Friday, June 9, 2017

Yukon River Quest Welcomes Back SUP Paddlers for the 19th Annual Iconic Race!

In 2016 we were very happy to have two of our sponsored athletes, +Lina Augaitis (Werner Paddles) and +Norm Hann (Kokatat) be part of the inaugural year of  Stand Up Paddling in the Yukon River Quest (735km/400 miles). As their support crew we had a very hands-on experience with their race and it was something we won't soon forget.

Lina was the first female SUP paddler to cross the finish line in Dawson City in 60 hours and 22 minutes. Norm finished in 54 hours and 56 minutes for a 2nd place finish making history along with all of the other SUP paddlers proving SUP had a legitimate place in the iconic race.

Nikki, Lina, Mark and Norm at the 2016 Yukon River Quest Awards Banquet

This year we once again support a local, Vancouver, BC SUP athlete, Peter Allen. Peter is the buyer for Kokatat and Werner dealer, Ecomarine located on Granville Island in Vancouver. While we would love to be in Whitehorse, Carmacks and Dawson City to support Peter, we will cheering him from afar while girlfriend, Erica takes on the critical role of Support Crew.

Paddling on Harrison Lake - Photo credit: Chris Christie

Peter has been training hard since he signed up for the race this past November. His training has taken him to various local races (MEC Big Chop, Indian Arm Challenge, Alberni Canal Downwind Challenge) this season. We had the good fortune of being on the water with Peter a few times over the winter when he did some training runs down the Fraser River between Hope and Chilliwack. During his winter training sessions Peter wore the Kokatat Surge Paddling Suit to keep him warm and dry, in addition to his Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD. His paddle of choice is the Werner Paddles Grand Prix 86 and his spare is the Performance Travel (3 pce) Flow 95, also by Werner Paddles.

All geared up for a paddle out of False Creek on Granville Island, home of Ecomarine.

Training on the Fraser River this winter

Thank you Peter for choosing Kokatat and Werner as part of your gear set up for the 19th Annual Yukon River Quest Race (June 28 - July 2)! We hope your race experience is a FANTASTIC one and we look forward to hearing all about it when you return.

If you are interested in following Peter (Team #5 aka SUP N IRISH) and other racers during the race you can do so via the 2017 Race Tracker as well as via Peter's instagram account.

All the best to all our friends who are also participating in the race in June (Jason, Stuart and Joanne for the second time!!!!) : Carmen Merkel (wearing the Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD), Jason Bennett (wearing the Kokatat Aries PFD), Stuart Knaack (wearing he Kokatat Guide PFD and paddling with a Werner Paddle) and Joanne Hamilton-Vale - heading back to Dawson City for her wedding ring!!!!

Joanne Hamilton-Vale photo credit: Mark Klein

Yukoner, Stuart Knaack Photo credit: Mark Klein

YRQ racing couple - Jason Bennett and Carmen Merkel Photo credit: Mark Klein

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cowichan River Youth Festival - 'One Of A Kind' Festival Held on Vancouver Island

The Cowichan River Youth Festival on Vancouver Island, is an annual youth kayaking festival hosted by Dan Norman and his students from Brentwood College. This festival is one of the only whitewater kayaking youth specific events in the country and we are happy to support it. At the beginning of this year we also started sponsoring, young whitewater kayaker, Avery Wilkins from Chilliwack, BC and below Avery shares his thoughts from the weekend. If you have a young person interested in whitewater kayaking get in touch with us, we can connect you to various youth programs that we know of here in Western Canada.

Last month (April 2017) my dad, a friend and I went to the Cowichan River Youth Festival on Vancouver Island. held at the Horseshoe Bend Group campsite on the Cowichan River (Duncan BC). A lot of people from Vancouver Island come to this event including adult volunteers and kids from schools across the island and lower mainland who want to learn how to paddle. This event is a unique event and the only youth dedicated festival in western Canada to my knowledge.

Photo: Darryl Spencer

The first paddling event was a mandatory pool session on Friday evening. At this time I practiced a few flatwater cartwheels and met some new paddlers and fellow CRYK Fest alumni. Then it was back to the campsite for a fire and some laughs. 

Duncan Aquatic Center - Photo: Dan Norman

  On Saturday there were two river runs. There were two groups, there was the advanced group and the beginners group. I was in the advanced group with 6 other people from Chilliwack. We did runs down the easier section that the beginners were practicing to do on Sunday for the first time. On Saturday all of the beginners were at the duck pond which was a part of the Cowichan that has no significant rapids making it a great learning experience. For our second run we did the initial section and then continued on down into the canyon section which was the section only the advanced paddlers were allowed. 

Beginners group about to launch at the duck pond near the mouth of the Cowichan River – Photo: Darryl Spencer

On Sunday the advanced group did the canyon again but with more people who had been working on their skills on the previous day. We had one swimmer on that run but they hiked out smiling.

WW shot of the advanced group instructors Jeff and Dave leading into the rapids – Photo: Darryl Spencer

  After the canyon I helped the instructors when the beginners were coming down the first section. This is always fun, having up to 40 boaters coming down the river at once.

The start of the combined groups heading out together on Sunday – Photo: Darryl Spencer

 Overall I had a really fun time during the festival and can’t wait to go next year.

For information on the festival for 2018 check out  for future dates.

Campsite Photo of the whole gang after the Sunday Floatilla – Photo: Darryl Spencer

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Keepin' It Moving Mantra

I have been terribly delinquent in my blogging and want to do a better job in 2017. This year has been off to a great start. We have a new mantra in our house, Keepin' It Moving and so far so good. 

2016 had some tough spots in it and at times, it was a real challenge. I had to do something different for ME and making a greater commitment to moving more is proving (so far) to be a real help. I work hard (some would say too much) and my life-work balance has NEVER been very good. I have been outside playing more consistently then ever before and I feel great. My ability to manage stress or upset is much, much better since I put myself FIRST.

I hope you will be encouraged and inspired to Keepin It Moving (if you are not already) and playing outside in 2017. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you. 

Enjoying the sunset on our local rotary trail

“You never know what's around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you've climbed a mountain.” 
― Tom Hiddleston

Annual paddle into the cabin at Rainbow Alley

The view always makes the climb worthwhile. Tyhee Lake, BC

Winter Paddling on the Babine River

Friends make adventures fun!

These microspikes have been THE BOMB on so many adventures this winter. Thank you +Kahtoola Inc 

Exploring locally on Cultus Lake

Monday, August 1, 2016

2nd Annual Toby Creek Race 2016 – Werner Odachi

Thanks to guest-blogger, Allen Yip from Aquabatics Calgary for his thoughts on the recent Toby Creek Race in Panorama, BC and his paddle of choice, the Werner Paddles Odachi

I was super stoked to compete in the Toby Creek Race.   This year, thousands of dollars was up for grabs thanks to the sponsors and organizer.  $1000 CAD for 1st Place in Elite Men’s division!  Needless to say that this attracted plenty of dirt bag kayakers in search of the next bag of loot for their next paddling adventure.

With the money up for grabs, I was excited to get my hands on the new Werner Odachi.  I knew I need the extra edge to beat the other competitors.   And so the Odachi became my weapon of choice for the summer.  I made good use of it instructing on flat water to running steep creeks. Including taking the Odachi down some good ol’ British Colombia classics such as Kicking Horse, 7 Canyons of the Toby, St Leon, Callaghan and the Cheakamus.

Even though I didn’t place in the race this year’s race, I couldn’t be happier with the Odachi.  Certainly made crushing every stroke easier J

If you’re interested to seeing some more photos and footage of the Odachi in action, please check out my page:

Thanks for reading this blog post,

Allen Yip
Age: 26
Height: 5’ 7’’
Weight: 158  lbs.
Country: New Zealand
Kayaking Experience:  8-9 years of Creek Boating
Kayaks: Dagger RPM and Pyrahna 9R
Current Paddles: Werner Shogun and WernerOdachi
Home Run: Kaituna (NZ)

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.

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin