Friday 18 May 2018

Scottish Womens Paddle Symposium 2018

After a fair while out of the game injured I got myself off sooth to this years SWPS to help folk learn some foundational skills for Greenland rolling.

Van broken, Tahe on car with 'stealth' mode interrupted we set off ...

Arisaig is an iconic paddle destination on the west coast of Scotland not far from Fort William. With sandy coves and skerries and amazing views of Skye, Rum amd Eigg to the west - it turned out to be an ideal location for our sessions. 

It was a pleasure meet up with everyone and help them get their rolling going, or see just how much had been achieved since the last time we met. 

Using the avataq to slide on to the surface of the water.
photo: Geri O'Sullivan

Floating in a balance brace position.
photo: Geri O'Sullivan

Coaching the first steps to rolling requires very slow transitions through the body movements and  is like putting my roll in for a service and getting it fine tuned after a long winter - a great way to start  a new season of rolling. Looking forward to the next time already.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Scottish Sea Kayaking E-Group Greenland Skills weekend

Alan Forsyth explains paddles.
The latest Greenland Skills weekend at Bute and Cowal was another great success with five of us mentors sharing the knowledge and understanding we have developed so far with returning enthusiasts, and introducing some new learners to paddling and rolling with a stick.
We also got the chance to meet up and make the acquaintance of three accomplished traditional paddlers from Ireland, admire Peter's paddle making skills and have a chat about rolling.
Thank you guys. 

The conditions in the bay at Port Bannatyne were perfect for Alan to lead a session on paddling and turning with a Greenland paddle.

Rhiannon demos in her Qannaq and Alan describes.
 Next it was on to rolling and we worked up a few land drills before hitting the water.

Pam and Alan show what is going on inside the kayak, Julia observes.

Cath and Rod working it out.
 After watching Rhianon's demonstration we spent the afternoon working through the foundations of lay back rolls.

Alan and I talk through a demo by Rhiannon.
This was as close as I got to immersion...
This year injury has meant I have had to avoid immersion. This meant I had to think through my contribution a little differently. Perhaps describing and explicitly sharing what I do to support learners will be a useful tool to take away and use with a supporter at home. I hope so.

Observing and advising from the shore at Loch Eck.
Returning to a favourite fresh water rolling spot at Loch Eck, day 2 was all about following up and building on the foundations of the day before, tweaking and troubleshooting... 

It was also time for us mentors to help each other a little with 'sticky' issues...

Alice polished up her SGR without and with her regular paddling paraphenalia.

This year we had a good selection and number of paddles around - there was a time when we had to share and take turns with a couple of paddles - gradually folk have bought and made their own.

A couple of happy converts with their new paddles.
Finally - we couldn't leave without removing some of the litter which had been left behind by previous campers, anglers and picnickers. 
Thanks Alice for taking it away.
We know many kayakers around the world do this when they can.

Keep on rolling....

Sunday 24 May 2015

Scottish Women's Paddle Symposium 2015

Ready to roll with my trusty Joe O paddles.
This year's multi-discipline symposium at Findhorn included whitewater paddling, open canoeing, sea kayaking and Greenland rolling. As everyone dispersed each morning to their launching points and to set up shuttles, we decided to stay close to our base . The strong breeze and occasional squall and cold shower,characteristic of the cold Scottish Spring weather this year, made our decision to stay close to our base at the village hall an easy one. An ideal location for all day immersion with the ability to retreat indoors when it all became a bit too chilly. 

Having the pier walls to observe from was really useful - looking down at body position gives a better mental picture of what you are trying to do.
Outdoor classroom - photo Kirsty Murfitt
The onshore breeze which meant a human anchor (Anne) was necessary to keep the kayaks from running aground on the beach during practice. The tide ebbed through the day within our comparatively sheltered little basin, but we ran out of water and grew too cold to continue at about the same time... 
Shore based Kirsty took some great images throughout the two days...

photo - Kirsty Murfitt
Starting off with the Avataq..

Deborah moves on to just holding the paddle...

 Once folk had discovered how important flexibility and body position is they understood how decks and BAs restrict movement, and decided to try rolling without a bouyancy aid 
- with dramatic results 

With avataq and BA...
Photo: Anne Young                  
and without...
Photo: Anne Young.
Everyone achieved a lot over the two days, learning to brace and butterfly roll in conditions that were less than flat. Its great fun to help folk make the short journey from watching a demonstration and thinking "Yeah right! No way I will be able to do that" to floating about happily in a brace position, capsizing and opening up into a brace without using a paddle... and then realising it looked effortless because it feels effortless when it works. If these paddlers take their Greenland paddling no further than that I do think it will have altered the way they think about their relationship with the water, and immersion, when they are paddling.

Now looking forward to a slight rise in sea temps for Paddle Orkney, then balmy Bute in August.

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...