Sterling shows off a seamless Reflection

Sterling shows off a seamless Reflection from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Sterling Donalson of Sterling Kayaks showed us an absolutely amazing kayak that was a special order for a customer in Ontario. In addition to an extremely light weight layup, it was made with seamless construction, which reduced the weight another 5-6 pounds. The total weight is 31.65 pounds, fully outfitted! He said that it took too much work to make this kayak so it will probably be a one-off. This kayak probably beats even most skin-on-frame kayaks as far as light weight goes.

Sterling Unveils the New Progression


Sterling Donalson of Sterlings Kayaks unveiled the new Progression at the North Sound Sea Kayak Association meeting in Everett on April 2nd. The release of the Progression marks the successful return of his business from a fire that completely devastated his business two years ago. He talked to us about the Progression design and about what it was like to watch his kayak shop go up in flames:

"This kayak is totally symmetrical front to back. It surfs just as well backwards as it does frontwards. The first one we built weighed in at 41.8 pounds with a standard layup. It is 16 ft 1.5 inches long, 1 3/4 inches longer than the Reflection. That is just the way it worked out to get the dimensions we wanted, to get the cockpit heights and the radiused bows. We wanted a fuller bow up high, because we are finding that on steep waves when you are doing aggressive edges, you got to get rid of sharp bows because they will plunge, they’ll poke, they'll pull your bow down. We learned a lot just watching lots of film footage in the waves. We learned what not to do.

We put a lot of features on this kayak that the Reflection has, plus we did a lot more with the deck design. We raised the parting line up significantly higher than on the Reflection because, being a much narrower boat, we wanted a higher degree of secondary stability. And we wanted to come in at the point of your maximum edge. You feel really comfortable on it. We really achieved that goal. That thing is rock steady on its edge!

The cockpit opening itself is 15 in wide, and 32 in on the inside length. That’s what is called a standard sea kayak coaming. Same as a Romany, Same as a Valley. The Reflection is bigger: the Reflection is designed to take a big person, up to 300 pounds. It’s got a lot more volume.

The Grand Illusion is intended for bigger people so it’s got a slightly longer coaming. it is 18 in at the hips, and it has a bigger front radius so you can draw your knees together and stand up. It’s kind of important for bigger people to be able to do that. I designed it for myself. At first it wasn't even intended to be available to the public. But it came out too good not to do it.

Everyone is always asking us, about the fire: “How did you guys manage to come back?” We lost absolutely everything in the fire — molds, plugs — I mean absolutely everything.

The reason this boat is so important, is that the very day of the fire we were going to mold. The Progression plug was set up on the building table. And it was all flanged, and had already been waxed and gel coated. So we were ready to go. The plan was that after lunch we were going to do the first layups and we were going to finish it off the following morning.

I was out doing some final work on the plug in the shop and everyone had gone to lunch. I kept smelling a smell that was not normal in a kayak shop. But I was so preoccupied with what I was doing on the plug to get it done in a timely fashion so I could get to work on it after lunch. I didn’t pay much attention. So I went ahead and finished what I was doing and then I went out on an exploratory search and I went out to a secondary room in the shop where we keep all of our gelcoats and resins. It was a temperature-controlled room, so we’re not dealing with 45 degree resins that need 77 degrees to cure properly. I opened up the door and looked down the passageway towards the paint area. And as soon as I looked into the paint area, I saw some black smoke around a wall receptacle about 5 ft up the wall. And as soon as I saw the black smoke, it started belching out more. And me opening the door, I think, relieved the pressure or allowed additional oxygen. It turned from smoke to flames. As quick as I saw it I had to duck over and start crab walking towards the side door to get out. And I’m outside dialing 911.

First I made sure my son-in-law was out. He was out getting me coffee. And my other employee was out in his pickup truck in the back parking lot. His habits were that at lunchtime he’d just go out to his truck, and he had a stack of newspapers out on the driver’s seat, so he was catching up on the times, reading, and then he always has the radio on the local talk show. He heard an announcement on the radio that there was a small business out in our area on fire. And here I am standing out in the parking lot, on the other side of the building, and Steve comes walking around the business and he says, “Hey Sterling! I just heard on the news that there is a business out here and it’s fully engulfed in flames!” and I said, “Steve, look behind you!” And he was like, “Ohhh!

We looked through through the windows and we could see all of this ceiling insulation coming down in sheets of flame, and draping over all the boats. And you knew you couldn't get in there.

Then the fire department came. And Steve says, “You know, we got a trailer load of demos out in the back. Let’s go back and pull them out of the way”. So I start going around back to pull these out and the fire department stopped us. And they said, “Don’t. We’ll take care of it.” A couple lady firemen pulled the trailer out and got all that stuff. And they pretty well saved my bacon, because those were the starts of most of my models. Even though they were heat warped and a little distorted, it was still a starting point.

I got on the phone and called my wife. And I said, “Our business just burned down. It’s a total loss.” And the first question out of her was, “Is everybody OK? Is Ryan OK?” And I said, “Yeah, everyone is fine.” And then she paused for quite a few seconds, and then she said, “Fresh start”.

So we took off from there. From that point it was just dealing with different aspects of having a fire. And going through fire investigations and the labs that came out and did all their lab analysis of it. There was never anything that they could determine that was the cause. But we knew what the cause was. There were a lot of electrical issues in the building. When you have conduit that would leak water through the plug-ins. And when you have conduit that would fill your lights up with water, we had problems. It was a rented building. It was one of the things that we were supposed to get fixed by the landlord, but it just didn’t happen.

It was kinda where we left off at that year, and we had a whole rebuild ahead of us through the whole winter. We dispersed into small segments and we were rebuilding molds in small garages from my employees, and I had friends doing plug work and fairing work in another shop and another garage. And I’m running between every which place I can trying to get this done. We had local clubs, surf ski clubs and out local kayak club during Christmas they had benefit. We had people buying boats from me, giving me payment in full and putting no time limits or constraints on me as when they took delivery. They just wanted me to have the cash. So everybody pitched in. It was a joint effort.

A lot of people came in and helped — the paddling community, people from our church. It was just totally unexpected, the number of people that came and rendered help, rendered funds. And even our neighbors that we moved next to in this big building. They were a Romanian family, and they were over there pitching in, doing firewalls and drywall work, and insulation. Whatever they could help they were doing it." 

The red and blue Progression he brought to the meeting is only the second kayak out of the mold and is destined for Sweden. So far, the response from his test paddlers is that it is an amazing design — highly maneuverable, exquisitely responsive to edging, and surprisingly fast, despite having a great deal of rocker.



"Unleash the Beast" Race


Here are my pics from the Unleash the Beast Race, AKA Paddle the Dragon, at the NW Adventure Sports Expo, AKA NW Outdoor Adventure Sports and Film Festival. Actually, I think the official name is the NW Adventure Sports Expo: Unleash the Beast. Jeez, couldn’t someone have just thought up ONE name for this event?! Maybe something simple and memorable like, "The Port Gamble Kayak Symposium". Unfortunately, that wouldn’t work because mountain biking was a big part of it, as well as stand-up paddleboards and outrigger canoes.

I joined 21 other competitors in the race and was awarded men’s second place in the "sea kayak" category -- unfairly I should add because I was placed in the "sea kayak" category and should have been in the "high performance kayak" category. Ooops! Well, I didn’t realize it was divided up into HPK/FSK/SK, although I should have because that is how all races are done around here. There was only one other HPK out there, so I would have gotten 2nd place anyway, but someone got cheated out of 2nd and 3rd because of me. Sorry! Well, only the first place winners got prizes anyway, so it wasn't as if I went home with a undeserved box of Caveman Bars.  I finished the course (a little over 7nm) in 101 min, 52 seconds. I feel really out of shape from not having trained since December.

P5080017  P5080029

Sterling Donalson of Sterling Kayaks and Fiberglass was at the demo beach with Dubside’s new improved black IceKap. Apparently the old IceKap suffered a lot of cosmetic damage from being dragged around to demos and pool sessions over the last couple years, including a big stellate crack in the middle of the gelcoat over the painting of Dub’s face. So the face is gone.  Sterling also modified the cockpit opening and back deck to improve the ease of layback rolls. It feels very comfortable on its side and layback hand rolls are ridiculously easy in it.

I got a private lesson from Ken Campbell on stand up paddleboarding, “The Sport of Hawaiian Kings”. After kayaking for 25 years, Ken has become a big fan of the SUP. It’s true that you can't go as fast and cover the miles that you can in a kayak, but it’s very convenient and gives you a great workout. He says if he has only 30 minutes of free time he can go out paddleboarding. You wouldn’t do that with a kayak. Ken has done some impressive trips on his SUP, like tearing down Colvos Passage from Blake Island to Point Defiance in the span of a couple hours. He had a strong tailwind and basically surfed all the way.

Ken says it's important to dress reasonably for the SUP but it’s not as critical to dress for prolonged immersion. If you fall off a board, you can just jump back on in a matter of seconds. In contrast, with a kayak, you may be stuck in the water a while if you have wet exited, attempt a paddle float rescue, and then have to sit in a flooded cockpit as you pump it out. I think the appropriate things to wear on a SUP are board shorts and a loud Aloha shirt. Ken also wears an inflatable Type 3 PFD that fits in a little package you wear like a belt. I could definitely get into paddleboarding. The simplicity and convenience appeal to me, as well as the possibility of finding some plans to make my own board, but right now I’m still focused on developing more advanced sea kayaking skills.


Port Gamble is a cute and picturesque little town. It turned out to be the perfect venue for an event like this. The beach is a small and post-industrial, dominated by a old dock and rotting pilings, but it faced a little sheltered area that worked well for paddleboarding and eskimo rolls.


If you are ever presented with the opportunity to sit in on one of Jennifer Hahn’s seminars on "Pacific Coast Wild Edibles" be sure to take it. She has an excellent slideshow and makes a delicious seaweed salad from wakame, sea lettuce, cucumbers, and an olive/sesame oil/rice vinegar vinaigrette. She goes over which shellfish are generally free from paralytic shellfish poisoning and are safe to eat, basically, sea urchins, chitons, and limpets (the ones without the hole on top). To eat a sea urchin, turn it over, stick a knife in the middle and thrust it back and forth quickly (“don’t make it suffer”), cut it in half and eat it raw out of the shell by scooping out the insides with crackers. Be on the lookout for her book on foraging pacific coast wild edibles which is also a cookbook, coming out very soon. 

“Don’t make them suffer” is a common theme in Jennifer’s talk regarding foraging shellfish. Yes, we don't need to harvest shellfish to survive. Yes, we do this just for fun, for a few minutes of gastronomic adventure really. And yes, these animals suffer for it, but I guess that's OK because after all we are all speciesist here, right? I think it’s good that she at least acknowledges that lowly shellfish suffer, something that even philosopher Peter Singer didn’t commit to in his animal rights classic, Animal Liberation, because, well… we just really don’t know if they do.  Even with significant advances in neuroscience we will probably never know. Therefore, give them the benefit of the doubt.



Paddling the Sterling Kayaks "Illusion" at the 2009 Puget Sound Sea Kayak Symposium

Kayaks on Owen Beach for the 2009 Puget Sound Sea Kayak Symposium
Kayaks on Owen Beach for the 2009 Puget Sound Sea Kayak Symposium

It's only a four and a half mile paddle from the beach by my house to Owen Beach at Point Defiance, where the Puget Sound Sea Kayak Symposium was being held. I landed on the demo beach around noon on Saturday, this time paddling my Shooting Star cedar-strip baidarka (because I like all the attention it gets). Richard Lovering paddled his Greenland skin-on-frame from the Thea Foss and we sat them next to each other on the beach and talked about wooden kayaks with curious passers-by. One big reason I personally like to show up at kayak symposiums is to help represent wooden kayaks and Greenland Style.

My cedar strip Shooting Star baidarka and Ricardo's Greenland Style skin-on-frame.
My cedar strip Shooting Star baidarka and Richard's Greenland Style skin-on-frame.
Trying out a beautiful Greenland qajaq replica.
Trying out a beautiful Greenland qajaq replica.
Stand-Up Paddleboards are the fastest growing paddlesport today.
Stand-Up Paddleboards are the fastest growing paddlesport today.

Stand-up paddle surfboards had a big presence this year. Lately I've seen more people trying this in the Sound. I couldn't resist trying it. Compared to sitting in a kayak, it presents a bigger challenge to your sense of balance and gives your legs a workout. It must take a lot of practice to be able to use it in rough windy conditions though, not to mention actual surf.

I met Chris Cunningham at the Sea Kayaker Magazine booth. I picked up a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Issue, the one with a picture of a traditional Greenland kayak frame on the cover. Chris said that it was actually a picture of a kayak frame that he had built. I felt a little awkward picking up a copy of the magazine there in front of him, because it obviously means that I don't have a subscription to it! He knows I take sea kayaking seriously too. I wanted a copy of this issue though because Chris had written another article about Freya Hoffmeister for it. I really only have room and the attention span for one magazine subscription in my life, and this year it was to Wooden Boat. Honestly, I hardly even read that anymore. Who reads anything in print these days, seriously?

Sterling Kayaks adjustable cockpit, made for sizing custom kayaks.
Sterling Kayaks adjustable cockpit, made for sizing custom kayaks.

Sterling Donalson offered a number of his kayaks for demos, both the IceKap and Illusion design. He brought along an interesting device which looked like an adjustable kayak cockpit. I suspect it is for fitting people for custom deck heights for his kayaks. 

Although the IceKap has gotten a lot of attention because of Dubside, the Illusion is gaining a reputation for being a fantastic rough water boat. One thing that Sterling discovered recently was that the Illusion handles well with a cockpit full of water. Because the upswept ends and rocker give it a low center of gravity, it remains remarkably stable and easy to maneuver when completely flooded. I recommend you try that with the kayak you own right now. I think paddling with a flooded cockpit really should be an essential test when trying out a new kayak. It simulates a real rescue situation such as following a wet exit or re-enter and roll.

In the video: Richard tries out the Hobie Mirage Drive and a stand-up paddle surfboard, and gives a glowing review of the Sterling Kayaks Illusion.

Puget Sound Sea Kayak Symposium 2009 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

IceKap Weekend: Deception Pass



I got up at 5AM Sunday to break camp and cross over to Anacortes during slack water. As I shoved off the sky started to grow brighter and it began to rain. Except for the raindrops on the surface the water was completely still. A porpoise swam by. A warm breeze blew gently from the south. An early morning ferry passed close in front of me. From what I could see in the windows, it was mostly empty except for a handful of passengers. I saw no other boats on the water.
After landing and unpacking back in Washington Park, I drove down to Deception Pass to find some rough water. I grabbed a  second breakfast then took a nap in my car at the Bowman Bay boat launch. Later I was awakened by the arrival of a group of kayakers and a van pulling a trailer with about a dozen kayaks. When they started doing warm-up exercises in a circle on the grass I decided I would get going. 

I warmed up by doing a few rolls in Bowman Bay. I’m used to an “ocean sized” cockpit but even with the large cockpit I felt that I could get a good grip on the underside of the deck of the IceKap with my knees. It felt a little stiff doing layback rolls (I think the backband was a bit restrictive) but forward finishing rolls were very easy, and the IceKap felt like it wanted to just pop back upright. 

Then I sprinted toward Deception Island, with the skeg down. It seemed faster today, probably because the boat was empty. I wish I knew how fast I was going this time, but unfortunately the battery cover on my GPS came off and it got wet. It twisted off because I had a lanyard attached to the battery cover lock.  Lesson#5: Electronics will fail.
The IceKap’s maneuverability made for easy paddling around the rocks and kelp at Deception Island. I pulled the skeg up when I approached the Island. I didn’t notice any weather cocking with the skeg up when I left the Island and headed into the Pass with the wind at my beam.



I timed the trip so I would enter the Pass at slack, but still had to work against the growing ebb, paddling close to the rocky shore and taking advantage of back eddies when I could, and sprinting through the current when I had to. I really loved the IceKap’s agility here. The light weight made for quick acceleration and turning. Did I mention that Sterling says the IceKap will turn 360 degrees in three strokes? 

Playing in the current was a real pleasure. Edging was smooth, and the IceKap felt very stable in the waves, despite the hard chines and 19.5 in beam. Once in a while some standing waves would pop up as the current evolved. They weren’t big enough to do any surfing on but it was fun to roll around in them.

Lesson#6: In rough water the IceKap really shines!


Finally the kayaking class arrived. Soon after, a whale watching boat came in close to watch the kayakers. I couldn’t resist showing off for the tourists. I did the trick where I appear to capsize accidentally and then stay under for as long as possible before slowly rolling back up. If you’ve ever watched someone else do that it’s unnerving because you don’t know if the guy is drowning or what. Another cool trick is to paddle into the current and then fall into a balance brace. The current carries you floating on your back and it feels like you’re flying (I learned that from Shawna and Leon of Body Boat Blade). 


So in conclusion I think the IceKap is an awesome kayak! I was unsure the first day out, but the second day at the Pass really convinced me that it is really as good as people say it is, for Greenland style rolling, playing in rough water, and light camping. Apparently it excels in the surf and in very nasty outer coastal conditions as well, although I can't speak from any experience on that. It's also fully equipped to do the BCU thing. So if that’s your paddling style than I highly recommend it. In addition, the state−of−the−art lightweight construction makes a difference in performance as well as in the ease of cartopping and resistance to getting holes in the hull. I would definitely buy an IceKap myself, and still might someday, but I guess I realized from this experience that I have a number of low volume rolling/light touring boats already and didn’t really need another one. Maybe what I really wanted was something different, like a fast boat with enough volume for multiday touring.  Or maybe it's because I just can't get emotional about a boat that's not made out of wood.

Do you think I could get Sterling to sell me a license to build an IceKap in vacuum-bagged cedar strip?

IceKap Weekend: Cypress Island

I don’t think the IceKap tracks very well. There -- I said it! That’s Lesson#3. This isn’t supposed to be an advertisement for the IceKap anyway, just a collection of my personal impressions. During the crossing over to Cypress the kayak tended to wander and I’d be doing draw strokes to avoid running into my friend Tom Sharp who was paddling a classic Mariner Coaster. I thought at first maybe it was because I packed it too heavily in the bow, so we stopped at Strawberry Island and I shifted some cargo.  It didn’t make much difference. Dropping the skeg fixed it though but also added more drag.  With the skeg up I tended to lead just ahead of Tom but with it down I found myself right beside him.


Just north of Strawberry we happened to run into Tom Banks paddling with his wife and another group of kayakers. He was paddling his low−volume IceKap, named Blue Ice. I had been exchanging messages with him just a few days earlier, after having read his testimonial about the IceKap on Sterling Donalson’s website. To run into him on the water like this was just an amazing coincidence! Sterling had told me that Blue Ice was the second IceKap ever made (completed about a year and a half ago). Tom Banks said that the low−volume and the standard volume models really behave like completely different boats. I should have asked him to be more specific on that. While on the water he popped his sprayskirt, slipped out of the cockpit and sat on the back deck so he could show me his Nimbus seat. He agreed with me on the tracking issue and said that he paddles with the skeg down almost all the time. Otherwise he seemed very enthusiastic about his boat, which is carbon composite layup. He can even do forward finishing handrolls in it--pretty awesome!

Tom Banks and his group were paddling the opposite direction that we were, which suggested to me that we were going the wrong way. In fact we ended up fighting a little ebb current. I’ll blame that current for my sluggish paddling. Even at a sprint I couldn’t get the IceKap over 4 knots. Sterling said that other paddlers can typically cruise at 5.2 mph (statue miles per hour, not knots). I don’t understand why anyone would measure speed on the water in mph and not knots, except that it might make you feel like you’re going faster. Lesson#4: Set your GPS to mph, not knots. 

Camping-4 Camping-8 

We ended up stopping at Cypress Head. We had wandered around at Pelican Beach earlier, but the campground there was crowded and felt very exposed to me. The campsites at Cypress Head are set in the trees and located right on the headland −− much more scenic, sheltered and private. Tom decided he wanted to paddle back to Anacortes and go home, so he left me alone to make camp. By the way it sure was a pleasure to drag a fully loaded kayak onto the beach by myself and not have to worry about scratching up the beautifully varnished wooden bottom (especially since it was not my kayak!) Actually the IceKap is so light that I was able to carry it loaded by myself short distances on the beach over rocks and driftwood logs. The lighter weight does make a difference, even with a loaded boat.


I made a campfire even though it was a warm evening. There is something comforting about a big campfire. It turns an otherwise vacant patch of dirt into a home away from home. Plus it’s entertaining burning stuff and you can burn a lot of your garbage instead of packing it out with you!

[to be continued]

IceKap Weekend: The Mariner Coaster



Filmmaker and founder of, Tom Sharp, happened to call me just as I was approaching Bellingham.  I had mentioned to him that I would be heading to the San Juans for the weekend.  We decided to meet in Washington Park in Anacortes and go paddling from there.  We were making things up as we went along, taking into account the currents and prepared to camp out, but not committing to anything until we saw how busy the campgrounds were.  I suggested we paddle clockwise around Cypress Island.  It didn't seem to matter to Tom where we went I think because he had paddled around all of the islands this summer already.

Tom brought along a Mariner Coaster, borrowed from George Gronseth.   Apparently George once had an entire fleet of Mariner Coasters that he would use for his classes, and this was the sole survivor. The Coaster is no longer being produced and is now a much sought after classic sea kayak.  Brian Schulz has built a skin-on-frame version of the Coaster, which he calls the SC-1.  This kayak later evolved into his latest design, the F1.  I'll just quote what he has written about it here:

"The original Coaster was designed by Cam Broze of Mariner Kayaks in 1985. This 23" wide 13'5" kayak quickly gained cult status as a superior kayak in the surf. Surprisingly it went on to prove itself as a remarkably versatile sea kayak for smaller paddlers as well. Whereas the Coaster won’t win a sprint against a longer narrower kayak it is very fast for its length, it draws no penalty at cruising speeds and is actually more efficient than much longer kayaks at speeds up to 4 mph because of its reduced wetted surface. Every sea kayak is a compromise but the Coaster seems to get away with a bit more than it's fair share. Some sprint speed in exchange for better cruising efficiency, maneuverability, portability, and large usable cargo space, a pretty good trade. This kayak is very stable, swift, turns especially quickly yet tracks well even in difficult cross-wind and following sea conditions. And it screams in the surf zone without pearling. A great boat for kamikaze surfing AND peaceful flat water exploring."

Tom had tried it on the coast and said the handling really is fantastic in the surf.  This particular boat had been retrofitted with fore and aft bulkheads and rubber hatches (the original was manufactured with only small deckplates fore and aft, and no bulkheads)  Of course Sterling Donalson did the retrofit. And while I was struggling to get all my gear into the IceKap, Tom put all his camping gear including 8 liters of water into that short stubby Coaster, and still had plenty of room for his kayak wheels.  In the end I was able to pack everything into the IceKap I wanted for an overnight trip except for my wheels, but had to put my sleeping bag into the cockpit.  So I was really depending on that compression drybag to not leak.

Lesson#1: The IceKap is not the best choice for multiday camping trips.  No big surprise there. Someone would have an even tougher time packing for a simple overnight trip with a low volume IceKap equipped with a day hatch compartment.


On the water the IceKap felt very comfortable.  As soon as I sat in it I immediately felt that finally someone has made a kayak for paddlers my size. I thought the primary stability was excellent.  It felt much beamier than a 19.5 inch boat -- not twitchy or tender at all.  The Redfish closed minicell foam kayak seat acted like a true lumbosacral support, discouraging the bad habit I have of slouching in my seat.  This was a cockpit I could paddle all day in.  I stuck my bilge sponge along one side of the seat and there was room enough for a bilge pump along the other side.  I had forgotten to adjust the footrests on land but was able to adjust them easily on the water by simply unlocking them by twisting a red tab and sliding the foot rest forward or backward with my toes, then twisting the tab to lock them again. The underside of the deck around the knees was lined with minicell foam which acted as an effective thigh brace.

Lesson#2: This is exactly how to outfit the cockpit of a kayak.

So off I went, paddling after Tom into Rosario Strait on a sunny August afternoon.

[to be continued]


My IceKap Demo Weekend


Recently I asked fiberglass guru and kayak builder/designer Sterling Donalson if I could demo the IceKap. I had sat in Dubside’s shiny black IceKap quite a while ago and rolled it a few times in a pool but never actually paddled one. Sterling graciously allowed me to borrow an IceKap for the weekend, so Saturday I was up early in the morning driving to Bellingham to pick it up. 
Sterling's Kayaks & Fiberglass is a nondescript big metal shed off a country road. For a boat shop, the smell of wood was conspicuously absent -- instead the strong smell of epoxy resin was everywhere. Another customer happened by the same time I was there. He was getting the leaky skeg box on his Impex Force 5 fixed.
The IceKap I got to use was the standard volume demo model. It is a highly rockered, hard-chined kayak with a pointy upswept bow and stern, 16 ft 11 in long and 19.5 inches wide, weighing 38 pounds (down to 27 pounds with a carbon composite construction)  and designed for paddling in challenging coastal conditions. It has full perimeter gab lines and recessed deck fittings, end toggles, rubber SeaDog hatches, a long keyhole cockpit, a retractable skeg, and an optional day hatch compartment. So it’s American, but is really similar to the “British-style” kayaks. Sterling calls it “Greenland-style”.
Sterling’s standard lay-up is a state-of-the art resin infusion technique used with layers of unidirectional cloth. It results in a hull that is stronger and lighter compared to typical hulls built with fiberglass mat. The resins are measured precisely and weights of his boats come out within a pound of each other. All these kayaks are custom built. The design is usually tweaked to meet individual needs: custom bulkhead footrests, cockpit coamings, seats, and deck artwork. The deck can be lowered an inch to cut the standard volume down to a low-volume model. And then the back deck can be lowered even more as in the super low-volume "Dubside model". 
Tom Banks said he “literally tried out some 30 different kayaks” and found the low volume IceKap fit his criteria the best. Tom is a BCU-trained rough water paddler, Greenland-style enthusiast and rolling nut!
John Day says that the IceKap is “light, maneuverable, easy to roll and totally forgiving in the surf! It punches out through big, breaking waves better than any boat I've tried. I have used this boat in every condition imaginable….” He also says that it is the best surfing sea kayak next to the Mariner Coaster. John is a ACA certified open water instructor and paddles in insane conditions on the Oregon Coast. 
In last year’s Deception Pass Dash, the paddler known as “Kiwi” came in first in his division with an IceKap
Sterling told me that Heather Nelson did her BCU 5-star in the very same white IceKap I was taking out for the weekend. 
So… wow! I don’t think I had ever been so excited about a fiberglass kayak in my entire short paddling life. With that kind of introduction to the IceKap, how can anyone not be totally impressed? I was just itching to put her in the water to find out for myself what the whole IceKap experience was like… 
[to be continued]

West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium Third Annual Greenland Rolling Demo (2007)

2007 bowling ball roll cover image

I can hear it already: "Oh no -- not yet another Greenland rolling video!"  Yes, it's true!  But this is better than any rolling demo you've ever seen -- really! In this video, The West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium Greenland Rolling Demo 2007, Leon Sommé of Body Boat Blade and Greenland rolling guru Dubside (in his shiny new custom Sterling Kayaks IceKap) are at it again with even more ridiculously difficult and impossible rolls, along with Shawna Franklin and Cathy Miller in a NDK Triton double sea kayak, and 10 year-old McKinley rolling with a bowling ball in her skin-on-frame Yost Sea Flea.

I was lucky enough to record the 1st annual "Roll Off" featuring Leon Sommé and Dubside at the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium in 2005, not knowing at all what to expect.  That show totally blew me away!  It was a unique event, unlike any Greenland rolling demo I'd seen before, with Leon performing with a NDK Romany and Werner Ikelos paddle, and Dubside in a variety of boats, including his black Feathercraft Wisper.  It was informal and friendly, with a great vibe coming from the crowd, many who knew Leon as kayak royalty and Dubside as the new rock star of Greenland-style. Dubside even used a few seconds of my video in his Greenland Rolling with Dubside -- look for my name in the credits!

West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium Greenland Rolling Demo 2007 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.