Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Guests

It has been snowing now for hours on end, resulting in four inches of snow. Winter arrived. The annual arrival of Red Robin is a sure sign of imminent freezing temperatures. Why, I do not know, but generally a day or two after I first sight Red Robin in the garden it allways starts to freeze...

New this year (for me) is the Ring-necked Parakeet. First I thought it was an escaped cage bird (which in fact it is...). But seeing them in groups of 10-15 and looking-up about them I know these exotic birds are here to stay.
Not becoming too policital about it... Should we round them up and deport them back to the country they came from? But the saying says it all... Free as a bird. And they do add colour.

Another 'free bird' is my good old Tweety. My yellow Explorer, now burried under four inches of snow. I Taw a Putty Tat...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freya did it !

Logo designed by Domingo Benitez

Freya Hoffmeister completed her circumnavigation of Australia.

Awesome and 'amazing' !


I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
(Men at Work - Down Under)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Serious Request

Albert-Jan, A friend of mine, executed 15 rolls within two minutes for charity and thus collected 1763,40 euro.

The biggest challenge for him would not be the rolling itself, but the current near-freezing water (and air!) temperatures...

Albert-Jan opened my eyes (wide) some years ago when he hand-rolled in a tide-race in the week of his Advanced Sea Proficiency assessment. That was before all the Greenland-style rolling 'arrived' in the Netherlands.

Check-out his website for more information and footage and news items on this challenge.

The Serious Request challenge is national radio charity week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kayak Coaching Workshop Part 3

Today was the last day of a coach workshops that the Dutch Canoe Union (NKB) organised for (aspirant) kayak coaches. The focus of this three-day course was on the needs, wants and fears of students; when it becomes coaching instead of just 'instruction'.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Surfing at Whitesand's

We drove down to Pembrokeshire for a weekend of surfing. I brought over my Mega Neutron surf kayak to try out in 'proper surf'. Barry is trying-out his recent acquisition, a wave ski. Justine has a Valley Storm to try. Phil is boarding. So a lot of toys for in the surf. Sunday turned-out to be a gorgeous sunny day at Whitesands Bay. An almost off-shore wind and a nice rip-current along the rocks to paddle out almost effortless. I had some great (very fast!) long rides, some major thrashings and one long swim (after being catapulted out of my kayak...). I am amazed how much can be done with a low brace in these (for me) massive waves. And Phil showed what can be done in my kayak with the right skills...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Running the Lligwy

It's Justine's birthday today and off we (Justine, Barry, Tara. Hugh and me) went to the Lligwy river. Surf-lines kindly lend me a Dagger river kayak. I paddled once before on the Lligwy. But now water levels are very high. Because of the heavy rains over the last days other potential rivers are out of the question. Hugh is the most experienced river paddler and I listen carefully to his advice. Today I learned to 'look ahead'. We played by getting into as much eddies and stoppers as possible. But every time I missed one, and drifted backwards down the river, I thought "What's behind me" when I scraped overhanging branches...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Help for Heroes

A little over a month ago I was contacted by Sam Stuthridge, who lives in Germany. Sam and Colin Appleby were planning a charity challenge to sea kayak, unsupported, from Nijmegen (Holland) along the Waal River to Rotterdam, along the coast of Holland, Belgium and France before crossing the Channel at Calais/Dover and finally making their way up the Thames estuary to finish at the Tower of London.

Sam was in need of a suitable sea kayak for this expedition and had arranged with Nigel Dennis that he could borrow an Explorer. Only how to get a sea kayak from Anglesey at this short notice? Yes, the challenge was planned for mid October!

The equipment solution was simple, I would lend-out my Explorer.

But planning this kind of trip in October is a challenge in itself. Moreover Autumn solidly kicked-in early October with unrelenting strong winds.

They made it! Although it meant some adjustments to the planned route, they didn't give up. And they never lost focus on their charity for what it was all about in the first place.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kayak Coaching Workshop

The new Dutch kayak coaching scheme has no formal pre-requisites how the aspirants learn about coaching. That there is a big demand for those courses showed itself when Arie and Han Kreuk organized coaching workshop days. Last year's course was solidly overbooked. Today 30-some (aspirant) kayak coaches listened to dynamic lectures and participated in workshops by Watze de Vries and Pieter de Haas. Other coaches where assigned to each work group. Two more days to come.

The picture of Pieter in front of all the paper sheets might look 'boring'. Let me tell you that it was a very active and motivating session. And there was also a lot 'between the lines' that could be picked-up by the more experienced coaches. For the on-the-water part I choose to be in a canoe (maybe a picture later), only to find out that the rest of my group used sea kayaks... Another work-out, but we did not go far fortunately.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October Surfing

Above is the first picture of my surf kayak; trying to get off the beach with fins takes a bit more effort or very much appreciated help.

I went out surfing with the Uitgeest kayak club at Castricum aan Zee. They have a very active surf group and Anoushka and Wieger invited me to join them today.

My kayak felt more stable than ever. I am apparently getting used to it. That it takes time to get used to, showed itself when others were trying out my kayak. Everybody quickly swam after trying to roll... Rolling has to be custom learned in this kayak. Although it was windy and the surf very soupy, I am starting to get some rides in.
I exchanged boats with Anoushka (she took above picture of Rene) for a while. With her 'long-old-style-ww-kayak' I managed to punch through beyond the breakers. I did not dare to catch anything in before I had regained my breath. I needed that breath when a big breaker munched me whole. I broadsided quickly and bongo-slided in various positions/angles through the break line. There are different ways of playing with the surf, or better: various ways the surf plays with me. And different boats give the surf different ways to play with.

The picture of me is taken by Hans (see picture below) who has written-up his account of the day on his blog.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Welcome back my friends...

This week I was re-united with a long (thought forever) lost friend. I found the good old Lady back on the internet. Stronger than ever, world-wide via internet radio stream and satellite.

My first memories of listening to music radio stations go back to 1973. I was eleven years old. Then it was Radio Veronica and Radio North Sea International. When they died in 1974, because of anti "Pirate Radio" laws, Radio Caroline continued... And how! Against almost insurmountable odds. Until the Ross Revenge ran a-ground in a November 1991 gale. All through my school years and beyond, this is what I listened to. Great Rock (album) music.

Of all the radio stations I listened to after that, none could hold my interest for longer than a few months, because of the 'regurgitating play list formats'. Just this year I started to transfer all my music to MP3 format, because of that. And now I have all my music in MP3 ?

Radio Caroline plays again through the speakers. Songs (and sounds) that in a split-second time-warp me back 20+ years. Songs that I have not heard on any other station again all that time. And great new music too!

Maybe finally a reason to activate G3-internet on my mobile phone...

My first kayak, in 1994, was a Kirton Meridian. It was faded-red, my Ross Revenge. And true to the Lady, she is also very much alive!

Running, Laughing, Skipping through the streaming fields of time
On my way back home
Sky is shining time is flying bird is on the wing
On my way back home
Flying to the sun sweet Caroline

(New Riders of the Purple Sage)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Surfing at Katwijk

I went surfing with Jan this afternoon. I took my surf kayak out for the first time. I should have checked the wind strength AND the current. If I had, I would also have taken my sea kayak. Now I found myself fighting a hell of an along-shore rip current against a force 5/6 south-westerly wind (along shore). I was going backwards. No way to position myself for a run. But Jan was kind enough to lend me his Explorer a few times and that was fun. Also today for the first time, I used my short WW/Surf Lendal Kinetic paddle. I should have used a shorter paddle for surfing years ago... Even in the sea kayak I was quicker to react with it to the waves and for take-off. Late afternoon the (rip-) current slackened a bit and I could try the Mega Neutron again. Still hard work with the wind, but at least I could get a bit used to my new craft.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The way forward...

I never would have thought that my first course on a river would be in a canoe! Phil Hadley, Jennifer Kleck, Karl Anderson, Ginni Callahan and I headed of for the Clackamas River in Oregon for two days of 4-star canoe leader training.
Click on below picture for a slide-show.200908241600480379_AS.JPG
I definitely had some thoughts if my skills would be good enough to join them. I came prepared for lots of swimming practice...

It has been a long time when I actually felt the sensation of adrenaline rush: heading down a rapid into the unknown. It felt really good to feel the pressure on the blade and be 'in control', an amazing feeling. Having before only been on flat water with a canoe and appreciating the blade awareness bit. This is so much more, this is FUN!!

Only the poling (against and with the current) was very hard work. In the end determination overcame frustration. Phil tried to motivate me by saying that the poling bit was definitely 5*. In the end it just comes down to skill, I learned a lot...

We don't have swift running rivers in the Netherlands. I am looking forward to new opportunities to paddle rivers in a canoe. Blade awareness, boat control and feel of the water are so much more intense and fun in a canoe.

Whenever you go canoeing with Jen though, be very aware when she wants to change boats. It might be that she trades her very maneuverable and most-wanted canoe for a more straight tracking, but faster one. But only at a time when the rapids are over and it becomes flat water... On the positive side, I got to practice a lot on my J-stroke efficiency and speed...

Thanks Judy, Sue and Ken for insisting that Ginni and I should not be around for symposium clean-up! And that we should join Phil.

Click on below picture to follow Phil through a rapid.200908241405000367_AS.JPG
I leave you with a phrase by Phil that could be misinterpreted for all those that have NOT been at LoCo.: "There is only one way..."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Making Waves at LoCo 2009

I very much enjoyed my third Lower Columbia River Kayak Round-Up. Great weather and excellent paddling conditions. Click on below picture (Ginni is creating wind waves for the Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning course) to start a slide-show.
Some highlights... Working with Gene Totz on Performance Paddling; doing video analysis, I had a difficult time analyzing Gene's forward paddling. During the Foundation Safety & Rescue Training I learned new alternatives to the back-deck carry. During the 4* Sea Leader Training, Santiago showed some acrobatics, keeping up the ante. This year I came-in third in the Greenland rolling competition. I became better prepared than last year, unexpectedly that earned me a special rolling award (click above picture to start the slide-show). I almost nailed the brick-roll, if only I find a way to bring the brick on the deck out of balance brace position without capsizing again...
Within the BCU UKCC coaching scheme, canoeing is of much increased importance. Where blade-awareness is sometimes difficult to learn with a sea kayak paddle, it comes so natural with a canoe paddle. It is all about transference of skills.

And would I have ever thought that canoeing is so much fun!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Peddelpraat Sea Kayak Week 2009

This is the third year we are at the great location of the BKC soccer club in Anna Paulowna. In this part of the Netherlands there is water on three sides. The North Sea on the west coast, the IJsselmeer in the east and the Waddenzee in the North. Always options to paddle for everyone.
The last day we try to have one trip for all the participants. Generally we end-up on the IJsselmeer where there are less issues with group control and shipping. This year we chose to paddle from Den Helder to Oudeschild. Announcing one pod of 40 (!) kayakers to the coast guard had them double-check if they heard right...

200908091017589963_RF.GIFIn a tight formation we where out and back with no problems, thanks to the aspirant "Dutch 5-star" paddlers taking charge of the group and setting themselves up as "border collies".

This year I joined the tour group. That was about as much I could handle, being the overall organizer for the week, with a lot of help. Thank you all!

And again Ronald made us our T-shirts, which are truly collector's items. For the BBQ on the last evening Ronald drew this cartoon on the whiteboard. Truly temporary art, captured on camera and transformed into a line-art picture. I could not bring myself to "wiping-out" his artwork.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Out of Place

Sea kayaking in Netherlands is not known for it's tide-races. Having said that, occasionally one can find standing waves over (shifting) sand bars. Today we could play at the T2 buoy off Texel. Continuing around Noorderhaaks (with a Peddelpraat club trip) with more sand bars and wide surf zones. Three capsizes, one roll, two swim's, one re-entry-and-roll and one T-rescue. Hey! I did not flip once! And a good work-out against the wind on the way back. Last week's sore back muscle still there this morning: gone! Start of Summer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dutch Sea Kayakers around Ireland

Good friends of mine, Paul de Haas and Marian Makelaar (center two in below picture) have started on their circumnavigation of Ireland. You can check their progress on their website.
In 2007 they paddled around the Faroe Island and wrote about that trip in "Op Pad" Magazine.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Pictures a NKB week in Anglesey

Pictures of the Dutch Canoe Union (NKB) Anglesey week (25 April through 1 May) are now on-line. Click on a picture to view the slide-show.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Almost every season the crossing of the IJsselmeer lake from Oude Zeug to Stavoren is on the Peddelpraat club paddling calendar. It is a 17 km crossing to Stavoren and the same distance back.

Only just before Stavoren the wind picked-up to the forecasted northeasterly 4-5 Beaufort. This is a holiday weekend and the IJsselmeer is crowded with sailing boats.

We arrived around noon in Stavoren. We had lunch and I dozed in the sunshine on the grass sheltered from the wind. The coast guard by now reported a solid force 5 from the northeast. Unfortunately that meant the waves were side-on on our return journey, so no surfing a following sea. The best was saved for last. We had aimed a little bit high and could surf for the last half hour back to the put-in, 'flying'.

At 16:30 we were back at the Oude Zeug harbour. Some very tired. Indeed it is an 'advanced' trip, that more than once participants underestimate, including me, but that was many years ago.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Verdamp lang her

A few months ago I slowly started to transfer my music CD's to MP3 format for use on my mobile 'everything/everywhere' gadget. Along came one of my all-time favorite bands, BAP, that I have not listened to for ten years or so. And they are hardly ever played on the radio, at least not anywhere other than in their home country. It now plays at max volume over my car stereo. It is probably strongly encoded in my genes that I did not find it too hard then to learn to understand the local Cologne/German dialect they sing their lyrics in.

It is interesting what time does to dreams. Would I have ever imagined then where I am today? It has been a long time ago... The best things I did find have not been the things I was looking for. Stop dreaming, stop searching?

Words, as powerful as ever, in any language or even personal dialect.

Verdamp lang her, dat ich fast alles ähnz nohm.
Verdamp lang her, dat ich ahn jet jejläuv
Ich weiβ noch, wie ich nur dovun gedräump hann,
wovunn ich nit woss, wie ich et sööke sollt,
vüür lauter Söökerei et Finge jlatt versäump hann
un övverhaup, wat ich wo finge wollt.
Ne Kopp voll nix, nur die paar instinktive Tricks.
Et duhrt lang, besste dich durchblicks.

(BAP - Verdamp lang her)

Saturday, May 02, 2009


This year marks my tenth year attending the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium. It was in May 2000 that I visited for the first time to check out a feature that I had only heard talking about: tide-races and overfalls.

Anglesey, as I know now, is blessed with a great many of them. And they run 'around the clock'. How 'good' they run is very difficult to predict. A highly variable blend of current (springs/neaps), wind (strength/direction), waves and swell (height/direction) account for very varied conditions.

Today was one of those days when all variables combined to create a magical Penrhyn Mawr tide-race. For your information, it was a neap tide... Somehow races look less intimidating when the sun shines. For the first time I looped in a tide-race. PM was still running and highly playable when we returned to the beach. Ten years ago I would plan my route to avoid tide-races, now I am playing in them at heart's content.
Planning to play in tide-races, the necessary personal skills and leadership issues involved should not be underestimated. The Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium (or specialist courses) are a great (and safe) way to get introduced/advance into these tidal phenomena. I feel very fortunate to have been introduced to them by the local experts.
Ten years might have gone-by but I am as thrilled as my first paddling strokes catching and surfing the tidal waves.

Many happy returns!

For a slide-show click on one of the above pictures.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hans Brinker

When I am abroad I often get questions how sea kayaking is in the Netherlands. And what the difference is between the Netherlands and Holland.

People in the US are always keen to tell me that they heard of the famous kid (Hans Brinker) that stopped flooding in the Netherlands by putting his finger in a hole in the dike. In turn, I have to confess that I have never learned about this amazing feat in my early school days. It is only because of my travels that I learned about it. Getting this story fed back to me on my last visit to Anglesey by a Brit (or to be more PC, a Cornish guy) had me looking it up on the Internet...
"Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates" is a book written by Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865. The writer implied that her story is based on fact, while in reality she wrote a book on the Netherlands, a country that she never ever visited. That explains a lot!

If this is the case, then how about all that other Dutch folklore like windmills, wooden shoes, tulips and dikes? They are all 'true' and the Dutch tourist board is keen to reinforce the images that are already embedded in the minds of prospective visitors.

So how about paddling in the Netherlands? We have lots of water; sea, lakes and inland canals. What better independent and fresh view then from a sea kayaker that has just recently moved to the Netherlands and is logging her trips. Rhian has started her blog with the first trip in her new sea kayak.

Holland is technically the two western coastal provinces of the Netherlands. The historic significance of Holland (with Amsterdam) lies in the our golden age during the 1700's with it's Dutch East India Company (VOC) and it's infamous 'tulip rally'. This tulip 'mania' is considered to be the first recorded speculative bubble. There are many, many similarities to modern-day (pyramid-scheme) events like the internet bubble, banking 'crisis' and housing market 'crisis': Greed feeding an unsustainable 'growth'.

Does my mind wander off too much trying to point to a modern day "Hans Brinker"? Is it our "finance ministers" trying to put the finger in the financial dikes? Sure I would say that they try to plug the hole from the wrong side. And committed like this there is no way to look over the dike to actually see what the real problem is. So forget about Hans Brinker; a metaphor for incompetence.

The picture of Hans Brinker is from the "Madurodam" theme park in the Hague; a miniature version (scale 1:25) of the Netherlands on one square kilometer. Visit the whole of the Netherlands in only a day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Waves of reflection

A northwesterly storm force 8 is raging. I went on a coastal hike from Holyhead to Porthdafarch. From Soldiers' Point I had great views of massive breaking waves reflected off the Holyhead breakwater. My hike continued towards North Stack. From there I went up Holyhead Mountain and down towards South Stack, continuing towards Portdafarch. Walking back along the road past Anglesey Outdoors Centre. Familiar scenes seen from a different perspective.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Here, there and everywhere

I arrived in Anglesey on Thursday in Spring time weather for NDK business. Justine and Barry are around and they invited me to come over for a Sunday paddle. Unfortunately Barry had work to do, so Justine and I headed down the Llynn Peninsula for Aberdaron to paddle to Bardsey Island. It was way back in September 2002 that I last visited Bardsey. Justine is trying-out her new Sanoodi mobile phone GPS tracking software, so our route is well documented (Bardsey & Bardsey Return).

On Bardsey, after moving our kayaks higher twice (just in case), we headed for the farm house. It is lambing season and the farmer family have a busy time of checking all of the 300 ewes that can give birth anytime. A sure sign of Spring.200903221522288917_JC.JPG Holding a day-old lamb feels as soft and warm as my woolen hat. After three hours on the Island we found our kayaks still safe. It would not be the first time that somebody looses their kayak to the tide while visiting this wonderful Island. Heading back looked easy. The wind had dropped and the sea flattened. Halfway across we enjoyed some surfing, that could now only mean that we paddled against the current coming out of Aberdaron Bay. It is around neaps, but the tidal current increased coming closer to the headland and showing multiple eddy-lines and boils. I separated quite a bit from Justine being just in a different current line. It turned-out to be quite a work-out on the last bit. Using surges to 'wash' around headlands against the current. 200903221524068920_AS.JPGBack at the house, next to a fire pre-lit by Barry, I quickly fell asleep on the sofa, counted three cuddly lambs, feeling woolly warm.

P.S. I have been working late today Monday and only now found the time to upload this post. To reduce some carbon footprint you can look on Justine's blog for more pictures and her account of the day. It is now very windy and chilly in Anglesey, waves crashing over the Holyhead breakwater. My thoughts are with those new born lambs on Bardsey.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Invasion of "Paard van Marken"

Saturday 52! paddlers gathered at the dike to Marken for the trip to the "Paard van Marken" and Volendam; a Peddelpraat club trip tradition of some decades.

Although this enormous group size (an all-time record) is an outright nightmare for group control, it has become a social gathering of some magnitude, that the organizers try to facilitate as best they can. Marianne, today's overall trip leader, assigned tasks for buddy-ed-up front, back, left and right boundary paddlers.

The whole flotilla moved surprisingly compact towards Marken in quartering force 3/4 winds, every now and then surfing. The 'trick' with the boundary paddlers paying off. And being a social gathering nobody seems to see this trip as a work-out.

Arriving at the "Paard of Marken", a historic lighthouse landmark, for a coffee break probably looked like an invasion by the lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse keeper is planting flowers and we are welcomed.

What do sea kayakers do first when they land? They go for a pee. It has already surprised me often what paddlers think of the best place to pee when there is water all around... Today the favorite spot seems to be the reeds. Not that it provides more privacy. It triggers a strong angry response from the lighthouse keeper, ouch! She tells us that she has to deal with many visitors. Specially for them last year the council established a visitor toilet. She complains about the smell from the reeds she has to cope with. Apparently it is the favorite spot to pee. Only a week before another large flotilla of kayaks invaded their property and did their thing...

So everybody who visits "Paard van Marken", please use the available toilet unit! The picture from above is taken by the lighthouse keeper. Visit their website for more information, stories and beautiful pictures of living at "Paard van Marken" historic landmark.

P.S. The toilet-unit is just out of sight of the Lighthouse keepers, behind the green shed, and it's clean and free!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Kayak Pro

The Watersport Council invited me to give a lecture on sea kayaking at the HISWA Amsterdam Boat Show. Lacking any kayak/canoe specific show, the Dutch canoe union (NKB) this year linked-up with the Watersport Council stand at the HISWA. The watersport council had lots of activities going-on. Long lines of youths signing-up for the many water basin activities, including kayaking, waterskiing and wind-turbine dingy-sailing. A smoothly organized operation with lots of volunteers. The slogan "" seems a catching phrase, at least with the youngsters. The cold unheated pool water did not deter any of them.
Prominently at the NKB stand the KayakPro Speedstroke kayak trainer/ergometer. Again lots of attention from youngsters for a simulated race projected in front of them. When I first heard of the KayakPro, I joked that next would be racing with others on the internet in simulated environments. Well so far for my joke as this kind of simulation is already reality, or at least in beta. You never have to leave your home again for kayaking... The same could be said of Justine's This is the Sea DVD's, snippets from #1 playing at the lecture arena in-between lectures. Maybe something for future versions of KayakPro add-on software? Paddling in Penrhyn Mawr, Skooks, Baja, circumnavigating Tasmania, never having to leave home to kayak... And everyone can paddle with Justine. I Wonder if one could roll with a Kayak Pro.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Sunrise

Paddling through a Milky Way of shooting stars. Bioluminescence lightens-up the sea milky white where my paddle blades are pulled through the water. Our sea kayaks are infrequently hit by flying fish, startled by our early moving presence. Up above the last of the brightest stars fade-out into the new sunrise. The first sunrise of the New Year. Turning the eastern sky bright red and reflecting red-purple off the Sierras de la Giganta in the west. While the world turns and going in circles around the sun. Day in, year out. Never ending new beginnings. Here I am, at the south end of Danzante Island, the Dancer. Sharing the start of the new year's day with two of my very best friends. A happy New Year!

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps