Symposium in the news

Here is the article published in the Shetland Times 9th July 2010.

Paddling up a storm.

(by Mark Burgess)

Trys Burke puts kayakers at the Shetland Sea Kayak Symposium through their paces during a training exercise.

The Bridge End Outdoor centre was transformed in to a bustling and busy temporary community last weekend as the sixth biennial Shetland Sea Kayak Symposium was hosted in and around the centre by the Shetland Canoe Club. The symposium was comprised of a range of training exercises, talks, presentations and full and half-day kayaking trips around the coast of Shetland. It was attended by 64 people, over half of whom had travelled to Shetland to take part from as far away as Reading, Cumbria, Powys, Bute and Edinburgh. The training sessions, both practical and classroom-based were delivered by five top class UK coaches, three of whom had travelled from Wales and the other two from Scotland, namely: Trys Burke, a Level 5 coach who works with Canoe Wales; Phil Eccles, another level 5 sea kayak coach from the Plas Dol-y-Moch Outdoor Centre accompanied by Martin Waters, a Level 3 coach from the same base; Claire Knifton, another BCU Level 5 who is based at the Loch Eil Centre and Roy Henderson, a freelance operator and also BCU level 5 who runs Sea Kayak Scotland, based in Aviemore. Together their biographies read like a catalogue of adventure stories, each having significant international expeditions and national and international status for training and multi-disciplinary activity.
The training programme, held over four full days, covered everything from basic improvement to basic paddling skills to surfing, incident management, peer rescue and chart work, tidal planning and navigation. Incorporated into the generalised training were the necessary parts of a 4 star leader training course for participants, with the individual aspects of this course open to, and useful for, even the most experienced kayakers to improve their knowledge and skills.
The weekend’s events began on Friday and despite a gloomy overcast morning the day brightened quickly to offer sunshine and ideal moderate winds for marine-based action.
This favourable weather was somewhat short-lived, but as conditions deteriorated on Sunday into a full gale and torrential rain, it served as a perfect measure of the versatility of sea-kayaking as a sport or activity with four groups of kayakers taking to the water, inshore and supervised, to perform challenging training exercises, all of which were successful, leaving the participants with many a tale to tell afterward. Those not so inclined to take the pounding dished out by a typical Shetland summer storm, took to a minibus for a trip to Sumburgh Head, where they were treated to views of both puffins and Killer Whales from the viewpoint.
The evenings were filled with sublime catering, provided by Marina Anderson and her daughter Jill at the Bridge End Hall, followed by presentations from various local and visiting contributors. Prominent among these were Tyrs Burke’s account and photos of a circumnavigation of Tasmania by herself and two fellow female kayakers, the first women to complete this 850 mile paddle; Roy Henderson on kayaking around Cape Farewell in Greenland and Phil Eccles talk on an arctic trip to view Narwhals on the coast of Baffin Island, remote, inaccessible and breathtakingly beautiful. Local contributors Dave Phillips and Jonathan Swale gave talks on marine safety and Shetland’s natural history respectively.
Despite the ever-changing weather many old friendships were rekindled over the weekend, and many new ones made and the quality of content from the coaches and goodly folk attending made for an unbeatable and enjoyable weekend for all. Speaking for the visiting coaches, Roy Henderson reflected “ It’s been great, it really has, in spite of the weather. Everybody’s enthusiasm for paddling and the training sessions has been great. We’ve been made to feel so welcome. I look forward to coming back to work or paddle here again.”
The club would like to thank Hjaltland Sea Farms for sponsoring the event’s promotional t-shirts and express their gratitude to the Community Grant Funding that helped pay for the coaches to attend. Also to the SIC for lending their outdoor pursuit section’s open canoes for training exercises, along with accompanying staff member “John”. Club Chair Julie Phillips would also like to thank her fellow committee members for their work in helping her to put together the event. The Shetland Canoe Club now looks forward to its less formal, annual “Unst weekend”, attracting large numbers of the visiting and local sea-kayakers to enjoy the spectacular coastline of Unst over three days, based from Uyeasound.

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