One of the things I have at the moment is time (ruptured achilles) so I am able to consider complete a few projects. Something that I have been thinking about is sea kayaking books. Mainly, which ones have been influential over the years both in terms of coaching and the general evolution of the sport.
A substantial body of paddling literature has evolved over the last 170 years, with a wide range of books covering broad spectrum of topics. The last 40 years has seen a proliferation of sea kayaking books, offering both advice on skills and coaching, plus those describing journeys, many of which, provide inspiration. I think that the selection of books below are all worth seeking out, giving an insight into how our sport has developed over the years.
Some of the key writers in the U.K. included Alan Byde and Derek Hutchinson. I remember seeing “Living Canoeing” by Alan Byde for the first time. Published in 1969 there is the classic photograph of Mike Ramsay vertical at Hambledon Weir, I sat there staring at it as a 13 year old wondering how on earth the paddler got into that position. This is a book which provided inspiration to a generation of paddlers, both sea kayakers and white water paddlers.
For me the next big development was the publication of Derek Hutchinson’s book “Sea Canoeing”. I had seen it advertised in Canoeing in Britain, the BCU magazine of the time and couldn’t wait for mine to arrive in the post. There was no way that the local bookshops were going to stock such a specialist title in 1976. My copy was signed some years later by Derek and I feel fortunate that I got to know him. For me one of the most significant aspects of the book were the photographs, they showed just where it was possible to take sea kayaks and they encouraged us to start to explore further afield.
“The Book of Canoeing” by Alex Ellis, first published in 1935 has 7 pages devoted to sea kayaking. He states:
“Paddle technique could be described in detail, but it is doubtful if a theoretical description would be of any great value. It has to be acquired gradually by actual practice.”
Although this is 80 years old it remains very sensible advice. There are no real shortcuts to competence with a paddle and a kayak. The author mentions two paddles, which he thinks are suitable for sea canoeing.
1.) Fort William to Largs
2.) South West Ireland
Paddles which 80 years on would still be seen as significant achievements.
“Kayak to Cape Wrath” by J. Lewis Henderson. I am not sure to the exact date of publication buy my copy has a dedication in the front, dated Christmas 1953. A journey from Fort William to Cape Wrath along the west coast and then a crossing of northern Scotland, via a line of lochs, to finish on the east coast at Lairg. A significant journey undertaken over several summers. It is a journey, which, an self respecting sea kayaker would be pleased to complete today. Joe Reid was clearly an accomplished paddler in several areas as he was in the K2 1000m event at the 1948 Olympics.
“The Canoeing Manual” by Noel McNaught. First published in 1956, includes a whole chapter on crossing the English Channel, something which some paddlers still aspire towards but is actually discouraged because of the shipping hazards.
“Vikings, Scots and Scraelings” by Myrtle Simpson, published in 1977 was the first book I read about kayaking in Greenland and it fired my imagination, encouraging me to consider heading north in pursuit of sea kayaking heaven.
“Paddling my Own Canoe” by Audrey Sutherland from 1978. Her initial paddling was in a nine foot inflatable canoe but she started her explorations by swimming the coast of north east Molokai. She went on to paddle in several areas of the world providing inspiration to, particularly, a more elderly generation of paddlers.
“Scottish Sea Kayaking” by Doug Cooper and George Reid published in 2005. In many ways this was the first of a new generation of sea kayaking guides, in full colour and full of useful information about a whole range of topics. Pesda Press have gone on to publish a whole range of sea kayaking guides, covering most of the British Isles
So that’s my personal selection of sea kayaking books, which are worth seeking out. There is no doubt in my mind that if was to write this piece in a couple of weeks time some of the titles would have changed.