The Paddler magazine asked 26 world-class sea kayakers two questions, “Which is your favourite location and why?” Mark Tozer, Martin Rickard, Ollie Jay, Sean Morley, Simon Osbourne and Tara Mulvany gave us their answers…
“For us, Greenland is a place of great contrast, and it’s coastal waters offer sea kayakers some of the finest paddling experiences in the world. A combination of incredible mountains and seascapes together with the ancient settlements existing side-by-side with contemporary Greenlandic life will capture hearts and minds.
“Whether gliding over mirror-like fjords at sunset, or battling through moving pack ice in stormy tidal passages, time spent traversing its shorelines will not be easily forgotten. An aspect that always captures our imagination is the sense of wonder in following the routes set out by such explorers as Knud Rasmussen and Gino Watkins.
“By travelling to Greenland, we also hope to take back knowledge to help keep traditions alive and accurately portray the Inuit culture through attending such things as the Greenland National Kayak Championship. Wherever we go, we find intense contrasts and beauty. The wildlife, miles of unpopulated shoreline, the calving glaciers and icebergs, as well as stunning light conditions make for a rich and varied time on land and water.”
Angmagssalik region, Greenland
“For those who know me and especially those who have joined me out there, it will be no surprise that my all time favourite paddling destination is the Angmagssalik region on the east coast of Greenland. In this day and age it’s easily accessible, but still retains a very remote and wild atmosphere.
“The scenery is second to none, huge cliffs and rugged snow capped mountains where good landings can be few and far between, while inland fjords provided equally spectacular, but more sheltered paddling and access to small remote settlements where the hunting culture is still very strong.
“The Greenland ice cap is stunning, and creates the many huge ice bergs we paddle amongst. Sea ice creates a constantly changing environment, experiencing the ice is one of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of padding in this area. Camp sites are spectacular often with good fishing and just enough wood for a small fire.
“The abundance of ancient settlement sites, turf houses and burial tombs highlight the fascinating history and culture of this amazing area. I have been visiting this area regularly since 2000 – and now guide trips each summer – it’s different every time – I’m hooked.”
West coast of Hoy Scotland, United Kingdom
“My favourite paddle location has to be down the West coast of Hoy. Quite an exposed section of coastline that has been hammered by Atlantic swell for many thousands of years, not unique in the UK but the view of the Old Man of Hoy (137m – UK’s tallest sea stack) is stunning from the water.
“Starting at the Bay of Creekland, the 10 kms of huge cliffs you encounter before you reach the Old Man has some fantastic caves and one huge arch that can be navigated in most conditions as it lies west to east. As you go through it you just think of the immense forces that have created it. After passing the old man you then have the potentially interesting landing on the storm beach of Rackwick Bay.
“A very interesting lunch spot with bags of history – visit the Cra’as Nest museum to find out more about crofting life before the clearances. Once refreshed a further 20kms will get you round the bottom corner back to some shelter at Aith Hope after less stunning but equally interesting cliffs with very little chance of landing anywhere unless completely calm.
“An amazing 30kms of paddling for the more experienced paddler – best done with a bit of swell in my opinion.”
Point Bonita California United States
“Marking the north side of the entrance to the Golden Gate, Point Bonita is a spectacular outcrop of pillow basalt topped by what was once the last manned lighthouse on the California coast.
“This fact hints at the potentially treacherous nature of this unique location. Why unique? Well, possibly nowhere else do you find the interaction of the greatest natural forces on earth so beautifully displayed and yet enhanced by man’s own contribution.
“Tide, wind and swell collaborate to erode rock thrust upwards by tectonic forces defined by the San Andreas Fault that divides the earth’s crust just a couple of miles offshore. Despite this, man has created one of the most recognizably stunning architectural wonders of the world. Point Bonita offers one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge with Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline as a backdrop.
“The Pacific Ocean has carved many exciting features into the rocks of the Marin Headlands, none more spectacular than the natural arch that adorns the rocky cove overlooked by the lighthouse. Long period swell from the north west is persistent in the winter and south swell is not uncommon in summer.
“As a general rule, anything more than 10-foot at 10 seconds will shut down all the best features. There are more complex rock garden areas on California’s west coast but Point Bonita is all about power and beauty and should always be treated with respect.”
Finistère, Brittany, France
“I have been taking groups to Brittany for many years and it is always a highlight of my calendar. The incredible variety of environments is what makes it special for me. The tidal races of Pointe du Raz are simply breathtaking. The tide rips around the headland over a series of jagged rocks that stretch out into the Atlantic.
“Combine this with exposure to the North Atlantic swells, it is a testing environment on even the calmest days. The rock hopping is some of the best I have ever found in the world with miles and miles of coastline with stacks caves and arches. Top this off with lots of sheltered water options and surf beaches you really can find some great paddling whatever the weather.”
Fiordland southern New Zealand
“Because it’s like the final frontier, you can go paddling for weeks, even months and barely see anyone. It’s wild, remote and incredibly beautiful and for more days than not, the weather forecast is for storm or gale warning in force, torrential rain and 5+metre seas.
“Vertical walls of the fiords are covered in thick rainforest and you can paddle under plummeting waterfalls, beside snow covered mountains and up meandering rivers. Then in the evenings you can light raging bonfires on beaches and cook your catch of the day – the biggest blue cod you’ll ever see!
“It’s a place you can go to escape and immerse yourself in the wilderness, where life is simplified and everything around you is raw and powerful.
“When the storms come so do the birds, and huge albatross come out to play. On calm days you’ll see seals lazing on the rocks, penguins hopping up into the undergrowth to their burrows, and if you’re lucky, you can surf the wakes of the dolphins. It doesn’t get much better than that.”