Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Ultimate Kayaking Packing List

How to pack 101
As I left for my trip today Jez asked me if he could have my packing list to help him make sure he didn't forgot anything for his trip to the USA this weekend and it got me thinking. Traveling all over the world as much as I do the number of times I write and rewrite packing lists is insane and every time it seems to be almost identical. So I thought it was time to write it down and post it online so that not only only me and Jez but also anyone everyone else who travels to paddle could also potentially use it to help make traveling that little bit easier.

Throw back to flying to Nepal in 2004 with only
one 23kg item allowance

My Packing List

Wallet (money, credit card, cash, drivers licence)


Visas (if applicable)

Travel insurance documents

Car rentals paperwork

Accommodation paperwork and arrival address details (needed when you arrive at customs in a lot of countries)

Mobile phone and charger

Computer and charger

Camera and charger and sd cards

Go pro and charger

Hard drive and USB stick

Adapter plugs for international countries 

Boat and boat bag

Paddles x 1-2 and bag

Helmet, nose clip and earplugs

Cagdecks/ Drydecks (or Cags/Drytops and decks/skirts) long sleeve and short sleeve

BA / PFD, whistle and river knife 

Dry trousers


Sling and Throw line 

First aid kit 

Duck tape 

Shorts x 2-3

Fleece/paddling tops x 2-3

Sports bras / bikini / swimming costumes x 2
Roof rack strap

Waterproof jacket

Down jacket


Flip flops

T-shirts x 5-6

Hoody x 1-2

Jeans/trousers/pants x 1-2

Shorts x 2-3


Pants/Underwear x 8-12

Socks x 3-4

Bras x 2

Sports Bra

Towels x 1-2

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel


Toothbrush and toothpaste 



Paracetamol / Ibroprofen


Other Toiletries 

Any personal medicines 

 Cold water paddling additions…

Dry suit 

Skull cap

Extra fleeces 

Gloves / poggies


Extra boats - Squirt Boat / Creek Boat / Carbon Play Boat
Hand paddles
Extra Pfd - Play boating / river rescue vest

Boat lock and padlock

Yoga mat

Foam Roller

Camp Chair


Lacrosse ball for trigger massage, massage lotion 

Repair kit
Pin kit

Googles (squirt boat)
Books, Kindle, iPads


Generally I pack it all into a one large lightweight travel bag on wheels and my boat bag. Max 23kg / 50lbs each. Then I carry a personal small backpack with my computer, camera etc. I also pack a spare small (wet boating) kit bag in my boat so I can separate my gear when on the road.

Flying back from Germany

Where possible I travel with just two check in items putting my paddles inside my boat if there splits or if there not taping them in their bag to my boat bag so it counts as just 1 piece. Occasionally an airline will allow you to pack them separately in the paddle bag and as they only weigh a couple of kilos they might let them on for no or little extra charge. Remember to say their ski's especially if the airlines not kayak friendly see my flying with a kayak blog. I just travelled today with my split paddles for free as part of my hand luggage, as my small personal carry on item. When the lady ask I said it was the equivalent of my small musical instrument allowance.

My two piece splits have been an awesome addition to my international travel kit
Transiting through Dallas Airport with my carry on!

Top Tips

1. Always travel with a water bottle. All airports have filtered water available for free inside the terminals. So empty your water bottle before you go through security then refill it for free before you airs your plane. Saves money and the oceans.

2. Travel with spare underwear, shorts and a t-shirts in your hand luggage and a toothbrush and toothpaste and baby wipes. This means that if your bags or flights get delayed and you end up with an unexpected night without all your gear your comfy and clean.

3. On long haul flights or massive trips find the airports showers and freshen up between flights. In Singapore airport find and jump in the swimming pool its worth it.

4. If your short on space / weight either wear more layers as you check in and go through customs and carry and extra bag inside your back pack to put it in when your on the plane or try and work out what heavy / bulky items you can easily and reasonably cheaply buy (shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, books) when you arrive at your destination.

So much sports equipment so little space

Sometimes you have lots of space

Packing doesn't have to be for flying
Taking only what you need can make a trip way more fun

Obviously the list will change a little trip to trip and person to person depending on where your going, the weather, length of trip and your paddling goals but I hope that this can be of help as a starting point and general guide.

Enjoy your paddling adventures around the world.

Happy Packing

Claire O

Having the right gear in the right place... priceless

Monday, July 03, 2017

Wake Surfing!!!!

This just happened...

Thanks to the amazing generosity of our friends in Tamarack we got to start today and finish yesterday with some amazing wake surfing on Cascade lake. The sun is shinning. It's an absolutely gorgeous weekend and how batter to spend it doing something super special, active and fun with amazing people.

Rumor is we might be heading out again in just a few hours.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Snow Bank Adventures

As week two wraps up at the 2017 Kelly's Academy its time for some fun adventures to begin. After looking up each day at the stunning snow capped mountains its no surprise our first adventure is to load up the truck with kayaks, stand ups and sledges and head up the mountain trails in search of snow.

Half way up we stop and hike into the Blue Lake. This stunning lake situated half way up the mountain is well worth the drive / walk. There is so much snow still up here it is crazy to think that it is the middle of the summer!!! After a hike along the snow covered trail we arrive at the lake and resist the urge to jump in. We then drive to the top of the trail and are treated to 360 degree mountain, forest, desert and valley views. We stop for a quick lunch on the top and check to see how high we are. At 8,300 feet we are on one of the highest peaks around. The skies so clear we can see other large Idaho snow capped mountains in the distance. It really is beautiful.

The view from the road

Chuck and Linda join me for the adventure

Hiking down the valley
Snow bridges across the streams


Just stunning

Monday, May 08, 2017

Snowy River

One of the classic white water runs in Australia is the Snowy river and this summer I had the opportunity to lead a group of kids down it on a multi day paddling expedition. Having never paddled the run before I joined Josh and Rick to do a quick recci run before the trip and we blasted down the 50km 4 day trip in just 8 hours. It was amazing we paddled hard and pushed on through the flats and then had fun on the rapids. It was supposed to be an overnight trip so we had loaded boats but we were on a roll and having too much fun so we just kept going and got it done.

Setting off its awesome being back on a real river

Loving my custom blue JK Karma
Fresh spring water drinks bottle refill stop

The drive in and out is a little sketchy

The Snowy is an amazing river on the boarder of New South Wales and Victoria. The section we ran started at McKillops bridge and we paddled all the way out to Buchan. Set deep in the Australian wilderness it was an amazing opportunity for these kids to be able to experience such a beautiful part of Australia and in such a unique way. There are very few roads down to the river in this area and they are all 4wd tracks and the only way to experience this section is on some sort of paddle craft.

No roads for miles. Deep in the gorge
Stunning Aussies views

Finding a beach big enough to camp overnight

The river is perfect slowly progressing from easy class 2 all the way up to the gorge section where is picks up to class3/4 with one big 4+. Cutting through a class 4 gorge half way down the run adds a unique component to this trip as its is very committing. Portaging the rapids in the gorge is very tough. The kids paddled all but the biggest two. Myself and Morgan each lead a trip and joined forces to take the groups through the gorge section. The first of the big rapids we portaged up and down and took it in turns to jump in and paddle all the boats through. The final and biggest rapid we worked with the kids to portage the boats before seal launching them back in.

Dropping into one of the bigger rapids
Kids having fun running one of the drops
Styling it in there own way
Fun Fun Fun

The kids paddled inflatables, two persons duckies, loaded with all their clothes, tents and food. We ran safety from our Jackson Karmas also loaded with all our stuff. Our 4 day 3 night adventure took us all on a journey of self discovery as well as true adventure. The kids learnt loads about themselves, each other and river life. Each night we would find somewhere to camp, set up base and cook up some food. Hitting bed early in order to be able to get up and get moving in order to get the river miles done.

Boats fully loaded
Portaging fully loaded boats is as big a challenge

Swimming is a refreshing break from the heat

By the final day everyone has the hang of things

Setting safety on one of the smaller drops

The Snowy is a phenomenal paddling experience and I would highly recommend this stretch to any class 3/4 boaters looking for a multi day expedition trip. Make sure you read up about the Gorge before committing yourself to this run and be knowledgeable and experienced advanced white water rescue skills and carry a Sat Phone as this is a very remote run.

Josh boofing his way through the last rapid

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Mr & Mrs Blanchard

That's right on Wednesday 22nd February 2017 almost one year to the day after we eloped on White Haven Beach we officially signed the papers and became Mr & Mrs Blanchard.

Surrounded by our family and many of our closest friends we gathered in Palm Beach to have our official ceremony and a small reception celebration at the Boat House. We stayed at the stunning Barrenjoey Beach House right on the Pitt Water Peninsula in a amazing waterfront villa. Thanks to my awesome mum.

It had always been my dream since Jez proposed, to marry somewhere amazing with a beach, bright sunshine and pristine sand. The ultimate dream to surf all morning with friends and then have a quick change and walk to our wedding and that is exactly what we did.

Everyone gathered at the Beach House early and had the chance to meet one another and chat before the event. My bridesmaids Den and Bruno helped me changed and get ready in my dress and Best Men Tay Tay and Mark helped kit up Jez.

Everyone else gathered and enjoyed a few snacks and drinks as we got set and then as I arrived we started the celebrations with us for a quick toast, before starting the short walk along the beach to the Boat House.

As Jez and I walked ahead with Den helping hold up my dress. Bridesmaid (number three) :) Dave 'Scout' Wortley ran around like crazy capturing every moment as you can see from these incredible shots. Everyone else followed behind. It was a sight to behold and was perfect.

We arrived to the Boat House to a champagne greeting (and lemon lime and bitters for Jez). The Sydney Ensemble trio playing live music on the deck, a last minute surprise ridiculously awesome addition by Jez. Our dress code beach wedding with compulsory white shorts, white shirts (no ties) for the lads set the tone for the night. Classy, smart and relaxed. Comfortable and fun. It was perfect.

We met Rebecca celebrant and ran through the last minute details. Then my Dad took my hand and led me down the aisle. It was insane, so so perfect. My mum, Jez's dad and all our friends and family who had been able to make the journey to join us all looked on. Looking beautiful, beaming with massive smiles, celebrating and sharing the moment with us in this amazing place.

My Dad led me to the front and there was Jez. He looked stunning. No words can describe how incredible he looked. Dad shook his hand and handed me over and then Bec led the most amazing ceremony for us. Capturing everything special about our relationship, journey and life together so perfectly. The sun shone bright and everyone listened carefully as she read out.

Then the time came, in front of everyone in this amazing place in the beautiful bright sun with water lapping on the beach all around us, we read our vows and officially took our first kiss as Claire & Jez, Mr & Mrs Blanchard.

Everyone cheered and we both beamed with massive grins as we moved to the official signing table joined by our witnesses Matt & Dani Taylor and signed our official marriage certificate.

Then the celebrations really began with champagne flowing, loads of kisses and hugs, live music and a photo shoot on the beach as the sun began to set the whole sky came alight.


After the photos we moved back to the Boat House to celebrate.

Then we sat down for an amazing Boat House feast, but before we ate my Dad, Anna Bruno and Tay Tay each took it in turn to read a speech. Matt mc'd the night, opening the evening with a lovely intro and then my Dad smashed it. His speech was perfect. I couldn't thank him more for the amazing words or support, happiness and love. He made us all laugh, smile and cry it was perfect. Then Tay Tay and Anna nailed it. We all learnt alot about Jez (and me) that night. It was perfect. I know I keep saying it but it was perfect and I guess that what every wedding should be. A perfect celebration which you will never forget. That's what this night was for me.

After the speeches the food came out and we all chatted and enjoyed the food. In the background we had the amazing Willem Sherlock Roorda (Blue Mountains Jazz and Blues specialist musician) set the tone for the night.

Before we had finished eating, with Willem's music so good. Jez's Dad Terry and Den were already up and dancing leading a mid meal dance session at the end of the dinner table.

But it didn't last long as we still had desert and the cake to come. The cake.... So true to our style we didn't just have one cake. We had two very very special wedding cakes. The first Jez's mum homemade fruit cake. Jez's mum Maree sadly passed away two years ago and couldn't be with us to celebrate. Luckily Jez's brother Anton and wife Melissa made sure Maree's presence was felt. Making her special recipe fruit cake as our offical wedding cake. Surprising us both by decorating it with a beautiful flower and silhouettes of Me and Jez in action, me kayaking and Jez paragliding. Such a special part of the night. It looked so great.

Our second cake well this one was special but in a very different way. To celebrate our engagement our great friends Sooty & Lindz had made an epic chocolate cake. Unfortunately they couldn't be with us for the wedding but there cake inspiration could. Matt & Dani stepped up for the challenge and made a epic chocolate cake with a blue 'M n M's' waterfall with Kayak Joes (Blue for me, Red for Jez) kayaking off the top.

Jez had no idea what the wedding cakes would be and was in a state of shock and awe as he saw them both a truely special moment in the night.

Cake done it was time to dance. I switched to my dancing shoes, Willem turned the up the volume and everyone gathered round to watch. Now not many people know but Jez's mum was a professional Dancer and Jez, well Jez can Dance. Like Jez can really dance. So in front of everyone we took to the dance floor and with Willem playing 'Sweet Disposition' by Temper Trap' live off the deck we danced our 'first dance' together. With everyone watching, mostly in shock!

Then everyone joined us and we danced the night away and as the water continued to lap up against the beach and the stars shone on.

As the night came to an end we strolled back to the beach house along the beach.

Everyone was so happy it was such an amazing night. We did it our way and we loved every minute. We wouldn't have changed a thing about the night. One year ago we eloped which was absolutely perfect and then a year later with many of our closest friends and family we officially started our married life on a stunning beach in Australia. It was a truly perfect start to our married life.

Thank you to everyone who came and shared this wonderful evening with us. The full collection of amazing photos from the night can be found here. Thank you so much Dave 'Scout' Wortley and Ben Sanford for the amazing photos.