Some Magazine Treats
Through some on line auctions I have managed to purchase 12 issues of “Canoeing in Britain” which was the British Canoe Union magazine, from between April 1962 and March 1967 plus 6 issues of “Canoeing” from between January 1962 and January 1963 all for a reasonable price. A few gems which help to illustrate the state of sea kayaking in Britain in the early 1960’s.
The September 1964 edition contained some interesting local information for Jersey, the small island where I live. In 1964 there were 6 qualified canoe coaches living on the island, whilst at the same time there were only 5 coaches in Scotland. How things have changed in the intervening years.
Surf kayaking was clearly developing, largely due to the efforts of Oliver Cock, with his annual surf weeks in Bude. The December 1964 edition contained warnings of possible future problems with Wadebridge Council in Cornwall asking canoeists to avoid Polzeath during August because it is too crowded. June 1965 saw the publication of a supplement to the surf beaches of England and Wales. 30 different breaks were described but Bude and Scarborough were obvious omissions.
One name which occurred on a regular basis was Chris Hare, which is hardly surprising as he was involved in the production of the magazine for a number of years. In the December 1964 he reviews the “Clyde Special” sea kayak. He describes it as “A first class attempt to make a sea boat that combines Eskimo qualities with adequate stowing space for sea touring.” At 17 feet 6 inches long and a 20 inch beam it was good value at £28!
The double version of this kayak was used in a significant journey which was described in the September 1965 edition;
“In June this year, Scottish canoeists Hamish Gow and his wife Anne, made the first crossing from North Uist to St Kilda, some 54 miles out into the Atlantic. Using a Clyde double fitted with a sail, they took 14 hours to reach Boreray, a cliff bound island where it was impossible to land. Because of fog and approaching night, they decided to shelter off the 1,000 foot cliffs until morning. Anne slept in her sleeping bag while Hamish kept the canoe upright, but at midnight Hirta became visible, and they set off to paddle the remaining 5 miles, arriving at 2 a.m. Congratulations on a fine achievement.”
Those few lines describe one of the finest sea kayaking trips of recent years.
Chris Hare continued to maintain a position at the forefront of sea kayaking. His description of a trip along the Northumberland coast in 1965 contains the first mention of a paddler who was to have a significant impact on sea kayaking throughout the world, a certain Derek Hutchinson.
Chris Hare also paddled on the west coast of Greenland although this trip was not without its controversy. In the June 1966 Canoeing in Britain he states one of his objectives on his return was to set up British seal hunting groups working around the coasts of Britain using the knowledge and techniques gathered at Igdlorssuit. His article concludes “So if any reader fancies a crack at seal hunting or any other kind of kayak hunting off the west coast of Scotland …..” This particular article not surprisingly, generated a heated response.
This issue of the magazine also contained information that a certain Frank Goodman had just passed his BCU Senior Instructor award. This was the original Level 3 Coach.
What is interesting is how many names that are well known in sea kayaking circles first came to prominence in the 1960’s. Derek Hutchinson and Frank Goodman have already been mentioned but Alistair Wilson, of Lendal paddles, was very active in the racing scene including the 1964 Olympics. Duncan Winning, who is well know for his involvement in Scottish paddling was already involved in the administration of the sport as well as being involved in slaloms in the early 1960’s and contributing letters on kayak design.
As well as the back issues of Canoeing in Britain I have been able to acquire a number of “Canoeing” magazines from 1962 and 1963 and they contain some interesting pieces. The August 1962 editorial concerned itself with the need to preserve a number of the kayak designs before they were lost for ever. It would be interesting to discover how many other designs have been lost in the intervening 43 years. The magazines contained some useful technical articles, as opposed to mere lists of results and would have been a source of knowledge for paddlers of the day. Many of the techniques have stood the test of time although others would now be viewed with a degree of curiosity.
In relation to navigation it was recommended to carry a sounding line and there was a discussion as to whether it was more useful to carry a radio or a barometer! Advice on touring paddles suggested that 8 feet was an appropriate length.
One interesting reference is to an article which appeared in the national press on 11th July 1962. Apparently a French yacht had to pick up 25 members of the National Association of Boys Clubs who were trying to cross the English Channel and were caught in bad weather. It doesn’t say whether they used a barometer or a radio to get their forecast.
Certification is an issue which has generated enormous debate over the last few decades but the October 1962 editorial was calling for an appropriate test for those paddlers who seek their pleasure on the sea. At that time sea kayaking was not mentioned until paddlers reached an Advanced level.
It is always a pleasure delving into the pages of paddling magazines, some of which were written when President Kennedy was still alive, the Beatles were still to record their first LP and life seemed far less complicated. Although it is true to say that sea kayaking has progressed since those innovative times it is interesting to note how many of the individuals concerned are still active in one form or another in paddling.