Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Photographer: Sascha Hüttenhain

Have you noticed how athletes often take a moment just before they act? Picture a track runner at the starting blocks, the golfer checking the fairway when teeing up, the figure skater just before starting her routine. These highly trained individuals are recalling that sensation brought about from engaging in an active process of relaxation. Knowing how to relax your body and muscles enables you to stay in control at times of impending stress. When we are nervous and unsure of our situation, when the wind is up and waves are churning, our bodies can go on high alert which may then generate excess muscle tension, amongst other things. This in turn can create stiffness and loss of flexibility, consequently making us feel a whole lot worse.

Photographer: Sascha Hüttenhain

When paddling, as with any sport, relaxation is the turnkey to an enjoyable and rewarding performance. When you watch athletes, gymnasts or dancers, you can see that their skill is a balance between knowing how to utilise their bodies and knowing when to relax it. In sea kayaking, active relaxation can afford you physical flexibility of movement and the ability to respond to the change in the water's surface under you. It can also give you the mental agility to focus on pending goals, regardless of the conditions. That graceful balance of action and relaxation can bring about enhanced confidence and sheer enjoyment.

Photographer: Sascha Hüttenhain

How to achieve active relaxation? Whilst volumes have been written on this subject, here are some pointers. To begin with, be sure to warm up and loosen your muscles. Sense the tension in your body from toes and fingertips to the trunk, neck, and face. As you focus on it, let it go. Notice your breathing, control it through steady intakes of air and exhail slowly. Your aiming for slow and steady. The more you actively relax, the quicker you'll be able to recreate it when you need it. Later, some day when the wind picks up and the chop rocks your boat, you'll be able to shed that tension and paddle with flexibility, and a degree of serenity which in itself is a beautiful thing!

Photographer: Sascha Hüttenhain

Monday, February 26, 2007


The skill of communicating effectively is important in all aspects of life if we want to get the right message across

Friday, February 23, 2007

Amazing People - Alan Alldred

Here is a fellow who has had a tremendous impact on the values and beliefs I have formulated over the years as an outdoor practitioner. Alan Alldred is on of life's true journeyman who is revered and respected for his skills as an educator and as a paddler. Though Alan has embraced many disciplines over the years including competitive kayaking, mountaineering, caving and rock climbing his two current means of engagement with the environment come in the form of sailing and canoeing. What amazes many people is that despite his mature years and ailing body in the form of a loose hip, Alan still accomplishes a number of succesful voyages each year, sometimes solo.

Alan's career has spanned several decades which has included working at such bastions of outdoor learning as Whitehall, Buxton. He is very much a traditionalist in terms of the ethos we should project as coaches and instructors. For instance, if you can't climb the route in big boots, how can you expect the students to do the same? Alan firmly believes that the passion for an activity comes from doing the activity in your own time. The coaches, instructors and leaders he has at some time or other mentored, advised and challenged are legion. Every single one will speak of the benefits of knowing Alan and the value of the wisdom he has imparted.

Photo: Alan Alldred Collection
A truly original individual who has lived his life exactly the way it should the full

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Greenland Style Rolling

Andrew Elizaga performs a range of traditional Greenland kayak rolls in his skin-on-frame East Greenland replica qajaq, demonstrating the grace and beauty of these magnificent seagoing arctic hunting craft. This movie features the name of each sea kayak roll in English, an original musical score and guest appearance by Baby Seal.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sharks & Sea Kayaks

The subject of sharks fascinates me immensely. The first occasion I had to see one was whilst paddling of the west coast of Mull in Scotland. The coastal pelagic on this occasion was a basking shark. It was both an exhilarating and anxious feeling because I didn't know what damage it could do to the boats and my group if it got too close and caused a capsize. No matter, it was a magnificent sight to behold. A leaflet published by the Shark Trust on how to interact with basking sharks can be downloaded here 

However, with the advent of an article about kayaking with Great Whites, I was facinated to see how close the paddle is to the shark. Amazing! I have added the link to the main article as it makes for interesting reading.

This article was published in the September 2005 issue of Africa Geographic.

We do get sharks are around the UK and this British Sharks downloable PDF may enlighten the curious paddlers as to what they potentially may come across. These creatures, in my opinion, are not something to be feared but enjoyed and celebrated as an important part of Marine life.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Photo: Simon Willis

I was fortunate enough to have some spare time in the diary which enabled me to attend the 1st Paddle Expedition Symposium at Plas Y Brenin organised by Pete Cattrall. The event itself was set over two days though I could only participate in the first and it was very informative indeed. The format included a number of rotating workshops with the chance to attend two in the morning and then two in the afternoon covering an array of subjects within the spectrum of paddlesports used for expeditioning. Saturday was concluded by a collection of lectures that covered three paddlesport disciplines - Olly Sanders: sea kayaking (Greenland), Rosemary Powell: canoeing (Canada) and Dave Manby: river kayaking (Global Retrospective). Overall it was a beneficial and educative process with plenty of time to network and gather information. Simon Willis has produced some good reportage covering the weekend on his blog

With time to reflect on matters, I've been considering what are the benefits of symposiums and who do they profit. There is clearly a chance to learn from the experts who possess the turnkey wisdom. I also think there are great possibilties for shareware knowledge as we all have some experiences worth giving out to help others avoid mistakes previously made. Events of this nature can bring together people from a multitude of backgrounds but all with a common interest. Indeed, similar to the Greeks, intellectual discussion and philosophical musings are often fortfied, or perhaps hindered, by beer and wine. In other words, they can be quite social occasions too.

As an educator, coach and someone who is actively engaged in undertsanding the learning process I think it is highly valuable that people can attend forums of this nature. Observing those in attendance as they eagerly went from one session to the next, it suggested to me that a desire to engage is a powerful catalyst on the pathway to enlightenment. Without that motivation, it could be somewhat akin to being back in a classroom. Likewise, without debate and inquiry, our knowledge can become staggnant, prone to bias and hence our view of the world potentially narrows. I look forward to seeing many more symposiums on the calendar and as importanly, having the time to attend and share.

Photo: Simon Willis

Monday, February 19, 2007

IN-UIT Kayaks

Aled Williams
Aled Williams, formerly of Rockpool Kayaks, has launched a new company called IN-UIT to manufacture his latest kayak designs.

This company is formed to answer the increasing worldwide demand for his high quality and innovative designs. The kayaks will be built exclusively by a specialist kayak manufacturer, who employ skilled and experienced craftsmen, and use the latest laminating technology to create kayaks of a finer quality.

The new design ideas are realised with Computer Aided Design to give efficient hull shapes that retain the progressive handling characteristics associated with all Aled’s designs. The kayaks will be manufactured by vacuum infusion using the highest spec composites and resins. Two constructions will be offered: SuperLite and SuperTough.

• SuperLite kayaks will weigh approx 18Kg and consist mainly of carbon fibre, to give a very rigid and light weight build.
• SuperTough kayaks will weigh approx 22Kg and consist mainly of fine woven glass reinforced with aramid fibres. This popular construction makes for a durable and hardwearing build.

All kayaks will be available in a choice of custom colours, created especially for IN-UIT, and the ergonomic seating position and cockpit features will be refined.

Two sea kayak designs will be available in 2007:

• High performance coastal touring & rough water design
• Fast expedition design for extended trips

Aled looks forward to this exciting new venture and to sharing his innovative and high quality designs with like-minded kayakers who wish to experience the thrill of sea kayaking at its best

Friday, February 16, 2007

Amazing People - Andrew McAuley

Andrew MacAuley has been lost at sea whilst attempting the first solo kayak crossing from Tasmania to New Zealand, an open crossing of 1600 km. His journey began from the east coast of Tasmania to Milford Sound located on South Island, New Zealand. The route he took is entirely below the 40th parallel (40 degrees latitude south) otherwise known as the "Roaring Forties".

Andrew commenced this impressive endeavour on January 11. This was to be his second attempt, the first having failed due to exposure from the cold fairly quickly into the launch. However, on 10th February, with approximately 75 kilometers left in order to complete his Trans-Tasman Kayak Expedition, a distress signal was received, and many hours afterwards, following a helicopter search and rescue attempt, his abandoned kayak was located reportedly in good condition.

After several days of intensive searching there has been no sign of Andrew and further efforts have been halted. Hope fades away for his family who have been holding out that he will be found alive.

Wenley and Derrick are documenting information and updates as the story unfolds of the potential demise of this brave soul. It appears the outdoor and expeditioning community has lost a friend.

A support fund has been set up by the New South Wales Sea Kayak Club to help Vicki McAuley and family following the tragic disappearance of Andrew McAuley, devoted father and loving husband.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Andrew McAuley Support Fund

Andrew McAuley, a member of the NSW Sea Kayak Club, is missing off the Fiordland coast of New Zealand. This is a dire situation for his family and friends, the Club, and also for the sea kayaking community in Australia and overseas.

Andrew has been a fantastic ambassador for sea kayaking, having been recognized as the Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2005. He's a person who has proved his ability in extreme circumstances. He's inspired many kayakers and is a well known and well respected member of our community.

In all of Andrew's expeditions, he has been at the forefront of exploring the limits of both himself and the sea kayak. He always puts enormous effort into planning his trips, designing purpose-built equipment and testing both himself and the gear. Yet he is pitted against the sea. Andrew knew the risks and prepared accordingly. His trans-Tasman expedition has shifted the boundaries of what's been done by sea kayakers. It's just such a tragedy that having made the solo journey of over 1,500km that he met with misfortune less that 100km off the New Zealand coast.

The New South Wales Sea kayak Club has set up a support fund for Vicki & Finlay.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Kayak Trolley

For many years I regarded kayak trolleys as the preserve of the middled aged, inferm and/or gadget junky. Perhaps that would have remained the case if I hadn't been given the opportunity to try one out for myself. For those that may want to invest I would wholeheartedly recommend this trolley which can be obtained from Freya Hoffmeister

The features include:
• saltwater resistant V4a-Steel
• compact package of the frame
• "0pen-the-bag-and-pop-up" – construction
• all in one piece, no loose parts
• integrated straps to secure the kayak
• big wheels good rolling even on sand

Having done some reserch on the matter, I've discovered that there are plenty of options with regards to load carrying devices. I've even seen an Italian made trolley made from marine plywood that converts into a seat!

Freya's trolley engenders such praise from user groups because its a solid build and yet simple to use. The frame collapses easily and can be stowed on the deck, in the cockpit or in a hatch within a sturdy nylon carry case. When in use, it actually lifts the kayak a reasonable distance of the ground so if you on an incline the stern doesn't get bumped on the ground. Some paddlers may find the wheel size an issue but, as the pictures indicate, most modern boats that have oval, large circular or lid hatches for storage shouldn't be a problem. Everyone else will have to use their initiative.

Since I've begun to use it on a regular basis, especially on those days when you finish at low tide, its been a real boon to both my back and my knees. Which is a good thing considering all the abuse my body has endured over the years.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Tragedy is a fact of life. Accidents do happen. People walk out the door and out of our lives forever. The question I find myself asking is what becomes of those that get left behind? Who listens to them when they need to talk during the dark hours? Having endured the loss or witnessed someone's passing, what release does someone have?

Its all to easy to focus on the people whose time has come and gone. I look back over the years at the passing of friends or family members and sometimes wonder 'what if we'd had the time for one more conversation?'. It doesn't achieve much and of greater benefit would be talking to the living around me. I feel the

Having overcome a near fatal climbing accident many years ago, I will quite happily recount the tale and even revel in showing others where it happened. However, my climbing partner Simon who watched as I fell to earth seldom wishes to discuss the topic and sadly, rarely climbs too. My friend Dave saw his best friend die in a crevass in Norway and he has suffered for that, in large part, because he fell out of sight while we all focussed on Barry's family. In both cases, the support and counsel of friends came somewhat late. Some may say the emotional damage was already done.

As our thoughts at this time turn to the passing of a paddling companion from our world of sea kayaking, I feel its important not to overlook those who survive. There will be questions that need listening to, emotions to be released and perspectives to be gained. Survivors are not just those who have escaped death but those that remain when we're gone. Spare a thought for the onlooker.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2nd UK Storm Gathering Symposium

October 2006 saw nearly a hundred kayakers come together for the 1st UK Storm Gathering on the Island of Mull. Organised by yours truly with the support of many great guest coaches, it provided a memorable opportunity for paddlers from all over the UK, Europe and the USA to come together and share their experiences and skills. Building on this success Stornoway Canoe Club are hosting the second event on the Isle of Lewis from 18-20 October 2007.

With its world-class sea kayaking, the Isle of Lewis is the ideal location to host the 2nd Storm Gathering. The islands have a longstanding and rich relationship with the sea and provide the chance to combine the adventures of sea kayaking with a cultural celebration. Appropriately the hub for the event will be based in Stornoway’s new Arts Centre, An Lanntair.

The Storm Gathering will run from 18 to 20 October 2007 and a total of sixty places are available for kayaking participants at a cost of £95 each. This fee includes all formal events of the gathering, including guided kayaking sessions, evening presentations and the ceilidh.

A booking form is now available and can be downloaded here

All enquiries should be directed towards Stornoway Canoe Club

Beserker by Christine Davidson

Friday, February 09, 2007

Amazing People - Mike Webb

There are plenty of characters in the world of sea kayaking who have gained prominence for one reason or another. Often notoriety or fame has been gained through the completion of an epic adventure. Well behind every great journeyman is a great boat builder. In this case its Mike Webb.

Here is one of life's genuine down to earth and straight talking individuals. What Mike loves doing is building boats that people want to paddle and currently that pleasure is being satisfied as master constructionist for Rockpool Kayaks. Whilst Mike may appear irreverent of the opinions of others, he does hold dear a process of healthy discussion where both sides can justify their perspective. This can be particularly effective over a pint, or several, at symposiums or trade events.

Mike may choose to describe himself as a grumpy git but beneath that veneer, or years of gelcoat, that is someone with a twinkle in their eye and a tremendous sense of humour. He cares about his work and quite happily put the time in to complete a job when most people are already in bed. Mike's reward is knowing that Rockpool Kayaks have gained a reputation for being elegant, high performance and well constructed quality boats.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


What would it take to get you on the water in February with a forecast like this?

St Davids Head to Great Ormes Head including St Georges Channel

Wind Southeast 5 to 7, perhaps gale 8 later.
Weather Thundery showers, locally with hail, rain later.
Visibility Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
Sea state Moderate occasionally rough at first.

Whether the weather is rough, or whether the weather is not

We'll weather the weather, whatever the weather

Whether we like it or not!

It really was quite something to be on the sea at Traeth Llugwy in the surf at this time of year. My hands have only now defrosted!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Coaching Processes

Photo: Tim Parish

I believe that coaching, when done well and in the interest of the performer, can be a powerful medium for change that should help individuals achieve success in their chosen area of performance. Through the process of coaching, a person may deepen their knowledge, improve their undertsanding and, without being overly evangelical, perhaps even enhance the quality of their life. The relationship between a coach and the learner should be a beneficial one as ultimately the aim of the coaching process is to accelerate the performer's' progress. The function of coaching a person is to provide focus, direction and create awareness of choices that need to be made in order to make enhancements. The coach's role can bring clarity to the situation, may contribute to finding the right solutions and thus help define the building blocks of change.

There are certain issues within the coaching process, that if not addressed or recognised, could lead to a tremendous imbalance of power which may, though unintentional, negate the long-term value. Although the coach is there to support the learner, by virtue of the fact that the coach guides the process, they can end up holding the balance of power in the relationship. This power imbalance leads to a dependent relationship where the performer becomes overly reliant on the coach and doesn't feel they can move forward without any direct support. This dependent relationship in turn limits the individual's ability to take responsibility for their actions and so achieve sustainable change.

As a strategy to prevent an imbalance from arising, I would encourage any individual who is being coached, or in any learning situation for that matter, to adopt an approach of 'open scepticism'. To enhance any transfer of learning, and hence strengthen our understanding, one needs to regularly question and challenge the process, both from the point of delivery and internally. Such questions might be 'How has this helped me understand?' 'What do I know now that I did not know before?' and very simply 'Why?'.

Coaching highlights what people can readily achieve, given the right support. Its needs to offer a supportive, practical and structured process by which the coach and the performer work ‘together’ to jointly chart a course to deliver any learning objectives. In order to assist the learner and the coach be more aware of the process they are following and take joint responsibility for a successful outcome, it needs to be a collobartive partnership. By adopting this approach, it becomes a shared journey experienced by both parties equally and which both can take ownership of. With this shared process the learner can have more say in the focus of conversation and content, while the coach provides a guiding framework they jointly use.

Photo: Tim Parish

The coach facilitates the process...........the coach isn't the process

Friday, February 02, 2007

Amazing People - Pete Jones

Peter Jones, by his own admission, has been round the block a few times and picked up many a story on the way. At one time Pete was chief kayak instructor at the Anglesey Sea & Surf Centre and continues to enjoy working life as a freelance coach in North Wales and further afield

Pete has taken part on many major sea kayak expeditions, including West Coast Canada, Nova Scotia, Israel, Holland, Spain, Ireland, Outer Hebrides, St. Kilda, Orkney and Greenland (2000, 2002 and 2004) and is currently sponsored by Sea Kayaking UK

As a long standing paddler and respected coach, Pete holds true to old fashion values of adventure, exploration and enjoyment wherever you may be with your boat

In June 2006 Pete along with Martin Ricard and Phil Clegg flew out to Scoresbysund via Iceland to undertake another extreme trip, and they had to rely on a certain amount of good fortune with weather and ice conditions to complete the expedition..................

..........."Exploring such a wild and remote coast under your own steam in a sea kayak, knowing you are totally dependant on your self and two mates, and being able to get to places and seen things no one else has ever seen before is beyond description. As is the coast line itself and the ice. We knew it would be wild and impressive but never realised how much so. Nor did we appreciate how insignificant we would feel in such a huge and remote world. Seeing the polar bears, close and in the wild on their terms was amazing and if nothing else was worth all the effort................"

Pete doesn't blog nor does he have a URL but if you ever get to spend time in his company whether its over a pint, on an expedition or being coached it will be a rewarding experience