By Simon Osbourne of Sea Kayaking Cornwall
When coaching, the most important aspect of the day is to choose the right location to achieve the learning goals of your group. If you get this right everything else just falls into place. Get the wrong location and the day is an uphill battle to achieve the desired outcome.
I have been coaching sea kayaking for over 11 years and love using Cornish waters to help paddlers from all over the world achieve their aims. I have worked all over the globe in a variety of environments but I always love to come home to the diverse and spectacular coasts of Cornwall.
Cornwall is exposed to the deep ocean swells of the Atlantic Ocean, however there are so many options open to us to help kayakers develop leadership and personal skills, rescues or to simply explore. I work with Jeff Allen and together we run Sea kayaking Cornwall based in Falmouth. It has taken quite a few years to really get to know all of the locations and understand when each place will be the best option for the day. From our base in Falmouth we have five main areas to choose from that we use during a course:
Usually sheltered from the Atlantic swells and the prevailing south-westerly winds. There are two main estuaries to explore the Fal and Helford rivers. The area is perfect to be introduced to the discipline of sea kayaking with caves, cliffs, remote beaches and miles of estuaries to explore.
The Lizard Peninsular
The ‘Lizard’ has three sides: east, south and west facing. As you leave the shelter of Falmouth Bay the tide starts to flow. The south has jagged reefs and tidal races that have taken the lives of many crews over the years. However on the right day there are good places to land and launch from, as well as to explore before you head around the corner to the west coast of the Lizard. The west is remote and directly exposed to the western swells, with miles of cliffs occasionally broken by a secluded harbour or sandy beach.
The Lizard then gives way to the sweeping Mounts Bay. Normally the closer you get to Penzance the smaller the surf becomes. Standing proud in the centre of Mounts Bay is the spectacular castle topped isle of St Michaels Mount.
Lands End is simply breath-taking with its blocks of granite towering up from the turquoise waters. The tide can flow strong off the end with tidal races on the main headlands. After the main beach near Lands End as you move north towards St Ives there is little access by road and so, is an area not often paddled that has amazing sea cliffs and a significant tidal race off Pendeen.
The North Coast
This is where the surfers flock for some of the best surf in Europe. There are lots of beaches to choose from with many different characteristics. In-between the many beaches are further sections of spectacular cliffs, which are rarely visited by any other crafts other than the occasional intrepid sea kayaker.
You need the right day but when you are lucky enough to be granted a day with small swells, then you are in for a treat. Out of these main areas there are a few locations that I seem to find myself going back to time and time again. My favourite locations to use for coaching and developing skills are:
Carbis Bay – Godrevy
Carbis Bay is three miles of golden sands in a perfect crescent shape. I am asked to teach many times in the surf and getting on at the west sheltered end of the beach in Carbis Bay and then paddling along the bay until you find the right size surf you are after works nearly every time. Generally it is too big for coaching by the time you get to Godrevy at the far end of the bay. Surf is the best environment to develop your dynamic boat handling skills if you are a sea kayaker and I find that the wide-open sandy beach with clean organized waves are the best environment to relax and learn.
Portreath is the closest place to Falmouth on the north coast and my favourite location in Cornwall. I have never seen another group of kayakers along this section but it is simply incredible as a training ground. There are deep caves, gullies, islands, and areas of clapotis, secret coves and deserted surf breaks. On the right day it gives so many fun spots to practice rescues or timing or to simply enjoy learning strokes along a spectacular coastline.
The Classroom’ – Falmouth
Just off to the right of Swanpool Beach is a small little bay that we call the classroom. It is the most perfect sheltered bay that we use to teach people how to get into sea kayaking as well as practicing advanced rescue skills in the sheltered waters before heading out to pressure test them in the open seas.
Every time I think I know this amazing coastline I spot something new or discover a new gully or visit the same section in different conditions. I don’t think I will ever truly know the Cornish coast but I guess that’s what keeps me interested after so many years and makes sea kayaking so special.