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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


World Adventure Racing Championships
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'Crazy-ness' is definately a matter of opinion but not many people would argue that you have to be just a little bit mad to race 500km non-stop by foot, bike & kayak - not to mention a bit of canyoning & swimming AND a 15km portage with kayaks!! All of this with just a few hours sleep grabbed here and there! It sounds balmy but I'm seeing it with my own eyes as I'm up in Scotland filming 49 teams of four, who consider all this to be FUN. It's the World Adventure Racing Championships and I can't imagine how tiring it is. The teams from 20 different countries started on the island of Rum with a warm-up 500 metre swim followed by a hike up and around the stunning Culin of Rum. I climbed the first high peak to film them as they returned to the castle and enjoyed beautiful views of the Culin, and across to Skye & Eigg. I'll definatley come back here to explore more sometime. On Sunday everyone kayaked from Rum to Eigg & then back to mainland Scotland. It was amazing to see almost 100 double kayaks on the water at the startline - from plastic Necky kayaks to sleek kevlar racing boats. A lot of adventure racers come from a running or biking background, and kayaking is often their weakest disipline so open ocean crossings of over 6 miles was always going to be interesting. Some people looked gripped before they took their first paddle stroke, and one poor team collided at the slipway and put a hole in their boat before the starting whistle blew. I was on the water in my leopard-skin Explorer with my minicam mounted on it to get some shots from the thick of the action. I paddled with the teams for a mile or so and filmed the first 2 calamaties - one team must have been capsized by a breaking wave over shallow rocks and was having to swim the boat to shore and empty it. A British team, 'Total Adventure' had 2 sleek racing kayaks rafted together using 2 poles - but a wave broke on them flexing the poles and causing both boats to capsize, putting all 4 paddlers in the water. I heartlessly shoved a camera in their faces as they emptied 1 boat over the other and began the long process of all getting back in the boats. I then had the easy option and got picked up by one of the 'safety boats' and driven to Eigg. I got back in the water a mile or so from Eigg and ahead of the front teams so I could get a few shots of them all as they paddled past. It was hard work keeping up with doubles and I could only stay with the leaders for a few paddle strokes! The plan was for me to film a few teams and then get picked up by the safety boat again, but I ended up having a small adventure of my own! I couldn't speak to the safety boat on the VHF channel he'd told me to use - and on channel 16, I could only reach Stornaway coastguard, so I ended up paddling all the way to the mainland and about another 15 - 20km up the coast into a really strong headwind! I didn't know where I was going so I had to keep up with a team in fibreglass Valley doubles so I didn't get lost!! I had only eaten 2 chocolate biscuits all day, and I had a tiny chocolate bar for on the water so I was very low on fuel after 5 hours of paddling into a ridiculous wind!!! If I had been out for a fun day paddle then I'd have got off the water ages ago!! When I landed by my van, I couldn't get changed because my keys were still on the safety boat! So was my phone so I couldn't call him to find out where he was ( not that I had his phone number!). I hitched a lift 2km to Malaig and the girls in the ferry terminal kindly phoned Pete, the skipper, for me ( and made me a wonderful cup of tea!). Pete said he'd be at least an hour because he had to stay with the back kayaks until they got to the mainland. Unfortunately the back 2 teams had gone 6 miles off course so they had to paddle an extra 6 miles into that headwind and it was actually almost 4 hours before Pete got back. I was starving but had no money! Fortunately I found a race organiser to lend me enough to buy fish and chips. A fisherman sat me in his car out of the wind and brought me tea! By the time I got back to my van, got changed and put the kayak on the roof, and drove 2 hours to where I was staying that night, I was exhausted. Just imagine how the racers felt doing the same paddle but knowing that they've got another 445km to go before they can rest!!?

For me, I guess it just goes to show I should always have food, warm clothes, the phone & car keys in the kayak - even if I think I'm only going for a 30 minute paddle!! It's Wednesday now and I'm still filming the race. I spent most of yesterday in Foyers Canyon filming teams jumping off rock ledges, scrambling over rocks, swimming across sections & ducking under arches. Today I have to kayak 3km to a really boggy portage in Glencoe and get shots of the poor teams struggling to move their kayaks through thick mud. You can follow the race on - there are lots of photos and even an interactive map which shows you where all the teams are every 15 minutes ( they all have satelite trackers ). I'm one of a team of camerapeope filming for Dream Team TV ( ). The programme with be on Channel 4 in the UK in August, and may be on sattelite channels around the world.

Thanks to for the photos.

Perfect Day on the water?
Monday, May 21, 2007

I will never get bored of paddling 'around the Stacks' on Anglesey. The convoluted folds in the cliffs, the narrow gaps between stacks and through arches, not to mention the stunning lighthouse on South Stack, mean it's always a beautiful paddle. On Sunday, the hundreds of guillemots & razor bills flying around and sat on the sea added something extra, as did the sunshine, the light breeze & the moderate swell - the remains of 2 days of stormy weather. Barry, Axel & I set off from Porthdafarch around 11.30am, aiming to catch the last of the flood tide through Penrhyn Mawr. The boys had seen the notorious race from the cliff tops earlier and said there was white everywhere so we didn't mind getting there a bit 'late'! Hopefully it would be a bit smaller and more maneagable by now! Once in the eddy besides the race, none of us rushed to get surfing. There were big breaking waves everywhere and we wanted to watch for a while! The inner race - often the wiser choice if it's raging too much - had smaller waves, but they were more confused. We had a few tentative surfs there but were being thrown all over the place. So it was out into the outer race where you'd paddle to catch a wave, pause to ask yourself whether it was really a good idea, then either dig deep and surge down the several metre face with a massive feeling of exhileration ( and just a little fear!) or back off a little and let it roll under you. We all had some great rides - a few stand out for me, like the one where my bow slid inescapably into a deep hole in front of the wave and I was convinced I'd pop out, capsize and then have to roll. Fortunately the boat turned around 180 degrees when it was nearly vertical and I was back upright but facing the way I'd come from, grinning at Barry who was surfing towards me. The other memorable wave was when I inadvertantly ended up surfing the angry looking, 3 metre high steep front wave, which all of us had been avoiding. About 3 waves back, I caught such a good one that I just kept going and suddenly I was on the front wave careering down the face. It's hard to describe but surfing on a tidal race wave is a bit like surfing down an escalator that's moving upwards. The tide is constantly pushing the sea towards you - and yesterday the flow was at leat 4 knots - so as you surf down the wave and are convinced that you're going to disappear into the trough at the bottom of it, the sea moving towards you means it takes longer to reach the bottom and you usually surf just fine all the way down and end up still shooting forwards on the flat water in front. Maybe that explanation is 'not correct' but that's what it feels like to me, and the knowledge that this often happens is usually enough to convince me to take that extra paddle stroke and commit to the steepest part of a wave which feels really intimidating and which I'd never purposefully surf on a beach.

So after an hour and a half surfing at Penrhyn Mawr with big grins on our faces, you'd think that any sensible person would go home and put their feet up. Barry Shaw had different ideas. "It's a beautiful day, let's go round the Stacks", he suggested with a big smile. Axel and I were feeling tired already but didn't like to be party poopers so we agreed to the extra miles. We paddled close in to the rocks to South Stack, under the bridge and close in again to Parliament House Cave for a well earned lunch. We all lay down on the rocks in the sun and shut our eyes for an hour or so before getting back on the water with a hitch-hicker. A football we'd found snuck into my cockpit! The next half an hour was spent in North Stack Race not only trying to catch the waves, but trying to catch the ball. I'm not sure how many other people have played canoe polo in a tidal race but we enjoyed it. Eventually I had to drag Barry away and we headed off towards home. As tired as i was, the waves at the South Stack race looked very inviting and I suggested having a 'quick surf' for a couple of minutes. 20 minutes later, I again dragged Barry away as once I'd caught a few waves, my tiredness won over my enthusiasm. So it was back to Penrhyn Mawr for round 2! Fortunately - and I don't often say this - the race hadn't started there yet so there was no temptation to play and we continued to Porthdafarch, and landed at 6pm! A fantastic day on the water.

Thanks Axel for the photos!

Social Action at the Races
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Anglesey symposium was great fun as usual - always a fantastic event to catch up with friends and share a few smiles on the water. I just joined in the fun on the weekends - contrary to popular opinion, I don't paddle ALL the time, I was working during the week!

I dropped Derrick Mayoleth off at Manchester airport this morning meaning that almost all the visitors have now gone home! Well, apart from Axel who has his second home on Anglesey!!! ( although he's a little more anxious than usual to go back to the Netherlands this time!!)

Here are a couple of photos I like - the big wave is at Penrhyn Mawr last Saturday while the other one shows ALun at North Stack.

Anglesey Initiation
Monday, May 07, 2007

I always look forward to the Anglesey sea kayaking symposium where loads of people get together for paddling and socialsing. There are some people who I only see once a year at the symposium and there are loads of other friends who gather together for exciting paddling, evening partying & some inspiration. On Saturday night, Rotem Ron was incredibly modest in talking about her solo circumnavigation of Iceland ( an 'unknown' woman from Israel who decided to take on the huge challenge last Summer ). This was Rotem's first big expedition and amongst other things she dealt with big surf landings on an exposed coastline - which has caused at least 2 other teams attempting the circmnavigation to give up. Yet when asked whether she ever doubted she would do it, she just replied, "No. Because I really wanted it".

So Derrick Mayoleth, who created and maintains the Cackle TV website, aswell as having his own very popular website and blog, is here! The lad from Wisconsin has been dreaming of the famous Penrhyn Mawr tidal race for several years. Yesterday I encouraged him to visit it with Alun & I to find out whether it was a good dream, or a nightmare! Derrick was convinced that I just wanted to see him suffer, but that's not true at all. I really love the tidal races and have a huge amount of fun there and Iove to be able to share that with people. To be fair, it was a bit like initiating Alexey into surf in Kamchatka - you get there and it's much bigger than you hoped - not the sort of thing to introduce 'beginners' to at all. In fact the 'advanced tidal race' group from the symposium were there aswell and they only played gingerly on the edges. Just the surging white water noise of an angry tidal race can be hugely intimidating, then add the fact that you can see the water powering past rocks at what looks like faster than you can paddle. Finally you've got the huge breaking waves behind you if you mess up and you can see why people take one look and say 'no thank you, very much'! But Derrick did really well ferrygliding across the current and breaking in and out of an eddy, that is he did really well until his paddle broke! Then after saying 'no thank you very much' for a while, he got back on after lunch and got stuck in! A successful and memorable initiation where Derrick overcame his fear ( read his account of it on his blog ) , As I said to Derrick, at least next time he goes to Penrhyn Mawr he can say 'Oh, that's nothing. You should have seen it when I was here the other day'!


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