Technique sea kayaking course

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

I was really in doubt about writing this blog article and showing photos of the last weekend, where I participated the course Teknikkurs Hav (Technique sea kayaking).

Why? Because my photos lie. They show sea kayaks lying on nice beaches and us paddling in calm waters. All these photos are true but they tell only a fraction of the experiences I made when I kayaked in Northern Norway in the beginning of November.

Saturday – day 1

The paddling course was supposed to take place on Sommarøya. A beautiful place, but quite exposed to wind and weather. Due to the wind forecast (average wind 15 m/s) the instructors chose a more sheltered place for the first course day: Eidjordneset, just 12 km away from the boat house of the sea kayak club Trulle.

We gathered round 7 o’clock in the morning: We are the instructors Tim and Pål and four participants. Kind of luxury! We put the kayaks on the trailer and started driving: Past the airport, over the bridge crossing the Sandnessundet strait, to the left and then taking the turn to the island Håkøya where we parked and changed clothes for the tour. In my case: woollen underwear, two pairs of socks, a thick woollen sweater, drysuit, neoprene boots, gloves and hood. In addition to that the sprayskirt, life vest, towline system and helmet. We do not only dress for the chilly air but for being in the water as well. Tim wrote in the email: “We will be doing a lot of swimming”

We started to dress in darkness but when we were ready it had got light.

We put the kayaks into the sea and started paddling east along the Håkøya. After getting our paddle strokes improved we started to practise partner rescue. One kayaker capsizes, opens the sprayskirt and swims. Then there are different techniques of emptying the capsized kayak and support the swimmer to enter the kayak again. While we were training this several time. As Tim said: a lot of swimming. While practising the wind blew us more and more to the east. Time to turn back.

Now we had to paddle against the wind. First it went quite well but we already could see the huge shower cell coming towards us. Round 2–3 °C in the air. Would it be rain, sleet or snow? No – it was a grown up hail storm approaching. Within minutes we had wind speeds of round 20 m/s howling around us, blowing spray from each wave and throwing hail right into our faces (ouch, my lips!). The instructors decided to guide us to land where we waited for the hail to stop.

Soon the weather was calmer but still very windy. It took a while until we reached the bridge, where we started the tour. On the way back I had one of the rare opportunities to take some photos with my iPhone while paddling. Mostly I was too occupied with practising or catching up.

When we arrived at the bridge we crossed under it, because on the other side the sea was a bit more sheltered. Here we practised a lot of different paddle strokes as edging or low and high brace. This was quite intense – only interrupted by a short and frugal lunch break – and I’ll have to train a lot until my body has understood the movements. We ended with a rescue case: One of the participants had to pretend having an injured shoulder and we had to both give support balancing her kayak and tow her on land. Well, there was a lot of discussion but finally we managed it. Ok, it was only 20 metres or such to tow.

To make it short: changing into warm clothes · putting the kayaks onto the trailer · heading back to the boat house · I got a lift home · hot shower · great!

Sunday – day 2

Two of us met Tim at the boathouse, where we got a lift to a petrol station, our meeting point. As you can see it had been snowing and it was quite slippery.

Now on day two we would drive to Sommarøya and take the second course day there. Great, because the area round Sommarøya is wonderfully beautiful. Sommarøya is more than 50 km from Tromsø and the shorter way is leading through the mountains, so due to the weather conditions it took a longer time to travel there. And that’s how it looked like from the bay Steinsvika on Store Sommarøya.

We paddled to a flat rock covered by breaking waves and tried out some paddle strokes from the day before. That gave us opportunities for more buddy rescues, because of three capsizings. We made a short break on one of shallow beaches.

After that we started to round the island Storholmen where the Sommarøy lighthouse is located. First we tried to stick near the rocks to play with the waves. The further we came to the open sea, the higher the waves became and we increased distance.

Especially at the northwest tip we had waves up to 150 cm coming from several directions so that it took all my concentration just to paddle on while feeling quite stressed and a bit helpless. A bit further the waves coming from the open sea behind us built up to huge rollers and breakers on the shallow bay. I was too scared to join the others that played in these waves (with several capsizings and rescue manoeuvres). Therefore I paddled a bit further to reach a more sheltered part of the bay and wait there not to split the group. One other paddler joined my shortly after. Then all of a sudden a really huge wave came, broke just where we were and knocked us both over. There was nothing I could do. I immediately lost my kayak in the wave and it took a bit of time and help from the others to fetch my kayak and get us in again. I know that I have to learn to paddle under such rough conditions as well, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever enjoy it.

I really was glad about the lunch break. Here Tim and Pål told us about the star rating system for waves. It goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), and mostly we had 3-star conditions out there, with one two-metre-wave probably being a 4 star.

Even after lunch I was mentally quite exhausted. But at least we had started heading back and were soon in calm waters again. The others learned some more rescue manoeuvres and such but I kept aside for a while because I couldn’t focus any more.

Finally we made another towing manoeuvre, where two of us towed another kayak while the fourth paddler supported balance. While I was mentally tired I still had physical energy so I tried to drag a bit harder the last part to come up onto the sandy beach as long as possible. And that’s where Tim took this photo of us. I’m in the front – watch the nice violet helmet!

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

Conclusion: This course was too difficult for me. I was too scared and overchallenged. But I had skilled instructors, great fellow paddlers and learned a lot – though the hard way. I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to join this course and already decided to take the same course again as a fresh-up next spring.

The day before tomorrow

Don't take it too seriously …

Like yesterday, it rained a lot today. It was also very windy with squalls between 20 and 25 m/s.

Tomorrow the weather looks quite alike. There maybe a bit less wind and probably less rain, since it will mix with wet snow due to falling temperatures during the day.

What a lovely day to go kayaking the whole day.

This weekend I’m participating the Teknikkurs Hav (Technique sea kayaking course). I’m a bit scared that the level could be too advanced, especially in this rough weather. Tim, the course leader who gave me some private lessons last week promised however that we would mostly paddle in sheltered areas. I hope so.

Anyhow, come rain or come snow – I’m prepared ;-)

upper left: the webcam some hours ago – lower left: wind stats of today – right: dressing proposal, when the weather becomes too bad …

I try to make some photos tomorrow but probably I won’t have too many opportunities for that while being on the water.

Links:

 

Sea kayaking in the dark

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

It’s 2 °C air temperature, a cloudless sky and sunset at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A good day to end working at 14:30 and do some kayaking.

The reason for that I kayaked today is that I want to join a kayak course the weekend after next but I do not have all the required skills. So Tim, the course leader I’ve been in contact with gave me private lessons today.

I came to the meeting place right before sunset, where I met Tim. We changed clothes in the club house of the “Trulle” sea kayaking association, put on our dry suits, sprayskirts and life jackets and finally chose two kayaks from a large selection.

Then I stopped making photos. First of all I had to focus on everything that Tim showed and taught me. I learned a lot because Tim is an excellent teacher. The first half was mostly about paddle techniques, the second half more about rescue manoeuvres, which literally means capsizing by purpose. Into quite cold water in the dark.

Was it dark? Not really. Although the moon was too low to illuminate the sea there were street lights nearby, some light of the near airport, the lights attached to the stern of the kayaks and our head lights. What a wonderful atmosphere! And as the icing on the cake we got a stunning aurora, that covered half the sky – swirling and moving in green, red, and violet colours.

Tim managed to take pictures from the scenery. So I’m not the photographer of the next photo, I’m the motive.

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

I have to admit that I was quite nervous before the private lessons today but now I’m really looking forward to the technique seakayaking course.

Thank you Tim for giving me private lessons today. I can warmly recommend his company True North Adventures.

Kayaking to the Obbolstenarna

It’s the last weeks in Obbola in Västerbotten/Sweden before I start working in Tromsø. Annika has started working again on Monday while I’m idle.

2020, what a year! Two ski tours just before Corona – cancelled projects because of Corona – Annika and I buy our beautiful house in Obbola – I get the job at the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø – I start selling my house in Skelleftehamn – I “park” my Swedish company – Annika and I get engaged – I find a room in a shared flat in Tromsø, hardly 500 m away from the beach – Annika and I marry in our own garden on 21 August ⚭ (yes – we’ve been married for three weeks now!) – we drive to Tromsø to move some of my stuff to the flat.

It was a lot of things to organise the whole year through. Now most organisation is either done or out of my control and I have to lean back and relax a bit. Sometimes so much, that I spend half the day watching more or less silly YouTube videos. A state quite untypical for me.

Today after lunch I was in the danger of becoming a couch potato again, but I managed to stand up, put my drysuit on, stuff the camera into a waterproof bag and go paddling. Destination Obbolstenarna, a group of islands nearby. Obbolstenarna is hardly more than a kilometre away but a headwind of round 10 m/s and rolling waves from the front slowed me down. Normally I love taking photos from the kayak, today I dared it only when I started to get into the lee of the islands where at least the waves were less high.

To my delight the center island has a small and sheltered bay, where it was very easy to moor the kayak.

I left the kayak and started looking around. Small birds fluttered around, summer and autumn flowers were blooming and some of the leaves of the rowans had turned orange and red.

I could constantly hear the waves breaking at the rocks of the southern shore. I went there and was impressed by the force of wind and waves. I looked where the rocks were still dry to safely make some photos of the breaking waves without getting wet. It all went quite well until a huge wave came … *KERSPLASH*!

I managed to turn away to protect the camera at least a bit but I myself would have been completely soaked without my drysuit. This wave came at least five metres further than all others before.

Since the camera lens got wet anyway I looked for saver motives. Rocks, for example or the large anchor partly rusted to pieces.

Then I climbed on some of the small rocky tops to get some wider views. I could see the open Baltic Sea in the south and the Wasaline ferry to Finland docking in Holmsund in the northeast.

After strolling around a bit more I got into my kayak again and paddled home. I didn’t measure time or speed but I guess it took less than half of the time paddling back with the wind behind me and the waves pushing me forward.

The whole tour took less than two hours including the preparations. And – as always – I deeply enjoyed it. Learning today (again): Olaf, be more outdoors!

And you? Where have you been outdoors the last time? What did you do? What did you enjoy the most?

Different ways of kayaking

Since Annika doesn’t have a kayak yet I use to paddle alone. Mostly it’s short tours as for example the day before yesterday. I paddled to the beach Bredviks havsbad to join the yoga group at 8:30. To my surprise it’s shorter to paddle than to take the bicycle or car and so I was 20 minutes early.

After yoga I took a small tour – first north and then along the coast of Obbola.

Then I took an early lunch at the boat harbour since I didn’t had any breakfast. The kiosk there has not only hamburgers but tasty dishes as hummus or ćevapčići and Annika and I eat there quite often. After lunch I slowly paddled home. Slowly, because (a) being stuffed with food, (b) being lazy and (c) the increasing wind from the front.

Yesterday afternoon Annika and I got guests. Corry and Mark from Germany have written on Facebook about the difficulty of finding good tenting places at Västerbottens coast. They have been on a long kayak tour that they started in Haparanda four weeks ago. A common friend commented on the post asking us whether we wouldn’t have a nice meadow for tenting in our garden. Well, we have, and we even have our own little guest house, that Mark and Corry gladly accepted after they had arrived here yesterday afternoon. Last weekend Svitlanda and Ebbe (almost) came by sailing yacht, now we got our first guests that landed by sea directly at our house. It’s fun to live by the sea!

We had a nice evening together with outdoor cooking over open fire and inspiring conversations yesterday. This morning Corry and Mark continued their sea kayak tour. I had the honour to join them a bit.

At 8:15 we started by setting in the kayaks and paddling south. Since they have inflatable kayaks they have to be more careful of rocks and shallows. So we paddled further away from the coast than I use to do. I got some technique tipps about paddling more effortlessly and I really enjoyed the company.

Anyhow I decided to say farewell after an hour. Mark and Corry started crossing more open water and I wouldn’t dare to return the same route alone. Thanks a lot, Corry and Mark for nice company!

While the adventurers headed for the horizon I circled the island Tarv and slowly headed back. To my amazement the whole tour took only 2½ hours; I’ve miscalculated.

Now I know, that there are many destinations to be discovered by kayak and that they are not far away. It’s fun to live by the sea!

A kayak course by the Umeå Kanotklubb

It’s the second week of Annika’s (and my) holiday and we are registered for a three-day paddle course which is carried out by the local association Umeå Kanotklubb. Two days we’ll be on the lake Nydalasjön in Umeå to learn the basic technique, the last day we’ll do a tour on the Baltic Sea starting in Holmsund. I’ve been paddling for almost ten years now but never learned any technique, so I was eager to join the course. Annika has paddled only a few times before and was interested in testing paddling before buying a kayak herself.

The first day. While the others sit in very short and agile whitewater kayaks, Annika and I have chosen sea kayaks, which are longer but much less agile. The others have it easier to make turns and bents, we have it easier to paddle straight ahead and are faster, too. In the beginning we learn the basic paddle strokes forward and backward. Part two is to capsize intentionally just to learn the feeling. Do we get wet? No – we are already completely soaked by the heavy rain, that is chattering down from black clouds above us.

The second day – same location as the first one. It’s not about learning something new but more about repeating and deepening the first day’s learnings. We do a short tour to the bridge Kinabron – hardly more than 700 metres away and then we train capsizing again.

Annika and I try kamraträddning – a rescue technique. We test on our own because the instructors are more into whitewater kayaking where you use completely different rescue techniques. While Annika succeeds in rescuing me I do a mistake and her kayak is flooded almost up to the rim within seconds. We do not have a pump with us but luckily we are only ten metres away from shore and can walk the kayak ashore.

Day three – for us the highlight because we want to make kayak tours on the sea and that’s what we do today. Using sea kayaks is quite different from using whitewater kayaks and so we have an additional instructor that tells us everything we need to join today’s tour. After the instruction we carry the boats into the water and start a tour to the island Lill-Haddingen which is 3–4 km away. There we make of course a fika – a break for eating, drinking, resting. The conditions are good. Hardly any waves, hardly any wind. It would have been a really easy tour for Annika and me if we hadn’t chosen a tandem kayak. It is quite challenging to steer together and to always paddle synchronously to avoid our paddle blades colliding. It is fun to test the tandem kayak but we prefer the single ones. After paddling back almost the whole way we are shown kamraträddning – the rescue technique Annika and I tried the day before but we do not train it by ourselves. It has become later than expected when we finish our tour but especially the third day was a fantastic experience. Thank you, Umeå Kanotklubb for the course! We come again when you offer a rescue course.

 

Solstice paddling

A kajak tour through the darkest hour of the shortest night

This night is summer solstice. So it is the shortest night of the year. That means that tonight is one of those nights where there is a sunset and a sunrise but it doesn’t get dark.

The weather was calm and warm, a good opportunity for a short midnight kayak tour. When the clock showed 23:30 I felt actually too tired to paddle, but I was able to pull myself together. And I am glad, that I did. It’s always pleasant to be outdoors and the colours of the first half of the tour were incredible.

When I started to circle the island Bredskär the light of sky and clouds became magic. Yes, I do like polar lights but the beauty of the translucent clouds lit by the invisible sun was at least of the same value.

I moored my kayak at a tiny beach on Bredskär and took a photo in the darkest minutes of the night.

Then I continued to circle the island. Now I had to concentrate on the waves and didn’t take any photos until I reached the sound between island and mainland where the sea was calm again. I moored my kayak another time – same island, but the other side. A nice place, but the magic of the light has vanished.

After some photos I entered the kayak and continued my short trip. The small promontory that is visible from our house was already in view and soon I arrived in the tiny, shallow nameless bay.

Home again!

 

Two short kayak tours

Two short kayak tours from the new home by the sea.

The first one morning last week. Just round the island Bredskär. The water surface smooth as silk and in beautiful pastel colours. Everything was quiet beside of the complaining sea birds.

The second one the day before yesterday in the afternoon. Just to the beach at Vitskärsudden. Through tiny waves and a lot of rocks. At the sandy beach I met Annika for a bath. She came by bike. The Baltic Sea not as cold as last time. Summer is coming.

Both tours were equally fun and both of them made me very grateful that I may live here at this fantastic place.

Two kayak premieres

10 o’clock in the evening– it is still bright daylight because sunset was a quarter of an hour ago. A good time for two kayak premieres.

On the one hand it’s the first time I paddle this year. Last time was in November, more than half a year ago.

On the other hand it’s the first time I start a kayak tour from my new home in Obbola. Yesterday the furniture lorry made my move. Not only my Yamaha grand piano and more than 150 boxes (mostly books) but also my kayak moved from Skelleftehamn to Obbola.

I had it quite near to the coast in Skelleftehamn, but here I have it much nearer.

Behind the garden of Annika’s and my new house there is a small edge of wetland – frequently visited by deers and many sea birds – and then there is the Baltic Sea.

I draw the kayak to our fireplace and then through the puddles of the wetland. There I let the boat into the water, enter it and circle the islet Lillskär*, that lies less than 250 metres from our property.

It doesn’t take much time – the islet is tiny and soon I’m back at the wetlands where I lean the kayak against the wall.

While I sit at my computer it has grown dark. But when I look through the window I still can see the Baltic Sea, the islet Lillskär and when I stand up even the place where I left my kayak. How lucky I am, that Annika and I not only have moved together but found this awesome place by the sea.

* by the way: officially the islet seems to by nameless. It’s too small. According to our neighbour some people call it Lillskär – small skerry.

ICROSS

I walk along a forest path. The snow has become too deep for the car. In the right hand I carry a large waterproof bag, in the left hand my bright red neoprene drysuit. On the back I have an ICROSS.

A what?

Let’s quote the ICROSS websiteWhat is ICROSS? – ICROSS® is a new type of watercraft. It resembles a float tube, but has many characteristics of a kayak.

My friend Hans Brettschneider bought two ICROSS for his camping ground In Bureå and invited my to test them today. We want to paddle over the Baltic Sea to the near island Björkön. According to Hans the Baltic Sea is still open.

When I arrive in Bureå Hans already had started inflating the ICROSS with a motor-driven air pump. We put the rafts into his car and drive to a place near the beach where we manually inflate them until they are filled to the brim.

(You see the rectangular patch free of snow on the ICROSS? That’s where Hans’ iPad was before I took it away for the photo. Hans uses it as a camera and takes it into the snow, the hot sauna, just everywhere)

On the back of the ICROSS there are D-rings where you can attach belts to carry the ICROSS as a backpack. That’s what I do in the first photo. We start carrying the ICROSS until one of the plastic hooks of the belt breaks. We then realise that it is much easier to drag the raft behind like a sledge. It’s winter!

After 800 metres walk through the forest I arrive at the coast. I must laugh. The Baltic Sea is far beyond from being open. It is covered with ice and snow to the horizon! Is it just slush or solid ice? I put on my drysuit and life jacket and enter the sea ice. I splash through sludge but underneath there is ice thick enough to carry my weight.

Time to change plans.

Instead of paddling (or walking) to Björkön we take fika here at the coast. There’s even a table with benches. Hans has coffee and sandwiches while I have tea and a pretzel. It snows.

Hans however has a plan B in mind. Right beside his fantastic camping ground, just behind the sauna there’s the river Bureälven. And this stream is still open. After fika we walk to the car and take it to his camping ground. There we trudge through the snow to the sauna by the river.

Again we put on waterproof clothes and put the ICROSSes into water. We have to rearrange the belts that hold the seat to improve the balance, then it’s fun to paddle to and fro. While my touring kayak is long and keeps direction, the ICROSS is easy to turn and very agile. Anyway I wouldn’t use it for longer paddle trips. Too exhausting.

(Do you see what Hans has in his hands on the last photo? I told you that he takes his iPad everywhere.)

After a while of testing and taking pictures we go ashore. Did I mention the sauna? Hans had fired it before our winter paddling experiment. It is not hot, only 30 °C, but it’s nice to sit there and relax a bit. I go into the river again, this time for winter bathing. Then a bit of sauna again until we call it a day.

Tack for turen, Hans – thank you for the tour. And thanks for your photos, which I cropped and edited for this blog article.