As an outdoor enthusiast and being fond of adventure I am never left without something to explore in this diverse landscape. Being based in Ballina, it is possible to climb a mountain in the morning and kayak along the coast in the afternoon without much hassle.
When I was asked to write this blog I was a little torn. Being passionate about your surroundings and local area can be a double edged sword. Much of North Mayo’s charm and appeal is its untouched and undiscovered locations and the more we grow as a nation the harder it becomes to find these areas of remoteness.
Telling everyone how great it is will inevitably attract more people. However I feel a great sense of pride when I meet people on their first visit to Ballina and they can’t believe how much it has to offer.
Kayaking, cycling or hiking around North Mayo it is easy to forget your surroundings and feel a real sense of wilderness – not an easy task in modern Ireland. Here I will share with you some of the reasons why I love this region so much and why you might too.
Getting here could not be easier. Bus, Train, Car, Plan! Daily flights into Ireland West Airport Knock mean you could leave your home in Manchester or London in the morning and be taking to the water or trails by the afternoon.
A quick review of the Dagger Stratos 14.5 + video
I just spent the last few days paddling the Dagger Stratos 14.5S. Its dubbed as a high performance ocean tourer that is ideal for beginners and expert alike which is a pretty broad spectrum to cover but I think they have pulled it off. I was in the market for a new sea kayak recently and I had decided I wanted a 14-15ft boat that surfs well has good speed and would be comfortable for doing daily tours, rock hopping and some day touring. After a bit of searching online I had a few contenders to consider.(The P&H Delphin, Venture Jura, North Shore Aspect and a few more.) Then I gave Colm in I-Canoe a call to see what he had available and he mentioned he was paddling the Dagger Stratos and really liked it.
To be honest I was a little surprised as I never think of Dagger and touring/sea kayaks. Anyway the feedback was good and it sounded like it was worth a try. The next day the boat arrived and a soon as it came out off the truck you could tell there was something good wrapped up. As soon as I got it opened I was impressed, the rocker profile and sleek lines looked great. I have failed to find a picture that does the boat justice and give a good sense of the rocker profile so I didn't include one. It really has to be seen in the flesh.
I am delighted to announce that I have joined with Kokatat as a Regional Ambassador. These guys make the best kayaking kit in the business and are the market leaders when it comes to staying dry and safe on the water. Kokatat are probably most famous for there dry suits especially there Gore-Tex models, which are without doubt the driest suits on the market. They also provide a customer service that is second to none.
A company with high standards for quality and community, Kokatat have stayed true to there founding ideals in this age of mass production and still produce over 90% of there products by hand in Arcata USA. I have been using there kit for about 5 years now and I have first hand experience of there customer service, craftsmanship and dedication to keeping you dry. The work that is put in to servicing your old suit is phenomenal.
With new designs coming in January and a dry suit that is set to change everything I am already looking forward to 2015!
Check out I-Canoe for all Kokatat products in Ireland.
I managed to get to Down Patrick Head on one of the best days of the year so far. This is a local spot for me only 18 miles from home and a world class piece of coastline. A fantastic headland steeped in history and folklore with an impressive 60 meter sea stack Dun Briste broken away from the massive cliffs. The headland is dissected by a long cave that is only accessible a few days a year and on low tide. Half way through the cave is a huge blow hole called Poll Na Seantoine. This is an exposed piece of coastline and challenging on the finest days. Definitely not for the inexperienced.
Check out the video.
The Cliffs of Moher are world famous and attract about one million visitors a year but only a hand full of people get the opportunity to kayak under these 700ft goliaths. This is a trip that ranks high on most sea kayaker's to do list and its one I was fortunate enough to bag on a spectacular Monday afternoon in June.
It is nearing the end of May and the past two weeks have seen strong southerly winds change to stronger cold northerlies and a lot of cancelled tours and training sessions. So on Sunday morning while driving to a race I was surprised to get a call about a proposed trip around Achill Head on Monday morning. I hadn't taken much heed of the weather forecast for improved conditions to move over the country Sunday night as its been so wild lately.
That evening when I returned home I was eager to get out my new edition of OILEAIN and see what it had to say about our proposed trip;
"This one day expedition round Achill Head has to be one of the foremost Irish paddling trips, to be grabbed when conditions allow and with caution"
I was lucky enough to be sent a pair of these sunglasses a few months back to try out. I have to say I am very impressed with them so far. Whats the big deal you may ask they're just sunglasses
?! Well these are not just any old pair of shades. The Wave are specifically made to be used by people in and around the water for sailing, kayaking, wake boarding and even surfing.
If you found this review you probably already know the pedigree of these sunglasses, if not you might be surprised to know that Julbo have been in the industry for over 125 years and are trusted by some of the worlds best athletes and adventurers. With a wide range of products and specialist expertise in prescription sports eye wear these guys know a thing or two about making top quality sunglasses.
Winter is well and truly here and I'm sure you can feel it every time you step outside. Well its just as bad when you have to get on the water for a flat water training session or a day on a white water river. Having good thermal base layers is the key to staying warm in these conditions. There is a huge range of base layer products on the market now that offer varying degrees of protection and comfort. For me I have been using CRAFT sportswear products for about 3 years now for all types of kayaking and training. CRAFT are a Swedish company that specialise in making performance sportswear for cycling, running and skiing and have done so for the last four decades. Why CRAFT? Three reasons
I had the Sipre Marlin M surf ski for the summer just gone here in Ireland. This was my first ski to own and only my second to paddle. When I decided to buy a ski I wanted to get something that I could paddle comfortably and confidently in some decent conditions. As I would be paddling solo I needed a ski that was not a full on racing ski and that I could remount easily if needs be.
When my Marlin arrived I was delighted with what I had gotten. There isn't a lot of info on this ski on the web so it was a bit of a punt, but it paid off. When you first sit in the ski it might feel a little tippy, but once you get moving the stability kicks in and its a pleasure to paddle. It cruises on flat water at 10kmph and handles cross wind/chop really well. I have had it out in some nice swell and have clocked 25kmph into an offshore. Check the video below.
Overall I really like the Marlin. Its a perfect intermediate ski and an excellent craft to get started on if you have a bit of experience paddling racing kayaks. It's fully adjustable as well so it can cater for various leg lengths. My ski was a basic construction and weighed about 16kg.
Above are some pictures of the Gopro mount I bought a few weeks ago. It is very simple mount and doesn't take up much room on the deck or effect the stability of the kayak to much. The mount is available on Ebay and other sites like Deal Extreme for about $20 - search "Gopro extension". The suction mount comes separate.
I have only used it on sea kayaks (plastic) and it has worked really well. You do have to find a smooth surface for the suction cup to stick but this isn't and issue on composite kayaks. I don't think that it will be ridged enough for white water as the impacts are very hard compared to sea kayaking. Make sure to tether the camera to the deck lines just in case it comes off!
Here is the mount in action. Enjoy
David Horkan from Paddle & Pedal. Posting info on various outdoor adventures in Mayo and around Ireland.