The 1st December marks the start of British Canoeing Winter Challenge. It last 3 months and the aim is to encourage members of canoe and kayak clubs to get out on the water during the darker, colder days of winter.
Last year Jersey Canoe Club came top, in terms of miles covered, just about fending off a determined challenge by Portsmouth Canoe Club. In the 3 months the members of the Jersey club paddled a total of 4,108 miles, with 4 members paddling over the 300 miles. The highest individual total was 520 miles, which is quite amazing considering that there is no inland water in Jersey, so they were all completed on the sea.
Today’s forecast was less than perfect for the first day of the Challenge as 5 slightly enthusiastic kayakers headed out from Belcroute. The initial mile was fast and easy as the northerly force 5 sped us on our way towards Noirmont point, which was the gateway to more sheltered waters, under the cliffs of Portelet. Some large black clouds gave a suggestion of rain or sleet but surprisingly we stayed dry. At times even feeling the warmth of the low angled winter sun.
Nicky pulled out in St Brelade’s whilst the rest of us carried onto Corbiere, with its freshly painted lighthouse. The tide had started to rise quite quickly meaning we had missed the opportunity to land in some of the small bays, so we headed back to Beauport for lunch. Without doubt one of the most beautiful bays on the Island, but on the 1st December we had the beach to ourselves.
After lunch we headed east across St Brelade’s Bay as the clouds built in size. For most of the paddle we were reasonably protected from the wind but from Noirmont to Belcroute there was no respite. The wind was blowing at about 30 knots straight into our faces, which resulted in some demanding paddling conditions. When we landed our total mileage for the day was 60 miles, which despite the weather was a pretty reasonable start towards British Canoeings Winter Challenge .
It is probably true to say that we wouldn’t have normally gone for such a long paddle in the prevailing conditions but the fact that we did stay out there and put the miles in is evidence of the success of the Winter Challenge, which is to get more paddlers out on the water during the cold, dark days of December, January and February.
It has been a weekend of kayaking contrasts, Saturday was very windy and sunny so we spent the morning paddling off the east coast. Heading south from St Catherine’s to Gorey where we stopped for coffee and cake. This is a section of the coast that we paddle most weeks during the summer months as it is the location for the Jersey Canoe Club Tuesday evening training sessions. In contrast we rarely paddle along this section of coast during the winter but it is a couple of miles steeped in history.
For over 40 years the Canoe Club has paddled every Sunday morning at a variety of locations around the Island. For the last 10 or 15 years the focus has been on using sea kayaks, hardly surprising as Jersey is a superb sea kayaking destination. Today was a throw back to the 1970’s and 80’s as we used smaller play boats, as we headed out from St Brelade’s. It was good to get out in the small kayaks as it gave us chance to hone our skills. So it really was a weekend of kayaking contrasts.
It was a reasonable turn out for the Jersey Canoe Club, Sunday morning session today. 17 kayakers of a variety of differing abilities gathered on the beach at St Brelade’s. It was an early start, the changing of the clocks ensured that everybody was there promptly. The plan was simple, head towards Corbiere and see what develops We didn’t realize that it was going to offer an excellent opportunity for some kayak coaching. The wind was possibly going to touch force 5 from the north west, which would blow us back, helped by the last of the flood tide.
Just before Pt La Moye the group gathered in a sheltered bay, whilst a couple of paddlers headed out to assess the conditions. There was clearly some movement off the point, which is the most significant headland between St Brelade’s Bay and Corbiere. Normally it is a magnet for shore based fishermen but today the rocks stood empty. Perfect, we could play in the waters off the point, without fear of becoming entangled in fishing lines.
The tidal stream in shore had already turn west in close creating some entertaining wind against tide conditions. One of the pleasures of paddling with a group from the Jersey Canoe Club is the cross section of paddlers, today four of the group were Advanced Sea Kayak Leaders (5 Star in old money), whilst for 3 of the group it was possibly their first time on the sea in a closed cockpit kayak. The other 10 paddlers were mainly 3 to 4 Star level.
Leading such a diverse group of paddlers can present its own challenges but Alex and Rachel, the designated leaders for the day engaged the whole group in a constructive and educational manner. Initially the group were taken into run off the point to practice turning and running with winds and waves. Then followed a couple of exercises around a rock with a few small breaking waves to introduce an element of spice. First of all simply paddling around the rock in reverse, how often do we practice reverse paddling in anything other than flat calm?
The second exercise involved working in pairs. It involved paddling around the rock again but one of the paddlers had their eyes shut whilst the other had to offer clear guidance on which paddle strokes to use and on which side of the kayak. Simple but effective one to one kayak coaching. It really made the people with their eyes open focus on future water, not just theirs but also that of their partner.
All to soon it was time to head back towards St Brelade’s, after all we had the Canoe Club Sunday lunch to attend. As the wind pushed us to the east we came across a group out coasteering from our friends at Absolute Adventures. The south west corner of Jersey is a real playground for anybody with an interest in water sports.
British Canoeing have developed a discipline support module for those coaches who want to be involved with Stand up Paddleboarding and, in my opinion, it is one of the most sensible developments of the last few years. Allowing existing paddle sport coaches who have experience of SUP, to train so that they can deliver SUP sessions in sheltered waters to groups who are keen to receive some coaching in this rapidly expanding discipline.
Last weekend Tower Hamlets Canoe Club paid a visit to the Island and took advantage of the opportunity to take part in course. St Brelade’s Bay was the venue but because of the pleasant conditions we were able to include a short trip around to Beauport, taking the opportunity to swap boards and paddles, ensuring that everybody was able to try a variety of equipment.
So if you are involved in paddlesport coaching and are looking for some professional development and the opportunity to expand your coaching remit then look at getting on one of the British Canoeing SUP courses which are running over the next few months.
Sitting in the middle of Beauport, discussing some aspect of SUP coaching. A rather enjoyable way to spend a Saturday
Exploring the possibilities on a SUP
Heading out from St Brelade’s
It wouldn’t be a course in Jersey unless there was a bit of cliff jumping.
Towing practice. (Thanks to Shep from THCC for the botton 3 photos)
It is amazing how a sunny morning with light winds will encourage you to get out on the stand up paddleboards. That is just what happened on Friday morning. It was hard to believe that less than 48 hours ago the Island was being battered by a significant storm.
Heading out on the early morning spring tide.
With the high spring tide we were able to enter one of the small caves in St Brelade’s Bay. One of the great things about paddle sports is the opportunity to do new things. I first paddled in St Brelade’s in 1969 and up until today I had never paddled into this cave.
Laurie entering Beauport
Beauport is possibly my favourite bay on the Island and today it looked particularly special when viewed from the stack in the middle of the bay.
Heading through the gap, back into St Brelade’s and time to refresh some skills such as rescues and towing.
Today was one of the first Sunday mornings this year which didn’t have strong winds forecast so the Jersey Canoe Club Sunday morning session headed west from St Brelade’s along one of the most pleasant stretches of Jersey’s coastline.
We changed in perfect spring sunshine but by the time we launched the clouds had gathered. we were paddling along the stretch of coast which is close to the hotel where the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium is going to held in May.
Part of the group under Corbiere Lighthouse. I know that I am biased by I reckon it is the most beautiful lighthouse in the world.
As we headed east the sun did manage to break through. This section of coast is perfect for coasteering in the summer months, fingers crossed for warmer weather.
Cliffs just to the west of Beauport. Always a pleasure to paddle past these granite faces.
Although this is the closest stretch of coast to where I live, it seems to have been quite some time since I last spent a day exploring this area of Jersey so it was a real pleasure to be on the water on Saturday. Heading out from St Brelade’s Bay we headed along the base of the south west cliffs towards Corbiere, before popping into St Ouen’s Bay for some lunch on the offshore reefs.
This is a section of the Jersey coast, which I have paddled hundreds of times but there is always something to discover whatever the season.
Paddling into a feature which we known as Junkyard Gully. At the rear of the inlet there is a large blow hole into which was thrown a lot of scrap metal and cars in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Laurie passing to the south of Corbiere Lighthouse, a significant landmark, which dominates the south west corner of the island. There was a bit of swell around and some tidal movement but it was a relatively calm day.
Heading south past Corbiere after stopping for lunch in the reefs to the west of La Pulente. A bit chilly but it is October.
Louis looking as if he is having a good time.
Louis and Rachel playing in the small race which was developing to the west of Corbiere.
Along this section of coast there are some many great jumping spots. This flat topped rock, known as “Table Top”, is at Gorselands. Laurie is in mid air whilst Simone is considering his options.
Just before Beauport we were able to take a short cut through the reef at the Grosse Tete. This is known as Conger Gully, mainly because of the stories we tell younger people whilst we are out coasteering along this section of coast.