The Essential Sea Kayak Festival took place on Anglesey 20-22 October and it was me, Nick, Matt, Katy and Ali organizing it. We had been dancing the sundance a week in advanced and I think that helped, cause the weather was far better than we were expecting it to be. I guess the weather gods thought that they could step in and help us, just like they did two weeks before the Olympic Games in London earlier this year. Then they pushed the rugged polar front north and gave everyone pretty decent olympic weather. So we were rewarded with three days with almost perfect festival weather. (Well, you can't please everyone, so I bet there was someone that might have wanted a little more wind, to get even more challenging conditions...).
130 people had signed up (we had a maximum of 100 spaces, so how that happened, don't ask me...) and it was a great view from the balcony of Anglesey Outdoors, looking at about 150 paddlers eager to go paddling. And it wasn't even raining!!! So off they went with a lot of expections for the day and we all hoped they would enjoy the time on the water. I know I did for sure. I got on the water in Trearddur Bay, coaching a gang of new comers to the sport, together with Eve and Aled, two local coaches. The group of 15 had never been kayaking on the sea before and they were all super friendly and I think it was an amazing day for them to take their first paddle strokes in the salty water. When we got off the water that afternoon, I could see lots of big smiles in the group and they were even more when we got back to the base and met all the other people, also returning from their paddle sessions. After dinner, Justine Curgenven gave a presentation about hers and Barry Shaw's paddle trip in Tierra del Fuego, South America, with pictures not only with smiling faces, but a few tears and some pretty tired paddles on some images. It didn't look like a walk in the park if I put it like that.
During the first and second day, we had about 16 paddle sessions every day going on at the same time around Anglesey. I would have loved to have taken some pictures from the air, to see all the colorful kayaks on the water. Especially on the Sunday, when we had the biggest Welsh sun in a very long time smiling down at us. I went to the Menai Strait wiht Giles Hartley, another of the local coaches helping us at the event, it was a nice and cosy day for the people being introduced to white water like conditions in the Swellies and underneath the Menai Bridge. We talked a lot about edging, leaning, boat speed, boat angle, flowing water, eddies, eddylines and of course, we also took the time for a break while we were waiting for the tide to turn. It felt like a few of the people in the group could have just stayed on land, sitting in the sun, relaxing and maybe even taking a powernap. I was definitely one of them I can confess... But once we got on the water again, people got very excited about continuing the day, working on their skills. Back at the base, Marcus Demuth shared some storied from a few of his expeditions he'd done over the years. Things haven't always gone the right way for Marcus when he's been paddling but he was more than happy to tell us about the lessions he has learned from his experiences. And we all listened to them very carefully.
Monday was the last day of the festival. The wind increased a little and the sun was hiding behind the clouds. But once again, it turned out to become a supergood day. I got the chance to go to Rhoscolyn with James Stevenson, taking part in an "Incident management sessions for 3 to 4 Star paddlers", which I really enjoyed. James is a very good coach with clear instructions and a good sence of humour. He got the group to do all kinds of excercises like towing, deep water rescues, boathandling in rougher conditions etc. I think everyone in the group learned something new this day, and that was our goal. Back at the base this evening, it was oh so quiet. In the end it was only the five of us organizing the festival and I think we all agreed on that it had been three really fun days, despite all the work to getting the festival running. So a BIG thanks to everyone being involved with the event and to thank you being so passionate about sea kayaking!!!
So will we be back next year? Well, time will tell...