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.