Wednesday, 22 April 2015

SCA volunteer coaching conference

First trip doon the road this year to the SCA Volunteer Coach Conference at Glenmore Lodge.
Amazing weather brought out the best in the stunning scenery - beautiful trees, mirror calm loch, snowy mountains, blue skies and sunshine. It was very tempting to just take a walk up the hills, but unfortunately the first evening and following full day were spent indoors...

After attending the swimming pool training on Friday evening I spent Saturday in or around the pool with a group coached by Donald Macpherson of Explore Highland at the rolling clinic and learning how to coach rolling.
I know... I know... but I wanted to revisit how the folks who paddle in short kayaks with big blades approach the process. The idea was that there are foundation skills which you can take on to WW, freestyle or polo, and of course sea kayaks. As usual I learned a lot about the coaching process just by being a participant in a similar activity.  It was good also to take time to reflect in depth on what I do, say, demonstrate and the pace of the day when I am coaching rolling.  The physics remains the same whatever kind of kayak but there are fundamental differences in approach. 
Of course I believe Greenland rolling is a harmonious balance of body, kayak and bouyancy, and a blade that doesn't impede, what more could you want when you roll a sea kayak?

It was nice to catch up with friends too in the process.

Good views and good company!
The famous GL food and afternoon cake was just as good as ever!

On Sunday it was off to Cromarty to do sea leadership skills with Calum McKerral.
It felt counter-intuitive to drive north for an hour knowing I was going to turn round and go back sooth at the end of the day. 

The cliffs around Cromarty are interesting - lots of birds, even a puffin.

There were even a couple of nice short kayak width passages with plenty of headroom on our short journey.

I had challenged myself to stick to the big blades all weekend, and I did - the first time for a good while. Managed fine after a short period of getting accustomed again, but looking forward to using my Greenland paddle after this personal challenge. Quite a few folk asked about my Joe O paddle on the deck - there was a lot of interest, particularly when they actually picked it up and experienced that magical lightness and balance.

We discussed the best way to get through a narrow space - apparently I've been doing it all wrong! 
Ah well... 

A little further along the remains of a WW2 installation complete with bridge made me feel at home. I hadn't realise the navy kept its fleet here before moving up to Scapa Flow.

On the way back the tide had turned and the wind behind us was not enough to aid our paddling efforts against it so we got out of the flow and crossed at a narrower channel. Everyone had different leadership styles - I guess this reflected not just the section of the journey we were leading but also our own experiences of club ethos and group dynamic and being lead ourselves. This was the most valuable part of the day for me - getting some advice about group dynamics and decision making.

All too soon it was time to head back to the Lodge arriving just in time for the evening classroom session. Ooops! I think I'm the Event Safety Officer - how did that happen?!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Still indoors

There are two main seasons here in Orkney. Summer and winter - defined more by day length than temperature. Though wind in Orkney is not restricted to any particular season its been pretty relentless. So far I have not ventured outside to seek immersion, waiting in vain for a day which allows for two criteria to be in place - little or no wind and a some encouraging sunshine. The snow showers and gusting squalls are too bitter to induce me to immerse my head in 7 degree water (that is surface temperature - I am convinced you can knock off a few degrees for the depth my face gets to).

This winter for the first time I have been coaching  Greenland skills specifically by request, which is a first for me here at home. Usually I suggest aspects of the Greenland approach to rolling to troubleshoot or help the development of rolling with a Euro blade, but my new student is keen on all things 'qajaq' and its been fun to supporting someone develop over a period of time significantly longer than a weekend. Since it will be a while before outside temperatures allow for sustained learning its fine to be indoors for a little bit longer...

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Year of the Tuiliq

I have begun my own celebration of the lunar new year by reviving the blog after a winter hiatus!
I have occasionally  borrowed Reed tuiliqs from friends and mentors when I have travelled to the balmy southlands beyond Inverness in summers past. However at the Reed Chillcheater stand in Perth at last October’s Big Paddle Show I had a chat with Chris about fit and cut and now have a tuiliq slightly altered around the face of the hood.
At the moment I am only able to get into the pool with my Tahe Greenland about once a month so I have had to wait patiently to try the new gear. Looking forward to a cooler and lighter experience it was with great anticipation that I took to the water in the new tuiliq.
Aaah that's better...
The lightness and freedom of movement the tuiliq gave was great. Using a neoprene tuiliq principally designed to keep you warm when rolling in freezing conditions outside, means pool sessions can get increasingly hot and heavy. By contrast the Reed tuiliq allowed me to stay cool throughout the whole hour I was rolling. What I hadn’t anticipated was the freedom of movement which the Reed tuiliq gave me. I am sure that without the bulk of the neoprene tuiliq (and without wearing a drysuit underneath), I was able to increase my range of movement slightly, particularly when tucking forward and when bending my arms behind my head. I certainly felt like I was able to fine tune a few positions.

The hood fits well and kept water out of my ears - the adaptation of having the edge of the  hood go further back under the chin certainly gave me a feeling of having no constraints at all around my mouth and jaw. I really like this sense of being able to breathe easily when you have a nose clip on!
I like the idea of having a light tuiliq which I can paddle in, pull the hood up and roll with. This is not possible with the neoprene tuiliq which is too bulky to get a BA with all your kit in over the top, and which is very tiring to paddle any distance in.
I'm looking forward to taking the Reed tuiliq outside…

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Honouring Inuit Day - Inuujunga

After a summer of excellent trips away mostly to coach rolling sooth, the seasonal drawbridge between Orkney and mainland Scotland is closing. Travelling conditions become more unpredictable and daylight is restricted. However, on the bright side, our pool sessions have re-started and we have an hour a week  in warm water to get rolling.

My first pool session of the season was on November 7th - Inuit Day- which felt appropriate. I am keen to respectfully acknowledge that my hobby is borrowed from the heritage of another culture.
ᐅᐱᒋᑦᑎᐊᕐᓗᒍ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᑉᓗᕆᔭᖓᑦ - Upigittiarlugu Inuit Uplurijangat
 At the 2006 ICC General Assembly in Barrow, Alaska, November 7th was proclaimed as Inuit Day to honour the birth date of ICC visionary, Eben Hopson, Sr..  Inuit Day encourages “all Inuit governments, agencies, and communities to annually proclaim this day as Inuit Day, and conduct appropriate ceremonies and celebrations.”

Other folks across the pond have also shared their gratitude in a timely video,
'Qujanaq Greenland' or 'Thank You Greenland'.

...and a 'Thank you!' from me too Greenland.

Monday, 27 October 2014

An Fheis Mhor - Scotland's Festival of Paddlesport

Each year the Scottish Canoe Association organise a weekend of films, talks, workshops and retail stands in Perth. Occurring simultaneously on the Saturday, dozens of people take part in the River Tay Descent in a variety of craft. For the first time this year the show also had a pool organised for folk to come and try paddling, watch canoe polo matches or slalom.
I was pleased to be asked to contribute a demonstration of Greenland rolling to the activities in the pool.

It was great to be able to bring a flavour of the 'roots' of the wider sport to the big show in Perth. Though a bit of a daunting prospect, Rhiannon and I decided that we would make it clear that we are enthusiasts, and not experts, and try our best to be good ambassadors for traditional skills. 

After a practice in the pool on Saturday with a few onlookers from the balcony, I was acclimatised to being indoors again. Thanks to Nick I had a Tahe Greenland kayak exactly like my own to use.
On Sunday our audience was at the poolside with Rhiannon providing the commentary and describing what I was demonstrating.  We made sure to articulate our respect for the cultural origins of our sport, and acknowledge how the Greenland Games is helping to perpetuate this intangible cultural heritage. 

I worked my way through a progression of foundation skills which provide the basis for layback rolls, then demonstrated a few of these rolls starting with the avataq in a balance brace position and ending with hands only. Then I demonstrated a few of the layback rolls finishing off with elbow and brick roll.  We repeated a similar progression for forward finishing rolls, starting with static brace 'face down' and recovering on to the front deck. I deliberately stuck to a range of rolls which I know I can do reasonably well, omitting those which are in my zone of proximal development!

'Mummy! Mummy! She's stuck!'  (heard on the balcony)
In the audience there were a few familiar faces, including Duncan Winning, which added a little to the pressure felt by this demonstrator.

Duncan, inspired by the original kayak brought to Scotland from Greenland by Ken Taylor in 1960, was involved in the designing and building of kayaks that many of our modern sea kayak designs originate from, so it felt like we were part of squaring the circle at this Scottish celebration of paddlesport. Nice to be part of it!