I’ve had a keen interest in outdoor pursuits for as long as I can remember, but it really got going when I joined the Scouts at a young age. There I recall learning a great many skills through our walking and camping activities which are still of value to me today. I took up kayaking through Scouts too, completing a BCU 2 star course at Marlow on the River Thames sometime in the early 1980’s, in a new-fangled plastic Dancer kayak. I have a certificate, but unfortunately there’s no date. Not living near enough to a suitable venue, I didn’t do a lot of paddling, but took opportunities now and then when they presented.
I thought about taking up kayaking more seriously whilst at university, but was instead drawn at that time to caving. I spent the next 10 years of my life underground, mostly in the Yorkshire Dales, south Wales and Mendips, but also on summer expeditions to Austria exploring undescended holes in the limestone pavements on Loser, near Salzburg, with the Cambridge University Caving Club.
Some time after moving to Dublin, Ireland, in 2000, I decided I really ought to make use of the sea, since I was then living within 10 minutes of it. I happened to be pottering along the wall at Bullock Harbour with my daughter one day when I came across Des Keaney, offering courses in sea kayaking. I more or less signed up on the spot and so in spring of 2006 I took up sea kayaking after a 15+ year break and later that same year achieved ICU level 3. (I actually also took a couple of courses in sailing, the same year. They were fun too and I wouldn’t mind doing some more, but one can’t do everything.)
I shortly joined both East Coast Sea Kayaking club and the Irish Sea Kayaking Association and spent the next 7 years paddling with them in Irish waters, often locally near Dublin and frequently twice-a-week, occasionally travelling away for the weekend to the west coast. I took part in one 10-day expedition with a small group to the Faroe Islands. Over time I organised and led many club trips and eventually served as chair of ECKSC for a couple of years.
Now I am based in Bath, often paddling with Bath Canoe Club and still, despite the relatively long drive to the brine, sea kayaking. I’m mostly paddling around the south west corner of the UK, anywhere from the Isle of Wight, through Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and up to south Wales and round as far as Pembrokeshire. I don’t get out as much as I used to, but have still managed a few trips further away to the Scilly Isles (including a 44km crossing from Sennen Cove on the mainland), the west coast of Scotland, near Oban, and last year back to Connemara in the west of Ireland.
Although sea kayaking is not my day job, professionally I’m a silicon chip design engineer, my skills have continued to develop slowly to the point that I hold a BCU 5-star Sea Kayak Leader award and I’m now also a recognised British Canoeing / UKCC level 3 sea kayaking coach. Sea kayaking continues to be for me a rewarding and challenging break from sitting behind a desk.