An introduction to surfski paddling with Olympic kayaker Ivan Lawler. Filmed on a glorious October morning in Studland Bay, Dorset, UK, ‘Off Piste’ gives an introduction to the surfski world. Ivan is joined by Ben Brown, Ben Farrell & Chloe Bunnett for a little play time off Old Harry Rocks, while giving an overview of the sport, the boats & racing tactics.
At Epic Kayaks, the primary goal is to turn people on to the true potential of kayaking as a sport. Epic boats and paddles are built to inspire paddlers, to entice them to explore and expand the boundaries of their abilities. To find out what the world’s waterways fully have on offer.
Lightweight, efficiency, speed and comfort; by strictly adhering to these principles, even when tradition may dictate otherwise, Epic has molded its sea kayaks and surfskis into record breaking, world championship winning, and even market changing products.
Believing these products compliment our business philosophy, we offer Epic kayaks and paddles to Maine kayakers who seek a distinct edge in their coastal touring and fitness paddling. Come try one out!
Thanks to George Kaiser of Economy Tackle in Sarasota, FL for the video overview of this great boat:
“The Maine Island Trail is a 375-mile chain of over 190 coastal islands and sites along the coast of Maine. One third of trail sites are public, and two thirds are owned by private organizations and individuals who trust us to care for their lands and teach our members to Leave No Trace.
The Maine Island Trail Association is a membership organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the wild islands of coastal Maine. Through twenty years of community-building, stewardship, and education, the organization has developed a model of sustainable recreation and created America’s first recreational water trail.
We believe that Maine’s thousands of coastal islands are a national treasure and have built a community of educated island lovers and volunteer caretakers who agree. Our members include paddlers, sailors, motorboaters, and land-lubbers alike. They enjoy welcome access to many private island properties. And they form a powerful force of people actively committed to the care and protection of the wild islands of Maine.”
- Maine Island Trail Association
Thorfinn Expeditions – MITA Interview
Thorfinn: The Maine Island Trail is a unique national resource for paddlers, sailors and coastal explorers. Has interest/awareness transcended local and regional residents to include members throughout the USA?
MITA: It certainly has. Each year we are proud to have members all along the East Coast clear to Florida and members on the West Coast as well. We’ve even had a paddler visit us from Japan!
Thorfinn: Do you work with any other state and/or national organizations to promote MITA as part of a more comprehensive network – a link in a chain of trails and recreation resources that guide adventurers through our nation’s wild places?
MITA: Cross promotion is an important aspect of small and environmentally focused non-profits, but most of our partnerships are within Maine. We’re always open to new relationships and ideas and often reach out to other water trails to learn about innovative practices. The same is true of other organizations learning from our great team here at MITA. We get calls from other states interested in establishing local trails.
Thorfinn: What is the most common usage of the trail: paddlers, sailors, motor vessels, shore access?
MITA: Great question! We are often perceived as a kayaking trail and paddlers do make up the largest single use of the trail, but they’re certainly not the only vessel out enjoying the coast. We have a pretty even split between other boaters include sail, power and row. And the fact is many people own multiple kinds of boats.
Thorfinn: How has membership/usage grown and developed over the last twenty years?
MITA: We’re thrilled to say it has grown but certainly we’ve seen some ebbs and flows as recreational habits change. We gain new members each year, often visitors to ME, and lose others. We have a strong core of loyal MITA supporters that have been with us for a very long time and we have some recent enthusiasts that we’re pretty sure we’re growing on them too.
Thorfinn: One of the most important founding principles of MITA was to provide positive stewardship over our natural environment and protection for our wild places. How do you gauge your success on this front to date?
MITA: We focus on two key measures of success. The first is buy-in from users. From the start, our mission has been to create a water trail that is “maintained and cared for by the people who use it.” To that end, every MITA member pledges to practice responsible recreation and careful stewardship. We know that people are actively participating in stewardship because they tell us – through emails, through comments left in the logbooks, and through their actions on the islands. Secondly, we look at conditions on the ground. We’ve been delighted to see tremendous progress in this regard since the early days of MITA, before there was a concerted stewardship effort on the islands. Campsites and trails have remained clean and well maintained, and signs of inappropriate activity such as large fires, tree climbing,
and campsite expansion are now the exception and not the rule.
Thorfinn: How are you strengthening your resolve and building on this principle going forward?
MITA: Through robust outreach and education we hope to foster a stewardship ethic that transcends the Maine Island Trial. With the aid of hundreds of volunteers we will continue to champion the benefits of responsible recreation, the importance of practicing Leave No Trace, and the value of incorporating stewardship into every recreational outing.
Thorfinn: How are landowner relations these days? Is access easier or harder to obtain for the Trail than in previous years? What can members do to help develop a strong relationship between MITA and Maine’s coastal landowners?
MITA: Our relationship with landowners is as strong as ever thanks in large part to the users who have upheld their end of the bargain by being respectful visitors and practicing good stewardship. This is absolutely critical to maintaining strong relations for the future. Most of the landowners that we work with are happy to share their land so long as visitors treat the place respectfully. MITA members have done a great job of earning their trust, which in turn has convinced new landowners of the value of being part of the Trail. We have witnessed steady growth of the Trail for the past several years, and as long as we all continue to do our part, the road ahead remains bright.
Thorfinn: Do you have a lot of “thru-paddlers” each summer? People who paddle the entire 375 miles in one trip? Same for sailors?
MITA: At most, a handful of people each year let us know they have paddled the entire Trail, but there are probably others. We generally encourage people to explore sections of the Trail rather than tackle the entire thing. But cruisers cover the entire Trail more frequently.
Thorfinn: Do you have a record for the paddler who has completed the trail in the fastest time?
MITA: Not yet!
Thorfinn: What are MITA’s goals looking ahead the next twenty years? Do you anticipate new types of members/usage? Increased trail access? Coastal development issues?
MITA: Filling in gaps in the Trail, increasing membership somewhat, and increasing local island
This morning I grabbed our Epic V-8 surfski and headed out for an hour and a half. I intended to just travel around my buoy loop off Lincolnville Beach but as I paddled into the freshening NW breeze, I was enticed to run off across Penobscot Bay for the southern end of 700 Acre Island. It was a crisp blue bird morning. The wind was building and white caps were sparkling in the morning light. Soon I was literally “skiing” across the bay. I would catch small wave trains and bounce from one bump to the next. The key was to keep my nose down and my speed up. With the wind at my back it felt effortless. My GPS said that I was averaging 7.8 mph and I was not even paddling all that hard! Eventually I had to turn the corner and head up into Gilkeys Harbor. It was upwind but in flat conditions. The efficiency of the V-8 allowed me to continue to crank along. After a couple of miles I passed Warren Island, leaving it to starboard, and from there I had a savage crossing back across Penobscot Bay. It was blowing 15-25 (knots). It was a tough crosswind crank. The idea of a breakfast sandwich from The Beach Store fueled me to keep the hammer down.
In all it was a 10-mile paddle and it took me an hour and a half. Not bad considering only the first 3-miles were downwind and then I had to fight. The stability of the V-8 was (again) impressive. I never had to brace even in the cross chop. I am really digging paddling a surfski here in Maine (even in winter conditions…drysuit). It is a great combo with SUP. For a ski, the V-8 has the general attributes that suit this area. It is fast in all conditions and it is stable. It could be called the adventure ski. The real fun is blasting downwind but I appreciate its capabilities across the board and I love the simplicity of a ski. No skirt, excess gear, weight etc. I can still carry some basic survival gear, food and water - but I like going light and fast.
Long, narrow, fast seakayaks and surfskis make sense! I have been sea kayaking for 18-years now. I have led a lot of long trips here in Maine and in places like Newfoundland and British Columbia. I used to take pride in the rugged Greenland style boats that I paddled. They felt expeditionary. I swore off rudders for skegs and I wanted the heavy layup. Then something shifted. I began to recognize that in sea kayaking and fitness paddling you spend 99% of your time just going forward. Speed can mean everything. Instead of wallowing in following seas you can just ride from wave train to wave train. The long, narrow, light boats are also incredibly seaworthy and the high performance sea kayaks can pack a lot of gear. Many of the toughest current kayak expeditions are now in boats like the Epic 18s that we carry here at Thorfinn (same hull as the V-8 surfski). They have gone around Australia and more recently Cape Horn.
These days I am not undertaking multi-week expeditions like I used to. My paddling is more day and fitness oriented. Paddling is great exercise and it is fantastic to be driving a machine that is designed to excel through the water.
“Where other designers would work to improve a tool’s performance by adding on, Tom Frost and I would achieve the same ends by taking away – reducing weight and bulk without sacrificing strength or the level of protection.”
– Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia)
When you make a decision to sell things to other people, you need to make an important choice: will you push anything that sells? Or will you provide the best products? The products that you know, through your own experience and research, offer the quality and performance needed to exceed the customer’s expectations?
It’s easy to say you’d choose the latter; not always as easy to follow through on it. Pursuing a business philosophy based on this principle requires a deep commitment. It can mean a lot of extra “process” – educating customers not just on the superiority of the physical product, but also the long term benefits it provides over an inferior competitor. It’s often much easier for the customer and business alike to take the path of least resistance, i.e. take the cheap one, the trendy one, the least intimidating one, etc. However, in the long run, the inferior product not only is less likely to last, it provides a watered down experience that’s not as enjoyable.
Thorfinn Expeditions is committed to “the process.” We thoroughly enjoy promoting products which we believe elevate the sports and disciplines we are representing. Turning people on to the benefits of modern equipment and designs, which tend to be lighter, stronger, faster and more efficient, is far more rewarding for both parties. It does take a deep commitment, and may actually lead to the occasional lost sale to a generic alternative sold somewhere else. But we’re promoting a lifestyle, not just trying to move product. Short cuts are not an option.
Thorfinn Product Philosophy
All the products used and sold at Thorfinn, from our sailboat to the kayaks and paddleboards we carry, are selected based on the criteria most important to us:
These sound like common sense points, however the perception on how they are attained can vary wildly. Does a kayak need be a heavy 55 lbs. of fiberglass to be strong and seaworthy? Is a design or style of outfitting best simply because it’s always been done that way? Or is it possible that heavy materials and outdated designs can equal dead weight?
While we have great respect for all types of historical design and building methods, we won’t let tradition hold us back. The vendors we work with have common philosophies guiding their design and production, philosophies that are in-line with Thorfinn: innovation, refinement, strength and performance. The result is a new style of high quality products that create a better experience for the user.
These products tend to stand out. They are built with lightweight materials like Kevlar and carbon fiber. Their shapes take on different lines than earlier, more traditional designs. Outfitting tends to be more simple and purposeful. All great points in our view; but they can confuse customers accustomed to more typical gear, which put heavier emphasis on recognizable designs and “bells and whistles” – with less focus on innovation and chiseling away unneeded features.
At Thorfinn we take great satisfaction in sharing the benefits of the products we carry. We truly believe that we’re selling equipment that helps shape lifestyles, not just hobbies. The right paddleboard or kayak can help the paddler unleash their desire to explore and adventure – for a lifetime; we embrace the opportunity to communicate these philosophies to our customers. As an outdoor education school and specialty retailer, it is second nature for us to talk in depth about the products in our shop. It’s fun, it’s rewarding and it’s the whole reason we’re in the outdoor adventure business to begin with.