Across Breidafjoerdur

Yesterday we said good bye to Sneafell peninsula and crossed towards Western Fjords. It was about 30NM and we estimated we would need ten hours for this. We set off fairly early in the morning as not to have to land too late. This wasn’t our first crossing of this distance, but the conditions we had, were one of the biggest we experienced so far. Again it was nothing we have not paddled in before, however on such a long exposed water it was something. The wind was mostly from side generating waves, which were then emphasised by big swell. And so it went on all day. Only towards the evening the wind probably decided we must have been too warm, and stared to cool us down in our faces. 

As always, the last three hours were the longest. The land was close enough to see it well, but it took forever to get there closer. 

Then, finally, we were there. It took ten hours and then some time to find suitable landing place. The big rolling swell was rolling exactly towards the same beach as us. Fortunately we found a little-tiny-bit-almost-nothing sheltered bay and manage to execute surf landing between rocks, something I always wanted to do after 12 hours paddling. 

It took forever to get the boats sorted and our tent pitched. To the point that we had to go to sleep without dinner. There was no energy to get the stove going.  

On the plus side, morning was wonderful, sunny, we had great view over the sea, and yet more rolling waves, waterfall was humming in the background, as we enjoyed coffee. Somehow we were still quite tired from yesterday and needed to take it slowly to recover. 

Voyage into the centre of the Earth

On Tuesday evening we landed in a small fishing harbour of Arnarstapi under the magnificent volcano The Sneafell. The one, from Jules Verne’s tale. Similarly to professor Lidenbrock, we also had a good local guide, Thor. Together we attempted to climb to the top of the volcano, but our efforts were hindered by the snow on the road, which the car just would not go through. 
Never mind, we thought, if we can’t go into it, we will go around it. The journey took two days and has taken us through rather extraordinary places.

We visited a place where Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir was born in 980. She was one of the Icelandic most travelled women until twentieth century, having been in America, Greenland, and as far as Rome. In America she gave birth to Snorri, a first European born on American soil. He was the one, who inspired the good professor to undertake his journey. 
We continued on our journey and came to a beach, Djubalon, which was covered, similar to the tale, in many bones like structures. Only these were not human bones but remains of a ship, which grounded here some years ago. 
After that we decided it was also time to take to the sea. No, we did not have to build a raft as our kayaks were ready. But the journey was extraordinary. The rocky coastline was covered in many structures and statues made of basalt, some resembling the petrified trees or giant mushrooms the old professor saw. 
While on the water we saw several creatures, maybe not prehistoric, but a giant chicken, definitely. 

As we continued we saw some mastodonts. Later we paddled past some very strange building built for what must have been extremely tall people.   

Then we only had one task to accomplish, and how lucky we were. The race at the headland picked us up and carried us, just as the lava river did to professor and his party, until it spat us out in civilisation of old harbour of Krossavik. 

Flaxafloi Bay

Three more days passed since we left Arkranes and we have paddled hard in Flaxafloi area. Iceland continued to show the best weather we could wish for. The wind was playing hide and seek with us, sometimes blowing strongly from side to suddenly die only to appear in our faces. The low land with many sandy islands was replaced by cliffs. Yesterday we landed in a village of Arnarstapi. It was a long day, and by the time we landed in the small harbour, moved the boats and had a quick look around it was quite late and we were just too tired. Then a man appeared, or rather, he arrived as we arrived and since we then put our boats next to his car, we had something to talk about. In the end we have asked whether he could give our bags a lift the 200 metres uphill to a place, where we thought we could pitch our tent. In the end, we ended up in his living room, and later in his summer house occupied by his sister. What’s more amazing, we got to have our first coffee and cake of the trip! 
Arnarstapi is an amazing place, once a busy fishing place, now only has two people living here permanently through the winter. Þórkell Geir and Hafdýs who we were staying with as the weather was not paddleable. The village lies at the foot of two volcanos, Mt Stapafell and Sneafell, and has beautiful coastline full of stacks, basalt columns and arches and lava formations. We also had to check the statue of Bardur, half human and half troll, who came to this area long longtime ago. He had several daughters with human wife. However the most significant fact for us was that one of his daughters, during a play, was accidentally pushed on a pack ice and sailed all the way to Greenland. 

First day is done

The first day of paddling is done. We had amazing conditions, something we would wish to have for the rest of the trip. It was dry, sunny spells, tail wind and following sea, conditions not too big to be fun. Yet, despite all this, we’ve only paddled for few hours and did a little distance. But that’s ok, we know we are slow starters. Being out on a trip like this takes out of a person. There are more important things to get on with than just paddling. It’s the whole being out and living out of a kayak. The boats are not light, they are quite heavy, and since I can’t really lift anything over 12 kilos, so it takes a lot of time and power to get them in and out of water. We have to get used to knowing where things are and take them out of the bags and back in the bags. Setting up a tent and sleeping stuff also takes time and effort. And so we learnt that we just need to take time to get into the swing of things.  On the last trip our slow start resulted in three days in a hostel, this time at least treated ourselves to a nice cmapsite in Akranes. 

LET’S DO IT!

This is it. The time has finally come. We are doing it again. It is the third time within the last five years that I stopped being a teacher for few months and became a kayaker. Only this time my decision of stopping has been final, the school could not give me another leave of absence without pay, I resigned.
We are calling it an expedition. When we paddled around Britain we were, and still are, calling it a journey. We launched close to our home, made our way down the river, turned right and continued until we made the last right turn to paddle back up the same river. It has been a journey as we slowly transformed from occasional recreational paddlers to hard seasoned kayakers.
The second venture has been a trip, the preparations were rather simple, we were counting in weeks rather than months. We went on a trip with unknown finish. We had to change our plan half way through, to make the most of the conditions and opportunities, and returned happy and content and wanting more.
This time it is different. The complexity of logistics are making us to call it an expedition. After all we do have to transport the kayaks a considerable distance prior to launching and paddle. We are embarking on a journey in the unknown of a foreign country. And we do think that we would have to change our C&C journeying style to a more hard core Non Coffee and Cake at Every landing spot Expeditioning.NATY FB

So far the preparations haven’t been hard hard, only  a bit lengthy and complicated making everything to slot together in the right moment. The most important part of all was the same as previously, the decision to do it. Then came the aim, but as always, we are aiming high, wanting to accomplish another circumnavigation, we are very fond of those.
The next important part was to find the time, when to do it. And of course, as we also like our life in London, and wish to keep our place, followed the need to find new flatmate. That was the moment while cleaning the bathroom prior to the flat viewing, I realised that the second stage of preparations has started.

The boats also needed sorting, we have high expectations of what we want from a boat, and so wanted to paddle in our trustworthy Paces. They were shipped last month and are still waiting to be released by customs.

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We were lucky to secure help from Kokatat for our paddling clothes and buyoncey aids; Astral supported us with shoes, and Ortlieb with dry bags. We have the same tent but treated ourselves to new sleeping mats. The second part of the mission is almost accomplished. Next week us and our equipment will be on a plane.

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Then, once we all group and regroup, we will be ready to paddle!

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Crossing to Scillies

I am organised, very organised. I have been working in a school for eleven years now, so my year starts every September and finishes every July. My holiday dates have been pre-planned for me for years in advance.  On the rare occasion, when I may not know, when they are, all I need to do, is to check the airline ticket prices, their double or triple hike is a clear give-away. To cope I learnt to plan and book early, in the end, it would be irresponsible to waste twelve weeks of holidays.
This has been true until the seventh of April of this year. The following two weeks were my Easter holidays, yet somehow I haven’t made plans, or only vague ones of skiing, or going to spa or something. Various reason made them to fall through, and I almost started to think that I have indeed allowed for two weeks of holidays to go to waste.
High pressure that settled over Britain in the first two weeks of April this year, proved me wrong. And I was reminded that sometimes not having firm plans and go with the flow and weather is the best. We took it on board and made the most of it. I broke another of my rules and routines of only doing long crossings as part of a multi day journey, when one is fit and mentally prepared.
But really, we could not not do it. As we woke up at home on Saturday morning post my last day of work, and checked the weather, it appeared: the thought. On Sunday, while continuing with checking the  weather, the thought slowly changed into a firm idea. On Monday midday it started to become a reality, we were packing, and leaving London towards South West.
On arrival to Cornwall we had two important tasks to do: have dinner and plot the crossing. The plan was simple. The starting hour friendly. The weather pleasant.
We left Sennen Cove at eight in the morning, passed the Longship Lighthouse rather quickly, and settled down into the  rhythm of stroke after stroke, which would eventually bring us to our target, the Isles of Scilly. DSCF2296DSCF2300
The day was clear and sunny, the swell was playful and we made it to St Mary’s one hour faster than we thought. And even if that meant that we were slightly more south than we could have been, it was fine. Landing at Bryher in the afternoon felt good, and the smell of wild garlick quickly cleared our lungs of any city smog. We made it, and felt happy and content.

In this mode we spent the rest of the five days on the islands. Deciding that we will only cross St Marry’s Road if we have to go back on the Scillonian we spent most days paddling on the west or  north side of the islands exploring Bryher, Tean, Tresco and only paddling as south as Samson. The lazy mood stayed and we spent a considerable amount of time on the land exploring the islands rather than just paddle and paddle from one to the next. DSCF2323
And although to go back, we had to take the Scillonian, sometimes changing ones believes is good.

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.