Mittwoch, April 02, 2008

Blog moved !!!

My blog has moved to my website!
All old posts are moved, too.

Please change all links related to this old blog! Thanks.

Welcome to my freshly set up website!


Mittwoch, März 12, 2008


Yes, I'll do it.
"Race around Australia"
In a kayak :-). Solo. Unsupported. Starting this year.
I'm just working on a new website and blog with Derrick, so please check with me in a few days about more details and plenty of pics of the other trips! Things just take their time...and I'm sometimes working for my shops, too...

Dienstag, März 04, 2008

infected by the surfski virus - The Culebra Challenge

The internet connects the world...and sometimes brings some highly infectious virus to your own house...
I got infected with the surfski virus only three weeks ago... just by watching some great little videos on youtube which a certain kayak-crazy journalist from New York linked to me on some inspiring e-mails...he actually planned just to write some stuff about my NZ-trip...and happened to be a passionate surfski paddler, too.
Not that Oscar Chalupsky for sure hopped on one of these to show me some decent strokes 4 weeks ago (see last post)...but on flatwater I didn't find that craft too attractive on that occasion :-)) - and I'm rather attracted to the rough stuff...
Anyway, after meeting Oscar to try the epic 18x for maybe my next big expedition I straight drove back some days later to Alex Craven from Oarsport, the German epic distributor in Hamburg, to try the surfskis out by myself!

I tried to squeezed myself in the epic V10, but felt my female hipbones needed a bit more space...I felt instantly comfi then in the a bit more wider (and stable) epic V10 sport.
Some 1/2 hr up-and downpaddling on the Dove Elbe's flatwater was enough for me to get me hooked...and I was allowed to take a demo V10 sport home! Thanks to Alex, Oscar and Greg from epic!
My first 4-hrs testpaddle on the freezing February Baltic Sea's windwaves at force 5-6 gave me some more confidence on that tippy craft, and the most frozen feet I ever had in my life - but who cares!!! Just dress better next time, as I had already the vision of *THIS* .....
On a solo training run off San Juan harbour entrance, I felt I was better waiting for a huge cruise boat to come in. Just passed a pot of 15 dolfins, and a 1 m sea turtle was floating by...
a>- joining the Culebra Race in Puerto Rico!
Not that I'm spontanious - but it was only one week from the first try to be THERE. Thanks to the organization talent of Harry Negron to fit me in last minute!
I took the chance of 6 training runs - each about 2hrs paddles with only about 1/2 hrs downwind before the race day - but my confidence to survive the race and to display not the worst figure on the new craft on racing day grew day by day...some bracing hard sometimes, but at least I didn't fell off...

Joe and I checking out the skis in the hotel lagoon.

Great to have the help of good friends as a newbie! Thanks to the Puerto Rican strong local paddlers Harry Negron, Federico Muskus, Jaime Ponce, Anitza Villalobos and Hector Cartagena, who helped me on the ski the first days, and thanks to Joe Glickman and to Greg Barton from team epic to take good care of me later!

Greg, Joe and I were preparing our GPS's with the position of the final destination of the race on the Puerto Rico main island.

Waiting for the ferry to Culebra: Greg Barton, Anitza Villalobos, Joe Glickman

part of team epic on the was actually that bumpy we all had our weak minutes with seasickness...

A happy vacation transportation to the hotel...Greg Barton, myself, Joe Glickman, Anitza Villalobos, Federico Muskus, Jaime Ponce, Harry Negron

tropical felings...

a fine line-up of shark fins...

Race start - Greg Barton with the no. 1, I was no. 13, right besides Anitza Villalobos in the first orange ski. I managed to somehow stay in her wake on the flat water part, but on the rough stuff she slowly pulled off...K1-training and more surfski experience won! Great strong girl. 5 min ahead, 3hrs 38 min on 24 miles.

group pic after the award's ceremony

There are already great postings about results and more pics of the event on Greg's blog and on

It was one of the great spontanious decisions in my life to go for it NOW, who knows where it will take me to in future! And I will love to be back next year.

Surfski paddling and racing on the open ocean is great fun, exciting and challenging - just what I needed after my long solo New Zealand trip - chasing a field of 20 strong men and (only...) one strong woman for 24 miles across the open ocean! I think it will make me a more powerful, fast and balanced expedition sea kayaker, too...

I hope to join more races, and whoever likes to try the ski when I'm travelling to symposiums with my van, is more than welcome!

This is where my dreams will continue for now - I stored my ski on the ceiling of my living room, as my backyard boat shed is roomy, but too short...right under a 4 m x 2,50 m world map... - well, I might take it down occasionally to get it wet again for some more exciting paddling :-))

Donnerstag, Februar 14, 2008

The epic story continues... (updated)

Epic kayak co-owner Oscar Chalupsky insisted in putting me in the kayak matching the epic wing blades I used and loved for all my sea kayaking trips: the epic 18x performance sea kayak

How could I resist to try, and to get some personal private lessons on an effectice forward stroke from the world champion?

I love speed and the rough stuff, and I am as ambitious about new experiences in sea kayaking as Oscar is to share his long-time racing experience - a good match!
So I was the attentive student, and realized I had to work hard on my forward stroke.
I should use my legs more, which are positioned best unlocked and held together in the epic 18 kayak. And I should use more body rotation.
The mean thing about this lesson was I wasn't allowed to use a spraydeck, so Oscar could *see* what I was (not) doing with my legs... :-)) - at least he expected them to stay together!!! :-)))))
I developed my stroke in sea kayaks where you mostly paddle with the knees spread wide and locked under the cockpit rim. I more or less worked with my upper body only, legs locked, with few rotation.
I was used to no rudder, to edge the kayak and to shift the paddle for directional control. The coordination of leg movement and NO unnecessary rudder movement with the toes was a bit tricky at the beginning.
My forward stroke was self-taught, and I have never worked with a good instructor with a racing background in a kayak allowing this knee position and using a rudder.
Paddling this "semi-racing" style is a complete new experience, fun and - faster!!!
But you can lock your legs just conventionally, too, so picking the position matching the water conditions and your skills and ambitions is an advantage of the epic 18.
However, I felt somehow *fast* with my self-taught stroke for a female late-beginner sea kayaker though - but it doesn't hurt to become even more faster! :-))

Pictures by Alex Craven, Hamburg

I was allowed to take a demo epic 18x performance kayak home for some more paddling, and I will decide the next days how I'll feel with it. If I am happy with it for future fast paddling, I'll get my own one soon! Special black carbon ultra light version for sure...

Picture by Paul Caffyn, New Zealand

At least I decided to tie myself a bit more to my loved epic wing blade not to lose it again on any trip!

Picture by Paul Caffyn, New Zealand

Sonntag, Februar 03, 2008

Priorities...and a write-up of the most eventful day of the NZ-trip

I am used to set priorities -

Being back home my mind swapped mor or less easy from the exciting trip and "after trip" work, like sorting out pics for a slide show and writing up the last days, to the "real" work with what I am earning my money.,,

My shops needed lots of attention after being off that long! I had to do the X-mas-shop inventory, a 5-days trip to the world's biggest x-mas exhibition in Frankfurt to shop for new items for the 2008-season, a meeting with my ice-cream-shop franchise partners for the 2008-season, some renovating of the ice-cream shops, moving the x-mas stuff off the shop into the warehouse and the ice-cream stuff in it's place again, updating my accounts with catching up with the past three month of paperwork...not many time left for paddling thoughts! And my family got some attention, too...

Anyway, I was happy I already wrote up that "eventful" day on the last days's at Paul's, that day where I broke my stern in the morning and lost my paddle at night. I took the chance of Paul's presence for asking him to proofreading my bad written English...thanks, Paul!

I'm not sure if I can get my mind (timewise) on some more after-trip writing and working on the promised book - there must be *some* failure in what I planned and announced to do...

I am posting that day's report here now - my mind prefers to jump after the necessary shop work into the future to the next trips already, rather than sticking to the past adventures... :-)) - but we'll see what I feel I can get done one day writing-wise...

Just a normal day on the West Coast…20.12.2007

Suddenly I held my whole kayak in my hand. I took my shirt off, ready to jump into my sleeping bag, and it just fell off. It was tied to my neck with a black leather string ever since I began sea kayaking. It was my talisman - my good omen pendant. The cord had never broken before, but now I could just rip the whole leather string into small pieces. It was just plain worn out.

But I didn’t loose the kayak pendant. I still held it in my hand!

I was too tired to go outside to my real kayak, through the hundreds of sandflies occupying the exit ready to enter the tent and suck my blood. I didn’t search in the repair kit for a new string. I just stuffed the pendant into my pocket, and forgot about it the next morning…

I should have checked the leather string regularly for still being strong enough, and I should have checked the clips and screws of my three piece, Nigel Dennis Explorer kayak, regularly for still being strong enough. Both obviously not frequent enough.

I would have to punch out through some big lines of surf this morning. The dress code would be helmet and bug net, but I skipped the latter. I swallowed several sandflies, spat them out and tried to blow them off my face. One of the beasts felt happy flying right into my eye. It was irritating when I was trying to concentrate on the best launching time and place.

I got washed up the beach again several times, and eventually broached high up on dry sand. I jumped out to straighten the kayak, only to get several breakers full of sand water into the cockpit. I emptied it out with some effort, including falling over some times by the force of new breakers - good nobody was there to watch…

Eventually I made it straight through the first breaker, braced into the second, but the third one got me! It surfed me backwards to the beach, digged my stern into the sand. It rolled me up the beach, no chance to fight against the violent force of the sea. No idea how I ended up sitting upright on the dry land again, sideways for sure...

Yuppp, ok, sh^#* happens, jumping out again, straightening the kayak, jumping in again for another launch. Don’t give up! That was the plan - so far so good.

Jumping out was no problem. I grabbed the bow toggle to turn the kayak around, wondering why it felt so easy. Bugger! The stern section was bent at a very unusual angle from the cockpit section.

This is what I never wanted!
“Du bloede Kuh! Wie kann man nur so doof sein?” - I called out this and some more serious loud German cursing to myself for my stupid actions…

An ugly big chunk of fibreglass was missing from the deck. Both hooks of the hull clips were bent almost straight.

The two hull clips just slid off the hooks, straightening the heavy stainless steal on the bending force of the impact of the stern to the ground. But who knows what would have happened to a one piece kayak??
The two deck clips were still in position. I loosened the deck clips to check the whole damage.
Maybe if I had checked the stainless steel connections more often, it might not have happened. But maybe if I had tightened the clips more often, the hooks may have deformed even earlier. Maybe, if I had received my brand new kayak in time, instead of taking the old one it wouldn’t have happened? This one already did a great job around Iceland this summer, but - it was too late now for regrets. There were two pieces of kayak on the beach now, instead of one. And I was on a wild west coast beach with no road access or houses.

My mind searched for solutions; no way to call for help. I need to fix it myself, and keep on going!

Don’t even think about I was in the mood for taking a picture now of the incident! 1000ds of sandflies still flying around my head, making the forced break not really a more happy event…

I checked the hooks on the hull, but to see clearly, I had to wash the sand off first. One looked more bent open than the other. I could try to bend it back into shape again, with a big rock as a hammer. I could even swap it to another hook from maybe the front deck. I could duct tape or even glass the whole stern section to the cockpit section, to make it more solid with the bad hook. I should have taken a spare set of hooks for that case! But I hadn’t.

The chunk of fibreglass missing on the deck didn’t affect the watertightness of the boat, so good luck for that - so just the rock hammer solution was the first thing to try.

Hundreds of sandflies around my head again - they love black as much as I do. I took my helmet off, but left the hood on. The bug net would have been a better choice, but I wanted to get going, not to bother with those little details of comfort. My bare hands were also a target of those sucking beasts. Blowing them away, whilst working on the boat, was another part of the multi-tasking morning. In bright sunshine I got nicely hot in my black gear, sweating from stress and mental strain.

The hook was solid massive stainless steal, but was still bent open from the force of the impact. Not an easy job for a tool out of the stone-age. I was worried to hammer too much, either to break the hook or to hammer the screws loose, which were holding them.

Eventually it looked like it might hold enough to give it a try. I tightened the clips and screws with my multi tool as best as possible, but no overdoing it! For sure the multi tool got full of saltwater and sand, too.

The bent back hooks felt soft on tightening the clips, but it looked like they would hold enough for me to continue. That night I hoped to land sound and safe in the Wanganui River mouth anyway, where there might be people around to help. This is what I figured.

A more attentive look around that beach, through the sandfly clouds, would have shown me a nearby little river mouth before the first launching try, only about 100 m away. It would be a slog to get the fully loaded boat there, but no more risks!

Option one: Unloading again, carrying two or three heavy bags of gear to the river, dragging or carrying the light boat easier then to the mouth. It would take three return trips.
Option two: Dragging the fully loaded kayak 20-30m to the surf slop, and dragging it in more or less floating manner to the river mouth, cockpit covered to keep the dumpers out.

I decided on option two. There were still enough layers of fibreglass on the bottom to get worn off in this way. I dragged the heavy boat downhill, metre by metre, straddling the cockpit and pulling on the rim. In the slop I used my towline to haul the kayak, which was rolled up the beach several times by the surge. Eventually it floated sufficiently to drag it more or less easy to where I wanted to start again.

Jumping in the cockpit, ready to start, I noticed I had forgotten to attach the spare paddle bag on the back deck properly. Jumping out again, I clipped it back on.

Jumping in again, I noticed my skeg launching line was hanging loose instead of going straight back to the skeg. Since sand pebbles jammed the skeg blade in the skeg box quite often, I ran a long cord loop from the skeg blade to the cockpit, so I could ensure I could pull the skeg into position after launching. But the small loop on the skeg broke from the dragging force over the ground, just before the second launching try.

Again I jumped out, fished for the spare string sitting in my map case, attached a new loop on the skeg, and threaded the launching cord through the loop again.

Then the map case couldn’t be closed again with all the sand, I needed to undo the four carabiners holding it, take it off the deck and wash the clips out in the river.

I attached it to the deck again, and was ready to start again eventually! Two hours lost! I had a late morning anyway. 10am now - be patient, Freya! - only 60 km to go.

Turning around for a last look, revealed an obvious wooden cross with something long looking like a grave further up the beach. What happened here years ago? It was quite a spooky place. Not only did I nearly lose my kayak pendant, but I also came ever so close to losing the stern section of my kayak.

Launching from the little river mouth was easy then after all. Why didn’t I see that option earlier? The boat was more or less afloat already, then my timing for punching through the lowest possible breaker was good, and I was off. My stern came with me.

On the open sea, time to relax. Releasing the skeg with the cord loop, stuffing the cord away, taking my helmet off, sliding it under the back deck net, taking the fuzzy rubber hood and PFD off, but where was the carabiner clipped to the loop of my spray skirt? Gone, probably stuck open by sand and slipped off. At sea I used this carabiner to clip onto my PFD when I was not wearing it in calm conditions.

Finally opening the velcro neck of my paddle jacket for ventilation, put some sunscreen on, and ready to go!

The GPS stuffed under the deck net survived the whole launching drama, the kiwifruit and apples in the little deck bag were squeezed - fruit salad with salt water is good nutrition anyway.

The Waiho River mouth came up after 15 km, the outflow of the white glacier water was clearly to be seen from the distance. Green warmer sea water and white glacier river water don’t just mix gradually. The border is sharp - suddenly you are paddling a river instead on the sea!

After entering the sea, the West Coast rivers all swung to the north, with positive benefit of is a speed increases about 1-2 km/h - just like entering a glacier highway. But everything looks more 3-dimensional, the swell, breakers and normal waves appear higher and just somehow scary in bright sunlight. Floating pieces of wood scared the hell out of me, it might be a shark - but just plenty of playful dolphins were visible, the great white thankfully stayed camouflaged in the milky white glacier waters.

I followed my GPS, with my speed increasing all day, satisfying at least, not too bad after that eventful morning!

Whataroa River mouth flew out just before Abut Head, but less milky, less scary, less added speed. About 15 km left to the destination.

The Oneone River mouth had a wee hut site, civilisation was close again! The triangular shape of Mt. Oneone before was a clear landmark. Behind there should be Wanganui River mouth, my safe harbour for the night.

But where was it exactly? The swell and waves were pretty high that late afternoon. What I could figure out sitting high on a wave crest was not too much - just endless white lines of breakers everywhere - not too inviting to land at all!

Maybe it is behind the next bluff? It must be, as there are no huts to be seen here? No interruption in the beach line, just white breakers and endless sand. Another look on my GPS showed it must be right here, just behind the triangle mountain! I could see a darker zone right in the mountain’s shadow. I need to get closer and have a look!

Somehow I was able to avoid three huge offshore breakers, just shouting at them, “You don’t get me, you bloody bastard!” ending up highest on top of the first one, bracing into the second one, and punching forward again through the third one. Then there I was, halfway closer, in a quietish zone of water.
“Get closer, Freya, eventually you’ll see where the river mouth might be!”
Some more careful approaching, and the last dumper looked temporarily like I could handle it. A sandy beach anyway, so why keep on searching for that hidden river mouth, when I could just land here? Time it right, and I’ll be OK…

I had a 1:250.000 map, plus my GPS with the Blue Chart map, which was generally precise enough for the whole trip. But even on maps with a bigger scale, river mouths are not always where they should be, as they are changing over the time. And this time the Blue Chart GPS was just wrong. Maybe a loaded Topo map might have been more precise.

But the most precise guiding would have been using my brain! I was successfully approaching and entering already some other river mouth on the West Coast, means don’t get irritated about the endless line of breakers, just keep on paddling to the north, still way out, clear of all breakers.

Eventually from the northern side there will be showing up a zone with less breakers on the more flat north beach of the river mouth, and maybe you can even enter the river over the bar without catching too many breakers.

What irritated me this time was the GPS map position, the shadow zone behind the triangle Mt. Oneone which I thought my have been the river mouth, also the lack of huts to be seen, as I was sitting way out there on up and down going waves without any precise vision of the shoreline. Unfortunately I just dangerously underestimated the final shore dumpers, once through the first breaker zone. The surf is always BIGGER than it looks!

I waited carefully for the final beach landing through what I estimated was a ‘normal size’ dumper, and eventually paddled in past a big one.

It was a bad run, either wrong timing or not fast enough. I started to sprint from too far off the beach. The surge went way up and down a long way, which should have indicated to me a violent dumper size, too!

I had successfully cleared the offshore breaker zone, had a few moments to rest on quieter water, and assess how should I not be able to handle that last barrier!

I was almost safe up the beach, when the next dumper came. Later I saw they made their way at a 45˚ angle northwards along the beach. That final mighty dumper just developed where I didn’t expect it, to the right of me instead of from behind.

It trashed me violently. A high brace was useless. During the inevitable capsize my paddle was wrenched from my hands - no chance to hold on to it. I probably tumbled sideways up the beach two or three times, lying flat on the back deck until I managed with an already well practised ‘beach hand roll’ to sit upright high on shore, where the surge of the dumper spit me out. I was luckily in one piece, and my kayak was, too! Good to be flexible, and the repaired stern obviously held that rolling style…

But my paddle was gone! My loved ‘special edition’ black Epic wing blade had disappeared! Swallowed by the dumping sea, like the sea was laughing at me, “If you are *that* foolish to dare to land here, I have to take your favourite toy away!”

Where was it? I immediately jumped out of the kayak, realizing I had to be quick to find it. The seas swept northwards at 45˚, so it might be washed in that direction! But although walking up and down the beach several times, saying (in German), “Little sweet paddle, please come back to me! I am naked and helpless without you!” – not a single glimpse of my paddle again L

The trip had good and badder days. This was the most eventful day of my trip. But I’m unhurt, my repairs to the clips were successful, I had spare wing paddle, nothing really to stop me to continue…

Victurus Vicero! (Keep on Fighting!)

Montag, Januar 14, 2008

I found some NZPA finish day pics

Picture by Tim Cuff
Picture by Tim Cuff

There are some more on that link:

I'm back home! Some dumper launching pics...

I made it safely back home again, quiet flights, no overweight money, low kayak shipping fees...lucky kid!

What a difference being back into the winter! Early darkness, cold, grey sky...but there is no time to be sad...

I joined already a buisiness meeting, checked on my shops, and am at home mostly busy answering e-mails, phoning friends, and editing all my hundreds pics !

The write-up of the trip is waiting, besides a pile of bills, newspapers, three month of accounting needs to be done...and so on...

And I do want to spend some quality time with my family, too!

Anyway, I've got now the full set of four pics of that exciting East Coast launching.

Pictures are taken by Mary Kirk-Anderson.

Martin Fraser (left) and John Kirk Anderson (with helmet and pfd), waiting as close as possible for the right time to launch me

They are not pushing yet...just dealing with the previous dumper...

A BIG push now, Martin lost his Teva sandal in the surge...the disaster is piling up already...

JKA looks like he is saying:"Come on Freya, I know you are in there somewhere!" - and I was!

John Kirk-Anderson's posting on Paddlewise:
"After she had a few days off while waiting for swells to decrease we took Freya out at dawn on Sunday, back to the place she had landed on Thursday.
The surf had decreased but was still dumping on the steep shingle beach with the larger sets over two metres, easily enough to smash boats and bodies.
We watched the surf for a while and Freya finally decided to launch with our help. After a bit of a battle with the surge we launched her into a low surf which she got through, with one high brace after being knocked half-over.
She lost her speed in the set and the next wave was one of the biggest of the morning.
I have no idea how she managed to get through it. Her kayak stood on end and the wave collapsed on top of her. Martin and I sprinted away from the area, expecting her smashed kayak to be flung out on top of us. After the carnage cleared she rose from the spray and calmly paddled away, stopping to give us a wave before continuing south.
We were left shaking and gob-smacked, while some watching fishermen were still clapping.
She made good progress and was met further south by another friend who camped with her before helping her launch again.
Last night I had a call from her, sitting in "A meadow in the middle of nowhere", as she put it. Another long day, she is in good spirits and making good progress.
She asked how big the surf was when she left, as she had her head down. She said it took her an hour to lose the adrenaline feeling from her legs!
Paul Caffyn is going to meet her for a few days, but the forecast is for gales, so her paddling may come to a halt again for a while."

Freitag, Januar 04, 2008

Back Home on Wednesday

I managed to change my flight, being back home on Wednesday, January 9th.

I just need to fight 12hrs of jetlag all the promised calls have to wait some time then...and back to buisiness soon again, too!

It's still here a busy time, plenty of media interest! But anyway, I feel my biggest challenge after the trip was the announced booklet...but if you don't get it out in the open you might not do it at some longish office work will put on some weight on me again soon :-)) Paul promised some support!