my skin on frame kayak at home. It would have been fun to have in the surf zone and rock garden and definitely would have been an object of curiosity and critique as it is not a long pointy greenland kayak.

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Apr 02 2010

And on the Seventh Day . . . We Paddled

And on the Seventh Day . . . We Paddled


It wasn’t a suped up DeLorean but my Toyota Tacoma that transported me for a week this month back in time. My destination wasn’t my small town America but the old Naval Air Station in Alameda.

For seven days (eight due to a material issue), I felt like I was immersed in a high school woodshop class. We were mostly using hand tools and techniques that the Inuits used to construct a skin on frame kayak. Many of our materials and tools were modern due to the fact that our goal was to finish these boats within a week. Our instructor’s philosophy is that one could spend all day completing a task with simple tools but that doesn’t leave much time for surfing.

Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak was our instructor. He is world renowned in the skin on frame boat design and construction. He usually teaches classes in his workshop in Manzanita, Oregon; however, he will take his tools and materials on the road to teach in other locations throughout the world. Recently Brian completed a class in Tasmania. Brian was recruited to teach a class in the San Francisco Bay area by several Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) because of their interest in a specific design that he builds. The Mariner Coaster is a popular sea kayak in the Bay Area; and Brian has designed a skin on frame version called the F-1.


Why build a skin on frame kayak? Everyone has their own reasons. In our class, the main reasons were to have a lightweight kayak that handled rough waters well and could be built to fit a specific individual – sounds like I’m not the only Goldilocks kayaker. It was the Goldilocks in me that drew me to interest in Skin on Frame kayak construction. If the manufacturers didn’t build a boat that fit me and my paddling needs, then maybe I could. I had been researching skin on frame construction and was contemplating taking a stab at building one with a little help from my friend John who has built one with Wolfgang Brinck – Bay Area small boat builder and author of the Aleutian Kayak. Typical of one of my research projects, the kitchen table stacked up with books on skin on frame construction and the internet was scoured for information.

A class seemed like a great way to learn the ins and outs without lots of trials and tribulations. And then it happened . . . a post on the Bay Area Sea Kayaker’s online forum BUZZ appeared. Maryly posted that she wanted to take Brian’s class in the bay area to build a F-1 but was unable to. She queeried if some one be interested in taking the class and building an F-1 for her.” Ding-ding-ding . . . we have a winner (actually 2 – Maryly who gets an awesome custom skin on frame kayak and Cate who gets a hands on experience to learning how to build a skin on frame.)

It was awesome!!! Under Brian’s guidance and assistance, Gordon, LaRhee, and I shaped wood into a frame. Each of our kayaks were of the same design but being customized for the size of the paddler who would be paddling them.


For 3 days, we drilled holes, carved out mortices and tenons, steamed and bent wooden ribs, planed surfaces, and joined the pieces with wooden pegs and artificial sinew lashings. Many discussions ensued during the process including comparisons of the techniques and materials that we were using compared to the Inuits as well as discussions on paddling skills and techniques, philosophies of kayak instruction, sustainable organic farming, and whitewater kayaking.
At the end of day 4, our frames were completed and we had carved paddles. We put our woodworking tools away and got out needles and thread.

Day 5 was a fabric and sewing party. At the end of day 5, we had skinned our boats (balistic nylon not seal skins) and were wetting them to get the fabric to shrink into the shape of the frame. We wet the boats. Instead of water soaking into the fabric, it beaded up. !@#$% – the manufacturer sent us the wrong material. The need to reorder the fabric and reskin the boats became apparent so class was dismissed until the following weekend.

A little side trip 2 hangars down was in store – we ventured down to Hangar 1 for some vodka tasting to celebrate the early beginning of the weekend for us.


A week later, we returned to our little workshop among the hangars of the Alameda Naval Air Station. Reskinning the boats went quickly as we were now experienced boat skinners and this time the skins shrunk to fit the frame. The next morning, we treated the skins with “goop” a polyurethane mixture to seal them. On the 7th (actually 8th day), we outfitted the boats and paddled them.



And they paddled beautifully. Brian demonstrated some techniques with the Greenland Paddle and off we went. The kayak that I had built paddled smoothly in the water. The secondary stability was excellent. I practiced some edged turns with sweeps strokes and found the boat to be very responsive. The warm and sunny day inspired notions of getting my hair wet so I did some sculling and rolling and found the boat did exactly what I wanted it to do. I look forward to building my own and putting it through the measures of kayaking in the surf and rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast.


Maryly smiled from ear to ear as she paddled her new handmade kayak. When we were finished with our test paddle, it was really cool to see her effortlessly carry it from the water to her car Mission accomplished – a lightweight, custom fit kayak!!!

I can’t wait to build mine!!!

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