This was the first of Oswestry School’s Adventure Education weekends of the new academic year. The idea is to introduce students to new activities and then develop their skills, understanding and independence for those that catch the bug.
This weekend, we had a couple of climbers that have developed over the last few years to the point that they are now leading multi pitch routes, a group of hill walkers, and about 10 venturing into the world of paddlesport lead by Ali and myself.
Of the 10 paddlers, 3 had reached 2 star standard while doing a few weekends with me last year, but the rest were new to the sport, so I had visions of it being a standard skills weekend with games on sheltered water. In reality, it turned out to be a very different experience.
Saturday – Four Mile Bridge
Having a group of mixed ability, we were looking for a sheltered location, that also offered a little interest from moving water for the more experienced. Four Mile Bridge (on Anglesey) seemed to be the best compromise, so we committed to the long drive from Capel Curig.
Ali started off with a group in canoes, while I began an introductory session in kayaks. However, it wasn’t long before the wind picked up, and our sheltered location turned out to not to be very sheltered after all. Getting the group together to discuss the details of paddle strokes wasn’t easy, we’d get blown a long way in the process, and paddling simply turned into a battle against the wind.
As a result, we soon found ourselves venturing into the flow as the tide started to rush under the bridge. A few would take a swim as they caught an edge, but it was fantastic to see everyone getting stuck in to the moving water and growing in confidence. Some students that were completely new to paddlesport, showed an amazing aptitude for it, demonstrating fantastic balance and control of the boat.
Sunday – Menai Straits
After such a successful day on moving water yesterday, we opted to head back to Anglesey and the Menai Straits today to continue the good work. We put on below the Britannia Bridge and picked our way northeasterly against the flow of the tide. Using the eddies, we where able to paddle most of the way, with the exception of one stretch of about 50m where we needed to portage.
By the time we arrived at the Menai Bridge, there was a good flow coming through and we spent a good while practicing breaking in and out of the flow. Some were a bit nervous of it, but most attacked it with increasing confidence and where starting to look really competent.
Not surprisingly, making our way back with the flow was a lot quicker and a bit of ‘eddie hopping’ provided more good practice. It was brilliant to see the whole group breaking in and out in a train of boats all the way back.
By the time we got back to the minibus, there was a bit of spare time so, those that were up for it, had the chance to do some eskimo rescues in a bit of sheltered water and a controlled environment, building up gradually to a full capsize.
So, it was far from the paddlesport weekend I’d expected, but fantastic to see everyone taking to the moving water with enthusiasm and growing confidence – brilliant!