Tuesday, 7 July 2015

National Championships 2015

This weekend I had one job to do. I needed to qualify for the World Championships (which are the first qualifiers for the Rio Paralympics) at the UK National Championships in Nottingham.

National Regatta

I have never liked racing at Nottingham. I'm just not keen on the venue. It’s always very windy, making the water wavy, and its usually full of weed, algae, or lots of mess from the ducks and geese. Added to that, the need to race my own teammates for that single selection slot has never sat well with me.  As a result I rarely paddle that well - I usually scrape a good enough race to get through, but I never come away really happy with my performance.

This weekend I didn't have the same stress factor. This time GB paracanoeing was going to take two athletes per category through to the Worlds, so realistically the pressure of my race was off. I decided to use this as a test, and see if a change of pre race routine would help with my preparation and general feelings about at Nottingham leading to a better performance. 

So when the offer to go to Henley Regatta came along the week prior to Nottingham I accepted and spent a wonderful day chatting with some amazing people while watching the rowing at this most English of events. They explained the nuances of racing at Henley, including that it's bad manners to win by too much!! (That would never catch on in kayaking!) I was gutted to pass on the free flowing champagne and Pimms, but kicking back needed to have some limits… 
Henley Royal Regatta- with knees covered;-)
I also accepted an invitation to have dinner with my lovely girlfriends, who I don't see nearly enough of due to my training commitments and perpetual tiredness. An evening of laughter and excellent company (but still managing an early night) was a perfect distraction from thinking about kayaking, race plans and selection.
The final thing I decided to do was to spend the day with my son at a university open day which was on the way to Nottingham the day before the race. For anyone wanting a great day out I can thoroughly recommend borrowing a 'university aged person' and going to a university open day. Your potential student gets you full access to usually private areas of these iconic institutions including colleges, accommodation and lecture theatres.  Sitting in a lecture theatre in the department of engineering was a definite highlight, although not being an engineer I was much more fascinated by the lecturers large. black. independently sprung eyebrows than the subject matter...


I ended up having a great week and arrived at Nottingham thoroughly distracted and far less "pumped up" than normal.

So race day arrived and I started my normal routine. Something felt a bit strange. I had calmed myself down so successfully that I found myself on the start line feeling ridiculously chilled and not at all concerned about the goings on around me.  Was this a good thing? Nottingham could have been just as bad as normal but nothing about my environment registered. The only thing I was particularly aware of was the strong headwind.  Even the starter seemed to say "go" in slow motion, causing me to respond badly to the bucket start followed by what felt like a gentle amble down the course. I got to the finish line and was stunned to realise I was barely out of breath. Yes, I won that race; not by that much, but strangely it didn't seem to matter? At Henley winning by too much was seen as bad sportsmanship -was I just being a good sportsman? No I wasn't!! I had done such a good job of calming myself down that I just wasn't in the correct frame of mind for racing. 
Steady racing
 This made me cross but how was I going to get motivated?  I had still won, even if I hadn’t raced well…

"You need a different frame", Simon said, repeating the mantra one of the coaching staff had told me several times before when things get to me. "It's not just you that you are letting down its everybody - now snap out of it and put some effort in". 
I did. I scrapped the chilled approach, fired myself up for my second race and took three seconds off my time. Oh, and I was out of breath but also enjoyed the race. 

Off to the worlds.....
My next race will be the World Championships in August – another step on this oh so steep learning curve.


Lesson to self - Too chilled doesn't work any better than too nervous and put some effort in ;-)


Monday, 29 June 2015

Giving back and being James Bond

Do I look like James Bond?

I came here to give something back, but once again I was getting more than I was giving, and having loads of fun at the same time

As a UK Sport and National Lottery funded Athlete I am required to do a several 'inspire' voluntary appearances. each year. One of these was a talk I had been asked to do at Whitehall, which sort of explains why I was on their roof pretending to be 007but I'll get back to that later.
On the roof at whitehall

Being an eliteathlete can be selfish, introspective and very "me me me" "take take take", so I really look forward to volunteering.  For me its a chance to redress the balance in my life, not only by giving back but also by widening my experiences and meeting inspiring people.  I've had the opportunity to do some really great things, some truly bonkers things, and some incredibly humbling things, and without a doubt they have all, without exception made me smile a lot. Heres just a few

My latest was just last weekend where I was a VIP guest at the Proctor and Gamble Surrey Youth Games. Surrey County Council runs this event to help get kids into sport. It is aimed at all those children who are not County level but who want to take part in a competitive and yet fun arena. Apparently over 50,000 children have taken part over the years since the event was started, and it was absolutely fantastic to see children running about and having fun enjoying competitive sport.
Proctor and Gamble Surrey youth Games
 I met some amazingly inspiring people and sponsors who make this happen, not only believing in the benefits of an active community, these people are actually doing something about it.
 
Having fun at the games with the inspiring sponsors and organisers. 

Another recent appearance was at a request from my local council gym, who asked if I could be there for the official opening of the refurbished changing village and bubble pool.  I was even asked if I would get in the pool with the leisure centre management for press photos, which I politely declined, instead taking the time to meet as many people as I could.  I really enjoyed meeting all the kids on a busy Saturday afternoon and they all wanted to chat and hold my world championship gold medal.  I forget sometimes that, despite still being 'just me', wearing a GB tracksuit and hanging a gold medal around my neck I become someone who can influence, motivate and maybe have a little impact. It took a little while to clean off the tomato sauce and sticky finger marks from my medals after a 'meet and greet' in the centre café, but I was given a large helium balloon to take home (yay!) and there had been lots of smiling kids keen to tell me about how much they loved their swimming, so it was worth it.
everyone like wearing a gold medal!!

Possibly the most deferential was a Regatta for the Disabled where an incredible group of people organise bell-boat racing for children of all ages with varying abilities/disabilities. It was awe inspiring seeing kids struggle with independent mobility on dry land but then transform into confident paddlers working as a team to propel the boats down the course. It was simply magnificent to watch and I felt honoured to actually be asked to paddle in the boats with some of the children. We had so much fun together and, if I'm truthful, the medal I received for taking part at this regatta gave me as much, if not more pleasure than my world Championship gold medal. They now hang side by side in pride of place at home.
 
Me padding a bell boat and handing out prizes
So on to WhitehallI was asked to talk at a small conference on personal resilience. I was unsure what I could add of value, but the organiser had heard me speak at another function, and wanted me to talk about how I managed to overcome some pretty big hurdles and achieve what many people might have considered impossible. I hoped that my personal story of failures followed by success, and some lessons I had learnt along the way, might help this office audience see that their own 'something' is also possible if they can see how to put their minds to it. The talk was to be at the Department of Energy and Climate Change and in my ignorance I thought Whitehall was a building, not a road, so felt a bit of an idiot asking a policeman how to find it when I was actually walking along it!!

After my talk, which thankfully was enthusiastically received with lots of excellent questions, I was given the tour of the department and up onto the private roof where a scene from Skyfall had been filmed. They(I ) wanted to get to stand in the same place and at the same angle that Daniel Craig had posed in, looking over the London skyline. Clearly the only difference between us was that he was dressed as 007 and I was in my red GB canoeing jacket;-) This was definitely a money-can't-buy moment.  I wasn't given a helium balloon this time but I floated home nonetheless.

Me and Daniel Craig both trying to be 007
So whats next? I am about a month away from this years Worlds, and if all goes to plan, a little over a year to Rio (gulp). My training is hard, with constant pressure on me to perform to the highest level possible. But what I really enjoy is the part of my role as an elite athlete which allows me to give back. I look forward to these events and only wish I had time to do more


As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the sameAs we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. .~Marianne Williamson (teacher and author)

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Smile Laugh Sparkle :-)

As I walked around Prague the day after I had finished racing at the Europeans, attempting to be a tourist, I felt in a bit of a daze.  Normally I'm buzzing with excitement after a race, but today I was full of a strange mix of emotions which I couldn't make sense of. 

On the face of it I should have been elated. I had been classified into the new system as a KL3. I had gone on to win the gold medal in the first ever KL3 race. So all was good, and yet I couldn't help but feel empty.

Gold!
Going through the classification process had made me really sad, and also annoyed. Sad that I had been forced to look back and think about my injury, re-opening the mental scars which I've worked so hard to heal. Sad also, bizarrely, that despite training so hard and getting much stronger I still have a significantly weaker leg, which classifies me. (Why does this make me sad ?!?!?) And annoyed that Para Sport at the top end isn't inclusive at all. It upset me so much seeing disabled athletes being scrutinized and challenged for simply falling outside of a classification boundary. I was also struggling with the concept that Para Sport is contradictory. It's confusing that you have to be bad and good at the same time. You have to have something wrong with you - and not just any something, you have to have the correct type of 'something wrong' to make it into a "level playing field".  Having ticked those boxes you then try to be as good as you can be by minimizing the impact of your disability, with clever, personalized training and specific boat adaptations.
GB para-canoeing is fortunate enough through National Lottery funding to be able support and invest in us, but what about all those paddlers who don't have funded programs? How is this now a level playing field..?

The thoughts in my head just kept on coming...  Was all this heartache really worth it? Half of me wanted to just stop and go back to a normal life. To have normal holidays and spend more time with my family and friends....

I had shared some of this angst with our team phsych earlier that week and he had talked me through how you can choose to frame things. "Things happen to us which are out of our control, but it's our choice as to how we feel about them. If we don't like how something looks or feels we have the ability to choose different ways to frame them". Great in theory, but I was still struggling.
focusing during my race
As I wandered the streets missing half of the tourist attractions, I tried to make sense of these random and contradictory thoughts.  I was thinking so hard that I barely noticed that it had started to rain  and in fact rain quite hard.

Just in front of me a little girl aged about 4 squealed in delight as the rain drops started to fall. She pulled a small plastic umbrella out of her dads bag and put it up. She then skipped and splashed in the newly formed puddles as she laughed her way down the road. Her umbrella was very pink and glittery, and on it were the words "smile, laugh, sparkle".  Looking around I observed that she was definitely the only person following this adviceThere was definitely a lack of tourists skipping through the puddles! Most of them, like me, were sheltering in doorways trying to keep dry.


I then smiled. It occurred to me that this umbrella was surprisingly profound. Smile  laugh sparkle was a new frame. The rain was the same for everyone and everyone except this little girl was getting annoyed by it. How could I frame the last couple of days differently? Could I put up my own metaphorical umbrella?? 

So instead of sadness I decided I would see things more positively. 

I worked out that I was actually relieved that I still have a weak leg and that I'm still able to classify and be part of the GB squad. I am loving this journey and the adventure it brings, and I am not having to face up to an abrupt end to that journey through not classifying. I am perfectly aware that I might still not make Rio, but that will be decided by training and by racing, not by a rule change

GB paracanoe Race HQ
could replace annoyance with pride. I am immensely proud to be part of the GB squad which has worked tirelessly to support us so well. Actually pride that despite all these distractions and emotions I had pulled myself back into race mode, followed my race plan and this process had won Gold for GB

should stop being critical about para-sport at the elite level being exclusive and contradictory. It showcases the elite and that's how it can inspire. In fact this is what provides me with focus and what drives me to train every day: The hope that performing on a world stage will inspire others, (abled or disabled) to believe they can do something despite all logic saying it's impossible.

Because this is at the core of what para-sport is all about. People pushing the limits of possibility, moving on from whatever tragic event changed their lives forever and having a go at something new. Being innovative in finding solutions that play to personal strengths despite a risk that it might fail. Eternal optimism that repeated failure won't stop them in their quest to be the very best that they can be. 

So on that rainy afternoon in Prague I built a new frame. I decided to remind myself to smile, laugh and sparkle at every opportunity and to metaphorically skip through the puddles rather than grumble at the rain. 
My awesome coach Griff and his athletes.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Classification changes in Paracanoe

This is not a happy or even a particularly positive blog. The world of para canoe is going through change less than 18 months from Rio. Because of these changes a lot of people's hopes and dreams are being shattered.  I understand the logic behind the changes, and in the long run it is in the best interests of the sport, but to choose to do it all now is awful. 

Sometimes when you are caught up in the middle of a change which you are physically and emotionally invested in it is very difficult to see the bigger picture. It is easy for your focus to spiral inwards, taking all rational and logical thought processes with it. This is how I have been feeling about the changes to paracanoe as announced recently by our governing bodies. 

paddling at the worlds 2014

The changes are drastic. Half way through an olympic cycle the original classification adapted from para rowing has been abandoned and reinvented. This means that all the para canoe athletes who were classified at the beginning of this cycle, who were confirmed internationally, who have trained daily for more than two years, and raced believing they are an A, TA or LTA have had their classification removed. We are all having to be reclassified under a new system before we can race internationally again. Worse than that, many athletes who were classified before are no longer even eligible to attend classification. Paracanoe no longer accepts athlete with any arm or hand impairments, nor any athlete with a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy. 
The first paralympic qualification race for Rio is less than 4 months away and at this moment in time there are no classified athletes and no one knows for certain what their new (if at all) classification will be. We are to be reclassified under the new system, which for me will hopefully be at the Europeans in the Czech Republic in May, by the newly trained classifiers. 
My team mates
This decision was made in an office somewhere by people thinking long term, but has affected real people on the ground now. It's not just the athletes who have been affected - our coaches and staff in support programs are all feeling it too. Real people have given up jobs, moved house, neglected personal relationships and invested their own money and time in a system they thought would be in place through to Rio. Yes I understand that elite sport is unpredictable and unforgiving, but most of the time if you don't succeed you can say, "I trained hard and I did my best - I just wasn't fast enough", or "I was injured". But to be thrown out of the running half way through a cycle because your disability doesn't fit the new classification system is terrible. 

When I put my logical head on I truly get why this had to happen for the long term good of the sport. The new classification is evidence based and has been created through good science. An extensive research project analysed all the different paddling styles of kayakers and paracanoeists with motion sensor technology and EMG back up. The data put paddlers into clusters which became the new classifications. KL1, KL2 and KL3.  The system is is now unique to paracanoe, rather than adapted from para rowing, and it focuses much more on what athletes can do functionally in a boat, not by a relatively simplistic assessment of disability diagnosis,  so I can see how it will be much fairer moving forward. But although the old system wasn't perfect it was the system in place for this paralympic cycle and changing it mid cycle is going to hurt lots of people.
On a personal front, it looks like I am ok, but like the rest of the world I find out for sure in May. I then have to have another classification in August to confirm it. But some of my team mates already know they don't fit the new classification system, and I know that people I have raced against and deeply respect will also be having their hopes and dreams shattered.

I crave the feeling of gliding through the water in beautiful places.
I am coping because for me it was never just about Rio. I paddle because I love to paddle, not just to win medals. I love training and despite it being hard and at times painful I never take for granted that it gives me freedom to forget about my wonky leg. The governing bodies giving my disability a new name can't take that away. I crave the feeling of gliding through the water in my boat in beautiful places and I love learning how to paddle at my best. 

The name of my classification might change, but it will never stop my enjoyment of my sport. It would be a shame if for some reason out of my control I could't stay with the program, but the journey to Rio is an adventure, but it doesn't define me.

Paracanoe will definitely be stronger for the changes we are going through. But for now, in April 2015, the year before the Rio paralympics, everyone involved is hurting. My heart goes out to all athletes and support staff involved, because these changes right now simply suck.




Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bushcraft in November…. are we mad?

A weekend of wild camping and bushcraft with my mates in November seemed like a fabulous idea…... in sunny July.

Bushcraft
I don't get a lot of spare time, but when I do I like to fill it with different things, adding sparkles of excitement and adventure to break up routine. This summer I coerced 4 of my most 'up for it' friends to join me for an adventure, and a weekend of bushcraft was booked for our inaugural foray into the art of surviving in the woods...  Between us, we had ladies who had never slept in a sleeping bag or a tent, used a lighter, chopped wood, or even owned waterproof trousers.... What could possibly go wrong?!? 
 
With much trepidation we arrived in total darkness on the Friday night in the middle of nowhere to meet Gary, the owner of Jack Raven Bushcraft, and our fellow bushcrafters. Every pastime or sport has it's uniform and it turns out that bush-crafters are no exception. We stood staring at each other - them in earth colours with well worn, checked woollen shirts, carrying just a small rucksack - us ladies standing there in our brightly coloured coats, pink hats, cashmere scarves and carrying very large bags… it was clear to all that we hadn't done this before.
We set out to find our camp. "Bushcraft is about living like our ancestors in the forest, Gary explained as we walked up the hill through a muddy field and into the woods. I was tempted to comment that my ‘ancestors’ had actually originated from West Ham, but chose not to, given that they were clearly worried enough about us anyway. 

I'm not sure what we were expecting that warm July when we agreed that sleeping in hammocks in the woods was a good idea. Much hilarity followed as we were given a quick lesson in ‘mounting and dismounting’ a hammock. In true cartoon style we swung uncontrollably in the dark and performed numerous accidental dismounts in various orientations and with different degrees of elegance. I apologise to my friends for not helping much at this point, I was on the floor laughing. 
Curled up asleep in the hammock
The loo was described in the brochure as a self composting toilet. It was "hidden" in large camouflage shed at the edge of the camp and consisted of a raised wooden box inlaid with a toilet seat. Next to it was a metal bowl for lighting waste paper and some sawdust for 'flushing the loo'. Posters around the wall supplied ample entertainment and to my surprise I found myself staying in there longer than necessary in order learn about animal tracks and droppings. 

The next morning we awoke at dawn and pottered bleary eyed over to the main teepee, where we filled our mugs with hot tea from the massive iron kettle hanging over the fire. Bleariness quickly vanished as we set about out first task- using sharp knives and saws to make a honey spreader out of a log. If I was stuck in the woods I'm not sure how essential this item would be, but I really enjoyed the carving process none the less. The final object looked more like a cross between a wonky ruler and a helicopter propeller, but despite being terrible I was still very proud of it! 
chopping logs
The next task was making a flame and, being a non smoker, I soon realised that I had never grasped the art of striking matches outside in the wind. Thankfully matches wasn't the only option and we had a fantastic afternoon 'playing' with fire. There must be something deep in our code which aligns us with fire as I felt compelled to try every firefighting option from wire wool to vaseline to bark shavings, with flints and fire starters, gaining immense satisfaction when the combinations worked. 
making fire!
Next came shelters and we followed Garry into the woods to learn how to keep safe, warm and dry using the forest around us. He assured us that the debris shelter resurrected from damp leaves would be toasty warm even in rainy November. We decided that it felt more like a coffin and not half as fun or exciting as the swinging hammocks which the girls were excited to return to.
Debris shelter
Having been up at dawn, I returned to my tent exhausted for an early night - Confession time, being in the middle of a big training block I had chosen a tent over the hammock (coaches orders). I snuggled down into my sleeping bag, belly full of delicious chilli with earplugs stuffed in my ears to block out the noise of the rain and fell instantly asleep. Apparently it rained a lot in the night and everyone was a bit damp come morning. But no one seemed to mind- it all added to the adventure and hilarity of the weekend. Luckily the fire was roaring and the heat from the fire cooked comforting bacon butties and also dried us out and warmed us up. Foraging and tree identification had us traipsing after Gary, hanging onto his every word. There is something deeply satisfying about having to search for and spot a half hidden edible leaf or fungus (Shopping in Waitrose will never be the same again as all their food is just so obvious!). My anti doping catalogue doesn't have a section for "brown mushrooms that look like rubbery ears" or "leaves with stimulant effects", so I stuck to bananas foraged from the fruit bowl, just to be safe.  
Mushrooms that look like ears
The last challenge was to make a fire from nothing except the rather damp contents of the Forrest around us. It felt a bit like a reality TV show as we all dashed off into the woods to find suitable tinder and logs as Gary had shown us. Much to my amazement I actually managed to construct a fire which worked - as did all the girls.  I glanced around at my friends who somehow had lost the bright colours and cashmere. Somewhere over that short weekend we had turned into a group of earthy bush-crafters with knives hanging from our belts, looking slightly disheveled and tending our fires, happy and at home in the woods.  
Girls make fire!
We all agreed that, despite the weekend being off the end of our comfort zones, we had all had a brilliant time. Yes it would have been nice to do in the summer, but that would have been way too easy;-)
The Team

 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

kayaking, capsizing and zumba


It's October half term and now that the race season is over I've taken a cheeky week in the sun in order to play in the sea off the coast of Turkey.

Perfect place for an October paddle
My son thinks I chose the Neilson resort because of its good track record of providing a fun group of like-minded teens for him to hang out with. The real reason is that I could continue my training and, as a bonus, earn my 2 Star paddle sport award. (a minimum requirement if I ever think of getting into coaching at any time…)

The Kayak guide, a cheerful Scott called Ewan, was eager to be as accommodating to the group as possible. In a weak moment I suggested, "I would really like to practice paddling in rough sea". We both looked out onto the flat warm turquoise Mediterranean and I knew this was unlikely, but he promised that if the sea got rough he would take me out on my own to practice.

Perfect weather, perfect conditions
I was given my time table of sessions for the week which covered steering skills (always a challenge for me;-) rescue techniques (always useful and after my embarrassing inability to know what to do in Russia when I capsized in the middle of the lake I was keen to do this ) and lastly learning to paddle in different boats. They had Canadian canoes, closed cockpit white water kayaks and sit upons and not a sprint kayak in sight !

The week of formal sessions was built into making the most of warm waters whilst exploring the stunning local coast. One session was on practicing 'getting back in the boat at sea skills', which was built into a 3 hour paddle to a barely submerged shipwreck which we could snorkel around.

Nailing not capsizing!!
The Thursday session was billed as a capsize clinic and given my experience at the World championships, I quickly signed up - warm sea in the baking sunshine was a perfect opportunity! By Thursday the weather had changed dramatically. Unseasonal torrential rain with strong winds changed the sea to dark grey and made the prospect of capsizing on purpose particularly uninviting.

When no one looked keen to actually go in the sea we switched much of the capsize clinic to dry land, creatively running through boat emptying and theory while sitting in boats on the beach staying dry (ish) under the palm trees.

No one else was out on the water sailing or waterskiing due to the challenging conditions and I had decided an afternoon with my book was a good plan. Suddenly Ewan remembered my request and, realizing the resort safety boats were now free, bounced over and excitedly asked if I wanted to use this opportunity to practice on some properly rough sea. I looked at the rough sea within the shelter of the bay and didn't even want to think what lay beyond it… Before I could think of a good excuse not to - like how I get terribly sea sick (true) or the fact that a thunder storm was forecast (true) I found myself paddling with all my strength into a head wind that made the Nottingham regatta lake wind seem like a soft breeze.

calm before the storm
Ewan in the power boat was calling out instructions to me and Gill (a fellow kayaker who Ewan's enthusiasm had drawn into this adventure.) "The boat is stable - it's you who makes it unstable" had he been talking to my coach back home I wondered?

Suddenly we lost shelter from the bay and I was blasted by a massive gust of wind and huge waves, which tossed me about like a bucking bronco. Yikes!!! Why do I do these things to myself??  Ewan encouraged us to try and "let go" and then paddle in lots of different directions trying to keep to a straight line. It was incredibly hard not to tighten up with fear - this had been billed as a capsize clinic but I was really keen to stay upright so I forced myself to relax my back while still paddling. I won't say I managed to keep a straight line but eventually I successfully managed relax and to my surprise started to really enjoy playing in the waves. Whooop!

Out of nowhere a clap of thunder seemed to mute the crashing of the waves and howling wind. A fast return to the beach was instructed by the lifeguards via the radio that Ewan had in his top pocket. Ewan zoomed closer to try and get both us and our kayaks into his boat and safely back to shore before the lightening started.

Suddenly the stern voice barking instructions from the radio changed and Ewan paused in the middle of trying to haul an exhausted Gill up into his boat. "Is that?.. It can't be… is that a baby?", he shouted over the wind.  A small child’s voice singing baa baa black sheep had started coming out of Ewan's top pocket. We all just burst out laughing and Gill slid headfirst, like a seal, into the bottom power boat, laughing so much she was unable to move. Another sudden gust of wind caught her kayak and whisked it out to sea. It was most surreal having to chase frantically after it to the sound of a toddler singing nursery rhymes at full volume through the emergency radio.

So what's the perfect recovery after a session on rough sea when you are nauseous, cold, soaking wet, and the ground continues to sway under your feet? Well apparently it's a Zumba class…
swimming goggles would have been a good idea....

Heading for a hot chocolate, still in our boat shoes and wet clothes, we arrived at the bar at the same time as ladies in their gym kit were banging imaginary bongo drums at the start of their Zumba class. Somehow we became part of the class and after half an hour of trying unsuccessfully to follow what was going on (my weak leg was a definite hinderance to both me and the lady next to me) we were toasty warm, nausea gone, and the ground bizarrely seemed more stable!!

Hopefully I wont have to contend with conditions like this at regattas, but if I do I shall be better prepared! As a bonus I now have my Level 2 Paddle Sport qualification, adding to the successes of my 2014 season.
Adakoy - Neilson.