Saturday, 12 November 2016

The 3 Lakes Challenge, Solo, Un-Supported on a Paddleboard.

The Beginning 

I think my first go was in April 2015 or was it October 2014, either way I was keen to forget it!  It looked so easy and that's what I expected it to be, so i was shocked, when i couldn't stand up for more than a moment.  So I forgot about it.

I love being on the water. At the same time, its good to leave my kayak on the rack once in a while and stretch those legs.  I was looking for something different were I could play, rest and yes stretch those legs. Earlier this April I was inspired by Jack Hewlett as I worked with him on his British Canoeing 3 star sea.  Ive grown up with Jack and its felt a real privilege to have been involved and shared holidays with his parents, Sean and Mandy and brother Charlie.  

Salcombe, South Devon - Jack and Sean

This time we were on holiday down in South Devon and between sessions, he made Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) look so easy.  I gave it ago.  After staying on the board for 50 mins, I was really chuffed and wanted more.  I bought a Paddleboard and over the next few months I started putting some distance in on The Menai Straits, Anglesey and shorter sessions working in the tidal flow of the Swellies.  This challenged my balance, reactions and was alot of fun.

A previous client had done a sea kayaking courses with me, earlier in the year and I was aware of her achievement with the 3 lakes Challenge, unsupported, solo, over 3 days on a Paddleboard and the first to have done this.  This time I had a thought.  A small thought or question really.  Could I do this, the 3 lakes?  What would it be like? Ive only been Paddleboarding for 6ish months, would that be enough?  I’d done proper long sea kayaking days and expeditions, but what would it be like on a Paddleboard?  I allowed the thought to slip to the back of my mind …but i continued to put in time once or twice each week on my paddleboard and on top of a number of days sea kayaking.

I had a block of days off coming up late September and early October, which i had been protecting.  I was keen to go back up to Orkney or sea kayak around Skye, but the weather was really unsettled.  Then I thought what about my Paddleboard?  I felt vulnerable, so I only told two people and as I got closer to the Friday the weather was looking settled for all 3 lakes.  I began to sort out my kit in preparation.

Llyn Tegid (Bala)

I got up at 0530 and checked the forecast.  Not brilliant with a f3/4, blowing down the lake and then dropping.  I’ve tended to stick to a saying my good friend Sean shared with me once.  ‘rub your nose in it and then decide’ - meaning the forecast is only a part of the big picture.  I decide to set off and have look.  I arrived in rain, with the wind blowing down the lake as suspected and it was cold.  Although It did look like I could sneak up the North shore to the far end and if I could manage that I would then use the tail wind for the return journey.

Wondering 'should I stay or should I go ...

I went fairly light with a spare paddle, storm jacket (like a big cape), water in a hydration pack on my back, bum bag with camera, flare and snacks.  I wore my trusty Kokatat salopettes and paddle jacket and set off.  It felt exciting and committing to the decision felt good.  I had decided if after 30 mins I’d got no wear I could let the wind push me back.  I set my self a point on each bay, working towards the next headland and took a pause i each bay.  I was experimenting with a different style of forward paddling I’d seen the night before on UTube and it seemed to be effective as my shoulders were filling good!

Taking a short land break and no rain!

As I reached the far end of the lake the sun came out, i landed had some food and then set of for the middle of the lake, to make the most of the wind on the way back.  2 hr 30 mins later I had landed and Lake Bala was in the bag!  I changed out of paddling clothes, had lunch, a mug of tea and then I was off for the Lakes to stay with my parents for the night.  

Lake Windermere

I was up early and at my start point before light.  I had more kit this time, with a change of clothes for the other end, a lighter paddle jacket, my paddleboard kit bag, to transport the board back on the steam boat and more food!

As I set off there was a gentle breeze against me, i only hoped that's what it remained, gentle.  I soon found my rhythm as I moved along the East shore.  As approached Bowness on Windermere I watched the car ferry cross and hung back, deciding which side to cross to.  I decided to stay on the East side and worked my way through the moored Yatchs and then crossed over to the West side, via the Northern point of Belle Isle.  It was great seeing the various hills and peaks wakening up and beginning to show them selves as the day enfolded.

I watched the steam ferry heading for the top of the lake and I squinted into the distance.   This was my end point and I could just make it out.  A few yachts were out and that breeze I was pleased to say had dropped right off and a glassy glaze had been left behind on the surface of the water.  

Ambleside and time to pack it all away for the steam ferry ride back

4hr 12mins and I paddled into a bustling Ambleside, pleased with my time.  I quickly looked at my watch and I had 20 minutes to catch the steam boat back or, get the one after at 1300.  I went for the later as it allowed me to change my clothes, pack my Paddleboard and have a big mug of tea and a baked potato, with salad beans and cheese.

The drive North and a brief pause to soak up a super sunset

Loch Awe

I had now paddled 18 miles, near enough 30km and I was wondering how the 40 km of Loch Awe would go. It was clear that I was moving at an average of 4.5 km per hour so with breaks the best I could do was around 10 hours.  As I drove North i had phoned ahead to stay at the Toran Bay Hostel, as the winds had an Easterly then SE component I was planning to paddle South to North.  

This also meant I was right by the water edges, so up at 0530 again and paddling away at first light gave me 12 hours of daylight.  The only new bit of kit I had added was a hooped bivi bag.  If needed my intention was to put my change of clothes on, sleep on top of my board (on the land!!) and have the bivi bag to keep me dry.  I had enough snacks, but I choose to leave the stove, sleeping mat and bag behind.  I wanted the thought of a bad nights sleep to spur me on.  Plus I had spoken to the owner of the hostel and we had arranged for a small fee a pick up time and i don't like letting people down or being late!

I had also thought differently about my clothing and with such a good forecast, decided to wear sandals, thermal leggings my Kokatat pac light water proof trousers and a short sleeve thermal top with a hooded long sleave thermal top.  I had got two hot the previous two days.   The hydration bag had worked really well on lake Windermere and I had another 1lt container of water on the board. 

The start with the drifting mist  ... 
I left the jetty and it was the first time my internal dialogue was active and negative with self doubt.  The mist was reeling in and I soon realised it was actually fog.  It felt like I was really paddling into the unknown, it was cold and there was a dampness to the air.  I had around 100-150 mt visibility and a very gentle breeze and swell towards me.  All I could do was keep the shore in sight and as soon as I saw a brief headland, I would set a course for this.  

Lunch on land and the sunshine is out!
3 hours later the sunshine began to show its self and bit by bit the fog was burnt off.  Yay, as I felt the sun on my back and then a change in the breeze.  I headed away from the shore and for headlands further away, now with a breeze on my back.  Time for some lunch and a break on land.  I allowed my self 20 minutes, knowing this now had to fuel me for the half of the journey.  I had been slower than expected, as the fog had made me keep much closer to the shore, so I had some time to make up.  I wasn't going to bevy out!!   

Down to my short sleeved t shirt ...

I headed off more in the centre of the Loch and towards the Black Islands, with the breese just to the right of me. My shoulders were feeling sore now but I could see the NE end of the Loch in sight, and this spurred me on.  It was a beautiful afternoon and the mountains and the water looked stunning.   I was very pleased to be out there on the water.  

What a magical end to a SUPer day :)

I paddled towards the bridge in magic light and super silky surface.  9hr 40 mins was my time and I was really chuffed.  I changed and deflated my board, packing it all away and carried it to the car park.  I was staying a 2nd night in Toran Bay hostel, and once back went straight for a shower to get that hot water on my well exercised shoulders!

43 paddling miles, solo, unsupported, in 3 days and the 2nd person on a Paddleboard with a total time of 16hr 22mins.

The end, for now ....

Further articles that Roger wrote, can be read below and a short film he also created of the magic conditions he had:

SUP Connect


Short film on YouTube

The 3 lakes Challenge information can be found here

Update - Roger is excited to share, is that since the 3 Lakes Challenge he has received sponsorship from Andy of McConks Padleboards and he looks forward to paddling the 10.6 for local playing and the 12.8 explorer for future adventures.  

Roger is more than happy for previous clients and friends to try and see if Paddleboarding may open up adventures for other's too, as he now has three different paddleboards.

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 -