Posted on Leave a comment

Are you full of Coastal Spirit?

Coastal Spirit…

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?

BIG thanks to P&H Custom sea kayaks for their sponsorship, Mitchelblade kayak paddles, Kokatat paddle wear and of course McConks for their great Paddleboards!

For more information on Coastal Spirit, or to book your adventure visit http://coastalspirit.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/sea.kayaking.northwales

Posted on Leave a comment

Get your big blue adventure: exploring the world through SUP

Every now and then, we’re going to let our blog be taken over by a company that inspires us and who’s principles align with ours. This article, by Big Blue Adventures based in Cardiff South Wales, is the first in the takeover series! Thanks to Dan and Heleen for the article.

‘Exploring through adventure’, that is one of the key elements of the Big Blue Adventures business. It is also how our mantra Explore.Evolve.Enjoy came about, offering people an outdoor adventure with a range of playgrounds to choose from. From surfing on The Gower Peninsula to coasteering in Pembrokeshire and from canyoning in Brecon Beacons to SUP’ing around The Mumbles. These are our core activities in Wales, and this is the playground where Big Blue Adventures was born. And what a playground it is!

SUP is probably the most accessible activity we offer at Big Blue Adventure, which also explains why it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world! But what we have learned from SUP’ing in Wales, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands is that the real magic behind Stand Up Paddleboarding lies in the ease of exploring new countries, cities, beaches; the choices are endless. Because it’s such a rapidly growing water sport, you can now find a SUP instructor or a SUP board hire spot almost everywhere you go, some better than others.

Exploration with Big Blue Adventures
Group adventures: exploring the Big Blue around the Gower Peninsula

SUP’ing really is an activity that is suitable for everyone – you can learn the basics in a day and start enjoying the paddle straight away. And whilst prone surfing (another of our activities) is also great for beginners, and the basics aren’t too hard, when do you have time to stop and take in the views?  You are just looking for that next wave to catch and practice your new skills.

With Stand Up Paddleboarding you have the time to take in your surroundings and even make it a social day out. Sharing a new experience with others is what it’s all about and with SUP you have the chance to do just that.

We think SUP is one of the most fun and unique ways of exploring a country. Of course, wandering around on two feet is a good way to see a city, but isn’t it more exciting to be sightseeing from a SUP board?  You get a different view of the world from the water than on foot, and on a SUP you can often access places and spots that boat tours cannot get to.

One of the most unique SUP’s we have done was through the canals of Amsterdam. You get a completely different view of the city if you’re on a board. Exploring the miles and miles famous canals, away from the hordes of tourists and with wide views of both sides of the waterways! Amsterdam is probably one of the easiest cities in Europe to explore by SUP because there are canals leading you from one side of the city to the other and they can literally take you anywhere in between. It’s even possible to paddle passed famous Dutch landmarks like the Rijksmuseum (one of the most visited art museums in world!) and The Heineken Experience, paddling under little bridges and next to historic buildings. Whilst dozens of tourists passed us by on bikes, we were one of the few out on the water. Many might not know this, but Amsterdam also has a lovely lake area (Sloterplas) with a small beach and it is paddle distance from city centre. This city really offers the best of both worlds; tranquillity and the buzz of the busy streets.

If you fancy exploring with a local guide (one of Big Blue Adventures is a dutch local) then have a look at our Surfenture Holland package.

SUP’ing in Barcelona was slightly different to our Dutch experience. Around famous Barceloneta Beach there are a few places where you can hire a SUP board, we hired one at the Boardriders shop. It’s the busiest beach of the city and sometimes you even struggle to find a place to put your towel down, but surprisingly we were one of only a dozen people out on the water! You might see a fellow SUP’er here and there or someone swimming or Jet skiing but other than that it was pretty much the two of us, the seagulls and the swell. Don’t underestimate a SUP session in Barcelona though, the winds can get pretty strong with your body acting like a sail, it’s a real work-out and sometimes that’s exactly what you are looking for. It’s fun and zen but Stand Up Paddle boarding is also a great all body workout, with the core especially benefitting. SUP’ing around Barceloneta is safe and you don’t need to go far from shore, the beach stretches for a good few miles. Could it get any better:  A sunny SUP session where we discovered some of the beaches next to Barceloneta with hardly any tourists at all, just locals.  And we finished the day off with a cold Estrella and a Paella.  Cliché’d?  Maybe, but a great way to end the day and a well deserved treat after the day’s paddling.

SUP in Barcelona
Finding Big Blue Adventures in Catalonia: follow us on facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

Others say that SUP’ing around the globe might just be the best way of exploring a new destination in a different way.  We know it is.  It sure beats an open top sightseeing bus or Segway tour for us.

 

For further information:

www.bigblueadventures.co.uk
www.facebook.com/bigblueadventureswales
www.twitter.com/bbawales
Instagram @ BigBlueAdventures

Owners of the company:
Daniel Manley (Welsh) & Heleen Lamm (Dutch)
Check our ‘about us’ page: https://www.bigblueadventures.co.uk/aboutbigblueadventurescardiff