Saturday, 4 February 2017

Canoe Leadership Training with Ken Hughes - Part 2

With two days of being lead by a group of lovely people under my belt I was quite ready to get stuck into some training. So at 8.30am on a Monday morning we all met at a convenient garden centre on the A66 where we sat around a large table and introduced ourselves. It was lovely to catch up with a couple of old paddling friends and just as nice to meet some new faces, it soon became apparent that the next few days where going to be very pleasant with everyone focused on the task ahead - excellent fun learning..

Ken took plenty of time to take on board all of our needs and wants while also explaining the course syllabus, this was definitely going to be a very full and busy four days.

So down to Barnard Castle and we launched at the 'The Sills' just east of the road bridge and on river right. Without organising a shuttle I wasn't so sure on how we where going to fill our day on this short stretch of water - how wrong I could be..

Lots of time was spent on fundamental paddling skills, skills I thought I knew, breaking these skills down to component level and then re-building them into technical linked strokes. Ken delivered the sessions in many, many styles, I personally seemed to gain the most information from the silent demonstrations but the group discussions revealed much information that we just either overlooked or took for granted.. My power pry is a completely different stroke to what it was - and yes, a lot more efficient and powerful...

Everyone's technical templates for working with the water where fast becoming just so much more efficient....  I think we all went home that evening just a little exhausted, elated and completely buzzing.... Apologies, no photographs, just too busy to get the camera out.

Day two saw us back on the same stretch of river but this time we would be taking on a slight journey so a small shuttle was organised. First of course the previous days learning was discussed in depth. Then onto more learning, a great deal of the morning was taken up with the understanding of trim and edge and how this effects a boat in the context of flow. Again I thought I knew lots of this - it was soon obvious i had very much more to learn and I think all of the students thought much the same too. Everyone of us was like a sponge taking in more and more information, we where all so very keen to learn...

I certainly do not wish to give too much away about the course content but be assured Ken had us working hard, having fun, thinking for ourselves, everyone was involved in discovering solutions to problems. We moved on to other practical skills too such as tracking and lining...

We then made our way down the river a short way enjoying a few small rapids and drops 

And then onto everyone's favourite poling...

Love it of hate it, Ken took much time on both the bank and on the water so show us that actually it isn't a black art and is just a simple set of fundamental skills which once mastered makes for a fun time progressing along the river..

Finally we made our way down towards the top of Abbey Rapids and to a large safe pool, here we went through some simple rope work to assist in the recovery of a pinned boat.

And to end the day we all took part in some simple self rescue skills, that water was so cold.. 

Day Three and there was much excitement in the air, the river level was a little higher and we where to complete a journey form Cotherstone to Barnard Castle. Today would mostly be about leadership skills with a few personal skills thrown in..and the day certainly did not disappoint...

Personally I knew this was my weak area - leading on a river but the day was delivered in a contextual and simple manner to understand. The day included lots and lots of content and Ken worked us all very hard but it was all very rewarding..

We even found time to have a little fun on standing waves - all in the name of personal skills of course...

Again, another day of jam packed content all delivered in an excellent manner, I think we all left that evening tired but totally satisfied in our own personal achievements. Of course, we all had enough energy left for a quick social that evening of a curry and a couple of beers in the town, a brilliant day and excellent company. 

So finally day four, it seemed to come around just too fast. Today was going to be a windy and blustery day, ideal of open water skills on Ellerton Water.

This was yet another full day of learning skills. Who knew crossing strong winds in a canoe could be so much fun - I'm not giving too many details away but the day had me looking at edge and trim in a completely different light. This took a great deal of the morning up but every minute was so very worthwhile. We also looked at leadership skills in great content and then of course a very informative session on efficient deep water paddling skills.

Rafting was covered in great detail and of course constructing a sailing rig aboard the diamond raft was always going to be great fun.

So with boats away and everyone changed we met at the cafe to discuss personal gear and participate in the group debrief.. Ken discussed in detail of what our pathways would then entail on our road to assessment. 

So how do I feel after six days of paddling and learning? 

I came home quite exhausted but totally elated and very keen to move forward with my personal and leadership skills - these really where four jam packed days of learning, I have purposely tried not to go into course content in too much detail as, to be honest, I just couldn't do it justice.. 

I feel I have been equipped with everything I need to know to move forward to assessment confident and keen. Anxieties and fears have been put to bed and replaced with confidence and enthusiasm. I have a clear understanding of what I must do, I'm really looking forward to the next few months...

Personally I don't want to just scrape through an assessment and this is one of the reasons I booked this extended course, I would rather pass assessment with ease and more importantly have the tools to be an excellent paddler and a skilled leader.

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