KayakVagabond

the website of Greg Stamer

Sweetwater Symposium 2010

Posted by Greg on March 4, 2010

Jean Totz and Jen Kleck

Jean Totz (past Sweetwater partner) and Jen Kleck ( Aqua Aventures San Diego) enjoy lunch on Sunday when the temps felt “more like Florida”

Spring weather in Central Florida is moody and sometimes downright bipolar. You can be blessed with warm, summer-like days, the beaches filled with bikini-clad sun-lovers, or cold stormy skies and near freezing temperatures.  Participants at the 13th Sweetwater Symposium got to sample a bit of both moods.

After a year’s hiatus the 13th annual Sweetwater Symposium was held Feb. 26 – 28, with BCU/ACA/Greenland week starting Feb. 22.  Although the week started with balmy temps in the mid seventies, by Saturday a cold front bringing arctic air had paddlers bundling up in full winter gear. Dry suits in Florida? Yes, it is true. Fortunately Suzanne Hutchinson, Kokatat rep, was on hand to discuss drysuits and help paddlers with new gaskets.  I was happy to have brought my Kokatat drysuit and storm cag — the same gear I wore in Iceland and Newfoundland. It was the first time I have ever needed it in Florida at midday. The cold front blew through Saturday afternoon creating some very fun and challenging conditions and paddlers were soon greeted to blue skies with warm temps on Sunday. “This is more like it”, one participant grinned, as he strode by me in shorts and sandals, on his way to the water.

Lost in Iceland Article Online

Posted by Greg on February 4, 2010

Translucent ice sculptures in Jökulsárlón lagoon

Lost in Iceland was originally published in the October 2008 issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine. The entire text follows below (you may need to click on “Read the full post” to view).

I will be visiting Newfoundland again this month and beginning work on a new article for Sea Kayaker about my solo circumnavigation of Newfoundland last year. With a new project on the way, and adequate time since it was published, I’m happy to finally share this article on my website.

Lost in Iceland was meant to be different — I forced myself to be uncomfortably honest and open, but I think that made it more human and hopefully, more interesting.  I have received more comments on “Lost in Iceland” than all of my other articles combined and its been translated into three additional languages for printing in various magazines and digests.  The version presented here is longer than the printed version and includes some text that had to to removed due to space considerations. I hope that you enjoy it.

Lost in Iceland

Greg Stamer

New Iceland Gallery

Posted by Greg on January 31, 2010

I have created a new gallery album of images from Iceland. I am currently working to post the complete contents of my “Lost in Iceland” article , an account of my 2007 circumnavigation, that appeared in Sea Kayaker magazine. Please check back soon!

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The “Horn” on a rare day without fog. Iceland 2007.

How “Sweet” It Is ……

Posted by Greg on December 15, 2009

Russell Farrow of Sweetwater Kayaks
Russell Farrow of Sweetwater Kayaks, St Petersburg, Florida

Friday after work I traveled to the West coast of Florida and caught up with my good friends Russell Farrow and his wife, Claudia, of Sweetwater Kayaks in St Petersburg, Florida.  We swapped tales of our recent travels and brainstormed about future expeditions over a few beers and dinner. The following morning I hung out with Russell at the shop. Yes, Sweetwater is OPEN for business, having had their grand (re)opening in October.  I’m happy to report that business was brisk while I was there. The new shop is close to the original location but is on the water, making instruction and kayak demos very convenient. The  new shop, although much smaller than Russell’s previous building, has a great island atmosphere. It reminds me a bit of being in Key West.

More good news is that the Sweetwater symposium, that was canceled last year, is ON AGAIN for 2010!  Please mark the event on your calendar and support Sweetwater to keep it growing and thriving!

Escape Outdoors; Gothenburg, Sweden – Preparations

Posted by Greg on November 14, 2009

Sweden is a beautiful place to paddle. The archipelago delivers a fantastic assortment of islands to camp on, and explore. Being accustomed to the heat of Florida, and recently Israel, I got my first taste of “Winter” for the year.  We were greeted with light snow flurries, wind and cold temperatures as I helped Johan and Peter of Escape Outdoors prepare for the weekend classes (wing and Greenland instruction). This is perfect drysuit weather.  Our first task was to collect supplies and erect a tipi on a nearby island. Complete with a woodstove and furs on the floor, this is a an ideal warming shelter and provides room for eight or more. The tipi will be used for lunch and dinner. With the woodstove burning it is toasty warm inside. Luxury!

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In the evening Johan and I donned protective suits, climbing helmets and headlamps to explore a local cave. From the opening chamber the cave transformed into a serpentine maze of very tight tunnels. Some of the constrictions looked much too small for an adult to get through. “Are you sure we can fit through there”?

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Jetlagged (and loving it)….

Posted by Greg on October 27, 2009

Newfoundland in June 09
Greg surfing John Petersen’s Baidarka in San Simeon California during the TAKS symosium. Photo by John Petersen. Click on image to view full-size.

I’m not sure if I love kayaking because it is a form of travel or that I love traveling because I always mix it with kayaking. Both kayaking and traveling are a form of freedom. But (Mae West’s views notwithstanding), you CAN have too much of a good thing. To me travel is best when complemented by adequate time to enjoy home, friends and family.

I’m off today for Israel (Optimist Sea Kayaking Symposium), my gear barely dry after rinsing off the Pacific salt from California. And California was on the heels of adventures in Japan, Delaware, Michigan and Newfoundland. After Israel I will visit Sweden and then will finally have time to work off the jetlag, relax and relfect.

2009 Qajaq TC

Posted by Greg on September 4, 2009

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This years’ Michigan Training Camp (Qajaq TC) started off with a bang as storms created wild conditions on Lake Michigan, much to the delight of the participants.  Dennis Asmussen, Mike McDonald and myself led a surf session, that provided a great opportunity for participants to play and test their skills and rolls in challenging seas. From the smiles and shouts that ensued, it’s clear that everyone enjoyed themselves. I was impressed that there were very few wet-exits, even though this was the first time that some students rolled in conditions. The short-period waves were great fun and you could occasionally coax them into giving you long rides of 100 yards or more. One breaker hit my foredeck with enough force that it sent my kayak reeling backwards and setup a nice back-surf, anchored by a hanging draw. Of course, the secret to surfing is that whenever something interesting happens (that looks cool), that you just tell people that you meant to do it!

This Little Piggy… Vibram FiveFingers Gear Review

Posted by Greg on July 26, 2009

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Vibram FiveFingers (KSO Model)
Greg’s Gear Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I am often asked “backchannel” for gear reviews on the equipment that I use on both my expeditions and for everyday paddling trips. Please watch my blog for future reviews and send me email if you wish to see a particular item reviewed. I will indicate any conflicts of interest (sponsorships, etc) and do my best to provide an informative review.

The Good

  • Low volume fit is great for SOF kayaks and other tight boats.
  • Models with an instep strap stay “stuck” to your feet (even in thick muck).
  • Razor-cut soles offer excellent traction, even on wet surfaces.
  • Soles are thick enough for common hazards yet thin enough for dexterity (such as operating butterfly rudder controls)
  • Walking “barefoot” while in public feels sinfully good (you even leave a nice “barefoot” footprint).

The Bad

  • Sand is bad news. When walking in water, fine suspended sand can pack tightly around your toes and badly abrade your skin if not removed.
  • Due to the toe pockets you can’t use the shoes with any kind of drysuit that features integral socks.

Chocolate Elvis….

Posted by Greg on July 18, 2009

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Today I biked 32 miles, getting up early to beat the afternoon heat and the intense thunderstorms that define the sub-tropics of central Florida. My favorite trail winds around low rolling hills and orange groves and past huge oaks draped with beards of Spanish moss that sway in the hot breeze. Hidden among the hills are an amazing number of lakes.  Today’s ride was unremarkable, although I did have to swerve to miss a six-foot corn snake that was fully stretched across the path to absorb the intense heat.

Each year I have to become re acclimated to the heat of Florida.  It was really bad in past years when I returned from my circumnavigations of Iceland and Newfoundland, being adapted to much cooler weather,  to face the August Florida heat.  In mid-summer it stays hot even at night, although the mornings and frequent rain showers provide some relief. The heat wraps around you and saturates you. It almost suffocates you.  When I finish a good paddle or ride, I can literally ring the sweat out of my clothes.

Paying the Piper — On Finding Meaningful Work

Posted by Greg on July 4, 2009

Newfoundland in June 09
Back in Newfoundland for a visit, June 2009, retracing some of the steps from my circumnavigation.
Long trips are great but you eventually have to go home…

I love long kayaking expeditions. On such a trip you fully live each day and live for the moment. However, you can’t spend your entire life on what amounts to a glorified vacation. Eventually you have to return home and pay the piper.

One of my biggest challenges has been finding meaningful work. By that I mean work that pays well, work that stokes passion and leaves you energized instead of drained, and allows ample time for adventures, be that hiking the AT or paddling around some large land mass. Some people search for such a “calling” their entire life. Some lucky people find it or, more likely, stumble upon it — probably since few of us understand what we *really* need.  If you do know, then you are miles ahead of the pack.

If you follow my blog you know that I walked away from a comfortable salary working as a software engineer/project manager, to find the right blend of kayaking, teaching, sales, helping people, and application of my software/managerial skills, that would ignite all of my passions. I also knew that I would always have regrets if I did not pursue long kayaking expeditions.