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.

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