Over nearly 40 years I have run hundreds of British Canoe courses across all levels, in both coaching and personal performance but one of my favourites is the SUP Module. This Discipline Specific Module was introduced several years ago in response to the significant increase in the number of people taking up Stand Up Paddleboarding.
Over the last couple of years I have run quite a few of the courses, attracting paddlers from both on and off Jersey. What is interesting, is that as each course follows another, the level of the participants has steadily increased. As a result last weeks course was just a pleasure to run. With all the paddlers showing competency on the boards.
Conditions couldn’t have been better for the SUP Module. I remember completing my training course in Nottingham, wearing a dry suit and being absolutely frozen, trying to avoid going into the water too many times. This week it was warm, clear seas and light winds with every opportunity was taken to get into the water to cool off.
In the past it has been all to easy to be critical of British Canoeing courses but I think in this instance they have just about got it right. That day with the staff from Absolute Adventures, we had a really positive experience.
Sometimes days are just so enjoyable and this was the case the other day with Absolute Adventures staff development. We left from St Catherine’s heading west on the ebbing tide. In virtually flat calm conditions we headed past La Coupe and Tour de Rozel.
Lunch was on a small sandy beach to the east of Bouley Bay, which is only exposed on low water spring tides. To the west we could see the remains of the SS Ribbledale. It was wrecked on the 27th December 1926, whilst en route from London to Jersey. Parts of the boilers were clearly visible just to the west. Further information is available here.
The plan was to return via Tour de Rozel, where we planned to play in the flood tide, as it accelerated around the headland. We weren’t disappointed, the water was starting to move to the east and accelerating quickly as the flood tide developed.
It was just the perfect place to look at skills and to work on strokes. I always find it such an enjoyable place to play and somewhere to practice those techniques, which are crucial to competent kayak handling. In terms of staff development it was perfect, challenging conditions in a safe environment, helping to ensure that those paddlers who are leading groups during the summer months have the appropriate skill level. Combined with the superb weather it was just a perfect way to spend a day.
Although it was over 40 years ago I remember the excitement on opening a letter, within which, was the offer of employment at a centre in South Wales. I was never sure whether it was my kayaking or mountaineering experience, which secured my employment. I could barely contain my excitement as I headed west from London, along the A40 towards my life as an outdoor instructor. At staff training on the first day I still didn’t discover, which of my activities was the most important as I received a crash course in archery and spent the next few weeks introducing school groups to the finer points of shooting with a bow and arrow.
Not once did I get on the water or walk up a mountain, I just spent hour after hour on the archery field. My introduction into the world of an outdoor pursuits instructor wasn’t as exciting as I thought, so instead of returning to South Wales to further my career in the summer, I went to Chamonix climbing.
I did return to working in the outdoor world for a couple of superb years, in North Wales. Great days on the mountains or water followed by personal time with a group of highly motivated fellow instructors. Days off were spent on the crags at Tremadoc, unless it was raining and then we went paddling. Those two years working in a centre were the equivalent of the present day gap year.
This week I was fortunate enough to spend time with some young people who are just starting out on the journey to becoming outdoor instructors, looking to achieve qualifications in a number of areas so that they are able to work with groups in Jersey’s superb marine environment.
They all work for Absolute Adventures, who are one of the largest providers of adventurous activities to both locals and tourists. It was their first day trip in sea kayaks and the NE wind increasing force 6 ensured that in places the water conditions would be quite entertaining.
The first stop was La Cotte de St Brelade, one of the most important historical sites on the island, before heading towards Pt Le Fret, one of the most under rated headlands in Jersey.
We did manage to reach Portelet but ever wary of the increasing wind speed we decided to return back around Pt Le Fret, into the relative shelter of Ouasine Bay for lunch before looking at some skills in the shelter of the reefs.
It felt a real privilege to be on the water with three young people as they embark on their journey towards becoming full time outdoor pursuits instructors. Hopefully the staff training they received will prove to be more useful in the long run than my few hours of archery instruction. I haven’t picked up a bow since 1977!
When you have visitors staying it may not be the most diplomatic thing to do to head out kayaking for the day so we spent a few hours amusing ourselves with alternative activities. In the morning it was blo-karting at St Ouen’s. The wide sandy expanse of Jersey’s premier surfing beach is an ideal location for this exciting activity. A northerly wind blowing straight along the beach provided excellent sailing conditions although at times it was a bit gusty, which added to the entertainment. Thanks to Absolute Adventures.
Heading across St Ouen’s. The rising tide curtailed the length of the session.
The afternoon was water based and I was able to use my new purchase. A BodyGlove winter wet suit, from the local charity shop. £20 for a suit which appeared to be virtually new. The Jersey Hospice shop is a veritable treasure trove, and full of superb bargains. We launched the stand up paddleboards at St Brelade’s and spent an amusing hour and a half attempting to perfect our skills. It is always frustrating to see the daughters heading off on technically more difficult boards whilst I wobble along behind. Ok we didn’t get much sea kayaking in but I did improve my J stroke!
Sarah heading across the bay on the smaller of the two boards
Just look at the multi-coloured £20 wet suit.
We did manage two standing briefly! It was surprising how warm the water was for the first week of November.