Paddlefest goes to Mexico

Paddlefest goes to Mexico

Postby markvader » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:07 pm

Monday, March 16th 2009

Members: Joan, Doug, Dolores and Myself
Location: The land that time forgot, Rural Mexico
Weather: Pretty good
Water/Wave Height: Reasonable

Joans currently driving through Derry, Chillout Sessions playing on my laptop, stomachs filled with food. Agh what an end to a great weekend. Yes, another paddlefest has come and gone.

This year around a hundred of Northern Ireland's paddlers decamped to the wilds of Donegal for the annual CANI paddlefest.
Based at Gartan Outdoor Education Centre the facilities and location were perfect for all that was planned for the weekend.

Perhaps it was because my boss let us out early on Friday afternoon, or maybe it was because I was heading away paddling for the weekend, but I was in a good mood (aren't I always).

Arriving at Gartan after a three hour drive, we were a wee bit late for the first activity but we didn't mind. we registered with the ever organised Mary, who assigned us our rooms. Doug and I were in the east wing whilst Joan was in the west wing. We were then left with the mission of trying to decide what activities we wanted to do over the next few days. There seemed to be even more options than had been on the advertised program of events. Participants could select up to four 1hr 30min sessions on the Saturday and one long activity on Sunday.

Ashley, chief organizer extraordineer, greeted us and encouraged us to try things that we would not normally do. I selected sea kayaking and canoe sailing in the morning and a long session of white water safety and rescue in the afternoon. Joan took the idea of pushing her comfort zone to new limits, Polo, sea kayaking and open boating were the three new disciplines she would be trying on Saturday.

We headed off to the boat house in plenty of time for the evenings slideshow where i-canoe and Desperate Measures also had trade stands on the ground floor. I have been on the lookout for a pair of dry trousers in advance of an upcoming paddling trip to Scotland and with the discount offered by Desperate Measures it seemed like it was meant to be, a pair of shiny new Palm sidewinder combi trousers are now mine.

A slideshow was given by Mike Devlin, Director of coaching at BCU. He showed a breathtaking set of photos from a number of trips to the south pacific ocean, taking it visits to the falklands, Antaritic, and an attempt to circumnavigate James Ross Island often ice bound within the Ice sheets of the Larson Ice Shelf. Some amazing photos and a video of penguin surfing.

An early night followed for some, I perhaps stupidly kept up the late night tradition on behalf of the club. Guess who slept in the next morning, nearly missing my cooked breakfast. Of course my alarms (all three of them) did go off, I just slept through them unlike the other 4 people I was sharing a room with, (did i mention that they went off over an hour before people actually had to get up at). Thanks go to Doug for making my lunch while I ate.

First session went well with Mike McClure expertly teaching us the EMM of Sea Kayaking, Efficiency, Momentum & Mobility. Pushing the boundarys of a no. 4 edge in a sea kayak nearly saw me tip over but good old bracing saved me from getting my hair wet. An unlucky lady over from England took a swim when we went out in the windy exposed part of the lake, Mike had her back in her boat before you could say “brrrr its windy”.

A quick tea break later and it was back on the water for canoe sailing. I had seen kids at outdoor centers do this activity before but it had never seemed that successful. A great sail building masterclass and we were soon speeding down the lake at a rate of knots (isnt that a silly gay sailing term), obviously our ship building was a different class to those i had seen before.

The stop for lunch was a welcome break and it was good to get chatting to so many people. For the WWSR session we got dropped at the bridge at the top of the river lennan, a dry land introductory session was delivered by Rodger Hamilton then it was on to the river to practice a few different techniques for guiding people down the river. A little surfing on the wave followed with me getting my face wet for the first time for the day, doh! then we switched instructors and were passed into the capable hands of the two Daves, Irish Dave Carroll and Scottish Dave Rossiter. We learnt the science of throw ropes, various techniques and then took part in throwbag olympics. The eager instructors were all to willing to jump into the river to play the part of swimming casulties, showing off their drysuits of course.

Back to the center, a hot shower and a hearty dinner followed by two portions of apple crumble put the world to right. Off down to the boat house for the evenings activities. Mike from BCU did a Q&A session on the new coaching scheme for all interested parties; A CANI member did a short session on leave no trace followed by the extremely well supported paddlefest raffle. Many very good prizes donated, proceeds going to a very worthy cause. Doug ended up with a voucher for coaching sessions with Mobile Team Adventure, and Joan and I ended up with t-shirts and Dolores got a mug thrown into the audience which I directed her way with my fist via her bottle of wine.

Then the star of the show Dave Caroll took to the stage, starting with a few disco moves, a few mexican waves then onto his video of his recent trip to the Zanskar Gorge in the Himalayas. A grade 3/4 river had its highest water levels in over 30 years, resulting in the group having to stop mid river and trek for three days out over mountain passes of over 15,000ft, They then negotiated with some locals to recover their boats before they started it all again, this time successfully. You would think the man is a comedian and not a kayaker, an excellent delivery kept the crowd entertained all night. The finish to the talk Ashley being crowdsurfed

The majority of the paddlefest attendees seemed to end up in one of the three pubs in Church Hill, a lot of craic and a few drinks were had. A couple of the guys started a bit of a session with a guitar and a fiddle. I was asked what we were celebrating by a local, do we need a reason?

Back to the centre for a few more drinks, guess who slept in again the next morning.

A little bit more organised than the morning before, Ashley said a few words and we went to meet the coaches for the day.

Doug and I had picked an intermediate/advanced open boating river trip with Keith Fitzsimmons, and Joan was on another open boat session with Scottish Dave. A few new skills were practised on Gartan lake before we ran the river lennan down to the fisheries. A river with lots of tight turns, low lying tress and quite a few pointy rocks. Doug and I learnt loads and had fun on the river.

Highlight of the weekend
Joan said she liked paddling
and apparently most of the moves we play in polo are illegal!

Big thanks to all of the coaches and organisers.

Will I be back next year? of course

Will you?

"How the F*#k did you work that out?"
-- Pythagoras, 126 BC

"You want WHAT on the f*~#ing ceiling?"
-- Michelangelo, 1566
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