Organising Women’s Sea kayak Festival – another side of paddling

This year is a busy year as we are again organizing the Women’s Sea kayak Festival in Devon. Did I ever think that I would be organizing a sea kayak festival? No, not really.

This summer it will be eight years since I started kayaking. I didn’t like it much at first. The sea was too unpredictable for me to be comfortable, the waves were more enemies than friends. Everyone was always faster, sitting in the boat hurt my knees, I used to be cold during lunchtimes in my wet suit and so on. I went to a few symposiums but it was hard to enjoy the paddling when everyone mostly wanted to push themselves, while I just hoped to survive. So why did I persevere? Thanks to my husband really, and his grand ideas I have become a sea kayaker. I ended up having a little bit of a fast track journey to become a kayaker, one who now doesn’t mind the environments, elements, and considers most waves to be friends.

And yes, I became a leader and coach, but organizing an event, that is a different league completely. Don’t you need to have a centre for a venue, kayaks to hire, and lots of skills to coach and oversee and organize; cars, minibuses, trailers would also be handy (even crucial!) as is having friends who can coach?

Yet, again the reality turned out different from my fears. I signed up to go to the Women’s Sea kayak Festival in Bute as a paddler but ended up coaching there the same year. It was a women’s only event, and it was so much fun. I went again the next year only to find out that the organizers wanted a break and decided not to run one the following year.

P3154670This was the moment when everyone thought: what a shame, while three of us thought: well, let’s give it a go. And so, in a year we learnt how to organize a paddling festival without having a centre and kayaks for hire, without a minibus, and some of us even without driving or a car, without being super coaches, or having connections or extensive network of kayaking friends. We literally made it on green meadow and I like to think that it was a successful event.

If not, we would not be doing it again. At the Women’s Sea kayak Festival female coaches are coaching female paddlers. It has a Man Crèche for redundant paddling partners, but yes, it is women only event.

What is special about our event is that it celebrates women coaches and their high level of skills and brilliant coaching, by no means is our festival meant for beginners or intromediate paddlers only.

It has a great atmosphere and supportive environment, where paddlers understand each other, especially when it comes to different needs and challenges that a female paddler sometimes faces. I hope that our women only event gives people opportunities to share stories, learn from each other and develop confidence, mostly on how to use wit and skill over strength.

What I like most is, that at the end of each day we all socialize together, when we sit down for dinner there isn’t a coaches’ only table, because everyone has something inspirational to tell and we all learn from each other.

I am looking forward to that this year again!

http://womensseakayakfestivaldevon.co.uk

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MAD Coaching revisited

MAD Coaching project has started just over a year ago. Now it’s time to take a look back and reflect upon the idea of Coaching to Make A Difference to Make A Difference. Does it actually work?

MAD coaching idea has been very simple. Those, who wanted to learn about sea kayaking or improve in their current skills, had to get in touch with us. A discussion followed on wants and needs and how we could best work together.

Then the question of price and payment came. The key element of this project is that there isn’t fixed fee, there is no fee to be paid at all.

We only ask for one thing, if we have made a difference to your paddling, you do make a difference to either a charity of your choice or one of ours.

It has been great, as over the course of the year the range of our coaching expanded from coaching personal paddling skills to coaching leadership. We have taught how to fix and repair kayaks. We provided 1*, 2* and 3* sea assessments. We took people out to East, South, South West Coast. We were able to take people out on our Tideway and show them the beauty of Urban kayaking. S0351904

So far MAD Coaching raised £1670 for a number of charities including RNLI and Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre, and all of that was done while we have been in full time employment, working on developing our own coaching further, Natalie successfully finished her L3, and paddling and coaching in our club. It has been a busy year, but we still had time for plenty of personal paddling for fun.

So will we continue? Yes! Let’s see how much difference MAD Coaching Project will make this year.

London has it all!

We’ve lived in London for many years now. When we moved here, we knew we were moving into the capital city and a very busy town with people, roads, tube, buildings, pavements and all. We also knew that London was on the river Thames, however, at that time, it didn’t have any significant meaning to us, because after all most capital cities we knew had a river, Paris with Seine, Prague has Vltava, no big deal at all.

It was only later, when the river became our almost second home, we understood its the importance in the past and nowadays. Then, one day, we realised something even more significant. London isn’t just an ordinary capital city of a country; London could be viewed as a Mecca for outdoor sport, or at least where water is considered.

For a sea kayaker the tidal river Thames is a great place to paddle, we wrote about this many times. The changing landscape due to tide, standing waves under bridges, surf behind boats, powerful workout against tide, and smooth rides with it, we have spent countless hours going up and down through London. It is always different and we can’t have enough. With the conditions varying from mirror flat to wild fast flowing and confused water with waves exceeding meter in high it is an amazing place to learn and improve. Learning is an interesting and complex process. There and now it is important to change ones’ approach and try something new, something different. In the end what could be better than trying and applying the existing skills through different concepts of paddling to explore new levels and then bring this back to the original discipline.

So what role does London play in all this? It is the choice of opportunities. The possibility to do white water canoeing, flatwater freestyle, tiderace paddling or playboating within few days and in close proximity to London.

P6260037P6260042White water OC in Lee Valley. 

13558787_10209965853292395_1197877465244621623_oP6280084 (1)Free style boaters at Shadwell Basin.

13603400_10209998273702885_6307197631366317922_o13528227_10209998275502930_5332193559667065624_oSelsey Bill tide race (2 hours from London)

_DSC0037_DSC0078Olympic course in Lee Valley. 

Last week, there could have been hardly a be better place to work on your paddling.

Wave Machines

There are many things London has to offer to a visitor: architecture, scenery, history, just to name a few. Through all this the river weaves its path and attracts attention with its amazing views into the naval history, the beaches or water splashing over the railings, and of course the strong tides. Large numbers of boats pass up and down through the city at any time of the day. For me, however, the ones that create the beautiful wake to surf are the most interesting.  We call them Wave machines.

The feeling of excitement if a wave machine appears travelling in the right direction. Then, all what’s needed, is to check all is safe and paddle closer. To get the most of the waves and prolong the ride, it is best to surf diagonaly in the same direction as the chased boat. It is very easy to turn to much towards  the boat or to be too, aggressive in correction, both result in loosing the wave. Sometimes the first wave is not the best one, and it pays to wait for the third.

Last weekend we went for short paddle and made a little clip.

MAD COACHING PROJECT

After raising almost £5000 when paddling around Britain, and continuing to raise another   £1000 through coaching on various symposiums (Jersey, WSKF Bute and Devon), doing assessments and giving talks, we decided to continue.women scottish seakayak 288

For this reason we launched our new project, the MAD Coaching meaning Make A Difference Coaching. You can read all about it on our page MAD Coaching.

During the preparation to set this up, we held some trial runs, and were privilege to coach the following sessions:

  • 3* training & assessment in Pembrokeshire,  October 2015
  • 1 day introduction to sea kayaking for a group of women from Norfolk, November 2015
  • 1 day introduction to the River Thames for a group of women from Norfolk, November 2015
  • 1 day paddle with another London based club on Thames, January 2016
  • 2 days of paddling on the Thames with the Eagle Club from Norfolk
  • 1* training and assessment

 

We also have 2 new boats Xplore M and Xscape S for those, who don’t have their own. We believe that the best learning experience is achieved by good quality coaching and good quality and well fitting boats, we have a range in our fleet available for coaching, trips and demos: 2x Tiderace Pace 17, 2x Extra HW, Xplore M, Xcape S.

So if you want to be coached by us, and make a difference to your paddling and to others, please, contact us via email, or FB.

St Kilda revisited

It has been several weeks since we came back from our eight weeks trip to the outer islands. Most of the time we don’t even remember being there or the paddling. Fortunately we made this clip to remind ourselves.

The first song is sung by Rosie Sullivan, who won the Young Song writer of the Year competition with it. We met Rosie when she came with her dad, who drove to pick us up in Port Ness and took us down to Stornoway in order for us to be able to get to our gateway to St Kilda on time. We listened to her songs and were impressed.

Watching the video not only reminds us about the wonderful places we visited, but also brings smiles to our faces. Especially the scene with our attempt to cross  to Flannans. It was the first calm day in three or four weeks. Obviously it wasn’t calm enough.

Fortunately the next calm day, two weeks later, we managed the second planned crossing despite starting to paddle for four hours against solid headwind.

Here we go.

Women’s Seakayaking Festival Devon

Esther, Julie and I were sitting having dinner in a restaurant post Bute symposium 2014 excited from all the great time we had during the weekend and then slightly disappointed, that it wouldn’t be happening this year. I don’t know who’s idea it was, but already travelling down the M6 we started to make plans.

What followed were many Skype conversations, Julie and Paul live in Devon, Esther and I in different places in London. The roles soon established themselves, Julie and Paul were to take care about the site bit, Esther dealt with the admin, and I was in charge of the coaching.

old harry 7We decided to invite the best women coaches we could find in the country to come and coach the women paddlers. Our aim was to provide supportive environment within the women only environment, and for people of different paddling skills being able to paddle together, enjoy each other company, have fun without feeling that they may be holding someone back. However segregation was not our aim, and so for those participants, who wanted to come with their partner, as they may need someone for company on long drive, we created the man creche.

old harry 1There were many exciting moments during the whole process. The first paddler booked, the confirmation on the marquee and food, the box of printed t-shirts, the booking being full. And then it all started. We checked in the first arrived person, the first coach.

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The condition and weather held for us and even if Monday was more on the wet and windy side, everyone had wonderful paddling days, lots of laughter, lost of new skills. We had talks, and shared food. And yes, sometimes it took four to five women to put a boat on a roof rack, but still it was all done in very good company.

 

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And yes, when I think back about it, and read the good feedback and the constructive one, I feel good. Of course there’s room for improvement, but I am very proud of Esther, Julie and myself for pulling this off. We had enormous support from Paul, who has done millions of jobs, and Michal who cooked many delicious dinners for the Skype evenings, and Toby for t-shirts and many others.

And I think that I am starting to look forward to the next one.   old harry 16

 

 

Old friend Harry

Summer has been coming to an end and I was desperate to get paddling to my favourite location of all, The Old Harry. Unashamedly I often say that paddling around Old Harry is the best paddle on the British Coast. However to make the most of it, it has to be at high tide and the weather should be on the sunny side. This Saturday seemed to be doing just that. Yet, we took a while to get persuaded to pack and go, in the end to some it may seem to be a little bit too far for a day trip location.

But not to me, getting up in the morning, driving for three and half hours is a small sacrifice for what one gets. This time, as a bonus,  we got to go on a ferry.

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After that it was quick unpacking and launching to make the most of the now dropping tide. old harry 8old harry 9

I wasn’t paddling alone. Toby and Michal were eager to make the most of the day and we headed towards Peveril Point on the other side of Swanage Bay to play in the tiderce.

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And yes, this time, it was me who got the camera. old harry 2 old harry 3 old harry 5

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We practiced some rescues and rolling and overall were making the most of the conditions and good weather. old harry 4 old harry 10

Our return journey was less speedy, after all the playing in the waves for few hours took its toll on us.  old harry 7

Harry was now at low tide, but even then, he looked as handsome as ever. old harry 11

Arshan, the foothills  of the Sayans

Irkutsk was not only our gateway to Baikal but also to the mountains. Since none of us had spent much time researching, planning and looking for places to visit before we left, we decided to travel at random and take what comes. And for this reason we found ourselves travelling towards the Sayan mountains. 
  
Once we arrived to Arshan, we marvelled at the freshness of the air and absence of the dust. Also the prices, it was the cheapest place we’ve visited so far. We left sorting of accommodation once there, and it turned out very easy. As soon as our bus arrived it was surrounded by many people offering accommodation.  

 One lady with a notice board that stood out among the rest, it read: wifi, took us home. We had dry toilet in the out house and water container attached to a tree, but a porch where we could reach the wild wide world. 

  Arshan is a settlement at the foot of the East Sayan mountains, it has many mineral sources and is visited as a natural spa.  

   
Here we decided to spent few days among the greenery and wilderness.