Surf Ski Paddle around the Little Orme
I know I can paddle my surf ski here on my doorstep whenever I like, but it’s nice to explore different areas too. So, when Martin posted the following to the North Wales Surf Ski Paddlers Group on Facebook I decided it would be nice to join them.
Myself, Rik Pethig & Mike Rudd are out for a paddle from porth eirias on saturday morning,anyone fancy a trip out? I’ll confirm time once i’ve checked the tide times.
It might be a two hour drive each way all for a 2 hour paddle but it would be good to paddle with others as there is no one else surf skiing or paddling in this fashion around here. It would lead to a busy weekend thanks to the drive north to Colwyn Bay and back on Saturday and then a 2 hour drive south for Cyclocross on Sunday but that’s what weekends are for. Thankfully the drive north on Saturday morning was easy enough and I arrived there and parked up just as the others started to arrive as well. We introduced ourselves and I immediately forgot who everyone was. We got ourselves organised and were soon ready to set off across the calm waters of Colwyn Bay.
Paddling out from Porth Eirias
It was a warm day but not as sunny as we had hoped. There was a light SE breeze, occasional breaks in the cloud cover and the sea looked calm. There were nine of us altogether which is quite a good group – a record for the ‘North Wales Surf Ski paddlers’ I think. We had an easy paddle out across Colwyn Bay towards the breakwater at Rhos on Sea. I was once again the least experienced paddler there having only started this year but I didn’t get left too far behind. I’m sure they were hanging back for me really though as this was a social paddle and no-one was likely to leave me behind on the high seas!
We rounded the little headland at Rhos on Sea and headed into the choppy waters of the shallow Penrhyn Bay. It got a little more difficult across here thanks to the chop but the cliffs of the Little Orme were getting ever closer.
The Little Orme
Once close to the Little Orme the cliffs provided some welcome shelter and we popped into the small steep-sided bay and pebbly beach of Porth Dyniewaid. There were a few large seals bobbing around here keeping an eye on us and a whole load of walkers up on the cliffs.
We soon set off again though continuing around the high cliffs of the Little Orme. It may be little in name and a much smaller feature than it’s big brother The Great Orme, but it is actually more impressive than its name suggests. The limestone cliffs of the Little Orme rise 141m vertically from the sea. The cliffs were quiet today but during the early summer months they are full with a cacophony of noise from the seabird colonies that nest here, accompanied by an overwhelming stench. There were no kittiwakes or guillemots in residence today though just a few cormorants as we paddled past.
As we left the Little Orme behind us we headed into the calmer waters of Llandudno Bay and made good progress towards the new RNLI station. The brand new Shannon Class lifeboat, the first of its type to be stationed on the Welsh Coast was due to be arriving tomorrow. Hopefully we wouldn’t be in need of it. We stopped briefly just offshore of the RNLI stationed and then started to head back the way we came.
The Journey Back
All was going well on the way back. I did manage to fall off my ski as we rounded the Little Orme but I remounted in no time and only Martin witnessed it. He did also wait to make sure I was OK. I actually felt a little more relaxed once I’d fallen off and coped well with the chop across Penrhyn Bay after that.
Not long after my little swim we were joined by a small pod of dolphins. They followed us for a while and soon there were quite a few of them around as we made our back towards Colwyn Bay.
Back on shore Richard wanted to have a go on my ski. We actually bought our ski’s on the same day, I went for the slightly less stable version (the Knysna BLU) where he had gone for the more stable one (the Knysna RS) – we wanted to see how different they were. I jumped on his and couldn’t believe the contrast, it was a completely different world. It’s a constant battle to stay upright on my boat, it’s very unstable and I spend an immense amount of energy just keeping the thing up the right way. I had felt as though I was getting the hang of it, but was still in awe of how easy everyone else made it look. I was beginning to get to the stage where I could relax a little more in my boat on calm waters, but it was still a practise in concentration once there was any sort of water movement. Many of my paddles are more draining mentally than they are physically simply due to having to concentrate so hard on balance.
Richards boat was a revelation, I was immediately at home in it, there was no chance whatsoever of falling off and I could do whatever I wanted. On my ski, I spend all my time concentrating on staying on and paddling, I can’t do anything else. If I look around too much I fall off, if I try to get a drink from my camelbak I wobble and risk falling off, at some points I can’t really talk to people around me as I need to concentrate on what I’m doing and stay focussed. I certainly can’t stop and look around as stopping makes it even less stable. Getting things out of my pockets would spell disaster, and I’ve never ever attempted to look behind me. Now I could do all of these things. I was chatting away to the others, I took an energy bar out of my pocket opened it and ate it and I was looking back over my shoulder towards the beach at Richard who was still unsuccessfully attempting to get onto my ski.
He did eventually get onto it and wobbled his way out away from the beach a little bit. As a much more experienced paddler I was expecting him to find it easy and put me to shame. That wasn’t the case, he was struggling to just get on it and found it wobbly once he was. He couldn’t quite believe the difference between the two boats either. It was reassuring for me that he was having such a hard time as it suggested that my boat was more of a challenge than I thought it was – I had thought that it was just my lack of skills that made me so wobbly. I’d had also assumed that everyone else that I’d been paddling with had been on boats that were at least as wobbly as mine if not more so. That didn’t seem to be the case. Richards boat was certainly in a completely different league. SImple things like sitting sideways on it were simple, I still haven’t managed to do that on mine! I felt as though I was sitting on a nice safe sofa. I’ve never fallen off a sofa and there was no way I would fall off this. Richard meanwhile had already fallen out of mine and couldn’t get back on so was wading back to the beach defeated and amazed at its instability. Back on the beach he was bowing down to me and saying that he had nothing but respect that I had managed to paddle it through the chop of Penrhyn Bay and around the Little Orme to Llandudno and back.
No one else wanted a go on it after that as they preferred to stay dry, but I did have a go on Martin’s Nordic Kayaks surf ski. I had assumed that this would be more unstable than mine, but once again that was far from being the case. It was nowhere near as stable as Richards Knysna RS but it was a whole lot easier than my surf ski. I didn’t think I had gone for anything particularly advanced when I bought mine, but I didn’t have the chance to try many out either. I had thought that I was feeling so wobbly in it simply due to my lack of skill and that other boats would be at least as unstable if not more so. It would seem as though that isn’t the case and the fact that I’m improving on it is something of a miracle! I guess I’ve had no choice really but I certainly haven’t made things easy for myself. Maybe I need another more stable ski in my fleet? At least having got partially to grips with my current ski will make a more stable boat feel like a walk in the park.
We all got changed and headed to the cafÃ© for coffee and cakes before I started the drive back home. A nice day out exploring the coast of North Wales, nice to see so many other people out, all of whom were keen to do such things more often, and quite an eye-opener as far as the stability of surf skis go.