The 3rd guest article for the PSK Journal comes from Frank Harradence. I first met Frank when he came to try out a boat at Rockpool. I was struck by his enthusiasm, and later saw his passion for paddling. I also know that Franks happily straddles two sides of the sport that are sometimes a little disparate. When I set out to find articles for the Journal, Frank was high on the list. I've not been disappointed...
The Reluctant Time-Trialer
by Frank Harradence
Discovering KayakingIn 2009, following 38 years in the NHS, at the ripe old age of 63 I decided to retire. At the time I was blissfully unaware of sea kayaking. However, a chance meeting with a party of New Zealanders who were kayaking around Kefalonia stirred an interest.
What followed was a move into kayaking and, over the years, lots of self-practice, supported by skills courses in North Wales, Anglesey and Cornwall.
On one visit to Anglesey, staying with Paul & Catherine at Stick Cottage, I was introduced to Paul's handmade Greenland paddles known as the Anglesey Stick. This lead me to research Greenland Kayaking history and before long I was no longer using my carbon Werner paddle and fell 'hook, line and sinker' into the Greenland way. I had found my own kayaking niche, or so I thought...
The TaranDuring one of our frequent visits to Anglesey, Sally my wife purchased an Alaw Bach from Mike Webb at Rockpool. While at the factory with her I had noticed Tarans being built, but did not think about them any deeper than that. However, bit by bit I was reading and hearing of 'daring do' trips achieved in these boats, which reminded me of my original kayaking inspiration of the Kiwis circumnavigating Kefalonia.
|Collecting my boat from Mike at Rockpool. Happy Days!|
In use, the oops moments very quickly disappeared and the boats performance and feel was encouraging me to extend my skills. My rolling improved, as did my general Greenland skills. It was fun doing speedy curves with elbow submerged and shoulder just skimming the water. And yet... nag, nag, nag. The Taran seemed to be saying this Greenland stuff is all very showy but what we should be doing is putting the County of Norfolk on the Performance Sea Kayak (PSK) map, by doing some proper paddling in the form of a time-trial. Reluctantly giving in to this nagging feeling I found myself buying a set of wing paddles and training with the racers at my local paddle club in Norwich (Broadland Paddlesport).
Scolt Head Island
|Scolt Head Island|
The Time TrialOn the day of the circumnavigation I gave myself plenty of faff time but still had a number of things to do with only 5 minutes to launch. I had paddled the area before but this time I felt really 'keyed up', my nerves were jangling – it was the time-trial affect hitting me hard.
At the appointed time I sped off through the breaking surf like an arrow and then noticed I had neglected to turn on my GPS unit, essential for registering the journey with PSK.
Paddling back to the start point I waited impatiently and after what seemed like an age for the unit to find a satellite signal I was at last able to restart. The first 900 meters provided a slightly troublesome beam sea and wind but once I turned due east on the open sea I felt the advantage of both for 5 miles as they pushed me towards the entrance of Burnham Overy Harbour.
|My Pet Dog!|
Once in the bay steering for the main channel and heading west a strong, energy sapping headwind slowed progress. The channel feeds into Brancaster Bay/Harbour, this wide open area, exposed to the wind, caused large waves to develop, breaking over the bow of the Taran.
A guy walking on the beach came up to me and said "I saw you through my binoculars – where did your dog go? He was swimming behind you". I had to explain it was a seal!
Prior to this time-trial I hadn't thought of myself as someone who would enjoy doing something like this. Although I can become somewhat obsessed with gaining or improving my kayaking skills, such as rolling, I am not competitive and entered this rather reluctantly as it didn't feel it was a natural thing for me to do.
But I loved it!
The key to the feeling of heightened awareness was the addition of the ticking clock, I could feel its presence and I am sure I heard it ticking on a few occasions, a bit like Captain Hook's crocodile in Peter Pan! It totally focused me on the movement of the boat, and the areas that were affecting my performance, such as changing wind conditions, navigation and my own actions and decisions.
The training and pre-planning of the tides etc. had come together. It surprised me how competitive I had become and how enjoyable the experience was. In one respect, the actual time recorded was irrelevant. It was the combination of the various factors that made up the time-trial that made it special for me. It was about getting the best out of myself and the boat and felt really personal.... I was hooked.
The joy of kayaking for me remains with the Greenland skills but now I've added a new, equally as enjoyable, PSK aspect to my paddling. I don't view them as separate, it's just what I do.
I am now planning to do a solo Wash crossing. This time-trial malarkey is addictive.
Frank Harradence - Feb 2016