Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Two of a kind

Justine surfing in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey, 2012
Today Summit To Sea, the kayak shop on Anglesey, had a Valley sea kayaks demo day in Trearddur Bay. I joined Justine and Barry and we frequently switched kayaks to take them 'for a spin' in the nice surf of TB. I had never paddled the brand new Valley designs of the Gemini ST and SP. Both shorter length sea kayaks proved to be very playful indeed.
Barry surfing in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey, 2012
With most brands of sea kayaks now more and more tailoring kayak designs for specific purposes it would be harder to choose 'one kayak'. I hope it won't get to the point that there will be new models every season as with white-water kayaks. At least not when I am in the business of selling sea kayaks (Nigel Dennis and Rockpool).

In the evening we went to the Summit to Sea shop where John Willacy gave a lecture on his record circumnavigation of the UK. With the (bad) weather he had it is even more amazing he could break the previous record, only to be broken by Joe Leach shortly after that (also in a Rockpool Taran).
Clair, Lacey and Sarah on Llyn Padarn, Llanberis, 2012
I am Staying with Justine and Barry and it is a 'happy full house' with also Sarah Outen and Claire and her dog Lacey dropping by. In the morning we went paddling near Llanberis, them in a canoe and Justine and I in Rapiers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Romany PM

This week I am in Anglesey for the annual Sea Kayaking UK dealers meeting. In the morning we learn about new developments for the sea kayaks and most importantly, Lendal paddles. Great to learn that these excellent paddles and the versatile PaddLok system are back in strength and improved! In the afternoon we go paddling.
Wednesday and Thursday we went paddling in Penrhyn Mawr. Phil kindly lent me his Romany. The wind changed 180 degrees, so on Thursday there was wind against tide with a full swell running. There were some moments of 'vertigo' as I was surfing off the crest of tidal waves into the 'abyss'. No loopings because the race was not that 'fast' running. The easiest way to start a run was to wait until a wave broke over my back so that it 'catapulted' me into surfing.
For the so many times I paddled in PM it again was a different experience; PM provides unlimited variations.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

11 cities 200km non-stop 10th edition

Writing about my experiences at the start of my paddling 'career' all through my first years of coaching resulted in an article in Sea Kayaker Magazine "Carrying the red lantern". Most of us start out as the slowest paddler and with learning forward paddling skills and lots of paddling we all hope one day to be able to keep up with the 'top guys', or at least never again be in the position of the 'slowest paddler'.

In 2004 I did my first 11-cities 200 km 'non-stop' sea kayak paddling event on inland waterways, finishing in 33 1/2 hours (time-limit 36 hours). For the whole time I found myself again to be the slowest paddler, my team mates (using wing paddles for this occasion) looking over their shoulders that I was still with them... Psychologically it was a horrendous experience. Physically I found it much easier then expected.

In 2011 I did it in 32 hours. This time paddling at my own speed and only linking-up with a team after about 100 km (teams are required to continue through the night), by which time groups of similar speeds have formed. This time the night bit was grueling because of sleep deprivation effects on motivation that left much room for improvement. Again, not so the physical part, but again how the mind, or at least my mind, deals with it.

This year then my third entry: 33 hours. For months ahead I was telling all that I only entered to improve the night bit and paddle the first 100 km to get there and the last 50 km to get back to my car. The night bit went excellent. The only thing I changed this time was not to eat a full hot meal in the evening but regularly eating small bits of food throughout. So not to put my body in sleep mode after a full meal.

I entered the event with Gerard as team member, his first 11-cities. Marian joined, or in hindsight I should say we joined Marian. She had just returned from her Iceland expedition with partner Paul and she felt in the best shape possible to join the event for her first time. I had another interesting learning experience and lots of time to think about it looking at Marian's back...

Paddling in the rear degrades my paddling to 'plowing'. Shorter stokes like it is that I want to be sprinting. No problems at any time in the 200K to close a gap, but never finding my steady lower cadence cruising speed when I am in the rear. That de-motivating 'voice in my head' telling me I am the slowest paddler...

For the sea kayaking I mostly do (dynamic water, coaching and guiding) I am using a 215cm paddle that feels right for me on the sea. For this flat water paddling I adjusted my paddle length to 218 cm lowering my cadence where there is less resistance from interfering effects (wind, waves, maneuvering). Paddling alongside Marian quickly put us ahead of the rest. With no other paddler on my horizon my paddling felt less effort and going faster. That part I already knew, for many, many years. Discussing this 'phenomena' with Gerard and Ad resulted in them independently advising me to paddle in the back for the rest of the 200K to sort it out... To achieve a relaxed cadence even when paddling in the rear. It is all in the mind.

While I arrived in high spirits at the Stavoren check point, having completed the night bit in good shape, Ad arrived to declare that he would stop his 3rd 11-cities there. A self-made decision to stop is as much an achievement as completing the event. Of the 36 that signed-up, 34? started and 30? completed the event.

The overall time is not so much impacted by ones paddling speed, but the more so how long and frequent the (short) breaks are. I can further improve on the breaks with less fiddling with clothing, equipment, lighting, GPS and other unnecessary 'clutter' to leave more time for always welcome short power naps. And a small (night) team reduces overall waiting-on-each-other times. Our achievements are only possible because of our shore support teams and the organizing committee and the volunteers at the check points. Thank you all!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Scheduling a trip

Crossing the IJsselmeer from Oude Zeug to Stavoren and from there crossing again but then to Enkhuizen.

A big thanks to Kees for allowing me to still be there only on day one, while originally I had promised to be there both days.

Tomorrow the group paddles back to Oude Zeug via "de Kreupel" bird island. This is undoubtedly the best open inland water trip in the Netherlands, if one enjoys open water crossings, that is... With zero tide assistance.