Sponsor me for the LondonSurrey 100 mile ride.

Monday, 17 December 2012

A blog at last!

I've been told it's about time I post another blog. Okay, I admit it's been a time since the last one! To be honest I hate computers, I really loath the time spent on them - if I'm sat at a computer it's because something is stopping me from doing something more interesting. This is usually weather, darkness or pressure from an outside source such as the day job or HMRC.

I believe most of the stress in modern life is computer generated. They don't labour save, they create work - either because we now have to complete work on line, produce documents that previously were the domain of specialist printers or simply because some bureaucrat can now produce virtual paperwork faster than trees could have produced real paper in times gone.

Where does all this lead? There are millions of people living in identical houses, driving identical cars and slaving away at jobs they hate for bosses who should have been lobotomised years ago in order to protect the population. That's why I live in a house built around 1880, drive a van to work and a 33 year old car for fun. Mondeo man? Never!

Who publishes the sheet-music of the winds or the music of water written in river-lines?
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts.
No dogma taught by the present civilization seems to form so insuperable an obstacle in the way of a right understanding of the relations which culture sustains to wildness as that which regards the world as made especially for the uses of man. Every animal, plant, and crystal controverts it in the plainest terms. Yet it is taught from century to century as something ever new and precious, and in the resulting darkness the enormous conceit is allowed to go unchallenged."
- from
"Wild Wool", John Muir 1875.

So whatever you pledge to do next year, just go outside - walk a mountain, paddle a river or lake, just go outside!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Coach or instructor?

UKCC Paddlesport coach or canoeing instructor? I understand the title is causing confusion and frustration among some water sports professionals out there. Being labelled instructors is becoming a derogatory term used to describe those of us who qualified before the BCU went down the UKCC route of qualification. Four letters don’t make a coach, it’s the years of experience and depth of knowledge that we bring to our sport that defines a coach.

Just for the record I started coaching in 1992, in cricket and not paddlesports! There’s a revelation. When I was a young newly qualified teacher the Lord's Taverners put money into schools to pay for coaching and to train teachers to teach cricket. We had a very inspirational coach come to our school in the form of Gordon Lord – a former Worcestershire player who would go onto to coach the England under 21 side. Gordon not only taught our pupils how to play cricket, but instilled into them the values of fair and sporting conduct. Values that were sadly amiss out on the housing estate where most of the pupils came from. Gordon also taught me how to assess movement and adapt coaching models to meet individual needs. The most dramatic of these adaptations was a tiny 10 year old girl who could bowl fast, but always bowled wide. Solution? Bowl round the wicket, rather than over the wicket – Shane Warne style! This resulted in some ball tearing deliveries that put fear into even the hardest year 6 boy.

Gaining a teachers certificate in cricket allowed myself and a likeminded colleague (who coached cricket and ice hockey) to feed into the National Coaching Foundation courses available locally. These courses gave us a basic grounding in physiology and sport psychology. Okay, we weren’t going to be Olympic coaches, but at least we now knew what made an athlete tick and how to motivate.

It wasn’t long after this that I returned to kayaking – one fateful Friday when Pam threatened to burn my boat if I didn’t paddle it again. I then ran into a coach called Tim who laid down the basics that I still incorporate into my coaching. Tim also gave me the confidence to go after coaching awards and I entered the BCU scheme directly at level 2 – like many experienced paddlers at the time.

Once qualified I met Phil Russell and was dragged into founding Shropshire Paddlesport Club. Phil and I didn’t always see things the same way, but the club would go on to dominate the youth competition scene for many seasons and produced several British team members. I perhaps didn’t appreciate Phil’s input at the time, but he certainly gave me breath of experience. Phil’s philosophy was simple – if you’re coaching, you should be able to paddle any boat put in front of you. You should also give your athlete the best possible chance of success. Watching the Olympic slalom this week Pam and I joked that we’ve finally found out what happens at the end of the start countdown. 3-2-1-GO! We were never around to hear GO! We were on our way to the first gate after 1.

Phil encouraged us all to take part in competition and I think every paddler should try it at least once. It gives a different view to the sport – just ask Pam what it’s like to tackle Jackfield in a white water racer. Competing in slalom made me learn to use river features to get around the river, rather than just trying to power down it and paddling a sprint C1 was just ridiculous.

It is this “can do” ethos of coaching that I’ve now taken into AR Kayaking. Some mornings I take a complete novice and put them in a boat, usually by the afternoon they’re running their first grade 2. Steep learning curve? Or just 20 years of coaching experience coming into play? Coach or instructor? You tell me.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Llangollen trip

See video of the day out to Llangollen

Not much work with customers due to high river levels. So Saturday saw Phil and I head off to Llangollen for a bit of high water paddling. Use the link above if you want to see what is so good about paddling a river in spate!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Wild wet weekend.

Firstly congratulations to Chris and Teresa for passing their NNAS Silver Award in dreadful conditions at the weekend – gales, rain and hill fog! You had it all and if you could navigate through that, you should be able to find your way through anything.

Conditions were so bad we even had to take a detour to The Bog Visitors Centre – which does some of the best home baked cakes in Shropshire! Usually I manage to avoid a cake stop on assessment courses, but this one was truly earned and the opportunity gratefully received by all, including Derek from NNAS who had come along to moderate the course. Poor Guy, he had left near perfect conditions in Cumbria to take a battering from our beloved Shropshire weather.

I enjoy teaching the NNAS awards, quite often I get people on courses who have done a bit of hillwalking but are put off by the prospect of how serious getting lost could be.  I hope our approach to teaching navigation leaves them confident and competent to go off and explore our amazing hills and mountains for themselves. I’ve always enjoyed going into the hills, just to see what’s there. This goes back to spending what felt like endless Sunday afternoons as a bored child looking out of my Aunty Beryl’s cottage at the Welsh mountains (namely Cadair Idris and Bird Rock) and wondering what it would be like to be up there looking down at these boring people so engrossed in The Weekly News. The wondering lead to me volunteering for the Ten Tors Expedition at school and the rest is history. I’m definitely in the lets go explore fraternity, rather than the how vast can we do it, is there a certificate or how much are you going to sponsor me camps? Visiting wild places really should be about enjoying them for their own value and despite not having any great technically difficult terrain locally, Shropshire does have some great places to visit and would urge you all to park up and go for a walk or a paddle.

Paddling kayaks, canoes and boards are just a different way of traveling through a landscape and I wish people could see the potential of crossing disciplines in order to get the most out of an area. Particularly with SUP boards – okay I have a vested interest here as I sell boards, but they are so versatile. They are light, cruise like a canoe and a large board can carry a substantial load when fitted with the correct dry bags (available from us). SUP really is like an extension of walking, but on water! Something I should have mentioned to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who called today.

My own fault really, last time they called I swapped them a Watch Tower for a Socialist Worker and never expected to see them again, well they came back to see how I got on. This time I did try selling them a kayak lesson, but they weren’t game – despite some strong arguments taken from the book of Revelation. So my message is to get out and enjoy the wilderness, or as John Muir once said – make the mountain smile.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Websites uploaded - at last!

I've finally finshed the website and done a quick tart up on the websites! The main reason for splitting them is that the original website was getting a but too big for its self, also people coming from the adverts in Carve (and on their website) were a bit put off buying surf equipment from a a kayak site.

Yes it was abit confussing. Ideally we would like to be selling boats as well, but most of you know the story of the manufacturers, the estate agent and the little rich girl! If not, buy me a pint and prepare for a long night.

I did intend to have an Endless Summer this year, but timing a trip to Lanzarote in February with the arrival of spring in the UK hasn't quite gone to plan. I can recommend a good SUP school in Lanzarote and according to Pam and her mate the instructor down there isn't bad either. Going down there has made me see the ocean in a new light, part repect and part awe. Hence I hope to get some sea kayaking in once the weather gives! My last attempted trip didn't happen due to adverse weather in the Irish sea, this wasn't a matter of just whimping out - a ship got washed onto shore in North Wales only hours before I attempted to open the car door in Holyhead. I was so glad when my instructor for the day suggested a cafe instead.

Anyway, the Severn still has some water in it despite the pictures in the Shropshire Star saying otherwise, it's amazing what can be achieved with a low camera angle! Summer on the river should be interesting this year as there appears to be an increasing number of Ironbridge cowboys plying their trade out on the water. I wonder how many of these so called instructors are actually qualified? Last summer I had one of them ask me to do his 1,2 and 3 star courses back to back. Turned out the HSE were interested in him for offering instruction to under 18s without proper training. I'm sure many of the operators down there arn't registered companies. They go out with little or no insurance and put any money they take in their back pocket to buy another substandard boat off the internet! Next time you hire an instructor ask for the paperwork!

We've also had a spate of customers not turn up. Until now I've been reluctant to ask for money up front as most people do turn up and thoses who don't usually have good reason and re-book for another date. This lot didn't, just phoned me at 5.30pm on Friday (the day before paddling) to say their plans had changed - no apology. On the Sunday the next set clients just didn't turn up, resulting in Phil and I waiting around for a hour in the Dale End car park. Hence from now on it's payment before paddling! I believe in part it's adventure sports websites and the sort of people who feel a need to use them. We've been listed on one such site without our consent, I only stuck with it because some of compeitors are on it. I have yet to get one firm booking from the site, the people who go through such sites are usually in search of adventure in cotton wool and don't like the thought of cold water, physical exertion and the usual stuff that goes with learning to paddle! They just want photographs to impress their colleagues (they don't have friends) on Monday in the office; learning a sport and loving the outdoors doesn't figure.

Anyway, client no show = good session for instructors! Phil, Jim and I all went down to Jackfield for a play - and what a play it was! Shame I didn't have the Kaos with me, but it's still a little cold for the micro boat as I can't fit in it with my drysuit on.

See you all back on the water!


Monday, 9 January 2012

Winter Blues

So far not a good winter! Head full of snot, followed by sinus infection, followed by another cold as a result of being around unhealthy people. Visiting hospitals can really be bad for your health!

Now the head is clear I might even get out and paddle - especially now the rivers are back down into the relms of being padlled by us mortals. Any Smurfs ready to get wet?