Friday, 21 March 2014

Getting there...

Getting ready for the year ahead involves a lot of reviewing of resources, including time... Living up here on a peripheral archipelago means every trip planned takes extra time, and money, and is even more weather dependent.
Once upon a time Orkney was the centre of things - a kind of hub in the sea road...

Olaus Magnus' Carta Marina 1539
Now a different Magnus helps us get across the Pentland Firth ...

Magnus 'the Viking' - the new Hamnavoe livery.
Gear and equipment for trips needs to be checked over too after a winter in the store. This year it was time to splash out a bit on some new Lomo boots. Mary, I am finally stepping out of your second hand boots (one of which, presumed lost, lived in a creel for a winter until found the following summer)!
Knowledge of First Aid needs refreshing and reviewing.
Thank you George Fell.
First Aid Kit before ................and after George's course.

Getting kayaks down the road also has its issues that need to be resolved. The van is a great mobile home, but its a bit high for me to wrangle boats on to safely. So this winter the day finally came for the Karitek kayak carrier to be fitted.
With a bit of modification here and there I think I've got it sorted.

 I'm getting there...

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Kayak yoga

This winter in the pool I have been helping a couple of folk play with floating and sinking. Its a great feeling when you can confidently turn your kayak over on yourself and then come gently back up to the surface, and it helps to build in the idea that the water is your friend and will support you if you let it. It is no coincidence that the most successful first attempts at this are by people who are already supple and flexible and perhaps do yoga.
On nights where it is my turn, I work through my rolling list a bit like a yoga sequence - first one side then the other - paying attention to correct posture, and of course breathing at appropriate points... 

It doesn't always go smoothly. One week a particular roll is simple enough to do. The next week it can be troublesome.

A lot of the time there is an underwater 'cat' lurking at the end of the pool, just thinking it through...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Forward finish Friday

This week everyone returned to try out forward finish rolls. We don't have a lot of time so our sessions are really an introduction to the fundamentals, with hopefully enough drills to take away and practice. It was invaluable to be able to look at Cheri's and Turner's DVD 'This is The Roll'  - which explains how to use a Euro blade to build up the reverse sweep and the storm roll - before getting kayaks into the pool. I don't have enough Greenland paddles to share out or loan to folk who want to try them and most folk want to try to use their Euro blade, at least to begin with. However, it does seem that sometimes it can be easier to learn something new and different about rolling with an unfamilar paddle in your hands - its as if having your Euro paddle makes it hard to undo a learned response and muscle memory when it comes to being upside down.

Cheri and Turner demonstrate and explain forward finish on land at Loch Eck.

After last week's session we were able to revisit the basics of body position and have a go at recovering with the avataq or paddle float on to the front deck and had a go at a pry using a Euro blade, then a continuous storm roll was the drill everyone wanted to try. With just enough time to get orientated underwater we never got round to the full storm roll.
Doing something different is good fun though.

The outcome of these two sessions has been very positive. The Euro roll and the Greenland roll have been compared and discussed a lot.  It  was observed that Greenland style rolling is more to do with taking your time underwater, being well-orientated and using the support of the water in contrast to getting round, out and up asap, though a storm roll can be surprisingly quick and effective.

I hope everything we have done continues to help folk have fun playing with rolling whatever blade we end up using, and wherever we end up using it. We were using big blades in flat water so here is the very opposite for a bit of inspiration - James Manke tackling whitewater with a GP on his trip down the Grand Canyon.

James Manke... Grand Canyon... Sea Kayak... Greenland Paddle... Worked! from Kayaka on Vimeo.

Saturday, 11 January 2014


Mentoring experienced paddlers and coaches is a great opportunity to share some of the skills and drills that help us, and the paddlers we coach, understand how important body position is in any type of roll, Euro or Greenland. I realise that everytime I do this I understand better the differences between the two types of roll. This time I've thought a lot about how paddle design, how and where it is gripped, where the blade travels, feather and so on can influence body position.

From the outset the avataq has been invaluable. It has really allowed folk to good feel for how body position and edging the kayak relate as you open out  from 'cat' to 'cow' in the standard Greenland roll.

With some more pool time, the avataq would be great for playing around with this movement without a paddle, gradually working towards using body movement alone for recovery. 
An avataq is not a piece of equipment that you really need, it can 'sort of' be substituted for with a paddle float or inflated wine bags in a net bag, but it is nice to be able to use and share an understanding of another authentic piece of equipment.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Karma monster

A few folk have seen me rolling the Tahe Greenland in the pool and nicknamed it ‘The Karma Monster’ because of the yoga-like practice I use it for, and because its design is derived from a stealthy hunting qajaq.

revolved triangle with legs together - 'right angled triangle'?
Since Greenland skills have been getting a little more exposure in the media, I have felt slightly less odd and eccentric in my paddling preferences. It has also meant that a few folk are keen to find out more about it, which is great. Living in a peripheral island community means events and symposiums are less accessible, so there is more of an imperative to pass on skills we bring home with us.
This autumn and winter in the pool more paddlers have been asking me about Greenland rolling. What is it? How is it different from a Euro roll?  And, how it can help them with their own roll? Pretty much everybody wants to learn to roll no matter what age and stage they are at.

black lines perpendicular

black line parallel

It is great to be able to help with the learning process. Some paddlers are returning to paddling, some are coming from another discipline to sea kayaking, some have had a solid roll in the past, and some folk are self-taught and ready for some feedback.

Even if paddlers have no ambitions to learn Greenland rolling there is a lot that the process of practising skills and drills can teach us all about all of our rolls, capsizes, paddles and beyond. If you find you are apt to get uptight and frustrated at not being able to do something immediately, the process might mean only starting to make progress when you relax mind and body. If you feel your roll has to be fast and furious to work well, then trying Greenland rolling might mean seeing if it works when you slow it all down.
 I’m looking forward to January and getting back into the pool after the holiday hiatus and starting a few structured sessions. You never know, someone else might decide to join me over here on the dark side.