(One in an infinite series on the trials, tribulations and considerable joys of an InterMediate paddler).
Photo from earlier this year at Trearddur Bay Anglesey
Put a one-to-two metre wave in front of me and I'm a happy bunny, well relatively. Put a one-metre plus wave behind me in a following sea and it's more of a rabbit in the headlights.
I'm one of the participants in a coaching the mind course that Roger has organised in July. As a starter for ten I didn't really have to give a great deal of thought to one of the areas I want to work on. It's that "It's behind you" moment when the stern of the boat begins to lift at the base of a wave, the bow dips, and my inner chimp is out of the box and bouncing all over my spray-deck.
Point me at the beach in moderate surf and I'll hammer in a couple of inelegant but punchy strokes and if I luck-out on the timing enjoy the ride toward the shore. Set up the same scenario in open water or on a race and the confidence drains away faster than the Menai Straits.
I suspect there are a number of things going on I need to recognise and work on. I am, I think, quite strongly visually cued. If I see an interesting - sizeable - wave coming toward me then I can prepare mentally and get set up physically. Beach surf also offers the comfort of a nearby shore.
The same routine doesn't work as well in the following sea where the boat-body feel is of greater importance. Staying relaxed and mobile becomes a loosing arm wrestle with the chimp. I also need to continue to work on rolling in this environment. A good solid roll strikes me as a fine antidote to dobbing in.
Photo from earlier this year, at Trearddour Bay, Anglesey
I'm also an experiential learner: that is until it happens to me I might be able to verbalise the theory, but not really get it. Roger has on a number of occasions when I've been in a group he's coaching pointed out how quickly things can happen in wind - most notably getting separated from the boat.
I recently took the opportunity of a weekend in Suffolk to go for a gentle solo paddle between Walberswick and Dunwich. It's a shallow bay with a mainly pebble and stone beach, with a tendency for the waves to dump. The sea state was slight with a south easterly wind force 4 gusting up to 5-6: the result was wind-driven very short period chop of two- three feet in the bay.
After pottering around for 90 minutes I thought I ought to practise my reasonably reliable (in benign conditions) one-sided roll. Being on my own I'd made sure I wasn't far from the beach and that the wind and swell would just dump me on the pebbles. Needless to say the first one failed (chop and wind make it much more interesting), and having bailed decided I'd re-enter and roll. In setting up I managed to let the boat go for what seemed an instant, the wind caught it and I was suddenly looking at a swim to shore. Fortunately a couple of sharp paddle strokes and a lull in the wind got me back within reach. A quick re-entry and roll and I was back the right way up and then it was time to pump out a boat full of the North Sea in chop-and a brisk breeze. As a balance exercise, and for entertainment for anyone on the beach, I'd highly recommend it.
By Douglas Barrie