Sunday, October 29, 2006

London - 2: ..gone shopping, the new BCU Coaching handbook

Visiting London isn’t complete without doing the famous shops and stores in Oxford Street and Regent Street. Harrods and Hamleys are not quite my cup of tea, but Jelle and Lieke have another taste. I prefer Waterstones. I even bought something for myself:
The New BCU Coaching handbook, a manual of coaching techniques, advice and guidelines for the canoe and kayak coach. According to Pesda Press:

This book is a mine of useful information and practical tips. If you aspire to be a better canoe or kayak coach, this is the book for you.
Part one deals with coaching theory and fundamentals such as psychology and physiology explained in terms that make sense to a practical water-based coach.
Part two looks at generic coaching skills that will provide useful tools whatever the discipline the coach is involved in. It works its way from introducing people to canoesport right to coaching elite athletes.
Part three looks at specific aspects of canoesport such as slalom, racing, sea kayaking, surf white water kayaking, open canoeing and freestyle.

I fully agree: this really is a mine of useful information! Renown kayakers like Franco Ferero, Bill Taylor, Trys Morris and many more have contributed to this fantastic project and made an incredible amount of knowledge accessible. Wow! I admire the BCU Coaching Service to be so open in sharing the BCU coaching knowledge and experiences. We should introduce this to Dutch seakayak-coach education!

PS: you dont have to go to London to get a copy: Pesda Press delivers worldwide, postage and packaging free!

London - 1: ...a unique condition between delight and madness...

This weekend I returned from a fascinating and intense week with the kids in London. As I told Jelle and Lieke about the giant slide sculpture "Test-side" of Carsten Höller, we had to visit Tate Modern. Children don't need the artists' explanation of the project to get enthusiast: just the information "giant slide" and "you are allowed to use it" is enough. To be honest: I don't need much more either...

But as I am supposed to be a cultural interested adult, I read the interview in which Carsten Höller explains his intentions with this piece of art. A short quote:
…Slides are also a device for experiencing an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness. It was described in the fifties by the French writer Roger Callois as “a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind”…
Isn’t that a beautiful description of an emotion? And as this is a kayak-blog: isn’t it the perfect description of the feeling you get when your 5 meter-plus seakayak catches a surf…?

Alas: we didn’t reach this emotional state in Tate Modern: instead we got another experience. We were introduced to the “fine British Art of queuing”. Tate Modern was overcrowded, you had to queue for hours to get a timed ticked for one ride later that day in the higher slides. Only the lower slides were direct accessible: queuing an hour for one ride of 5 meters high was enough for the kids (and for me).

Btw: Tate Modern sure is worth a visit, with or without sliding!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dutch Kayak Championships / opening DutchWaterDreams

Here is a short photo impression of the opening weekend of the wild water track of DutchWaterDreams in Zoetermeer. I enjoyed an afternoon hanging around at the site, meeting a lot of kayak-friends and NKB-officials and watching the championships. It was a perfect occasion to experiment with the new Fuji Digital Camera. The new Finepix S5600 replaces the old Finepix 2800 Zoom. It’s impressive how technology has developed in only 5 years, the new camera is much faster, offers great control and an astonishing picture quality (and it’s even more than 100 euro cheaper than the old one was, five years ago…. ).
The happening in Zoetermeer finished with a concert of Blöf in the evening. I like their songs, but didn’t stay till the end of the concert: I preferred to use a rain free period to cycle back to Woerden: 35 km’s: though I now this countryside rather well, navigation in the dark offers some little surprises once in a while, I did a little extra round in Waddinxveen (of all places…).

TV-tip: tomorrow morning life from Zoetermeer, broadcasted in more than 40 countries all over the world: the Open Dutch Canoe Slalom Championship on Eurosport, live from 9.00 til 11.30 am (note: GMT, 22 October 2007). I saw the international athletes training this afternoon: very, very impressive!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

London is the place to be!

"Penang in dry dock", picture by Westwood 1932, Collection British National Maritime Museum

This evening I booked the ferry and a hotel in London. I am going to spend some days with the kids in London in Dutch Autumn School Holiday. Now I am up to plan what we are going to do. Science Museum, Tates Gallery, Docklands, Harrods, Buckingham palace are some first ideas. Although the Thames is very attracting, this is not the occasion for kayaking...
But a visit of London isn’t complete with some maritime elements? HMS Belfast, and perhaps there are some kayaks in the National Maritime Museum??
Suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Examen Zeevaardigheid (= 4 Star Test)

Past weekend we organised the last “NKB-Zeevaardigheidsexamen” (= Sea Proficiency Test)of 2006 near Den Helder. Originally we planned the test to be on Saturday, but because of the wind (on Saturday 6-7 with gales up to 8 Bft) we decided to do it on Sunday. Sunday conditions were more moderate with winds around 5 Bft, decreasing in the afternoon. With a nice swell and a good surf we had perfect conditions for the test. Out of 10 candidates, 5 passed the test successful. One candidate didn’t start the practical part of the test because – standing on the dyke, looking at the waves - he found the sea state to challenging (I have great respect for this decision!), another candidate got seasick during the test, three candidates didn’t perform at the appropriate level. NKB-Zeevaardigheid requires that the static high brace is performed on both sides. Mostly this turns out to be “the proof of the pudding”. Not the favourite part of a coaching job is explaining people that they don’t meet the standards of a test. in my experience direct feedback is appreciated. Being straight and staying close to your observations doesn’t make the message less disappointing, but is essential for a good understanding.

The candidates that passed the test were rewarded with an official NKB-certificate and can stitch a “Zeevaardigheid” batch on their PDF. Somehow I associate this odd batch-cult with closed communities like Scouting, the Army or the Hells Angels. I have never been part of Scouting, the Army, nor the Hells Angels. I suppose most seakayakers don’t. Perhaps that’s why we are so eager to stitch decorations on our PDF’s: overcompensation?

While reaching out the batches - just in time - I noticed a curiosity: between the “Zeevaardigheid”-batches was a “Gevorderde Zeevaardigheid” (GZV)–batch. Unique: I didn’t know these batches (still) exist! As a matter of fact I don’t think anyone in the Netherlands ever has done the test for GZV. I found an description of the GZV-level in an old syllabus of the Commissie Zeekajakvaren of the late nineties. GZV was meant as a level above Zeevaardigheid-Extra (ZVE = 5 star BCU). The idea was to create an group of very experienced ZVE-paddlers that organises itself trainings and courses for GZV under challenging conditions. To become part of this elite group an introduction fee of 100 guilders was asked.
I am very curious if such a group of GZV-candidates ever has existed. The only thing I heard was that there were no assessors willing to assess a test under the heavy conditions a GZV-test should be performed. That is said to be the reason why GZV is abolished in the NKB system.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The best of both worlds?

With a passion for two sports: kayaking and cycling, I often doubt what to do in the rare free moments left for sporting: should I take the bike or the kayak? No more question with the Waterblade of Alexander Gäbler: a human powered hydrofoil boat-bike.

The picture above is taken from the German cycling-magazine Aktiv Radfahren. The Waterblade was presented on the ISPO (International Trade Show for Sports Equipment and Fashion) in Munich. According to the article in Aktiv Radfahren it makes a 100 meter sprint in 14 seconds, and reaches a maximum speed of 26,1 km/h. The latter is rather disappointing. I thought biking a hydrofoil would be much faster than kayaking a hydrofoil. However the Flyak (a hydrofoil kayak) is said to be paddled at 27,2 km/h!

I have my doubts about the seaworthiness of these constructions. And I will miss the rolling fun. So I will stick to my (separate and) conventional kayaks and bikes!

1. The website of Foilkayak (the producer of the Flyak) is currently out of the air. You can see a picture and a video of the Flyak on Derrick's blog.
2. I suppose the maximum speed of the Waterblade exceeds 26 km/h. A quick calculation learns that the average speed on the 1oo meter sprint is about 26 km/h. Top speed must be much higher! 40 km/h ??? Human powered on the water? Wow, that opens totally new pespectives for waterbike commuting: in one hour from Woerden to Amsterdam!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Freedom (die Freiheit)

Vor ein paar Tagen ging ich in den Zoo,
die Sonne schien, mir war ums Herz so froh.
Vor einem Käfig sah ich Leute stehn,
da ging ich hin, um mir das näher anzusehn.

"Nicht füttern" stand auf einem großen Schild
und "bitte auch nicht reizen, da sehr wild!"
Erwachsene und Kinder schauten dumm,
und nur ein Wärter schaute grimmig und sehr stumm.

Ich fragte ihn: "wie heißt denn dieses Tier?"
"Das ist die Freiheit!" sagte er zu mir,
"die gibt es jetzt so selten auf der Welt,
drum wird sie hier für wenig Geld zur Schau gestellt."

Ich schaute und ich sagte: "Lieber Herr!
Ich seh ja nichts, der Käfig ist doch leer!"
"Das ist ja grade", sagte er, "der Gag!
Man sperrt sie ein und augenblicklich ist sie weg!

Die Freiheit ist ein wundersames Tier
und manche Menschen haben Angst vor ihr.
Doch hinter Gitterstäben geht sie ein,
denn nur in Freiheit kann die Freiheit Freiheit sein.

Freedom is hard to define. While paddling, freedom often just comes as a feeling or a sensation. Some weeks ago, on my Birthday, I had a great sensation of feeling free at the sands of Terschelling. While the other paddlers were gone for a walk for some hours, I stayed with the kayaks on the beach reading a paper. It was in the late afternoon, I could look along the dunes for miles and there was no single soul to be seen anywhere. After a while I decided to go for a swim and I walked into the water. With the water up to my knees I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was standing there all alone, that I could do whatever I wanted without bothering about anyone. So why was I wearing swimming shorts? I usually don’t bother about nudity (even when people are around). I pulled out my shorts and jumped in the water with a delightful sensation of freedom….

A similar feeling of freedom arose this week paddling and camping with friends in Germany. Now the feeling of freedom was triggered by the relaxed way of finding beautiful camp-sites, for example on the beach of Amrum (see the picture above). While Germany is known in the Netherlands as a country of rules and law-abiding people (“Paragraphenkultur” und “Ordnung muss sein”), I was amazed by a relaxed way of handling where Dutch authorities can learn a lot from! It’s late. Is it too late? I got involved in the discussion with the authorities about the access for seakayakers to several regions in the Netherlands. I really must say these discussions are constructive, and I am confident we will find a good balance between respecting the ecological values of the vulnerable areas we are paddling in, and the recreational use we want to make of these same areas. However there still is a long way to go.
I feel we are so busy regulating our freedom of movement, that in the end little will be left of our feeling of freedom. I am afraid this dilemma is unavoidable in one of the most crowded countries of the world. Despite it: it makes me sad. Like Georg Danzer writes in his poetry: you can’t catch freedom!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Home again! Pictures from Nord Friesland

Bernhard in his fantastic Rockpool Alaw Bach (but the colour... ;-)

I just returned from four days paddling along the German Nordfriesische Inseln. It was a very long ride by car today: 7 hours! I never realised Nord Friesland is that far away: 1400 km's driving for 100 km's paddling. Usually I am not very fond of car-driving, but this was worth the trouble! I enjoyed every minute of this trip!

The invitation for this kayak-trip came from Bernhard Hillejan. He planned to do a multiple day trip along the outer sands of the Nordfriesian region, but due to the weather plans changed and we visited Amrum and the Halligen instead. That’s part of seakayaking: living day by day and weather (wind) dominates your route.

When I have some more time (and rest) I write a report and some reflections on this trip. Before that you can click here for a photo-impression. Thanks to Bernard, Mathias, Anke, Antje, Dirk, Guido, Jean-Luc, Silke for a great time!