Sunday, October 23, 2016

The NIL Sea Kayak Guide assessment weekend.

The sea kayak guide course of Vigu, which I've documented in the blog, was a quite extensive course, and I felt I improved a lot in several areas. During the course I got a lot more confident in my own kayaking technique and I feel I've moved my comfort zone a lot. When it comes to ordinary Finnish conditions, I should be able to handle just about anything that it is reasonable to go out in. The common maneuvering techniques also work well and I've been rolling without problems in surfs and breaking waves. We've trained rescues in all kinds of situations and I've done real rescues in fairly difficult waves. I've improved in reading waves and conditions and understand rockhopping conditions a lot better than before. We've trained a lot of leadership aspects and all sorts of theory too, so I'm very satisfied with the course.

I thought that a good follow-up on the course would be the NIL Sea Kayak Guide assessment in the end of September. NIL (Nordic Instructor License) is a training and certification association, which has defined license/certification levels for Nordic conditions. It is probably at least in part based on the British BCU system, but adapted for the conditions and kayaking done in the Nordic countries.

Participating in the assessment 23-25.9 felt like a good idea when I registered for it in June. As it turned out, I was tired and would have needed some rest. I returned from the Cornwall kayaking course just two days earlier, there was a complete mess at work and just before the Cornwall week I had been a week in Åre doing DH cycling. As a result, during the assessment weekend I wasn't really my usual self and couldn't focus fully on the task at hand.

We met and started at Porkkala on Friday evening. The assessment was held by Anssi Nupponen from Rollingkayak and Mika Björkman from I had met them before, in May when they held a two evening course in kayaking instruction in Turku.

I'm not going to tell any details, since it could spoil the surprise for someone going to a future assessment who would read this. I also don't really have any pictures, since both cameras suitable for taking pictures in theses conditions were on the sea bottom outside Cornwall. The fairly short distance to the camping island was rather eventful, though. It was quite dark when we arrived there and put up the tents.

Breakfast in the slightly grey morning.

Getting ready for the day.

A warm and sunny lunch.

During the day we went through a good deal of the stuff we had practiced and the Vigu guiding course. Some of them can be derived from the requirements for the assessment. I did feel confident in the techniques and incidents which tended to occur, but I had an unusual brain jam in the theory parts and also a bit of slowness in the leadership tests.

A little night work.

The next morning was a beautiful one.

After breakfast we packed down all our gear and left for another day of tests, this time mainly focussing on teaching/instructing basic skills to beginners.

After lunch we had some playful competitions, before landing and getting the judgement. The weekend had been great and I did learn a lot from it and also got a good and very useful assessment of my own strengths and weaknesses. I did pass the assessment and can now call myself a sea kayaking guide in the NIL system.

Anssi and Mika were very knowledgeable and inspiring and I do look forward to taking courses with them in the future. There is a point in taking courses with different instructors, since everyone has their own way and variations, and you do learn a lot from that.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Vigu Sea Kayaking Guide Course Pt. 6/6

In the middle of September it was time for the grande finale of the Vigu sea kayaking guide course, sea kayaking in Cornwall. Normally I would have waited impatiently for the trip to begin, but this time I got home from the DH course in Åre on Monday morning and had to leave for England early in Wednesday morning, or more like the night. In between I worked two days, so there was no time to spare. Some had travelled a few day earlier, but most of us took the same plane to England. The plane arrived on time, but one railway section outside London was closed and it was uncertain if we would make it to Reading for our train in time. Surprisingly we made it, and spent the next five hours in the train to Cornwall.

We arrived at Falmouth in the early evening, about 16 hours since leaving home. We stayed at the cozy Falmouth lodge. The electricity cables were somewhat amusing to our Finnish eyes.

Being restless from the travelling day and still having Finnish time in our bodies, we got up early for a morning swim.

Waiting for the ride.

The steering wheel was mounted to the wrong side of the car and everyone drove on the left side of the road, but Benjamin stayed cool.

We got kayaks and a second instructor, Ben, from Sea Kayaking Cornwall.

The weather forecast, tides and swell forecasts all affected our starting place, which we drove to.

We started at Praa Sands, where there was some amount of surf.

And even some surfers.

The surfing here was quite easy and we trained some basics.

We had lunch after the beach and the waves had diminished so much that we spent the afternoon exploring the coastline, with a little rockhopping.

Not much left of the beach anymore.

We finished with some tidal water theory back at Sea Kayaking Cornwall, but I'm not sure everyone was fully receptive to teaching at that time anymore.

The next morning we started with more theory. We have no tide water in Finland, but in Cornwall the situation is different. On Sunday we had spring tide with a difference between low and high water of 7.4 m at Portreath. This causes strong currents, so it is clear that kayaking in this area must be planned according to the tide water.

On Friday we started from Kennack Sands and paddled to Lizard Point (and back), the southernmost point of mainland Great Britain.

Some amount of kayak carrying in low tide.

We paddled to Lizard point and back. Most of the coast line doesn't contain any good landing spots.

The coast line does have a few nice sand beaches in low tide, but in high tide they generally seem to be under water. We found a nice lunch beach, though.

We did a little more rock hopping and fun stuff on the way back.

Planning the Saturday kayaking.

This time we started from Carbis Bay. We also had a new local instructor from Sea Kayaking Cornwall, Joe Leach, an accomplished paddler and excellent instructor.

We started with some basic surfing and side surfing stuff and after that had lunch on the beach.

After lunch we split into two groups and I went with the more eager group to test some larger surfs with Benjamin. Pure fun and the stuff that teaches you a lot very fast. This is where I lost the waterproof compact camera. The pouch was obviously not tight enough and it was thrown out in one of the surf rolls.

Look at Jocke's smile.

Driving back to Falmouth. The narrow roads fascinated me. Overgrown stone walls on the side of the roads and in many places even trees next to and above the road. In practice the road often went though green tunnels.

The Sunday took us to Portreath. We now did some more advanced rock hopping and I got some good video material with my GoPro of kayakers washed high up on dry cliffs by the unusually big wave they didn't see coming. For lunch we found a fascinating sand beach, that in high water would be totally drowned with no escape possibly due to the steep walls.

The rock hopping was excellent.

We continued for a while in conditions that were well passed our expected level (BCU3* has clearly defined levels) and at one point I actually capsized. A big wave rose on my left side and I leaned heavily into it, expecting it to come against me with force, but it turned out to be just a clapotis, a high spike, and there was no support there. No problems rolling up, though.

We naturally trained rescues and stuff and during one such exercise I lost my GoPro Hero 4 Black. I put it well outside any danger on the back deck of Alf's kayak for training scoops. After a while I noticed that it was missing. The suction cup and mount was still there, and it is a mystery what happened. It should definitely not have come loose.

The day ended with surfing in good waves, for those who still had some energy. I was now quite confident in larger waves and rolling in surfs and could enjoy it fully. A few pictures of yours truly follows.

Benjamin and Joe tried to get a half backflip.


The final morning had us starting from Carbis Bay again. The waves were now longer and contained a lot more energy. I tried for a while to get out past the surf, but didn't succeed. Between each wave I advanced a little, but then the wave broke right over me pushing be back almost as much. I tried rolling when the wave broke, which maybe helped a little, but it was no fun waiting under water for a while when you had just used considerable effort to paddle forwards. I won maybe 10 meters per minute and a current took me sideways a lot faster. I learned a lot from it.

We had some fun in the waves, though.

I guess our instructors deemed to conditions to difficult, even though some of us liked it there, since we drove back to Falmouth for some relaxed afternoon paddling and some final rescues for the BCU3* assessment to wrap it up.

The lodge was quite decorated with paddling gear.

On Tuesday morning was started the journey home. I was home sometime a few hours after midnight.

The Cornwall course was fantastic and a good way to end the entire Vigu sea kayaking guide course. Thanks to everyone for the company. It was fun.

PS. Except for the smartphone pictures of dubious quality, the pictures are from Aavameri, the company of Benjamin Donner who was our main instructor. I myself lost no less than two cameras to the sea in Cornwall...