Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Holidays

We hope that 2011 was a wonderful year for you, and wish you a 2012 filled with adventure, fun and lots of salty water. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Come and embrace the elements with Greenland or Bust in 2012. Keep updated about programs and events by signing up for our monthly newsletter. Get in touch via the website -

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sea Kayak Navigation

When sea kayaking, we often need to work out how long it will take to paddle a set distance as part of our trip planning, or when we need to change our plan during the journey. Assuming that we are not affected by wind or tide we can use the following quick calculation which is easy even when underway.

Remember, these calculations are for the average sea kayaker who paddles at approximately 3 knots (3 Nm/hour). You should check your own speed before applying the following formula. On your chart or map, measure the distance you are going to paddle. Take this measurement and multiply it by 2, then multiply this figure by 10 to give the number of minutes it will take to reach your destination.

Example 1, to paddle 3 Nm -

3 x 2 = 6, 6 x 10 = 60 minutes.

Example 2, to paddle 5.5 Nm -

5.5 x 2 = 11, 11 x 10 = 110 minutes.

Sea kayak navigation can seem complicated at first, but there are plenty of quick tricks like this which make the mental arithmetic very easy. You can learn many of these by enrolling on a BCU Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning course with Greenland or Bust.

The aim of this one-day classroom based program is to give participants the necessary tools to plan and navigate effectively on coastal journeys in moderate ocean conditions. Upon completion, each student should have planned at least two coastal journeys that they can take home as reference for further personal trip planning. This course is designed to compliment areas covered in the BCU 4 Star Sea Award training and is a prerequisite for assessment

Get in touch if you are interested in completing a similar training course or just wish to look at your skills development in a boat.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson

This is a preview of the DVD: Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson. A multi-level guide to learning, troubleshooting and progressing through an ancient Greenland technique. You can order this at Greenland or Bust It was filmed by Bryant Burkhardt Kayaking.

For DVD Trade or Dealer inquires in the U.S. contact Active Paddles

For DVD Trade or Dealer inquires in Europe contact Tahe Marine Sweden

For DVD Trade or Dealer inquires in Australia or New Zealand, contact Sean Smith, c/o Fat Paddler

For DVD Trade or Dealer inquires in Canada, visit  Joe O’ Paddles

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

G or B Upcoming Events & Programs

Visit the website for our current event attendance and scheduled programs in 2011 and 2012, with more to be added soon -

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

UKSG6: Organiser's Report

Following on from the traditions of coastal Scandinavian fishing communities, Storm Gatherings have become a means for like-minded people to get together and celebrate a fruitful and rewarding summer on the water with some excellent paddling in often challenging conditions and unparalleled entertainment in the evenings before the long winter nights take hold. 

The 6th UK Storm Gathering took place on Anglesey in October, and was followed by BCU Week that included both BCU 4 and 5 star trainings and assessment courses. The weather was true to form and kicked up a fuss with southerly Force 6 winds building to Gale 8 in preparation for the weekend. Undeterred, however, 90 paddlers from across the UK and Europe including participants from Switzerland, Sicily, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden converged on Anglesey Outdoors for an action-packed symposium. 

The coaching team was also expansive in terms of nationalities and experience. Helen Wilson, Paul Kuthe and Warren Parker from the US along with Axel Schoevers from Holland joined the likes of Jeff Allen, Justine Curgenven, Steve Graham, Ollie Jay, James Stevenson and Phil Clegg in providing some excellent on the water workshops. A special mention goes to Nick Cunliffe, who tackled the tremendously difficult task of coordinating participants and coaches each morning based on some very exciting sea conditions. 

Locations such as Rhosneigr, Trearddur Bay, Penmon, Bull Bay, the Menai Straits and even Llyn Padarn where used for a variety of workshops including incident management, open water rolling, rough water handling and surfing amongst. Participants were stretched and challenged, but tired smiles and laughter over a beer in the Paddler’s Return suggested that the event was living up to expectations. Paddlers were clearly thrilled that they had faced conditions that they would not normally have gone out in. 

Each evening was filled with activities and entertainment too. Friday night saw Jim Krawiecki, with the help of Barry Shaw, Kate Duffus, Andy Morgan and Roger Chandler presented a series of short films and slideshows to get people in the mood as they arrived. Nick Cunliffe and Matt Giblin put on a sea kayakers pub quiz on Saturday night that combined elements of a celebrity quiz show, trivia rounds and various embarrassing party games. Sunday night had everyone gather at Rhoscolyn School to hear Jeff Allen present ‘Into The Wind’, the epic account of a record breaking circumnavigation of Ireland he completed with Harry Whelan earlier this year. 

A tremendous thanks go to Kokatat, Tahne Marine and Tiderace Sea Kayaks for supporting the event in a numbers of ways including raffle prizes, demo boats and promotional services. Appreciation also goes out to Joe O’ Paddles, the Fat Paddler, Mitchell Blades and Bluewater Kayak Works for donating some wonderful prizes to the raffle also. 

Well done to Jim Krawiecki and Journey Man for winning the prizes donated by Fat Paddler. To Alan Trevarton for winning the T-stick and Norsaq donated by Joe O' Paddles.To Graham Dudley for winning the MisFit Tor PFD donated by Kokatat Watersports Wear. To Mark Eldridge for winning the Freedom 500 pump donated by Bluewater Kayak Works. Finally to Sarah Wootton for winning the Atlantis paddles that was donated by Mitchell Blades. Neil Turnbull was the lucky recpeint of a Kokatat Storm Cag after his video diary of the events was judged to be the winning entry. 

Overall, it was great to see everyone getting stuck in and relishing the opportunity to experience some really rough water. The UK Storm Gathering symposiums are gradually becoming the event to attend for anyone looking to paddle in some amazingly dynamic waters in the company of some superb coaches. See you all on the water again soon.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

UKSG6: Blog Reports

The following guest coaches and participants have shared their thoughts and perspectives on the 6th UK Storm Gathering. Have a read and maybe get inspired to come along next time :o)

Here is a link to Steve Godfrey's photo album of his event experiences

Other comments and pictures can be found in the UK Storm Gathering Facebook group

Photos by Paul Kuthe

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UKSG6 - Fund Raising

The organisers would like to inform you that we hope to do some fundraising at this year's Storm Gathering.

The intention is to raise money for the RNLI and Qajaq Japan's Tsumani Relief Fund.

Prizes have been donated by Kokatat, Blue Water Kayak Works, Fat Paddler, Joe O Paddles and Mitchell Blades.

Look out for ticket sellers over the weekend and the draw will occur on Monday morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

UKSG6 - BCU Week

BCU Paddlesports Performance Awards are planned to run from the 25th - 30th October. These courses and optional trips will happen when workable numbers are reached. Please check the BCU website for full syllabus details and prerequisites. These are all non-residential and priced accordingly.

Options include:

3* Sea Training - Tuesday 25th October

This will be a one day course covering the 3* Sea syllabus and will cost £75

3* Sea Assessment - Wednesday 26th October

This will be a one day assessment covering the 3* Sea syllabus and will cost £75

4* Training - Tuesday 25th & Wednesday 26th October

This two day course will cover the necessary syllabus elements of leadership, safety and navigation skills required before progressing to assessment. The course will cost £150.

4* Assessment - Thursday 27th & Friday 28th October

This two day assessment will examine leadership, planning and incident management skills as well as personal performance as set out in the 4* Sea syllabus. Success at this level indicates that a candidate has the skills required to lead a group of competent paddlers in appropriate locations, up to moderate conditions. The course will cost £150.

5* Training - Tuesday 25th & Wednesday 26th October

This two day course will cover the necessary syllabus elements of leadership, safety and navigation skills required before progressing to 5* Sea assessment. There will be a night navigation element. The course will cost £175.

5* Assessment - Thursday 27th & Friday 28th October

This two day assessment will examine leadership, planning and incident management skills as well as personal performance as set out in the 5* Sea syllabus. Success at this level indicates that a candidate has the skills required to lead a group of competent paddlers in advanced conditions. 
There will be a night navigation element and a written paper. 
The course will cost £175.

BCU Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning* - Tuesday 25th October

This one day classroom based course has been designed by the BCU for all sea kayakers who want to develop their understanding and skills in tidal planning and navigation. It is also a pre-requisite for the BCU 4* Sea Leader Award, as well as being suitable for any coastal paddler wanting tidal planning knowledge. The course will cost £50

BCU Open Water Navigation and Tidal Planning* - Tuesday 25th October

This one day classroom based course will give participants the tools needed to plan and navigate effectively on open water journeys in advanced conditions. It will increase the knowledge and awareness of the paddler and improve their seamanship. It is a pre-requisite for the BCU 5* Sea Leader Award, as well as being suitable for any ocean paddler wanting detailed tidal planning knowledge. The course will cost £50

*Those wishing to do either the 4* or 5* training have the option of completing the corresponding navigation course on Monday 24th instead at no extra cost, if they are registered for the main event. Those not attending the 6th UK Storm Gathering but wanting the Monday option will need to pay the full course fee of £50.

There is a degree flexibility to complete some awards on different days including the 29th and 30th October. Other course that could be offered include the 3* Touring and Foundation Safety & Rescue Training.

Get in touch with Mark if you would like a booking form or have any questions or queries.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

UKSG6 - Cackle TV Special Offer

If you are a fan of digital downloads, or never tried and want to give it a go, I recommend you call in at Cackle TV to see what's on offer. Justine Curgenven has begun to provide many of her superb and expertly made sea kayaking films from the award-winning This Is The Sea DVD series as digital downloads. With over 40 films available with some never before seen footage, there is plenty of choice.

Justine is an award winning adventure filmmaker and expedition sea kayaker with an established reputation for creating professional, innovative and inspirational sea kayaking movies. Some her personal accomplishments have involved a number of challenging expeditions around the globe including a crossing of the Bass Strait, circumnavigating South Island of New Zealand, Tasmania and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

I am pleased to announce that Justine is offering a special discount to anyone visiting the UK Storm Gathering Sea Kayak Symposium blog on two selected films. Buy one or both of the following digital downloads and get 20% off the already incredibly good value prices. All you need to do is enter 'UKSG' at the check-out.

This is the Sea 1 - Penrhyn Mawr

Penrhyn Mawr is North Wales’ most famous tidal race. This film is a short introduction to the race with some explanation of it’s location and how the waves form. Filming from onboard the kayak gives a sense of scale. 5 minutes . Price: UK £0.99 (UKSG6 discount - £0.79)

This is the Sea 2 - Penrhyn Mawr

More action from the inner and outer races at Penrhyn Mawr tidal race on Anglesey. Skilful paddling (and good recoveries!) from Aled Williams, Phil Clegg, Simon Osborne, Harry Whealan & others. This was originally 2 separate films on “This is the Sea 2″ but brought together into 1 film here. 8 minutes. . Price: UK £1.99 (UKSG6 discount - £1.59)

Download today and get inspired to plan your own adventure, wherever that might be :o)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Greenland Rolls and Stupid Paddle Tricks

Helen demonstrates a variety of traditional Greenlandic capsize recovery maneuvers in a skin-on-frame kayak. Helen competed in the 2008 Greenland National Kayaking Championship, and received first place medals in individual rolling, group rolling and the distance harpoon throw. Filmed by Andrew Elizaga.

Our website,, includes an active blog, a question and answer section and an online store, which features the DVD "Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson".

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Objects of Desire

Tahe Marine, who are one of the biggest kayak manufacturers in Northern Europe, and who sponsor my partner Helen, have generously provided her with a Greenland OC to use at the 6th UK Storm Gathering and for future events/ clinics in the UK.

Tahe Marine, who are based in Estonia, are enjoying a growing reputation around the world as a strong and reliable company who does not compromise on a single detail. Helen was impressed by the attention to detail she saw whilst visiting the Tahe Marine factory this summer. Certainly seeing this beauty emerge from the wrappings, one would agree that dedicated craftsmen put this together :o)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

G or B Rolling and Rescues Day

On Sunday, I met up with Claire and Dave at Summit to Sea on Anglesey for a one day coaching programme. Claire had contacted me about putting something together for the pair of them in order to build up boat confidence after a break from paddling. It was great to be able to offer them what they wanted and be delivering as Greenland or Bust in the UK for the first time. However, one key element was missing in that Helen, my partner, was in Thunder Bay teaching at the Superior Kayak & Canoe Club Paddlefest on this occasion. After delivering several workshops and clinics with her this summer, it did feel strange not having Helen around.

Nonetheless, after chatting through their key goals for the day and leaving Pete (owner of Summit to Sea) to get the store ready for the day, we headed to the relatively sheltered waters of Borthwen. The plan was to take Dave and Claire through some effective rolling progressions that Helen has created before taking them out into more challenging waters for rescues and 'combat' rolling (doing it for real!).

We began with developing body movement awareness before moving onto balance braces using paddles floats for assistance. Once they had begun to understand the principles of 'Lift, Tilt and Slide', I progressed Dave and Claire on to practicing their rolling and trying to apply these key elements. After which we took a break as there is only so much water a person can store up their nose.

Once back on the water, the three of us headed out towards Rhoscolyn Beacon to practice in more interesting conditions what we had covered in the morning. It was clear that both of them had worked hard in the morning but it was essential to cover the fundamentals of deep water rescues because people do swim from time to time and an effective rescue between peers is a good skill to have.

Once both Claire and Dave were confident they could rescue each other with some efficiency, should anything go wrong, we headed out to the tideraces that occur around Rhoscolyn Beacon. This was their chance to try it all out for real, and to see how far they had progressed . Claire in particular was keen to tear up the waves and her confidence visibly grew as the day went on with her rolling successfully several time in the rougher waters. It was great to see them land with big smiles, and after debriefing the day Dave decided to invest in Helen's DVD "Simplifying The Roll". It was also nice to make plans for future coaching sessions also. And after going our separate ways my thoughts returned to Helen...

Helen is currently teaching at the Traditional Paddlers Gathering in Minnesota as hosted by the Northern Lights Qajaq Society, before then flying to Japan for the Greenland-Stick Users’ Trial Stages (GUTS 2011) which has been organised by Qajaq Japan. Meanwhile, preparations continue for the 6th UK Storm Gathering that is being held in October.

Check the Greenland or Bust Events page for future scheduled courses and symposium appearances, and if we can provide a programme or be of service, get in touch wherever you are in the world :o)

Pictures of the day can be found here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Objects of Desire

I've been using Barz sunglasses and goggles even since I came across them at the New York Kayak company in 2003. However, as is the way of things, I do tend to 'misplace' my glasses from time to time. So having contacted Kevin, he very promptly sent me out a pair Naurus (see above and blow) and I decided to go for broke and get a pairs of Floaters and a pair of Seaways too.

Barz Optics is an Australian based family company located at Burleigh Heads in Queensland on the east coast of Australia. The Company was established in 1996 by Kevin Barr - a former surfing champion with 30 years experience in the surf, snow ski and sailboard industries.

Having used each pair in rotation this summer, and as someone who works outdoors in all sorts of conditions and environments, I can't stress enough how important good eye protection is. So even if your local retailer doesn't stock Barz, I would recommend investing in quality glasses for the long term care of your peepers :o)

Photographs by Mark Tozer and Helen Wilson

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anatomy of a Bad Decision - Moulton Avery

Randy Morgart’s article “Cold and Alone on an Icy River” in the August 2010 issue of Sea Kayaker magazine drew a response from Moulton Avery, an expert in environmental physiology and the author of the frequently cited article “Cold Shock” from the Spring 1991 issue of Sea Kayaker magazine. Here he looks at a psychology of decision-making that helps explain how an experienced paddler can make a mistake that we would expect of a novice paddler. 

It takes a lot of courage to publicly write about making a really big mistake, and Randy Morgart has my respect and gratitude for his willingness to share his terrifying near-death experience following an unexpected February capsize on the freezing Mississippi River. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from his experience, and he did a great job discussing them. I want to add one more to his list. 

Reason vs. Emotion

Recent studies of human emotion, cognition, and behavioral psychology have shed considerable light on the age-old tug of war between reason and emotion that underlies decision making and so much of human behavior. If you participate in a sport like sea kayaking and value your life, this process is worth a closer look, because in our sport, realistically and accurately assessing a situation and making a sound decision about how to proceed is fundamental to staying out of trouble. 

When it comes to making important decisions, most people will tell you they decide what to do by carefully and rationally weighing the pros and cons of the situation. More often than not, however, rationality is just a bit player in the game; the real decision-maker is emotion. It's a subtle but absolutely critical point, particularly if you want to understand how an experienced paddler like Randy could suddenly find himself in such a terrible predicament. After all, rationally speaking, he knew better than to leave his wetsuit at home.

In the aftermath of many accidents and disasters, people often see a landscape littered with obvious warning signs and wonder about the mental capacity of the victims; saying, in effect, "What the hell were they thinking?" This really stands out in cases in which the victims were experienced rather than clueless newbies. In far too many cases, the short but stunning answer is: Whether they knew better, or whether the danger was right in front of their eyes isn't the point, because they never saw it. And they missed it precisely because they weren't thinking at all; their actions were based solely on a gut reaction – on a feeling.

Setting the Trap

For many accident victims who “should have known better,” the landscape is littered with examples of this non-rational process in action. It's a regular feature of accident reports about tragedies that occur in the great outdoors in everything from mountaineering to cave diving. A sea kayaker can end up leaving the wetsuit or drysuit at home, or not own one to begin with, not because of some rational process, but because—when he or she took a quick mental peek at the situation—it just felt like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. In other words, it felt right.

This danger of overlooking the obvious has been greatly enhanced in sea kayaking, because unfortunately, for over thirty years, thousands upon thousands of sea kayakers have been told that, if you don't plan on capsizing, if your level of skill is sufficient to safely handle the conditions in which you expect to paddle, you don't need to worry about dressing for the water temperature. I've paraphrased that message below. Pay close attention when you read it because it's complete hogwash, and it provides paddlers who take it seriously with a safety net that whales could swim through: 

You don't really have to dress for the water temperature every single time you go paddling on cold water. Unless you “plan on encountering challenging conditions", it's perfectly fine to forget about wetsuits and drysuits, and dress instead as if you were going for a hike in the woods.

Which, of course, is precisely what Randy did. He set the trap that almost cost him his life by dressing for the air temperature. It's an easy trap to fall in to, particularly if you don't have a personal “no exceptions” policy when it comes to cold-water safety.

The "challenging conditions" argument is really insidious, and it undermines cold-water safety precisely because it encourages paddlers to equivocate, make excuses, or rationalize a decision not to dress for the water temperature. Capsizing on cold water without a wetsuit or drysuit is the direct cause of at least 90% of sea-kayaking fatalities, and it's safe to say that none of the paddlers who died this way ever, in their wildest dreams, anticipated encountering conditions "challenging" enough to kill them when they went paddling on that final occasion.

Emotional decision-making is often a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing—subtle, but very powerful at initiating or inhibiting action. It can be particularly dangerous in situations where making a wrong decision added to a small mistake equals an excellent chance of winding up badly injured or dead. It also presents a great argument for being conservative and cautious, and for leaving yourself as big a margin for error as possible any time you venture into the great outdoors. No paddler is immune to making mistakes, or has the magical power to see into the future. 

The unsettling truth is that rational, clear, impartial, error-free, Mr. Spock-type-thinking is the exception rather than the rule in life. Most, if not all, of us are just not very good at it. On the other hand, what we're really skilled at is rationalization, justification, and wishful thinking. What's more, we make mistakes and unwise decisions all the time. We seldom take notice, because more often than not, the stakes are so low that being wrong makes no appreciable difference to our daily lives. We misplace car keys, TV remotes, and cell phones, don't remember to back up files and return calls, forget to buy things at the grocery store, have one beer too many, underestimate how long something is going to take, overestimate our physical abilities, make resolutions we don't keep, eat junk food, purchase stuff we don't need, commit errors while driving to the put-in, and do all sorts of things that come back, in one way or another, to bite us in the backside. The list goes on and on.

Going with your feelings isn't always bad, of course. The mental process we customarily think of as intuition has kept many a paddler out of harm’s way. A common response for not leaping into the Great White's jaws being: “I don't know, I just had a really bad feeling about it.” In those cases, listening for, paying attention to, and acting on the “wee, small voice” can be a really, really good thing to do. 

This subtle, often complicated emotional terrain is something best negotiated cautiously and with eyes wide open. When you find yourself on the threshold of a potentially important decision, like, say, whether or not to paddle solo in fog on an exposed and rocky coast towards which huge ocean swells from a distant hurricane are heading – it's really helpful to pause for a moment and ask yourself: “Why do I feel the way I do about taking this particular course of action? What is my motivation for wanting to do this? Does it make sense?” And, of course: “Is it safe?” After all, a candid examination of your own feelings and motivations is central to one of the most important pieces of advice in life: Know thyself. To that every wise sea kayaker will add: “Know thy environment” and “Watch thy step.” Viewed in this light, two articles in the October edition of Sea Kayaker—“Lost at Sea” by Michael Powers and “Aftermath of an Accident” by Saul Kinderis—take on even greater meaning.”

Skills vs. Challenging Conditions

Randy Morgart was no wet-behind-the-ears newbie. He started canoeing in 1972, he'd spent a lot of time on flat water in his sea kayak, and had a lot of confidence in his flatwater roll. And unless the river was really shallow and he was bouncing off the bottom, he had a pretty reliable whitewater roll as well. It had been a long time since he unintentionally capsized his sea kayak, and even longer since he'd had to wet exit. He knew about self-rescues, and had even conducted paddle-float demonstrations for his local paddling club. In the event that he did need help, he carried both a cell phone and a VHF radio. When it came to the mighty Mississippi, he had both solo and group experience on the section of river he planned to paddle. And from his perspective, the paddling conditions were tame, in his words: "…calm, slow-moving water, sheltered from the main channel by a string of islands." It wasn't windy or raining, just a little cold, and he'd had plenty of experience dealing with cold weather. You'd be really hard pressed to find anyone who would describe the paddling conditions Randy encountered as “challenging” for someone with his level of experience. 

Zero Margin for Error

It was Randy's fleeting mental comparison of his paddling skills versus the seemingly benign river conditions that allowed him to be comfortable with his near-lethal decision to dress for the air rather than the water temperature. And although he might never have heard someone make the often repeated “challenging conditions” argument I referred to earlier, he was definitely following its flawed logic. It's a hard message to miss in our sport, because it's been woven into a lot of sea kayaking brochures, books, and instructional programs. Randy knew it was riskier paddling alone, and that a cold-water capsize could be dangerous, yet he chose to leave his wetsuit at home, figuring that he simply "wouldn't need one for a flatwater paddle." At the time, of course, his decision didn't seem at all reckless or ill advised. As he wisely and candidly notes in retrospect: "It's easy to dismiss these concerns because we have no intention of swimming."

When Randy reached the launch site, the deceptively tranquil conditions on the river offered up nothing to change his mind. The water exhibited that seductively peaceful, flat-calm look that an intermittent 1/4 inch layer of ice imparts to a big, slow-moving river. Unfortunately, it only looked non-threatening. With the water temperature near freezing, his forget-about-the-wetsuit decision left him with absolutely no margin for error, guaranteeing that any capsize would instantly morph into a life-threatening event—a desperate race against time and the terribly lethal power of cold water. All it took to set that race in motion was a tiny miscalculation on his part, a little slip of his paddle on some ice.

Far more often than we'd like to admit, our moments of decision are overwhelmed by emotion and the power of memory and feeling. Randy had a lot of really wonderful memories of paddling and how great it felt to be out on the water in his boat. By contrast, he had zero memories of how excruciatingly painful and terrifying it is to be suddenly immersed in near-freezing water. At best, all he had was some dry information about cold water safety. When it came to decision time, it was no contest. 

Here's the scary part: That kind of mental gymnastics happens all the time in life. A valuable conclusion we can draw – and use to our advantage – from recent scientific discoveries, is the sobering fact that in many situations you really don't think at all – a bad idea can pop up and before you have time to think, you can act on it based solely on your feelings. You don't so much fall for it as go for it.

In nature, many conditions have the potential to change with amazing speed and little or no warning. One thing, however, that won't change during the course of your outing is the water temperature. And when it comes to cold water, experienced, safety-conscious paddlers have developed an elegant work-around for this entire reason-versus-emotion, skills-versus-conditions problem. It's a simple, easy to follow rule: When paddling on cold water, they always dress for the water temperature. No exceptions! I suspect Randy would be the first to tell you what a great idea that is.

Moulton Avery directed the Center for Environmental Physiology in Washington, DC for 10 years, and spent 6 years running a wilderness school in North Carolina. He's an authority on cold water safety, and a former ACA Sea Kayaking Instructor, and SK Instructor Trainer. 

© Moulton Avery 2010

Suggested reading: Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Social Networking

One of the things I believe in is that sea kayaking is more than just a personal adventure. For me sea kayaking is also a vast social network from which we can all learn from and be part of. Examples of that network include when folk gather at symposiums and share common experiences. With another being when strangers become friends after attending the same skills development programme.

I, for one, feel very fortunate to be able to make a living from sea kayaking and it has provided me with some great opportunities to travel the globe on expeditions, as well as teaching far and wide. So as payback for those rewards or perhaps just simply because I like to share the experience, I tend to make the offer that if someone finds themselves in my neck of the woods, be that North Wales or my adopted waters of Trinidad in Northern California where my partner Helen lives, then they should get in touch and go paddling for the day. I made such an offer at the 3rd Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium in February, and one such person who took me up on that offer was John 'Jack' Du Bois.

Jack is a professor of linguistics at Berkley, as well as an enthusiastic sea kayaker form Southern California who is fortunate enough to call the waters of Israel his paddling home too. Jack got in touch because he was attending a conference in Manchester and had some time between that and another meeting in the south of England. It was great to hear from Jack who was in one of my classes at GGSK '11, and it was even more fortunate that I was free when he was.

So we arranged to meet up in Holyhead, after Jack had finished his conference. The weather and sea state lent itself to one of the classic Anglesey trips I have written about previously, that being Trearrdur Bay to Borthwen via Rhoscolyn Beacon. We took our time to explore the coastline as well chat about common elements of our lives that went beyond sea kayaking. As much as I offered Jack insights into paddling opportunities in Wales, he gave me some interesting perspectives on splitting a life between two countries (the US and Israel in Jack's case). I'm sure we wouldn't have shared so much had this been a course.

It was fun, it was relaxed, it was a great day to be social and to network. Jack was wonderful company and we even finished the day with an ice cream, superb! So the offer stands. Wherever I am, if I am free, and you want to paddle, get in touch. Let's help the network grow :o)

Pictures of the day can be found here

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

UKSG6 - Event Flyer

There will be a Greenland style paddling theme to this years 6th UK Storm Gathering and we are pleased to announce that Helen Wilson - - will be running rolling clinics and boat handling sessions as part of the symposium timetable

Remember...register by August 1st 2011 and enjoy the early bird rate of £100.

Get in touch with Mark if you would like a booking form.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sea Kayak Rolling Traditions

The ability to roll one's kayak is probably the single most effective rescue technique there is in the event of a capsize at sea. By learning and practicing a wide variety of rolling progressions, a paddler's confidence, safety and thus enjoyment of being on the ocean can improve immensely. One of the key principles to bear in mind is that it is the body, rather than the boat or blade, which controls the roll. However, having an appreciation of how rolling has evolved is of value too.

When time is taken to study historical records and well documented text such as Eastern Arctic Kayaks: History, Design, Technique by John Heath and Eugene Arima (2004) or Kayaks of Greenland by Harvey Golden (2006), it is possible to relate to and gain insights about how the rolling skills we teach and utilise today owe so much to our paddling ancestors from the Arctic regions, with Greenland being of particular importance. So regardless of which school of thought you follow in terms of learning how to roll, its worth taking the time to appreciate the heritage behind it.

The Inuit have used 'qajaqs' as a means of hunting and fishing for centuries. Tradition being that a qajaq would be made of seal skin stretched over a wooden frame. These qajaqs tended to be extremely buoyant as well easy to self-right in the event of turning completely over. Rolling a qajaq was considered an essential self-rescue skill that was learned and practiced on a regular basis. As a consequence, various rolls were developed to handle any and all situations that might arise. This included being entangled in fishing lines, losing a paddle and perhaps needing to roll using the available hunting equipment. 

David Crantz, writing his book History of Greenland in 1767, describes a number of methods by which an Inuit righted his craft, including full and half-paddle rolls, and rolls using the harpoon or hands. And not only were these skills observed by explorers and visitors but practiced also. Records show that the first non-Inuit known to have learned to roll was the Austrian, Edi Pawlata, who taught himself in 1927 after reading accounts by the explorers Nansen and Jophansen. An English explorer, Gino Watkins, learned directly from the Inuit in 1930, though unfortunately he disappeared on a trip to the Arctic soon afterwards.

Ironically, as rolling became popularised within a number of recreational paddling disciplines across Europe and America at the start of the 20th century, kayaking itself was loosing its value amongst the Greenlandic people as power boats became the chosen vessel to hunt from. This decline in use of the qajaq meant a whole generation was growing up with almost no knowledge of the craft or the associated skills and concern grew that the history and culture associated with the qajaq could be lost forever. So it was, in 1984, the Greenlanders started kayaking clubs across several regions and Qaannat Kattuffiat, the Greenland Kayaking Association became established.

The Greenland Kayaking Association is dedicated to keeping the traditional kayaking skills alive. This includes rolling, paddling techniques, kayak building, tuilik making and other aspects of the Greenland kayaking culture. Qaannat Kattuffiat holds regular training camps where this knowledge is taught and practiced, and organises an annual championship. Today there are approximately 25 local Greenland "qajaq" clubs affiliated with Qaannat Kattuffiat. There is also a chapter in Copenhagen (Qajaq Copenhagen) and the United States (Qajaq USA). The word "qaannat" is the plural of qajaq (kayaks) and Kattuffiat means "club or organization". Therefore the term Qaannat Kattuffiat literally means the kayaks' club.

The Greenland National Kayaking Championship takes place over the course of a week with all ages from children to the elderly competing. The event include racing, harpoon throwing, rolling and rope gymnastics. The purpose of these competitions is to keep tradition alive, and to teach the skills that the Greenlanders have used for so many years. Perhaps the discipline that draws the most attention is the rolling of which there are 35 listed techniques of increasing difficulty and hence points awarded. You can read more about each manoeuvre and the competition rules on the Qajaq USA website.

So whether you prefer the quick and forceful recovery of the C-to-C roll or choose to practice rolling techniques that rely more on flexibility and finesse, try to remember that both were born out of sea kayaking imperatives where reliability of technique for survival was paramount. For the Inuit hunters whose lives depended on their kayaking skills wet exits were just not an option in the frigid arctic waters. By way of contrast, modern day kayakers roll as much for the sheer pleasure of mastering an array of techniques as they do out of necessity to prevent an inglorious swim. However you chose to do it, take care and enjoy.

Sources and acknowledgements

Helen Wilson - Greenland or Bust

Greg Stamer - Kayak Vagabond

Mark Whitaker - Columbia River Kayaking