Saturday, 4 August 2012

Return of the Razor

As I write this James Manke is hosting a KayakWays weekend in BC. I wish I could be there to follow up on my sessions with Cheri and Turner in May here in Scotland. My forward forward norsaq roll is erratic for reasons unknown, and the last few centimetres/degrees of the elbow rolls comes and goes too. Plenty to work on and I look forward to continuing my homework!

Starting a forward forward norsaq roll.
 So far my personal learning journey has mostly been about rolling, but things have taken a sharp turn now I have 'The Razor' home. Made by Turner from one piece of Alaskan yellow cedar, it is a thing of beauty and its going to teach me a thing or two about forward paddling, more specifically the canted stroke.

When I first picked up a paddle like this it instantly struck an authoritative chord. This may have had a lot to do with the dimensions which fitted me well, and the sharper entry into the water the blades give. It tells you in no uncertain terms which angle it prefers and wouldn't ever do anything as undignified as make a 'plop!'

After making a few very minor modifications (sanding very gently!) I was ready for my first lesson. Its a bit like having my own coach - if I listen hard enough...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Women's Scottish Sea Kayak Festival

I set off for the first Women's Scottish Sea Kayak Festival in Bute in the trusty paddlewagon, packed carefully with everything I could possibly need for 300 mile journey and van camping.

In the queue at Stromness.
Just after Dunbeath however, I was on my way home with a broken gear box...

Back to Scrabster for the evening boat home.

Back home. 'Ooops I broke your van!'
Next morning I set off again in the car with most of the van contents now slung in the back and after a long day's driving met up with Pam and Alan Forsyth, 'across the water'.

Off we go again...
An early start the next day saw Pam and I at the Colintraive ferry.

Short crossing, big boat.
For some of us the first day was part one of the circumnavigation of the Island of Bute with Morag Brown and Justine Curgenven, from Kerrycroy  back to Ettrick Bay.

Break at Kilchattan

Apart from the occassional wave from the wake of a boat, the sea was like glass and the sun shone hazily. Compared to our summer in Orkney so far, it felt balmy - very pleasant!

Pam in her Isel.

We rounded the south end of the island which I can imagine is not always as benign,...

Justine passes the light in her new Atlantic LV.

and were met by a stunning view of Arran!

A big incentive for me to come to Bute was to paddle with a different backdrop of mountains and trees and this paddle certainly was a contrast to paddling back home around the windlashed Orkney coastline.

After a bumpy start around the first headland on the second day, this time lead by Justine and Kate Duffus, the south westerly wind pushed us along in the following sea - usually a gift for the Isel and cool fun  but this time it was increasingly hard work. The problem was solved by Kate who observed my mounting exhaustion with that 'boil in the bag' kayaker look I was developing. My hydro-skeg was not down, perhaps it had got repeatedly tangled in weed. Problem solved and fun ensued. The second part of the circumnavigation on day two from Ettrick Bay through the Kyles of Bute back to our starting point was shrouded in mist.  I enjoyed chatting with lots of folk about their different paddling experiences.

In the Kyles...

I know this area is really bonny so I intend to come back on a sunny day to see it in its full glory.

Kate leads through The Burnt Islands.

Break at Colintraive, across the water.
Back across to Bute.

A lumpy finish into the wind at Kames Bay where a few of us left the rest of the group to join the dots. I have a feeling I'll be back so I left the final few kilometres along the sea front for another time.
On the final day it was time for the Greenland session. Lots of people were interested and we ended up with 12 folk - quite a lot to work with on the water, but really encouraging to see that many paddlers interested in the dark side traditional skills. I hope everyone got something out of it!

We started off with Pam demonstrating some yoga positions that are particularly good for paddlers and then had a discussion about  paddles and boats and other bits of kit.
The rest of us copied and laughed a lot!

Getting a feel for the stick.

After demonstrating the stages of the standard Greenland roll and explaning the principles of how each stage worked we helped folk with the standard Greenland roll and the butterfly roll.
The rain poured down, but there were lots of laughs.

'If you can float you can do this...!'

Pam helps Sarah Outen in Nelson.

Nice fnish!

Ruth and I discuss her roll.

Rhiannon works on her butterfly roll.

It was a real privilege and pleasure to be able to share my enthusiasm for traditional Greenland skills with other paddlers. Rhiannon had participated in the KayakWays intensive weekend in May and shared her own skill development and foray into paddlemaking.  Pam Forsyth contributed her own understanding and experience, and of course enjoyment for our pre-occupation with the stick, making it a particularly rewarding experience for me since I am so used to working in isolation and rarely get a chance to enthuse and share with fellow stick-users. I hope some folks decide to 'stick in' and keep at it, get the DVD 'This is the Roll' and perhaps we'll meet up again in the not too distant future.

In the evenings, after fantastic spreads made by Ettrick Tearooms, we were treated to talks - a humourous reflection on the history and fit (or lack of it) of gear for women by Alice;  Justine shared fantastic images and video that conveyed the impressive landscape from her recent trip to Tierra del Fuego with Barry Shaw; Sally shared how she planned for a trip to take weather and tides into account, and Sarah Outen shared with us her amazing journey from London to London via the world (inconveniently put on hold for the moment while she re-groups after her catastrophic encounter with a typhoon in the North Pacific). Follow her adventure so far on her website.

Thanks to Alice, Sally and Roddy at Kayak Bute for organising the event and for getting a great bunch of inspirational women together. Great fun!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Highland Postcards

A few images from our Highland holiday.
Warm weather and amazing scenery. Sometimes no scenery at all.

Out from Arisaig - Eigg and Rhum in the distance.
Arisaig beach

Return to Arisaig - Skye Cuillin in the distance.

Launch point in Moidart looking towards Arisaig.

Loch Ailort.

Crossing to Ardnish

Ardnish beach with Goat Island, Loch Ailort behind.

The 'Harry Potter' Express crosses the bridge at the top of Loch Nan Uamh.

Looking up towards Camasunary, Skye.

Return to Elgol.

View of the Summer Isles.


Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag from Loch Bad A' Ghaill.

A little fresh water to finish off.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Greenland Intensive with KayakWays 2012

Last week the Tahe and me set off on our first road trip sooth to take part in the KayakWays Greenland Intensive weekend organised for us by Bruce Jolliffe. 

Its always great to get away in Spring and see trees bursting into life. What a weekend of great weather - Scotland was looking fairly bonny!
Our first road trip.
Our first day was at Loch Lomond.
We started off with stretches and sharing and comparing sticks, then moved on to learning about the canted stroke.
Bruce gets to grips with the stick.

Cheri gives me some feedback.
photo Pam Forsyth
In the afternoon it was time to roll.
Cheri demonstrated in the Tahe (and I kind of hoped the boat would remember it all for later...).
Cheri teaches my Tahe to roll.

Next day we were at Largs and Turner took our stroke development on a little further.

Sticks in the sunshine at Largs.
But first some land drills.
Thermals and drysuits in the 20 + degree heat meant hot work.
Cheri shows us land drills.
Cruising along the sea front.
photo Alan Forsyth.
A little bit of wind and wave was good fun and it was great to cool down in the afternoon with another rolling session.
Briefly, the forward forward norsaq roll was mine!
The storm and the reverse sweep roll had sweep!
Thank you Cheri and Turner!

Now I have my homework to do...

Pam and Alan Forsyth.

It was a good weekend for meeting new folks too, hopefully we'll carry on developing and sharing our skills and meet up now and again.

For anyone who can't get to one of Cheri and Turner's sessions I highly recommend their DVD 'This is the Roll'. You can find it on Justine Curgenven's site here.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Storm On!

Its been a while since I took any video to have a look at my form, so a quick check before going off to a KayakWays intensive weekend next week. This was an opportunity also to get some evidence of my roll to send to Eiichi Ito for his Storm On website so that I can qualify as a Stormtrooper. Happy to say it still works but as usual I see plenty of room for improvement!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Spoons and Sticks

The last two weeks have been full on  Euro paddling as I took part in a couple of courses here in Orkney, delivered by visiting coaches. To prepare for this I loaded the Isel and put on full kit, radio, tow line, helmet, splits on the boat  and so on and went rolling. Doing something like that used to be no big deal but the seed of doubt had taken root. I spend a lot of time rolling in a tuilik so sometimes need to convince myself that I will roll as confidently in all that gear as I had done in my pre-Greenland days.The idea that rolling skills are transferable is true - but only up to a point. The buoyancy and lack of rotation or ability to crunch forward was disorientating. The deck held me straight at the waist. The hang time to sort out buoyancy increased. The big blades! I did it, but it did not feel smooth or effortless. Had it always felt this way but previously I had had nothing to compare it to?

You might ask - why not just use a stick? Well it was my choice to use the Werner's for these courses. Firstly when I am coaching I am coaching folk who are using a Euro paddle, its easier for them to watch how you paddle, even if its not the teaching point, if you use the same type of blade as them. For leading I may well one day use a stick and carry Euros for other paddlers should they or I lose a paddle, but for now I am still the coachee and I am watching a L5 coach use Euro blades and my personal paddling skills are being evaluated with big bladed paddles. Having said all that, a butterfly roll is a nice fall back.

In an ideal world I would like to be able to switch from one to the other without having to think about it too much, but the reality is different. I paddled for a long time exclusively with big blades and I am keen to establish good habits with the stick, beyond rolling. I had a short introduction to paddling strokes with Kayakways last year so I know there is a lot to learn. Despite this I find it easier, more comfortable and familiar, to go from Euro to Stick, than the other way around.

Back in the Tahe this weekend I had the first of a few pre-KayakWays sessions. I have to get used to the Tahe again after getting in and out of the Isel (which almost comes along and scoops you out of the water) but the stick did the trick.

While writing this a video is circulating between GP users which illustrates my point with humour. Warren Williamson evaluates a British type paddle towards the end of the video.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Coach update

Time for a visit to the 'Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle'. We dutifully gathered on Sunday morning at Hatston slip as the bells of St Magnus Cathedral rang out over Kirkwall Bay.
Strictly Euro.
  Great weather for our coach update day.

And for a sail around the Bay.

Kirkwall Bay with St Magnus Cathedral in the background.

The congregation.
photo: Mags
Thanks Steve and Mags.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Independence Day

The day arrived. The weather looked good, no more than a F4 wind, and nil chance of lightning (that's what it said yesterday during the thunderstorms). There might even be some watery sunshine. My mission - to get the TaheG to Scapa, spend an hour or so rolling, and get back entirely independently (including drysuit zips).

This may not seem like a big deal to most of you folks out there, but when you are 5'6" and your boat is 17'10"  and the car roof is above your head, there are techniques to be learned and independence to be regained. The wind is hugely important, not for sea state but for boat control in the air. Tide times have to be checked - not for speed of flow but to make sure the tide at the launch will be out far enough for the slip to provide the crucial angle to get the boat on and off the car. Just the right size and style of deck is required - the one that will stay put above the rear window. Finally it helps to have a tube of black T-Cut to hand at the end of the day...

made it!