Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Committed 2 Using The Core More

This past weekend we started the what will be a very busy 3 weeks of upgrading our kayaking skills. With the Pacific Paddling Symposium coming up this weekend, SISKA was able to bring PPS Coach, Christopher Lockyer to the west coast a week early to put on some clinics for the members.

Christopher is the Director of Coaching for Committed 2 The Core Sea Kayak Coaching based in Hilden, Nova Scotia. He is also the driving force behind the Bay of Fundy Sea Kayak Symposium and the founder of the Atlantic Paddle Symposium.

On Saturday Robyn participated in the clinic designated for comfortable paddlers and I was able to tag along as a support kayaker in the group. On Sunday I also participated in the same clinic for comfortable intermediate paddlers.

The Saturday clinic included;
- Looking at ways to get more power out of our core to be able to paddle more miles.
- Practice ways to get more power out of our core in dynamic environments.
- Getting our kayak to do the work and finding ways to use the kayak to help us.
- Stability and control for the Comfortable Paddler
- Finding control in a number of different strokes and body positions.
- Linking strokes into manoeuvres.

The Sunday clinic included; 
- Looking at ways to get more power out of our core to be able to paddle more miles in conditions.
- Practicing ways to get more power out of our core in dynamic environments in conditions.
- Getting our kayak to do the work and finding ways to use the kayak more to help you in conditions.
- Stability and control for the Comfortable Intermediate Paddler
- Finding control in a number of different strokes and body positions in conditions.
- Linking strokes into manoeuvres in conditions.

Although the clinics both days covered similar topics, the Sunday clinic pushed the kayakers further into what Christopher calls areas of Sense of Humour Challenges or in my case Sense of Humour Failure(s).

On Saturday morning the clinic took place in the confined waters of Cadboro Bay and we soon learned that Christopher's method of east coast teaching and communication is definitely a little different to what we have experienced on the west coast. The session started out with a warm up on the beach with a little "Frankenstien" walk. The local beach walkers must have thought "aren't they supposed to in their kayaks instead of dancing on the beach?" It was just the beginning of Christopher's colorful ways of the day.

Christopher Lockyer (sunglasses) leads the "ghoulies" on a Frankenstien walk to warm up. 

The focus of the clinic was centered around using the core of the body to allow the kayak to move through the water more effectively and efficiently. For a few of the kayakers, this meant that changing their paddle stroke to allow the core to unwind resulted in increased speed with less effort. I really noticed a big difference with a few of the paddlers throughout the day including Robyn who picked up on a few of the edging techniques.

Christopher talks the group through a particular paddle stroke or maneuver before demonstrating it to the group.

On thing that I noticed was how Christopher asked the group if they had seen or done a particular skill and he explained it very well before demonstrating it to the group. Throughout the day, several of the skills were gradually linked together which allowed the paddlers to experience in some case increased maneuverability which they had never experienced before.

Discovery Island in the background as Christopher talks to the group

One term that I caught onto was what he called the Sense of Humour Challenge or Sense of Humour Failure. I (used to ;-) ) like to call it Pushing The Envelope which in some cases causes an almost in the water event. I think there were several of the "Challenges" seen throughout the day but no "Failures" Nice!

Christopher sports his new SISKA hat. This picture looks like a P&H Kayaks Delphin promo ;-)

Me the "apprentice" with the kayak master. I gotta work on color coordination! 

After a full day of skill development we headed back to beach where some of us worked on our rolls while Christopher showed the group a few of his styles of getting back into the kayak. Once the debrief was completed on the beach several of us headed to the Smugglers Inn for a couple of pints to celebrate another great day on the water.

Saturday in Cadboro Bay

2013 Paddle # 32 - Round and Round in Cadboro Bay
Distance:  11.30 km  (6.10 nm)
YTD: 337.20 km (182.07 nm)

On Sunday I participated in the clinic for Comfortable / Intermediate paddlers which started out from the Oak Bay Marina at 08:30 ish! Getting to the site became an adventure in itself as the Oak Bay Half Marathon was in progress and most of the streets leading to the marina were closed to traffic. 

After navigating our way through what seemed like every side road in Oak Bay we managed to get about 50 feet from the exit lane from the marina. Only through the logical thinking of one of the course volunteers did she manage to get us through the runners into the exit of the parking lot only 45 minutes late for the clinic. Turns out we weren't the only ones in the clinic that were late as Christopher and Sheila were right in front of us in the traffic snarl up. :-)

Once we did get all assembled on the beach Christopher led the group through his unique warm up routine and I only had to think that we must have looked like a bunch of well dressed monkeys frolicking on on the waters edge. And ... it started raining :-)

Once on the water we started working on some edging techniques and my goal for the day was to push my envelope beyond my normal limits and I knew what the repercussion could mean. Working through some aggressive edging combined with a bow rudder I simply had a Sense of Humour Failure and ended up in the water. Disappointed at first for a brief moment but I soon realized that by doing so that it is exactly what I need to advance my kayak training. The saddest part ...... I had just turn off my GoPro!

Applying a bow rudder while working the edge of the kayak. The edge angle doesn't look like much in the
picture but tilt your laptop, iPad or head until the island in the background becomes horizontal

I mentioned in the Saturday portion of the blog how Christopher clearly explains and demonstrates each new maneuver that we were about to work on. Not only did he demonstrate what the maneuver should look like but he also demonstrated the proper core movement to perform it. I was very impressed with his visual techniques of coaching.

After the morning part of the session we stopped for lunch on Jimmy Chicken Island where Sheila and I let Deb and Kathleen try our Delphins. Both of the girls paddle big Current Designs kayaks and they were having some difficulty getting them to turn effectively while on edge. Kathleen immediately noticed that she could turn the Delphin simply by edging it and I think she might be seriously now be thinking of getting another kayak.

Kathleen takes my Delphin on an edging test .... I think she was surprised how easy it was.

After lunch we worked on some forward stroke skills in the currents and again used multiple strokes in conjunction with each other to get the most maneuverability out of kayaks. Silly me as I asked Christopher "what about reverse strokes?" So he started putting us through the paces of reverse edging and gradually we added sweep strokes and sculling braces and guess what ...... Yup .... my envelope got a little bigger again and I had another east coast Sense of Humour Failure. And .... I didn't have my GoPro on again!!

Overall I really had a really great day of skill development but I was somewhat disappointed about one thing. In both of my Sense of Humour Failures I made no attempt to roll myself back up and yet my rolls (both sides) are almost 100% effective when I practice them. Why then do I just grab my spray skirt and wet exit?? Simple .... I don't practice rolls in the real conditions. New kayak bucket list item .... at least attempt to roll before wet exiting or in other words Get 'Er Done!!! Another Christopher term from Sheila's visit to the east coast last year. LOL

Sunday in Oak Bay

2013 Paddle # 33 - Oak Bay Sense of Humour Failures :-)
Distance:  13.26 km  (7.16 nm)
YTD: 350.46 km (189.23 nm)

NEXT UP: We are heading to the Pacific Paddling Symposium this weekend  for more training. Check back soon for a full report on what we are expecting will be a great experience.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blackberry Point (Valdes Island) - 5 days & 4 nights

The long weekend has come and gone and we had an amazing time paddling in the Gulf Islands on an extended kayak camping trip. Our original plans were to head to the Broken Group Islands but with the uncertainty of the launch location due to a contamination closure, we decided to join up with a bunch of local kayakers heading to Blackberry Point on Valdes Island.

Robyn and I had already planned on extending this weekend from Thursday to Monday so we were able to get a jump on the trip early Thursday morning. We loaded kayaks and gear onto the the truck and headed for the boat launch at Cedar By The Sea just south of Nanaimo. As expected the put in location was virtually empty and we took our time loading our kayaks with our provisions for the next 5 days.

With Round Island on the left, our kayaks are loaded and ready to start the paddle to Blackberry Point.  

The conditions were almost perfect at the time of launch with slightly overcast conditions, a gentle ebb current flowing towards our destination and no wind at all. We crossed Stuart Channel over to Link Island and then made our way through the 8 foot "Hole In The Wall" that separates Link and DeCourcy Islands. Taking the scenic route we paddled down the east side of DeCourcy and into Pirates Cove for a rest stop. A number of the tents sites at the camping area were already occupied but there were no boats, kayaks or people around. Only one of the residents was there to greet us as we paddled into the cove.

Working the rocky shore, "Rocky" looks for lunch as we paddle by into Pirates Cove.

After lunch we headed into uncharted waters, for us at least as we had never been beyond Ruxton Passage before on any of our trips. We continued down the east side of Ruxton, Whaleboat and Pylades Islands where the view of the cliffs of Valdes Island were spectacular.

Our first good look at the cliffs of Valdes Island

As we headed to the southern end of Pylades Island we were able to see the white shell beach of Blackberry Point almost 1.7 nm in the distance. Landing on the white shell beach after a lazy 2.5 hour paddle, there wasn't a soul to be seen and the whole camping area was ours to choose from. One of our goals that was set for us by Yves of Go Kayak was to claim the prime camp area for the other members of our group that would be arriving over the next couple of days.

Following the instructions that Yves passed onto us we claimed the area in the trees with the established campfire pit and cooking area right on the point. It was a good thing too as about 2 hours later 6 kayakers (ladies) from the lower mainland arrived with the intention of claiming the point but they chose the next best option which was the grassy meadow just around the corner from us. They did however get a prized table which we didn't know about ;-)

We spent the rest of the day setting up our camp and basked in the hot sun while we watched a Viking Air Twin Otter perform takeoff and landings right in front of our camp. The cool thing is that I actually made parts for that particular aircraft as it was sold to the Vietnam navy and their pilots were undergoing a rigorous training session on how to operate it in a float configuration. Throughout the weekend the Twin Otter came back a number of times in the various wind conditions that we experienced.

Just about to touchdown the Vietnam (Viking Air) Twin Otter lands in front of our camp.

We did get a visit from an interesting character which turned out to be Ed (not Crazy Pete) who is one of the self proclaimed caretakers of Valdes Island. Ed lives just north of the beach area in a float house all year round and he has been in the area since around 1968. Later in the day I managed to gather enough dry wood from the beach and light our first kayak camping fire ever while Robyn made our customary first night dinner of shredded pork, rice and peas. Earlier in the afternoon we had talked to the ladies over in the meadow and invited them to come and join us at the fire were we sat around almost until 11:00pm as the twilight turned into a starry night.

Our first sunset at Blackberry Point. Pylades Island with the tiny Tree Island just off to the left.

At around 1:00am I awoke to the distinctive sounds of two blow like rushes of air and as I lay there in my sleeping bag thought I could hear raindrops falling on our tent except .... it wasn't raining. I decided to get up and see what the sound was and when I walked down to the waters edge the absolutely flat windless ocean was alive with thousands upon thousands of fish jumping in the moonlight. My only thought was the blowing sound was a whale, porpoise or dolphin and the fish were being chased towards the beach. What a magical experience and no I wasn't dreaming :-)

2013 Paddle # 29 - Cedar to Blackberry Point
Distance:  14.85 km  (8.02 nm)

Friday was a down day as our group of kayakers arrived in various conditions of wind. Before they arrived Robyn and I did a little beachcombing towards Shingle Point in search of oysters. The Twin Otter returned almost like our own personal eye in the sky.

Single Point (IR) in the distance as Robyn searches for oysters

Unlike ourselves, most of our group made the direct crossing from Yellow Point or Ladysmith which normally would take about 1 hour. Of course the 10 to 15 knot SE winds had a bit to say in that as it added another 1/2 hour or so onto the crossing but everyone that was expected arrived safely. 

First to arrive was Yves and Patti followed by Peter and Hans about an hour later. Lynn chose a safer solo route from Cedar like we did but she got the full force of the SE head on all the way. Last to arrive was Joanne just before dusk after launching from Ladysmith.

Our little "town" of kayak campers tents starts to take shape.

I think the group was pleased to see that we the "Rookies" had secured the primo camp spot so that made us feel good that we had contributed in a little way. Lots of laughs and stories were shared around the campfire that night as we planned for Saturdays paddle into Porlier Pass.

Pete in his tent and full size lumberjack axe. Yes, he brought it inside his kayak!

Saturday morning we awoke to blustery conditions and so we decided to stand down for the day and not run through Porlier Pass. Tony and John arrived just before lunch and while they set up camp we (Yves, Patti, Hans, Jo, Lynn, Robyn and myself) set out to hike to the top of the cliffs that shadow the camp. Pete set a plan in motion to circumnavigate Valdes by heading through Porlier Pass and paddle up the east side of the island and return through Gabriola Passage.

On our way up the inner island logging road along came the one and only local Crazy Pete on his ATV and like a true caretaker he knew members of hiking party from previous visits. What a character as he called Hans the German and Yves "Frenchy" and talked about heading to Chemainus to pick up a new ATV. He gave us a few pointers on how to get to the look out on the cliff top and he roared off down the logging road on his ATV.

Crazy Pete heads off down the logging road

After a couple hours of hiking and bushwacking we made our way to the top of the cliff face and holy cow what a view from 416 feet high by Robyn's GPS. A little unnerving to say the least as it looked more like a 1000 feet from up there.

After a break we started our way back to camp and found the old growth fir tree that Crazy Pete had told us about. He said it was 70 feet high but my guess was that it was much higher than that.

The hiking party and Crazy Pete's fir tree.

Arriving back in camp it wasn't long before Aaron and Louise paddled in to complete our camp for the weekend. Robyn and I whipped up a batch of oysters pan fried with tabasco sauce and parmesan cheese for lunch. It wasn't long before Peter was spotted heading from Gabriola Passage about 1/2 hour earlier than anyone expected.

Yves took this picture of myself, Robyn, Hans, Jo, Pete, Lynn, Tony and Patti resting in the sun after lunch.

Chef Patti and her oysters
Happy hour got into full swing with Hans and Patti cooking oysters on the shell in the hot embers of the fire. Just as the sun started to settle down behind Pylades Island, Yves spotted the tell tail sign of Orcas blowing just off the island. We watched them play as they made their way into Trincomali Channel towards Thetis Island until they disappeared from view. Soooo cool!!

Sunday morning we awoke to breezy conditions but the forecast was for the winds to decrease so the group planned for a afternoon trip to see the Valdes cliffs up close. To pass the time away, Yves took a group of hikers to try and find the rumoured caves (and they found them) while Robyn, Lynn, Hans, John, Tony and myself hiked the logging road towards Porlier Pass looking for a vista viewpoint. After about an hour of hiking the girls spotted a clearing which gave us a view Yellow Point and the Mid Island Range.

Back at camp the group assembled on the beach for lunch and then we suited up for the paddle to the Valdes cliffs. Having never been to the cliffs before both Robyn and I were in awe of the sheer magnificence of what we were paddling next to. Pictures really don't do the rock formation justice in any way. It was simply stunning.

After visiting the cliffs Yves, Patti, myself, Peter and Aaron decided to make a run through Gabriola Passage and into Silva Bay as the current was nearing slack after the ebb. In the meantime Robyn, Lynn and Hans decided to head back to camp as we carried on. Gabriola Passage to me was surprisingly narrow but it was fun riding the back eddies and having to ferry across that last of the current. Arriving at Silva Bay brought back memories of last year when Robyn and I paddled the Flat Top Islands and it won't be long before we visit the area again as part of our "Haul In The Fall" trip

Patti, Aaron, Pete and Yves at Silva Bay

Riding back through Gabriola Passage on the last of the ebb was more of an assisted push and very predictable. I am looking forward to bring Robyn through the passes in the fall as they can be navigated around the slack currents without any difficulty. After a brief rest stop on Valdes, Pete and I decided to head back to camp on our own while Patti, Yves and Aaron made it a lazy paddle back to camp. Arriving about an hour before sunset I must admit that after a hike in the morning and an almost 15 nm paddle I was sore and exhausted.

2013 Paddle # 30 - Blackberry Point to Silva Bay Return
Distance:  27.73 km  (14.97 nm)

Monday morning we woke to overcast foggy conditions but with no wind. After spending 5 days and 4 nights at Blackberry Point we were sad to be leaving. After breakfast we started the dreaded dismantling of the camp and loading of the kayaks. At least it wasn't raining

Lynn decided to tag along with us on the paddle back to Cedar and by the time we were set to launch the fog had lifted. After saying our goodbyes with the rest of the campers it was time to let the flood currents assist us back towards Cedar.

Getting set to head out back to Cedar

But first we wanted to check out Whaleboat Island Marine Park to see if there was a landing area for kayaks. To our surprise and maybe not since nobody seemed to know about it, there wasn't any place to land a kayak. The island is simply a place for powerboats and sailboats to drop anchor for the evening.

Whaleboat Island on the right with its step shores not accessible for kayakers.

On the way back we decided to stop for a rest at the white shell spit on the northern end of Ruxton Island. Although the tide was up there was still some landing area for us to get out and stretch our legs.

Lynn and myself check out the "Mothership" looking boat from the white shell spit on Ruxton Island.

Robyn's Delta Expedition 15.5 mini van of a kayak. Man they haul a tons of gear!! 

Back on the water we crossed Ruxton Passage and headed up the west side of DeCourcy Island where we could really feel the effects of the flood current pulling us towards Dodd Narrows. With a fully loaded kayak this was a really welcome assist from our friend the ocean. We landed back at Cedar and our vehicles were safe and sound just like we had left them.

What a fabulous weekend to try our first extended kayak camping trip. Our preparations for food and water paid off as the provisions made it through the weekend with a couple of days back up rations. We can't wait to do this again! Oh yeah ..... the shower was amazing once we got home!

2013 Paddle # 31 - Blackberry Point to Cedar
Distance:  13.68 km  (7.38 nm)
YTD: 325.90 km (175.97 nm)

Monday, May 13, 2013

SISKA Pool Night, Practice Pays Off

Last night Robyn and I headed to the last SISKA Pool Night of the spring and worked on some elements by ourselves. Robyn took advantage of a Bracing clinic hosted by Dorothea Hoffman while I just took up some pool space and worked on my rolling. It was kinda weird not being with Robyn during the evening even though we were in the same pool, but every so often we smiled at each other. :-) 

My goals for the evening were to put more flow technique into my normal side roll using a euro paddle and then transition to my Greenland paddle. I think I spent more time upside down instead of right side up last night as I really focused on body position throughout the rolling sequence and tried to eliminate as much muscle power as possible. After feeling really good with my normal side roll, I found that I was able to use the same process on my OTHER side roll with success even though there might have been a little muscle help on that side.

The cool thing about a pool session is that it is a great opportunity to watch others working on elements and such was the case with James Manke who dropped in for the session. Sometimes all you need is to see how it's done properly in order to figure out how to do it yourself. I watched James like a hawk performing the Butterfly roll and decided to give it a go but I also focused on being more relaxed which worked great when sliding onto the back deck teetering between rolling back in the water or finishing the roll.

As the evening progressed, if I did happen to miss a other side or butterfly roll I simply repositioned myself and went to my normal side roll to recover. And then I got thinking ... what about a cowboy rescue for the first time?? What the heck I thought as I watched others working at them. Yeeehaaaa! Ride 'em cowboy

Man I was on a roll (pun) last night so I figured that why not try a re-entry rescue as well for the first time. Thinking my way through it I was able to wedge myself back into the overturned kayak and simply rolled myself back upright. Sweeeeeet!!!!

I'm beginning to like being underwater a lot :-)

Next Up: Robyn and I are heading to Blackberry Point for 4 nights on Thursday. There has been reports of lots of orca in the area so fingers crossed.

2013 Paddle # 28 SISKA Pool Night
Distance:  Absolutely 0 km  (Absolutely 0 nm)

YTD: 269.64 km (145.59 nm)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Workin' In The Bay

The start of an extremely busy month of kayaking for us, (wait a second, that is every month for us LOL) we decided to do a laid back paddle in Cowichan Bay with Sheila and Neil yesterday. For us living on the Saanich Peninsula there are several options to do this paddle including launching from Moses Point on the tip of the peninsula, crossing Saanich Inlet / Satellite Channel and then hugging the shoreline into Cowichan Bay. 

As always the weather forecast plays an important role in our decision making process and with the predicted SE 10-15 knot winds we decided to drive over the Malahat to Cherry Point and put in there. Arriving at Cherry Point about an hour after the 2.3 ft. low tide, the distance to carry our kayaks to the water was still several hundred feet and the SE wind was creating a bit of choppy conditions. Did we want to work this much on a laid back paddle? Heck no!! So we decided to just drive up to Cowichan Bay and put in there.

Closing my new Watershed man purse at the boat launch. The first leg of this paddle
would be a long one .... to the yellow building with the red roof behind Sheila. LOL

Launching out of the CVRD boat launch we headed over (maybe 100 meters? LOL) to Cowichan Bay Kayaks to check out the shop and touch base with Huw Jones and Dave Nichols. We first met Dave on our Ukee weekend and have been intrigued ever since with their little kayaking business ever since. Situated right in the heart of the tourist destination of Cowichan Bay, the business has transformed into a really professional operation with a great inventory of kayaking gear and I think the first dedicated showroom for kayak sales that I have seen. They are also making a name for themselves when it comes to tours and lessons with their personal "have fun while doing it" approach. If you are ever in Cowichan Bay you have to stop by and see what Huw and Dave have put together. As one of their slogans say "Nice people to paddle with"

Heading back onto the water for the laid back paddle we headed towards the Westcan Terminal dock where a couple of relics, one being what looked to like a paddle wheeler were tied up along with the Canadian Coast Guard Polar Prince. Paddling our way through the maze of pilings of the dock we made to the other side and through the log booms close by.

As Dave had mentioned, there was a colony of seals that call the logs home but they were in the water all around us today. It was also the first time that Robyn and I got to see Osprey and were lucky enough to watch one hunting as it dove completely under water after a fish.

Leaving the nest an Osprey flies over head to check us out.

Ready to make the plunge into the water for dinner an Osprey starts to fold it's wings. So cool to watch!

Hugging the shoreline we paddled into picturesque Genoa Bay where we found a floating gallery shop, a bunny rabbit living on the deck of a houseboat and one of those whale sculptures that we have seen around Victoria. 

As we made our way around the marina and towards the opposite side of the bay it started to rain  creating such an amazing tranquillity that is hard to explain. For Robyn and I we have only encountered this once before during the winter but today the rain was warm, soothing and such a pleasure to paddle in. Really quite a beautiful moment for us.

Robyn, always with a smile in her kayak. 

We made the crossing of Cowichan Bay as the early evening sun started to show itself in the direction of our put in location. It was sort of like a beacon telling us which way to paddle home .

Neil, me and Sheila heading towards our put in location in Cowichan Bay

Arriving back at the CVRD boat launch, Dave arrived after closing up the shop for the day and joined us for a pint at the Bay Pub before we headed back to Victoria. We definitely have to return back to explore this area at some time during the summer. Maybe even take some of the Cowichan Bay Kayaks demos out for a test run. Wink, Wink CBK ;-)


At the request of our readers, here is a picture of the bunny living on a float home in Genoa Bay. See ... pretty cute huh?

2013 Paddle # 27 Cowichan Bay
Distance:  12 km  (6.48 nm)

YTD: 269.64 km (145.59 nm)