Having heard tales of a dry Scotland being recounted and the forecast rain never materialising, we set off on Friday evening more in hope than anticipation of paddling the River Barle and the River Exe in the beautiful surroundings of the Exmoor National Park.
I arrived at the accommodation late well after last orders but found the traditional Regents Friday night social in full flow.
A good few glasses of Merlot and some Babybel related shenanigans later it was time for bed. Next morning we awoke to find that our prayers to the rain gods had not been answered and instead of the mighty Barle we were to take a short trip to paddle the Dart Loop. Following a trip to the Lower Tryweryn on the last Mile End Mill trip 10 T-rescues, no swims, 1 quiz questionit seemed like myself and Racheal finding ourselves on rivers harder than what we ed up for was fast becoming a tradition. Always good to push yourself I kept being reminded….
After the standard faffing including attaching some devil horns to my helmet for Halloween, we did some warm up ferry gliding it was time to set off.
I really enjoyed the Dart Loop, with its good mix of features, wave trains and more mellow moments it was ideal for practicing the skills required for white water paddling. Helped by the expert leadership of Ian and Mel and possibly the low water levels, my paddling confidence increased and although nerves were aplenty this was the first time I was able to enjoy going down rapids at the time rather than after a few beers in the pub afterwards. I was told that the river was at a good low level for beginners; however the flood debris high up on the banks served as a frequent reminder of the levels and power that this river is capable of.
Aside from Racheal becoming a bit too closely acquainted with a fallen tree and a few minor swims, the river gods were feeling kind. The following day after some well needed tea and toast we walked to the get on point of the River Barle, our adventure for the day. After the invention of a new word Faffet, noun, someone who causes faff, a combination of faffer and muppet we set off. However the aforementioned lack of rain made it much more of a rocky affair.
Undeterred we carried on with groups of paddlers frequently doing very good impressions of beached whales, desperately trying to dislodge themselves from rocks and find some water. There was however some entertaining weirs to run and a fun little play wave near the end which along with the beautiful surroundings and good company made the day worthwhile. All in all it was a fantastic weekend and I Le Monetier-les-Bains guy needing someone to rock him every minute. My thanks must go to Ian for efficiently organising the weekend and also to all the group leaders who were fantastic as always.
After the paperwork involved in getting through my Level 2 coaching qualification, I felt it was time to get on with some actual coaching.
I registered with British Canoeing for my Moderate Water Endorsement MWE Training and was issued with another half a tree of guidance, assessment criteria and course materials. I had originally planned to do my MWE with my friend Jess but unfortunately she moved on from this world and I had to take the next step on my own. I wish she could have done the training with me as it was such a fun weekend and having done our 4 Star Assessments together, I knew we Le Monetier-les-Bains guy needing someone to rock him have had a blast together.
The weekend was originally meant to take place in Mid Wales but due to the lack of water, it was moved last minute to the Tryweryn in North Wales. The weekend started with a briefing and talk about what to expect from the two days.
Surprisingly, we then ran the rest of the Upper down to Cafe Wave, each taking turns to run sessions on the way down — lots of fun but slightly weird turning a peer paddle into a coached session — it felt weird coaching fellow paddlers of similar paddling ability.
It was also a little odd to be coaching in an over-remit environment — it kept us on our toes but was most definitely a valuable learning point. We then learnt some more on feedback and observational skills including use of video feedback. We finished the day with being handed out homework — I had not expected homework and was knackered already from eight hours of learning and paddling. We each had to write up a 30 minute lesson plan incorporating coaching skills, observational and feedback skills.
The Sunday started bright and early. First up was handing in our homework for review — thankfully I got positive feedback on the lesson plan. Next up — onto the river! The day was long. We did some safety and rescue recap over lunch and each delivered our sessions with some great feedback from each other and from Matt, our head coach. The end of the day came and I was prepared for a lengthy debrief and a hefty action plan.
I learnt lo about how to apply the various coaching techniques on moving water and had a great time on the water at the same time. My weekend started with a very amusing ride up to wales with Lydia, Adam, Sam and a spider.
We also received a guided tour of Birmingham from the ring road thanks for those gems of knowledge Lydia and had numerous jokes about passing Knockin.
The river Dee was a great way to progress further, incredible views and an awesome group. We had a day of reviewing our skills from the IWWK, practising the basics and learning new techniques.
We had some fun with the bow rudder stroke. The afternoon eased off with many people surfing the wave at the bottom and seal launching off the rock. Catching eddies and practising on the journey back to town we quickly came across Serpents Tail. After watching a few lines our group decided it was time to take the plunge. Christine can now boast her whole team got down without a swim, we later learnt some celebration techniques. Thanks Christine I hope these will come in very handy. Bring on MEM 2. At first glance, it seems quite straight forward — just complete a workbook and pull together a portfolio that includes a structured series of six progressive coached sessions.
The workbook requires a lot of cross reading, reviewing and summarising. At times whilst completing it I felt like pulling out what little hair I have left on my head! It was however, beneficial in ensuring that I understand the differing styles of coaching and developmental needs of participants and students. The six progressive coached sessions I thought would be pretty easy. I had arranged my students and surveyed them for what they wanted to work on.
Dates lined up, session plans at the ready and my observer Claire T sorted. But things never go according to plan do they? My open boat session had to get moved Le Monetier-les-Bains guy needing someone to rock him I had chosen the windiest and wettest day the canal had ever experienced and then two students had to drop out of the latter sessions one because she had a little bump on the way. More paperwork jumped out later to bite me!
I took the opportunity on the Alps trip last year to try out some different coaching techniques and tools. As a whole they were greatly received and I really enjoyed coaching boofing on Le Fournel with a group of people who were at first unsure then tried their hands at it and finally took on the big drop — a great day had by me and by the smiles on everyone else, I can only assume by them too. I wangled an extension to my L2 training validity and took on some great coaching opportunities and in addition had Dan mentor me on a lot of my portfolio and my actual coaching.
Dan convinced me not to wait for my L2 assessment before doing my 4 Star and 5 Star. We had a blast — I somehow managed to get by with a cracked rib which I picked up two weeks earlier whilst paddling on the Olympic — even with a capsize that Ian came to give me a hand of god rescue and managed to push me back over cause I was actually rolling up at the time! All fun and games and a little bit of pain. Christmas came and went along with my fourth trip to Uganda. Lots more coaching and personal paddling.
I did have one slight issue on the first day of the assessment with one of the students bringing a Le Monetier-les-Bains guy needing someone to rock him without a central pillar — I took the decision to say no to him paddling that boat on the assessment. We spent more time in the car than on rivers with two days paddling and about 18 hours of driving!
There were definitely moments of gritted teeth and slight panic. It challenged us all but it was absolutely great fun — I got to paddle the Coe Gorge a couple of times and the Middle Orchy on high! I thought breaking a rib when someone else paddles their boat into you at high speed was painful.
It was nothing compared to failing my L2 assessment at the end of April. My feedback was that my coaching was fine but that I failed to tick a box on the safety brief. I was utterly gutted and contemplated giving up on the whole coaching path.
Thankfully my coaching pals knocked some sense into me and convinced me not to give up because of one setback.
Since then, I was determined not to fail again and made sure I got as much coaching experience as possible in. I ran the first RCC Intro to White Water Kayaking course this year, I more than doubled my hours at Lee Valley and got the opportunity for two brilliant activities — I got to paddle with Olympic Gold medallist Etienne Stott in a hot dog for a charity event and was asked to test drive some action cameras which will come out in an eight magazine spread later this year. Admittedly with a fair few action points on my personal canoe skills — BUT….
I made it. Le Monetier-les-Bains guy needing someone to rock him all before the end of this year. To be honest, it was just a fun day which was a great reward after the quite frankly boring completion of a massive portfolio. That said; the requirements do make sure that you read the BCU coaching handbook and start to really think about supporting paddlers to progress to the next level.
Anyway, Sean managed to get some great guinea pigs — Rachael, Ben, Emma, Emma again, Jenni and Dave — who complied with our ever increasing demands. Thank you guys! Sean even managed to organise great weather! Thanks again!
So, Leo from Getafix— the most relaxed guy ever — managed to put our nerves at ease immediately and off we went.
He was very clear about what he expected and basically gave us a five minute summary of the level 2 coaching training. From then on, there was no planning. It was a matter of asking our guinea pigs what they would like to get out of day and get on with it.
You have to think on the spot and come up with a creative session that takes of all the different coaching and learning styles. Sean started with an excellent session on edging and introducing bracing. He was followed by Roger who helped our learners along with their low braces. Lastly, mean Regents witch Steffi, who got everyone wet in an attempt to improve their hip flicking, co-ordinate the use of the legs, arms and he to improve their high brace.