At home, in Northern California, water moves up and down. Once past the surf zone, you can sit and “ride the elevator” as our friend Michael often says.
Mark and I have spent the past week paddling in Wales. From most launch points the water appears as flat as a lake, but don’t let it fool you, because this is where water moves sideways… and I’m starting to really like it!
Our week began with an evening canoe trip down The River Dee. Due to some recent rain, the river had a nice flow, and Ali Othen treated us to an evening of fun as we made our way down the scenic river.
The following day we drove to North Wales where we’d be conducting rolling classes over the weekend. Upon arrival we decided to squeeze in an afternoon paddle around Puffin Island. From the parking lot the water looked flat, and I was expecting a lazy paddle around the island. Once in my kayak however, I realized that crossing to the island had to be done with determination, and a little knowledge of moving water. We ferried across, and began the journey around the island, encountering several puffins along the way. At the far end of the island the seals made an appearance, and we were quickly surrounded by them. Their heads peaked out of the water, and it wasn’t long before they were swimming under us and touching our kayaks with their pointed noses.
At the back end of the island are some overfalls. On this day they weren’t very big, but we bounced around in them for awhile, enjoying the company of the seals, which would poke their heads out of the waves to watch us.
We made our way through the overfalls and to the other side of the island, and enjoyed a leisurely paddle back, with a group of seals following closely behind us. The current had picked up, and the sideways movement of the water from Puffin Island to the mainland was now visibly noticeable. We ferried across, riding the front wave for awhile before landing on the beach.
Over the weekend we ran rolling classes on Anglesey, followed by a paddle to the rocky shore just west of Rhoscolyn Beach. Here we played in slots, tunnels and caves. At home I am very familiar with rock gardens, but here they are different. In Wales slots are often used as escape routes from tide races and overfalls. The water in the caves was flat and smooth, and it was easy to explore and enjoy the magnificent, and often colorful rock formations.
Our final day of paddling took us from Soldier’s Point to North Stack, South Stack, Penrhyn Mawr and back. We worked with the tide, hitting the overfalls at North Stack and the tide race and overfalls at Penrhyn Mawr. The tides weren’t running fast this day, but it was good fun, and a fabulous day to be on the water. The curious thing about surfing in a tide race or overfalls is that the waves stay in place. This took some getting used to because I’d see the mound behind me and paddle forward waiting for it to catch up to me. In reality, I was actually paddling away from it. After a few tries I got used to backing into the wave then moving forward with enough speed to catch it.
On the way back to Soldier’s Point the wind had picked up a bit, and wind and overfalls at South Stack made for an exciting few minutes going around the headland. From there back to the beach it was smooth sailing. After only paddling these waters a few times, I can see why Wales is a top sea kayaking destination.