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.
The 35 mile journey out, from Dangriga to Glovers Reef, off the coast off Belize, was relatively quick but we didn’t see our destination until quite late. I suppose it is a geographical fact of life that coral reefs are not that tall. We were on a three day trip with Island Expeditions.
There is something quite special about turquoise seas, coral reefs and a reasonably constant breeze. It would be easy to spout one superlative after another but in reality they wouldn’t do Glovers Reef justice. Suffice to say it is one of the most special places I have been.
This is not a place to come for high end sea kayaking, it is a place to relax and savour, whilst paddling a few hundred metres, I think we probably snorkelled further on our first day than we paddled. It was time to experience the wildlife and if time allows throw in a bit of gentle stand up paddle boarding.
This is “glamping” in the tropics. The tents come with double beds, 17.30 is happy hour and the food is memorable. It is glamping with activities.
The staff were knowledgeable and friendly, “B” one of our guides had 17 years of experience leading groups. It was noticeable that Roger, one of the other guides had a range of safety equipment on his PFD (buoyancy aid), this is in complete contrast to some places I have experienced in the past.
There was a range of single and double kayaks and it was possible to have feathered paddles if you wanted them. The buoyancy aids were Kokatak and the SUP paddles were from Werner. It was clear that the company wasn’t cutting financial corners by purchasing cheap kit.
You often hear the expression “Island Time” but on Glovers Reef there is no option. Island Time it is. Some great snorkelling although we did see the impact of man’s activity on the eco-system. Lion fish have clearly been released somewhere, and the animal population is exploding.
One thing we had the opportunity to do was to go kayak sailing, something I had never tried before. We were in pretty stable doubles, although there was still a capsize. I did regret not taking my GPS as it would have been pretty interesting to see what speeds we reached on the way in.
The final morning was an option of further kayaking and snorkelling, SUP or just some simple hammock surfing. Nicky and myself went out on the SUP’s heading down on the wind into the channel between the two islands. We did paddle over a small reef shark and although they are supposed to be perfectly harmless the sight of a shark under your board certainly focuses the mind.
All to soon it was time to head back and wait for the boat to come in which was taking most people back to the mainland but which was going to drop us off at Tobacco Caye and the start of our self guided paddle.
Glover’s Reef is a truly special place, it is somewhere to visit and relax, enjoy the easy kayaking and the other activities. It is not somewhere to go if you are seeking the full on sea kayaking experience.
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.
Despite the broken arm, from yesterday, I was able to head to the Minquiers today courtesy of Jersey Seafaris and their RIB. Located just over 12 nm of St Helier the passage south was pretty quick, at times we reached just over 40 knots.
The Minquiers are a simply stunning destination, which I love to visit but all of my previous visits have been by sea kayak, so it tends to be a two day activity whereas today it was all completed in a couple of hours.
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.