Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Solo Paddle.

This Kayakblog entry is by Steve Watt of Manx Paddle Sports.

First there was a solo paddler coming to grief off Douglas Head, then John had a swim off Bradda Head, then someone ended up in the water off Kirk Michael and today I had a very near miss going around the Calf on my own. If we must paddle alone it is important to learn from everyone else's mistakes. So here goes.
I set off from the ladder by the cafe at noon and headed across the Sound to make a clockwise circuit of the Calf. Three degrees Celsius, a fresh easterly wind, visibility of about four miles and white horses down the left side of the Calf, but I'd said on facebook I was going to race around the Calf and male ego is a terrible thing ! The sea got progressively rougher with strong reflections off the cliffs and it was survival paddling all the way to the Drinking Dragon. Several times I had waves breaking right over the kayak and I had to make far too many high recovery strokes. I was tense, paddling like a novice and extremely worried about everything. I was wearing tights, sweatshirt and light spray-top, didn't have a paddle leash and my flares were in the boat. My new paddle float was in the garage with my towline and pump. I was soon extremely gripped and way out of my comfort zone expecting a swim at any moment and worrying that I would lose the boat in the chaotic sea. There was no turning back as I was on the spring tide, definitely on a one way trip. I managed to surf through the Dragon's gap which is surprisingly narrow at high water into the calm water beyond where I was sick! Got away with it then, but only just. I blasted around the rest of the Calf, just made it round the top of Kitterland against the increasing flow and made it back to the ladder in 54 minutes 40 seconds, a new p.b.But no, I'm not that happy about it, just really concerned that things could have turned out very differently. Next time, if there is a next time in winter I will try to do all of the following. Dress properly for a swim, attach myself to the kayak with a towline, use a paddle leash even though I had a spare, take a pump, have flares in my buoyancy aid and give Julie a precise plan to follow in case I wasn't back after 90 minutes.Have fun in all aspects of your paddling but remember that if you go alone there is a far greater risk and you need to have prepared yourself thoroughly.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Surfing Ramsay.

The waves were half the size they should have been! The wind had shifted through 30 degrees and no longer opposed the receding tide. Still, most of us had driven the full 12 miles from Peel to Ramsay. As a proportion of the Manx national geography that's like driving from Los Angeles to New York and so retreating home without a paddle was unthinkable! Gerry, Steve, Stu, Ian, a young girl and myself took to the icy water for a fairly sedate surfing session. Having said that we all managed a few runs and I even rolled as I leaned off a breaking wave trying to squeeze a few extra yards out of it. You can view Steve's account of the session in video format here.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Cold.

I never like it when I have to defrost my car prior to a kayaking trip! Normally here on the Isle of Man we are protected from such discomforts by the Gulf Stream. Jess, Jo and myself set off from Port Erin to the tidal races at the Sound of Man. Regular readers will know that this is what we do nearly every weekend. But then it's usually a thrilling place to surf. Today spring tides were flattened by the easterly wind. Had the winds been our more usual prevailing westerlies, then they would have lifted the standing waves and hours of surfing fun would have followed. Still, it was worth withstanding the finger numbing cold to catch up with Jo on his brief return to the Island. Tomorrow we should have guaranteed surf at Ramsay at 13:30 - coffee and mince pies available.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Xmas Slalom Results.

A very pleasant day was had by all. Thanks to John Speakman for the refreshments and to Jim MacGregor for helping to set the course up.

26 individual paddlers took part with many doing 2 or 3 (or more for Liam !!) timed runs. It was great to see so many ladies having a go and beating so many of the blokes. We had the Inter Schools Team event and various mens and ladies teams

QE2 won in 2.10, SNHS 2.27, RGS 3.25 and CRHS 4.57
Ryan/Steve/James in 2.12 (beaten by QE2 mmm !!!!) and Karen/Vicki/Hazel in 3.07

LADIES Karen 1.55 just beating her sister Hazel in 1.57, Emma 2.02, Graihagh 2.34 and Vicki 2.59

GIRLS Jez 2.02, Jasmine 2.20, Rebecca 3.11, Vicky 3.25

MEN Steve 1.26, Ryan 1.32, James Sp 1.35, Jim 1.41, James B 1.48, Gerry ? John ?

BOYS Nick 1.33, Dave ramsey 1.47, Liam 1.49, Dave watt 1.49, Patrick 1.54, Alex 1.56, Richard 2.06, Jack 2.09, Finlo 2.15, Chris 2.17, John 3.08.

It was obvious to the spectators and timers that the standard has risen tremendously over the years with the under 18s in particular have fantastic skills and confidence in attacking the course. As a club we need to encourage these young paddlers as much as possible and if anyone has any ideas as to future events please get in touch.

Sunday 4th January, 10am ish from the Patrick Road...Mass Paddle Down the Neb, everyone is invited. Ring if you need any gear.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Manx Paddlesports Xmas Slalom.

Manx Paddle Sports are holding their Christmas Slalom this Sunday on the river Neb near Peel. At Glen Faba Bridge between Peel and Patrick. Everyone is welcome to come along and have a go. We are setting up the course from 9am and there will be practices from 10am and timed runs from 11am.
The best part is where you get yourself into a 3 person team and try to beat the school teams.
Soup and baps, tea, coffee and mice pies are provided for paddlers, timers and supporters.
It is a fun event for adults but quite serious for the kids so please come along and show your support.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - More "Gnarly" Photos!

A few more photographs from last weekend spent in the Isle of Man tidal races. Taking these pictures is not easy. Fortunately this particular tidal race is quite narrow and the photographer can shelter in side eddys. It's impossible to handle a camera in the flow of the race. Even so, on several occasions I was sucked in and left with the little Olympus compact camera flailing on its cord around my neck as I battled to stay upright.
The photographs were taken from some distance. There's no point using the digital zoom incorporated on the camera. Instead each picture is heavily cropped, some to about a tenth of their original size squeezing every possible useful pixel out of each image. They are then tuned, and pixels actually subtracted to sharpen these highly magnified images. They end up with the slightly surreal, painted texture you can see above.
Acknowledgement to my fellow photographer Jessica who snapped the shots of me.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Gnarly.

It was a memorable weekend in the Calf Sound Tidal Races for myself, Ian and Jess. Saturday saw spring tides with little wind making the race playful. It lured us into taking ever greater risks and we all rolled in anger. Sunday was much more gnarly. Shark fin waves appeared and disappeared at will. None ran parallel and they seemed to conspire together to trap us. The video below gives you some idea. Watch how violently my boat is pushed sideways as I'm hit by a breaking wave near the end of the clip! (You can view a magnified version of this video here.)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Olympus.

The weekend was devoid of photographs, not kayaking. Ian, Jess and I paddled from Port Erin to circumnavigate the Calf of Man via the infamous Chicken Rock Lighthouse. The lack of photographs was a result of another camera death last week. So far this year I have drowned a Pentax Optio waterproof camera, a Pentax K1OD (my fault, it never pretended to be waterproof), and a Sanyo Xacti waterproof video camera. Do these cameras have an inevitable and built in limited lifespan? Maybe I just expose them week in, week out to an overly extreme Irish Sea? My latest hopes lie with the Olympus 1030 SW. It certainly looks the part with it's thick metal casing, sturdy screw fixings and automatic metal lens protector. Olympus claim that it is waterproof down to 10 metres and that should be enough even for my most extreme paddling maneuvers. It can withstand a drop from 2 metres and I suspect I'll be testing that out soon. Finally it can tolerate being sat upon by even the most sturdy of your friends, with 100 kgs worth of crush resistance! So why put my faith in this particular camera? Well I already have an Olympus E3 SLR camera which is one of a very, very few splash proof digital SLR cameras. But more importantly Olympus dominate the invasive medical diagnostics market. They manufacture a variety of flexible, fibre optic medical telescopes which are passed by doctors such as myself, into unmentionable body cavities and fluids. After that they are sterilized in some of the most noxious liquid chemicals known to man! I am hoping that some of the decades of "waterproofing" expertise gained by Olympus Medical Equipment is now being utilised in their latest waterproof cameras.

Friday, 5 December 2008

kayaking Isle of Man - More Recent Photos.

More force 8 surfing and spring tides at the Sound races photographs. (2nd photograph down by Robert Servante)

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Boat Swinging.

I think my Rockpool Alaw Bach is the ultimate surf boat! Well, so long as you are surfing a tidal race that is. But surfing onto a beach in a force 8 gale with a receding tide; well it's just too long. Try turning 17 ft 20 of fibre glass through 180 degrees to paddle out for your next surf run. It can be done but it's exhausting. So the remit for Saturday was to find a short surf boat which felt to me like my Rockpool, but shorter! I thought this would be a tall order as Stu, Steve, Shane, Emma and Ian brought a variety of boats down to Peel Beach for some "boat swapping". Not so. All the boats were so different. Everyone has a boat which suites them and all the boats were great. But one stood out to me. The minute I took to the water in Steve's Mega Jester Trident I knew this was the one. It rolled, sculled and even edged just like my Rockpool but of course you could spin it on a sixpence. And there was that same seat of the pants feel that I get with my Alaw Bach whereby you can sense every ripple beneath you.
Sunday, Ian and I headed out to the Sound tidal races. The flow was phenomenal and the middle picture above is of Ian inadvertently getting sucked into a tidal race at the "Drinking Dragon". I soon followed, distracted by the process of obtaining the above photograph. Don't be deceived by the small size of the waves, it was not easy to extricate ourselves. We finished up with some advanced tidal race kayaking in a somewhat larger race at Kitterland. It was gnarly, confused and BIG. No photographs as I've drowned yet another waterproof camera (Sanyo Xacti). Does anyone else manage to achieve my levels of camera homicide?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Sea Kayak in a Bag!

Bagged Rockpool 3 piece Alaw Bach with conventional Alaw Bach behind (above and below).PVC outer layer with nylon inner layer and tough 12mm foam filler (below).Bagged 17 ft 20 sea kayak in the back of a BMW X5 (below).
It was a devastating blow last year when, on my return from Vancouver with my 3 piece Rockpool Alaw Bach, I discovered extensive damage to the boat. It spent several months with Rockpool undergoing repairs. It's now back with me, all be it with a few war wounds. I'd transported the 3 pieces across the Atlantic and the North American land mass blanketed in several layers of bubble wrap. In addition, I'd taped split pieces of pipe lagging foam onto some of the more vulnerable edges. Clearly, these protective measures were inadequate. But there's no point owning such a kayak if you cannot roam the globe with it. There had to be a better way?
I hope this is it. A tough, waterproof PVC foam filled bag manufactured for me by Trifibre. The PVC is sandwiched around 12 mm tough foam. The bag measures 185 cm by 50 cm wide and 60 cm height. It incorporates a tough zip extending around 3 edges. There are handles and a shoulder strap. In addition there is room for cut 5 cm profiled foam pieces to separate the 3 pieces from each other. All kayaking gear, including dry suite, paddles, buoyancy etc. also fits into the one bag distributed inside the 3 kayak pieces. On the top I've had printed in large yellow letters a "fragile" warning. The whole thing can be carried by two people and fits into the back of my BMW X5 with ease. OK, this isn't quite "commando kayaking" as promoted by Dubside. It would be difficult to dispense with the car, but hopefully the bag will offer easier transport around airports, and may resist the disgruntled baggage handler more effectively than the previous arrangement.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Manx Paddle Sports - Force 8 surfing!

Yesterday, Jess and I in sea kayaks braved the Sound tidal races, barely making progress against wind and tide as we attempted to enter the boiling, bubbling cauldron that was the sea on the west side. Today it was the turn of the surfers in a force 8 westerly pounding straight onto Peel Beach. I don't have a surf kayak yet and a sea kayak would have been hard work. Instead I hope these photographs help to capture some of the fun experienced on a cold winter day on the Isle of Man.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Sound Paddle Meet.

All above photos by Robert Servante
I went to the Calf Sound, Isle of Man, twice this weekend. The first time was with Jess. Spring tides against force 5 winds meant that it was survival rather than play in that tidal race. The second time was just perfect. Steve Watt of Manx Paddle Sports organised a tidal race kayak meet where all manner of kayaks turned up. I'm grateful to Robert Servante of the Isle of Man Photographic Society who snapped the above photographs of me.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Surf Kayaks.

I'm looking for a surf kayak. I've been struggling with this for some time. I know what I'm looking for in a sea kayak for surfing tidal races. But to really make the most of the Manx surf smashing onto our beaches in the familiar and continuous force 8 gales, I need a shorter, more maneuverable boat. I've been looking into it and this is what I've come up with so far.
Surf boats have a curve called the "rocker". It can be seen from side on and extends from stern to bow. A low flat "rocker" creates a fast boat, whereas one which is curved like a banana is slower but more manoeuvrable. You need speed to catch a small wave. Hence a flatter rocker will suite the beginner more, making it easy to catch small "beginner" type waves, sacrificing manoeuvrability (which the beginner may not be able to exploit anyway). On the other hand, the seasoned surfer can handle big waves, which the slower curved rockered boat can catch, allowing the expert to exploit the curved boat's greater agility to it's full potential.
The shape of the tail also seems to be relevant. If you are starting out then it's best to pick a tail shape that suites all conditions. The squash tail is more pivotal with less drag than other tails, ending abruptly. It offers great manoeuvrability in all wave types. Other tails seem to be ideal for particular wave formats and are best left to the experts.
The rails are the carved edges that you dig in whilst carving a wave. My Rockpool sea kayak has very sharp square rails which makes it excellent at carving up tidal race waves. Rails can be low, mid or high. Not surprisingly the mid sized option is the all round solution, the high rails are for beginners, and the low rails are for experts allowing rapid, precise turning in the wave box.
Fins keep you surfing straight, a bit like the skeg on a sea kayak. The bigger they are the more stable that forward drive, preventing side slip. But turning can become difficult. Beginners should choose flexible fins which aid turning. The more rigid they are the more difficult turns can be, although in expert hands they make turns more snappy. Likewise, the longer the fin the better they work, that is, until you try turning which will be more difficult the greater the fin length. Fin positioning is a science in itself. Needless to say you could opt for a finless kayak as I think I will. (I hate skegs anyway).
Various hull shapes are available including vee, concave and convex. Flat bottomed hulls give a smooth ride and high speed in all conditions and are a good all round option.
So in summary, I need a flat bottomed, flat rockered, squash tailed, mid railed, finless surf kayak!!!! Well I think so anyway.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Kayaking Isle of Man - Manx Paddle Sports.

Manx Paddle Sports - Events Diary:

This Sunday 9th November on the Mooragh Lake from 11am to 2 pm.

Surf contest Sunday 16th November.

Christmas River Neb Slalom Sunday 21st. December.

Mass Paddle down the River Neb from St. Johns to Peel (28 boats last year) date to be decided over Christmas.

Surfing every weekend....... Check our new web page for further details on

To join Manx Paddle Sports for the next 12 months (November to November) please send £10 per adult, £15 per family and £5 for pupils. For this membership fee you get third party insurance on club meets, representation for canoeing through the British Canoe Union and a good discount at many canoe shops in the North West.


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man

Romany Sea Kayak for sale. In excellent condition - £995.

Pyranha Sub 7 O for sale. Excellent playboat in good condition and incorporates Pyranha's Syncro 6 system. £400.

Email address can be found here.

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