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.

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Trip to Ghent

Last year at Anglesey symposium I was standing in the car park waiting for Michal when I heard some people speaking Czech. Not living in the Czech Republic, we don’t hear that language very often. And if we do, we very seldom acknowledge that we do indeed understand. However, this time, hearing it in the middle of kayaks, made a difference and I started to chat to these people. They were very nice, and they lived in Belgium.

We have not seen them or really spoke to them many times through the year, but we each tried to persuade the others to come and visit. Having weekend to spare during this half term I send a message “we could come” and received a reply “do”. And so last Friday saw us on the coach (money won over time) to Ghent.

Since we were coming, we were asked to give a talk on our circumnavigation for their kayaking club. We can’t resist that one, and had a great evening in Gekko.

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Four kayakers would naturally choose their bums as mode of transport and we visited Ghent via its many waterways. Jarda proved to be a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide, and what he didn’t know he made up, I’m sure.

However we saw Ghent’s version of Billingsgate market and Tower.ghent 6 ghent 7

We had opportunity of paddling a historical boat to the historical town centre.ghent 3ghent 4

On the way to Rabot Gate we visited tortoises but they were still hibernating.ghent 8

Of course there isn’t a trip without a coffee.ghent 1

And since it was Belgium, the waffles were a must. Waffle, or wafre, wafer, wâfel, waufre, gaufre, goffre, gauffre, wafe, waffel, wåfe, wāfel, wafe, vaffel, and våffla is really a batter grilled between two plates. Still there are many varieties around the world, twelve in Belgium alone. Many things could be said about waffles, we had them with strawberries and cream.ghent 2

Thank you to Anička and Jarda for your hospitality.

Burnham on Crouch – Paddle and Talk

When we were still kayaking around the British Isle we received an invitation to come and stay at Burnham on Crouch Royal Sailing club and meet their kayaking section. Unfortunately due to our determination to finish by the date we have planned for and desire to avoid all mud flats and sand banks we haven’t stayed.
When we finished the trip we decided that it may be a good place to have one of our talks there. In the end, if they wanted to see us during our paddle, they may still want to see us after. They did! Ann, our friend then organised a talk for us there together with a paddle. It was an amazing day. Ten weather was perfect, skies were dramatic. About sixteen people and fifteen boats gathered to paddle during the day. What was impressive that people came from all over, Kent, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Reading. Some even stopped other way home form South of Europe to Wales. And good they did, like this we could steal and use Taran’s map to show where we paddled.

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Ok, it wasn’t hard core sea conditions, but the yachts were getting stranded and needed to be rescued, so there must have been something.

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Besides, at some point we had to portage it, too.

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We truly enjoyed the talk as the audience was brilliant.
Thank you to Mike from Kent, who came to pick us up and dropped us off home afterwards.

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FAMILY APART

It was a weekend at the end of October for which Natalie chose to do a trip to Simonds Yat with some friends from our club. I wasn’t very keen to do open boating again so soon, so I decided to rather stay in London and spend some time working on club boats. Few days before Natalie was due to leave I had a call from Alastair asking if I wanted to come along for some sea kayak surfing in Bristol Channel. Later it became clear that he actually meant North Devon and I couldn’t say no. Then Vincent and some other of Alastair’s friends were to be there, and I knew that if anything would be possible, one thing was for sure; there will be lots of fun.

Quite unexpectedly I happened to be the one who made our journey to Croyde less than ordinary. Not being familiar with Alastair’s car I was happily driving not checking the fuel indicator till the warning light came on. What was left in the tank would let us go for another 20 miles only, instead of 70 as I am used to. To make the story short, there wasn’t an open petrol station in  Friday midnight, and we had to go back to M5. The last five miles the car must have gone on pure adrenaline pouring from our ears, as the car computer clearly stated “RANGE 0 MILES”. We made it in the end.

We set up in a campsite at half past two at night, to be kicked out by a security guard at 7am. Apparently we pitched our tents on a wrong field. And more was coming.

Let’s get back to the paddling. We had great conditions for the whole weekend. While I was enjoying surfing and Alastair swimming, Vincent decided it was time for some excitement, and tried to kill his friend James. Fortunately James used to fight for his live, didn’t hesitate and when he found himself upside down in the surf with the spraydeck loop tucked under, he managed to wriggle himself free sacrificing only few fingernails.  Vincent called him The Hamster for rest of the weekend.

In the meantime Natalie had great time ferry gliding from eddy to eddy at Simonds Yat rapids. And we decided to produce a short paddling clip again.

On top of all this, I have a proof that it is possible to get a sea kayak flying while surfing.

River Wye

In the last week of my summer holidays and the first weekend of September we finally went on a trip where only two of us were present. This time we swapped the double blade for a single blade and shared the boat. We took part in the Drift and had a smashing time.  Here is a little video.