Sunday, 22 December 2013

Karma monster

A few folk have seen me rolling the Tahe Greenland in the pool and nicknamed it ‘The Karma Monster’ because of the yoga-like practice I use it for, and because its design is derived from a stealthy hunting qajaq.

revolved triangle with legs together - 'right angled triangle'?
Since Greenland skills have been getting a little more exposure in the media, I have felt slightly less odd and eccentric in my paddling preferences. It has also meant that a few folk are keen to find out more about it, which is great. Living in a peripheral island community means events and symposiums are less accessible, so there is more of an imperative to pass on skills we bring home with us.
This autumn and winter in the pool more paddlers have been asking me about Greenland rolling. What is it? How is it different from a Euro roll?  And, how it can help them with their own roll? Pretty much everybody wants to learn to roll no matter what age and stage they are at.

black lines perpendicular

black line parallel

It is great to be able to help with the learning process. Some paddlers are returning to paddling, some are coming from another discipline to sea kayaking, some have had a solid roll in the past, and some folk are self-taught and ready for some feedback.

Even if paddlers have no ambitions to learn Greenland rolling there is a lot that the process of practising skills and drills can teach us all about all of our rolls, capsizes, paddles and beyond. If you find you are apt to get uptight and frustrated at not being able to do something immediately, the process might mean only starting to make progress when you relax mind and body. If you feel your roll has to be fast and furious to work well, then trying Greenland rolling might mean seeing if it works when you slow it all down.
 I’m looking forward to January and getting back into the pool after the holiday hiatus and starting a few structured sessions. You never know, someone else might decide to join me over here on the dark side.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

In at last!

Our long awaited new pool opened this summer and this week local paddlers were one of the last of the user groups to start regular winter sessions, with a familiarisation evening for coaches to get to know the facility. The competition pool is a lane wider, and the water surface is level with the floor, which makes it seem a lot bigger than the old pool. The depth of the pool is adjustable which means it is possible to have a larger area for working in pairs supporting or spotting a partner.
The light and space and acoustics are very pleasant too.

The new pool is built on to an existing leisure centre with new squash courts, gym and health suite next to a cinema and indoor arena, climbing wall and bouldering cave. With exercise classes and sports clubs using the facility, a lot of folk come and go - it might mean paddling gets a little more exposure...
What a lot of space!
 It was a pleasant change to roll in warm water. While others got used to paddling short boats again ready for the upcoming canoe polo season, I was getting used to being in a constrained space again and that 'first pool session of the year', barely discernable sense of buoyancy being a tiny bit different.

Odd one out.
 After a summer of rolling on my own it is quite different to focus on learning something new or sharpening up a movement with so much going on in the same space, but it is really useful to have someone with a camera sitting at the side of the pool giving immediate feedback . I am looking forward to getting some shots from the perspective of the spectators gallery which looks down on the competition pool.  That could be really useful.

Underwater shots are always useful.
All in all it takes the edge off the gloom following the clocks going back an hour.
Glu-lam 'ribs' hold up the roof.

Looking forward to helping a few folk on the journey to getting their first rolls this winter, and who knows, maybe getting some company over here on the dark side...

Monday, 9 September 2013

Greenland Skills coaching at Paddle Orkney 2013

 Every couple of years we have a peedie sea paddling symposium here in Orkney, cleverly timed to be year about with Shetland who have doing this sort of thing for much longer. This year organisation was lead by Kristian and Nick. Our third gathering attracted folks from all over and was a chance to see returning friends and coaches. Gordon Brown, Bruce Jolliffe, Dave Rossetter, Kate Duffus, Steve MacKinnon and Mags Duncan all did us the honour of returning,
and Kim Bull joined us for the first time.
It was also a chance for me to respond to a few requests for a bit more insight into Greenland skills.
Around the main coached events I helped a few paddlers practice some basic skills and play around with the principles of layback and forward finish rolls. 

Alice and Ben warm up with a few yoga poses.
Nearly everyone had a good idea of the basics, but its nice to have someone confirm what you think you know and demonstrate stuff, and even better, demonstrate stuff slowly right in front of you.
At Scapa with Ben and Iede.
The challenge for me was to help people work from where they were with roll experience and flexibility, and the boats they were in. An unfamiliar boat or a high back deck or a cockpit that is just a bit too deep were all issues we had to factor in.
Improvised avataq.
I learned lots about coaching and learning to roll from this experience. This gave me a chance to put coach training, experience of being mentored and countless hours of practice together. What happened? I heard myself saying many of those things Cheri or Turner had said to me, I saw the classic issues most people encounter and I knew so well myself. I saw how convinced you can be about body or paddle position and yet be way off perpendicular... I saw my cheek problem!

Alice pretends to be me. Very convincing!
 I also saw how quickly and easily it can be learned with the best equipment and by being flexible and relaxed - and how rewarding it is to pass it on.
We need more folks on the Greenland journey - I need a bit of company!

Catriona and Desi - stick synchronicity.

Thanks to Ansgar, Alice, Ben, Iede, Iain, Anne, Catriona and Desi for letting me share.
Iain tries the Tahe and likes it.
Lets keep spreading the green virus!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Greenland weekend with Kayak Ways at Loch Eck 2013

As the weather turns and the days grow ever shorter I have been looking back over the summer's events. With only a few pool sessions throughout last winter I hadn't done much rolling at all before setting off for Loch Eck in early June to meet up with Cheri and Turner, and Pam and Alan, for a weekend of Kayak Ways coaching.

After the long drive down from Orkney I was rewarded with the sight of bluebell woods and pine forests surrounded a small bay just right for our purposes on the shores of Loch Eck. What a fabulous location! It was lovely to meet Julia and see familiar faces from the Women's Sea Kayak Festival in Bute the year before. Though not quite a Greenland camp or symposium, this weekend has become a time to meet up with other enthusiasts.

We started with looking at paddles - its a great opportunity to see the variety and try out different shapes and materials, sharp/weighted/shouldered/non-shouldered/laminated/one piece/3 piece....but the star of the show this time was definitely the carbon 'Razor' by Novorca. This is the carbon version of the paddle Turner makes which many people, including myself, have wanted to own as soon as trying it out. 

Following land drills and thinking about body movement on shore  we watched as Cheri demonstrated and Turner described. ( When Cheri uses my kayak I kind of hope it will develop a memory of its own...) Then it was down to business. As usual I had opted to focus on a couple of specific rolls - forward forward norsaq and reverse sweep norsaq. I can only learn so much over a weekend, so working over a couple of days on a limited number of moves gives me a good foundation to take home for when I am working on my own. Clutching my new norsaq I was ready to go and over the two days  built up lots to take away and practice.

Thanks again to Pam and Alan, and Julia for hosting and the lovely meals.
And thanks to KayakWays for your excellent coaching. Haste ye back!

Thursday, 15 August 2013


Time to resuscitate the blog.

Its been a while since I posted anything but I've not been entirely inactive. I have been continuing to work on rolling, been coached by KayakWays in earlier this year and helped others work on their rolling skills at Paddle Orkney '13. I jokingly refer to myself as, Orkney Greenland Kayaking Club, members = 1!

This summer I have been playing around with forward finish norsaq rolls, mostly using a norsaq Turner Wilson made. It tells me what to do, I just have to listen carefully. And I imagine Cheri at the bow of my boat looking for my cheek! So far I can either do reverse sweep or forward/forward but find it difficult to switch from one to the other without being unhappy about where the norsaq ends up in relation to the kayak.

I was recently reminded how useful video can be in seeing the orientation of your body/head to the kayak, so made a video of myself from a pier in an attempt to analyse what was happening...

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Last session at the old pool?

hang time
 This winter I have had a bit less warm water time in the Tahe and so sometimes last year's gains feel as if they are slipping away... By the time I see Cheri and Turner again will I be back to where I was the previous year? That is the pattern over the winter, then improvement over the summer working away on my own. Small improvements made year on year.
Where my nose goes.
  The old pool is about to close.
Maybe one more session before it does?
No matter how clunky my rolls might be the boat still looks beautiful at the end of the night.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Aqua kayumba

Throughout the winter I go to a class that is a mixture of yoga, tai chi and pilates. There is no doubt that this keeps me flexible for rolling. Today at the pool I felt as if I had developed a new alternative to the very popular aqua zumba! Working on elbow rolls is hard work... Glad I stretched first.

Forward finish drills - note the solo nature of my endeavours with all 'normally attired' paddlers in the background.

Core workout.

Exercise machine disguised as boat.