Sea kayaking and sea kayak coaching in Scotland

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All about sea kayaking.- A special kind of freedom

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At one with the sea: Imagine yourself gliding along the surface of the sea close to a rocky shoreline. As you pass the headland of a small island, you come across a group of seals just a few kayak lengths away. Cormorants are diving and feeding around you. Away to the west, you can see the silhouette of the mountains of Mull. The late afternoon sun paints patterns on the water as gannets wheel above you

Sea Kayaking is one of the fastest growing water sports. It particularly appeals to people who like to get out into wild and beautiful places without the artificiality, smell and noise of an engine. In a sea kayak, you can explore fascinating islands, coastlines and sea lochs with the freedom to go where no other form of transport can take you. Kayaking can be serene, a peaceful  way of moving through the marine landscape. But if you like excitement, Atlantic waves and the wild tide races of Argyll will provide plenty of challenge for your skill and taste for adventure.

Sea kayaking Scotland Rassay Otter portrait w2.jpg (175715 bytes) Wildlife friendly  Kayaks are almost silent, create no fumes and leave no trace. Wildlife will often tolerate the close presence of kayaks, when they would flee from anything else. Some seabirds seem to be completely unafraid of kayaks, though we will still take care not to disturb then. Seals and dolphins often swim nearer to get a better look. In some places, grey seals will even come and nuzzle your kayak! Despite their shyness and relative scarcity, we have had over 30 otter sightings in the last year on Seafreedom trips. But, we believe that it is vital to avoid disturbance of wildlife. We are visitors in their environment. We hold WiSe accreditation and have been trained in "Leave no trace" practices. We are constantly seeking ways to give our clients a good wildlife experience without causing disturbance. Please have a look at the notes at the bottom of this page and visit the Scottish Canoe Association's guide to good environmental practice.
What's different about sea kayaks? Sea kayaks differ from other kayaks in that they are generally longer (usually about 5 to 6 meters) They are sleek and fast with hatches and water tight compartments for storing camping equipment and supplies. If you have paddled general purpose kayaks before, you will be amazed by how smoothly a sea kayak cuts through the water. They have lower "initial stability" than general purpose and most white water kayaks. Paradoxically, this makes them more stable in a rough sea. It is important to match the client to the appropriate design of kayak. If the kayak hull has the right volume for you, it will feel more stable and easier to control in more challenging conditions. We have a wide range of sea kayaks so that you can paddle something that is right for you.  
Sea kayaks off Iona_Nick and Richard 07.jpg (192261 bytes) The Rough and the Smooth: Of course, it isn't always calm. It wouldn't be as much fun if it was. Because of the hull shape, the compartments and because of the spray decks that we wear to seal the cockpit opening, sea kayaks are amazingly seaworthy. Assuming of course that the paddler has developed the skill required to handle the conditions. An experienced paddler who has taken the time to learn appropriate techniques can handle remarkably rough conditions and strong winds. Once the Eskimo roll has been mastered (a technique for righting the kayak after a capsize without getting out of the kayak) we can go and play in the tide races, surfing the waves and riding the currents.
Sea kayaking Scotland Kerrera Shawn in the rain w2.jpg (229791 bytes) Weather conditions: Rain is no problem at all. Once you have got your gear on and you are in your kayak, it can rain all it likes and it won't make any difference. In light rain, we find that clients often don't even notice. Paddling a kayak in heavy rain is a unique and enjoyable experience - no really, it is! Of course it is important to keep warm. A couple of layers of fleece under your paddling jacket usually does the trick in all but the coldest conditions. We provide dry suits* when appropriate, so that you can keep dry even if you manage to fall in. We also have "pogies" to keep your hands warm in the winter.

*to be more accurate and to manage customer expectations.... they are "Kayaking specific surface immersion semi-dry suits" and they don't really keep you totally dry For normal paddling they will keep you mostly dry. If you do go for a swim in them or if we paddle in very rough water, you might get a bit damp. But they are a lot better than just wearing a jacket

Small craft for great journeys: Some astonishing feats have been achieved in se kayaks, for example, there have been a number of circumnavigations of the UK, Australia, South Island of New Zealand, Cape Horn and crossings of the North Sea, the Irish Sea, Tasman sea. Unbelievably, in 2001, Peter Bray paddled the North Atlantic. In 2006, Patrick Winterton paddled to Mingulay, St Kilda, The Flannans, Butt of Lewis, Cape Wrath, the Orkneys, Fair Isle and the Shetlands all in one Trip! In 2010 he paddled from the outer Hebrides to the Faroe islands. Seafreedom staff have crossed the Minch to the outer Heb's several times. Carol has paddled right round Corsica. But most people are very happy to use their kayaks for coastal rambles. In kayaks, we can paddle between the sea stacks of Anglesey, visit otherwise inaccessible islands in the Hebrides and penetrate the deep sea lochs of the west coast of Scotland.
Megan 2 e.jpg (91688 bytes) World class training: Learning to paddle a sea kayak is not difficult, but it's not obvious. Some of the correct techniques are contra-intuitive, so it pays to get proper tuition so that you don't acquire bad habits. And of course, safety is extremely important. Sea kayaking in the UK has an excellent safety record, largely due to the well thought out and carefully structured coaching scheme operated by the British Canoe Union. The BCU has established exacting standards for kayak instructors and controls the award of qualifications. The BCU system is arguably the best in the world and it's qualifications are accepted almost everywhere. The sea is a serious place to be. There are risks and traps for the unwary. A novice setting off from a holiday beach on a seemingly calm day can find himself in big trouble when the tide turns and takes him into the overalls or clapotis ( rough water created by waves reflecting from cliffs). But a paddler who has learned with a BCU coach will be aware of the risks and have the skills and techniques that turn a threat into a bit of fun.

We are all enthusiastic exponents of "individualized coaching" and take pride in finding coaching techniques that are just right for you.

Kayaking and Fitness: You don't need to be super fit or made of India rubber to enjoy sea kayaking. Even relatively unfit people can usually manage 5 or 6 miles paddling after a couple of days. Stamina and flexibility are more useful than strength as good technique takes care of the effort. An experienced and reasonably fit paddler will comfortably manage 15 to 20 miles a day and experts frequently paddle 30 or more. Being seriously overweight can create a few challenges but isn't an insupperable problem. If you would like to know more about this (or anything else) please give us a call.
Finding your way: Sea kayak navigation is an art in itself. At the simple end of the spectrum, the ability to use an OS 1:50,000 map and a compass, together with an appreciation of tides and their effects would be adequate. A paddler undertaking advanced trips will need an intimate knowledge of the ways of flowing water, the ability to read charts and plot a course, asses conditions and use a GPS. Night paddling is fun!

Want to know more? Have a look at Frequently asked Questions, email or call us on 01631 710173

* Wildlife Notes.

Kayakers should be careful not to cause stress to wildlife. They live there. We are the visitors. We must treat wildife with consideration and respect. Never chase or paddle an interception course with an animal. If you happen to get close, back off if the animal shows any sign of agitation. You will get a better view if you just sit quietly in your kayak. Better still, keep your distance and use water proof binoculars (we can provide them). Whatever you are watching, even if it doesn't seem aware of you, limit your time and let them be.

Seals (in the water) and dolphins are curious and if they don't feel threatened they will probably come to you. Seals, when they are hauled out on rocks, are very nervous of kayaks . If they stare at you - back off, you are too close. If they feel threatened and get into the water you are at least inconveniencing them and possibly harming them by reducing their recuperation time.

Dolphins and Porpoises are well aware of your prescence. If you try and go to them you may disturb or distress them. Be patient and they may come closer to you. But be very circumspect. You don't get any idea of how big Dolphins are until they jump out of the water right beside you. You really wouldn't want to be in the way when they land. 

Birds. Before landing on small islands between May and August, check that there are no nesting seabirds or chicks.  If you find 

Otters Take delight in seeing them but limit the time that you watch them and don't keep coming back as they may feel pressured and abandon their territory.

Basking Sharks. Are quite tolerant of kayaks and unlike boats with propellers, we don't represent a danger to them. But avoid paddling on an interception course or following them. And don't touch them. They don't have teeth, but a flick of their tail if they are upset could be a seriously unpleasant experience.

Please be responsible and protect our wild environment.
Take only pictures and leave nothing more than footprints.

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