5 Dec

Kayaking the Congo: the ultimate adventure

If you’re a Westerner, like I am, chances are you probably don’t know too much about the Congo River. Again, if you’re like me you probably know about it from Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, a controversial anti-slavery book that some nowadays consider racist but at the time was considered a masterpiece of liberal thinking. The story recounts an Englishman’s journey up the Congo River.

While I admit that I have never been to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ever since I read Conrad’s work I’ve had a fantasy to visit and as an avid boater myself, I’ve always wanted to go there and explore the river by boat. It’s absolutely not for the novice kayaker and I admit that while it’s possible to kayak the Congo, I’m a little bit afraid myself. Nevertheless as a life-long fantasy I’ve looked into it and many a sleepless night have I planned my hypothetical journey in my mind and done plenty of research over the years on the internet and in libraries.

The first step would be getting to the Democratic Republic of Congo. With the jet age being a bit passé at this point—or at the very least taken for granted—flying to Kinshasa is not much of an issue as there are regular flights from all over the world (although many require a stopover somewhere).

The tourism industry is less developed in the DRC than in other places, but that doesn’t mean it’s non-existent. There are still plenty of outfitters who could provide the intrepid traveller with all the necessary supplies.

But for me the best option would be to travel with locals, as opposed to professional tour guides. One of the criticisms of Conrad’s book is that he doesn’t provide voice or other representation to the locals, instead using them as a backdrop to the exploits of Westerners. That might very well be the reason if I were to ever complete my journey I would want to do it with the locals, whose knowledge of the river and its surroundings would be better than anyone’s—including guides.

Whatever the reason one would want to go, it cannot be denied that the experience would be one of the most remarkable journeys into wilderness still left on a rapidly developing world.

4 Nov

Finland’s thousands of lakes

Finland doesn’t make headlines too often. When Finland does make the papers, the Scandinavian country is usually being reported on for its remarkable welfare or education systems or some new pilot scheme such as basic income, which has been in the news in recent years. To the luck and delight of the Finns, it’s rare to hear of massive tragedies coming out of Finland—though of course like anywhere tragedy does strike. For all of Finland’s quietness, shall we call it, it’s one of the more interesting places in Europe to go on holiday. And for water lovers it definitely needs to be at the top of the list.

Finland has thousands of lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams. Like many arctic regions the growing and receding of glacials over the last thousands and hundreds of thousands of years has left a landscape that’s absolutely littered with lakes, making it one of the world’s best places for canoeing. Not only does it offer fresh water lakes and rivers but it also has plenty of coastline in the Gulf of Bothnia, the Baltic, and the Arctic Ocean. While the Arctic Ocean probably isn’t the easiest place to kayak or canoe it can most certainly provide the more adventures paddlers with an unforgettable experience of a life time.

But for the average person there’s plenty to do and see that doesn’t require a drysuit and the bravado of an explorer of old. Even within an hour of Finland’s capital Helsinki there are places to kayak or canoe—and at that there are lakes, river, and the sea—meaning that the visitor doesn’t even have to leave the capital to have some time on the water.

However, to really see some of the beautiful nature that the Nordic country has to offer it’s probably best to head up north. Scandinavia is one of the few remaining places in Europe with proper wilderness and the farther north one goes the less populated the country becomes. It’s probably best to plan a trip more thoroughly than one would otherwise if heading up north because the nature can get dangerous.

Don’t let that discourage you though because Finland really is one of the most beautiful places to go canoeing or kayaking and for any avid fan of water sport it’s a place worth visiting.


7 Oct

Pass can fade, but love (of kayaking) never does

Boating has always been a major part of my life. When I was younger—a child and a teenager—it informed so much of my identity, in the way that hobbies and collections and that sort of thing often inform one’s personality, since it people of that age haven’t had enough experiences and thoughts to have a mature personality.

Kayaking specifically was how I defined myself. It was what made me me, to borrow a common phrase. All of my daydreams and fantasies and goals about my adult like somehow involved boating: I’d be a professional kayaker, or a world-renown sailor, or I’d kayak down rivers and lakes that were unexplored by humans. Nothing was too grandiose for my young mind and naive understanding of the world. Kayaking was who I was and who I would always be, I thought, and it would be the factor that guided my life.

Although one hears this story more often with more popular sports like basketball or football, the narrative of childish ambition was the same and this hobby was my saviour, in some way that is less dramatic than that sounds.

As time went on and I grew up and matured, I went through the normal stages of life such as moving out on my own, going to university, getting my first proper job, etc. In that phase of my life when my priorities were realigning themselves I had a sense of loss in regards kayaking and how something that was once so meaningful had started taking a minor role in my life. It was nothing that caused alarm or wasn’t to be expected, but it caused some small pain, if I’m honest.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the sport anymore—and I was still doing it regularly—but somehow it just didn’t have the feel that it once did.

Nevertheless, I came to the conclusion that what has informed one as a child tends to stay with one throughout one’s life and in that sense kayaking will always be a part of who I am.

30 Sep

Ancient Transport to modern fun

The kayak and the canoe are two of the world’s oldest forms of transportation. These forms of transport have obviously been around since people have been living in areas with large bodies of water. The oldest known canoe is a dugout canoe we know about today, discovered in the Netherlands, where it is currently housed in the Drents Museum. At more than 9000 years old this astonishingly impressive Pesse canoe, as it is known, is one of the oldest extant boat in the world. First discovered in 1987 in Nigeria, the dufuna canoe is a boat from the Stone Age and is the oldest boat in Africa. At some 8000 – 8500 years old the Dufuna Canoe rivals the Pesse canoe in its antiquity. As such an ancient part of human history, it’s fun to think that despite the various technological advances over the intervening millennia, the canoe still remains a part of humans lives.

We will probably never know how early human felt about their canoes, how they used them simply as tools for crossing lakes, seas, and rivers, or if they were used for pleasure and escape and racing, as we today with cars and internet use our beloved watercraft. We do know that today there is a massive canoe industry worldwide and a great number of associated industries such as camping, trade fairs, and boating tourism.

How our ancient ancestors used canoes—as sources of pleasure as we use them—may remain a mystery for us modern human, but it is undeniable that we use them as such. In recent years, in Europe, it has become more and more common for people to do river trips, paddling up—and more often—down the great rivers in a manner not necessarily unlike how the Pesse canoe might have been used.

In modern day US and Canada, the canoe is closely associated withNative American peoples and their contribution to the world of watercraft has is palpable even today. Unlike in highly urbanised Europe many of the canoe trips throughout North America involve paddling through areas of wilderness, yet to be populated (perhaps never to be populated) by humans. For anyone with a taste for that sort of adventure and with something of a competitive spirit, a trip to Canada might be just the prescription for fighting cabin fever.

In places like the Philippines and Indonesia, a very different tradition of canoeing was developed. In archipelagos cultures the focus of water travel was on ocean transport. There the outrigger canoe was developed, with one or two floats that run parallel to the main body of the boat and provide added stability in choppy ocean waters.

Regardless of if you like American wilderness, the blue waters of the South Pacific or the streams, lakes and rivers of Europe, next time you hop in a canoe and paddle out on the water, you’re continuing a human tradition thousands of years in the making

4 Aug

A few thoughts on college versus professional water sports

Sure, there are a lot of professionals and people who make a living off water sport but so many people see it as a simple past-time, a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon, for example. However, there’s much more to it than that and the more one knows about something, the more likely it is that can see and understand some subtleties. Sports betting is no different. At the end of the day, you place money on a team one expects to win. Even within placing a bet there are a lot of subtleties, such as where you place the bet and what the odds are. But beyond that there are differences between college boat races and professional boat races. If you’re planning on placing bets on this sport, it’s very important to get a good grasp of what’s going on and to try to understand the ins and outs of the sport and what makes it different from other sports.

When you’re betting on boat races football you’ll need to keep in mind that the athletes playing the sport are not professionals and they are not paid. They are students who are taking time out of their studying schedules to play a sport, for the sheer love of it (of course that’s doesn’t mean that some of them aren’t in it for what they can get out of it, like a lucrative professional signing contract!). An athletes motivation for playing a game is a factor that’s often overlooked by gamblers.

Said motivation can be the difference between a good athlete and an excellent one. Internal motivation is almost always a better motivator than an external one. Speaking of college, for example, if someone is studying a topic they care about and are passionate about chances are they are going to perform better than someone who is doing it because they hope to get a good job with the degree. With sport it’s no different. The athletes who are there for the love of the game are more likely to perform better than those who are in it for the money.

It goes without saying that this is something not always easy to discern as a mere spectator, but it’s one of the key differences between the college and professional boat races. (Or amateur and professional anything for that matter.) Remember that if you’re going to bet on a college team you should probably try to learn about that college a little bit. With professionals it’s clear that, even if they love the sport, that’s their job and that’s why they are doing it. With college players, one needs to bear in mind that it’s a hobby. And see how that could affect their performance. Your team might do better if they’re playing at a college that has been ranked highly as a matter of pride. Just like in all aspects of life, the more you know, the better off you will be. It’s simply a matter of turning that passion and that love and that knowledge of the sport into a bit of extra cash for a nice little reward.


4 Jul

Best holiday location for boating enthusiasts

For so-called water rats like myself, there is no better holiday than those by water. It doesn’t matter if it’s a river, a lake, a sea, or an ocean as long as it’s possible to get out on a boat and enjoy some sailing, paddling, or even using an engine. In fact, for me I don’t take any holiday without being by water, especially since I live in a city that doesn’t have much water.

Whenever I’m a bit stressed life in general or with work in fact I spend a lot of my time planning fantasy holidays and reading about places that I would like to visit. In the categories of lake, river, sea, and ocean, here are my top picks for the best boating holiday imaginable:

River: The Amazon.

One of the longest rivers in the world and the source of legend, the Amazon is an amazing place to be out on the water. Although the temperatures can be brutally hot and the humidity suffocating, I can’t imagine how being in the world’s largest rainforest wouldn’t be astonishing. Considering the heat though, I’d probably prefer to take a river cruise instead of struggling in the heat and humidity. But for sure this is one the top of my dream holiday locations.

Lake:The Caspian Sea.

A cursory glance at a map will show that the Caspian is a lake and not a sea, despite its name. In fact, it’s the largest lake in the world. Many countries touch the lake, but by far Iran and Russia have the most coastline. With hot summers and cold winters this temperate lake offers visitors all they could possibly want—the only challenge is getting to the place as many western countries don’t have the best relations with Iran and Russia.

Sea: The Baltic Sea.

In the winter this sea in the north of Europe can be covered in ice and become extremely frigid. For anyone who likes sun-bathing and swimming it might not be the best option, though in the months of July and August the waters can reach some 20 degrees—a bit cold for some and plenty warm for many others. With able Scandinavian, German, and Russia history (to say nothing of the equally interesting Polish, Baltic and Old Prussian cultures found on the sea’s shores), the Baltic offers culture and history as much as good sailing. Just try not to fall in the cold water!

Ocean: The Pacific.

As the largest ocean in the world this one is an obvious choice. And I won’t use that as a cope-out but will narrow it down to the the coast of Mexico. With places like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Acapulco this is a great place to visit. If you go in springtime, when the weather is already warm enough to swim, you can also enjoy some marlin fishing or other deep-sea fishing if that’s your scene. And with amazing Mexican food to eat as well, there’s hardly a better place in the world to have a boating holiday!

10 Jun

Homage to boating

It’s not always easy to explain why it is that I love water sport. It could be the simple fact that I’m outside in nature (or at the very least out in fresh air). There’s also the biological that that exercise releases endorphins and that, by definition makes people happy. And of course it’s impossible to deny that I absolutely love the travel that comes with the sport, when I care to indulge myself a bit and travel in over to row.

In fact, some of the most fun that I have rowing can actually be when I’m thinking about it as much as actually doing it. Often at night if I’m having trouble falling asleep I like to plan out my fantasy water sport holidays. Top of the list would be probably have to be taking a couple of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and getting the canoe and heading for three months down the Mississippi, exploring the history and the culture—both before and after the region was colonised by Europeans.

It doesn’t have to be those opportunities for flights of fancy that attract me to rowing—and at this point I should confess that I don’t care if it’s kayak, canoe, raft, or anything, so long as I’m out there on the water. While the chances that the sport gives to indulge in a couple of escapist fantasies are great, it’s no substitute for actually getting out there and doing it.

Lately, my favourite has been rowing on nearly frozen waters. In my area the rivers don’t quite freeze over in the winter, but rather ice up round the edges. While it can wreck havoc on the hull of my favourite kayak, for example, to bump into ice, there’s a certain stillness and peace to being out on the river with bits of ice in the quiet. It takes a bit of physical fortification to want to get out in the cold and if I’m honest with you, there have been more times that I’ve cancelled my icy plans than gone through with. (Sometimes a warm bed on an icy winter morning is too alluring a temptation not to forgo a bit of a paddle.)

But above all, I think what is the most attractive aspect of the sport is the simple headspace that it provides for me. Many athletes describe a feeling of bliss and serenity when they are competing it or practising their chosen sport. I am by no stretch of the imagination a proper athlete but it must be said that I do very much feel that my might is most clear my, thoughts most lucid when I’m on a boat. I can’t imagine how more intensive athletes feel that way—sports with sudden movements and quick responses like in tennis—but I find I think best. And for me there’s no better marriage than that of mind and body. And as such I am eternally indebted to water sports.

I was thinking to organise a charitable boat race to raise money for my favourite charity Penny Appeal. This way I can do some good while enjoying myself.

22 Sep

Improving your kayaking skills

Let’s say you love the water. You’re out there every weekend and sometimes after work in the summer time to paddle away the hours in the your local beautiful lakes and streams, soaking in the wondrous landscape. At a certain point though there’s only so much kayaking you can do before your skill development starts stagnating and that’s often a time when people start getting bored in something that they have previously loved. There are a lot of options for how to hone your skills further and create new challenges for your hobby.

The first option is an obvious one and that’s the social one. If you’re passionate enough about kayaking (and it doesn’t matter if you’re already an expert or if you’re still a novice), you’ll be welcome in probably any kayaking club. These organisations are there not just to provide a venue to discuss with others your hobby, but also to act as a support structure to help you improve your skills and give you new ideas. The easiest way to get involved is to search the internet for a club in your area. They often have ‘open house’ nights once or twice a month when people who aren’t members can come and introduce themselves and meet the local kayaking community. In addition to getting good advice you may met people who will give you tips on where and when to kayak, and such groups very often take yearly trips together, which can be a nice way of making new friends in addition to improving your skills.

If clubs aren’t your scene and you prefer to strike out a bit more on your own, then consider going to kayak events, such as races or technical competitions. While there isn’t often a lot of mainstream media coverage for these events, betting sites are excellent sources of information. If you’re lucky after or before the competition you may be able to talk to some of the athletes who are usually happy to share tips with amateurs and give advice (although if they’re not in the best mood after a poor showing you may want to give them a large berth) to fans who are either seasoned kayakers or just getting started out in the sport. Aside from the kayakers there’s a great many fans that are themselves accomplished kayakers. People usually love sharing their passions with like-minded people so it wouldn’t be too hard to make connections with people.

With so many possibilities to meet new people and improve your skills on the water there’s no reason for you to sit round and do that same old paddle every weekend (unless of course that you’re perfect content with comfort of nice routine and a lovely kayak!)

water-skiing 5 Sep

Varsity, Novice

Novice Rowers are classified as any athlete in their first year of rowing. After their novice year, rowers move up to the Varsity category, in which a true depth system is adopted. The 1 st Varsity 8+ lineup is comprised of the fastest 8 rowers and best coxswain. Then, the 2 nd Varsity 8+ uses rowers #9-16, and so on. This depth system is similar to the “string” system used in traditional sports such as football and basketball. Some teams and coaches using older terminology call 2 nd boats “JV” boats, however this is strictly a nominal designation and does not mean the rowers are not “Varsity.”

Delta Blades, along with all SWJRA teams, has four squads: Novice Men, Novice Women, Varsity Men, Varsity Women.

29 Aug


The Delta Blades Junior Crew is a highly competitive rowing program developed for high school-aged boys and girls from San Joaquin County . The Delta Blades compete in the northern California league of the Southwest Junior Rowing Association, which is comprised of crews from all over California, and parts of Arizona and Utah. The Delta Blades is made up of four separate squads: Novice Men, Novice Women, Varsity Men, Varsity Women.

We are energized by involved parents, excellent coaches and enthusiastic rowers.

The season begins in early September and goes through mid-May, culminating with the Southwest Regional Junior Championships held in Sacramento.

The team practices 5 times per week (practice schedules are listed under Team Info).

The Delta Blades hold three major recruiting campaigns—summer, fall and winter. Athletes who wish to transfer from other programs will be subject to a screening and/or tryout period.

Currently, there is no tryout period for new athletes, however rowers who underachieve in the areas of technical proficiency, physical performance, attitude and commitment will risk being cut from the team.