5 star sea kayak preparation and assessment
This is the approach I took to prepare and pass my 5 star sea kayak assessment.
I attended my 5 star sea kayak training in Anglesey in March 2014 with James Stephenson of Adventure Elements, then returned to Greece where we run our sea kayak center for the summer season. I concentrated on group control and management during the summer as I knew it was going to be very difficult to work on personal skills.
My first 5 star sea kayak assessment was booked in for November 2014 in Anglesey, I did 5 days preparation with James but unfortunately the assessment was cancelled due to lack of conditions, which was probably a blessing in disguise as I didn’t feel fully prepared.
March 2015 was the date for the next 5 star sea kayak assessment back in Anglesey which would be my first and successful attempt. Reflecting on the preparations for the November assessment and also my weaknesses and strengths I started to formulate a work up schedule. I knew I didn’t want to start too early but also I didn’t want to leave things too late!
Preparations in Greece
Being based in Greece there was no chance of me finding tidal conditions so I decided to concentrate on my Achilles heal which was my roll! Although I was comfortable rolling on both sides and reentering and rolling on both sides I found when under pressure I had a tendency to rush and snatch causing it to fail. As the new year broke, personal fitness had suffered over the festive period so how to get fit was the first priority! Cycling was my answer….a real passion of mine and it also meant I wouldn’t peak too early with the kayaking, so January was spent bashing out miles on the road.
Now to address that roll! February was the month to focus on getting it to be automatic. Every day I went to the sea and rolled and rolled and rolled! If the wind blew I looked for the most challenging conditions and rolled! By the end of February I was pretty dizzy but satisfied my roll was automatic…
Two weeks until D Day and the first week would be spent with James and a group working on their ISKA advanced guide award headed up by Shaun from Sea Kayak Cornwall. Fantastic week of tide races, tidal areas, rock hopping in big swell and plenty of leadership and navigation. Over the weekend a few of us headed to Penrwyn Mawr on Saturday to get some good quality tidal race time. Sunday we planned a trip to the Skerries, this was my first time there without instructors! Our plans unfolded perfectly!!
Monday and Tuesday were a sort of rest day before the final preparations.
Wednesday saw a small group of us including Phil Smith and Tatiana Cappucci (Tatiana writes some great blogs on her site Tatiyak) setting out from Soldiers point to North Stack race, then onto South stack race before lunch. The afternoon was taken up with some rock hopping back to Soldiers point.
Thursday was a trip to the Skerries with Phil, Tatiana, Manolis and Jan, a perfect day with little wind but poor visibility so our plan needed to be spot on or we wouldn’t be having lunch on the island!! Needless to say we made it, relaxed in the spring sunshine before catching the flood tide back to Cemlyn bay.
Friday was the big one! The last chance to practice before my 5 star sea kayak assessment. The tides were right to squeeze in a trip to Bardsey island off the end of the Lleyn Peninsula. Our fearless 5 set off from Aberderon at the end of the flood at 09:00. The trip across was amazing in still conditions on the day of the eclipse. Our plan was all about getting the return timings right to catch the start of the ebb, too late and with the big spring tides we could have ended up in South Wales!!! We hit it perfectly, changing course to find the optimum angle to punch through the flow we eased our way back across Bardsey sound just in time for coffee and cakes in a seafront cafe!!
The 5 star sea kayak assessment is spread over 2 days and includes a night navigation exercise.
Our first day comprised of a desk top navigation exercise and then a trip with a group to the Skerries setting out on the ebb from Cemlyn. Although visibility was excellent the very strong currents meant navigating from the kayak needed to be spot on! and it was! Once at the Skerries we went through personal skills in the races before stopping for lunch. The afternoon was taken up with more rescues and navigation before a stop for food while we waited for it to get dark ready for the night navigation exercise. Finally returning to our start point in Cemlyn at about 21:00, a long but excellent day.
Sunday we headed to the races at North and South stack for more personal skills and rescues. Another excellent day but by the end I was totally battered, feeling like Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno (for those of you old enough to remember these heavy weight boxers) had been taking it in turn to hit me as hard as they could!!
The final stage was the results and debrief, it was a strange experience because I was so tired there was no Adrenalin left in my body!!
Congratulation you passed!!! Not sure what my facial expression was but my heart was definitely smiling…
A massive thanks goes to James Stephenson who put up with me and coached me to the standard required and also to Olly Sanders and Roger Chandler who made the 5 star sea kayak assessment process an enjoyable one where I was still learning, and to everyone who has been there paddling with me both in Greece and in Anglesey.