Monday 25 February 2019

Don't miss the boat (there may not be a next time). Come to our kayak race.

You have probably experienced the situation where you organise something, people are lax to RSVP (many don't even bother) and then your activity comes and goes. If too few people attend, you're unlikely to plan another... and that's when those who didn't come, didn't RSVP peak out about what a pity it is that there isn't another one and that they would really like to attend.

There is a BIG difference between liking to attend and actually attending.

The problem is that events and activities and projects don't often have the luxury of being repeated over and over and over in the hope that people wake up and rock up.

We've got a kayak race on 10 March, here in Parys. It is sure to be a lovely day for not only the race, but for hanging out and picnicing on the beautiful lawns of the Likkewaan Canoe Club. I know of a number of people who plan to enter but I have only received one official entry (for four people). Yes, I know there are still two weeks to go... I just get a bit nervous.

The focus of this event really is on any boat that floats. Bring whatever you have lying around and paddle it.

This event is a proof-of-concept. I'm organising this first one and possibly a second one. And then the plan is that once I've got the ball rolling, another guy will take over from me.

But if people don't rock up at the first one, how do we know they'll rock up at the second? Is it worth taking on the risk? And yet we know that this is something that people are interested in because we talk to people. This isn't a new idea for us.

There is always a lot of outrage when a good idea disappears. And it usually disappears for lack of support. To keep things around, you have to rock up.

If you miss this boat, there may not be a next one.

Monday 18 February 2019

Yes, that is a Vagabond kayak in the ad

This morning Celliers did a double take. He was drinking his first cup of coffee and catching up on the News24 mobile app when he saw this advert...

Yes, that's a Vagabond kayak in the Investec ad (sans logo etc.). It is the Kwando, our children's kayak. Check out the beautiful shape, sleek bow, moulded-in footrests, stand-up platform, bottle holder positioned in front of the sculpted seat, paddle rest, 8" hatch, tankwell and, Vagabond's most distinctive feature, orange fittings. It is ours alright.

There are a number of versions of ads in this campaign; this one with a kayak, another with a juicer...

The theme behind the ads is that instead of spending R8000* on a kayak, you should rather invest the money. 

* Our recommended retail price on the Kwando is R3490, not R8000.

I've watched a few episodes of Marie Kondo's 'Tidying Up' on Netflix. She is a Japanese 'Mary Poppins' of tidying and organising your home, and packing and storing your stuff. When debating whether to keep an item or to turf it - whether an appliance, pot or garment, she recommends holding it and considering whether it brings you joy. If it brings you joy, keep it. If not, throw it out.

People buy kayaks for different reasons. To take on holiday every year for the next 15 years; or to leave at their holiday home or away-from-the-city farm to use when they are there; or to use regularly for sport, fitness and recreation. Kayaks, bicycles, juicers... these are once-off purchases that last for years (and have a resale value).

Personally, I like toys. From 20-plus years of adventure racing, trail running, mountain biking, paddling and orienteering, I have many toys that I've bought in this time - some dating back to the 90s. I've used them and cared for them. I hang on to my toys because even though I don't use all of them often, they enable me to do activities that I enjoy. They bring me joy.

There are simple ways to save money to invest. Cut down on the number of take-outs and restaurant dinners that you have each month (cheaper to cook that meal). Sell stuff you really don't use and that doesn't / no longer brings you joy. Avoid having accounts and debts - paying interest is a serious waste of money. Don't buy that pair of shoes / jacket / dress / bag - you have enough clothes. Don't buy - take your own lunch to work. These things are dispensable.

Like a bicycle or pair of running shoes, a kayak serves multiple purposes. It gets you outside. It disconnects you for a time from screens, internet, emails and whatsapp. It clears your mind as you focus on the water, scenery and splish-splash of your paddle. It is a physical activity - good for the heart, muscles, lungs and mind. It is a tool for adventures and can take you anywhere on the sea, dams and rivers. It brings joy.

Investec, I get what you're trying to say, but I think you're wrong about the kayak (and the juicer). 

Trim things that can be done without and put that money aside. Choose wisely and spend on toys that will fill your life with joy through activities and adventures for many years to come. 

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Mobile blood donor clinic - "Parys never disappoints"

On the second Tuesday of the month, SANBS visits Parys with their mobile blood donor clinic.

The staff always say "Parys never disappoints" as they usually have over 100 donors every month.

Yesterday, the hall was packed. As luck would have it, they were low on staff (those absent were off ill) and as such they only had six instead of eight beds. While I was there the beds were always occupied. The queue for blood pressure and iron check was full (about 15-18 seats) the whole time and before I got to a bed there were seven of us in the bed queue. I got there at 4pm and was out a bit after 17h30 - I'm usually in-and-out within 30 minutes.

They were expecting 140 donors. Well done Parys.

This was my 51st donation - Rusty comes with me.

REMEMBER: once-off donations are a waste of time, resources and blood. If you are going to donate, you need to become a regular donor and maintain your regular-donor status for your blood to be used. To be a regular donor, you must donate at least three times a year (max is six times - every two months).

My VW Polo clocks 250,000km

I bought my VW Polo in mid-2006. It was second-hand (2003 model) and had 35,000 kilometres on the clock.

On Monday afternoon the odometer hit a new milestone of 250,000 kilometres. I love my Polo. With its seats down it acts like a bakkie ('pick-up truck') to carry equipment, gear, bicycles, products and even a lawnmower. It has been a faithful race scouting vehicle, off-roader, commuter vehicle and an all purpose car. It has taken me to races and places. I've transported any number of items on my roof racks - from kayaks to wooden poles, ladders, plumbing pipes and metal bars.

Polo, I look forward to many more adventures with you.

Mini adventure paddle

Last week I needed a mini adventure and, while the river was lower than it had been earlier in the week, a long paddle on the Vaal was in order. I've done this section only once before - on our Vagabond Kayaks Mazowe, a double-seater. This time I wanted to stretch out and paddle my Marimba, which is a fast single. I called my friend Karen and we were in for a Friday afternoon paddle.

The section that we paddled starts about 24km upstream of our Likkewaan Canoe Club in Parys.

The water level was low so the little rapids along the way were friendly and bubbly. It is mostly flatwater. A great section for training and enjoying. We got onto the water just before 4pm and we got back to the club just as it got dark. Minutes after getting out, Celliers arrived to fetch us - thank you support driver.

Highlights of this trip included seeing two Goliath herons and my best ever fish eagle sightings and interactions. The first guy seemed to play with us, staying low, flying 30m and landing, waiting for us to come past, flying off again - that was cool. The second guy was completely unphased and let us have a good look at him.

My thanks to my friend Karen for being game to paddle. She paddled a Marimba for the first time and is the star of my photos. We really should do this more often, especially when the river is up.

Posing for a photo before we got onto the water. Karen is in red, I'm in blue.

Saying bye to Celliers, our support driver.

And off we go. 24km of water lie ahead of us.

We pause to check out a Goliath heron on that big branch. Not that you can see him in this photo... but he was there.

It was a magnificent evening. Clear, still, only us on the water... just beautiful.

This reflection just had to be photographed.

Karen coming through a bubbly rapid. At this water level the rapids can't even be graded they're so small and friendly. They are fun nonetheless and they break up the flatwater sections.

Almost on the home stretch with daylight fading fast.

Only a few kilometres to go. Bye bye Mr Sun.

Double-shift school just makes sense

School properties are underutilised. During the morning, children are - for the most part - in classrooms and there may be some use of sports fields and other facilities for physical education lessons. From 12h30 to 14h00 classes end (depending on the grade) and, I would presume, the majority of the students go home. Some stay behind for after-school sport and cultural activities.

Image from

Class sizes are upwards of 28 to 40 (certainly in the government system) and as such teachers and space are burdened. The bigger the class, the slower the progress through the learning material - this holds true for running, hiking, biking, paddling... The bigger the group, the slower the group moves overall.

From what I have seen of Kyla and Ruben's school work over the past three years (currently grades 8 and 5 respectively), they don't cover that much in a year and learning would certainly be far more effective with smaller class numbers and a slightly shortened day to accommodate the double shift.

Putting schools on shifts is not a new concept. Double-shift schools maximise the use of resources, reduce overcrowding and accommodate more children overall. Fewer new school properties and all that these entail would need to be built.

Shift variations include having morning and afternoon classes or having full-day school on alternate days (the latter makes life more difficult for parents with children not at school at all on alternate days).

One property could host a primary school in the mornings and a high school in the afternoons, or, probably more feasible, is one school in the morning and a completely different school with its own headmaster and teachers in the afternoon. This would be more practical as teachers of the same grade could share the same classrooms (they could even work together to share material and classroom decorations too).

Whether a school has 100 children or 1000 children, the costs for maintaining buildings and facilities is the same. The property may as well be put to maximum use.

Driving past our schools in Parys in the afternoons and school holidays, I'm always disappointed to see the lack of use of facilities as I rarely see children out and about; and during the holidays - around three months a year! - there is no one on school properties at all!

Why are our schools not doing shifts? I have no idea. It doesn't make sense to me that they are not.

Thursday 7 February 2019

Paddling in adventure racing (article)

Yes, I do still write. Actually, I write a lot - just not always articles as I create all of the content for Vagabond Kayaks and my YOLO Compost Tumblers - FB, Instagram, websites and such.

In the new issue of The Paddle Mag, I have written an article on the discipline of paddling in the sport of adventure racing. Paddling is one of the four key disciplines of adventure racing with the other three being trekking, mountain biking and map-and-compass navigation. It felt good to stretch my fingers out.

You can read this piece on pages 66-69. The Paddle Mag is a free digital publication that you can read online or download.

My thanks to my friend Nicholas Mulder from Team Cyanosis Adventure Racing for his insightful comments that I included in the piece.