Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Jeans from dewerstone - practical in the extreme.

Stretch jeans were a thing when I was a kid. It didn't endure. But in a world where we want our activewear not to look like activewear (I'm using the royal "we" because I know there are MAMIL's and people who wear their gym clothes to show that they go to the gym) the concept of stretch denim actually makes a lot of sense. I wasn't sure I would enjoy wearing it though. But I do. They look like nice jeans, feel good to wear (they are quite light but I haven't ripped them yet so that isn't really a negative) but crucially they allow a lot more movement than conventional jeans.

A friend of mine who is a dancer used to wear what she called her "dancing jeans" - I think they were in fact her Dad's old jeans, and they were massive. This enabled her to do big dance moves unhindered, and I don't think she was bothered that they weren't that flattering to her svelte physique. But guys can't really employ this strategy - we don't have the waist/hips really, so big trousers actually fall down and make leg movement even more difficult. Enter the reasonably fitted but stretchy dewerstone jeans. I wear these as often as I can, and very often bust out a workout in them. Dance moves not so much.

Kind of a dragon flag/crunch combo thing... Without builder's bum... Winning...

"Now hang on a minute," I imagine you saying, "Why would you do a workout in your jeans?" And yes, perhaps that seems as incongruous to some people as wearing Lycra all day does to me. But hear me out. When I'm looking after the toddler, or at the computer, I just need to swing into action with a mini workout when said child goes to sleep or is incarcerated in a high chair. Or when I have writer's block or procrastination overload, in the latter case. Or at the pub. I don't have time to be putting on special clothes.
On another level, the fact that I can do a workout in these jeans demonstrates that they're perfect when you have to vault a gate, climb a wall, or paddle home from the pub in a canoe. All of which (and more) I have had to do in the dewerstone jeans recently, so I can confirm that they are practical in the extreme. Maybe they should be called "Life Jeans"...


What else do I like about them? The little square pocket that all jeans have, that I used to call a change pocket but maybe it's for condoms? Whatever, it's no use at all if you can't get enough fingers in to retrieve the contents. This one is perfect. Again, the stretch helps.

Subtle branding. Nice. Sizing, as far as I can tell, as expected. Colour - they don't look "too blue" straight off the shelf, but don't fade in the first few washes. Build quality - exemplary. Back pockets big enough for my "phablet" (^see dragon flag pic^ - it's in my back pocket).


Could they be better? Not really. I would prefer a button fly, and maybe a hidden zipped pocket for cards/cash so that stuff can't be lost when you hang upside down. But that's just me. Personal preference.

To check them out or buy online, go to dewerstone.com

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Training with balls...

Two balls, in fact, a BOSU ball (wobble plate thingy) and a medicine or slam ball. Most of my SUP pals, like myself, train on sheltered flat water a lot. When it comes to going out in the wind and chop, it shows up deficiencies in the legs and core control. I've been training on the Hammerhead land-SUP for a few weeks now, but when the weather is wet, or hail, sleet and snow right now actually, I want a way to train at the gym. And I'm not in any way a fan (pun intended) of those things that are made out of a rowing machine, a stick and some string. Luckily my gym has the right equipment, but you can buy it online to use at home.

Hammerhead land training board - for more about this see here...
This video got off to a false start last week because I somehow managed to pack not the resplendent T-shirt from dewerstone that I'm wearing in the vid, but my girlfriend's size 8 vest-top from Gap. Don't get me wrong, I went ahead and did a workout anyway, but it didn't feel right to share. I'm pretty sure people were looking at me funny...

The BOSU ball is actually more wobbly than even my race board, so the legs are firing from the start. I throw the medicine ball at varying spots on the wall so that I'm constantly moving around to catch it. Catching it in one hand looks hard, but while it punishes the wrists and fingers, having the other hand for balance actually makes the exercise easier. Throwing straight ahead and catching against the chest is the hardest work - it nearly knocks me off my feet - but I like to mix it up to get the most varied and functional workout possible.

I train to heart rate (my phone is displaying that on the floor in front of me), but you can do sets of 20 throws, or timed intervals, or whatever feels right for you. I'm finding my heart-rate is up around 80% of MHR if I throw at about this rate. It spikes a lot higher with more extreme reaches and jumping type moves. So I'm getting a great cardio workout while beating up the abs, core, arms and back, and the legs are working hard at keeping balance.


You might want to start with just a football or something until you get the hang of it. A 5kg medicine ball is quite impactful. Another top tip, if you're at a public gym, is to look out for bystanders. Every time, some lycra-clad person will settle down on a mat right behind me to do some kind of yoga moves, seemingly oblivious to how much that medicine ball is going to hurt when I inevitably miss a catch. Finally, make sure you are throwing against a concrete wall. Not a plasterboard stud-wall. Oops...

PS This is not in fact my normal training T-shirt. I normally use the dewerstone Trail Tee, which has a small and subtle logo, but small and subtle is not the way for brand ambassadoring. It's a great workout tee that keeps me cool and is dry enough to wear straight outta the washer. You can check them out here - http://ss1.us/a/Vv3d4Q46



Monday, 21 November 2016

Hammerhead - First Impressions

I've had the Hammerhead Land SUP board in my garage for a couple of weeks now, but because it never stops raining I haven't used it as much as I hoped. I have, however, managed one dry outing, and have had time to formulate some thoughts on this relatively unusual activity.

Hammerhead’s unique, patented board consists of a multi-ply Baltic birch deck, real SUP foam deck padding, black 70 mm 82A density Divine Road Ripper wheels and a choice of either the Caliber 50 trucks or Gullwing Sidewinder trucks.





My first thought was "Why buy this?", thinking that going out with a standard longboard and a yard brush would give much the same experience. It doesn't. The Hammerhead has been designed to simulate accurately the Stand Up Paddling experience. And it does so. It's not like riding a skateboard - it really is like paddling an SUP. The board is vast, a completely different scale from a longboard, and you can move around on the foam padding feeling just as you do on the water. I even managed to hang ten on my first day! The special board shape is specifically to allow aggressive riding without fouling the paddle on the wheels, and it works!
Size comparison. And yes, my longboard has original 1970's red Kryptonics...
The durable rubber ball foot on the three piece, adjustable paddle provides just the right amount of grip on the tarmac. It's great for paddling, braking or support, and facilitates moves like tail-slides that I'm not quite brave enough to commit to yet! This carbon paddle would normally be around £200 on its own, but it's included in the price of the board. 

Adjustable carbon shaft to suit all paddlers.
Still thinking the board looks pretty expensive? Well, it's not cheap, but what you're getting is a very big piece of kit. Everything on it is huge. The trucks, the wheels, the deck itself. Enormous. Although, surprisingly, not that heavy. And if you think about it, your SUP board plus composite paddle probably cost not far shy of £1000. So this, with the paddle included, is a pretty affordable bolt on to maximise the quality of your water time by training on land as well.


The tail has a wedge which works like a kick-tail and helps drive slides, too.
I've got the 10" Calliber 50 (that's 50º, btw) trucks, which are great for carving and jibbing around - the Gullwing Sidewinders are dual-pivot trucks suitable for serious downhill use.

If it's too windy to get on the water, or the tide's out, I can see this is going to be a great way to train, and it's a much better core arm/shoulder workout than skating. Watch this space for more when I've got some of the local rippers out on the board. Or if you'd like to get one, and you are in the UK/Europe, get it here : 


https://wishboxusa.co.uk/collections/sports-outdoors/products/hammerhead-paddle-skateboard-landpaddle-combo



Friday, 14 October 2016

Let's Get Hammered!

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be working with Hammerhead Boarding Products - as a brand ambassador for their skateboards. Skateboards you say? What has that to do with paddling? Well... Land-SUP, or Street-SUP as some have called it, is a fun and different way of practising your SUP skills when there's a shortage of waves. Or water.

The Virginia Beach company (VA, USA) has made a new skateboard design that gets around some of the problems of using a "paddle" when you have wheels to snag it on. And although I currently live by the water, I have some great roads and pavements to skate, too!

It looks like a hammerhead, so it's called Hammerhead, and we're looking forward to getting hammered on some tarmac this side of the pond!

Here's a little taster...


For UK and European enquiries, hit me up here: mail@billmattos.com or use any of my other links!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Dewerstone 'Life Shorts' - work/life balance.

I have always detested the expression "work/life balance". Work is part of life for most people, so "work/play balance" would be a better way of putting it. Life is the whole thing.

Therefore I was instantly dubious when I first saw the Dewerstone Life Shorts. And I thought "They look like board shorts, and not particularly robust ones at that!" Many is the pair of boardies I've rubbed on rock or reef, so I usually select something that's quite canvassy or otherwise chunky, to ensure their longevity and hopefully my dignity. The Dewerstone shorts are light-weight and seem quite thin at first glance, so I was concerned.

I'm pleased to say that (after admittedly not a lifetime but at least a year or so) the Dewerstone shorts have proved me wrong in almost every department. They are not only tough and tear resistant (even the stretch version) but they are better to wear for most sports because they aren't too snaggy/grabby - whether in a kayak or on a waxed-up board they give the right feel - and slithering over granite or slate has not, so far, made holes in them, or even wear marks for that matter. They are comfy and by virtue of their light weight, they are light and quick-drying and drape well.

In a perfect world, "Life" shorts would be shorts that I could wear in any walk of life, without having to make wardrobe decisions first thing in the morning or to pack the right stuff for a trip. Sadly that isn't possible. If I wear my Life Shorts for day wear, this necessitates carrying a bag or a jacket for phone, wallet, keys and all the other paraphernalia of modern business. The (excellent) zipped pocket on the shorts is OK for a single key, an emergency banknote or a condom, but it's irritating in the extreme to have a normal bunch of keys or a handful of change in it. For this reason I would call the Life Shorts "play" shorts, but for that purpose they are unrivalled. Everything that would get in the way or be slow to dry on a more practical (cargo-esque) short has been eradicated in the pursuit of great running and jumping, kayaking, paddling or swimming performance. And I'm lucky enough to "play" nearly every day. You might say that's my work ;)

The fly opening and tie is a piece of genius - no velcro to rub or scratch or poke, but access is acceptable when required, and the shorts are neither compromised nor rudely removed by rogue close-outs, hydraulics, or self-styled comedians. Colour fastness has proved excellent - in fact, save for a few rust stains caused by my own carelessness (I leave a steel keyring attached to the pocket tie-loop of my light green pair of Life Shorts at all times), the shorts actually look like new, despite many hours of sun, salt, sand, kayaking, surfing and swimming. And perhaps more relevant, putting them repeatedly through the washing machine.

Verdict - Five star fantastic product that defeats all comers at playtime/sport performance and appears to last forever, but if you want to wear them for everyday "life" you may need a handbag/man bag or a jacket.
Available from many forward-thinking  outlets, or why not shop at dewerstone.com !!!

Friday, 6 February 2015

High, low, no brace.

So high it's almost a sky brace © Canoe Kayak UK Magazine
This is going to be controversial. I make no apologies for that.
Low brace - photo © Mattos
I've been reading a bit lately about high brace vs low brace . There are a few recent videos online, but of course it's not a new debate - it's been accepted for decades that although the high brace is a thing, it should be eschewed whenever possible in favour of the less fragile low brace position. And that's fine. And also flawed.
Let me explain.
Back in the dawn of whitewater kayaking, or pre-seventies at least, pretty much everyone (generalisation, shoot me) was either a sedentary paddler or a slalom paddler. Sedentary is a word I use instead of recreational, because I hate the expression "recreational paddler". All paddling is recreation, unless you are paid to do it or it's your daily commute. What I want is a distinction between gentle paddling and athletic paddling, and the word "bimbling" has been struck off as not scientific or grown-up enough (bastards), so sedentary is the word I choose.
sed·en·tar·y
ˈsednˌterē/
adjective
  1. (of a person) tending to spend much time seated; somewhat inactive.

    • (of work or a way of life) characterized by much sitting and little physical exercise.

Sedentary seems appropriate because a) all kayaking is done seated, and b) some paddlers do it with infrequent, or indeed non-existent, bursts of anything one might call exercise. And that's fine too, I'm not against that at all. Just making the distinction. Again, shoot me.

Back to slalom. The early slalom paddlers used high braces, as well as the Duffek techniques and the now forgotten High Telemark (Google those), and even to this day you can see slalom athletes cranking a vaguely bow-ruddery-draw-thing stroke mash-up back until the top hand is almost behind the head. This sort of behaviour is routinely denigrated by some coaches as certain to cause injury (shoulder strain, shoulder anterior dislocation) and to be avoided at all costs, but the truth is it's likely to cause injury to people who have poor strength and conditioning or are genetically prone to shoulder dislocation. Neither group includes any slalom athletes, so they can be left out of the argument from here on!
photo © Pete Astles
In a nutshell - yes, the high arm positions associated with some strokes should be avoided when they are not adding to your paddling functionality. Why take unnecessary risks? But surely more important would be to acquire the kind of musculature that will enable (most) people to perform these strokes when required without undue strain or risk of injury, and to avoid injury in the event that the scenario occurs accidentally.
The way much of the coaching world sees it is currently this. Dislocation or shoulder strain are caused by:

1. Allowing the arm to rise above the shoulder and/or to be forced upwards/backwards.
2. No, that's it really.

The way I see it is this. Dislocation or shoulder strain are caused by:

1. Weakness.
2. Strength - muscle or conditioning imbalance that allows the paddler to resist forces in excess of those sustainable by the shoulder joint.
3. Reflexes - failing to let go with the hand or release core tension instantly when overloaded by external forces.
All three of those are somewhat interconnected of course.
photo © Helen Stewart
These problems can indeed be circumvented by never adopting the position that puts us at risk, but I think that's a bit of a cop-out. They could be circumvented by staying at home and wearing a straitjacket, too! It was while watching a coach say "Never let your arm get above your shoulder and never let it get pushed back!" that I realised. This is nonsense for dynamic paddlers. I must admit that I'm not in the habit of high bracing, but actually my arm gets well above my shoulder while just carving a simple turn. Take a look at this pic - in my head I am doing a low brace, but in real space both my arms are well above the shoulder, and all the forces are pushing my left arm backwards, even before a few tons of water crashes into the whole situation. Reaching over a big wave, punching a hole, or sometimes boofing, it's equally the case, and in many more complex conditions even more so. Therefore... I require a physique that is able to handle that. And, perhaps, so do you.
photo © Mattos
Now, you may be thinking that you are much better than I am and that you aren't going to get yourself into these situations. But let me ask you this, if you are a dynamic paddler (and this whole rant is irrelevant if you are not). How do you roll? I can't think of a single paddle roll technique that doesn't involve moving one or other arm into the sort of position we are talking about trying to avoid, while all the while waiting for some unexpected event to push the shoulder joint in the wrong direction. In particular the screw roll, which most people learn first and is the fall-back roll for most when things go wrong. Back in the real dawn of kayaking, the Inuit invented the screw roll, as they did most of the rolls we know today, but they were paddling with a stick that provides very little resistance to the water. It would take a large sea creature swimming into the paddle full tilt to dislocate that kayaker's shoulder.
photo © Ville Miettinen
Another interesting area is sculling for support. This is a super-useful skill, both as a confidence exercise and as a recovery technique when you really, really don't want to go back under the boat. It is often taught in a sort of low brace or low high-brace position, but the truth is it's only useful when you're a bit over-extended and at its best when hanging from the paddle. Great video from Ken here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDyug_cURao
photo © Chris Hobson
Some modern coaches teach the "high brace" (using the drive face of the paddle) but with both elbows down so that the stroke is for all intents and purposes a low brace with the paddle the other way up for, I dunno, a bit of additional wrist strain maybe. They do this for reasons of safety, of course. But it's of no comfort when this happens (left).

In conclusion - should you do high high-braces, elbow wrap bow rudders and the like? Probably not... unless you really want to. But whilst being cogniscent of the danger of such gymnastics, it also behoves us to be fit and strong enough to manage the arms in "above and behind" positions of stress, rather than just believing we can avoid the situation altogether.
Coming soon - an article about strength and conditioning for a more robust physique for paddling. In the meantime, don't forget to breathe.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Getting rich through sponsorship.

   I read recently this excellent piece by freeskier David Lesh from Virtika - in truth it echoes many similar articles that have been written by professional outdoor sportspeople and by frustrated industry types, the latter as they trawl through a hundred misspelled and poorly thought out requests for financial support. It also mirrors my experience, both as an athlete and during the many years that I was CEO of Nookie. Want to get rich through sponsorship? You won't!
Fact is, being sponsored is more of a status thing in most adventure sports. Sure, it saves you a bit of expenditure, but it also ties your hands and you give a lot of hours, days and months for a return which, if quantified, might not feel like such good value! But you'd rather work at your sport than in McD's. I get that...
A few top athletes do get serious money. Think Kelly Slater. I've been considering what it takes to do that, and I think it's this; you have to be up at the level where people you don't even know chase around after you taking your photo, writing shit about you, bigging you up or badmouthing you and trying to sue you. You are so awesome everybody wants a piece of you, or to hear about you, and you can't have a drink in a bar because you'll get too much attention. If you are still the guy who's paying people to shoot you (or worse still getting your friend or your mum to do it) and doing all the talking about you yourself, you are not there yet.
Take a look at this list. Surfers, kayakers, skiers and boarders are not on it. Or in the top 100, for that matter. Super rich dudes like racing car drivers are not even hitting the top ten, despite being the most sponsored people on earth, most of them.
Still... there is no harm in trying to change the world for the better, so:
Doug Cooper
Don't underestimate the power of personal recommendation. Kayaker Doug Cooper was recommended to Red Bull by Shaun Baker, who told them he wasn't just another wannabe, but had the communication skills as well as the drive, talent and dedication to endorse their brand. I am lucky to have made a name for myself in kayaking, so whenever I am working on a book, mag article or other project, kayaking industry peeps are falling over each other to give me stuff, pay for stuff, and basically leverage my ability to get exposure. But when I was working on the Haynes Skiing Manual, I thought I might get some help from the ski businesses because hey, I know how to sell myself - I got nowhere. Most ski companies didn't even reply. Because they'd never heard of me. Then I was at an outdoor show, meeting with one of my other strategic partners, and when I told him this story of woe he said "I'll call my friend who represents Atomic..." Ten minutes later Tord Nilson from Iconic Agency is standing in front of me - I tell him about the book and he says "You can have anything you want" - because it was a personal recommendation from someone he trusted (Rory Atton from Dewerstone).

So, it's not what you know, and it's not who you know. It's who knows you.

Beyond that though, never forget that it is what you can offer the brand that matters. No one wants to give you things just so that you can look cool or have more fun. It's often better to approach companies about specific projects and quantify what it will be worth to them. A marketing executive is more likely to give you £100 for a day's work that gets him the photo/video/result he needs, than he is to sponsor you year round. And that's great, because you aren't then tied to any one brand. The downside is that the brand won't be interested in marketing you by name, and as I said at the beginning, status is often what truly motivates an athlete.
As Tez Plavenieks said to me on Facebook the other day:

"Sponsorship is overrated. There are other ways to turn the sports you love into a job you love - as you'll no doubt agree."

I do agree...



***************************************

Bill Mattos endorses: