Archive for September, 2008


The Bitches – the Welsh Equivalent of Skook

Courtesy Photo from Chris Constantine on a higher tide

I’ve heard stories of them, seen pictures of them, read the guidebook entry on them, checked out their website, but nothing can quite prepare you for them. You just have to go. I’m talking about the Bitches, a tidal race that forms between the mainland of West Wales and Ramsey Island, about 1 km off shore. after checking the tides (6.2 m), swell (< 0.5 ft) and wind (< 0.5 knots), we were on for an early Sunday session and Chris assembled a group of experienced paddlers, from South Wales and Aberystwyth Uni.

The paddle out began before sunrise – quite impressive given the previous night’s session at the pub in St Davids. Nothing like being on the water at 6:45 am to blow the cobwebs (and hangover) away. We launched from St Justinian’s, under the life boat ramp (about 4 h before high tide). The paddle out was flat calm and allowed time to take in the beauty of the area. It took about 40 minutes to paddle to the island and we stopped in the harbour to stretch our legs, closely followed by a rather large grey seal (i think)- about the size of a Jackson Allstar.

Photos by Kate & Chris (L to R): Seal in harbour; the eddy; the hole.

As the tide rises, and the series of protruding rocks submerge, the bitches is transformed into a playboating dream. Currents were funky, eddy-lines boilely, undefined and swirly, whirlpools were fun and unpredictable, but the main focus was on “Bitches Hole” and the “Top Wave”. We watched the sea go from flat calm to a big choppy mess, but as this happened, the features began to form. We played hard on the surgey hole as we waited for the Top Wave to form.

Photos by Kate & Chris (L to R): Gavin (Rhondda paddlers) surfing; me back surfing; Chris about to blunt

As time ticked, I kept looking over towards the Top Wave, willing it to form, but on this occation, we were dennied. Hopefully next time.

Photo: Top wave, not quite forming.

But I think that by looking at Nicki and Chris, you can tell how happy we all were to be there!


West is Best (for surf)

No-matter where i live in the world (Wales, USA, England), it always seems that I head west to surf.  Yesterday was no exception. We drove through Swansea to check out Langland and Caswell Bay’s. I’d forgotten how lovely the Welsh Coast is. We decided on Caswell and headed out for a 3 hour session. I hadn’t surfed welsh waters for over 8 years and so as Chris and I headed out, it felt like it was an extra special treat. Although the swell was really small, it felt good to get some salt back in my kayak kit and I had one of the best, clean sessions I’ve had for some time. Thanks Chris for introducing me to these local places!

Photos (L to R); Langland Bay; Caswell surfers: Chris’ colour co-ordination


The Tawe Trio

It’s fun being back in Wales and exploring new play spots- all thanks to Chris and Sam showing me where they are. I headed to the Tawe, Swansea on Saturday with those guys to go for a couple of rides. It just so happens that the play spots are just upstream of Swansea Canoes- handy if you forget your nose plugs. The feature consists of 3 weirs in quick succession. Chris said that the three features may all work at once (like the were on Sat.); at higher levels, the top and middle features work and at lower levels the bottom works (correct me if I’m muddled up Chris/ Sam).

Photos of top weir (L to R): Chris’ low angle cartwheel; plenty of room for all.

The middle weir was super fun. It is quite fast and has a nice pile. It reminds me of Spencer’s in Oregon. It is definitely deep enough to loop here. It’s important to go surfers left on the pile to loop, or you’ll hit a submerged rock. Chris was getting some ends here too. I think this will quickly become my favourite local play spot.

Photos of Middle weir (L to R): Sam above the weir; after he’d run it.

The bottom weir was fun to front surf and practice edge control. towards the end of our sesh the river level had dropped a bit, the wave steepened and Chris and I were trying some blunts. Chris invented a new move and called it a McFluffy. I cant remember how its done but at least its got a warm and fuzzy name.

Photo: Sam surfing; Chris dropping in.


The Alpkit Freestyle Competition

The original plan for the event was to use “muncher” hole, but given the river levels (which floods from the bottom of the course upwards) this was not possible. As a result, the initial rounds of the freestyle event were run on the entry hole (2 rides) followed by two rides on the lower wave (45 secs). Having never played here before, I took two practice rides on the upper hole. It is the deepest hole I have ever been in. No fear of whacking the bottom of my boat and loops here are incredibly easy and clean. It was fantastic to see the pros/ GB team competing and learning how they utilize the feature. Clean cartwheels, McNasties, loops, airloops, phonics monkeys, space godzillas, back loops- you name it; we saw it; men and women!


The lower wave was very fun. There is a nice surfer’s left shoulder that it was possible to get right blunts off. During my rides, I tried to back-stab but it didn’t quite work. Most of the GB ladies team were there and were getting nice clean spins, blunts. Fun times. Suffice to say I didn’t make the ladies final- or come anywhere close to that.  However, it was great to see the GB team member’s routines and cheer them on- well done ladies; excellent performance. I think the ladies winner was the super friendly Clare O’Hara.


The boater-X was an entertaining event and game some interesting viewing.


I don’t know the overall results of the competition as left early, but I’m sure they’ll be up on some website somewhere soon.


Visiting the National Whitewater Centre, Nottingham, UK

I was lucky enough to be up in Nottingham this weekend for the 3rd round of the Alpkit plastic fantastic series of freestyle events. It was subtitled the “UK Festival of Freestyle” with invites to international paddlers to attend. The well organized event attracted paddlers (with over 60 entries) from around the UK and Germany. The river was at a high level, due exorbitant rainfall we’ve been receiving in the UK. Consequently, water quality was rather poor. Squawk on the street was to drink as much coca-cola as possible to kill the bugs, before hopping on and when hopping off the river. Suffice to say, I was well caffeinated throughout the day. I took a few photos of the course; the place where Britain’s Olympic hopefuls train.

Photos (L to R): The course; flooded course; alpkit spectator tent


Playboating in Pontypridd

Its been pretty much non-top rain since I returned to the green, green grass of home. I’ve had nearly a month off boating and its been tough. However, last Sunday, I was fortunate enough to get out with the Cardiff Canoe Club to a weir on Taff, close to Pontypridd. It’s good to know that there is some playboating 15 miles from my parents house. Spinning at the weir was proving a bit challenging for me, but several of the CCC members could do it. Cant wait to get out again!

Photos (l to r): Alen w/ old skool moves; the CCC crew; Alen surfin’