Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Saturday, November 10, 2018


"Rope Companions" is the caption above the opening picture in the photo album of my mother's alpine years in the early 1950's with the "Deutscher Alpenverein". She was in her early thirties then.

In that album also a raw typed account of her first high-alpine trip. Unsure if she, as a newbe, could cope with the more extreme rock and ice environments. And if she, as the only woman in the team, could keep-up with the three experienced male climbers. She more than managed; thrilled. She loved the high mountains; the views and freedom she experienced. Mom stopped climbing after starting our family in the late 1950's.

It was only in my early thirties that I took to traveling and ventured onto hiking adventures in ever more mountainous terrains in the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska. Views of infinite mountain ranges, glaciers, coastlines and the sea.

On the early morning of November 1st, our beloved mother passed away, 96 years of age.

Monday, September 10, 2018

More Surfing

After a week of almost continuous rain and strong winds JF, Justine, Matt and I went surfing at Florencia Bay.

I got looped twice, probably because of bad wave selection. The waves in this part of the bay were mostly managable size and I noticed more and more checking for the best shoulder to run with the occasional 'error'.

The walk-in to this beach is kinda steep. I started the day with a head-ache. After surfing and the haul-up I had more energy than at the start of the surf session.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Bad Lure Day

Another nice afternoon fishing off Little Beach. I caught a very nice Lingcod, but not before losing three lures.

Back at the house I learned about filleting. And guess what Justine made us for dinner? Delicious!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Strong Water

Ever since seeing Bryan Smith's epic bongo slide in the Skookumchuck tidal rapid, as featured in This is the Sea 2, I hoped that one day I would paddle at 'Skooks' AND have the skills for it.

For quite a few years Shawna & Leon of Body Boat Blade invited me over for a long weekend end of August at Skooks. Everytime obligations prevented me from going. Not so this year.

So on September 1st I had my first tries to get on the standing wave. Getting my angle and speed right to cross the sharp and super fast eddyline took some failed attempts and subsequent waiting in the queue in the eddy. Being swept off the wave either left or right before actually surfing is very frustrating. I got very good at looping the pocket eddy by sticking either my bow or stern in the opposing current to get lined-up again for my next turn.

Finally I am on it. The rest is just a 'formality' of carving/edging with stern rudders. The kayak I am in is apparently designed for exactly this wave in mind. Justine gives me tips to look more over my shoulder to the direction I want to go. Added benefit is seeing the wave behind me and the speed I am surfing off of it; thrilling.

In the peak hour I could not get onto the wave anymore. I had to roll once, re-enter another time, so that potential anxiety is out of the way. With three more days to go, what a great first day; gorgeously sunny as well.

The second day the tide table said 9.1 knots. More experience led to longer runs with the occasional graceful controlled exit off the wave. And duo surfing the wave when it is green and with now improved directional control.

What is beyond the wave? Justine points out 'Gertruth'. A particular violent patch that you have to deal with when not quick enough to reach the pocket eddy. Leon tells me of violent sucking-down whirpools further downstream. I experienced all of that multiple times today. Also at least six rolls today. The stronger the current, the more boils and the longer it takes to get back into the shore eddy in a 'straight' line. And more tiring...

The third day (9.7 knots) I go for it care-free whatever the wave allows me to do or forces me to do; bracing the foam pile. My muscles start to protest. My left rib cage hurts and my right upper arm loses stern-rudder and brace-holding strength. One more day; recuperating tonight.

Seven sea kayakers stay for another day. Today it peaks at 10.5 knots. It quickly builds strength with only a very short timeframe to 'warm-up'. Well before peak it starts to foam-out. My last run before peak is a forever memorable one.

I get on the green bit of the wave, I surf, I carve, I am hit by the foam pile on the right, I brace, I bongo, I reverse surf the foam pile, holding onto my 'bow brace' in a 'death grip', feeling my balance. I am in unexplored territory.

Finally the wave allows me to pull free off of it. My brace failing, my off-side roll failing. The violent aftermath prevents re-orientation. I swim. For a fraction of a second I lose the grip on my kayak. In a blink of the eye it is 10 metres away from me. Paddle swimming does not get me closer. Matt and Seth are already on the job. My 100% bomb-proof re-entry & roll is reduced to zero percent without my kayak. Along this big tour up Skookumchuck narrows I more than once let go of Matt's kayak who tries to get me to Seth that has my kayak. I feel like a total amateur; an idiot. But have I ever experienced swimming in 10 knot currents, boils and vortexes before? Humbly learning in strong water.

Finally back on shore the wave is now completely white and the realm of playboaters for the next 90 minutes at least.

When the green wave returns with the odd foam surge the sea kayaks go on the water again. After just one good run (after a couple of failed ones) I know it is time to call it a day. My left chest and right arm are not supporting me anymore to the point where I reckon it has become a safety issue. I cannot do effective stern rudders, bracing and power strokes anymore. Getting back to the shore eddy takes ages. Satisfied and grateful with what my body allowed me to do in these four days.

Celebrating Leon's birthday with friends and awesome skilled paddlers. Showing what is possible with experience and practice. Jayme getting a double sea kayak on the wave, Leon, Shawna and Matt on a SUP, Seth crossing the eddyline and surfing the wave all in reverse. Justine getting me out there. Fearless or ignorance, or both? Or just daring and forever learning; getting out there. A big thank you to all my 'teachers'.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Justine took us to Wickaninnish beach for surfing. A good day to get used to the Sterling Reflection sea kayak that I get to use for the next days. A very maneouverable and playful kayak in the waves; I will need that.

In the afternoon foraging for Chantarels and almost getting lost 100 meters away from the car. Ready for the road and ferry trip ahead.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Justine and JF gave me options what to do today. Low water in the morning for viewing black bears and/or fishing for Salmon at high water in the afternoon.

Fishing would be new for me, so that was an easy choice. All set with a fishing day permit for me we set out. We did not catch any Salmon in the inlet but we did see about eight black bears.
Justine and I then went out to the ocean to get a guaranteed catch of the day for our evening meal. While fishing and catching some rock fish two fishermen called out to us if we wanted the Salmon that they still had on their line. This turned out to be a massive Spring Salmon that did not quite fit in the bag.

I actually did catch one rock fish but it was kinda small and I released it. My fishing needs some getting used to because most of the time I spent untangling the hook from deck lines, bungees, net mesh, kelp, the lure itself or my finger and at one time even from Justines' kayak.

PS. My computer or it's adapter died so I am now experimenting doing all from my mobile phone.

Photos :

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Another Time, Another Place

I arrived in Ucluelet. I am visiting Justine and JF at SKILS.

I was surprised how logistically easy it was to reach this kinda remote town on the west coast of Vancouver Island; affectionally called Ukee by the locals; probably to prevent variations on the pronunciation of Ucluelet.

My first time traveling to Canada by air. Flying via Toronto and Vancouver it was just a straightforward bus/ferry ride to get there. The young female bus driver (from Nanaimo to Tofino) handling the long bus as if it was a mini car; reversing and tight-turns and all; with explanations in English and French. First time also any airline put me on the exit row seats; lots of legroom on an economy ticket where I could not even select seats in advance. Totally surprised.

Not much after arrival Justine already took me on a short hike around Amphritrite Point. It was kinda foggy, but between the sheets of fog some spectacular scenery showed through. A wonderful paddling area with lots of rock-hopping to do; gullies (and wave action) everywhere.

Now trying to get the jet-lag (my foggy mind) out of the way to be fit to do some paddling later this week. And kayak fishing!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Holy Island

Yesterday, this years' Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium week drew to a close. With a georgeous weather forecast I joined Eila, Ashley, Lianne and Thom for a circumnavigation of Holy Island. I only paddled this trip two times before but never clockwise.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium 2018

This years' Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium all again could share experiences and knowledge with other paddlers and coaches from all over Europe, Britain and North America. Anglesey is a great (the best?) training and testing 'ground' for paddling, judgement and leadership skills in moderate and advanced tidal waters. One does not need too much wind or sea state to find great challenges and fun learning opportunities here.

For Nigel Dennis and Eila Wilkinson this years' symposium got overshadowed by the Holyhead Marina Disaster in March. I could witness the last remnants of the clean-up and salvaging with my own eyes and it was much, much worse than I even imagined I would see it.

I finally had time to get around sorting-out my symposium pictures and writing some blog entries. I am very much looking forward to next year and be again part of this great knowledge and experience sharing sea kayaking community.

05-05 | GPS Track | Photos |

05-06 | GPS Track | Photos |

05-07 | GPS Track | Photos |

05-08 | GPS Track | Photos |

05-10 | GPS Track | Photos |

Sunday, May 06, 2018

A Song of Life

I first met Sien on an epic sea kayaking trip with Peddelpraat around Texel in 1995. Sort of, because the sea state did not enable me to chat while paddling and we returned a few hours into the trip in two seperate pods; against the tide.

The name on her boat was SIENSWIJS. I thought that was an intriguing name, because it can be read in different ways. My first thoughts were of "Siens’ View". But also as "Siens' Song" and "Sien is Wise". Over the years I came to learn that all three intepretations did justice to her.

In 1997 Sien asked me if I would like to join her on an expedition in southeast Alaska. Little did she know that Alaska was the reason why I started paddling in the first place. So in June 1999 our team of four set out on a five week paddling trip around the outer coast between Sitka and Hoonah. She was also adventurous on foods. Salmon and Kelp allright, but Hermit crabs were a bit too adventurous for me.

In 2003 Sien, Jan and I paddled in the outer Hebrides. Cooked limpets are quite edible I learned then. A bit chewy, but I memorized that next time I would take them only when there is no sandy beach around.

Sien was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012 with a very short life expectancy. She did not capitulate to this. With amazing energy she built 3 skin-on-frame kayaks since, went on numerous hikes with her brother and continued paddling/camping with friends and did solo sea kayaking trips in-between chemo treatments. We even planned another Alaska trip in 2015, but the uncertainty of her fitness prevented planning a paddling season ahead.

It was nice to see her at the Peddelpraat Winter meeting this January. A month later I got an invitation to celebrate her 65th birthday with paddling friends on May 6th. I would not be able to physically attend as I would still be in Anglesey at that time.

Last week I got the sad news that she was taken into hospital quite unexpectedly and that her physical condition was rapidly deteriorating. We spoke on the phone and her voice was energetic as ever, both knowing that we would not speak or meet each other again. Sien passed away on May 2nd with all family present.

Siens’ Song; A Song of Life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Anas Returning Home

When I started to take interest in sea kayaking in 1994, Fred, a collegue at work, happened to be a trip leader for Peddelpraat. Whenever I met Rick Carrick-Smith at the Anglesey Symposium, Rick asked me about Fred's Anas Acuta. Whenever Fred would sell it to sure get into contact with Rick first.

This year driving to Anglesey with a very original Anas Acuta on my roof-rack and a wooden-bladed Lendal paddle in the boot. I made sure to stop-by Porth Dafarch to make some pictures. The number on the back deck of the kayak is Rick's BCU membership number. This Anas Acuta is now re-united with one of the original Nordkapps and the Lindisfarne.

Below is the history of this original Anas Acuta, written by Rick.

The Anas Acuta Sea Kayak

This kayak was based and measured on a historic Greenland boat by Geoff Blackford with accurate drawings rescaled for present day body shape by Duncan Winning. Translated to glass fibre by Valley Canoe products as their first seagoing kayak, it is described as 'A real joy to paddle.'

This example was built for Rick in 1976. Totally influenced by the line drawing of an Angmassalik kayak in Alan Byde's definitive book of that time, Rick asked Frank Goodman of V.C.P. to build it.

Frank had recently introduced the 'Nordkapp' and was reluctant to seemingly regress. However, as it left the mould, he remarked, 'It glows like a jewel', in his typically owlish way. (Translucent Amber was the 'in' colour of that time).

This IS the 'one-off' that returned the Anas Acuta to production.

Very progressive for its time, hatches, a pump, deck fittings and lines were innovations.

The hatches of the three boats here are prime prototypes of this idea.

Notably used by Rick for an Outer Hebrides expedition in 1979, wet or dry suits were yet to come. Cord jeans with woolly sweaters were topped by a harsh nylon cagoule. A large flare pack on the back deck contained sleeping and bivvy bags. Food (mostly tinned) clattered in the back and also stuffed alongside the front buoyancy pillar. Thus fully laden and tilting, with only the pin tail appearing from the water, the rear deck emerged as we ate our way forward.

An interesting comment on the characteristics of these early boats arising from this expedition was the exhausting weather cocking of the Nordkapp, the skittery dance of the Anas Acute - so readily corrected - and the rock-solid forward stability of the accompanying pair of 'Baidarkas'. Skegs were yet to come.

Suspiciously allied in design with the accompanying Lindisfarne, here, it was in these two boats that Rick and Di Fenn were 'subjected' to their Senior Instructor (Sea) training by Derek Hutchinson in 1978 on the north-east coast. Observed by the rest of the group, Derek 'set up' an impossible towing scenario over off-shore shoals, gleefully announcing, ‘Gentlemen, we are about to witness a little drama of the sea', whilst completely unaware of Di’s husband alongside. Our own next awareness was of rocketing skywards in an intimate embrace. Witnesses told of a vertically parallel pair of boats clearing the water by some two feet and Hutchinson facing a tightly clenched fist.

Rick worked with others over many years in development of the Dutch coaching scheme and in 1986, this cherished kayak passed into private ownership in Holland until its return in 2018.

L.Carrick-Smith (aka Rick)
May 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rise from the Storm

On the night of the 1st March superstorm Emma hit Anglesey and with winds of 70 knots totally wiping out the entire marina and sinking and destroying over 80 boats along with Playmate and Nigel Dennis' yacht on which he lived with his partner Eila all year around.

Nigel Dennis who is a well-known expedition sea kayaker and sea kayak designer has used the last four years of his spare time working on his dream boat Playmate.

The idea of Playmate was to create super cool expedition support boat which would take sea kayakers to remote places of Scotland and Outer hebrides and show them sea kayaking from completely different perspective. When not on the sea the all carbon kevlar fleet of sea kayaks would be stored on the fly deck of Playmate. If the weather would not be favourable for kayaking all members could enjoy the scenery from the comfort of this expedition super boat with a wee dram of whisky in their hand while cruising along the islands.

After almost four passionate years of spending most of his free time on his dream boat Playmate she was nearly ready for her first season. The moment was was just around the corner with a few bits and bobs to do including finalising her insurance.

Then disaster struck.

What a devastation to lose your home and hobby. All the energy and time spend on Playmate lays at the bottom of the sea.

Through the years Nigel has helped so many kayakers to follow their dreams doing expeditions and motivating people to do their best.

There are stories of paddlers coming to him with very little experience asking for sponsored sea kayaks to go around the UK and he would reply "I will lend you a boat and if you do not make it you will bring it back and if you make it you can keep the kayak." as Eila said "Nigel just wants people to do well."

Now it is up to us the sea kayaking community; to support for once Nigel who has helped and influenced so many people. And see his dream coming through and get Playmate off the bottom of the sea and get Nigels spirit to fly high again. We believe he more than deserves it.

With so many people around the world if we contribute even little we can get the boat afloat for Nigel.

Above was written by Ashley Williams. She has started a Rise from the Storm fundraiser to recover Playmate.

Nigel has been of enormous help throughout all of my sea kayak and coaching development. From the first day I met him at the Anglesey Sea Kayak symposium in 2000 and ever since. I recognize myself in all that Ashley could put into words about the support and opportunities Nigel has given.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Penguins ?

When I asked around for pictures of yesterday I would never ever have thought Ray would be 'tricked' into this one. A select few Dutch sea kayakers know about Ray's Penguin warm-up one time at the annual Dutch Sea Kayak week; for many years organized by Elko (left) and Onno (right). And where do Penguins live?

Peddelpraat Ray Union

Yesterday was the annual Peddelpraat winter meeting.

For the past 20 (!) years Ray Goodwin guided the Scotland sea kayaking trips for Peddelpraat. Sea Kayaking? Isn't Ray that world renowned open canoe coach and guide? Yes he sure is. Ray, Lina and Maya were invited over to celebrate 20 years of Peddelpraat sea kayaking trips in Scotland.

What was his lecture about? Open Canoeing for sure. Anecdotes of his sea kayaking trips would fill the rest of the day with all the paddlers that so much enjoyed his guiding. I was impressed with his film about his Algonquin open canoe trip with two families with children. So Open Canoeing abroad with Ray is next? We have a signed copy of Ray Goodwin Open Canoeing so we better start practicing with one blade. Cunning plans... Another one of Ray's specialties.

Exactly a year ago I headed out to Ushuaia for my month long sea kayaking trip to Antarctica with a group guided by Justine Curgenven. Family health issues and other priorities had literally shelved the 7.000+ pictures and still unknown many hours of film footage of this expedition.

Yesterday was also the premiere of my Antarctica lecture. Condensing a 'life-time' experience into 45 minutes. Where I could probably talk an hour on every one of the 30 days there! Or just share one picture that says it all. Even all the trips with Ray. It is all in there (apart from the camp fires).

A little personal emotional moment at the start of my lecture when I realised that ALL of the paddlers that I learned sea kayaking from, my mentors, my coaches were present. Even the retired ones and paddling buddies that I have not seen for 10 years or more!

While Peddelpraat is 'just' one of the national kayak clubs, they invited every other national sea kayaking organisation. And ALL were there; the busiest winter meeting ever. The clubs' motto, since it's founding in 1975, has been [paddling] with each other not against each other. A national (sea) kayaking gathering it was.

P.S. I do not have pictures of yesterday, so hoping to share some of those later.