Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Thursday, June 30, 2016


An afternoon paddle on the Menai Strait with Justine. It is neaps. So we were pleasantly surprised to find a (gentle) working Swellies wave. Justine wondered if it would be a bigger neaps. Looking it up later; indeed today was a 5 meter neap tide...

It is rather difficult to position oneselves on the wave. Before I know it I am off of it. But I am better at it than last time around. The front wave looks so small, but still has enough steepness and 'speed' to 'surplace-surf' the green wave; magnifique!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Puffin Race

I am in Anglesey to pick up Rockpool and Nigel Dennis sea kayaks, among which the three Explorers for 2kayak4batten. It is great to meet-up with Justine and to be on the water again. The forecast was horrible for lots of rain and a cyclonic 5-7 wind. But the afternoon promised to be for less wind and even some sunshine...

We decided to go to the Penmon headland for a paddle around Puffin Island. The southerly wind was still strong but manageable. Upon returning to Penmon the flood had just started and with the southerly wind this could well turn into a nice race later on. Fighting the headwind for half an hour towards the listed shipwreck and surfing back within 10 minutes.

With all those years paddling in Anglesey, I never before played in this race and it actually build-up to something very nice. At one time I was taking a picture and the kayak started surfing by itself. It was a great afternoon paddle.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ameland Surf

This weekend I joined a Peddelpraat club trip around Ameland. Aart had a lot of work with the pre-trip planning, because the planned campsite had a beach rugby tournament with a permit for an 'after party' until 03:00 AM. That meant increased logistics of taking a taxi to another campsite, far away from that beach. Ameland Adventures were very kind to allow us to leave our kayaks safe with them.

On the Saturday we had a break at the eastern tip of the Island. With the start of the ebb it was clear that a tide-race would be forming here in an hour or two. Unfortunately we did not have time to wait for that. Also getting a laden sea kayak to surf is much harder work and still a long way to go.

Some pictures have an oil-rig (more specifically a gas-rig) in them. For many years now the NAM is test-drilling in the Waddenzee for natural gas. Despite that mainland Groningen is now suffering from increased earthquake activity and structural damages to old and historic buildings. I am curious about the answer to the question just how many billions of euros the damage compensations will run up to in the next 50 years in respect to the money the gas industry has made for the Dutch economy. Politicians and promises... Everyone that is affected is promised full compensation. Anyway, the Dutch economy has floated on the natural gas 'bubble' for the last 50 years and it is about to run out; the more they take out, the more the Groningen province wil sink. Sort of "what goes up, must come down...". So far this 'political statement'.

Navigating around Ameland will prove more difficult. With almost no wind and surf, it was already difficult to find the safe inside channel of an extensive sandbar on the northwest side of the island. Last year it was difficult to spot. Now it was just remembering that it was near the last building on the beach. Anyway, we did it again. So the title of this post is a bit misleading.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Ouddorp Surf

Last year I vowed never again to try to find nice surf at Ouddorp. On three consequetive occasions we paddled out of Springersdiep for more than an hour to find absolutely nothing rewarding. Part of the problem is the Aardappelenbult drying sandbar that is in the way and only allows surf to reach the shore around high water. The real surf was allways too far in the distance, further along the coast.

The Aardappelenbult itself is a very challenging, and sometimes risky, surf environment. But it is now off-limits because of 'Nature compensation'. That means when the Rotterdam Maasvlakte Chemical Industrial area was expanded into land-reclaimed sea, the law said it needed to compensate the negative environmental impact with Nature somewhere else. The result was drawing lines on the charts, outlawing the whole Aardappelenbult area for watersports. Reason: trying to entice the harbor seals to use it for nursing their young. So far this 'political statement'...

Today I took over Nico's (Zeekajak.NL) 3* group, for Nico was called upon to co-run a coach assessment. One of the candidates I am tutor of and as such I could not assess that person. I was definitively not going to paddle to Ouddorp lighthouse to again find nothing. But because today all of us had kayak trollies we parked at the Lighthouse to start from there, trollying to the beach. At the Lighthouse beach; no surf. Arggggg... But further along the coast it looked at least there was a little bit of surf. Paddling for half an hour towards something that looked like surf I decided to go for lunch and hope for a bit more after it. Around the Aardappelenbult the surf and clapotis waves looked spectacular, even unsafe. I think 10 second foam piles are a bit too much for 'recreational bongo slides'. Between 'nothing' and 'too much' (and prohibited), what can we do?

Just after lunch two lines of surf started to appear and the onshore breeze picking-up to force 3-4. For the next two hours the group could challenge themselves in wonderful 3-foot surf. With sunshine and blue skies it meant great photo opportunities. And all-smiling paddlers.

On the way back to the Lighthouse (just after high water) the beach was fully exposed to the surf, now unsheltered from the Aardappelenbult sand bar. We stayed as close inshore as possible. For most of the group these were the highest seas they have paddled in. Safety was allways the beach so as long as all goes well, all goes well. At one point I even had to 'work' myself, finding the easiest route for the group between inshore sand bars to a more easy patch of sea. Right in the crux location (Murphy's Law at work) a capsize and the quickest rescue of the day. Safety was allways the beach (and trolly), but again we could continue paddling... The lucky ones got a big dumping wave on top of them landing at the Lighhouse to finish a wonderful day.

On my phone a text message... Both Max and Marian passed their sea kayak coach assessment. Yeaaahhh! Congratulations! Fresh winds of change!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Balgzand Lunch

Fred leading a Peddelpraat trip with lunch on the Balgzand tidal flat in the Waddensea. Tiger is on the loose today, for my Explorer is used by Jan. 'Falling dry' is also a popular day trip for flat bottom tour boats.

Someone was frantically calling out and waving to Jan. It was a German guy offering Jan a 'Bratwurst auf Brot'. I was not quick enough to make a picture of the handover. So I only caught Jan trying to eat the Bratwurst while trying to keep up with the group with only one hand to paddle until he had finished it.

The water levels in the gullies were just enough for most of us not to get out of our kayaks while the flood would slowly turn the flats into all sea again.

It was also a kind of reunion, because Sien, Pieter and Jan were present which who'm I did expeditions in the 'early years', like Alaska (1999) and the Outer Hebrides (2002).