The value of vagabonding
Phones, bags, vehicles, possessions, connectivity and non-stop activities. This is what every day amounts to. A hubbub. Will our salvation come not from more technology but the annihilation of it by a solar flare to take us back to a time when we enjoyed a less frenetic pace of life? Without going to extremes, we can have the best of life 30 years ago and today’s always-connected state if we just learn to let go. Sometimes. Frequently enough to ground our feet, enjoy the simplicity of life and to truly value people, places and experiences. (more…)
First Vagabond kayak in production, the Kwando
Our first Vagabond kayak model in production is the Kwando, a high-performance children’s sit-on top. Celliers Kruger describes it as “not just a floating toy for kids, it is a real little kayak with good ergonomics and speed, as well as some handy fittings and features”. These photographs show the Kwando in all six colours together with some action images showing Celliers’ children: Ruben (9-years old, 38kg) and Kyla (12-years old, 44kg). “I designed the Kwando mainly for flatwater use, but it is very capable of running small rapids too,” Celliers adds. Parents, are you outdoorsy and active? Introduce your child to paddling with the Kwando. It is an ideal children’s kayak that will see them from bobbing on the pool to running small rapids on river trips.
Start ’em young
Most paddlers would like their children to paddle. Most paddlers are unsure of how to go about it, but they give it their best shot. Sadly, most paddlers fail. (more…)
My previous two pieces focused on seconds (Our Unsung Heroes) and paddling with kids. This time I want to explore a logical extension of these themes: family time on the water. Most paddlers I know would love to share their passion for paddling with their families. It is a noble idea that often have disastrous results. I believe the biggest mistake most paddlers make is to try put their family in the same kayaks that they paddle themselves, often in similar conditions that they enjoy putting themselves in. It is unlikely that the exact things that drew you into the sport and lifestyle of paddling will have the same pull on them. There is also slim chance that the skills and experiences you acquired over a period will magically transfer to them and make them competent enough to enjoy what you want to share with them. The first and most important step before you take your family on the water in kayaks is to adjust your expectations. They will most likely struggle more to get it right than you wanted. They might have an amazing time on the water, but they might also be cold, tired, frustrated, anxious. The best you can do is to set the bar as low as possible, to prevent you or them having a miserable day. The second most important step is to plan to make it fun. If your intention is for them to want to do it again, they need to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter what type of outing you’re planning; whether it is a one hour paddle or a full day paddle or a multiday trip, the focus need to be on the experience and not about gaining skills. Once your own mindset is calibrated, you can start focusing on the details. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind: The duration of your first outing with your family will very much depend on their current attitude towards paddling as well as their general experience in outdoor activities. If they are really hesitant about the thought of paddling, don’t take them on a full day trip down a river. Plan an easy outing with a picnic, with maybe 30 minutes to an hour of easy paddling on flat water thrown in. If they are fit and strong and keen to give it a go, you can definitely do something more challenging, but always make sure to keep the focus on fun. The easiest place to start is always on flatwater. Your local club may be a perfect location, but keep an open mind about it. For some beginners the club will be the obvious place to start, while others may feel intimated by the “experts” paddling around. Look around for dams or river sections that have easy access and facilities for picnics too. Make sure to take enough fluid to keep hydrated and if the outing is longer than an hour, take some snacks along too. Invest in or rent stable kayaks that area easy to handle. I’m a big proponent of using sit-on-tops for safety reasons, as these kayaks tend to be more stable, and if a paddler ends up in the water, they can just get straight back onto the kayak instead of having to swim to the bank with it. For a treat, you can book your family for a half or full day commercial paddling trip. There are many options available in the country, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, different sections of the Vaal and Orange rivers, and also some rivers in Mpumalanga as well as rivers around Cape Town. Trips range from flatwater to proper whitewater rafting. For a much more immersive experience, book a multiday trip on a river. These can range from 2 to 6 days, with nights typically spent on the riverbank in tents. The most popular river in the country for multiday trips is the Orange River, with commercial operations on 6 different sections of the river. Multiday trips are also offered on rivers like the Vaal, Breede, Doring, Tugela, Umkomaas, Umzimkulu and Umzimvubu. As always, keep safety in mind. Don’t go out on the water without a PFD and apply enough sunscreen. If you approach paddling with your family by keeping these basic points in mind, there is a good chance that they will have a positive experience. Maybe your partner want to take it more serious and do some racing in a K2 with you. Maybe your son got a kick out of some whitewater action and decides to get into some whitewater kayaking. Maybe your daughter wants to try her hand at canoe polo or sprints. Maybe some or all of them just want to do some easy recreational paddling or use a kayak to do some bird watching. Maybe none of this will happen, but they might at least get a taste of what paddling does for you. Written by Celliers Kruger for the December 2018 issue of The Paddle Mag. This free digital publication can be read online or downloaded to be enjoyed later on your device.
Monthly Paddling Race for everyone
There are club-hosted time trials (the domain of K1s and K2s), kayak races (also for K1s, K2s and, only recently, surfskis) and surfski events… But, there are no organised events for regular people with a sit-on-top in their garage that they only use for family holidays at the coast once a year. Enter Paddling Race, a new monthly event series held from the Likkewaan Canoe Club on the Vaal River in Parys. Only 125km from Johannesburg, Parys is a popular weekend-getaway destination with its cafes, antique and gift shops, B&Bs and an abundance of outdoor activities. While the town is known for whitewater rafting, the river here also offers magnificent stretches of flatwater paddling with beautiful riverine scenery. Birdlife is abundant and local paddlers never tire of hearing fish eagles and seeing grey herons, goliath herons and various kingfishers. Paddling Race has been created by Lisa de Speville and Celliers Kruger. Where Celliers comes from a paddling background that includes every conceivable kayaking discipline, Lisa’s focus has been on adventure racing, trailrunning and orienteering for over 20 years – both as a participant and event organiser. She is also the Event Director of the Parys parkrun and has been part of the impact that this running/walking event has had on the lives of people in her community. Together, Lisa and Celliers are the force behind Vagabond Kayaks. “Paddling needs to be more open, friendly and accessible,” Lisa says. “We’ll only get more people to paddle for pleasure when they have access to kayaks that are stable and enjoyable to paddle; when they have access to safe waterways that are located not too far from their homes and where there are fun, family-friendly events that they can participate in.” Lisa adds that events show people where they can go to paddle, exposes them to the area in a safe and controlled environment and builds their confidence and competence. Paddling Race offers 2km and 5km courses that take paddlers on a beautiful section of flatwater on a route that goes through channels and between islands. The event encourages participants to bring along any type of kayak: plastic sit-on-tops, touring kayaks, surfskis, K1s, K2s and even inflatables and stand-up paddleboards. Vagabond has a fleet of kayaks that can be hired for the event and PFDs and paddles are provided. The event takes place monthly, on the first Sunday of the month and the direction of the route alternates each time. “Our first event, held at the beginning of March, had 40 entrants,” Lisa says, “and only seven of the participants were people who paddle with some degree of regularity. The rest were infrequent, a-long-time-ago, or first-time paddlers. Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly why we created Paddling Race.” On the 5km course, the fastest time of 34:44 was logged by a 12-year old boy paddling a guppy K1. The slowest time of 1:13:00 was recorded by two double sit-on-tops paddled by a mom and dad (sporty, but first-time paddlers), each with a young child in the front seat. Five-kilometres is just the right distance. Lisa would love to see more Paddling Race-type events organised by other people around the country. “Think of Paddling Race as parkrun-for-paddling,” she says. Lisa advises event organisers to keep it simple by having two routes (max. 5km) and presenting the event at the same place, on the same route and at the same time each month. “We’re in the early days with Paddling Race. I hope to see good growth in the number and age spread of participants and the variety of kayaks over the next year.” Paddling Race is on Facebook at and full event information can be found on vagabondkayaks.com/paddling-race. Paddling: Barriers to participationPaddling has a number of barriers to participation that can position this superb sport in people’s minds as a pastime to only be enjoyed through kayak hire or using their sit-on-top at the coast on holiday. Instead, even in our cities, paddling is an activity that is accessible and low expense. Participation barriers Owning a kayak, PFD and paddle Instability of K1s offered by clubs to newcomers – a significant deterrent. Transporting the kayak (vehicle and roof racks) Access to water Perceived safety risks Solutions The first of these barriers can be removed when events and kayak clubs have equipment for rent or to borrow (as a club member). It goes without saying that sit-on-tops should be the first kayak presented to a newcomer. Events expose people to places where they can paddle. There are many waterways – dams and rivers – in and near our cities. Rivers are not all about rocks, rapids, tree blocks, strainers and other hazards; instead, there are more sections of flatwater available on our rivers than you would have the time to paddle in your lifetime. There are also estuaries and lagoons as well as the sea for coastal dwellers. Paddlers should always be aware of water levels, tides, wind and the changeability of the weather. Conditions on water can change in a flash from flat-and-calm to whipped-up white caps in a matter of minutes. It is always a good idea to paddle with a friend, to wear a PFD at all times and to know how to get back on to your kayak if you fall off. Published in the April/May 2019 issue of The Paddle Mag. This free digital publication bursts with superb content. It can be viewed online or downloaded from Issuu.