We all have that one embarrassing memory of walking on a wet surface, only to end up awkwardly flailing in sheer panic, desperately trying to grab onto anything in arms reach. Sadly though, the final result often leaves us sprawled painfully on the floor, greeted by the laughter of friends, family or anyone lucky enough to have witnessed our misfortune.
Depressingly, I was cursed with being accident prone from birth, so this memory is a reoccurring nightmare for me on a weekly basis due to working as a boat driver and wakeboarding instructor.
“Should have worn better shoes” a phrase that is frequently repeated to me every time a colleague or kind stranger picks me up from my slip of doom.
Volcom Draft Shoes
I feel the guys at Tallington Lakes Pro Shop were taking pity on me when they offered me the chance to try out these ‘Volcom Draft Shoes’, assuring me that I would never fall again. This is essentially like telling a child they are about to move to Disneyland.
It was love at first sight when I opened the box to these pristine conditioned Volcom’s staring up at me. I have never really been a fan of wearing shoes without socks (be they water shoes or not), but when I discovered these Volcoms are lycra lined for ultimate comfort, I decided to test the theory. If feet could talk, they would be singing with joy. Putting on these shoes is like slipping into pure bliss. I was a little hesitant because the width of my feet are on par with bigfoot, but the lycra lining easily adjusts to the shape of your feet.
“The Draft shoe was created for incredible breathability and control… design features laser perforations for steady air flow. Sweat and moisture are quickly dispersed, allowing for rapid drying.”
Thankfully, working on a lake provides me with just about enough water to test Volcom’s “rapid drying” statement. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how rapid the drying truly was. After fully submerging both feet, the shoes did not become uncomfortable to wear or walk around in – if only they could walk on water, it would make them the perfect shoe.
“Ortholite anti-microbial footbed prevents odors and bacteria from spreading”
Now not only do I have abnormally shaped feet, whenever they get sweaty or wet, the smell that is produced is enough to knock out all forms of life in a 10-metre radius. Therefore, I was pessimistic about Volcoms anti-microbial claim. Once again, I was surprised to find that the shoes were holding the toxic smell at bay. People were willingly approaching me without pinching their nose whilst the squirrels and birds didn’t fall from the trees.
“Custom rubber trading provides enhanced traction and stability for wet and dry surfaces. Lightweight compression moulded EVA midsole offers lasting comfort for years of non-stop wear.”
Here comes the most important aspect for me. When the decking on the dock becomes wet, it turns into a minefield of banana skins. It’s safe to say at first, I was treading gingerly on egg shells when conducting this test, however as time went by and my confidence in the shoe support grew, I could comfortably walk up and down the decking with ease. I’ve safely arrived at Disneyland folks.
To top it off the shoe comes with an EVA midsole which stands for ‘Ethyl Vinyl Acetate’ which basically means your foot is resting in the VIP section of shoe world.
When it comes to sunglasses, I am fussier than a fashion model with OCD:
Do I like the colour? Do they fit correctly on my abnormally shaped ears?
Are the lenses dark enough to hide my eyes, while also not impairing my vision in the shade?
Will they make my nose appear the same size as Pinocchio’s?
Will my street cred rise a considerable amount, finally bringing me to the definition of looking “cool”?
Smith Outlier XL Polarised Chromapop Sunglasses
Therefore I was more than a little sceptical when Tallington Lakes Pro Shop asked me to review these “Smith Outlier XL Polarised ChromaPop” sunglasses. Now, as a boat driver and wakeboard instructor, having polarised sunglasses is an absolute must for me. If the lenses fail to block the sunlight glare from the water, then I’m basically driving blind and nobody wants that…especially the poor beginner clinging to the handle for dear life behind the boat.
“ChromaPop Lenses are the most advanced polarised lenses in the world… By blocking colour wave intersections as they pass through the lens, ChromaPop is able to eliminate colour confusion… ChromaPop optimises colour and increases clarity, enabling you to see the outside world with an unparalleled level of vibrancy.”
In other words, they cut through sunlight glare like a hot knife through butter whilst simultaneously spreading the jam on the bread all in one swoop…sweet.
Little did I realise how truly magical that jam sandwich would be. I decided to test them around sunset when the glare from the water is at its finest, often resulting in severe wrinkles from squinting so hard, you age by at least ten years.
I was honestly blown away at how the glare from the water turned almost non-existent. I felt I was watching my life behind a new HD TV monitor and Johnny Nash ‘I can see clearly now’ began playing in my ears.
Not only did the world now look bright and cheerful, when I glanced in my rear view mirror at myself – I wasn’t bombarded with negative thoughts regarding fitting size, shape or colour. I was pleasantly surprised with the way these glasses looked whilst sitting comfortably on the bridge of my nose. I reluctantly removed them, allowing others to test the glasses, and it was clear to see they had the same immediate reaction I did. Noting the fact our head and faces were all different sizes, yet the glasses always fit perfectly just like Cinderella’s slipper.
If you’re a snow skier/boarder, fishing enthusiast, avid mountaineer or a fussy boat driver like me – these ‘Outliers’ are certainly high contenders in the sunglasses market and will not disappoint.
…Oh and yes, these glasses will definitely raise your street cred!
Ladies if you are thinking of a hoody or fleece, for when it gets a bit nippy this summer, why not have a look at a few Charlie has been trying on – it might help !
Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Fleece
The Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T fleece is ideal in a variety of ways. Firstly this fleece provides a thermal heat with it being 100% recycled polyester which creates a snugly feeling throughout the day, especially if the day is quite chilly! The fleece is also excellent for comfort, thanks to a soft short fur layer lining the inside and high neck. The large all in one pocket not only keeps your hands warm but can hold objects securely. There is also a small pocket on the chest of the fleece and branded badge.
From personal experience trying on this fleece I found it had a slim fit but not tight on the arms. I tried a size up than usual which I found more comfortable because of the larger fit; especially wearing a shirt underneath.
Picture Organic Clothing Nesla Hoody
The women’s Picture Nesla is another groovy styled hoody. This has a large ‘Picture Organic Clothing’ print in the centre surrounded by a summer pattern; which stands out from the navy blue colour. The hoody has pink and white striped band around the bottom, which can be tightened. A large front pouch pocket which is ideal for keeping everyday items, or your hands warm. Extremely comfortable thanks to the 70% organic cotton. Thick hood which was well wrapped around the neck with a unique twist.
This had a slim fit and it fit me perfectly in the correct size ; so no need to go an extra size up for a comfier fit.
Roxy Cruiser Night’s Hoody
The Roxy Cruiser Night’s hoody is a popular fashion item. This is ideal for wearing in the summer season as a form of casual wear for evenings or daytime due to the thin lining made of 60% cotton which is perfect for the summer weather and chilly evenings. The inner layer has a soft layer of fur which maintains a bearable amount of heat. This also features a simple but potent design which gives off a summer feel and represents the Roxy brand on the centre of the hoody. A front pouch which I found was ideal for keeping everyday items in or useful for just heating up my hands.
Volcom In A Dayz Hoody
The Volcom In A Dayz hoody is a simple but trendsetting product however, different in a variety of ways compared to the previous hoodies. This has a zip which is perfect for matching with a shirt beneath which may contrast of the heather grey colour. I found this is easy to match with any day outfits as well as being a comfortable and thermal ideal for breezy weather, featuring two pockets ideal for warmth with the thick lining.
The sizing was perfect as this wasn’t too tight or too baggy but had a stretched fit which was cosy to lounge in.
The world of slalom water-skiing is a vast one when it comes to choosing the most high performance boots. The most regular question I get asked about bindings is “should I use a hard-shell or a rubber water ski binding?” The answer to this question is that you should use what you feel comfortable with. However determining this is easier said than done!
Rubber Water Ski Boot (Binding)
I started off my water-skiing life with a traditional rubber binding. This binding was perfectly suitable for learning how to perform deep-water starts, crossing the wake from side to side and water skiing comfortably on a slalom ski in a recreational environment, with no buoys to worry about.
When I was introduced to the slalom course, I swapped my traditional rubber binding for a HO Animal Boot (Binding). This boot supported me through learning the course and it was ridiculously comfortable! The binding still continued to support me when I increased the speed at which I was being towed through the course. By the end of last season, when I was still using the HO Animal Boot, it was carrying me through the course at a confident 36mph. The Animal Boot is a very comfortable binding because it’s not overly tight; however despite this the boot still gives excellent support around the ankle and heel of the foot – due to the insole of the boot. Over time the insole of the boot moulds to the contours of your foot, giving you the same feeling through the boot every time. Due to the lacing system on the HO Animal Boot, it is quick and easy to slip on and off which is a great asset, especially if you’re itching to get in or out on the water! Just a simple squirt of some boot slime and you’ll slip straight in there!
Hard-Shell Water Ski Boot
As much as I loved the HO Animal Boot, I decided to give the hard-shell option a whirl. The whole system was quite complex to set up once the releasing mechanism was bolted onto the ski. However, despite racking my brain for around two hours figuring out how it worked, I finally sorted it and found myself standing on the dock clutching my handle ready to water ski. I won’t go into all the details of that first set with the hard-shell because it would be rather embarrassing; but I will say I spent more time in the water than on top of it!
Despite this I persevered with the hard-shell. It is very different from the Animal, primarily because to hard-shell has a more snug-fit around the foot due to the plastic outer shell. This has often given me an aching sensation in my foot if I have over tightened the binding. However if the hard-shell is correctly tightened , this isn’t such a problem. Personally, I find the hard-shell a confidence-inspiring boot, allowing me to attack the wakes that little bit more.
Overall both the HO Animal Boot and the hard-shell are very good bindings. However there is a huge difference in price. Considering the Animal provides me with great performance at those higher speeds and shorter rope lengths, just like the hard-shell, it certainly the cheaper option. This is often found with most rubber water ski boots compared to the hard-shells.
When it comes to a pair of sunglasses that are suitable for both lifestyle and active wear, Oakley have got it right. The Oakley Crossrange sunglasses aren’t a hybrid. Theses shades come with two sets of nose pads and temples, or arms (the bit that extends over the ear to help keep the sunglasses in place), to suit the conditions/mood you are wearing them in!
Oakley has a video of some cheeky hipsters, including Chas Christiansen, riding bicycles to show the versatility of these sunglasses, however, I chose to wear them:
Lifestyle – attending a Game and Country Fair
Active – walking in the Derbyshire Peak District
The lifestyle nose pad and temples were extremely comfortable; and made the shades easy to take off and put back on, as you walked in and out of marquees and the sun. Certainly did the job, and didn’t look out of place –hipster!
You immediately felt the active nose pad and temples get into position, when putting them on, giving you confidence that they would not be slipping out of place; thanks to the grippy nose pads and earsocks. These are made from Oakley’s ‘Unobtanium’; a patented Oakley material that becomes tacky when wet/or you sweat and holds the frame in perfect optical alignment.
OK walking in the Peak District may not be classed as extreme, but we were keeping up a healthy pace, along undulating terrain (including a bit of scrambling). It was a warm day, so perspiration was building up, yet the sunglasses did not move. Once again extremely comfortable and I was confident they were not going to fall off!
The Crossrange comes in three styles: the Crossrange, Crossrange XL, and the Crossrange R (coming soon). All are made to Oakley’s exceptionally high standards, and seeing-is-believing with these ‘High Definition Optics’. The Crossrange XL, as its name implies is for a larger face, with a lens height of 46.7mm; compared to 46.1mm and 43mm for the Crossrange R and Crossrange. The temples and bridge are identical on all three: 137mm and 17mm respectively.
The mechanism to swap the nose pads or temples is very simple to use, yet secure, but not designed to be change mid-activity!
Oakley is moving towards Prizm lenses in all their sunglasses, following the success of Prizm in goggles. The lenses are designed for different environment such as: Everyday, Sport – Road, Golf, Trail, Deep Water, Snow etc.
However, as I found, although designed for a particular environment they are equally effective outside of that environment. Back to my stroll around a Country Fair and walk in the Peak District; the Prizm Sapphire Snow lenses performed outstandingly without a flake of snow in sight! Obviously I will update this blog once I have experienced them in the snow; but for now, as ever, Oakley have designed another excellent pair of sunglasses….
Now these may just look like normal t-shirts to you, however there is an individual story behind each one, the O’Neill Heritage T-Shirt Collection by Jack O’Neill. Back in the fifties O’Neill started up as a small surf shop. Now it’s thriving more than ever and ready to include you in the journey; inside each t-shirt is the story behind the picture on the front of the t-shirt! Welcome to the world of Jack O’Neill……
O’Neill Heritage T-Shirts
The 1950’s t-shirt features a picture of the Surf Shop which was located behind the fence, indicated by the large piece of driftwood written on by Jack and his surfer friends. This is one of the earliest photographs of the surf shop when it first opened in 1952.
The 60’s t-shirt is made from a collection of photographs from the O’Neill Heritage archive. This particular collage of photos is called ‘First Name in the Water’ and is inspired by the old surf movie posters.
Two years ago, Tim Davies and I started the standard Haute Route (a high Alpine ski tour linking Chamonix and Zermatt) with Andy Cowan who 2 days in had to pull out due to injury. We managed to get as far as the Valsorey Hut where Tim developed appendicitis and had to be air lifted by helicopter and have an emergency operation; which left me on my own and having to ski back down over the glacier and crevasses by myself, which was quite interesting. The following year we did a few routes around the Imperial Haute Route but always planned to come back and have a go at the Imperial Haute Route proper.
Imperial Haute Route (Grand Lui Variation)
So after saying good-bye to the Oakham Lower School ski trip I met up with Tim and started to sort kit, huts, transport, etc. Our weather forecast for the week ahead was good and so two old men set out on a journey from Chamonix to Zermatt via La Fouly. The Integral Haute Route is two days longer than the standard routes, has more high gain and loss, and does not require you to book a taxi so is more of a pure journey.
We knew that the start was going to be a bit of a ‘bun fight’, as we had to do hand to hand combat with the queues at the Grand Montets Cable-Car Station. This is always a bottleneck and means a slow start wedged in with huge crowds. Luckily, the cable-car was running smoothly and after a couple of hours, we found ourselves deposited at the top station ready to go! Avalanche transceivers checked and harnesses on we set off across the Argentiere Glacier towards the Col du Chardonnet (3323m). We travelled quite quickly deand managed to overtake many guided groups, which meant that when we arrived at the Col there were only a few people, and groups in front of us. As there was a fixed rope already in place and we were a small team, Tim managed to persuade the French to allow us to jump the que, which was a great result. Once down we set off for the Trient Hut, but first had a great view of our route for early the next day whilst having a late lunch. Climbing the Fenetre de Saliena (3261m) had us skiing down the Trient Glacier towards our evening stop. The hut is well positioned with great views and is a mix of old and new even if the guardian is a little less than welcoming.
The standard route goes down to Champex where you get a bus or taxi to Bourg St. Pierre, however, we chose to ski over the Grand Lui to La Fouly which would mean we could ski/walk the whole route making it a little more challenging, purer and two day’s longer. We left the Trient and skied some excellent snow with no one else anywhere to be seen. It was great to be in these high mountains and have the place to ourselves. The Col de Saleina (3419m) was easy enough to get over and then followed some more fantastic snow, which started to change as we neared the valley to heavy slush, which made skiing a little more challenging. Scrabbling through some loose rocks and boulders gave access to the final stretch down to La Fouly and the Auberge des Glaciers. I had been through here a few years previously when doing the Tour De Mont Blanc with family and friends and remembered it as being very relaxing. The hotel was great and we had the dormitory to ourselves so we managed to spread out and sort kit. Being in a valley meant that the meal was exceptional in quality and value for money plus we had showers.
Day 3 was going to be quite a hard day but relatively short and would finish at the Plan de Jeu Hut which Tim assured me would be excellent, which it was. Walking along the road, we arrived at some steep verglas slopes with a huge amount of old avalanche debris that had to be picked though and we eventually passed the Lacs de Fenetre and climbed up to the Fenetre de Ferret were we saw our first people. The ski down to the road and on to the Great St Bernard Monastery was on exceptional snow and left both of us smiling from ear to ear as did the excellent coffee and cakes we devoured at the hospice. The Plan de Jeu is brilliant with smiling, happy/welcoming guardians, who love country & western music, great views and sound advice. Certainly worth a stop next year for a bit of day tour action with my wife. I might even try to get over later in the year for their beer festival! The beer, food and company made for a very memorable evening and again no one else was staying so we had the place to ourselves.
Travelling onwards to the Valsorey Hut (3037m) in wall to wall sunshine with 1600 metres of up and a good amount of downhill action was something I was looking forward to as it would take us to our high point of two years previous and mean we were well on our way. Once again the skiing was exceptional and certainly left us wanting more, however, the climb that followed from the valley floor to the hut was seriously hard in the full glare of the sun.
The start of the day was a little on the messy side as I had a bad case of the squits; which is not good when you are climbing steep iced slopes of around 50 degrees with skis strapped to your back. The wind was quite strong which made everything that little more exciting especially going to the toilet! We had no issues route finding and the snow conditions continued to be great. When we arrived at the Chanrion Hut I found that several people had been hit with the same bug, one having to be air-lifted off and others turning back. It is amazing how something so simple as a stomach upset or a broken binding could put an end to an expedition.
The Chanrion Hut was much nicer, the guardian very welcoming and interested in our well-being which was nice. Following a relatively good night’s sleep, we faced another long day with lots of UP! Climbing the Pigne d’Arrolla (3796m) was cold and windy and seemed to go on forever. However, having recovered from my illness and in good weather we climbed the last few metres to the summit to take the obligatory photos before heading down to the Vignettes Hut, which would be our final hut of the trip. Now that all of the various Haute Routes variants had joined, the route was a mass of people and the hut was not much better although still very welcoming.
With the final day looming we got our heads down and in the morning managed to be the first party out of the hut and to the first Col. The weather was forecast to change with much colder weather on its way. The clouds rolled in to make route finding quite challenging at times but this never detracted from the enjoyment of completing this amazing journey across the high Alps. Our final ski descent from the final Col was hard with man-eating moguls made of solid ice spread around big crevasses on steep slopes. The leg in to Zermatt was slow, as the snow had turned to slush so our skis having little in the way of wax on them tended to stick.
All in all this was a great seven-day tour with great company in amazing surroundings with some challenging descents and route finding. We had the mountains to ourselves until the Pigne d’Arolla where we joined the standard route. I would recommend the Integral Haute Route to anyone that wants a challenge. Our final photo’s where taken outside the Monta Rosa Hotel having skied into Zermatt then walked through the narrow streets towards the train station and our train back over the mountains to Chamonix looking forward to a good shower, meal and a few beers to celebrate.
Truly one of the best skis, wherever the mountain takes you, the Rossignol Soul 7HD. Although the Soul 7, with its 106mm waist, suggests its a big mountain ski; it is just as easy to ski on the piste as 85mm underfoot piste ski!
Taking the Soul 7’s away after two seasons out of skiing, and being use to a 85mm underfoot all mountain ski, it was safe to say that, even as a 23 year old confident chap, I thought I might of bitten off more than I can chew.
In my previous years skiing before my short break I would ski all of the mountain comfortably; including the odd hike to find some of the fresh snow in the untouched couloirs of the French/Italian Alps. Wanting to further my backcountry skiing the Rossignol Soul 7HD skis were highly recommended to me.
Rossignol Soul 7 Skis
The first day of my ski holiday came with the perfect conditions, lots of fresh snow, to throw me in the deep end with the new skis; the phrase ‘baptism by fire’ comes to mind. Although we are suggesting ‘fire’, myself and the Soul 7’s were in ‘heaven’. Instantly feeling so comfortable in the powder, strange noises of whoops of enjoyment were a regular occurrence. After each run through the trees or open couloirs I felt like my skiing had improved massively. The acknowledgement from my brother, a better powder skier than me (although I would never tell him), confirmed my thoughts. The family joke of ‘directional charging’ became much more of a reality as we were lapping the off piste sections.
As the week progressed unfortunately no more fresh snow was to come, no fresh powder but perfect corduroy piste with sunny conditions. This would be the real test on the hard pack piste with a 106mm waist. Again the Soul 7’s were unbelievably good. Carving made easy and edge hold with no chatter at all. Safe to say that I was highly impressed by the complete versatility of this ski. Towards the end of the week the snow became more hard pack, with some runs featuring ice patches. The best snow conditions were on the relatively untouched black runs which would prove to be the best test for the skis. The Soul 7’s is as easy to ski in the deep powder, and steep black runs, as it is on those leisurely blues and reds.
Therefore, for the advanced skier who wants to ski everything from deep powder to corduroy piste, with one ski, the Soul 7HD is the ski for you. But also for the more advanced intermediate who wants to get more into the big mountain skiing this is a great ski that makes life easier in all conditions.
Thanks Mark (skiing in January in the French/Italian Alps).
Half to three quarters the way through the ‘off season’, where a lot of skiers have retired from the water for the winter, many of them are itching to return to the sound of spray falling, boats running and wakes lapping the banks. This urge leads them to the question of ‘when should I start my water ski season?’
The official beginning to the British Water-Ski Season is the 1st April, however as we all know, the water temperature and weather at this point in the year isn’t exactly for jumping around in shorts and impact vests! I tend to step into my first set in the middle of March, wrapped in layers and the same thought goes through my mind….’Jeez I can’t feel my feet!’
So how does a skier or water lover stay relatively warm and safe in the early season I hear you ask?! Well there are key ways in which this is possible.
Personally I believe warm-ups are very important, too, especially in colder conditions. I tend to take part in some pulse raising activities followed by some dynamic and static stretches just before I’m about to start my set. This can help prevent injury when on the water and can contribute to staying warm in the early season. One thing is for sure, if your body is uncomfortably cold when skiing, injury is twice as likely to occur.
Take An Easy Set
When stepping onto the water for the first time in the new season, take an easy set! For example if the previous season your personal best was four buoys at 36mph/58kph, you don’t want to be trying to water ski at those speeds straight out the block. Never be afraid to knock the speed down to a more comfortable velocity. This will help you find the rhythm of the course, allowing you spend more time on top of the water rather than in it.
These are just a few examples of how to keep warm and safe in the early season. Whenever you decide to jump into the waters of the United Kingdom, I hope you have a successful and fun-filled water ski season!
They will no doubt explain the benefits of the full wood core, the single titanium laminate, the power zone, and the all terrain rocker – to name a few – and how these XDR skis meet Salomon’s desire to produce a ski that, in resort (or frontside as they like to call it) will handle a variety of snow conditions, such as carving groomed pistes, powering through crud or floating on fresh powder.
What I will say, “there isn’t an emoji with a big enough grin to express how much fun these skis are to ski”! I’m not going to explain the all mountain C/FX Shape; I’m going to say these are the best skis I have ever skied on; they are the skis for me!
So who am I? I’m the average recreational skier, who once a year travels to the mountains (Alps) to ski for six days. I like to ski on piste, and I’m extremely comfortable on red runs. I’m sure that ‘technically’ I could improve, but I’m on holiday, and my main focus is to have fun skiing in the mountains! I’m on the first lift and will ski all-day; so the ease with which I skied these skis, made them all the more delightful – and they look good too!
These skis took me where I wanted to go, on large carving turn, with excellent edge hold; even on the few ‘black’ runs these skis gave me the confidence to attack. The faster I went the more stable and confident I felt. I was having fun, run after run, and thanks to the lightweight construction I could – all day long!
I even ventured off-piste! Well a little area of ‘powder’ between the runs. I was awful, but the skis gave me plenty of float as I manoeuvred myself back to the haven of the neighbouring run. I tried it a few times, and marginally improved, however it only reinforced my love of the groomed ‘corduroy’ pistes – which is where I stayed!
So if reading this you’re thinking, “he sounds a bit like me”; there is a good chance that these Salomon XDR skis are the ones for you. Chad Blanc