Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kayak Ways Intensive 2014

Setting off for the ferry sooth I got incorporated into the Commonwealth Games baton proceedings, as it headed to the same boat. Much later I was free of the various and many vehicles of the baton 'crew' and police escort which had accompanied me across the Firth and throughout the north of Scotland. The temperature warmed up significantly and I went through the ritual of stopping at Inverness to cast my Orkney summer layers. Much, much later I arrived in leafy Argyll and met up with lovely organisers and hosts, Pam and Alan Forsyth and Julia Darby, and our amazing mentors Cheri and Turner.

Both days were held at Ardentinny, where the customary cluster of kayak carrying cars conglomerated. The weekend's sessions were all about rolling for me and it was great to work through the fundamentals for all rolls and forward finishing rolls in particular. 

Rhiannon focuses on her hip.

Land drills are extra helpful in putting together the movements which go on inside the kayak with the timings of what you can see happening above the deck.

Cheri demonstrates finishing forward - flat shoulders/face down.
Cheri and Turner demonstrated  and talked throughthe importance of body position and the timing of the movements we had practised in relation to each other.

The principles of aft finishing rolls.

Then it was my turn to get some feedback on the homework I have been doing since last time... A year is a long time! Plenty of time to consolidate new skills but also unfortunately when you are practising alone, its  plenty of time to develop bad habits. In a short time Cheri had worked out why I was finding some things sticky or difficult, erratic or inconsistent and got me practising specific sequences to sort it all out! What a difference. Its the magic of Greenland rolling - when you do it properly it feels effortless.

my turn!
Rhiannon's reverse sweep.
Needless to say there was an awful lot to remember after one day of rolling. As usual I felt like I would not be able to remember it all... but after sleeping on the new learning day 2 dawned sunny and positive and we revisited my 'homework' sequence with a great drill, flipping from sculling for support palm up, to chest sculling moving the kayak and your body lower and higher. This movement doesn't mean a lot if like me you are used to just floating face down and mostly prying to finish forward, but once I got the hang of it I knew it would become part of my regular practice routine.

Class in session.
This photo of Alan's kind of sums up the weekend!

photo: Alan Forsyth

A brilliant learning experience shared with old and new tuiliq wearing friends.
Its hard to sum up the significance of the Kayak Ways Intensive experience but if you get the opportunity to find out for yourself - take it!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A quick session at Scapa

This week I am preparing to set off sooth to meet up with some of the lovely people I have met through paddling ‘traditional style’ at the Kayak Ways sessions at Loch Eck in Argyll. These trips away are about much more than learning new things - catching up with the group of friends I have made through Greenland paddling is one of the high points of the year.

As usual and as far as I know, I am the only person who currently paddles and rolls with a stick, or ‘stick-person’, here in Orkney though I am ever hopeful that someone may join me… The closest kindred ‘stick- people’ are in Shetland (maybe time to have an Orkney and Shetland Traditional Paddlers’ event?).

With my new Canadian paddles from Joe O Blenis, Orkney Greenland Kayaking Club went out to Scapa for a quick practice session in the company of regular OGKC attendees - the dunters (eider ducks) and the occasional selkie (seal). Although our capsize and recovery methods are different we all have to come up for air - some of us sooner than others.

Life and weather dictate how much I prepare before heading off each year. I feel I should advance my skills as much as possible so that I don’t go over old ground with Cheri and Turner, but instead learn new things and take home ‘fresh’ homework.  The reality is though that I often do my best rolling at the beginning of a session after a break from practising for a while, and when I’m not taking it too seriously…

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Thunder Bay to South Ronaldsay

An early start on the morning after the solstice, from Sandwick in South Ronaldsay to Saint Margaret's Hope.  

with my fabulous new paddle from Joe O Blenis!

 Not only beautiful to look at but exactly the measurements to fit me and very satisfying to paddle with.
looking sooth towards the Pentland Firth

incredible sandstone rock striations
 Reassuringly we passed plenty of nesting seabirds around Harrabrough Head,
approaching the Altar
and felt the tide gently but effectively draw us north as we left the Altar.
from inside the Altar.
 Across Widewall Bay and past Hoxa Head.
we eventually arrived in Cromarty Square in The Hope.


The first 15 km of many with my new stick.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Home Ground

Back in Orkney the sun shone and the wind abated long enough to explore some caves and tunnels at Rerwick. While it rained a couple of miles away and thundered in Birsay in the north west, we were far enough out east to stay in the sunshine all afternoon. In sheltered spots the sea was glassy and very clear. Clear enough to see top shells grazing on the kelp.

The rock strata picked out by erosion provided ledges for scarfies who launched themselves with inelegant gusto as we approached. Steep sided geos and deep fissures punctuate the the rock face. Its easy to miss the arches and tunnels unless you are paddling close into the cliff.

A slight swell on a smooth sea broke on rocks and skerries providing rockhopping opportunities.

The cliffs face east so it is usually a place of dark and gloomy stone walls topped by a WW2 battery of  searchlight foundations, gun emplacements, battery observation tower, magazine building, engine room and the remains of accommodation and dug outs...

and the occasional otter....

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Scottish Women's Paddle Symposium 2014

This year I attended the SWPS at Findhorn for the first time and coached a couple of rolling sessions over the two days. Although I didn't spot another paddler dressed in a tuiliq or sporting an avataq there were a couple of skinny stick users in the sea kayaking crowd and plenty of interest in trying a different approach to rolling.

The weather was glorious (reminder to self - apply suncream after rolling demo), the location for the rolling sessions at Hopeman harbour was perfect - an outdoor swimming pool sheltered on all sides and with a nice sandy bottom.

To start with we had a think about body movement and flexibility and then went on to compare kayaks and paddles. Thanks to Pam and Alan Forsyth I was able to show a range of paddle designs and materials. I also got to try out the new Gearlab paddle which one of the participants was using - interesting! However as usual my faithful roll friendly paddle is my Joe O' stick, which is perfect for sharing with others too.


It was very rewarding  supporting individual progress from static brace through to butterfly roll and beyond - hopefully the sessions allowed folk to get to grips with the foundation skills and the confidence to go away and practice, knowing a few reasons why certain things work well.

The weekend trip allowed also me to get van season underway, and get on the road on my own again. Once past Dunbeath and Berriedale Braes (graveyard of Orkney vehicles with any kind of lurking clutch problem) it was all good. It was interesting to hear what other women had to say about the various van sizes and their driveability', kayak carrying capacity and living space. Reassuringly quite a few folk had issues with reaching the carriers to secure them - another 'not just me then' moment. Unsurprisingly the weekend was punctuated by people saying things relating to strength or stature which I had already thought of more than once myself!

A women only event is a great way of meeting other women paddlers and coaches and supporting each other's personal development. It is reassuring to hear other folk have had similar experiences and issues in their paddling careers, quite often having shared preferences in learning styles. It also creates opportunities for meeting up with other paddlers later, and sharing future events like

Thanks to the organising committee, and Tania for the photos and helping coach on the second day.
Looking forward to next time!