Trip Report: Bumpkin and Grape Islands from Hingham Harbor, MA

The Boston Harbor Islands are a wonderful place to explore by sea kayak! I have many found memories of exploring these islands with family and friends over the years. While growing up, my mom took us on excursions and camping trips to Georges, Peddocks and Bumpkin Islands; first by ferry and then by kayak when we were old enough. My appreciation for this special place reached a fever pitch during graduate school when I enjoyed paddling amongst the Islands of Quincy Bay from my “secrete” launch at Wollaston Beach. I even had the chance to lead an MIT Outing Club group all the way out to The Graves at one point! Despite these many trips there was one island that had somehow eluded me: Grape Island. It was my mission during this trip to set foot on my “neglected island” and visit one of my old favorites along the way. Who better to make this trip with than the woman who showed me the way to Boston Harbor over twenty years ago!

Launch at Bathing Beach in Hingham Harbor

Launch at Bathing Beach in Hingham Harbor

My mom and I decided to set out from Bathing Beach in Hingham Harbor where the parking is free and the water is a quick walk down the sloping, sandy beach. It was mid-day and the tide was just about low. The winds were light out of the Northeast and the skies were threatening a shower as we set our bearings for Worlds End. The first leg of the trip took us past Button Island on our right and then Sarah Island on our left before crossing a narrow channel. We took our first break in the shadow of Worlds End in the low spot between the two hills. There we found an enormous glacial erratic that marked the height of the tide by a strata of colors. Worlds End, now owned and maintained by the Trustees of Reservations is a great place to make a day trip. It’s easily accessible by car and offers miles of walking trails along tree-lined carriage roads. When the tide is high there is also the option of navigating a small creek that allows one to access a small inland pond by kayak. Since the tide was low and our hearts were set on visiting Bumpkin and Grape Islands, we decided that it was best to move on.

Exploring the shoreline at World's End

Exploring the shoreline at World’s End

Bumpkin Island lay a mere mile to the Northwest from our first stop near Worlds End. This leg of the trip took us past the mouth of the Weir River and Sunset Point in Hull on our right. We enjoyed views of Peddocks Island and the Boston skyline loomed in the hazy background on our way to our landing spot on the right-hand side of Bumpkin’s pier. The 35 acre Bumpkin Island has a rich history and now boasts a selection of primitive campsites that are available seasonally via permits through the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (Reserve America). When we arrived on the island we were greeted by a very friendly and knowledgeable ranger named Mike. He caught us up on the history of the island and showed us a number of artifacts collected over the years. Around 1900, the island had served as a hospital for children with severe physical disabilities. Mike showed us pictures of what the magnificent structure that once stood on the stone ruins found on the island’s interior. I was also surprised to learn that Bumpkin Island served as a military outpost during World War I and that some of the former barracks had been relocated to Hull, MA and are still being utilized today!

The approach to Bumpkin Island

The approach to Bumpkin Island

We bid Ranger Mike adieu and set our bearing for the cut between Grape Island and Slate Islands.  This leg of the trip would require an open-water crossing of about 1 mile southwest across Hingham Bay. Our path took us across the channel that services Hingham Harbor but we didn’t have much boat traffic to content with. The conditions remained light for our crossing as the wind began to build from the Northeast. It only took about 15 minutes to make the crossing and arrive at the landing near the island’s pier. Grape Island, like Bumpkin to the east, is a glacial drumlin and sports a rocky shoreline. However, the right of the pier was much steeper than that on Bumpkin to the point that my freshly-waxed kayak began sliding back down the water! As we walked up the beach we came across piles of sea shells that had washed up with the tides. I joked with my mom that all we needed to do was fill up our day hatches with shells and we’d have all of the decoration that we needed for my upcoming Cape Cod-themed wedding!

Shells on Grape Island

Shells on Grape Island

We were greeted at the grape arbor by Ranger Kathy who provided us with a self-guided tour pamphlet and caught us up on the history of the island. Apparently, the 50 acre Grape Island was one of the few Boston Harbor Islands that was spared from military occupation and remains largely in its natural state. It did, however, play an important role in the American Revolution. During the siege of Boston, the Patriots had the city surrounded and the British Army was essentially starved for supplies. Grape Island was home to a Loyalist-owned hay farm that was raided by the British Navy in order to feed their horses in Boston. The patriots caught wind of the raid and drove the British from the Island before burning the remaining stocks of hay! Our tour of the island proved equally interesting and offered a number of impressive vistas. The western vista looked onto the Hingham Shipyard while the northern vista provided views of Weymouth’s Fore River shipyard and the distant Blue Hills (which actually appeared blue on this hazy day!). The path also led through a number of the islands habitats including a unique birch/aspen grove and a small salt marsh on the way back to the landing. We noticed a small slate outcropping along the southern beach and my mom proceeded to collect a few dozen, post-card-sized chunks for use as table numbers at the wedding. I guess she had been inspired by my earlier comments about the shells!

Exploring Grape Island

Exploring Grape Island

The wind was beginning to swing around to the east as we loaded our kayaks with the slate and prepared to depart Grape Island. We had expected the possibility of some afternoon weather and the change in wind hastened our journey along the final leg back to Hingham Harbor. We put Slate Island on our left and made way for Crow Point. This took us past a number of impressive mansions before touring southeast at the Hingham Yacht Club. The wind continued to swing around on us and we found ourselves fighting a building southeast headwind as we split the gap between Ragged and Sarah Islands. The final quarter mile proved a bit easier as we paddled into the lee and my mom beat me back to Bathing Beach despite having a hatch full of slate! We had just enough time to load up our boats and gear before the rain came. The cool rain offered a nice reprise from the week’s oppressive humidity and we took advantage of the shelter of a nearby bandstand to enjoy lentil chips and hummus and watch the raindrops fall on the quiet harbor. Thanks, Mom, for sharing another great adventure to the Boston Harbor Islands!

Departure from Grape Island

Departure from Grape Island

Overall, this trip is an excellent choice for advanced-beginner paddlers interested in spending a day exploring fairly-protected waters. Each of the Boston Harbor Islands is unique in its history and ecosystem and they have been a real joy to explore over the years. It’s incredible to think that such an expansive aquatic park exists within a “stone’s throw” of Boston but there it is and far too few take advantage of the adventure and history that these islands have to offer, in my opinion. Be aware that even the waters of Hingham Bay can get choppy and prove a real challenge for novices. I’ve been out there at times when the waves exceeded three-four feet so please pay attention to the weather forecast and expect a building southwest wind on the average summer afternoon. Also, please respect the camping regulations on these islands and the fact that people make reservations to occupy these sites during the season. Both Grape and Bumpkin Islands are open to camping and provide a primitive island getaway without having to go too far “away”. For more information on making camping reservations visit Reserve America.

Happy Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

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Trip Details:

Launch: Bathing Beach, Hingham, MA

Landing: Bathing Beach, Hingham, MA

Highlights: Worlds End, Bumpkin Island, Grape Island, Sailboats

Duration: 3hrs (with stops)

Distance: ~4-5miles

Good Eats:  Wahlburgers @ Hingham Shipyard, 19 Shipyard Dr, Hingham, MA

Kayak Dave Rating:

Categories: Trip Reports | 2 Comments

Attention all SUPers…WEAR YOUR PFD!!!

Take a glance at a paddleboarding advertisement in a store, on a website, or in a magazine and this is what you’ll often see…

SUPers without PFDs

Clearly, SUP is touted as the SEXY SUMMER SPORT. Who wouldn’t want to look like these models and do the cool things that they are doing?!?!

The problem is that the image of SUP that we are all now accustomed to masks a serious safety concern! Many paddlers simply neglect to wear a PFD while paddling a SUP. I’ve been teaching Stand-Up Paddleboarding classes for the past three summers and I’ve made it my personal mission to educate my students on why it’s critically important to WEAR A PDF while SUPing. I call this part of my class my “Public Service Announcement”…

Attention All SUPers, WEAR YOUR PFD!”

Why should you wear a PFD while SUPing? The simple answer is: Gravity. When you are standing on a SUP your head is anywhere from 5’ to 7’ above the board (depending on how tall you are). A fall from your own height is enough to knock you unconscious if your head comes in contact with a hard surface in the right (or wrong) way. I’ve messed around enough on my paddleboard to appreciate that it’s a hard surface! Everyone takes a fall from time to time and sometimes you will hit the board on the way down. In my mind, this simple fact makes wearing a PFD while SUPing an absolute requirement. A PFD could literally save your life in the event of an “ugly” fall!


What type of PFD should I wear while SUPing? This is a great question and one that I’m often asked during my classes. I always coach my students to wear a full-foam, Type III PFD like one that you’d wear kayaking, canoeing or even sailing. However, you’ll likely run into a group of paddlers (and shop owners) who will recommend a belt-pack-style, inflatable life jacket for SUPing. I would not trust my life to these increasingly popular PFD alternatives. Here’s why:

1) Belt-pack models must be manually deployed by the user and require a secondary donning in order to function as a PFD. One could imagine the potential challenges associated with deploying the PFD, getting it over one’s head, and securing the necessary straps while in the water after a disorienting fall. If not, then I would suggest trying to don a PFD while in the calm waters of a pool or pond. It’s a challenging thing to do on a good day!

2) Belt-pack models have multiple failure points that may prevent them from inflating in the event of an emergency. The most critical of these is the inflation mechanism which usually consists of a CO2 cartridge that is designed to inflate the vest when the “pull to inflate” handle is triggered. Manufacturers usually recommend that this cartridge be inspected prior to each use of the PFD to ensure that it’s properly seated and that there is no corrosion. Belt-pack models are required to have a manual inflation backup; usually a red tube that you can blow into to inflate the vest. However, inflating the vest manually adds yet another step to an already complicated process that could prove over whelming in an emergency.

3) Belt-pack models are bulky and clumsy when deployed. Have you ever tried to swim in one of those older, “horse collar” PFDs that are popular at summer camps? These PFDs place most of the added floatation on your chest which causes you to float slightly on your back. Both of these traits make swimming and re-mounting your board more difficult. I’ve seen a number of my participants struggle to remount their boards from the water while wearing only an inch-thick foam PFD. Add another few inches with one of these bulky inflatables and they might just be out of luck…

The Astral YTV is a great PFD to wear while SUPing!

The Astral YTV is a great PFD to wear while SUPing!

Is it a law that I must wear my PFD while SUPing? This is the type of question that really gets under my skin because it’s so neglectful of the singular reason why you SHOULD wear a PFD: for safety’s sake. I digress. Technically, yes, it’s a law in Massachusetts that one must have a PFD on board their SUP during the summer months and that one must wear a PFD on their person the rest of the year. Recently, SUPs have been classified as “vessels” by the USCG because they are capable of carrying a passenger on navigable waters. Therefore, SUPers are held to the same rules and regulations in the eyes of the USCG as any other vessel. It’s my experience that local harbor masters are taking these regulations seriously. Some are handing out fines while others are requesting that non-compliant SUPers return to shore to obtain a PFD before proceeding. If you’re concerned about the rules in your area then I would suggest contacting your local harbormaster or USCG auxillary group for more information.

SUPers with PFDs

The bottom line is that wearing any PFD while SUPing is better than not wearing one or having it tucked under the bungees in a fool-hearty attempt to “be in compliance” with local PFD regulations. However, I must stress that full foam PFDs have many advantages including that they’re already “fully deployed” when worn appropriately, lack failure points, and are less bulky than their belt-pack counterparts! If you’re looking for an excellent, full-foam PFD for SUPing then look no further than the Astral YTV. This vest is super light-weight and highly ergonomic to the point that you’ll honestly forget that you’re even wearing it after a few minutes!

Happy and Safe Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

Categories: Paddle Boarding (SUP), Virtual Instruction | 1 Comment

Trip Report: Rose Island from Newport, RI

The fact of the matter is that I just can’t quite get enough of Newport, RI. Every year I make the trek down to that special town on the end of Aquidneck Island looking for an adventure and every year it delivers in spades. The mansions and beaches, sailboats and mopeds, surfing and shopping, and the Newport Blues all make the trip worthwhile. The rocky coastline is especially captivating with its quiet coves, numerous rock gardens, and breaking waves as far as the eye can see. Every year I go to Newport and every year I wonder why I didn’t bother to bring my kayak along for the ride; until this year!

School is officially out for summer (thank God that I survived)! CoRay and I decided to celebrate the occasion by taking the much anticipated trip to Newport with our kayaks. I’ve done a fair bit of scouting along Ocean Drive and we settled on the quiet King Park on Wellington Ave just east of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club as out launch site. The park is situated along the southern shore of Newport Harbor. Parking along the street is free and it’s a quick and easy carry down to the water. This launch is amazing and it may just be one of the biggest secretes that Newport has to offer to kayakers!

Kayak Dave in Newport Harbor (Photo Credit CoRay)

Kayak Dave in Newport Harbor (Photo Credit CoRay)

Our plan was to peruse the Newport Harbor (CoRay has an affinity for taking pictures of large boats) and then make the trek out to Rose Island to visit the lighthouse. We started our adventure by heading Northeast into the mooring field toward the storied Newport Wharfs. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could have done a much better job in selecting my gear for this trip. The quiet waters near King Park quickly turned into a confused soup of 2-3ft reflecting waves as we entered the Harbor proper. I had decided to bring along my Impex Mystic sea kayak (14ft long) and haphazardly pulled my low-angle Werner Camano paddle out of the quiver assuming that the conditions would remain light. The conditions in the harbor (and those to follow during the crossing) were much better suited for my P&H Capella (16ft long) and my high-angle Werner Ikelos paddle!

Sailboats in Newport (Photo Credit CoRay)

Sailboats in Newport (Photo Credit CoRay)

CoRay and I had a great time paddling through these choppy waters on the way to the wharfs but we both agree that this is not a place for beginners to play! Newport Harbor is a busy place and boats were moving all around us. The harbor is obviously filled to the brim with sailboats (it’s the sailing capitol of the world) including a number of exotic racing sailboats from far away ports of call. It also has its share of exorbitant pleasure craft which provided CoRay with plenty of photographic opportunities. I was most surprised about the hustle and bustle going on at the commercial wharf. Fishing boats were flying in and out of the channel as they jockeyed for a spot to offload the days catch. The fact that Newport is also an active fishing community never really crosses our mind as it’s unfortunately overshadowed by the glitz and glam of the sailboats and mega yachts. Sightseeing aside, both of us had our heads on a swivel to avoid getting in the way of one of these much-larger-than-us craft!

CoRay rounds Goat Island

CoRay rounds Goat Island

We decided to take our first break at the northern-most tip of Goat Island. This thin body of land acts as a natural breakwater and shields Newport Harbor from the onslaught of waves and wind that enter through Narraganset Bay’s eastern passage to the Southwest. CoRay and I took advantage of the calm waters in the lee to assess our upcoming crossing to Rose Island. Point-to-point, the crossing is only a little more than half a mile. What we saw made it seem like a lot further! The wind was howling out of the Southwest at 12-15kts and the windward side of the island was being inundated with 2-4ft ocean waves rolling in through the east passage. The problem wasn’t so much the conditions; it was the fact that our trajectory would take us straight through the center of a regatta. Sailboats have a hard time seeing kayaks, especially when they are engaged in a race! We decided to take the opportunity to do a little surfing in the waves near Goat Island and hope that the sailboats would be wrapping up soon. It wasn’t long before the sailboat turned toward the channel and cleared the way for our crossing to Rose Island!

Rose Island Lighthouse

Rose Island Lighthouse

I think that it’s safe to say that we both had very different experiences on the crossing to Rose Island. CoRay had brought along his Capella 160RM and a high-angle Werner Shuna paddle. He had plenty of boat under him and the power necessary to glide over most of the waves. I, on the other hand, was clearly under-sized and under-powered in terms of gear. As much as I love my Impex Mystic and Werner Camano, they definitely have their limitations! The crossing turned into more of a roller-coaster ride for me as my Mystic rode up and over most of the waves (and through the occasional whitecap). It was a great test of my skills and I enjoyed every minute of what turned into basically a solo crossing for both of us. The issue was that there was no way that I was ever going to keep up with CoRay in those conditions and it would have been a better situation had I sized my gear up to stay with him. Live and learn!

Rose Island Landing (Photo Credit CoRay)

Rose Island Landing (Photo Credit CoRay)

It took us about 20 minutes to reach the pebble beach near the docks on the south side of Rose Island. Setting foot on the island was a home-coming of sorts for me. One of my first vacations with my finance, Erin, was a three-day stay as the lighthouse keepers on Rose Island. She knew how much I love lighthouses and discovered an awesome program through the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation where you can rent out the keepers quarters and serve as the official lighthouse keeper! We had a great weekend on the island making memories as we kept the log book, watched the sailboats pass by, and greeted the many visitors who came to the island during the day. As CoRay and I approached the lighthouse we were greeted by a friendly face; Chris from the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation. Technically, we had arrived after hours (be sure to check the foundation website for visiting hours and be respectful of the grounds and rooms that are occupied by overnight guests) but Chris was kind enough to give us a private tour of the island and catch us up on the history of the area. All-in-all we spent about a half hour on the island before biding Chris adieu and making the trek back to our boats.

Roses on Rose Island

Roses on Rose Island

The return trip from Rose Island to Goat Island was nothing short of a rocket ship ride. It was nice having the conditions off of our starboard quarter for a change. It only took about 5-6 minutes to surf our way back to the hide-away lee on the northern tip of Goat Island! I think that both of us wished that it had taken longer! From there, we hugged the leeward side of Goat Island for all that it was worth before crossing Newport’s main channel on a beeline for the Ira Lewis Lighthouse. The water quickly calmed as we approached the takeout; another great trip together in the books. After, we packed up our gear we decided to take some time to do reconnaissance on Ocean Drive and the southern shore of Newport. Rhode Island is on our paddling radar and we can’t wait to come back for more!

-Kayak Dave


Trip Details:

***This trip may not suitable for beginners or unguided paddlers without open water experience. Newport Harbor and the crossing to Rose Island may present challenging conditions and prove treacherous to small craft.***

Launch: King Park, Newport, RI

Landing: King Park, Newport, RI

Highlights: Sailboat in Newport Harbor, Rose Island Lighthouse

Duration: 3hrs

Distance: ~4-5miles

Good Eats:  Lucia Italian Restaurant, 186B-190B Thames St, Newport, RI 02840

Kayak Dave Rating:

5 paddles

Categories: Trip Reports | 1 Comment

Kayak Dave is back in action!

Hey Kayak Dave fans!

I just wanted to take a moment to catch up and apologize for how slow has been over the past couple of months! This has been a very busy (and exciting) year for me and, unfortunately, the website has taken a back seat.

I was blessed the opportunity to work as a science teacher at a local high school this past September. Let’s just say that the first year of teaching is absolutely CRAZY with all of the lesson planning, lab prep, new teacher classes, ect.  I’ve has a lot of teachers over the years but I’ve developed a completely new respect for this profession over the past year!  Hard work aside, it was really a great year at school. My students were incredible and I’m not just saying that. They were genuinely amazing human beings and they worked really hard. I absolutely love my new “day job” but I’m happy to see that the summer is here and take a much needed “break” in order to keep Pro Kayaker dreams alive and well!

Kayak Dave 2014

Oh yeah, in other news, I got engaged this Spring! Hard to believe, right?? So here’s the story… I had been telling my fiance Erin that I had my eyes on a new paddle board for her but she insisted that I spend my money “more wisely.” Little did she know that I had designed and purchased an engagement ring over a year earlier (gasp)! Anyway, I popped the question on Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown this spring during our annual Spring foray to Lands End. Then I gave her the paddle board as an “engagement present.” Luck girl, huh! No, really, I’m the luck one here. She’s amazing!

KayakDave Erin

The good news is that the 2015 kayaking season is off to a great start! I’ve had the time to get out there on a number of paddling trips and I can’t wait to share the trip reports with you. We also have a few bits of gear to review from last year and hopefully a few more pieces on their way in. Stay tuned as the season rolls on :)

Happy Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

Categories: Announcements | 2 Comments

NRS Vigilante Cable Lock – 6 month review

The Deets

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

What is it?: 10′ Combination Cable Lock

From Don’t let your outdoor gear get jacked. Get the NRS Vigilante Cable Lock instead. The coated steel cable slips easily through odd-shaped spaces so you can lock up kayaks, bikes and other gear.

  • We coated the 10′ x 1/8″ diameter strong steel cable with scratch-free, rust-free nylon for durable, worry-free security.

  • Unlike many cable locks, the Vigilante features narrow cable ends that fit easily through small and odd-shaped spaces.

  • Secure three-digit combination lock for peace of mind.

  • Resettable lock lets you choose and change your combination.

MSRP: $19.95

The Review

A cable lock is challenging to review at first glance and after a couple times of use so I am submitting my review after 6-months of varied use through a season of summer, fall, and the start of winter.

Initial impressions

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Initially, the NRS Vigilante cable appears to have a clean, quality appearance with an overall ease of use. The 3-digit combination is simple yet complicated enough to challenge a thief looking for a new kayak. The length is appropriate and allows for solid wrapping around roof rack rails, deck posts, or a kayak rack. The cable is coated which allows for wrapping without getting snagged or rubbing against your car roof or kayak finish. The cable end is small (about the diameter of a shoelace) which is great for looping through kayak seats, lock brackets, and other small hardware.

General setup and use

Setting up the combination is easy and can be done in under five-minutes with the included instructions. The lock itself is very finicky and requires a lot of play to get the cable end into the lock, the same is required when removing/unlocking the lock.

The combination digits are very small and close together which makes it is easy to “fat finger” the combination when attempting to open the lock. In addition, I found that a lot of play was required to actually unlock the lock after the correct combination was set, including having to move the unlock latch back and forth multiple times in order to engage the mechanism. The small latch can be painful on the thumbs/fingers due to its small shape and the force required to unlock.

After 6-months

After about a month of outdoor storage, the cable end was rusted into the lock mechanism forcing me to cut the cable to free my kayak. Even though NRS claims that the cable has a “rust-free coating,” that is apparently not the case.

The cut-test

Due to the nature of the lock rusting, I had only one option if I wanted to unlock my kayak, and that was to cut the cable. I figured this to be a good opportunity to test the “ease of theft.” It only took about one minute (with standard wire cutters) to make my way through the cable. I would image it would be even easier with bolt cutters. Even though these cable locks are designed to be more of a deterrant, I anticipated the cable to put up more of a fight.

Recommended: No

Categories: Gear Reviews | 3 Comments

Aquabound Freedom SUP Paddle Review


“With a 100% carbon shaft, contoured palm grip and fiberglass-reinforced proprietary resin blade, the Freedom weighs only 29 oz. so your time on the water will be less fatiguing. Perfect for intermediate paddleboarders, its stiff, durable blade delivers more power with every stroke: no whippy, wimpy blade here.” -Aquabound

Aquabound Freedom Paddle

The Deets:

Blade Size: 8.5”x17” (100 sq inches)

Shaft Material: Carbon

Blade Material: Fiberglass-reinforced resin

Grip Type: Contoured T-Grip

Paddle Lengths: Adjustable in 70”-80” or 76”-86” lengths. (4 piece also available)

Weight: 29oz (for 70-80” paddle)

MSRP: $139.95 (2pc), $164.94 (4pc)

The Review:

The Freedom SUP paddle joins the likes of the Stingray/Eagle Ray Hybrid kayak paddles as yet another “best bang for your buck” paddle by Aquabound.  Seriously, the quality and features that you get at the $140.00 price-point are mind-blowing! The Freedom paddle features a carbon fiber shaft, abs plastic blades, and a blow-molded, T-grip-style handle which add up to a mere 29oz (a real steal at this price point). The blade sports a dihedral design that makes it super stable (and powerful) in the forward stroke and a great choice for folks interested in paddling at a moderate cadence while touring. This paddle comes in both 2-piece adjustable (70-80” or 76-86”) and 4-piece adjustable for those travel-minded SUPers!

Aquabound Freedom Paddle

My fellow SUP instructors and I have had the chance to use the Freedom SUP throughout the summer and our experience has been quite positive. It honestly blows away most of the other paddles in this price range in terms of performance! To quote a fellow instructor “the Freedom paddle is a great entry level SUP paddle. It’s light, sturdy, and fits a wide range of people!” My thoughts echo those of my compatriot but thing that I like most about the Freedom is the carbon fiber shaft. It’s stiff enough to efficiently transfer energy through the paddle while feeling light in hand. The blade is equally stable due to its dihedral design and hardly slips at all in the water. One would think that the dihedral design would affect the smoothness of transition strokes but you hardly notice it! Finally, I really appreciate the simplicity of the button-style ferrule system. It locks in tight yet remains easy to adjust. The one thing is that the ferrule whistles in the wind. Any holes that are open below the handle act much like the keys on a flute or clarinet to create music in the wind. Not a huge deal but it can become a tad annoying on a longer trip…

Aquabound Freedom Paddle 2

It can be difficult to ascertain the longevity of a paddle without using it for quite some time. Luckily, we have some great data on the Freedom paddle; we liked it so much that we decided to add a dozen of them to our SUP instruction and rental fleet. Take my word for it; the paddles in this fleet take all sorts of abuse. They’re thrown around, used like hockey sticks by kids, smashed on rocks, stepped on, and rarely ever cleaned. The good news is that we only managed to break one blade over the course of the summer (it took an unreasonable pounding)! Yes, they’re roughed up around the edges but the ferrules are still tight and adjustable, the blades are still intact (save the one), and the shafts are as straight as they were when they came out of the box! We obviously don’t condone “paddle abuse” for personal paddles (and we’re lucky that we didn’t kill off a few more). However, if a paddle (or twelve) can survive this sort of constant abuse then one can probably rest assured that it will survive many seasons in the hands of an average paddler.

Aquabound Freedom Paddle 3

Overall, I’m a huge fan of the of the Freedom SUP paddle both for the everyday paddler and for outfitters. I’ve found this paddle to be extraordinarily robust, stiff-in-the-shaft, and stable-in-the-blade. It’s really the best “bang-for-your-buck” SUP paddle on the market and it’s clearly far superior to anything else released by the major brands at the $140.00 price point in my humble opinion! Finally, I was stoked to hear that the folks at Aquabound have released a 4-piece version of this paddle and I look forward to purchasing one as a travel companion for next season!

Happy Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

Pros: Great “bang for your buck”, stiff shaft, durable, sturdy ferrule design.

Cons: Adjustable shaft “whistles” in the wind Rating:

4 and a half paddles

Categories: Gear Reviews | 1 Comment

Astral Brewer Water Shoe Review – 2014 UPDATE

“Technical performance and classic style are blended perfectly to bring you the shoe whitewater kayakers have been waiting for.” -Astral Buoyancy

Brewer View

The Deets:

  • Lightweight, Minimalist Construction
  • Durable Cordura® Upper
  • Breathable Airmesh vamp & tongue
  • Balanced Geometry Midsole (zero drop)
  • Drainage at front sidewall and Silt Dump at heel
  • G.14™ outsole
  • Step-Down Heel
  • Alternate lace color provided
  • MSRP: $99.95 USD


The Review:

I am pleased to bring you a “2014 Review” of the updated Brewer water shoe by Astral Buoyancy. While this review is technically a spin-off of Kayak Dave’s 2013 Review, keep in mind that this review comes from a different viewpoint.

I was very cautious about investing in a pair of Astral Brewer’s at first based on my experiences of past water shoes. From my prior endeavors I have found water shoes to nearly always:

1) Run too narrow

2) Have a very limited lifespan

3) Provide insignificant traction on wet/slippery surfaces

4) Lack necessary drainage and drying time

5) Trap debris and sand   

6) Create rashes/hotspots while kayaking

7) Ugly/Outdated Styling


It is through seven axioms that I will review the Astral Brewer, a tight order for the Brewer to fill?… I guess you’ll see.

1) Run too narrow. For most individuals, I would say more than half, shoes that run narrow do not present an issue. For myself and a small cohort of outdoor enthusiasts, I have wide feet… very wide feet to be clear… 4E Width to be exact. So finding a pair of water shoes to fit, and to fit comfortable is a rarity at best. A representative at Astral presented the following reasons why the Brewer may fit a wider foot:

a) Our footwear is designed to be narrower in the heel and mid foot, getting wider in the toe box.

b) Our shoes are made without a strobel board.  A strobel board is the static fabric stitched between medial and lateral sides of the upper.  It is underneath the insole of almost all “normal” shoes.  By not having a strobel, the EVA mid sole is free to adjust to your foot’s width width much more so than with a strobel.

c) Our uppers are made with textile and air mesh. Both of these are fabrics that have “give” and will adjust to your foot in a short period.

I purchased a pair of Brewers’ that were a half-size larger than my normal width. After wearing my Brewers for a couple of days, I found Astral’s assessment to be true. While snug at first within the break-in period, I found that the Brewers’ soon adjusted to the wide contours of my feet. They do not have any pressure points or areas where my feet feel “pinched.” I will note, however, that I wore my Brewers’ in the shower, allowing them to get wet with warm water and then dry on my feet. This helped to relax the upper fabric when forming to my foot.


2)      Have a very limited lifespan. As Dave mentioned in his previous review, he has experienced the limited lifespan of most water shoes, knowing the misfortune of lasting only a summer or two before beginning to fall apart. After wearing my Brewers’ in a variety of conditions over the past 8 months, from kayaking, light hiking, and every-day casual wear, I cannot see the Brewers’ starting to fall apart anytime soon. I will be sure to keep readers updated on the longevity of the Brewers’ but I can’t see it will be negative.


3) Provide insignificant traction on wet/slippery surfaces.  The Brewers’ are provide the best traction of any paddling shoe out there… hands down. Their newly updated G.14 outsole is like a gecko grip on all surfaces, even slick algae covered rocks. Astral definitely hit a homerun with the new G.14 outsoles, and if their next iteration is anything like these… the Brewers’ can only get better from here.

Astral Brewer G14 sole


4) Lack necessary drainage/drying time. I have had the misfortune to sit in wet, cold paddling shoes for hours with no relief in sight. I can happily say that those days are over now that the Brewers’ have hit the market. Not only do the Brewers’ drain as soon as you exit the water, but they dry very quickly especially when kayaking. During the summer I would estimate that they dry in about 50-115 minutes depending on the humidity and level of activity. They dry even faster when sitting in the sun.


5) Trap debris and sand. While the Brewers’ are not perfect at keeping debris out, especially when walking around in dry conditions, most small debris will flush out upon entering the water. I have worn these to the beach and walked in wet sand up to my ankles to find that the Brewers’ do a moderately good job at keeping wet, loose sand out. While sand does enter the shoes from top, it easily washes away upon kicking your feet in the water. Larger debris can be an issue such as small pebbles and wood chips which I have found to get kicked into the Brewers quite easily. Unlike smaller debris which washes out of the rear ports, they must be taken off in order to remove larger pieces which does not happen with neoprene paddling shoes.

Astral Brewer in sand

5)  Create rashes/hotspots while kayaking. I have paddled in several races and paddling trips with the Brewers’, both wet and dry, and have yet to develop any type of rubbing or rash. They do a great job at protecting the food when inside even tight cockpits, and keep your feet elevated for great foot brace contact. The slight rocker of the toe allows for easy contact with the ball of your foot without impending proper torso rotation. If you are wondering why your foot position is important to proper torso rotation, see article Kayaking: A low-impact high intensity exercise.


7) Ugly/Outdated styling. This category should not need a lot of detailed explanation after seeing a pair of the Astral Brewers.’ These are so beautifully designed from top to bottom that 99% percent of people won’t even know they’re water shoes. Enough said.

Brewer 2014

Note about color options: I purchase the Black/White Brewer (as seen in the first photo), and the white portion does get very dirty and scuffed. While it can be cleaned to an extent, they show wear a lot more than their darker counterparts.

Keep on paddling!


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Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag Review


“With its multiple tie-down points, bungees, and side straps for added storage, you will have plenty of room for added gear with our Deluxe Deck Bag.” – Seattle Sports

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag

The Deets:

Materials: RF-welded Vinyl

Height x Width x Depth: 6in x 13in x 14in

Volume: 791 cubic inches

Weight: 2lbs 4oz

Colors: Yellow

MSRP: $64.95



It seems to me that deck bags have been out of vogue over the past few years thanks in part to the fact that manufacturers are putting so much emphasis on integrated deck pods. These deck pods have been touted as a superior storage solution to deck bags because they are “integrated, recessed, and remain easy to access from the cockpit.”  I make the point to fully investigate these deck pods when I try out new boats and I’ve been largely unimpressed; they’re not removable like deck bags, they take up space in the cockpit, and it’s often difficult to access their contents while paddling. Sometimes it requires the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast to reach any gear that has slipped into the nether-reaches of a pod. These are just some of the reasons why I still prefer deck bags!

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag (Front)

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Deluxe Deck Bag by Seattle Sports remains one of the best deck bags on the market! Seattle Sports prides itself on the superior quality of its RF-welded vinyl products and the Deluxe Deck bag is no exception. I’ve had the chance to test this deck bag to the max and found that it’s fully RF-welded seams keep the water out even when your deck gets washed over! Furthermore, its low-profile design presents minimal windage when strapped on the fore deck.

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag (Open)

The designers also put a lot of thought into the functionality of this deck bag. It has multiple tie-down points, bungees and side straps for added storage. There is also a clear window (a bit on the small side) that faces cockpit to allow the paddler to locate their essential gear (e.g. gloves, rain coat, snack) more easily. The opposite end of the bag features a reflective patch and lashing mount for a strobe light to help keep you visible. The one thing that I’m not a huge fan of is the fact that the bag doesn’t open fully. This is probably to prevent gear from spilling out but it would be much easier to get larger items into the bag if the zippers were extended another inch on each side.

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag (SUP)

Deck bags have long been synonymous with kayaks. However, my favorite use for the Deluxe Deck Bag in on the deck of my SUP! Indeed, kayaks hold many storage options such as hatches, bungee cords, and the like. SUPs, on the other hand, offer very little in terms of storage and nothing in terms of dry storage for those few essential items (jacket, hammock, ect) that make a half-day adventure all that much better. Yes, you could always throw these things in a dry bag but the low-profile and flat bottom of the Deluxe Deck Bag lends itself nicely to stowing gear on the nose of the SUP. I’ve often used the Deluxe Deck Bag in the fashion on afternoon SUP trips to The Island. It carries my Hammock and Kindle like a champ!

Overall, I was quite impressed with the Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag. This is a quality product with a lot of well-thought-out features! Kayakers and SUPers alike should consider the Deluxe Deck Bag as a legitimate storage solution to make those small essentials more accessible!

Happy Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

P.S:  We also had the chance to send our Deluxe Deck Bag up to Alaska for some additional field testing. We’re looking forward to hearing a report from our friend up North!


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Ocean Conditions: What to Expect While Sea Kayaking


At some point in a sea kayaker’s ventures, he/she will encounter water and weather conditions that don’t exactly fit the definition of calm. This can occur either by accident, or the paddler deliberately chooses to paddle in those conditions. Regardless of how they are encountered, I would like to dissect three main conditions and how they can affect a paddler’s journey: wind, current and waves. For less seasoned paddlers who may have never paddled in the conditions that follow, this article offers a brief insight of what to expect, and as well as some techniques used to expedite a trip.



As most paddlers will discover, wind is a factor that can change and intensify dramatically, sometimes without warning. However, wind does not always have the potential to completely immobilize a paddler and or push them out to sea. A wind coming from the stern can be a fantastic situation if it is boosting you in the desired direction. However, a headwind or broadside wind is a different situation…

Wind Cartoon

A well-seasoned paddler with an appropriate kayak and technique can safely handle winds up to 20mph. From my personal experience, winds of 25mph are rather arduous, but reaching the targeted destination is still possible. Being able to reach a destination in severe winds requires a healthy balance of three main concepts; endurance, paddling technique, and vectoring. A less experienced paddler will most likely become exhausted quickly due to lack of proper paddling technique (i.e. torso rotation) and insufficient paddling fitness. Nothing beats spending time in your kayak to gain fitness and confidence for more challenging conditions!

Small Craft Advisories are posted when winds exceed 25mph. Consider kayaking on another day!

Small Craft Advisories are posted when winds exceed 25mph. Consider kayaking on another day!

Vectoring is an important navigational technique (compass required) used by paddlers to stay on course. In a broadside wind, for example, paddling towards a fixed object will cause the boat’s path to curve. This increases paddling distance, takes more time, and uses more energy. Vectoring makes use of a compass to aim towards a selected heading upwind from the target. This will allow the wind to push you in a straight line path that involves less distance traveled, less time taken, and less energy used.



Currents are another major force that the kayaker will encounter at sea. We will discuss two types of currents including: rip currents and tidal current. Rip currents exist where water moves out to sea perpendicular to the shore. A kayaker caught in a rip may notice that their kayak is “slipping” out to sea, perpendicular to their direction of travel. Rip currents can be wide and strong enough to catch a kayaker off guard. The key to handling rip currents is to not panic or waste energy fighting it. Simply continue on the planned course perpendicular to the current. Eventually you will pass out of the rip current largely unscathed albeit a bit further from shore.

The Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book is a great resource for ocean currents published annually.

The Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book is a great resource for ocean currents published annually.

Tidal currents have a much stronger effect on kayakers. Similar to wind, tidal currents can set a paddler off course when encountered broadside. To compensate for this effect, vectoring should be used as previously described. Paddling in fast tidal currents head-on requires endurance similar in windy situations as the kayaks headway speed can drastically decreased, therefore increasing time and using more energy. This is why it is important to research what the tides will be doing so you can plan your trip efficiently and safely navigate any strong currents that they may create.



Sea kayaks are called sea kayaks for a reason. They are specifically designed to handle conditions of the sea…especially waves! Being comfortable with waves comes with experience and it’s up to the paddler to set their own threshold for how big is too big. Most folks will do just fine in ocean waves of 1-3ft in height. However, breaking waves of even this small height can pack a lot of punch and can be tricky to navigate without the proper skill set. More experienced paddlers may be comfortable in ocean waves of 4-6ft or even greater and this is well within the capabilities of the average sea kayak. However, these ocean conditions often make new-comers feel uneasy (and often queasy). Breaking waves of this size can be down-right dangerous and should not be attempted without the proper experience and equipment (helmet).




Paddling in larger waves can certainly be fun, but new paddlers looking for this next level of paddling must be aware that taking on waves of greater height than experienced before can be intimidating and could result in capsize. Proper high and low bracing should be mastered before challenging oneself in rougher seas. Protected bays and friendly shore breaks offer great places to practice these skills. It also doesn’t hurt to sign up for an advanced sea kayaking class and have an instructor work with you on proper bracing techniques!

There’s lots of room to grow as a paddler, and understanding the concepts of wind, currents, and waves are a significant step in the right direction. The best way to experience new and challenging conditions is to get out there and be exposed to them, but do so with an instructor or another paddler who is more experienced in those conditions. That way you can learn from their experience and they can extinguish a potential situation before things go wrong.




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Exclusive Sneak Peak – NEW MTI Adventurewear Lifejackets for 2015!!!

It’s been another super-busy week at the shop but I had a chance to sneak away for a few hours to visit some of our local paddlesport manufacturers this past Tuesday. We’re lucky to have the headquarters of our friends at MTI Adventurewear just up the street. Owners Lili and Gordon Colby have been strong supporters of and our Duct Tape Kayak Project over the years and it was high time that I paid them a visit to see what they have cooking for 2015!

Remember, we’re still a good 10 days out from the annual Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. This typically marks the unofficial “launch point” of next years’ product lines for many outdoor gear companies and most keep their skunk-works projects under lock and key until the market opens. However, Lili and I agreed that it might be fun to bend the “rules” a little bit so she granted full access to their secret showroom and permission to post this exclusive sneak peak of the MTI Adventurewear 2015 PFDs!!!

MTI owner Lili Colby attempts to keep the new color palette a secrete...oops!

MTI owner Lili Colby attempts to keep the new color palette a secrete…oops!

MTI has been busy making a number of great changes to their wonderful line of life jackets. One of their major focuses for 2015 is to pay more attention to the ladies who love watersports. They obtained exclusive approval from the USCG to manufacture some of their life jackets in four new colors including: coral, berry, periwinkle and sky. They also introduced their new, tropical-inspired “Cabrie Print” on the Moxie life jacket. The way that the panels are cut makes every vest unique! I also liked the look of the coral fabric on the simple and affordable (yet surprisingly comfortable) Reflex PFD. We use the youth model for our rental jackets at the shop and I’m sure the kids in our latest SUP camp (ten, 8-to-14-year-old girls) would have loved the option of coral/berry-colored vests over the “boy-blue” variety that we made them wear!

New external radio loop on the MTI Slipstream

New external radio loop on the MTI Slipstream

The designers at MTI also added a few new features to improve functionality. The most inventive is their “Daisy Chain Attachment System” now found on a number of models including the Moxie, PFDiva, and Slipstream. These climber-inspired webbing loops offer a great place to secure various accessories such as lights, whistles and other do-dads to your PFD. I’m especially impressed with the technical changes made to the Slipstream PFD. We had a chance to review this great life jacket last year and now it’s even better thanks to the addition of a radio loop to accept a larger VHS radio on the outside of the front pocket (thanks for listening to our feedback, MTI)!

Stay tuned for more gear reviews as we wrap up our summer product testing and look forward to all of the new gear coming out this Fall!

Happy Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

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