Wednesday, 22 April 2015

SCA volunteer coaching conference

First trip doon the road this year to the SCA Volunteer Coach Conference at Glenmore Lodge.
Amazing weather brought out the best in the stunning scenery - beautiful trees, mirror calm loch, snowy mountains, blue skies and sunshine. It was very tempting to just take a walk up the hills, but unfortunately the first evening and following full day were spent indoors...

After attending the swimming pool training on Friday evening I spent Saturday in or around the pool with a group coached by Donald Macpherson of Explore Highland at the rolling clinic and learning how to coach rolling.
I know... I know... but I wanted to revisit how the folks who paddle in short kayaks with big blades approach the process. The idea was that there are foundation skills which you can take on to WW, freestyle or polo, and of course sea kayaks. As usual I learned a lot about the coaching process just by being a participant in a similar activity.  It was good also to take time to reflect in depth on what I do, say, demonstrate and the pace of the day when I am coaching rolling.  The physics remains the same whatever kind of kayak but there are fundamental differences in approach. 
Of course I believe Greenland rolling is a harmonious balance of body, kayak and bouyancy, and a blade that doesn't impede, what more could you want when you roll a sea kayak?

It was nice to catch up with friends too in the process.

Good views and good company!
The famous GL food and afternoon cake was just as good as ever!

On Sunday it was off to Cromarty to do sea leadership skills with Calum McKerral.
It felt counter-intuitive to drive north for an hour knowing I was going to turn round and go back sooth at the end of the day. 

The cliffs around Cromarty are interesting - lots of birds, even a puffin.

There were even a couple of nice short kayak width passages with plenty of headroom on our short journey.

I had challenged myself to stick to the big blades all weekend, and I did - the first time for a good while. Managed fine after a short period of getting accustomed again, but looking forward to using my Greenland paddle after this personal challenge. Quite a few folk asked about my Joe O paddle on the deck - there was a lot of interest, particularly when they actually picked it up and experienced that magical lightness and balance.

We discussed the best way to get through a narrow space - apparently I've been doing it all wrong! 
Ah well... 

A little further along the remains of a WW2 installation complete with bridge made me feel at home. I hadn't realise the navy kept its fleet here before moving up to Scapa Flow.

On the way back the tide had turned and the wind behind us was not enough to aid our paddling efforts against it so we got out of the flow and crossed at a narrower channel. Everyone had different leadership styles - I guess this reflected not just the section of the journey we were leading but also our own experiences of club ethos and group dynamic and being lead ourselves. This was the most valuable part of the day for me - getting some advice about group dynamics and decision making.

All too soon it was time to head back to the Lodge arriving just in time for the evening classroom session. Ooops! I think I'm the Event Safety Officer - how did that happen?!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Still indoors

There are two main seasons here in Orkney. Summer and winter - defined more by day length than temperature. Though wind in Orkney is not restricted to any particular season its been pretty relentless. So far I have not ventured outside to seek immersion, waiting in vain for a day which allows for two criteria to be in place - little or no wind and a some encouraging sunshine. The snow showers and gusting squalls are too bitter to induce me to immerse my head in 7 degree water (that is surface temperature - I am convinced you can knock off a few degrees for the depth my face gets to).

This winter for the first time I have been coaching  Greenland skills specifically by request, which is a first for me here at home. Usually I suggest aspects of the Greenland approach to rolling to troubleshoot or help the development of rolling with a Euro blade, but my new student is keen on all things 'qajaq' and its been fun to supporting someone develop over a period of time significantly longer than a weekend. Since it will be a while before outside temperatures allow for sustained learning its fine to be indoors for a little bit longer...