Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Letting the cat out of the bag - Vagabond Kayaks

Yes, yes, yes! I can finally tell you.

We launched our new kayak company yesterday - Vagabond Kayaks. What an adventure this has been already and the real adventure actually begins now.

Celliers and I have been working towards creating Vagabond Kayaks for a long time - at first only just in our minds and dreams. His passion is kayaking and kayak design. There is a good reason that he is regarded as one of the best kayak designers in the world. Aside from 16 years of designing and manufacturing kayaks, Celliers has been paddling and in the community and industry for over 20 years.

He has been under a restraint-of-trade for three years, which has been very trying for us. He was restricted from having anything to do with paddling locally and internationally - yes, that means he couldn't even design a boat for another company or get a job elsewhere. We couldn't even make paddles in our garage to sell.

Imagine a doctor that cannot have anything to do with medicine for three years, not even being a pharmaceutical rep; or a media person that may not send an email, write an article or go on social media for three years.

We started YOLO - making compost tumblers - as a new business 18 months ago. I am passionate about recycling and working towards ZeroWaste and we needed a composting solution at home. I'm now compost obsessed and I love my company and interacting with our like-minded customers. Businesses take a while to get off the ground, especially when you're in completely new territory, in an industry that is unfamiliar to both of us. The past years have been challenging.

I've been very quiet with blog writing mostly because I've barely had enough time to sneeze and I've been writing a ton of content for our Vagabond Kayaks website. I'm also our website designer and this has been the biggest and most complicated website that I have ever built. I'm no computer programmer; just a self-taught, old-school website designer with the ability to read help files, code HTML and tweak php. I've been stretched!

We also have a bunch of images and graphics on the site, which I created. Celliers' beautiful CAD renderings of each kayak at various angles have had our logos added to them, manually, by me. My mouse hand is exhausted!

Our website is www.vagabondkayaks.com and we're on Facebook (vagabondkayaks) and Instagram (vagabondkayaks). Like-Like-Like, Love-Love-Love, Share-Share-Share.

Picnic on the other side of the Vaal River - this lovely spot accessed by paddling our Vagabond kayaks. Home-baked bread, fig jam and dog treats (although Rusty wanted bread and jam too).
As for our kayaks... They are beautiful!

Rusty and I on the Kasai; Ruben and Kyla on their children's kayaks (like a scaled-down version of mine), the Kwando.
I've paddled the Kasai (great all-purpose sit-on-top with good speed) and the Tsomo (shorter, more playful) and prototypes of the Dumbi (surf kayak), Vubu (whitewater kayak; the smaller Pungwe will be my whitewater kayak) and the Usutu (whitewater sit-on-top). Rusty likes the Kasai the best so far.

Rusty is very comfy in the back of the Kasai. She likes to lie down too.
I am most looking forward to paddling the Marimba, which will be the fastest in our fleet. I had only one request for Celliers' design: make sure there is enough space for Rusty. While most of these kayaks will be available in the next two weeks or so, the Marimba will be our last one and only in production by October.



We have had a superb response from friends, family and the paddling community since we put the site online not much more than 36-hours ago. Celliers and I are pleasantly drowning in support and well wishes.

We have awesome partners in this business (all paddlers too) and we look forward to having them more involved in the day-to-day activities as we transition to production.

Celliers and I are recovering from extreme lack of sleep the past two weeks (especially the last five days!) and we still have so much work to do. For now, we continue to build this amazing company.

I left Rusty running around on these rocks when I swapped to paddle the Tsomo. She watched me for a bit and then climbed into 'her' tankwell on 'her' Kasai. Ruben was on this side so he climbed on and paddled her to me.

Friday, 22 June 2018

42 Days of Running - done

This year, my annual pre-birthday game of running every-day-for-the-consecutive-number-of-days-of the-age-that-I'm-turning, passed quickly and in a bit of a blur. This past Monday marked my 42nd birthday.

It was definitely less 'impactful' than in previous years. With Rusty in my life I have achieved more of a balance that what I had in my late 30s and in the first year of my move to Parys. Come sun, rain or hail, I take Rusty out every day for a run or long walk or combination thereof (depending on what we did the day before). It's good for her and has been very good for me. I find it easier to commit to going good for someone else rather than for myself...

I did do a few more longer runs over the past 42 days than I had been doing. My body has always loved distance and I should 'feed' it more often.

Right now I'm down with a nasty cough and cold. Timing is never good for any cold but I'm a bit peeved because Rusty and I have been running so well. This week I've been reduced to long walks as my body fights the infection.

Walking on the nearby golf estate. This bridge is lovely but the metal grid is not at all dog friendly. I'm carrying 21kg of love. Must say, I do delight in carrying her because it is the only chance I get to give her a full-body cuddle.
That's the end of this year's birthday game. Until next year's '43 Days of Running'.




Monday, 4 June 2018

Hazel is running Ten10 again

On Sunday afternoon I enjoyed the special opportunity to run bit less than 20km with Hazel on Day 3 of her Ten10 challenge.


This is Hazel's 5th year of running 10 x Comrades distances (90km/day) from JHB to Maritzburg, with the 10th being Comrades itself. She started running on Friday and yesterday, Day 3, ran to Parys. Karen and I went out to meet her on the road, running with her to the day's finish.

Hazel, Karen and me. Photo taken while running!
Also running this year is Cornel. This is her first Ten10 and she is running incredibly well. She seems to have a natural knack for distance.

Hazel has been involved with animal shelters, having rescued a good many dogs while out on runs. She has provided homes for some, found homes for others, rushed to vets and raised funds for sterilisation programmes and to assist shelters with food.

While we were running yesterday she told me about a runner that she met recently who, while he was out on a run, saw a puppy being chased and stoned. The puppy appeared to have deformed front legs and it was being abused by a group of men. He rescued the puppy and has adopted it. As it turns out, the issue with its legs were purely due to malnutrition, which corrected within two weeks. When he saw the puppy being abused, the guy asked himself, "What would Hazel do?". He has named the puppy Hazel.

And then last week she got a call from a running friend to say that children were abusing kittens that had been born to a feral cat near a block of flats. Hazel dropped her girls off at school and got there about 45 minutes later. Apparently a 10 year old boy has smashed in the face of one kitten and was in the process of skinning it when he was stopped. Other children were looking on. Another kitten had been hung by its scruff on a barbed wire fence. Hazel says fortunately she did not see the state of the first kitten - the police had been called to intervene. When she is done with this challenge she will address this issue with the children's school and work with them to teach children about animal welfare.

Hazel is one of the bravest, strongest and most capable women I know.

You can donate to the shelters that Hazel has nominated through the Ten10 website. Or you can do your own thing by donating to your local shelter or by dropping off dog/cat food for the animals that they protect.

And, if you have the capacity, consider being a forever home to a shelter animal.

And, sterilise your animals. Neither you nor they need to have puppies or kittens. Shelters are overflowing.

Follow Hazel and Cornel on their journey and if you're in the area where they are, catch them on the road and give them a cheer or run a few kilometres with them. You can follow their movements on live tracking at trackrace.tk/ten10_2018

Sunday, 20 May 2018

First running of Not Forest Run

With my time overloaded and consumed with work, I made the call earlier in the year not to hold my Forest Run event. Presenting a race is not just the on-the-day commitment, but also the months of coordinating land permissions, volunteers, entry admin and a full week pre-race to cut, trim and mark the trails. I just could not do it this year and so cancelling the event was a relief. I came up with another plan instead...

Not Forest Run.

We have dirt roads all around Parys. You can mountain bike and run for kilometres - and it is all good scenery. I decided to replace Forest Run with a route that I had been wanting to do; something that would not need any organisation nor permissions and that I could also do. Not Forest Run, which we ran yesterday, is a loop route that starts and finishes at the Parys airfield. We ran on the open gravel of the Vaal Eden road, running past farms and venues and with views of the Vaal River and Vredefort Dome.

My morning started as Run Director at our local parkrun. I left early to get to the airfield so my friend and fellow RD Karen collected the equipment and processed the results. The morning was milder than I expected although the cooling wind picked up.

At the airfield I was surprised to see so many people. I was only expecting about six or seven but as Not Forest Run did not require any RSVP, I didn't know who to expect.

It is always a treat to have friends coming through. Allison and Tracey came through from JHB and Pretoria respectively, Amelia from JHB and Hazel also from JHB. Locals Bertrand and Michelle joined us. Ferdi, a local parkrunner, came along too. Then there were about five runners from Potch, recruited by Marilette. And another two or three, including Rachel and Angie, from JHB (recruited, I think, by Hazel). And a few that I recognised, but can't quite place, probably from JHB/PTA. Ruben and Celliers joined us on their bikes.


The idea with Not Forest Run is that you just have to rock up. This one started at 09h30. You run at your own pace. You are responsible for your own water and munchies. If you need to be rescued, you need to phone your own driver to come fetch you. Non running friends / partners were welcome to join on their bicycles.

I didn't mark the route but Celliers did ride ahead at the only real junction on the route where we need to turn left. He made a big arrow on the ground using some mielie meal.

Off we went, under a blue sky dotted with puffy clouds. We took the route anti-clockwise, straight into a headwind.


I hooked up with Hazel from the start - she met us on the road (which is why she isn't in the start photo). She had been dropped near the N1 highway and ran on the back roads to meet us (the thought it would be about 10km and ended up with a 20km 'warm-up'. We haven't seen each other for a while and, needless to say, we both have a capacity for conversation. If there had been any donkeys around they would have been legless by the end of our run.


The route begins with a long climb at a gentle gradient. This makes for harder work in the beginning and then a number of kilometres of flat and down thereafter. I really enjoy the section after the left-hand turn as the road winds a bit more.

Ruben on his bike.
I haven't run 27km straight for too long but the kilometres literally flew past. We did some walkies on uphills and gobbled up the flats and downs.

Selfie with Hazel.

Another guy was the only other runner near us and we enjoyed playing tag as he would catch us on the ups and we'd catch him on the flats and downs.

Hazel striding out.

Wildebeest just hanging.



Hazel strikes a pose
Ruben and Celliers caught up to us a few kilometres from the end. Both very chipper - they enjoyed their outing and were good at keeping an eye on the runners.

Ruben and Celliers.
Back at the airfield we enjoyed chats, hellos and goodbyes as runners came in and headed off back home or to enjoy the festivities of Parys. Before we left, Celliers went out in his bakkie to check on the last two runners. They were only 3km from the finish and both had supporters waiting for them at the finish.

This was a really superb Not Forest Run and one that we agreed could be enjoyed more regularly. I suggested seasonal (spring, summer, autumn and winter) runnings of the route to appreciate the changes in the scenery and to commit to myself to get out there a few times a year. Good idea.

Thank you to all the runners who came through to enjoy this run with me and to Celliers and Ruben for being my crew.