Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Eyes of a Tiger

My glasses were in desperate need of replacement having lasted unchanged for more than 15 (!) years. They have been all over the world and seen lots of salt water. The frame is missing non-essential parts for at least 5 years. I never understood when paddling partners could not read my weather/tide crib cards, now I know. I am getting old... My sight for distance did not change over those years, but for relaxed reading (books) I would need reading glasses, for my computer 'computer-glasses'? I already inquired about a new pair of glasses. But I left the eyeglasses shop utterly confused of needing three pairs of custom corrective glasses for best results. Not a nice spectacle.

Upon advice of my girlfriend Saskia, I inquired about eye-laser treatment. As a risk averse person I initially had a huge reluctance with accepting this option. Although the risks are considered to be small, these are my only two eyes... After two independent check-ups and three months of contemplating I finally went for it.

Yesterday afternoon I had my eyes laser treated. For the interested: it was Lasek Wavefront. This is the least 'invasive' treatment, but it is offset with the most healing pain that can last a week. I had prepared for excruciating pain when the localized anesthetics would wear off. Pleasantly surprised I am typing this the morning after without pain. Sight is still blurry, but my pair of glasses are useless now... Final, stable, results can only be determined after 6 months and after one year.

Recovering for the next 4-6 weeks I will be paddling in Baja in February, but from now on only with non-descript sunglasses. I might still need cheap reading glasses at some point.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tiger Prints

On our way back from Abraham's Bossom we were treated with nice surf waves at Penrhyn Mawr. Not big, but easy to catch. A nice day to end our stay in Anglesey.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Back on my feet

OK, I promise to take back a bit on choosing fitting post titles. Today we (Saskia, Shawna, Leon, Barry, Justine and I) hiked up Snowdon. Hiking up knowing there is also a train takes away some of the pressure. At the top the wind is howling. And no train back...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back again

The weather looked promising for another play at Penrhyn Mawr. However the swell is exceptionally big today. Infrequent big sets run into Porth Dafarch. Saskia cleared a particularly big set that had me skip a heartbeat or two.
Penrhyn Mawr at slack looked foreboding. Even the 'Chiken Run' had a swell run through it. Not a day to play here. Instead we paddled to Trearddur Bay hoping to find some surf. Unfortunately T-Bay was too sheltered for the swell direction, no surf there.
It is nice to hear, see and smell how big swell crashes on a rocky shoreline. Another nice day on the water.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Back in a sea kayak

Today was the first day in a sea kayak after my lower back injury. Nigel kindly lent me an ExplorerHV sea kayak so that had a little more legroom for my still hurting hamstrings. Saskia and I left from Porth Dafarch beach for Penrhyn Mawr, where a good swell was running.
It was very difficult to take it easy today not wanting to over exert my back. Seeing Shawna, Leon, Justine and Barry catching the perfect waves did hurt a bit. After a break Saskia and I continued to South Stack.
My back feels OK, only my left leg hamstrings are still a bit stiff.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Early yesterday morning I spent a lot of time thinking about my next big expedition. After attending a BCU UKCC L3 core training at Plas-y-Brenin I stayed in Holyhead for the week. I learned about pending new expeditions and record attempts around Anglesey. Justine Curgenven (in a Valley Rapier) just put the pressure on everyone by closing in on John Willacy's record (in a Taran) by just 14 minutes... Sea Kayaking UK is also starting to stir things with their new Cadence racing sea kayak (breaking the Isle of Man record).

After a lot of painful contemplations, I decided my next big expedition was to get from my bed to the bathroom.

I hurt my lower back earlier last week. Despite OK on Wednesday to paddle the Swellies, I got struck down worse on Friday. I found myself immobilized on Saturday morning. Eila was kind enough to sponsor me with food and inflammatory drugs. Dale kindly advised me on a cold-pack and hot-bath recovery scheme. Unfortunately Geoff Murray from Tasmania got the short end of it. I had promised to go paddling with him on Sunday, but my back, although recovering, is not in any state to sit in a kayak.

On this truly gorgeous Sunday with perfect tides for a 'stacks run', my next expedition was to walk from the house I am staying in to South Stack and back, a 1 mile journey. Expeditions do not have to be far away, long or fast, they are about adventure and personal accomplishment. My expeditions of yesterday and today fell into that category.
Having said that, take a look at Sarah Outen's amazing journey that takes her to an unexpected place.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gathering at the Swellies

This evening I paddled at the Swellies with Barry and Phil. This is a popular place for sea kayakers at spring-tides for a surfable standing wave forms then. When it runs well one is never alone and soon familiar faces dropped into the scene and onto the wave.
The locals can catch the wave more easily than I can. It was hard work to get it just right to have long runs without being swept off on the left- or right-hand side of it. I enjoyed a few great long rides today.
When the Swellies wave diminished the next play-spot was off the cardinal marker rock. I have never played there before. Here it was easy to drive the bow into the 'hole' where the current rushed over a submerged rock. I surfed and locked my kayak on the rock in front of me and within a few minutes I was loose off the rock because of the rising water level, still surfing. With an increasing roaring sound of rushing water; ever changing.
A great evening it was.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Peddelpraat Sea Kayak Week with BBB

This year's PeddelPraat sea kayak week was very special with the presence of Shawna Franklin & Leon Sommé of Body Boat Blade International.
It is a Peddelpraat tradition of more than 30 years to invite over inspirational coaches for an influx of new ideas and opportunities for looking at existing skills from a different perspective.
Participants and coaches enjoyed a great week and learned lots and lots. Shawna & Leon are truly amazing coaches.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Body Boat Blade

In the run-up of this year's PeddelPraat sea camp, internationally renowned sea kayak coaches Shawna Franklin & Leon Sommé of Body Boat Blade International gave two 1-day coaching workshops for a number of Dutch sea kayak instructors.
I first met them at USA sea kayak symposiums. I was thrilled that they came over to the Netherlands and could arrive early to run some coach development sessions. But what would our Dutch sea kayak coaches think of their approach to coaching?
From the 12 participating coaches (6 per day) I heard comments like: "The best coaching ever", "Why didn't I have this kind of coaching years ago when I started coaching?", "I learned more today than in my whole coaching carreer" and "Can we already book them for next year?".
I find it impossible to summarize the two days. Anecdotal is a moment at the beginning of the second day where the participating coaches were given a combination technique without too much explanation and having them try to figure it out for themselves. Most were struggling to get it 'right'. Lots of puzzled faces. One remark of a participant I vividly remember: "This is the worst coaching I ever had". In a split-second I recognized that these first ten minutes on the water would turn into the best coach development day that I had ever observed. The combination 'technique' formed the basis for a complete and comprehensive day on individualized coaching and understanding the core fundamentals of (sea) kayaking skills and skills development. Pretty awesome!
From aspirant sea kayak coaches to senior coaches we all found coaching gems to incorporate into our coaching practice.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Sparks & Splashes around Texel

Arriving early for a weekend trip with Peddelpraat around the island of Texel, Saskia and I had a nice evening paddle from Den Helder to Noorderhaaks and back.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fogged in

Today was my third attempt to (co-)organize a Zeevaardigheid-Extra (Sea Kayak Leader) assessment for the Dutch Canoe Union. To no avail...

Last year it got canceled for no conditions, in March it got canceled because of sea water temperatures of 3 degrees Celcius. Today it was already canceled because of only force 2/3 winds. However the candidates were keen to use this as a training day instead. Now fog is preventing any paddling. By law we could only be on the water when we would have radar.

The above picture is a still from the webcam on the roof of Lands End hotel & restaurant at Den Helder at 07:17 today. Below is the live feed.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

T-Bay Remits

Today Trearddur Bay was flooded with 4* and 5* trainees. While the 4* kept to the shelter of the southern side, the 5* ventured out in a bit bigger waves and strong(er) (onshore) winds.
The above picture is a bit deceptive, but it gives a nice perspective to the 'outer remits' compared to the safety of the inner bay.
Apart from tidal currents all skills aspects of 4 star (and probably 5*) could be practiced. We could even pick a nice 3-foot surf zone to launch and land through.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Holyhead Mountain Highlights

On the Trail,
Up the Mountain,
Off the Track,
Down the Slope.

A nice afternoon hike with Saskia from North Stack to South Stack & Ellin's Tower and back.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Solo PM

Do not think you are ever alone in Penrhyn Mawr.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Skerries Twice

I arrived a week early for the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium. While Nico and Karien run this year's Anglesey week for the Dutch Canoe Union, I am 'jobless'. I had some plans for personal paddling, however weather and tide are not always perfect at the same time.

Today I paddled from Porth Dafarch to the Skerries. Taking the 'conveyer belt tide' off Penrhyn Mawr brought me to the Skerries within two hours. I arrived before 'Skerries sunrise'. With no sunshine and the prospect of a three-and-a-half hour wait, I decided to paddle onwards to Cemlyn.

During that navigation I changed my mind. I should have planned better before leaving the Skerries with my fluke change of plan. The quickest way back would be from the Skerries again. I aimed for the mainland, missing West Mouse wide, and paddled the eddy towards Carmel Head. With 1.5 hours of the flood still to go I ferry glided on a 270 degrees course back to the Skerries where it was blazing with sunshine. The sun always shines on the Skerries (if you arrive after local sunrise that is) !
Back to Porth Dafarch took a bit longer with the ebb just barely starting. This was a very nice paddling day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Menai's Moving Water

Chris took above photo of me playing the small race off the west side of Ynys Gorad Goch. Below is Lianna surfing at the Anglesey side.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Paddlers Polishing Plates

OK, the literal English translation of "Peddelaars Poetsen Platen" does look a bit 'odd', like the above picture. However yesterday 28 sea kayakers took on upon the grass-roots initiative by Hartger, Paul and Marian to clean the Noorderhaaks sand spit from trash. The initiative was welcomed by KIMO environmental NGO that took care of logistics for getting the collected trash back to the mainland.
Interesting finds were a brand-new kite-board with phone number (we did not find the owner yet) and a Scottish GPS-tag that still held some fur of it's previously tagged owner, probably a seal. The exact composition of the trash will be investigated by KIMO.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Bing Sting

This morning I got a worrying e-mail from my hosting provider: "This message is to advise you of a temporary block placed on your account. This account was found to be consuming an inordinate amount of processor time, to the point of degrading overall system performance."

Looking into the matter I found the culprit being the Microsoft Bing search engine crawler... That was indeed firing away thousands of website (and connected database) calls a minute... OK, Microsoft software is generally seriously flawed, however that MS is spawning "Denial of Service attacks" is new to me.

Proper dealing with web crawlers involves a universally recognized and respected robots.txt file. So I added a 'crawl-delay' for the 'Bingbot'. Within minutes after the change, my website was blocked again with a prompt informative and helpful support team e-mail saying: "The site is being swarmed by Bing crawlers. Bing crawlers do not respond to a robots.txt file". Another serious misconduct by Microsoft.

The hosting provider support team directs me to "Bing Webmaster Tools". Not to be confused with "Google Webmaster Tools". Google Webmaster Tools is THE BEST (free) webmaster support tool EVER. Probably something that Microsoft now tries to copy. But in the very best of Microsoft traditions they just created a big mess of theirs.

Instead of allowing Bing to find my site, I just now made it extremely hard for Microsoft to index my site in Bing, at least to a point that it NEVER EVER AGAIN comes anything close to launching more 'MS DoS attacks'. What use it is to have ones site on the #1 spot on a search results page, only to be arriving at a blocked site? Microsoft now surely made it to Junk status (with a negative outlook), at least with me. More than April fools!

Anyway, part of this beautiful Easter monday was spent with a short but rewarding family outing, kinda reunion. What happened to my kayaking? Is Spring finally out there? Paddling in due course!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


After almost a year my mailbox is completely empty again. A lot of time was lost on just checking, prioritizing and organizing. Not that my list was ever that long, I am good at organizing, but still, more and more time and energy spent on process and not on content.

'My' theory is that one gathers so much stuff as one has space for. In the physical world one is limited to cupboards, cellars, attics or garage to move stuff 'out of sight'.

In the digital world space is ever expanding, limitless; stuff scattered everywhere; selectively out of sight. Only when we want it back we can hopefully find it again, if not deleted.

The mind is different. The brain is extremely efficient in storing forever more memories whether we want them stored or not, if we are lucky enough to be healthy. OK, sometimes we struggle with peoples names, but for the rest we probably remember every random bit of detail about a person, meeting or event forever.

Organizing is a fully automated (chemical?) process and in no way can we decide not to store memories or remove them selectively. The brain is blinding fast in recognizing patterns in previous experiences. Premonition could be just something that fits a pattern of previously stored events; already happened, no escaping.

'Emptying' the mind requires focus. At least that is a bit similar to emptying ones mailbox.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Waal River Master Class

Far away from the sea, but a predictable way of experiencing white-water sea kayaking in the Netherlands is on the Waal River close to where Nico lives. At the junction of the river Waal with the Pannerdens Canal, passing river barges interfere with the strong river current creating standing waves.

Today, the extreme high water levels washed-out some of the regular play features, most notably the river groins, but enough remained for some nice play on this day that Nico organized for a group of enthusiastic sea kayakers.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Golden Age

Watching an episode of a new Dutch documentary series "The Golden Age" had me in for a small suprise. But first things first.

During my school day history lessons we were taught to take pride in how once the Netherlands was the richest and most powerful country on earth; Our 'Golden Age' under the Dutch East India Company until Britannia ruled the waves.

That 'pride' quickly evaporated when it when it became clear that the Dutch made their riches from being the biggest and most ruthless slave traders in the world, and more.

Only a few years back (in 2006), the then Dutch Prime Minister enthusiastically hailed in Parliament that we should be proud of a 'VOC mentality' (the global perspective). It was this remark that gave the narrator of the 'Golden Age' documentary series the idea to investigate what that 'VOC mentality' really meant.

In short: the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was the most imperialistic state-approved global terrorist organization the world has ever seen; then.

Oh, what surprised me? I learned that a Dutchman invented 'naked short selling' in 1609 on VOC stocks. OK, (naked) short-selling is just an advanced form of speculation, with lots of foul-play caveats. But in this age I just wonder how big of a global economic war we are currently in.

And how many decades or even centuries will it take for history-since is allowed to be 'rewritten' to that what it really was. With a Kafkaesque twist the International Court of Justice and the International Crime Tribunal ended-up residing in the Netherlands... Clearly, only losers end-up there, eventually, posthumously...

And so we're told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Nothing changes
On New Year's Day

(New Year's Day - U2)