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!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Rolling in Rainbows

Back to Bute for a weekend coaching Greenland rolling skills in the first couple of days in October.
Alan Forsyth started things off on Saturday morning by describing the materials and qualities of a Greenland paddle before getting on the water to demonstrate the canted stroke.
Practising the movements on shore.
Alan demonstrates.
With plenty of Joe O Blenis's paddles to try out, and one of Alan's own too, everyone got a chance to try a stick. Starting out with a GP can sometimes be a bit disconcerting, but after 'listening' to the paddle, feeling when it fluttered, and becoming aware of just how much work the control hand does, even the hail could not persuade people to come ashore.

Hail showers provided an authentically icy context for learning  .
 Next I demonstrated the foundation skills for layback rolls with Alan describing the body movements.

Then it was time for a warm up and a break.

Kayaks abandoned during a cake break.
 After stretches and land drills we got into pairs and tried out the floaty stuff with and without added buoyancy. For the rest of the day everyone worked on using body movement and feeling the support that the water gives in a balance brace position. Add a tuck and capsize, and you have a butterfly roll. Extend the paddle and establish a pivot hand and you have a Greenland roll.
 On the second day Julia Darby came to help with rolling.

And demonstrated body movement...

with grace and style!

 Nick swapped his Anas Acuta for Julia's comfy 'pipeless' Isel and just didn't stop rolling...
 This last photo kind of sums up what its all about.
Well done folks. I hope everyone continues the learning journey - enjoy!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Womens Scottish Sea Kayaking Festival 2014

The third Women’s Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium was held this August in Bute at Ettrick Bay – right beside the Tea Rooms which cater for the event and are famous for kayaker appropriate portion sizes and amazing cakes.
Setting off for the 600+ mile journey in the van I decided to take the scenic route through the Highlands, pausing at Glencoe to take in the moody atmosphere.
I set up camp  – one of an impressive turnout of camper vans – along the shore road with Arran providing a picturesque view from the van door for a couple of gloriously sunny days.  Summer, which had vanished from Orkney at the beginning of August, had moved to Argyll and Bute!
The view from the van - Arran from Ettrick Bay, Bute.

After the obligatory brew and nosey around other folks’ van outfitting, it was time to have a van meal and a yarn before the event proper began. As usual Roddy had assembled an attractive fleet of Tiderace kayaks and a quiver of  Joe O’s beautiful laminatedpaddles.
'What would you like to do today?' and a bit of a stretch..
Photo Rhiannon George
The first day’s workshop was on the east coast at the little bay at Kerrycroy. Not strictly Greenland but rather entitled ‘Love the Wet Stuff’, we managed to fit in quite a few balancing (‘kiss your kayak’) activities and getting in and out of your kayak, low brace support and turning strokes. Gradually getting wetter as the morning went on. Boy did sitting in the cockpit feel solid and secure after all that paddling and balancing out of it…!

Tracy tries out A Joe O paddle and, guess what?, ends up paddling the next day with one of her own.
Photo - Rhiannon George.
The afternoon was more about how the water can support your body and your boat ( rather than your blade and the boat as we had been doing in the morning) - floaty stuff being encouraged.  Paddles by this time had been adjusted to zero feather and folk were ready to give static or ‘balance’ bracing a go. The emphasis was then clearly on thinking of the water as a friend and to embrace, not resist immersion…
Stretch, balance and float.

After an excellent meal on Saturday night,  day two followed a similar pattern – both groups had mentioned similar things they wanted to try in the morning – but in the afternoon Rhiannon helped support learning of Greenland body position for butterfly roll and standard Greenland Roll. Some good rolling was starting to develop  before the afternoon was out.
Progressive degrees of immersion throughout the day.

Then it was time for me and Rhiannon to get a little practice while we had each other to discuss issues with – but we were getting tired so, aware of wanting to finish (usually forward) well we quit before things started to deteriorate. The beach had been busy with families and dogs and kites and picnics and sand-castles all day! I am not used to such a bustling background to practice against.
The Festival was a good chance to share Joe O's paddles.

After Sunday’s evening meal Justine gave her slideshow andtalk. Fresh from Alaska it was odd to see her in real life after following the 101 day adventure with Sarah Outen online. The whole Aleutian adventure is just amazing – I am full of admiration and a little bit envious.
Good cakes and great craic - lots of laughter.

It was great to see old paddling pals and make a few new ones and, if not  spead the Green virus a little bit more, then maybe show how your relationship with the water can change by relaxing and altering body position, maximising flexibility and range of movement, adjusting buoyancy and … just taking time to float about a bit.
Sarah's gets soggy...

Thanks to Sarah McIlroy for the photos of Sundays shenanigans - most of the photos of the sessions on this post are hers. You can see more of her excellent photos and read about her adventures over at her blog 'Sarah's Soggy Scenarios',  thanks also to everyone who threw themselves into the ‘wet stuff’’...
 and thanks Roddy, Alice and Laura for organising.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Out from Achnahaird

 A few more pictures of the last day in the North West Highlands.
It got so hot we called it a day early.
At Garvie Bay.

Leaving Garvie Bay - perfect location for rolling...
Mountain backdrop.

Mobbed by a pair of aggressive oystercatchers.

Loch Garvie

cooling off

Journey's end
What a great paddle!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Summer Isles sunshine.

Towards Tanera Mor
 We set off for Tanera Mor and Tanera Beg on an amazingly glassy sea.
on the way out... Tanera Mor behind me.

Approaching the Post Office
Arriving at the Post Office we sent the obligatory post card with the unique Summer Isles stamp before escaping the crowd disembarking from the Summer Queen. Passing the 5 enormous salmon cages as quickly as possible, we set off round Tanera Mor in a clockwise direction and landed on a pebbly beach for lunch.

We know kayakers stop here as we found a copy of the Pesda Press Scottish Sea Kayaking book submerged in the shallows.
Perhaps someone looking for directions to the famous arch on Tanera Beg.

 At Tanera Beg we posed for the obligatory 'arch photo'. There was a charming symmetrical quality about this arch which made it seem as if it had been built for a film set.
After a quick chat with a German family out paddling in their kayaks we moved on at a leisurely pace through the series of small islets that lie between the two larger islands.
'they're behind you...'

We spend a while letting the local youths play a game of 'chicken' with us.
Some of them got pretty close...

Returning to Achiltibuie with Stac Pollaidh and Ben More Coigach in the distance.
 Once out of the islands we were again aware of the mountains, dramatically dominating the landscape.
Back at Badentarbet
A very relaxing paddle - soaking up the scenery.