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A great day out at the races after lockdown

The sun was shining and my friend and fellow coach Zoe Robinson was free, so it was an ideal opportunity to go out on the sea in good company after the Covid lockdown. It was the first time since lockdown for us both to go out on the open sea in more challenging conditions; so we were cautious and were aware that we were going to be rusty but keen to go out and have some fun.

I met Zoe on an advanced training course a few years ago, since then we have undertaken some of our coach training together and paddled together socially. We are both aware of each others’ abilities and have practised rescues together on many occasions, so I knew I we were a competent duo.

We eased ourselves in by exploring the spectacular cliffs near Porth Dafarch chatting and catching up about life and lockdown. We each did a roll on the way ... yes they do still work! Then at ‘Mini Mawr’ (which means mini big!!) we took the opportunity to spend time kayaking in the waves and test our rolls again. All good. The cormorant sat on the rock looked like it was on sentinel duty ... I realised how much I have missed seeing these great birds that hang their wings out to dry... and wondered what it made of the kayakers return.

As we went round the corner we saw the white waves of Penrhyn Mawr and so proceeded cautiously knowing that we hadn’t been out in these conditions for months. Only committing to going into the race when we were both satisfied it would be ok. Did you know? ... these islands are called Ynysoedd Y Ffrydiau which means islands of the streams.

Once in the race, I was aware that I didn’t have my usual confidence. I was a bit tense and I was at the mercy of the conflicting waves and the power of the tidal flow, I didn’t feel like I had power or finesse. I recalled that the last time I had been there with Zoe and some others; we had been confident playing in the flow, both in and out of the kayak and when it was a bit calmer I had even tried to stand up in my kayak (not successfully I might add .. note to self ... practice that trick more but in a sheltered area first!). I just didn’t feel in the groove.

We liked the look of the outer race so headed over to it. As I crossed the eddy line it grabbed a bit more than I had anticipated .. the critical self in me vilified my lack of precision judgement .. the kindness in me said i should be easy on myself as I was out of practice.

Eventually, after spending some time in the waves, the song

‘It’s all coming back to me now’

came into my head; my confidence grew and I settled into the conditions. I picked up a wave and surged forward .. I relaxed and felt at home .. Back in the saddle! :)

Not long after this, while pausing to admire the stunning views of Snowdonia and the hills of the Llŷn Peninsula, a big wave hit my kayak ... a reminder that it was not the place to relax ... back in the saddle or not! During a pause in an eddy I saw a tern dive vertically into the water then emerge and fly off. A sight I had not seen for a long time .. it brought sadness that I have missed out on enjoying a whole nesting season from the sea.

Time to go for it. I powered out of the eddy near the front of the race and almost immediately caught a lovely wave and sped forward.. as I played in the waves I became more relaxed, my hips became more flexible and my kayak and I seemed at one with the waves. I was enjoying myself; I was having fun, the sun was shining and the waves were sparkling!

We finished our session by going through some social distanced peer rescues. I thought it was nice that another experienced kayaker that we know noticed we had someone in the water and checked out we were ok. But what is even better is that we were able to reassure them we had it under control and that we were practising.

As the tidal flow eased it was time to head back. I felt spent, but nicely so, and I was happy; I had lasted longer than I had feared and had some good fun. I was glad of all the lockdown runs I had been out on. They had been worth it despite the fact that I had let them slip a bit due to the deteriorating weather and the extra demands of life starting to return to some kind of normal (oops!).

We had a fabulous day kayaking, but when I got home, I was reminded that we all need to be mindful of our safety during our post lockdown adventures. I saw a lady who had just walked down from the mountain; I had chatted to her and her friend as they were heading out that morning full of anticipation and excitement at getting back out in the mountains. Her friend; despite being an experienced walker had fallen, and they had needed to call out the mountain rescue. I was very relieved to know that she was ok, but sorry to hear that she is devastated that she will be laid up with an injury rather than enjoying her post lockdown freedom to explore.

We all desperate to get out and have fun adventures but this is a reminder to us all to ‘Be Adventure smart’ when we get outdoors so we can enjoy a summer of fun adventures incident and injury free.

Ask yourself...

Do I have the right gear?

Do I know what the weather and environmental conditions will be?

Do I have the knowledge & skills for the day?

What are the abilities of the rest of the group?

#BeAdventureSmart 'Make your good day better!'


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