Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sea Kayak Symposiums of the Past

Whilst continue to look through my old slide collection I came across a number of photographs, which help to illustrate what informative and entertaining events the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposiums have been over the years.  In addition they have attracted a number of paddlers who are well known throughout the sea kayaking world. 
If you are thinking about attending the Jersey Symposium in 2014 perhaps these photographs will help you come to a positive decision.
1992 was the year of the first Symposium, attracting about 60 participants.  Unusual sessions include this one being run by Dave Collins, who became better know through his work with UK Athletics.  Also in the picture are Kevin Danforth, at the time editor of Canoe Focus and Martin Melling who was Secretary of the BCU Sea Touring Committe at the time (I think).
The social side has always been important, the 1992 BBQ.  The person in the blue sweatshirt is my dad (Ray Mansell) who was Chairman of the Jersey Canoe Club at the time.
In 1994 we were fortunate enough to have French paddler Didier Plouhinec talking about Greenland paddling.  At the time it hadn't really arrived in the UK.
Based at the Canoe Club premises launching was sometimes a problem when the wind was in the east.  Monday in 1994 was borderline if you had a composite kayak.
The weather had been kinder earlier in the weekend.  Derek Hairon is running a towing session.  Peter Midwood is one of the paddlers observing.
Rolling sessions are always popular, this is rolling 1994 style with Graham Wardle.
 By 1996 we had a swimming pool for the Greenland session but still didn't have enough kayaks and paddles to go around.  Gordon Brown is demonstrating the techniques whilst world authority, John Heath gave a running commentary.  We were really fortunate to have such an icon of the sea kayaking world.
 Gordon setting up for another roll.
1996 was the third Symposium and Derek Hutchinson had been to all three.  His on water sessions were always popular but it was his talks which were the most memorable.  Anybody who heard his North Sea Crossing talk will never forget it.
Graham Wardle and Donald Thompson clearly discussing the finer points of a particular stroke.
Cliff jumping has always been a popular Jersey sport.  Here is Barry Howell jumping off the Paternosters.  Derek Hutchinson is the paddler
1996 was the year that we finished the event with a sea kayak slalom.  Possibly the only slalom ever held when every entrant was in a Skerry.
Pete Scott ran a sea anchor session, the first time it appeared on the programme.
Howard Jeffs discussing paddling with Terry Harlow from the United States.
The 4th Symposium was 1998 and were fortunate to have Bill Oddie as our personal guide on the sea birds paddle.  I paddled him around in a double Spud which proved to be ideal for the task.
 Gordon Brown was back and here he is working on a small wooden kayak which had been designed by Duncan Winning.  It was completed over the period of the Symposium.  In following events Duncan stuck to making Greenland paddles as they take less time.
 The event has always attracted coaches who have been able to offer something different.  Mike McClure from Northern Ireland has been a popular and regular contributor.
 As well as visiting coaches local paddlers have also worked on many sessions.  Nick Querree is running a navigation session in 2002.
 Chris Jones is running a rolling session in 2006, as popular then as it was 12 years earlier.
 In 2008 the BBQ was still going strong on the Monday night, prior to the start of the extended paddling programme.
 One of the most popular paddles in the following week is always the day trip to the Ecrehous.  In 2010 on at least one day we had great weather.

The 2014 Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium will be the 11th time that the event has been held over a period of 24 years and it all came about after Bill Small and Pete Scott had attended the Anglesey Symposium in 1991 and decided that Jersey CAnoe Club could do something similar.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dry suits

Whilst looking through some of my old slides I came across this one, which represents an interesting time in the evolution of modern kayak equipment.

It was taken in November 1982 on the beach at Greve de Lecq in Jersey.  It was an unusually cold day, note the snow on the front of the kayak.  I am the one in the paddling equipment, if you weren't sure.
Wind surfing was becoming popular a number were wearing this new clothing, a dry suit, prior to this evolution the dry suits were very basic items of equipment.  We were fortunate enough to be lent a dry suit 
One concern which was doing the round of the paddling community was that in the event of a capsize, if the dry suit hadn't been vented properly it was likely that the feet would fill with air and the kayaker would be suspended upside down.  My role, no pun intended, in this exercise was to paddle offshore, do a couple of rolls before capsizing and hopefully swimming ashore with my head above water.
As I am writing this 31 years later it is clear that being suspended upside down with your feet full of air was an urban myth.  So based on this rather unscientific experiment we ordered 6 dry suits and 7 months later flew out to Spitsbergen for a 2 month trip.  As far as I am aware we were one of the first sea kayaking trips to use the modern dry suit, an item of equipment, which today is virtually essential for any self respecting sea kayaker. 
 Typical kayaking conditions in NW Spitsbergen, just short of 80 degrees N.
If you are contemplating sea conditions like these a dry suit is pretty essential.
 The sea is frozen just in front of the paddlers, wearing dry suits in conditions like this made life on expedition bearable.  It was a complete revelation to us over 30 years ago.

Monday, October 28, 2013

An Ecrehous milestone

Nearly 6 miles north east from Jersey, in the direction of the Normandy coast can be found a little piece of heaven.  The Ecrehous are a reef of rocks, which are part of the Baliwick of Jersey and are a favourite destination of boat owners from both Jersey and France.  
I first paddled to the reef towards the end of the summer in 1974 but 39 years on I still leap at the chance to head out across the water.  On spring tides there are cross currents, which run at about 5 knots during certain hours of the tidal sequence so appropriate navigation is essential.  A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to complete my 150th kayak trip to the reef.  
Whenever my kayak heads through the outer rocks towards the main island I still feel the same excitement as I did all those years ago.  A visit to the reef should be high on the wish list of any sea kayakers.

My first visit to the Ecrehous, the last Sunday in August 1974.  Notice the general purpose kayaks and home made paddles.  The kayaker is Derek Hairon who now runs Jersey Kayak Adventures.
The scene at the 1st Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium in May 1992.  Over 60 sea kayakers headed out to the reef that day, leaving from 5 different locations.  Many of the main influences on sea kayaking were present that day, Frank Goodman, Howard Jeffs, Derek Hutchinson, Kevin Danforth, Duncan Winning, Dave Patrick, Gordon Brown etc.  Visit number 49.
The first time I really used a GPS.  Chris at the Ecrehous at the beginning on January 1997.  Visibility was under 100 metres all day, it was a 38 feet tide, dark when we left Archirondel and dark when we arrived back.  I have hardly paddled without my GPS since.  This was visit number 62.
 Looking across the main Anchorage from the bench.  Jersey is visible in the distance.
 One of the narrow passage ways which thread their way through the small buildings.
 Flying back to the Island from Cherbourg we had this great view of Marmotier.
 Dawn after a night spent sleeping on the shingle bank.  I just love lying in my sleeping bag, next to my Nordkapp and watching the sunrise over the French coast.
 A small tidal race on the east of the reef, France is just visible in the distance.
One of those unforgettable summer days.  We are heading through the northern part of the reef in July 2011.  This was trip 135 
 Celebrating with the odd bottle of champagne.  Trip 150.
 On our return to Jersey the following morning a number of bottle nose dolphins joined us in perfect conditions.  The Ecrehous are visible behind.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Coasteering in Guernsey

I had paddled along this section of coast, in south east Guernsey, numerous times over the years but this week I had the first opportunity to explore it at sea level and I wasn't disappointed.
I was in Guernsey for the Channel Islands meeting of the National Coasteering Charter and it would have been foolish to spend the whole day sitting talking about the activity, without any practical input.  Ant Ford Parker from Outdoor Guernsey collected myself and Penny from Pure Adventure from the airport, to take us the car park at Jerbourg.
We could see quite clearly from the flight over that there was a reasonable swell running and it was likely to create entertaining conditions as we headed west along our chosen route towards the Pea Stacks.  The quality of the coasteering along this section of coast was higher than we expected, as we spent just over 2 hours playing along a fascinating stretch of coast.

 The descent route from Jerbourg Point car park.  St Martin's Point lighthouse is just visible on the rocks.  Our route went off to the right.
 The was plenty of swimming in the relatively choppy waters.
 A few small jumps along the way maintained the interest.
 There were a number of narrow channels to swim through, although at times the swell would surge through the gaps.
Some of the gullies provided a degree of shelter which allowed relatively easy egress from the water.
At times leaving the water was a matter of timing.
 A times a larger swell could appear creating more challenging conditions.  The white helmet of the swimmer is just visible above the right hand side of the rock.
 The Pea Stacks marked the end of the journey.  They were painted by Renoir, during his short stay in Guernsey during the summer of 1883.
 Looking back along part of the route once we had regained the cliff path.  Sark is just visible in the distance, the location of great coasteering.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium

After a break of 4 years we have decided to re-launch the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium.  It will be the 11th occasion that the event will have been held in Jersey, the original one way back in 1992.  Over the years it has attracted hundreds of sea kayakers to the Island, from around the world, who left impressed by the quality of the paddling in our local waters.
So this is an ideal opportunity either to return to Jersey or to make our acquaintance for the first time. The format of the event is 3 days of workshops, skills sessions, talks and paddles followed by a further 4 days of paddling.  This might include tidal race sessions, guided historic paddles looking at Neanderthal man in Jersey or a visit to an offshore reef.  Hopefully something to appeal to kayakers of all standards.

If you want further information then contact me at kevin at

 Playing in tide races off the north coast of Jersey
 What about some coasteering from kayaks with a few jumps thrown in for good measure.
 Stunning sunsets, this about 200 metres from the hotel
 "Entertaining" jumps for those who want to, into warm water
 Miles of granite cliffs waiting to be explored.
 Offshore reefs.  This is the Ecrehous, approximately half way to France.
 These cliffs are just underneath the hotel.  What a place for an evening stroll.
 St Brelade's Bay is just over a mile away.  The cliffs on the opposite side of the bay contain possibly the finest neanderthal site in Europe.
Alternative paddlesports.  Try racing skis or stand up paddleboarding