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!