All posts by

PFD (personal floatation device) contents

The contents in your PFD, paddle west, is something that can make or break a sticky situation on the water. Whether you are a leader or a participant on the water, you should consider your contents and have a purpose with it. If you have the right tools in your PFD it is possible to fix or temporarily fix a lot of issues with sea kayaks and people. This means you are not dependent on digging out stuff from your kayak nor landing your kayak to fix stuff. Both can be tricky or impossible given rough enough conditions.

Below is what I choose to have in my PFD. I am using the Palm Kaikoura PFD, as it has plenty of space for all the things I want to bring.

Click to enlarge
  1. A piece of string to tie stuff together. Has a large number of applications.
  2. Nut tool for getting stuck skegs out.
  3. Hand held flare, for signalling.
  4. Whistle, for signalling.
  5. Knife to cut rope
  6. Cling wrap. First aid: Open wounds, sling. Boat repair: Lost hatch, small cracks in kayak.
  7. Sun factor stick, prevents sun burn.
  8. Spare carabiner. In case loss of primary carabiner used for towing and coupling sea kayaks.
  9. Ferro rod. Used in combination with knife to create sparks to ignite fire. With this in your west you can possibly create a fire within a minute of exiting your kayak. Seal ferro rod with tape to prevent salt water degradation.
  10. Wet notes. A waterproof notebook.
  11. Electrical tape, for cuts on fingers and hands.
  12. Compression bandage. For cuts on head and hands.
  13. Mouth to mouth protector. For own safety when performing mouth to mouth.
  14. Means of communication. Either a VHF radio or a mobile phone in waterproof case.
  15. Denso tape. Used by plumbers to repair leaking pipes. Works in wet environment. Allows temporary, on the water,  fix of leaking kayak (sold here).
  16. Strap. To fix skeg stuck in the out position. Simply tighten strap around kayak and skeg to force stuck skeg in.
  17. A piece of waterproof tarp and bungie cord. To fix lost hatch.
  18. Compass.
  19. Watch with stopwatch. To tell time and to keep track of distance travelled when night navigating.
  20. Light. A shoulder mounted light to signal other boats and kayakers.


I always find it useful to learn from other sea kayakers, so heres what sea kayak coach and guide Matt Skuse has  in his PFD.

 Flares, whistle and VHF for communications. Plastic sheet, shock cord and a beach ball for replacing lost hatch cover. Denzo tape and wax to patch holes. Nut key for clearing jammed skegs. Tape and crab for towing harnesses and providing tail drag. Knife, compass, lip-salve and sun cream. Aquatherm hood.

Feel free to comment and say what you think should be in a PFD for sea kayakers.

BCU 4 Star Leader

If you are going for the BCU 4 assessment these notes may give you an indication of what you may need to prioritise in order to pass.

Remember the latest relevant remit for this course. When I took it, it was:
– Leading 4 participants.
– Sea state 4: 1,25 – 2,5 m. waves (moderate sea state).
– Wind, Beaufort 4: Moderate breeze 16 kn, 8 m/s.
– In an area where tide is not moving faster than 2 kn, according to available resources (tidal atlas).
– Landing spots no longer than 1 mile away from where you are. So 2 miles open crossing or 2 miles of steep terrain is possible.
– Surf landings 1 meter.

Repair kit:
You must be able to fix common boat problems such as:
– Lost hatch (bungee and tarp)
– Skeg stuck up or down (strap, nut tool)
– Hole in boat (gaffa tape, denso tape, cling wrap, soft wax)

Paddling skills:
Confidence above remit should be achieved before assessment, so that you have the capacity to lead within remit.

Learn the relevant rule of thumbs for briefing and leading your group, CLAP (communication, line of sight, avoidance of danger, positioning), SAFER (stop, assess, formulate a plan, execute plan, review), SHEETS (Safety, human, equipment, environment, time, signals).

Delegate tasks to participants so you can maintain an overview of the situation. If convenient/fastest, perform detailed task (rescue etc.) yourself, otherwise delegate. Show initiative and decisiveness when a serious rescue occurs at assessment. Do not be afraid to bring out the whip on the participants if someone is simulating an injury during the assessment. If you require external help, use VHF to simulate a coast guard call. Pan-Pan for serious but not life threatening situations (shoulder out of socket) and mayday for life threatening situations (unconscious or serious injuries).

Leadership is also about giving the participants a great experience. Do not be afraid of pushing them close to the remit, remember they are 3 star paddlers and they hired you for a fun afternoon! Give them some fun, get them inside caves, surf, rockhopping etc. Use CLAP to show you can handle the risk and take care of the participants.

You may be put in a situation in which you will have to say:  “Stop, this is above remit”. Keep remit in mind all the time.

Prioritise yourself, group and then swimmer/casuality. Show you understand that safety for yourself and the group must first be organised before a rescue is to be performed.

Surf landings:
Brief the group, skeg up and helmets on. Go in first, stand on beach and bring them in one at a time. Use hand signals to help them paddle faster or slower, right or left. Reverse this process when going out ( you are the last one going out).

Need to know your lat and long and OS map coordinates. Chart symbols, tide tables and weather resources.

In conclusion, be prepared to argue your logic of your A and B plan at assessment. My impression is that if you have a well thought out logic for a plan, piece of equipment or procedure the assessor will simply say: “Show me”. If it works, it works. Furthermore technical paddling skills is important but in the larger picture it is a smaller piece. Planning, Leadership, navigation and tidal awerness is perhaps equally as important.

Finally, assessment is your chance to shine and show you know what is required. Communicate this to the assessor by explaining and speaking whenever you can and by actions whenever you can. Fortunately the assessor is not a mind reader!


This post is inspired by Tide Simplified by Philip Clegg and the book Sea kayak navigation by Franco Ferrero.

Everything on this planet is affected by the gravitational pull of the moon, and to a lesser extent the sun. The moon orbits this planet and we experience high water when the moon is nearest to  (full moon) or furthest away from wherever we are (new moon). Low water is experienced when there is quarter moon.

There is about 6 hours difference between high water and low water. This means that during a bit more than a 24 hours period, you will experience two high water and two low water.

The tide can form currents near land and it will therefore affect sea kayakers. Some currents are strong while others are weak. This is dependent upon local topography and how the tide is pulled through narrow sounds or overfalls.

There are some rules of thumb which is handy to be aware of as a sea kayaker.

50/90 rule:
As mentioned above it takes 6 hours from high water to low water. This means that at the beginning of the first hour the high water is at slack tide. The tide is standing still a brief moment, before it slowly begins to sink towards low water. After 6 hours low water is reached and the tide is again slack for a short moment before it starts to increase towards high water.

So how fast is the tidal current moving between the 1st and the 6th hour after high or low water? First you need to know the maximum speed of the tidal current at the area you are interested in. Let´s say the max speed of the tidal current is 6 knots. The 50/90 rule says that the speed of the tidal current will be 50% of the max speed in the first hour after slack and 90% in the second hour, as illustrated below.


Rule of twelfth:
This rule is about the water level of the tide. The tide increase or decrease according to the following rule:
1st hour after slack: 1/12 of total tidal difference (1%)
2nd hour: 2/12 (25%)
3rd hour: 3/12 (50%)
4th hour: 3/12 (75%)
5th hour: 2/12 (80%)
6th hour: 1/12 (100%)

So if the tidal difference between high water and low water is 5 meters. We can estimate that in the 4th hour after low water the tide will be 9/12 (1+2+3+3=9) of 5 meters. 9/12=0,75 or 75%.
75% of 5 meters is a bit less than 4 meters, 3,75 to be exact.


The most important tool you have however is your eye. Look at the water, buoys and anchored boats to decide what is happening to the tide. Find out if the tide is flooding or ebbing and make a paddle plan so you can work with the tide and not against it.

Sea Kayaking ABC

Together with the Norwegian outdoors magazine UTE and Tahe Outdoors we are launching a web series about sea kayaking and various how-to guides. The web series are held in English (to the best of my ability :).

Detailed info in Norwegian here.


Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3

Episode 5: Winter padling

Greenland rolling:

Self recovery:

Packing a sea kayak:

The effects of wind on a sea kayak:

Guided sea kayaking in Lofoten

We are arranging a guided sea kayak trip to the exposed and remote West coast of Moskenes island in Lofoten. This will happen 23-29 July 2016.

This is one of the most spectacular sea kayaking destinations in the world.

See here for detailed information:

See here for a trip report from the West coast of Moskenes in 2014.

See here for photos from the West coast of Moskens island.



Why risk is necessary

Why would anyone in their right mind paddle in 4 meter waves or rockhop over skerries in their sea kayak?  “Because it’s there” said Mallory when talking about his ascent of Mount Everest in 1924. It seems that thrill addiction and adventure is something we humans can enjoy even though risk is present.

The sensation of thrill comes when  endorphins (a hormone-like chemcial) are released into the bloodstream during stressful experiences. Endorphins resembles narcotics such as opium, only without the negative side effects. Humans need a certain amount of stress in their lives to maintain the level of endorphin secretion we have become used to. Some have enough stress as it is, while others have greater needs and seek out stimulation through risk taking adventures.

The brain’s level of arousal depends on the amount of information the brain is receiving. An experienced sea kayaker paddling on flat water might be underaroused. A new sea kayaker paddling in 2 meter waves might be overaroused. This suggest that there exists a level of optimal arousal for each individual.

Optimal arousal

Optimally aroused

Stages of adventure
Colin Mortlock proposes four stages of adventure a person can experience in outdoor activities:

Play: Absence of fear, fun or boring.
Adventure: Some fear, participant is in total control but challenged.
Frontier adventure: High degree of fear, risk of physical harm and lack of complete control.
Misadventure: Too much fear and failure is likely. Dissatisfaction, physical and psychological damage is likely.

A representation of Mortlock's stages of adventure
A representation of Mortlock’s stages of adventure

“You learn good judgement from experience; you gain experience from poor judgement” – Reg Lake

The qoute above indicates experience is hard to gain without some risk involved. The key is to gain experience without getting into serious trouble.

Sea kayaking involves risk, but so does everything else in life. With too little risk the experience becomes boring, with too much risk the experience becomes dangerous. Risk is therefore necessary to make your experience interesting, challenging and valuable for learning. If you remain within your comfort zone and play you will not grow as a sea kayaker. If you constantly find yourself in misadventures you are likely to stop sea kayaking. With a mix of frontier adventure and adventure you are likely to increase your competence level as you adapt and master new risk levels.


Source: Simon Priest & Michael A. Gass “Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming”.

Remote beaches in Lofoten

Here’s a short review of some great beaches on the west coast of Moskenes island in Lofoten.

The west coast of Moskenes island is remote and isolated with no roads. Access to these beaches is only through hiking, sea kayaking or boat.

All of these beaches used to have settlements before the inhabitants moved to more central areas in the 1950s.

Some of the beaches are huge and ancient. They have been around a long time and are surrounded by some of the oldest mountains on this planet. They are a bit harder to get to, but they are great to camp on and the midnight sun can create long lasting memories as it paints the sky and landscape orange. Watertemperature? Cold!



Bunes beach

Accessible by ferry or sea kayak from Reine, Bunes beach is one of the more popular and accessible beaches. It has a fresh water source, toilet and plenty of campsites. Privacy is usually not a problem here as it’s such a huge beach. It’s also possible to hike up to nearby peaks, such as Helvetestinden.

Looking down on Bunes beach from Helvetestinden.
Tentview towards the midnight sun.
From Helvettestinden.
From Helvetestinden.
A campsite near Bunes beach.
A campsite near Bunes beach.
With good weather the beach can be spectacular.
With good weather the beach can be spectacular.


Horseid beach

Accessible by ferry from Reine and a following one hour hike. This beach is one of the least visited beaches. There is fresh water near the beach. Horseid beach is the largest beach.

Looking down on Horseid beach from Branntuva ridge, a great hike from Horseid.
Hiking towards Horseid beach.
Hiking towards Horseid beach.
Exploring the huge Horseid beach.


Kvalvika beach

Without doubt the most visited beach, This is mostly due to that it’s easily accessible by a short hike. Kvalvika has also recently received attention from the movie “North of the sun”.  There is a fresh water source on the beach. Excpect many visitors on this beach.

During summertime you may have trouble finding a good campsite.
Peaceful one moment and rough the next. Conditions can change within minutes.
Sea kayaking to this beach is only for those who knows what they are doing. The conditions can be rough.


Refsvika beach

Only accessible by boat or sea kayak. A long and steep hike from Å is possible but only for the most dedicated hiker. The beach is small and surrounded by steep mountains. There is a cave nearby with 2-3000 year old paintings. There used to be a settlement here and you can see the remains.

Sea kayaking here requires planning and preparation. It’s not for beginners.
One of several caves on the west coast of Moskenes.
Looking down into a cave on the west coast of Moskenes.
Inside one of several caves on the west coast.
Today view: 1 - Total View: 2238

Guided sea kayak tours + photo workshop in Lofoten

Information booklet in PDF:
Guided sea kayak tours

Click here for our Facebook info page.


Skjermbilde2 Skjermbilde4 Skjermbilde

Kajakk Nord in cooperation with photographer Tomasz Furmanek, Hattvika Lodge and Ut i Lofoten is inviting you to 5 days of kayaking in Lofoten.

Price: 9.999 NOK
Dates: 27-31 July and 3-7 August 2015

To sign up click here.

Accomodation and base camp will be at Hattvika Lodge, Ballstad in Lofoten. From here we will explore the Lofoten islands on daytrips. All trips will take advantage of the weather conditions. This means we are flexible to choose the best route available to us. There will be opportunities to explore mountains and coastline on foot as well.

Experienced required:
Trips are aimed at beginners and above. You should know how to self rescue and buddy rescue or be willing to learn this after arrival in Lofoten with the guide.  All trips will be held at an appropriate level dependent upon the skill level of the group.

What is included:
Accomodation at Hattvika Lodge in Ballstad Lofoten.
Guided day trips.
A sea kayak (P&H Scorpio, Seabird Explorer, Winner).
Spray deck.
Food, self served breakfast and lunch, ready made hot meals for dinner.

Not included and must be brought:
– Dry suit or wetsuit for paddling.
– Paddle.
– Safety west.
– Warm clothing. Even though it is summer in Northern Norway you should bring a set of warm and windproof clothing, as it can get cold.
– Any other sea kayaking gear you prefer to use which is not mentioned in the ‘what is included’ section.

Photo workshop:
– Photography gear for kayaking: GOPRO , compacts cameras and DSLR’s, Dryboxes and divehouses
– Practical advice for photographing in a wet environment
– Style and composition
– Photographing at sunset and sunrise
– Photographing campsites at night
– Post-processing
– Photography in social media
– Practical tips and tricks

Itinerary (dependent on conditions):
Day 1: Arrival at Hattvika Lodge. Orientation and sorting out sea kayaking equipment.  A trip with the sea kayak for those who have time.

Day 2: Daytrip along the coast.

Day 3: A paddle through Nappstraumen to Vikbukta. We will let the tidal current work in our favour in both directions this day. For those willing, a guided hike to Himmeltinden is highly recommended. This takes approximately 3 hours up and down.

Day 4: Daytrip along the coast.

Day 5: Departure day. One last paddle for those who have time.

Getting there:
There are several ways to arrive to Ballstad. The easiest way is airtravel via Bodø ( or and connect with to Leknes airport. Leknes have several arrivals with good connections from Bodø airport.

If sea travel is more convenient, Hurtiruten ( is a good alternative as it arrives the local village Stamsund at 1900 and departures in south direction at 2230

If you travel by car, the ferry ( from Bodø to Moskenes (Å) is a good alternative. Several departures a day.


If you travel by airplane or by Hurtiruten, transportation from airport (Leknes) or shipdock (Stamsund) is included. Pickup/ return service is included.

Hattvika Lodge – private restaurant – activities year round!

Hattvika Lodge offers the ultimate facilities for small private groups or corporate business events in authentic surroundings in Ballstad, Lofoten. We offer activities at sea or in the mountains year around and the location is private and only for you!

Ballstad has been fishing for several centuries. The harbour is a safe haven surrounded by wonderful mountain that invites active activities and gives a fantastic overview of Lofoten. Right on our doorstep in Hattvika is some of the best fishing grounds in Lofoten, We say; Welcome Ski & Fishing!

For seakayaking, Hattvika is close to perfect as you have the sea on your doorstep. Right outside Ballstad you find thousands of islets and reefs on the inner shore of Lofoten. We truly welcomes you together with KayakNord and Tomasz Furmanek to this event.

For adittional information see:!home/cotz




Today view: 2 - Total View: 4770