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Paddling the Blue Danube to the Aire's Dark Arches

It all kicked off on a drunken danceflooor at the opening of Leeds legends Duke Studios new creative workspace. At this point, Gather was but a registered domain name and a twinkle in founder Tim's eye. But following a little lubrication he opened up about plans for a business selling Californian folding kayaks.
“Awesome! I havent paddled for years, but if you do it, can I make a film in one.”
And so began Gather Outdoors first Artist's Residency. The idea of offering artists equipment, and sharing the creativity it inspired, had always been part of the Gather plan. So many people nourish their creativity outdoors that the connection between outdoors and creative inspiration was obvious. Plus it's a great way to help Gather distinguish itself from the majority of UK outdoor brands with their desktop published logos and sensible nylon anoraks.
The Artist in question is Zsolt Sandor, filmmaker and founder of creative video production agency Mothership UK. We caught up about his time behind the paddle.
Had you done a lot of kayaking?
I grew up in Budapest, Hungary, which was still Communist at the time. My dad was a conductor at the Hungarian State Opera House, which like most employers had leisure facilities for employees. So myself and my sister took regular kayak lessons at the Opera’s boathouse on the river Danube on the outskirts of Budapest. Later, when I was about 15 we moved to Canada, to Vancouver Island, where Kayaking can be an everyday leisure activity. Not that I did much of it, until I was much older.
Wow. So how did kayaking in Leeds compare?
It’s a lot quieter! I took the Oru Kayak out on the River Aire, which our apartment overlooks. I only saw one or two other boats. Back on the Danube there would be massive freighters going up and down. Whenever one went past we always thought “Right, here we go!” Quite often the waves would flip the kayak.
Had you been on the river before?
Only on the Leeds Dock Water Taxi. I've not done any paddling since moving to the UK. It was great to get out on the water. You get such a different perspective from the kayak. My girlfriend Jayne and I often run along the canal and the river, but it’s totally different to actually be on the water. It’s so peaceful and there's a real sense of solitude. It’s pretty special to find that in a city, and in places I've visited many times before.
How did you find the kayak?
It was great! It took a bit of getting used to putting it up. This was made more difficult because it always gathered a crowd of people keen to see what was happening. At first I thought it was a bit unstable when I got in the water, but once I realised I'd not got the foot rest close enough to brance my knees properly against the hull it was fine. I took it out for a nice long paddle down to Thwaite Mills, which is a couple of miles downstream from where we live. My only concern was not getting too close to the swans that accompanied me part they way. They can get really territorial, and there I was in a giant white threat, so I wasn’t taking any chances.
Did you use it much?
To be honest, I didn’t get out in it as much as I had hoped. But it packed away tidy enough. Even in our little apartment, which has no storage space, it was fine.
Did you share it with anyone?
Yes. My friend Dalia really wanted to have a go, so I took her down to Leeds Dock for a paddle there. She loved it.
Tell us about the film you made.
I shot a load of GoPro footage during the day, which was really cool. But the thing that had always interested me about the kayak was how it glowed at night when you lit it from the inside. Is it translucent polycarbonate? Anyway, I thought this was a great feature, so wanted to work that into a film. So I kitted the kayak out with LED film lights on the inside and an LED light strap all the way along both sides of the paddle. I'm going for a B-movie style cosmic attack kayak theme. Who knows when I’ll have time to actually get the edit done, but really looking forward to it.
Stay tuned for that folks!
Big thanks to Zsolt for taking inspiration from the kayak, we look forward to the fruits of his labours.
His experience validates the reasons we love Oru Kayaks. They give folk a great reason to get outdoors, and offer a unique experience even in city centres. The outdoors is everywhere, not just in the wilds.
These kayaks are also great for sharing, because unless you are a super keen paddler, there is bound to be downtime and they pack away for easy storage or transport.
We love that he learnt courtesy of his Dad's employers. So many people are stuck behind their desk at work, needing a break and some exercise. What could be better than a meditative paddle? Sharing a kayak with your co-workers should totally be a thing. Which is why in the new year, we'll be lending one to Duke Studios and their residents, to see what they get up to sharing one.
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