3* Sea Kayak Assessment - Isle of Wight

Jen, Gwylim, Seb, Lizzie, Kate Evans, Kate Wilikinson, Malcolm, Helen

Friday, 6pm, and Lizzie was delayed on the train while Seb was stuck on a bus. Kate and Helen had already left the watershed, and it was just Jen picking up Kate Evans and Seb. Luckily, Lizzie managed to get picked up by Malcolm, Seb ran the last mile, and Jen waited for us. We managed to make the ferry with minutes to spare!

Once we found the campsite, after a few false turns, Malcolm got fish and chips and we unpacked. By that time it was about 10.30, so there were some complaints by the neighbours for making too much noise! However we found that when we talked louder, we drowned them out, so Isis: 1, annoying neighbours: 0.

Saturday came bright and early. Several took wrong turnings took us the sea kayaking centre in Freshwater Bay, where we found Owen. He started us off with slideshow presentations on weather and its causes, while Helen impressed him with her technical knowledge of swirly-whirly things.

Later on, having graduated to wave theory, by general consensus we changed the wave size scale from 1-10 to ‘Blimey’, ‘Crikey’ and ‘Bloody Hell! This, we felt, accurately demonstrated paddlers feelings based on dynamic risk assessments. For a finale, we studied lots of maps charts to plan trips, and asked many, many questions, only some of which were relevant. Kate had to leave us for a wedding, so we finished up and had excellent meal at the Red Lion pub, Gwylim demonstrating how ridiculous our dependence on footwear was. Finally, we relaxed back at the campsite with cards and chit-chat. And warm beer and cider.

Sunday was the day of assessment. Kate arrived back from her wedding just in time! The weather was bright and sunny, with a force 4 wind. We first messed around by the pier, in some shelter, and then went into the main channel, directly into the headwind. The waves quickly progressed from ‘Crikey’ to halfway to ‘Bloody Hell’ but we continued to make agonisingly slow progress. Eventually though, we stopped, surfed in, and had some impromptu beach teaching from Owen mostly about how much more fun it would be if we went round the corner out of the wind. Deferring to his expertise, we surfed to a more sheltered spot where low-brace sculling became the order of the day. This was not overly popular, as some of us were also forced to practice our rolling and rescuing techniques! After a while, we returned to our get-in spot for lunch and a couple of photo opportunities (See Facebook).

Lunch and our model shoots being finished, we went into the river mouth to finish the assessment with an official rescue and roll, which after a few false starts (and the appearance of God, aka Rob) we finally all managed. A couple of interesting self-rescues and attempted rolls became the focus of much mirth when they went wrong, but the important thing was that everyone passed, no one was hurt (too much) and a wonderful time was had by all.

The trip back was long and exhausting, so thank you to all the drivers and Jen for organising the whole thing. Congratulations everyone on their 3* sea kayak! Thoroughly well earned!

- Seb

Photos by Jen.