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Last Sunday (July 13) thousands gathered in Newport Beach, CA to pay tribute to Ben Carlson, a lifeguard who gave his life while attempting to rescue a struggling swimmer. The highly respected 15 year veteran lifeguard got the call and jumped into the water to save the swimmer struggling in the 6-8 foot surf waves. Both men were pulled back into the water by a large wave as they struggled to get back into the rescue boat. Sadly Ben was pronounced dead after an exhaustive 3-hour search. If you are unfamiliar with surf culture, when a fellow surfer passes away (either in an accident or non-surfing related cause), the community will organize a memorial service out beyond the surf. Typically they will form a ring, have a moment of silence and throw flowers into the center of the circle. It's been a tradition for years. Watching the video of the memorial for Ben Carlson above, it makes me wish that the sea kayaking community had a traditional way of mourning those who have passed away as well. I guess we tend to keep things more internal and that's ok but there really is something very powerful about getting the kayak family together and going paddling in someone's honor. I remember attending a memorial at the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium three years ago for a fellow Great Lakes paddler (and former student of mine) who died doing what he loved.  Rev. Bonnie Perry led the short service and spoke about the impact he had inspiring others to get out and live your dreams. I got to admit it was pretty tough one to get through but even while standing on the beach, I remember thinking that this should have taken place out on the water. Bob would have thought that would have been even cooler. It might be a weird but maybe it's time to brainstorm our own method of mourning the loss of a fellow community member. Any ideas? Photo credit: Associated Press
Typically kayaking can be viewed as a relaxing experience, washing away the stress of the day including your boss (or kids) yelling at you. Sadly it looks like it might have had the opposite effect on a gentleman from Westfield, Massachusetts who, according to court records pleaded not guilty to a host of charges (including attempted murder) after he allegedly attacked another man with a kayak paddle and held his head underwater. All while out kayak fishing one evening. Wait, what?
The other night on "The Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon" Jimmy challenged Cameron Diaz to a kayak race. Though it didn't actually take place on water it was clearly just as dangerous as they had to run a through a waterfall, dodge a cranky old fisherman and salmon swimming upstream as well as two super dangerous obstacles that consisted of an Elton John impersonator singing the most annoying part of "Crocodile Rock" and another on a jet ski singing the worst part of "Bennie and the Jets". You will need to watch the race to find out who was victorious and who sunk...
Found this in the Guardian today: An artist in Japan, who works under the pseudonym Rokudenashiko – which roughly translates as "good-for-nothing girl" – was arrested after emailing the data to 30 people who had answered a crowd-funding request for her recent artistic venture: a kayak inspired on her own genitalia she calls "pussy boat", according to Brian Ashcraft at the gaming website Kotaku. More info.
Kokatat has always been known as an innovative company especially when it comes to dry suits. While they didn't invent them back in 1971 when they first started stitching, there is little doubt that they should get the credit for making them appealing to the masses. Starting next year Kokatat will be taking a giant leap forward with the roll-out of the Idol drysuit with what they are calling SwitchZip technology. Gone will be the giant brass zipper across the chest in favour of a 360 degree waterproof zipper located around the waist. To me this is going to be a huge game changer. The new zipper will still be a 100% waterproof but will allow you to completely separate the pants from the top allowing you to mix and match depending on the conditions and/or water temperature. If you only need a paddling jacket than leave the pants behind or zip them together as a regular drysuit. I will file this whole thing under the why-didn't-this-come-out-10-years-ago-idea. I haven't tried it on yet but I suspect that this is also going to make the fit and comfort of the suit a whole lot better as it should be considerably less bulky upstairs without that stiff brass zipper jammed under your lifejacket. Also ladies, you won't need to order the drop zipper any longer. You know that drop zipper that makes butts look twice as wide? I kid! I kid. As far as the placement of the new zipper, I've been told that when seated, it will sit inside the kayak cockpit between the backband and the seat. Designed into the suit is a simple Cordura cover so it won't get hung up in kayak rigging or PFD's. So when will it be showing up at paddling shops? Kokatat says to watch for the new Idol sometime in January, 2015.

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