Last night I returned from my adventures in Shetland. I’m not sure whether it is good to be home or not! Despite my best efforts, I didn’t manage as much paddling as I would have liked. The weather didn’t want to cooperate and most of my friends or I were busy on the days that it did. Even so, me and my various boats and paddles did manage to get wet a few times and we certainly had fun when we did.
The boat from Kirkwall was late departing and there was quite a lot of swell on the way up. We arrived in Lerwick early in the morning not feeling at our best! We were fortified by a breakfast in the New Harbour Cafe and later, while my friend (who’d worked a nightshift then travelled all day) went to bed, I went to seek out my friends for a surf.
Having been given typical Northern Isles directions (a vague placename), after much driving round and round in circles for about half an hour, I finally ran into my friends (almost literally). The designated venue was deemed to be flat and the the alternative dumpy so one participant gallantly retreated for fear of getting minced in his bitch. The remaining two thought we’d go and look at Gulberwick and decided ‘it doesn’t look that bad’ and ‘I’ve surfed worse’….
Let’s just say there was a bit of power in them there waves, and getting out proved a challenge! However, once I had got out, it was certainly fun! My favourite part was when I paddled out over a wave and flipped backwards over my tail. I must try that in my sea kayak! Although I got a few good runs, I also got clattered onto the beach a few times and my boat is looking a little worse for wear! My deck also kept imploding which was pretty annoying. Having planted my head in the sand/pebbles a few times, thrown in a few rolls and with Jim announcing that he had destroyed a fin and his fin box, we decided that an hour of mashing was quite enough. But gnarly or not, we had great fun!
Later in the week we gatecrashed the Shetland Canoe Club canoe polo training.at Scalloway pool. The pool is tiny and you can only play 3 a side. The goals are also just on the pool side which was a bit challenging having got used to suspended canoe polo goals. We all tried hard and everyone had fun but those still learning the game were left a little confused in all the chaos!
The main purpose of our visit was to go to Up Helly Aa. This is a fire festival where groups of men dress up and parade with torches around the town, before burning a galley. The guizers then go round the halls performing their routines. One squad is the jarl squad who all wear the suits of Vikings. My summary of the event is rather inadequate but you can visit the official website here.
The jarl squad parade down Commercial Street
The guizer jarl and his galley
Later in the week, I also managed to get along to the Shetland Canoe Club pool session, where after a bit of a palava with the club boats, both The Shalder and Rainbow Brite got in the water. I wanted to practise my right side rolling as it seems to have gone all a bit wrong lately. I enlisted the help of a couple of friends, one of whom strapped a GoPro to my front hatch. I will upload some video when I figure out how to deal with MP4 files!
The Shalder goes visiting
My left side rolls felt quite smooth and I did come up on the right side but it felt really clunky. I have been looking at the video and it seems to look OK, but it really didn’t feel very good. I feel like I’m really pulling down on the paddle and muscling myself up. It works, but it ain’t pretty.
Later I tried some self rescues which seemed OK too. I’m keen to get outside and see if the method I’ve found that works for me in the pool also works in the sea when it’s cold and I am wearing 9 layers of clothing! I’ve been practising in a wet suit with my BA on and radio and camera in my pocket, trying to make it as realistic as I can in the warm water but it’s not the same as the cold sea!
Next up were a few re-entry and rolls which I always do on my strong left side. My friend was practising by putting on his spraydeck before rolling up, wheras I always come up without it on. This has got me thinking and I think I’m going to try again tomorrow night with both methods. I wonder if by putting on the deck you retain the air pocket in the boat and take in less water or whether it makes no difference what so ever! I think he was just doing it because he could! Having successfully re-entered a few times, I wondered what else I could try so I played in Rainbow Sprite for a bit doing some handrolls on both sides. I tried to do a butterfly but got all in a tizz. I tried to run away before anyone noticed the sand I had deposited at the bottom of the pool!
While I got back in the sea boat for a go at a few clunky butterflies, a friend had jumped into the surf boat to try it out. There appeared to be some buoyancy issues but he looked like he was having fun….
Rainbow Brite goes for a roll
Our last day in Lerwick was again glorious, but circumstances meant there was no paddling. I felt a little aggrieved to miss getting out on the two best days, but we weren’t just there to paddle and I know I’ll be back up many, many more times.
Oh, and if you ever wondered why my sea kayak is called The Shalder, it’s because……