Monday, 24 February 2014

Anyone missing the sunshine ?

Sivota Greece

Sea kayaking in the Ionian sea

One of the greatest challenges last season was getting the “being a  
mum” balance right.  I was determined that the kids shouldn’t miss out,  
including going on holiday, but with my main event being at the end of  
Summer meant I missed out on any family holiday time with them.

Then, with the Worlds over and October half term looming I decided I  
really needed a break.  Having spent a year of full on kayaking I was  
definitely due a change of scenery.  But winter training had already  
started and I didn’t want to slope off.  I spent countless hours  
researching options for places I could train that were also options  
the kids would enjoy.  With a teenage daughter who liked her social  
life and a teenage son who wanted sport, I was really  
struggling.  Looking back on it I don’t know why it took me so long to  
find the solution.  We had been on Neilson holidays before.  But back  
then when I was a normal person (well, ish), I was a mountain biker, and  
really didn’t like the sea that much.  Almost in desperation I looked  
at the Neilson website and noticed they had a specialist kayak centre  
– how perfect is that!

For those of you who haven’t done Neilson, the combination of a beach  
resort specializing in sports, with kids clubs for different age  
groups, has become a family favorite.

A bit of late summer sunshine, the promise of flat, warm sea,
kayaks, a gym for my training, teenage activity clubs and an all  
inclusive buffet to allow for my serious protein habit - all bases  
were covered.
fun boat
I’m used to travelling with my bike, but I felt a prize idiot trying  
to convince the airport vigilantes that my paddles were perfectly safe  
to take as hand luggage. That feeling continued as I turned up at the  
hotel. The other ladies arrived clutching a handbag and a large floppy  
hat - not a seven-foot carbon Kevlar pole.

I was really excited to get to the beach to check out the kayaks.  
Hmmm... lots of plastic fun boats, sea kayaks and stumpy boats for  
white water... not a sprint kayak in sight. I couldn't wait to branch  
cave exploration
For the previous 12 months I had been focusing on going as fast as  
possible in a straight line. Here in Sivota I had signed up for my 1  
star paddle sport award. Having jumped in at the deep end of elite  
kayaking I had missed all the basic stuff, and here I actually got to  
learn basic boat skills including safe capsizing and deep water  
rescue. Now capsizing was something I had done before, but never on  
purpose. To do it deliberately was daunting. Falling in at home  
usually involved the 'swim of shame' in freezing water to the bank, or  
getting a wedgie while being pulled into the rescue boat. Falling into  
the warm Ionian Sea in contrast was actually quite pleasurable :-)
In fact the entire “holiday” was immensely pleasurable. I had thought  
that continuing my training would be difficult but I didn’t have any  
trouble at all. The gym had an epic view over the bay and mountains,  
and I was able to spend hours on and in the sea practicing my boat  
skills.  Going in a straight line in a boat designed to be  
maneuverable actually helped me work through my technique.  Recovery  
was also sorted as I could pile my plate ridiculously high at the  
buffet (to the incredulity of the ladies with designer bags and floppy  
hats) with freshly grilled fish, meat and veg. Mmmm.
not a shabby place to paddle;-)
It wasn't all about training though. Without the need to travel for  
training there was plenty of time to relax with the kids, on the beach  
or by the pool. 
relaxing on the beach
chilling with my daughter
The kids got really into the water sports and my  
daughter took full advantage of the powerful engine (me) as we  
explored the local islands and caves in the double kayaks.

Where else could you get thumbs up from a GB para-canoeist in  
training, a teenage daughter who doesn't like exercise but wants a  
full social scene, and a teenage son who wants to have a go at  
windsurfing, Stand up paddle-boarding, waterskiing, mountain biking,  
Tennis, volleyball…?

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