You know it when you feel it. Whether it be the feeling that you get when you see the mist over the sea at sunrise, the adrenalin rush when you nail that session, or the inspiration you feel watching a watery blood red sunset.
It’s also the name of a great company in North Wales who McConks has been working with for some time now, and who you can’t fail to notice have been appearing in our social media feeds. So we thought you might like to know more about who Coastal Spirit are. Roger Chandler is the founder of Coastal Spirit, and he took some time off the water to answer our questions.
Tell us about your watersports background?
From a small child I loved being in and around water. Apparently it was fairly common for me to create a lot of noise when my parents tried to remove me! It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I took up kayaking and then mainly due to my brother, who was a couple of years younger than me, that I progressed. While paddling just the two of us on Coniston Water, he capsized and as I frantically paddled to rescue him, he then rolled up!! So I joined a club as I couldn’t have my younger brother doing something I had no idea about, and got into white water. We shared some great adventures together. I then got into the dark art of open canoeing and one bladed skills. I discovered I loved the journeying and exploration. This eventually led me on to sea kayaking as the kayak could move faster and was far better suited for rough weather on the coast and open sea!
Talk us through your story: What made you decide to set up Coastal Spirit?
Interestingly I never wanted to run my own company. Three things happened that made me consider life and what was important. 1) a very good friend died of Cancer, he was only 40. 2) I had worked for Raleigh International running the sea kayaking in Chile, Patagonia – it had taken 2.5 years to sort out and get 4 months off. 1.5 years later they pulled out of Chile. 3) I had a bad mountain bike accident in France and as I laid in the ditch, I thought I had broken my back. I had broken my sternum and had whiplash to my neck – 6 weeks off work and physio I was in a much better place!
These three created an understanding, that life can be short, it can change in a moment, that if something is put off it may not happen again. If I couldn’t paddle, that would be very sad. Actions have consequences, good, bad and indifferent.
I was 39 and looking for less stress and a better lifestyle and this was about getting closer to the mountains and the sea. There were fewer job opportunities in North Wales to do that as part of a company, so starting a company and throwing myself into it had to work.
Have you always been in North Wales?
Since 1990 I have worked in the outdoors. I’ve lived in the Lake District, Shropshire, Lancashire and the Forest of Dean, before moving to North Wales.
2017 is 10 years for Coastal Spirit. Before that I spent many hours driving up and down the motor ways, having been white water paddling, rock climbing, hill walking or sea kayaking up here.
What keeps you off the water?
Ha, ha, good question. Not much, illness and my accounts!
When did you first come across SUP?
About 2 years ago down in South Sands, Salcombe. An area we tended to go down to with good friends, for the last 15 plus years. I hired a paddleboard for a half day and to be honest had a nightmare. There was a small swell running and I couldn’t stand up. Really!! As far as I was concerned that was it. Until last April 2016 when Jack Hewlett, who I’ve grown up with being around and sharing adventures, was working with me on the British Canoeing 3* performance sea kayak award. In his down time he took to a paddleboard. I was inspired, borrowed his board and managed 50 minutes, BOOM!
Is SUP strictly personal, or do you think it will become part of your business?
In many ways it would make a lot of sense to create a new element in my business. Yet if I come back to why I started Coastal Spirit, it was for a better balance and quality of life. At the moment it is strictly personal and to be honest I’m keen for it to remain there. I’m more than happy for friends and clients to paddle the McConks boards I now have. I really believe more paddlers, sea kayakers will take it up. Storing a sea kayak can be a challenge and there is far less kit with paddle boarding. Although at the same time, never say never!
Where does paddleboarding fit for you?
Since buying a board last May, it’s given me another playful focus and paddleboarding fits really well for me, on those calmer days where I could get bored in a sea kayak after 10 days coaching sea kayaking. I see paddleboarding as an exercise, rather than going to the gym. It’s a new challenge. I only need 2-3 hours and if I take the board into the faster flows of The Swellies, then it can still feel mellow. In the Winter I’m working on downwind runs and seeing what I can manage. It feels exciting to be learning a new skill again. The reality is I’m on the water more now, than I was even 1 year ago!
Why do you think paddleboarding has become so popular?
It looks believable and easy. There is minimal amount of kit, so less faff and no real technical skill needed to begin with, other than balance! There is also more social media coverage of some amazing stuff on paddleboards now.
Coastal Spirit. What are your aspirations for the future?
Keep doing what I’m doing, listen to clients and hear what they want, keep pushing sea kayak mentoring – an area I love. Keep the balance between, work and play. Ensure more adventures happen and kindle my passion.
Any changes for 2017?
Focused & Specific is a new range of courses, that aims to address areas that clients have said they want, or have difficulties with. Surf & Tide-races is one of those courses and with a ratio of 1:4. Last year I ran four weekends and they went down really well. I tend to start off with a brief performance psychology input over coffee and then we look for the best location for the waves. It’s been a very popular course and great fun.
In-Bedding the 10 items of plastic to collect on each course and I’m really pleased with the response. I’ve probably been doing it for the last 2 years and now I’m really encouraging it. Just keep a plastic bag or two in a hatch.
Who are your paddling heroes and why?
Not sure if I’ve got paddling heroes but my first hero probably was my action man. Yep, I played with a doll! He did everything and spent a number of summers in the paddling pool, having super adventures. On from there was the Operations Manager at Outward Bound Eskdale, Tony Shepard – he was an excellent climber leading E5, super white water paddler and was just getting into para gliding. He could also speak confidently to a management group and demonstrated a whole set of rounded skills.
Thanks and shouts?