Friday 3 July 2020

Shetland 2018 (5) and Is your Want Greater than the Fear?

Shetland is impressive, It really is! For several years I heard this said, and I'm not sure what finally convinced me to book a ferry, but I'm super happy, I did. Massive caves, super long tunnels, Geos (pronounced Gee-Oh) is a narrow, deep cleft in a rock face, tide races, exposure and commitment, big ocean swell, stunning wildlife, unsettled weather, oh and remote. I've only been to Shetland twice, May 2020 was to be the third time.

Shetland Sea Kayaking

This blog is about my first-time sea kayaking in Shetland and a few quick-fix Performance Psychology top tips that I use, with my self and those I work with. 

Coastal Spirit

Blockbuster locations - My top three.

Papa Stoer on the West coast of the Shetland mainland is in my top three favourite destinations in the world. An island set 2 kilometres offshore, across a channel of flowing water and open to the Atlantic swell. Honeycombed smaller islands with tidal flow moving through them.  

The Drongs look like something out of a 'Wild West' movie. A group of granite sea stacks, offshore and if combined with the headland of Eshaness, make this a 'jaw-dropping' paddle. One narrow cave as we entered, showed a shaft of light from the back, as we explored further, the cave changed into a tunnel and opened up revealing a hidden cove. We landed for lunch, soaking up this beautiful environment.

Gannets of Noss - Shetland

The gannets of Noss. I've been privileged to see gannets before in their thousands, spiralling above and nesting on islands. But never previously on a vertical rock face as well as doing battle with Great Skuas. It's like a world war 2 movie 'dog fight' and its happening right in front of you. 

I guess it means I'll have to spend more time up there in 2021.  Our next course dates or sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know.

sea kayaking shetland

Performance Psychology - quick fixes

The body and mind are linked, so if we can make a change with our physiology, it will influence or psychology and visa versa.

Forcing a smile helps to shake off the stress, by relaxing the facial muscles and returns us to the moment - we can't be anxious and smile!

Diaphragmatically breathing is one of the most potent techniques for reversing the stress response. When anxious, our bodies tend to revert to shallow, rapid, chest breathing. Doing so keeps us in fight or flight mode, which is a sympathetic shock.  One technique is called box breathing: 

Box breathing: in through your nose for x4, hold x4, out through the mouth for x4, hold for x4 and repeat. 

Squeezing the paddle and creating tension in the body, then letting go, releases the pressure. Yul Brynner used to get stage fright, and he found that if he pushed really hard on a wall as if he wanted to knock it down, it helped calm his nerves, before a performance. The mind can perceive the sudden sense of relaxation within the body as the reduction of anxiety and stress. 

Self -Talk such as "Don't think! Play!" is a super cue for paddlers when faced with pressure, in a tide race, for example. When you find yourself overthinking and if you can't cut off your thoughts altogether, choose one word or a short phrase that directs your focus and instructs your actions.

Useful "cue words," or Self-talk such as "I'm coming up" after a capsize and beginning to roll. "Look for the eddy" for a paddler in the main flow or "what's important now?" with the paddler that just swam. Captures what you're trying to accomplish and helps you stay focused or re-focus on the task at hand.

Beat The Stress Focus – is a useful way to pull techniques together, with a plan.  B is for Breathing, T is self-Talk, S is Seeing – visualize/rehearse, and  is Focusing your attention. Working with this model or creating your own can be helpful, in providing control in challenging and dynamic environments.

Two web sites which provide further useful thought, are worth exploring. The first is based on an actors perspective of Managing Stage Fright, and the second is Performance under Pressure, from a medical perspective, which has a lot of additional links.  It's one of the best sites I've found.

Which is greater?

If we now come back to my original question. Is your want more significant than your fear? If yes, from my perspective and experience, then the above techniques will be super productive. Hence the various methods are called 'coping strategies'. Your confidence has dropped, and you need to re-focus. Yes, they will need to be practised just like your stern rudder did. 

If your fear is more significant than your need and want, then it could suggest you've moved too quickly, maybe missed a level and not consolidated skills, experience and knowledge. The concept of comfort zones can be useful to consider. Stepping down a level to what you feel is suitable, so you can progress at your rate and address what's important. Re-focusing can be very productive and motivating.

The fear needs to be understood and addressed for any progress to be made.  Loss of control, then consider what would give you control back?  For example, understanding tidal planning and the 50/90 guide? Do you ever choose where you paddle? The relationship and impact between swell, wind and current?   Or for example, If its a fear of failing, ask your self: What aspect could you fail at? What's holding you back? What can you do about it? Remember the last blog about controlling the controlables?   

How too

Cross-training can be really useful. For example, If its lack of flexibility, then consider yoga or pilates, if its stamina, how about taking up, running, cycling, using a rowing machine, flat water race training or going swimming.  If it's becoming more dynamic with decision making and more short sharp burst of energy, consider white water paddling.

Keep in mind that progress could also be a sideways move.   This would mean understanding the triggers and what creates the anxiety so that you can avoid these in the future.  For example, when it gets windy, it's difficult to control my sea kayak.  How strong is the wind? Then consider paddling under that wind strength and get a good understanding of the various weather forecast so you gain some further control.

A more in-depth approach would be to consider a few Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions.  This way you have an opportunity to develop further strategies to manage thoughts effectively, with a professional skilled in this area.  

Our time is precious, so make sure it's worthwhile, enjoyable and what we want it to be.  It's about investment. If we invest, we will reap the benefits. How much are you prepared to invest?

I hope to see you on the water very soon!

PS: Make sure you book a cabin, its worth it and adds to the whole experience arriving by boat. 


Friday 19 June 2020

Around Anglesey on a Paddleboard Solo and More - Part 4

Around Anglesey on a paddleboard solo

In this blog, I look back at the last three years, part 4. I'm going to explore briefly two mental training strategies that I use, which are super easy to work with. Both I applied to a significant effect on my Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) around Anglesey solo. These are 1) focus on what you can control, and 2) trust what you've got. 

Focus on the Controlables. 

The "uncontrollables" is the most significant mental trap in pressure and stressful situations. The "uncontrollables" are all the things in a performance that is directly out of your control. As paddlers, for example, these are wind strength and direction, air/water temperature, current strength, swell height and power. To name a few.

When the focus is on the uncontrollables, three things will happen – 1) anxiety creeps in, and tension builds up. 2) self-confidence begins to slip and 3) performance begins to suffer. We then have created a self-perpetuating vicious circle.

If we focus on what are the elements we can strengthen, develop and ultimately control, we gain confidence.  If we consider our effort, attitude/optimism, focus, preparation, those we paddle with, the location, the time in the day, and month, what we wear, what we eat and so on. This all begins to outweigh the negative stuff. 

If we look at effort, how hard I work is up to me and no one else. Preparation I find is massive towards building my self-confidence. If I've put the real-time in I feel secure and comfortable, if my kit is working for me, I'm pleased with the time I put in testing and considering options. To the food, I'm eating that's keeping me ticking over and switched on, tastes good and give me the caloroies.  To the time in the day - when do I ideally need to be around that headland and if im early or late, whats the gain or consequece

Choose to trust what you got. At the heart of paddling with confidence in the face of pressure is trusting one's ability and paddling in the present moment. When pressure builds, our minds often become cluttered, and we lose our focus. We tend to focus on what just happened or what might (or might not) happen next.

The key to being "in the moment" is moving the mind from "thinking" to "trusting". Overthinking can be a big problem, when naturally responding allows us to perform at our best.   

This can also apply with the kit - trusting that I've got the right, paddle and in this case, the paddleboard for the task, I've set myself. This is because I've used, I'm very familiar and comfortable with it. 


I'd had a good 2017 on my paddleboard, and as I moved into 2018, I felt my skill level, endurance and mental attitude was in the right place. In the January I solo SUP out to the Skerries, an island of the NW of Anglesey. Then around May I did an overnight paddle with my kit and a bivi bag and now with a solid paddleboard. The solid paddleboard had worked really well, and my nagging right ankle behaved (on an inflatable board, there's more flex, and after standing up for 10 hours my right ankle would be swollen). I was now waiting for the right three days and ideally around neaps, so the current flow was less.  All though the main factor was little to no swell.

Paddleboarding Solo Around Anglesey

During a super settled spell, in June 2018, I set off around 0500 in the morning. Why? It was something I could control, which allowed me a full day to work with what came my way. I had the flood with me from before Rhoscolyn which took me through the stacks (offshore) and across Holyhead Bay to Carmell Head (after waiting for The Irish Ferry to come into Holyhead). 

I had just over an hour of the flood tide with me, but the back eddy at Carmell Head inshore was running against me now. So I slowly began to head into the shore. A fishing boat came to check me out, and I thanked them and said ' the coastguard new I was on the water.' I landed and took a three-hour break, refuelled with lots of water and a couple of mugs of tea, had a good lunch and a lovely snooze in the sunshine. 

Pushing on

I was super pleased to be on the North coast and began to consider options. Stay where I was, push on (once the ebbing tide allowed to me) to Cemais Bay or .... paddle on to the East coast, eddy hopping until Point Lynas, which could be on the flood (going with me). I was refreshed and decided to have a look, and as long as I was still having fun, I'd continue. A total of 90km later I paddled into Dulas Bay on the east coast, with my personal best and called the coastguard up to let them know all was ok.  

I eat as quick as my weary body allowed and set my bivi up. A slept solid. I'd planned to be on the water early, but due to my late arrival, I decided to let the alarm clock slip. Back on the water, I started to cross Red Warf Bay, with a gentle wind on my back. It ended up being very slow. Probably because I was weary and rather than being in the eddy I was going against the ebbing current (flowing against me) and with no close coastline, it was hard to measure my progress. It was time for a good welsh breakfast at the Pilot House cafe! I worked with the flood as far as I could and then eddy hopped down to Menai Bridge and waited for the ebb to allow me through the Swellies. I was soon back at my van parked down by the Mermaid Inn, with big smiles and a great feeling of satisfaction. 

My short film below captures the essence of my adventure.


I was the first person to paddleboard around Anglesey solo and self-contained and the third person in total. I had a personal best of 90km in a day, id paddled around 140km and in 23 hours total on the water time, in two days.  I'd seen it as fun, I saw shearwaters (amazing sea birds) at the start and at the end of the day, porpoises close in on the north coast and just as I was flagging and a magical pod of risso dolphins blitzed me!

How To

I get a large piece of paper out and create a large spider diagram with what I want to achieve in the centre and around the outside what I can control. I consider and highlight what gaps may be in my performance, ability, knowledge, skill and kit, with a different colour pen. Then create an action plan to focus on and work with. 

It had taken me three years from when I first starting paddleboarding and the early adventures of the three biggest natural Llyn, Lakes and Lochs and the first Brit to SUP around Menorca 

I had 3 main goals with my attempt to paddleboard around Anglesey 1) to enjoy it and if I wasn't then land and then reconsider options (part of the reason I got off at Carmell Head). 2) be on the water for at least one sunrise 3) develop my forward paddling style further. I had purposely focused on Process/Performance goals, rather than Outcome (of getting around Anglesey) as I knew my mindset was going to be crucial.

What have you set your self?  How can you use the above to assist you on your journey?  How can you keep a focus on the fun as well achieve the goal?

My next blog ill look at a few top tips and quick fixes that can help when emotions are running high and Ill also talk about my first-time sea kayaking up in Shetland. Shetland really did blow me away with its beauty!

Friday 12 June 2020

The Roof of Britain 2018 - Part 3

Sea Kayaking Anglesey | Wales - The Roof of Britain (RoB) 2018

Johana approaching The Old Man of Stoer.

Part three of the last three years picks up on the start of one BIG Adventure, with Around Wales in 2010 through to the 2018 Roof of Britain expedition and the preparation involved.

In the Beginning

It was back in 2010 when Roger first thought of a big commercial expedition. He was keen to share a significant experience, an adventure with others. The reality is sometimes our friends are not interested in making a BIG trip, and he wondered if there would be enough interest.  Roger was also hoping that the experience could be a springboard towards greater independence.

Around Wales in 2011, with Di, Sue, Paul and Sonja in van support for the canal section. Di named the expedition and wrote in two parts an article "Eat, Sleep Paddle -part 1"  and part 2. It certainly got Roger thinking about the future potential with something more remote and the Roof of Britain seemed to tick the boxes!

To catch up you can read about the two previous RoB expeditions on a blog for the 2015 and 2017. The 2015 blog was written by the group.

The Roof of Britain 2018

The third Roof of Britain was with two very focused Swedish paddlers - Johanna and Anders.  We had a few super windy days, and down to the in-depth preparation from both Johanna and Anders, we managed a few huge days.  This which meant we stayed ahead of the storms. 

We had some fantastic weather at times and the last couple of days down the Great Glen were outstanding. The short film below catches a few of the highlights.


With each of the BIG expeditions, preparation has been a critical component, with time on the water, putting the miles down in training, checking kit and equipment is up for the job and considering food. What tastes good, provides the calories and also agrees with me. With around Wales, Roger got a great deal on energy bars. But, they all tasted the same - variety, for me, is the key!

Cross-training becomes super useful from getting out on that bike or a run and putting down the distance to yoga and core work in a class, gym, your own or online practice. It's about getting the body and mind in the right place. They are both linked after all. Roger has found that if he knows he can paddle 50km in a Beaufort force (Bf) 4/5 tailwind before atrip, his confidence is in a realistic and robust place. This, for example, allows him to manage a (Bf) f5/6, 30km downwind paddle. He thinks of the time spent in 2mt waves playing in that tide race, responding to hits and the dynamic rough water. It comes back to physical and mental capacity, which Roger mentioned in the previous blog.   

In my next blog, I'll look at my Stand up Paddleboard (SUP) around Anglesey, the third person in total and the first person solo. What motivated me, and why? 

Friday 5 June 2020

The Last Three Years | part 2 | Our Surf & Tide Race Course and More!

Coastal Spirit Wales | Anglesey | Sea Kayaking - Surf and tide race courses

Rhoscolyn, Anglesey, North Wales Sea Kayaking | Surf and tide race course - Andy taking some air!.

With the strong currents, tide races and overfalls around Anglesey, plus according to the Met Office Anglesey is also the 7th windiest location in the UK. Coastal Spirits Surf and Tide race course is the perfect answer! 

Ability and Level

Each of the courses has a maximum group size of four people, with the ability level of each individual from top-end Intermediate to advanced paddlers. When the first person books, this will tend to dictate the balance of the course. Either way, others are informed, so all have an understanding of the course level. 

Background and Content

 This type, of course, was more traditionally offered on a sea kayak symposium and for groups from Europe and Scandinavia, keen to get into the dynamic rough water.  

 Core content and training tends to involve aspects of the four elements below, and individuals want and needs : 

 Effective tidal planning - what conditions do we want, based on the forecast? If a tide race is suitable, then when do we want to arrive, after or before maximum? Could we get surf at this point and why?

 Boat handling skills - keeping momentum and remaining dynamic, when committed, effective braces, power transfer and explosive energy. 

 A tactical approach - the strokes, actions and procedure that must be taken to achieve the chosen goal and to have a plan B, C and so on ...

 Performance psychology – understanding our 'chimp' (the chimp paradox is worth a read), the concept of 'flow' and working around 'winning is in the mind' are a couple of useful ideas and approaches. I'll look at briefly the Chimp Paradox below and will pick up on the other two theories on another blog. 

The Chimp Paradox

Written by Steve Peters, who was a consultant with British cycling and is now a performance coach advisor to Olympian's and elite athletes. He holds a medical degree and also trained as a psychiatrist. Academics often struggle with sharing and communicating knowledge in ways people enjoy. Steve uses analogy and metaphors as a useful way to learn.

One of the significant points that stands out for me is that your brain has two main competing forces, and we need to recognise them. Prefrontal cortex = human/ logical part of the brain and limbic system = inner chimp/ emotional part of our brain. The human acts rationally, based on facts and sees many answers to situations, in shades of grey. While the chimp only decides using emotions and sees solutions in black and white.  

State of mind - It's advantageous to observe our own state of mind and if you're getting stressed ask 'who's in charge here? Do I want to feel and act this way? Or is the chimp taking over? 'which pathway am I going down?' Or in some cases, rather than a chimp it's a silver-backed gorilla! If I can only see one answer to a situation, I'm most probably working in chimp mode. Do I want to be? 

Our emotional part of our brain is more potent than our logical side, so observing and asking questions early on is key to managing ourselves more effectively in challenging stressful situations, such as powerful dynamic surf.  

Example:  In a dynamic beach surf environment, your chimps job is to protect you, so listening and changing venues may be the best action. Or choosing to stay and stretch that comfort zone appropriately and easing your chimps concerns, allowing the logical self to gain control again. This may mean, doing a 15-20 minute stretching session, some side surfing in the soup, choosing an area with a small set of waves or getting on, out through the surf and working outback.  

At the end of the day

Rather than getting too tired, missing that roll and taking a swim, which then likely supports your Chimps primary concern. Pacing yourself, managing your capacity, so you finish wanting more, Is the key. Ask your self two questions. 1) how much more mental capacity do I have left? How much more physical ability do you have left? And measure with a percentage mark.  

Feedback and individual chats tend to happen as they arise on a course when it's real and in your mind. Each weekend ends with a group discussion and reflections so that each person has a more precise direction on what's required to progress towards their own chosen goal.

Below is the 2nd film Roger had created around 'what is sea kayaking?' This time the film considers gentle dynamic movement, of current and tide.  Some of the fun and magic, which highlights why Anglesey is such a special place for Roger.   The film ends with a fun and playful North Stack tiderace.   

My next blog will focus on 2018 Roof of Britain one-month-long expedition and provide an insight into the preparation for a BIG trip. 

Plus despite these other wonderful destinations how returning to North Wales, Anglesey holds the magic. 

Thursday 28 May 2020

The Last Three Years - Part One

Sea kayaking North Wales, Anglesey - wind against tide on the Menai Straits.

A lot has gone on since my last blog, three years ago about Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) around Menorca.  What's happened since then and what's new? Over the next few weeks, I'll aim to update and share some information about what's been going on. Then I'll move to one blog once a month.

What I can tell you now is, 2017 was a pretty fantastic year!  

Kayak and Climb - NW Greenland Expedition and the area we paddled into 

Kayak and Climb - NW Greenland

Back in March 2017, I first mentioned my opportunity to go to NW Greenland. Good friend Olly Sanders had been many times before to Greenland, while for me it was to be my first time. The plan was to spend 20 days self-contained, locate new rock climbs and climb them! 

Once afloat, I found the first few days trying. I was used to having a goal with either a linear journey with a defined finish or a circumnavigation, which meant getting back to the start. We were looking for suitable, stable and firm rock to climb and ideally, bigger and more prominent rock faces so that multi-pitch routes could be created and climbed. Some days we paddled less than 10km, and we may have landed 4-5 times to walk into possible climbing venues. If we found something, we then looked for a campsite. The exploration I started to enjoy, it was a different approach, it had less pressure, and I began to relax.

What did we do for food? We shipped out to Greenland a 220lt barrel, with our crampons, ice ace, climbing racks, rope and 20 days of 2 person packs of food. The food packs included breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner and were double bagged and tightly bound in gaffer tape to reduce their size. A fun element at the end of the day, was when we pulled out the next day's rations as neither of us knew what was in a pack. The variety was the key!

Roger Chandler - 'Looking on Greenland kayak and climb expedition ' -photo by Olly Sanders

We both were shocked by the amount of plastic we found on beaches and on one beach that we stayed for a few nights, we filled 7 IKEA bags of plastic. We burnt some of this, and more robust plastic we buried at the top of the beach. Sadly our feeling was that this had mostly come from local villages, where the waste tends to be burnt or not as the case may be. We also discovered, due to the location of the waste disposal facility rubbish can easily fall into the sea.

Seeing icebergs close up, from a sea kayak is pretty unique ( it was on my list of 50 things to do in my 50's) and the rock structures in the area are truly stunning. During the 20 days, we saw no whales but spotted a couple of hesitant and distant seals, many sea birds and of course the wonderful Arctic fox on our last nights camp was exceptional.

In total, we climbed three single pitch and three multi-pitch rock climbs (Olly did the leading), with two further summits achieved and my connection to the Arctic was born! 

I want to thank again the support we received from the Arctic Club and Olly for asking me, in the first place. You can see a further account by Olly regarding our expedition here.

It took me another two years to create a short film from my footage!

My next blog will look at the classic, sea kayak surf and tide race training courses, based on Anglesey, Wales. The opening photo above is of Anita over from Switzerland, enjoying the waves. We will consider what goes into a session and why the courses have become such a success. 

Thursday 16 November 2017

The first UK paddler around the island of Menorca on a SUP.

I had discovered my paddling gears and powered up through the arch into a stiff head wind.  I could see the wind was stronger off the the final headland Punta Nati, 5km away.  There were white caps, with a perfect blue sky and blowing Beaufort f4 (14-16mph) NE.  We had come close to the NW point but there was no going on and we were 5km on from the last possible wild bivi spot.  We chatted briefly but turning and running back made sense and to be honest for me on a SUP was the only option! 

Two days earlier, we had been in a taxi on our way to Kayak en Menorca, to hire a sea kayak for Sonja, who was going support me on my SUP around the Mediterranean island of Menorca.  The island is a distance of between 180 – 220 km depending on how much of the coastline is explored or hugged. The second largest of Spain’s three Belariac islands, with a mellow and laid back feel.

Tramuntana wind
 I’d checked the forecast that morning and it was blowing Beaufort F4/5 NE with a fair swell running of 3-4 ft.  Es Grau looks out to the NE and on arrival there was a 2 ft swell rolling into the protected bay!   After talking with Maria one of the owners they were able to drop us on the South coast, which would mean an offshore wind, but some protection if close in and smaller to no swell.  It meant we could start, so that was a winner!

For me it was the first time doing an expedition on a Paddleboard.  I had done a number of sea kayak expeditions, so I had gone with the idea of one bigger holdall, like my bow or stern hatch on a sea kayak.  Then other dry bags, with items such as my sleeping bag and mat, spare clothes and food.  While I had another smaller holdall with snacks, first aid, snorkel/mask, sun tan cream, water proof jacket and trousers, money/passport and items that would normally be in my day hatch, that I want to be able to access.  Sonja had the tarp, stove/fuel and extra food.

I carried 22 litres of water on the tail of my Paddleboard in 3 x MSR water bags and two SUP paddles, one as a spare and the other as my main.  I had a medium sized blade made by VE paddles and the other was a larger blade by McConks.  I was going to start with the medium blade and as I got stronger and all was good, I would move across to the larger blade, for more power.

working hard to keep the noose in and on track

 We set out from Biniacolla right down on the SE tip and had decided to maximise the South coast and go clockwise around Menorca.  I had to work hard with the off shore wind, which kept blowing the nose of my board out to sea.  It was a balance between cutting across a bay with more exposure and less distance or keeping closer in out of the wind.  About 7km in to the journey the cliff’s got taller, offering more protection and the sun beamed on to the rocky walls.  We explored a few caves and started to consider with just over two hours of day light, what was realistic to aim for, for our first night’s bivi. 

I was aware of a Bristol team headed up by Katie who were going the other way around in sea kayaks.  A few of them I had met and worked with before.  They were heading for Cales Coves another 9km on and this seemed like a good place to aim for.  It was a beautiful evening, yet we had some kilometres to cover before we could fully relax. 

Truly stunning
The Bristol team, gave us lovely welcome and soon thanks to Dave we were drinking mugs of tea and settling into the evening.  Now with any trip it’s about finding the balance between purpose and holiday.  Too much of a holiday and if the winds picked up, could mean game over and for me this was new ground on a SUP.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I could do.  Yes, I had covered the length of loch Awe (40 km) a year previously, yet it was calm with little to no swell.  I’d put in time on the Anglesey coast since so I was in a better technical place, but there still was a lot to learn and develop.  I was keen to take it steady and pace myself so we headed out just before 10.00.

One of the lovely things about starting where we did was despite being in a small cove, beside houses, it seemed quiet and those buildings we soon left behind.  We were now leaving the remote cliffs and about to approach Son Bou.  Swimming zones, deck chairs and  the works.  It surprised me how busy it all was.  Our initial thought of heading in for a coffee, was replaced by ‘let’s cut across the bay’.  Sant Tomas seemed quieter and a nice looking restaurant on the beach had some places.  It was lunch time after all!

The rest of the day was mainly about me trying different techniques with my forward paddling, which kept my mind busy as I was keen to get as close as reasonable to the SW point, the Cap d’ Artrutx.  We decide to pull into Cala en Turqueta with 28 km done.  It was a busy attractive bay and Sonja spotted the fisherman’s cave on the left, which meant we were out of the sand and it was a little more peaceful.

On the water for 08.00 the next morning with about 8km to the point, still trying to find the balance between holiday or expedition, we decide after a couple of hours it was brunch time!  One tortilla and a couple of coffee’s later we were around the Cap with a surprised, although welcomed tail wind.  We moved along the coast offshore and after a 30 minutes or so we decide to aim for the headland West of Ciudadela.  Keeping an eye open for any ferry or big boat traffic in or approaching the port. We had made good progress and were nicely established on the West coast now. 

The NW corner is one of the cruxes of the trip, with 14 km of no landing due to cliffs and a rocky exposed shore and we were now approaching this section.  We now had a head wind that seemed to be accelerating off each headland.  But I had found my gears and was enjoying powering up into each wind eddy.  We could see Punta Nati, with white caps flowing towards us, with a perfect blue sky.  We quickly chatted and it was an easy decision, to turn and run back around to the edge of Ciudadela, 5 km away.  At least we could enjoy the wind on our backs.  It was strange as we paddled into Cala en Blanes, with a high rise hotel one side, a couple of bars playing music and lots of people crammed into a small beach. I initially felt at odds and out of place.  Yet soon with unpacking and sorting kit, I relaxed and joined Sonja at one of the bars, as well as David Bowie!

Break time!

A gentle headwind

Food and liquid refreshment all went down well and the crowds soon disappeared and I had that good glow of 36 km, even if 5km was in retreat.  By 20.00 it was dark and it was us and a few in the bar left.  We had a super light forecast for the next 2 two days.  Still North to North East, so a head or side wind, but it was light! 

We were on the water for 08.00 and I had now changed to the bigger blade.  I felt we needed to do what we could and get some mileage in the bank on the exposed North coast.  It was a beautiful morning and we were soon back at our previous day’s location.  No breeze this time though and making super progress.  Punta Nati was soon behind and far in the distance was the most Northerly point of Cavalleria.  The second crux, which if possible I was keen to get beyond as well.  I wondered if I could do that in the same day.  Box the two main crux points.  We looked at the map and decided it was realistic. 

Bay after bay we passed, again trying to find that thin line between gaining shelter from a headland to making progress across the bay, against a light wind.  Yep another headwind.  I took dips in the sea, on the hour today.  My ankles had swollen up and in particularly my right one.  Just being off my legs and floating felt great and I had also put the compression socks and tights on hoping they would help too.  We took lunch floating in a small bay and I could have easily said ‘let’s head towards that beautiful beach’ one of many.  I was tired.  Yet I also felt we had been given a gift F2 N/NE and less than 1 ft. swell on the North coast!!  It felt amazing passing beneath the small light house, but significant cliffs of Cavalleria.  Sonja did a super job of guiding me into our new camp, that was a further 4km around the head.  I was bushed, yet we had been afloat for over 10 hours and I had achieved my personal best with 46 km.  Happy days!

The most Northerly point, with Sonja on the left
Sonja found a super little cove with a lovely sheltered area.  Sorting kit and a super swim to leave the day behind, before a big pot of sweet corn soup and small pasta shells, then bed.  

We were up at 05.00, and soon I had the super porridge mix from Tent meals ready.  800 calories, that are well thought through, tasty and had been fuelling me for the first few hours each morning.  I was feeling surprisingly good and It was an amazing sunrise, which stoked me further.  East coast here we come!  

Magical sunrise start 

This was day five and this was probably the hardest part of the trip for me, a gentle head wind, that grinded away at me and headlands that stuck out further.  Meaning, it was better to paddle across the bay.  The lighthouse of Favaritx stood still.  I guess I was tired and tried to focus on being more effective with my stroke.  Floating each break time in the water, next to my board became essential and part of my break each hour.  We were eventually around Favaritx and heading further South towards Es Grau.  Yep, coffee time and some lunch felt good.  I had that second wave of ‘we could stay here’.   Yet I was also aware we could, just may be complete the loop.  We had around 20 km to go!

We headed on out with Mahon as the focus and I found a 2nd wind.  I felt efficient, excited and strong.  Maybe it was the coffee! It was just as well as the entrance to Mahon saw a few small sailing boats and motor boats, moving about.  The latter setting up an exciting inshore swell, while I dodged the sailing boats!

Illa de L’Aire, is the island of the SE tip, seeing it meant we were getting closer!  At Cala Alcalfar we had one of those tough decisions, with 6km to go but with one hour of daylight.  I had no real reason to take a risk and aim to finish in 5 days, so after a brief discussion we headed in to the natural harbour to take a look.  A lovely little village with a flat rocky area which would be ideal for our camp and what sounded like a restaurant or a hotel at the back of the bay.  It was a hotel so Gin & Tonics soon arrived, as we decide on what to eat for the evening.  49 km and my personal best!

Leaving and the protected harbour of Alcaufar and the last 6km!

Pausing ...

Time for coffee

Up and on the water early, as the wind was due to increase.  We headed on to Punta Prima for coffee and as it happened a full English, cooked breakfast!  20 minutes’ later we were back at the start, unpacking and laying out kit.  Soon the restaurant was open and we were sitting down to another tasty meal.  I could get used to this, I thought!

Job done now time for some food!
Big thanks to Sonja for the support, McConks for the paddleboard and paddle,  VE paddles, Kokatat for clothing and Kayak en Menorca for being so helpful.


You can read here, a shorter version that I wrote for Stand Up Paddle Mag UK.

To see my video of the adventure on YouTube