Monday, 22 August 2016

Orkney Sea Kayaking, the magic 2016

We had a fairly grim forecast, with strong gale force winds from the North which meant cold temperatures and a good solid swell running.  thankfully so of that blew through and with Orkney being made up of over 70 islands, protection can often be found.

South Ronaldsay, East coast from water sound down and around Helcro Head, on to Old Head and then back up Wind Wick was the day.  A super  mix of playful surf at the start, swell and rock hoping, big clifts, caves, stunning arches and sea stacks, an amazing blow hole, some tidal flow and a small race and an intro to the magical Orkney. 

Dat 2 saw us still avoiding the forecasted swell and the Deerness peninsular was paddled.  Trolly stunning coastline up near Mull Head and whats known as a Gloop - cave, were the roof has fallen in, so daylight is seen, and then back into a cave.  Must have been 200 mt in length!

Day 3 was really wild with lots of rain so we saw the local delights and various neolithic sites.

Day 4 although still windy, we went for a down wind run in the protected Scapa Flow.  The result 18 km covered in 2 hours!  As one of the team said they did more surfing in that 2 hours than they had done in the last year!!

Days 5 and 6 and we finally had a more settled forecast and the potentially of an overnight. Fins town with the Westerly wind on our backs and into the String (the sound between Mainland Orkney and Shapinsay, around Berwick Head and South to The Ness and a super wild campsite.

Douglas with the cannon lookout on the right!

A beautiful breakfast sunny morning, set us up for the day with a crossing to Shapinsay and a visit to the local cafe and super cute puppy only a few weeks old ...

The finish of our paddling, back at Finstown and a super happy bunch.  Well done Julie for managing the guys and to all for making it a super trip, despite the mixed weather.

We crossed on the ferry with a super blue sky silky sea day, which would have been perfect with the SE wind to have paddled from Scotland to the Orkney.  Another time!

Interested in Orkney?  In 2017 there is a sea kayak festival on Orkney, i will be there and also offering a similar course beforehand.  Details on a Coastal Spirit course will be out around Nov/December, so watch this space for 2017!

Thanks, Roger

Thursday, 28 July 2016

4 Star Leader Training - 13 day developmental programme

Have you ever wanted more time to develop your personal paddling, incident management, assisted/self rescue skills and leadership, in Moderate tidal water’s.  If so, from the 9th November a 13 day course begins that will take you thorough the British Canoeing 4 Star Performance and Leadership award and much more.

Adriana Eyzaguirre of Explora Expeditions has organized an exciting extended 4 Star Leader training programme, with my self, here on Anglesey, North Wales. 

Currently 4 people have booked on, so the course will go ahead and they are looking for 2 more to join.
 The team will be training for 13 days with weekend breaks and the course includes the Coastal Navigation & Tidal planning award and Foundation Coaching the Mind award.

Additionally, I’m is also offering the option to come along for two weekends following the 13 days programme to assist/observe me with his groups (must have solid roll for this and only one person per weekend). 
I’m also offering an opportunity to join the coaching and mentoring programme offered by Coastal Spirit.

The team will be staying at Anglesey Outdoors bunk house, during the programme.

This is a unique opportunity to bring on further your skills, with a good mix of conditions and time to reflect over the 13 days.   You will also leave the programme with a detailed action plan.

Interested? Would you like more details then contact Adriana via email:


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Performance Psychology - Coaching the Mind Module - By Keith Wilbraham

Coaching the Mind Course my personal experience.

I did the coaching the mind course last year run by Lee Pooley and Roger here is my experience of the course and where it has taken me since.

I was in a bit of a rut with my paddling getting out about once a month and sticking very much to my comfort zone and avoiding getting wet. This was proving to be a problem as my paddling had not really progressed for years and I really wanted to pass my 3star assessment.

The first day’s session with Lee was interesting and went through a lot of approaches to how you considered things and how you could use the techniques taught to improve your performance and approach to activities. Lee’s teaching is interesting, his depth of knowledge and experience keeps you engaged with the subject enabling you to learn effectively. This is important to me as I tend to have a short attention span and don’t always do well in a class room.

The second day was on the water and the idea was to take what you had learned during the first day and come up with a plan to do some focus on some aspects of paddling which you wanted improve. I had a sleepless night, but found a bit if pizza box to jot down my ideas for day 2. I decided to work on the three worst areas of my paddling, rough water, self rescues and rolling. The plan was hopelessly ambitious for time available and for my fitness level but Roger and Lee somehow managed to accommodate the variety of things people wanted to try and I did some work on rough water, rolling and rescues.

Highlights of the weekend for me was feeling more in control in rough water and completing three rolls.

Since the course I have achieved a number of things that I don’t think would have accomplished without the input from Roger and Lee.

My partner and I went to Plockton last summer and paddled in a place I was unfamiliar with.

I completed my first solo paddle.

I passed my three star.

I have and approach to paddling in tide races which is allowing me to slowly improve my performance and cope with the environment.

I think this course enabled me to move my paddling one and was excellent in helping me achieve my goals.

Keith Wilbraham

Many thanks Keith, for your comments and Blog above.

The next course is this weekend 16/17th July for Intermediate paddlers or above and you can attend both days or just the first day.  The first day involves various work and theory inputs and is fairly active and dry!  The day can count as a British Canoeing Coach update and is aimed at Coaches, Leaders and those that want to improve their understanding and performance.  

This could be white water paddlers, canoeists, climbers and so on.  The skills are highly transferable.  

The 2nd day is putting the theory into practice for sea paddlers.

Email or call him on +44 7873 132999 for more specific information or to book a place.  £180 both days or £90 for the first day.


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Rolling is all in your mind … Why you should know about “Choking” in sport by Tavi Murray

Rolling is all in your mind … Why you should know about “Choking” in sport.

How many people do you know who have lost their roll just before an assessment? Maybe it’s happened to you? If so you probably experienced what is called “choking” … Intrested, then read on to find out what happens in your head and how to prevent it …

I have a pretty good roll in my sea kayak. Last year I swam just twice, once pinned against a wall at the Falls of Lora and once surfing. I lost count of the many rolls I did in anger, mostly in the surf.

I decided it was time to go for my 5* sea assessment … I worked hard in preparation … practicing things like map reading in the dark and surfing, and I took countless friends off around Ramsey Island, St David’s Head and to the Bitches tide race (thanks all!). Last winter I got Roger to run some 5* weekends based around mock assessments. Everything felt on track.

But one weekend this February it nearly fell apart: I lost my roll.

It was supposed to be an “advanced” weekend with another provider. Saturday morning we were deliberately rolling on both sides while side surfing … some of mine were 2nd or 3rd attempts, I wasn’t thinking much about it – I was up and paddling again after all.

Then I let the person coaching into my head … “Hey Tavi, your roll isn’t bomber at the moment, do you want me to have a look?” Doubt started, after all I was acutely aware I had an assessment looming. “Ok” … I rolled offside, set up … effortless.

“That was perfect, try this, I find it usually breaks a roll …” and it did. Within minutes I was over thinking, trying to concentrate on sweeping, on blade angle, on set up … on whatever would give me that effortless roll back … and all the time doubts about assessment and the fear of losing my roll crept into my mind. That day I was a rolling beginner. I could roll maybe one attempt in 10 on flat water and it wasn’t my effortless roll at all.

Overnight I was really stressed. I had an assessment in a few weeks. Maybe I should cancel it? Maybe I’d lost my roll? How could I enjoy paddling without a roll? Sunday my roll was worse, so in the end I just got on with surfing …

Monday I was in the pool, playing polo with the teenagers I’d been coaching. My roll was back, effortless again. And the next day I took my sea kayak to a pool session, and rolled and self-rescued maybe 50 or 100 times, no thinking, no pressure, effortless.


A chance encounter with Roger led to an email exchange (I’m in the Coastal Spirit mentoring program – which I highly recommend!), and in his answer Roger suggested looking at “choking” in sport. It seems this is what I had experienced. Choking is the phenomenon that causes famous golfers under pressure to miss easy shots that will win them major tournaments, and causes footballers to miss the goal posts entirely during championship penalty shoot outs.

Choking causes loss of automatic behaviour, turning an expert into a beginner. It is caused by focussing on the uncontrollables, which includes “am I losing my roll” or the outcome of an assessment, rather than the “now”. It isn’t helped by thinking consciously about the process (overthinking) – in fact that makes it worse. But reading around I found there are research-evidence based methods to reduce the risk of choking …

One method involves thinking about a holistic, positive description of your roll (after all it’s impossible to not think at all!) … For me this would be “effortless” which is what all my good rolls are. So I concentrate on the word “effortless” as I roll. For you the description might be very different! I suspect the phrase Roger has mentioned he uses, “I’m coming up” fits this well.

The other sounds a little odd to start with … but is to do with activating the right-hand (RH) side of the brain. This is the part of the brain that controls automatic behaviour such as an expert undertaking a task (rather than consciously controlled behaviour). The RH side of your brain also controls movement of the left side of your body. Before you try and roll squeeze your left hand on your paddle – that should activate the RH side of your brain and help reduce the risk of choking.

I found the experience of “choking” pretty scary and very stressful. It was a real relief to discover this wasn’t just me and that I wasn’t losing my roll. This was a well-known and understood phenomenon. And what’s more – I passed my 5* assessment last week. My roll on assessment? It was just fine.

The moral of this story for paddlers? Think about trying these techniques – maybe one will prevent you experiencing choking under pressure!

The moral of this story for coaches? Celebrate every roll you see.  Each roll is a victory, and the product of a lot of hard work, but each one is also a potential trigger to doubt … And think about informing paddlers about choking and how to prevent it.

The moral of this story for assessors? Don’t judge too quickly if someone fails a roll … maybe you are witnessing choking? Maybe suggesting one of these techniques could help trigger automatic behaviour and success? Maybe if you think you have seen choking you might point to this information in your feedback?

Happy paddling to you all, and may all your rolls be effortless (or whichever descriptor you choose)!

You can find further information on choking on the web – if you can’t get the original papers and would like to read them feel free to drop me an email:

A quick search on “choking in sport” will lead you to lots of articles describing what choking is.

The specific research I mention above is at:

The holistic description word technique:

Hand squeezing technique – there’s a great lay summary here:

The original research:

You can find information on Coastal Spirit’s mentoring program (which I highly recommend) here:

And if the psychological aspects of paddling are of interest check this course out:

Tavi Murray

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Menorca - a sea kayaking paradise and an open crossing back to Mallorca.

Following our successful paddle around Mallorca, we took a day off and managed to stay and catch up with my good friend Pete and his family.  This also allowed us to wash and sort out kit, charge phones/cameras and pause for a moment.  

Now I had heard of this but I hadn't really realised how significant this wind was ...

The strong Tramontana wind is a fairly regular feature of the region in all seasons except summer. This variant of the French Mistral wind blows NE-SW across the landscape for 3-12 days at a time, and can be bitter when the Pyrenees are covered in snow and ice. 

This we experienced the day after paddling on to the North coast of Mallorca, with big swell and increasing winds.  Yeah, it was cold too...

The forecast looked good for Tuesday and a ferry on that evening could also work.  We had the one trolly, so we would try and walk the kayaks on, one at a time.  Getting them on from Alcudia was fine and free, getting them off was more difficult!  When we arrived we had to move the sea kayaks as one unit and with full kit and 12lts of water that was going to be challenging. We got the impression the Boss guy wanted to go home!!

Theres a special feeling walking a sea kayak on to a ferry, which feels like a real adventure ...

Wishing we had brought two trollies ... after realising it was a 2km portage to the beach form the ferry port!!

Into the beautiful setting light of the day 

We played with the swell and the light on the wall, savouring the moment ...

Rounding the Southern tip, with the top light of the lighthouse and looking for a place to camp!!

Bay after bay just looked amazing and with so much wild camping potential

And yet more magical colour and clarity ...

The cliffs were smaller than Mallorca, but still stunning

Clear evidence of cave dwellings ...

A beach bar at Cala Binidall with Wifi for forecasts and a cool beer ... perfect!

Super little camp ...

Crossing the entrance of Mahon

Time for lunch ...

The final push back to our start point, and into a head wind, but with some fun swell

With the evening paddle on the first day and 3 further days we were around Menorca and to be honest i felt like going around again and this time much slower.  After Mallorca, finding places to easily camp/bivi was such a relief and the island was so green and softer.  We had been told that camp/bivi was almost part of the Menorcan culture and the problems were more with the incomers who now own property!!

We made it about 120km around, but again we were able to cross from headland to headland on the North coast, if you had to keep closer in the mileage would go up. 

We landed back at Ciutadella and discussed options.  I was super keen for the crossing, so headed off for more lunch type food and some more water, while Barry went off to the ferry port to clarify times.  We both met back at a cafe with Wifi and decided to find a sheltered bay, to camp again for the night and if the forecast held for the morning we would go for the crossing.  

Open Crossing to Mallorca

The wind was a f3 East, there about, but 3-4km limited viability.  Not ideal, but at least the wind was in a helpful direction.  The main channel was about 40km across so we felt 7 hours and that would be done, then it was about getting back to Alcudia and were my van was.  We set off on a bearing and after 1:30 hours we lost sight of land and worked on finding some rhythm ... as we left the shelter of the island swell got more confused and running at two different angles making my sea kayak more difficult to manage ...
It felt good to see the ferry from Mallorca ... 

The confused swell that was running ...

And now the ferry from Menorca ...

Now we hadn't been able to get a map that had both islands on.  This was the best we could do ... ;)

Around the 5 hour mark we saw Mallorca, but to be honest it was confusing and disorientating.  What part of the island was it?  I'd left my Mallorca map in the van.  Well it was sunny before and I could see the whole island from Menorca!

Around 7hours, 30 minutes we had reached the Southern headland of Alcudia Bay and now the job was to paddle and find the van.  10 hours 40 and over 60 km paddled,  the job was done.  Wet tired and hungry we changed and loaded the kayaks.

Pleased to be in dry clothes and on the way to find some food.  Happy days  ;)

Big thanks to P&H Custom Sea Kayaks for the Cetus mv and Hilleberg the Tent Maker for my solo tent.  For support from Reed Chillcheater for my deck and cockpit cover, Mitchel blades for my paddle and Kokatat for paddle wear.

And once again Mr Shaw, it twas fun fella  ;)


PS:  keep your eyes open for a sea kayaking expedition back out to Menorca in October 2016, with warm seas and settled winds - email me if interested -