Name: Callum Strong
I don’t know if you guys have heard but I am a Zet UK team Paddler and have a hoody which says so in big letters so people in the bar know I’m the real deal without me having to tell them, although I do anyway. As such I paddle a Zet Raptor, a totally sick creek boat which I was paddling even before they got cool. I suppose I am somewhat of a “trendsetter” so listen up to the rest of my kitlist folks, this will read like a kayaking version of Vogue. I should point out that my Raptor is yellow, the best colour and also the second fastest. The fastest Zets are actually blue ones. I paddled a blue one over the summer whilst on an expedition in Siberia but unfortunately they don’t show up nearly as well in photographs, so yellow is the colour to go for.
Hammertime! Location: Poldubh Falls, River Nevis. Photo: Nick Bennett
I also have a big black Pyranha Creek 280 which I love, its so fast! I have just melted 6cm of its length so it is race legal for MRR 2013!
Location: Grandtully. Photo: Denis Hellebuyck
Another favourite boat in my quiver is reserved exclusively for the Falls of Lora, the brilliant Eskimo Nano. This wave shredding machine, while an antique in some eyes, is a boat that can get you more wave time than any other and make you look even cooler whilst doing it. After a 45 minute surf on the forever wave everyone else on the water is jealous (pissed off), or would be except they will have got changed and gone home by then as their boats are too short to catch anything.
Location: Forever wave, Falls of lora. Photo: Nathan Butler
I don’t actually own a buoyancy aid of my own. Most of the time I use my favourite club one, a 90’s females HF slalom BA in fetching pink (see above). So small and super lightweight it allows extreme freedom of movement, when padding you hardly even notice it! Essentially two sponges held together with strips of neoprene and mesh I doubt you would notice it when swimming either. When shits about to get real I whip out the big gun: a Palm Symbiant with a safety harness and handy pocket for dealing with shit when shit goes down (borrowed from the club).
I own three paddles.
A broken set of 200cm Werner Powerhouses, a broken set of 200cm Nix Slalom paddles, snapped 2 weeks after my Werners and on their first river, and a badly delaminated and waterlogged set of 197cm AT Eddys.
Most of the time I just borrow someone else’s paddle as I cant currently afford another one.
What other deck but an IR lucky charm? I will tell you: Anything I can beg, borrow or steal of anyone as my Lucky Charm has a hole in it that I can put both my hands through after a rocky upsidedown moment. Mostly I just use crappy club decks although recently this came to haunt me when I popped my deck during the Universities Creek Race and lost lots of precious seconds knocking me down the rankings after racing half full of water…
My favourite and longest serving piece of kayak gear, I use my mum’s old Helly Hansen sailing longjohns from the late 70’s. Still going (and smelling) strong!
I apply the same philosophy to shoes as I do socks and underwear: wear them till they fall apart, then, when its time to get a new pair, retire them to use for kayaking. My old Merrell trainers get put to good use on the river, despite one missing a sole and held together with bright orange duct tape (for extra style).
A red Sweet Wanderer, one of my toughest bits of kit, I have only managed to break one so far! I split it in 4 places and still managed to flog it for £30. The sign of a great helmet!
Location: Triple step, River Etive. Photo: Nick Bennett
I use the undisputed king of drysuits: The Kokatat Meridian Goretex suit. Lightweight comfy and breathes superbly (through badly decayed wristseals, missing neckseal and multiple holes in elbows and feet)
My most important bit of kit on the river?
A dirty moustache. And please folks, don’t knock it till you have tried it! The confidence a proud and hairy upper lip instills makes you go faster, get more girls and gives you the power to style more lines.
I subsequently beat this guy, a clear demonstation of Mo-power!