Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Normally I edit out the tantrums and add music for fun. This time there is a hint of frustration left in and the music is essential to mask the hysterical laughter at my bendy 'invisible paddle'. Luckily Santa brought me a new more robust invisible paddle to practice with when the pool opens for kayaking business again in January. Typically it was the first thing I did when I got in and it worked OK but after  I had picked up the real paddle I lost the way of it.

The music is by some talented young Orkney folk Broken Strings who have won a prestigious prize for their music already. They played at our Paddle Orkney Symposium and everyone was impressed at how accomplished they were. They have their first album out called Halda. Check out their Facebook band page and find them on itunes and amazon uk. The track I chose is called 'The Duggid Yowe' (the stubborn or determined female sheep) for obvious (non-sheep related!) reasons.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Paddling with spoons and playing with sticks

In an attempt to create cards which follow up from coached skills we have been working on in the pool with beginners, I found myself referring to Christopher Crowhurst's Rolling with Sticks for inspiration.
The idea was to support folk to go practice the strokes in their own time, and seek out one to one guidance on the particular areas they wanted to work on while being a bit more independent. The advantage being that it is the same langauge and same points emphasised as in the original coached sessions with us.

My 'paddling with spoons' cards.

I ended up really wanting to have a simple illustration to go with the instructions so I invented my own prototype paddler. It made me think very hard about how many things we were asking folk to do at once and forced me to describe it in clear language.

Meanwhile back in a sea boat session in the pool, I was playing around with a vertical paddle. Could I hold the paddle vertical in a static brace? Its really hard to know when the paddle is vertical, though I think I did manage it. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, the photographer did not know what I was aiming for so random photos of a waggling paddle were taken.

I later realised that other folk set the end of the paddle in the water. That would have been easier!

Happy with storm and reverse sweep I turned upside down with norsaq in hand to attempt a forward finish norsaq roll, experienced extreme disorientation and mental confusion, and returned to the surface none the wiser!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Why do you roll?

I wanted to have a go at this web based animation software, so I used the first topic that came to mind. Not too far removed from some conversations I have had from time to time.


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

It must be Tuesday...

For a short period of time I am coaching three times a week.
Once on Sunday and twice on Tuesdays.
Each session is very different.

The Sunday session is an adult group of beginners and improvers who are building up knowledge of fundamentals and foundation skills. Every time I do this I remember just how much there is to think about when you are starting out. Hopefully folk in this group will want to get into sea boats next Spring and get these skills working for them outdoors. 

On Tuesdays I coach an after school junior group of beginners, the goal here is to build up a bit of knowledge and safe practice, and a feel for paddling with lots of fun and games.

On Tuesday evenings I contribute to coaching adults who are mostly determined to learn to roll and have high expectations of themselves!

Amy sets up for success.
Since beginning my own endless pursuit of Greenland rolls I feel better equipped to help with this. I really enjoy helping folk get their first few rolls. Its a great sense of achievement for us all, and recently a group of new paddlers have made fantastic progress. Thinking back at how long it took me to learn - I am continually impressed.

Ivan analyses.

Well done everyone!

For some the rolling journey will soon be pretty well complete - for others... 
 how all consuming it might become!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Winter sunshine

Unseasonably pleasant weather. Short day. Trip or rolling practice? I chose to go roll fearful that there would not be enough time or daylight at the end of a trip to do what I feel I need to. 
 I must be addicted.

A huge plus point was Thorfinn was able to come and help with forward finish rolls. Still I am working away on reverse sweep and storm roll. Quite often practising rolling feels like maintenance of what has been achieved, checking its still there and it works. Its an attitude or frame of mind I tend to adopt in winter. Cold water, chilling winds, frozen face and hands = limited learning. Today, however, I felt like I made some progress, hard to describe why, but gradually these two rolls are feeling more and more solid and reliable. I am sure the brief sunshine helped.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pool versus sea

Pool is warm.

The pool is expensive.

I only get an hour at a time - just enough time to get to the stage of making progress - then I have to stop.

I don't have to wear endless layers of restricting warm gear.

It provides less buoyancy.

It's not the sea.

The sea is cold.

The sea is free.

I only manage to practice for about an hour before I get so cold I can't concentrate
(and yes! I can get my hood over the top of my tuilik).

I have to wear layers of movement restricting gear.

It provides lots of buoyancy.

It's the sea.

Either way an hour is about all I can afford.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

1 and 2 star assessment

Last weekend was the first assessment our cohort of coaches delivered. Most of the participants had been coached by us this season so it was great to be able to finally offer the assessment ourselves.
At the marina.
 The breadth of the award is challenging, particularly in our windswept islands where it can be hard to find calm and sheltered places to paddle a canoe, so it is a real achievement to build up skills with a single blade.

Stern rudder - how close can you go?
This is how you do it.

Yes, I think that worked well!

and... return to the bank.
As night fell (4.30pm) we completed a long but enjoyable day.
Well done everyone!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Rolling with Sticks

I now have a copy of Christopher Crowhurst's 'Rolling with Sticks' which works well both in sea water and pool water. The problem with learning new rolls is a DVD and laptop have to stay dry, whereas 'Rolling with Sticks' can come with you.

Saturday - Sticks at Scapa
 The combination of illustration and concise text is enough to help recall a video sequence and the main points to attend to. The presentation is clear and easy to follow.
I recommend using it in conjunction with video clips, such as Christopher's own Qajaq Rolls
Pam over at 'Kayak across the Water' has reviewed 'Rolling with Sticks' in her usual eloquent and entertaining style  here.

Sunday - steamy Sticks at the Pool
 The book makes it tempting to try a series of new rolls one after the other!

Hot work.
Having started out with hand rolls, then a norsaq and after that a paddle, I often find that the paddle just gets in the way. The rolls that finish on the back deck are do-able if the paddle is held in front of you, but, if there is any behind the back or neck paddle placement I find it extremely difficult to finish. Similarly forward finish rolls like the reverse sweep roll and the storm roll remind me of learning to roll all over again. I feel like I'll have to do thousands before they are reliable. If they are all I do for a session of about an hour or so, by the end I am pleased with them. If a week goes by before I have practiced them again the success rate is unpredictable. 

As for the forward/forward norsaq roll, I have left that for another day, hopefully one spent with a mentor.
Until there is a projector and giant screen at the pool with a web-cam/video-conferencing link with an expert, I will be using all the help I can get!
(Come to think of it, that's not such a bad idea...)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Falls of Firth

A short bit of film at The Ouse. We don't have any rivers here so it is a novelty to get on a bit of accessible moving water. Good practice for meeting the flow at skerries and holms. I was surprised at how fast it was. I was unable to paddle out (and up and over) the flow under the bridge at all. Ha! no big deal I hear you say, but Mr M struggled too until it was nearly high water.

(If Mr M doesn't start taking useful photos soon I'm going to have to re-name this blog.)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Mr M learns to roll

Mr M proves that an old rocker can learn to roll.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

End of season treat

 Our last outdoor evening coached session was completed in the dark as a gale was building.
Once we were changed there was a lovely surprise cake made by Nicola.
Thanks Nicola!
and thanks to everyone who came along through the year and helped Mary, Peter, Kristian and me achieve our Level 2 in July.
more cake anyone?
We have had a few indoor sessions already as folks get ready to roll and warmed up for the forthcoming canoe polo season.

upside down indoors

Mr Mackayak has decided he is learning to roll too. Lucky for him his partner is a rolling nut who has thought through all the approaches to learning to roll and is happy to spend hours and hours and hours thinking, talking, practising, discussing, deconstructing and reconstructing rolls.
Unfortunately I have no pockets or places to attach my camera to on my tuilik so I have no photos of  progress so far, but its going great!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sea Shepherd

Wednesday nights are for coaching, but I try to get on the water earlier than the group meets to get some rolling in, so, I was floating around at Scapa when I noticed Phyllis racing down to the pier and a well known local kayaker jumped out and rushed down the slip, shouting, 'Steve Irwin is here!!!! Lets get to Hatston!'

carry on coaching...
 Off we went to the 'Dark Side' and launched from the slippery slip, the coaching session being designed to get us up close to the MY Steve Irwin - the flagship of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Just back from the Faroes and on her way to London the ship was anchored in Kirkwall Bay.

2 blue boats
 I had a chat with a couple of crew about their experiences in the Faroes: Operation Ferocious Isles.

chatting not coaching...

 I did not know while we were visiting the ship that the sea Shepherd conservation Society owned its very own island here, not far from where they were anchored, at Green Holm. The association between the organisation gives the island another layer of interest having created its own mini seal sanctuary back in 1985.  The only time I have been there involved a few alarming moments paddling hard and getting no where while ferry gliding on what seemed like an enormous river... so it was reassuring to read their observation of 'white water rapids'! Read about their Orkney visit here.

 After all the excitement we carried on kayaking and finished our coaching session under the pier at Hatston before touring the basin in the dark. Head torches on, it felt cold. I had now been on the water for more or less 5 hours and not paddling very hard for most of it, it felt like winter.

Kirkwall basin
We might manage a couple more evening sessions of the weather holds - I'll be wearing my gloves!

All photos by Mary Saunders aka Northern Kayaker.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A little bit of Burray

A beautiful day and a paddle round the east coast of Burray from the 4th to the 3rd barrier.
blue sky

Burrayness lunch spot with Roseness and Copinsay on the horizon.
Hundreds of geese made a noisy fly past.
Seals at Bu Sands

I had the closest encounter yet with a seal.
Junior was very brave and came within a couple of metres of the boat before splashing and swimming underneath. 
Paintballers' playground.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Storm roll

This footage is from a couple of weeks ago and is at about the stage where I am starting to feel its solid enough on one side to start building up the other side. If I fail on the other side I can always go back to the side I started on and analyse what works. I find if I start a new set of rolls on both sides its more problematic to build up a muscle memory.

Since then I have taken these rolls out into F4 and a following sea and I am quite happy with how they work (apart from a couple of unexpected mouthfuls of briny water). 

I am nearly at the stage of making a list of the rolls and tackling them in an organised fashion. I really enjoy getting a new roll, but its a bit of a solitary business up here, so any feedback is most welcome.
Unfortunately I seem to be unable to comment in reply to those left on posts here on blogger so I am posting in FB too, it has been great to get involved in conversations about GP rolling and watching everyone develop or finesse their rolls.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Copinsay and The Horse

A trip to Copinsay with Kate and Mary.
After checking my tidal planning and estimating how long it might take to make the crossing we set off, only to be greeted by the man who caught the lobster we had enjoyed for tea the night before.
'He was delicious! Thank you!'
 About 45 minutes of paddling later we approached the pier.

Nearly there.
 After being warned that we were making a dangerous landing we decided to proceed to The Horse.
Kate decided it would be rude not to.

Mary, mid- channel.

Leaving The Horse.

Back over to Copinsay.

Approaching the light.
 Great slabs lie at the bottom of the cliffs at the side of Copinsay exposed to the open ocean swell.
As we paddled along the swell washed gently up over the slabs before powerfully rolling back down.
Kate and Mary paddled the margin. I watched from a little further out...
Rockfalls and caves.
 Further along past the light the cliffs receded and the caves were high above the slabs.

From the lighthouse looking back towards Deerness and Mainland Orkney.
 We climbed the hill to the light, after a bit of lunch with another solo paddler we met on the shore.
The cliffs from above.

Looking back towards The Horse.
 After a quick explore we signed the visitors book and headed off again.

'Look who has been here!'

Before leaving we encountered hundreds of seals, Mary sat on some rocks and paddled the tiderace.


The wind blew us back to Newark on a pleasant following sea.
A great day of paddling and exploring!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Paddle Orkney '11

50 paddlers, 24 coached sessions, 3 trailers, 1 helicopter 7 coaches later... phew!

Oscar Charlie.

Mary, Gordon and Todd.

Getting a look inside.

A raft of paddlers experiece the downwash.
 (My camera decided B&W would be better for these shots without telling me).

Dinner at the Rugby Club.

Broken Strings play on Saturday night.
As folk upload photos and video  hopefully we'll be able to share some of the best paddling shots and video highlights through our website as well as via this blog and our FB page.

Thanks to all our participants and sponsors and organisers.
We are extremely grateful to our excellent coaches - Jas, Gordon, Paul, Kate, Todd, Bruce and Dave. Thanks for coming to Orkney!

Read about Kate's Orkney trip round Graemsay here, her circumnavigation of Hoy here and rounding South Ronaldsay which at one stage was like 'Penrhyn Mawr on steroids' here

Friday, 22 July 2011

Reverse Sweep Roll

This is the roll am trying to learn at the moment. Sometimes it works a treat, usually at the beginning of the session when I'm fresh and haven't over analysed it too much. Having had the expert teaching of Turner and Cheri not so long ago I try hard to remember clearly what they told me. Watching other folk's videos is very useful. Recently I have watched the accomplished  Eiichi Ito, Duane Strosaker, Christopher Crowhurst, and of course Helen Wilson.

Little and often is my approach to learning new roll. Having my son assist so excellently is fantastic. I explain it all once and demo the separate parts, then he watches and tells me what is happening. With great insight he explains details like how much difference 10 degrees outside the blade being perpendicular can make! I am convinced he would make a great Greenland bank based coach.
Today I changed the side I started on and it was suddenly much more successful… it’s a mysterious journey.

Here is hoping Justine is gets lots of great footage in Canada for  the Kayak Ways DVD - can't come too soon!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Three men in their boats

Summer -  time to honour long held promises of getting our friends out in a kayak and showing them what all the fuss is about.
Maybe the beginning of a new shared activity for the third of these old good friends.

'This is how you do it...'

'I remember when we were lads...'

Paddling not rowing.