How Hard Can It Be? Answer……….. Very

  • by Ian Cooke

Let’s get started….

So on the 15th March 2020, I dipped my toe and paddles into the world of UK Performance Sea Kayak distance challenges. It’s probably obvious with my gear purchases of a Rockpool Taran, Knysna wing paddles and PeakUK marathon lightweight paddling gear.

Have a look at the Performance Seakayak website if you want to find out more.

Basically, it consists of how far you can paddle in 3 legs of one hour, three hours and five hours in one boat. You carry a Suunto or a Garmin and send off a GPX file.

The totally fascinating bit is that you choose your route. So look out for somewhere that’s got tidal or river flow assistance and with wind and swell assistance if possible.

Rockpool Taran – sleek, fast, no nonsense and fun boat having a rest after the effort.

So during the paddle effort, I learned that it’s tough. I did 11.3km’s in an hour, which was worth about 8th or 9th on the one hour table that day. Normally, fast paddling in a sea kayak for short distances is like 7.5-8kph. Unlike more aerobic sports, it’s more like pushing medium weights in a gym for an hour at 70-90 times a minute. On top of all that, your shoulders are asking to stop for most of the time!

Headwind alley

The strong head winds blunted any speed and I underestimated the strength of the wind, with the fine tolerances when you’re at full gas. My fastest kilometre went by at 13.8kph when in shelter. Out in the wind, I was struggling to hold 10.5kph.

I was constantly getting smacked with strong wind against current, choppy rapids and block headwind. This was a test for sure!

The fascinating aspect is finding the right route to do on the day and maintain speed. I know loads of us have been in the Grey Dogs, Corryvreckan and Dorus Mor and stuff like that. We can be doing 8mph on the GPS because we’re in the biggest tidal flows in the world, but with this, you’ve got to try and maintain that speed for an hour or 5 and it’s boss!

Happy selfie after a first go…… personal mark probably 7 out of 10 but happy!

Choosing the route, safety first always

The other aspect in choosing these routes is balancing safety, as it’s not a playground and the sea and flood condition rivers don’t come to say sorry or give second chances, so that’s another major factor, and just not to be a dick about it really and underestimate where I’m going to be.

So the next weekend that brings in high pressure to the UK after this COVID-19 lockdown, I think I’m off to the Dee Estuary for a floodtide paddle, hopefully with a westerly wind and a Dee bore to surf and take me far further in an hour.

Next steps, let’s crack on

Onto the Menai Straits for the three hour leg, revisiting many training sessions as a 19 year old whitewater paddler. Onto the Wye for the five hour leg and a couple of cheeky trips with a wonderful long time friend Steve, to Sussex for the Ouse and Arun for some 6 knot flood tide assistance and hopefully get a couple of 14-16kph one hour legs.

Spent my life having fun in mountains, rivers, sea and surf. After 40 years doing it, still can’t get enough and hungry as ever to experience this beautiful world and nature.

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