Riding the Elephant: Moderate Water Skills Weekend, Wales, May 2023

CKC organised a club skills weekend in Pembrokeshire, focused on developing paddling skills on the sea. The plan was for both less experienced paddlers and more experience paddlers to be able to gain new skills and practice old skills in a safe environment, with external coaches. This meant that everyone was challenged at least a bit, but without the peer pressure to do too much beyond each individual skill level.

The result was a great success with everyone coming away from the weekend much more confident and better paddlers. With a rockhopping focused first day and a trip over to Skomer on the second day, everyone loved the weekend, as these comments for CKC club members show:

“As usual loved spending a weekend with the members of CKC. My favourite moments were practicing self rescues, braving gullies with large wave surges, capsizing in a gully and gaining confidence in knowing I can exit and re-enter my boat in such a situation. Also managing to paddle in rough water and ferry glide across a tide race in Jack Sound. I was in awe of the beauty of Skomer and its wildlife, and being able to paddle alongside puffins, seal’s and porpoises and realise how fortunate we were to circumnavigate the island with local guides and instructors to keep us safe. All in all thrilling and magical!”


“I’m a novice kayaker and I really enjoyed the weekend. I appreciated the opportunity of playing on the sea. I trusted the guides and found myself rock hopping around tight corners as waves were breaking. Yikes. And bizarrely I wasn’t scared. I loved it. And this experience gave me the self-belief and confidence to cross Jack Sound and be with puffins. Absolutely amazing.”

“I’m a beginner as well, having been out on the sea only a few times and had a great time. Rock hopping was fun, and the guides were really skilled in helping you develop your skills. But the highlight for me was the trip to Skomer, across Jack Sound, a tricky stretch of water with several tidal races that I didn’t think would be possible, but was totally within reach. We were rewarded by having reached the north shore of Skomer and kayaking with puffins!”

“Highlights for me were a few sea kayaking firsts – first time in sea caves, being close to a tide race in a boat, as well as being coached through my first self rescue with a paddle float. Also kayaking amongst the puffins by Skomer island was a fantastic experience 🙂 Great to paddle with other club members as always and the guidance from the sea kayaking coaches was excellent.”

“A wonderful weekend of relaxed learning focused on rockhopping and handling tide races. Rockhopping is always fun and one of the best bits was discovering how to judge the swell to swish through on the surge. Turns out the best moment to set off into a feature is often when all the water has been sucked out (which feels counter-intuitive) as the next wave is just behind you. But there are exceptions, double surges and a whole world of new things to learn. Crossing the tide race to Skomer Island was less scary than anticipated (phew!) and doubly interesting on the way back when the water was ‘misbehaving’. With the tide flowing north, why were we pushed south? A bit of wind against tide and some strong back-eddies around the smaller islands. It all highlighted the skills and local knowledge of our three excellent coaches. A great weekend. I’m looking forward to doing more rockhopping to build up my skills.”

“It was super to be led by such experienced and professional guides who know the area so well. Really fun playing in the tide races knowing they were ready to rescue us if needed, and amazing to kayak around Skomer island. Big thanks to CKC for organising the weekend.”

“The feeling of being in a gully, when the sea floods in is a bit like riding on an elephant as it stands up!”

“An amazing weekend on the Pembrokeshire coast, I achieved more than I thought I was capable of. Thanks to one of our fabulous guides, (Lucas) who didn’t let on that we wouldn’t be bypassing the tidal race that stood between us at Jack Sound -between the Isle of Skomer and Wales, as expected, but would be running it full on, with all the thrill and excitement that a tidal race has to offer. Lucas said after all our successful crossings, he knew we had the ability and trusted us to complete the passage, which we all did. Everything I have ever learnt about kayaking came back in a rush and helped facilitate a very exciting culmination to an amazing weekend, thank you CKC!”

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