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Irish Sea Kayaking Association

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Medicine

Kayaking Injuries- Kayak Fishing- Birdlife in WinterRotator Cuff- Elbow Problems- Wrist Problems

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Hi folks, Welcome to TnadT. This issue is themed around the medical aspects of kayaking. I initially envisaged an issue that would cover all the emergencies faced by kayakers but it soon became apparent to me that your best way of learning those skills is to do a REC or similar outdoor skills course. I know from experience that reading it on a page is poor substitute for practicing the skills on a course (or in real life). So if you want to learn how to relocate a dislocated shoulder, manage a spinal injury or stop bleeding, do a REC course. Instead the focus has shifted toward those medical aspects of kayaking unlikely to be covered in a first aid course. We focus on those issues which most kayakers get which over time can seriously interfere with your paddling. We have excellent contributions from Dr. Robert Scanlon, a GP and from Eoin Ó Conaire, a chartered physio. We also have an excellent article from Sean Pierce on winter bird life and another from Gary Robinson on fishing from a kayak. This will be my last TnadT as editor. Hopefully, I have made some useful contribution to the community and certainly the feedback I have received has been great. I took on the role as editor when it was vacant. I saw it as an excellent and selfish opportunity to expand my knowledge of the sport and pick the brains of the many experts out there on any topic I saw fit. My “themed” idea for issues did result in neglecting the community aspect of the magazine ( I was of the opinion that the BB had taken over this role). However, future editors will put their stamp on the magazine. Sue Honan is taking over from me. She has a fantastic vision for the magazine and will be a great editor. The main difficulty for her, as for myself and every previous editor, is to find articles for the issue. Please contribute. Even if you are new to the sport, and I do feel I neglected the newcomer aspect during my tenure, please contribute. Finally, my thanks to two ISKA committees I served with and my great thanks to those who contributed to the magazine, many of whom contributed more than once. I do intend maintaining the online repository of the TnadT articles for the next while. Tadhg 2!

Blisters Regarding blisters, prevention is better than cure. The best form of prevention is habituation. The more regularly you paddle, the less likely you are to get a blister. Blisters can appear when you change any single thing about your paddling. Change your grip, your feather, your blade size, your finger grip and you almost guarantee yourself a blister. Even if paddling regularly, a change from fresh water to salt water can produce one. So paddler regularly and try not to change your gear. Don't underestimate a blisters ill effects especially in multiday paddling, they can seriously affect your grip strength which in turn can affect your stability in the boat. Gripping the paddle too tight all the time can predispose you to blistering. Try to use a looser grip and keep as loose as possible during the recovery phase of the stroke. Gloves and pogies. Gloves obviously provide a sacrificial layer between you and the shaft. If you already have the blisters, they can still hurt, even under the gloves, so if a strategy, use early. A downside of gloves is that they prevent the habituation necessary to prevent blisters. Pogies, useful this time of year for the weather, can make the hands very warm and moist, predisposing you to blistering. If you have large hands, consider enlarging the paddle shaft with a fingerboard and some large volume tape like tennis racket tape. Some paddlers advocate using Vaseline on the hands. You apply it about half an hour prior to paddling. By the time you get on the water, it should be well enough absorbed not to interfere with your grip. I also use a strategy of wiping my hands over my hair and face every hour or so. This provides a small amount of sebum- the natural oil our skin produces to keep itself supple and waterproof- which I find often provides enough lubrication of prevent blistering. Some paddlers argue that keeping a very clean smooth shaft helps reduce friction and thus blistering. I tend to adopt the opposite strategy. I have a very “grippy” shaft utilising physio' strapping tape. I find that more more grip available on the paddle,


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the looser I can hold it, thus preventing blisters. There are now some commercial anti blister stickers available such as “Moleskin,� which come in waterproof variety. I haven't used them so cant comment. Early Intervention. My number one intervention is wrapping the digit in electrical tape. It's narrow enough to fit on a digit but not interfere with a finger joint. A second intervention is to remove any feather in the paddle blade. This can be useful for inner thumb blisters. Cure; The main question is to burst or not to burst. The jury is still out. However, if I have a blister and access to a small alcohol wipe and sterile needle, I will, after sterilising the area, tend to puncture the blister in a couple of corners, point the needle up and away from the digit. A blood blister is obviously more serious. I still adopt the above strategy as regards bursting but the chances of the skin readhering are much smaller. Time to consider electrical tape or gloves. I would tend to adopt a more intensive strategy if I the blistering was severe and I wasn't paddling the next day. Extensive dressings aren't practical if you need to paddle again the next day. Wash your hands thoroughly and the affected area gently. Sterilise the top of the blister with an alcowipe. Wear disposable surgical gloves. Sterilize a thin disposable needle with alcohol or a flame (the carbon left on the needle from the flame is sterile). Obviously leave alone if coming from sealed sterile packaging. Try not touch the sterile needle off anything. Penetrate the blister through the dead skin, pointing the needle away from the blister. Then gently eject the fluid. A couple of punctures might be a better strategy rather than a single one and lots of pressure to eject fluid. (An excessive amount of pressure might further tear off the overlying skin.) After the fluid is ejected, I will apply a slightly tight circumferential plaster which hopefully will prevent fluid reaccumulating- some suggest using a donut type plaster over the blister but my issue here is that the fluid can re-accumulate under the skin again. With a bit of luck, the skin above the blister will re-adhere, recover and give protection for the next 3!

days paddling. Some electrical tape protection the next day usually gets me through. Sometimes, the pain or loss of mobility caused by the blister requires draining the bleb: Broken blister. These are more serious in that the chances of skin readhereing are smaller and there exists the chance of infection past the broken skin especially if outdoors. Infection is a serious, potentially tripending problem. Use only sterile supplies with an open wound. Your management depends on the medical supplies you have. If you have only sterile dressing (boiling cloth for five minutes will sterilise cloth), the best strategy is probably to clean and cover. Replace sterile dressings daily. Get yourself to a doctor. If you have access to medical supplies, then the better strategy may be to remove the dead skin (as it can act as a focus for infection). I will usually wait a day or two to decide whether or not to remove the dead skin. It can offer some protection in the early stages, and often in some small blisters, slight shearing off of the blister doesn't mean it cannot re-adhere. If you need to remove the dead skin- it smells or is simply drying up, follow the below procedure; Wash your hands and the affected area thoroughly. Wear disposable surgical gloves. Trim off the dead skin with a sterile disposable scalpel or sterilized scissors. Dont damage or tear anything close to healthy skin. Remove any debris by soaking in warm, sterile water (cooled boiled water) or by irrigating with a large-gauge syringe or a bag with a hole. Cover the blister with sterile, impregnated gauze such as Aquaphor or Jelonet. This a marvelous stuff, an antiseptic-impregnated gauze that won’t stick to the wound. Pad the blister with sterile gel such as sterile 2nd Skin. Cover the area up using sterile OpSite or similar waterproof/breathable tape. If there is no sign of infection, change the bandage every second day or daily of any concerns about infection. Blister Kit; Sterile Gloves. Sterile needles. Alcohol wipes or similar steriliser. Sterile scalpel.


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Electrical tape. Jelonet dressings. Meepore dressings and tape.

Sea Kayak Fishing by Gary Robinson. Let me start by saying that I am very much an angler and was not a paddler at all until a few years ago. I had paddled kayaks on a couple of occasions but I was far from what anybody would have referred to as even a part-time paddler. It was my love of fishing that started me ‘kayaking’. It all started about six years ago. My girlfriend and I purchased a pair of sit-on-top style kayaks. We enjoy the outdoors and we figured that paddling trips would be a great way of getting exercise, fresh air and a dose of nature. But it was not long until the angler in me started to assess the suitability of a kayak as a fishing platform! A couple of internet searches showed me that I was not alone in my ideas. America, South Africa and Australia already had blossoming populations of kayak anglers. That was all the encouragement that I needed. I started to amass a selection of accessories and rigged out the kayak. I fitted fishing rod holders, an anchoring system, a visibility light, an echo sounder and many other extras to make a day out on the water more comfortable and to try to facilitate catching a few fish! The kayak’s benefits as a fishing vessel are many. A kayak can be launched from a lot more areas than a boat can. Easily transported, a kayak opens vast tracts of Ireland’s coastline for the intrepid explorer. Not requiring fuel the kayak is a stealthy vehicle and I have paddled over the heads of pike for them to not even flinch; a very handy craft for following wary adversaries. Kayaks can also be used to gain access to fishing areas that are cut off from other boats. Recent excursions on Lough Corrib have allowed me to travel deep into some of the extensive reedbeds in search of pike. Shallow stretches of water that would be inaccessible to boats due to their propellers are easily reached with a kayak. Every little spot that a fish occupies can almost be reached with a kayak. So many ‘out of the way’ fishing areas become within easy reach on a kayak. Then of course, there are the fish themselves. Ireland’s sea, lakes and rivers offer home to a plethora of species both fasci-

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nating to observe and mysterious in their habits. To spend a day on the water, connecting with some of its inhabitants by catching, admiring and then releasing them is a remarkably satisfying way to spend a couple of hours or longer. I return a lot of fish that I catch to fight another day. I do, on occasion, like to eat fish and I will keep some of my catch from time to time. For me, this has many benefits. I know exactly how fresh my fish is. Irish cod can be quite special when there is no more than two hours between catching and cooking. The same goes for mackerel, pollock and a host of other species found in our waters. Just be mindful that the sea’s larder is not an infinite resource and to take more than you personally need is irresponsible. Fishing in Ireland is as varied as our weather. There is plenty of variety there to keep every level of angler challenged and entertained. There are many different species at many different levels to be pursued. I started out fishing for the likes of mackerel, a summer visitor to our shores. Caught easily when present, they are one of the first and only fish that many people catch while trying their luck during their summer holidays as children. Catching the humble mackerel is usually the fish that starts a young angler onto a lifetime path of fishing. I progressed to wrasse and pollock, looking for a bigger challenge and found myself fishing in some truly beautiful locations around the country. The list of species that I try to catch is ever expanding and the highlight so far is one of ‘mini’ shark species, a tope as long as I am tall. I have taken the idea of kayak angling and sprinted with it. I am convinced that they are a fine craft for many varied fishing expeditions. Fishing for sharks from a kayak is not for the faint hearted and surely is at one end of the spectrum, but carrying a basic fishing kit that will cater for a small selection of species will undoubtedly be very rewarding for most people looking to sample this exciting branch of angling. As an angler first and paddler very much second, I have little or no experience sit-in style kayaks. The general consensus amongst sit-on-top kayakers is that the SOT models far surpass the sit-in when it comes to stability. I know my SOT is stable enough for fishing for large predators but due to lack of experience, I cannot recommend a sit-in as a big game angling craft. For anything thing smaller they should function perfectly.


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A small kit that may be functional for kayak fishing within Irish waters should consist of a rod, reel, line, lead, lures, hooks and accessories. For the occasional angler or sea-kayaker that is thinking of trying fishing from the kayak a telescopic rod may be of benefit. When fishing on a kayak a rod of eight feet is cumbersome, seven is more than long enough, six would be easier again to manage. Being telescopic, it will fold neatly for ease of transport and storage. When buying, tell the tackle dealer that you want something short for kayak fishing which of medium action. A good tackle dealer will supply you with gear that is fit for the job. Two reputable dealers in the Dublin area include Southside Angling, Cork Street and Dublin Angling Centre, Longmile Road. Following a rod, you will need a reel. For starters, ask for something suitable for saltwater fishing for the likes of mackerel, pollock, wrasse and bass. It should be loaded with line that is somewhere in the region of 25lb breaking strain. This will stand up to some of the nicks and abrasions that go hand in hand with fishing along coastline rocks. Again, a tackle dealer will be able to advise what should work best far more comprehensively than I could in one article. The one thing with fishing gear to remember, especially when it comes to rod and reel, is to thoroughly rinse them with freshwater after each use. If not, any metal parts will soon be rendered useless after salt corrosion from the harsh marine environment but being sea kayakers, most of you are probably well aware of this. Next on the list is lead and in most cases whether you are using natural, live bait or whether you try artificial lures, you are most likely going to need something that makes them sink to get them down to the 5!

fish below. Lures and hooks are what catch the fish. Lures work as they are, hooks need to be adorned with bait and choices here are limitless. A small range of hooks and a selection of lures will also be advised by a dealer, depending on what you want to catch and where you want to fish. In terms of fishing gear, supplementary to this all you need are some small accessories to make life a bit easier – swivels and sets of feathers or hokkais. The kit covered in the last couple of paragraphs could be amassed for somewhere in the region of €100-€150 which represents very little outlay for an exploratory step into the world of kayak fishing. If you find the sport as addictive as I have then you may wish to trade up at a later date. That choice is yours but the tackle mentioned above will be enough to give anybody a good taste of what fishing in Ireland is like. What you may wish to add from a kayaking point of view to start out would be a rod holder. These can be mounted to a kayak for a finished rigging job that is flush with the rest of the kayak body. They are the handiest way to hold and transport fishing rods when on the water. They are easily mounted with minimal tools. Shops such as Bantry Bay Canoes should carry the necessary mounts and rigging hardware. A second very good idea would be to bring a spare paddle leash for the fishing rod. I’m not sure about sea kayakers but kayak anglers have a saying when it comes to gear carried on board; ‘leash it or lose it’! Other than that, perhaps a forceps for unhooking fish and a lightweight camera to record your first catch and you are all set to get started. Fish are a valuable resource that everybody should benefit from but as mentioned earlier, they are not in infinite supply. Only


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take home what you will use. Killing fish for them to rot is abominable and should not be allowed to happen. By all means take a few for the pot though – nothing finer, more rewarding and satisfying than a good meal of fresh fish that you caught for yourself. For any fish that are to be returned; please try to minimise the stress so you maximise their chances of swimming away strongly. Try to unhook them as quickly as possible and always use wet hands to avoid moving their protective coating of slime. They may need holding alongside the kayak until they have the strength to swim off. Treat Nature with respect and hopefully it will be reciprocated. The sport that is kayak fishing in Ireland is blossoming. Getting out onto the water for a couple of hours is priceless and catching a couple of fish make for a superb bonus. It is an exciting way to spend a few hours

and can carry you to some of the most magical parts of the country. The freedom it can offer is hard to beat. Be mindful of your surroundings, like you would when kayaking anyway, and this engaging activity is there for the taking. Start small; get a feel for what you are doing and before long, who knows what you will be targeting! An article like this can only scratch the surface of kayak fishing in Ireland. I recently launched my own website that showcases kayak fishing in Ireland through blog posts, rigging projects, media articles, underwater photography, gear and tackle advice and 6!

much more. Have a look at the kayak I use and the fishing gear that I use. I hope soon to be able to explain fishing techniques too. Follow me on www.kayakfishermanireland.com for regular updates and to see what an Irish kayak fisherman sees. If anybody has any queries you can contact me through the website.

Painful numb legs in kayaking by Eoin Ó Conaire I have a unique personal attachment to this common condition in kayakers. I am currently a chartered physiotherapist specialising in musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries and a keen paddler of K1 racing boats. However, several years before I even started my training as a physiotherapist I used to suffer terribly from numb painful legs when I went canoeing. At the time I was about 15 or 16 and had just started to do a few marathon ranking races in Ireland. I got occasional numb legs in most boats that I paddled but the problem really started in earnest when I started paddling a Gola Sprint. This was about 1988 or 1989 and the Gola sprint was taking the General purpose racing class by storm. For those not familiar with it, it was basically a K1 style general purpose boat. It looked like a wildwater racer kayak that had been on a diet. Crucially it satisfied the criteria for the GP class. Basically if you could stay upright in it, you could win races! It was an absolute flyer but very tippy and I found that I got terrible cramps, pain, pins and needles and dead legs after only about 5 mins paddling. I tried to ignore it and push on through but the pain became agonising and I would either capsize or struggle to get out and feel my legs collapsing under me with pins and needles and numbness. I was advised to raise the seat with a few seat-pads but this made no difference other than to make me a bit more unstable! I was advised to stretch my hamstrings – no difference. It got to the


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stage where I just couldn’t paddle the boat and reluctantly sold it. I drifted away from canoeing for many years and then in my mid-thirties (now an experienced UK-based physiotherapist) I took up paddling again – joining the fantastic Elmbridge canoe club on the Thames in Surrey where you have no option really but to race! It was great fun getting back into paddling but once again even in K1 boats, I started to get those numb cramps in my calves, hamstrings and even up into my hips – especially as I started upgrading to faster more unstable boats and paddling longer distances. However now with all my new knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics and neuromusculoskeletal conditions, I had a fair idea what was causing the problem and set about sorting it out so that I could get maximal enjoyment out of my paddling. I have always had tight hamstrings (after years of football and running) but tight hamstrings don’t directly cause pins and needles and numbness. These sensations are associated more with nerves or occasionally blood vessels (circulation). The position that we sit in a kayak (particularly if you are a bit slumped) is very similar to one of the tests for sensitivity of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve and its main divisions basically run from the nerve roots in the low lumbar spine deep into the gluteal muscles along the outside hamstrings, down the calf muscles, behind the ankle and into the sole of the foot. Therefore when we sit slumped in a kayak with our feet up against the foot-rest we are tensioning the sciatic nerves in each leg. Continuous tensioning of the nerve can cause irritation and nerve pain anywhere along the course of the nerve. In addition if there is compression of the nerve anywhere along its course then this pressure on the nerve can bring about the symptoms of nerve pain. I deduced that my problem was as follows: 1 string and down into tensioning legs.

Very tight gluteal, hamcalf muscles pulling me a slumped position and the sciatic nerves in both

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2 Long term nerve tightness in the sciatic nerves and its branches 3When I paddled less stable boats I didn’t have enough “leg drive” i.e. not pushing hard enough with the opposite foot as I rotated my trunk and pulled the paddle through the water – causing increased tension in the leg muscles

I therefore set about systematically addressing these problems. I carried out a series of nerve gliding / tension exercises to improve the mobility of the sciatic nerves. Alongside these I worked on my hamstring, gluteal and calf length with a series of exercises. I found yoga-style poses the most effective for this. This is because when you have tight muscles your body will subtly try to cheat and avoid stretching the tight muscles. The yoga poses generally aim to stretch a series of tight muscles rather than isolating one. I also worked on my core stability and in particular with my new-found hamstring length, my ability to sit in a neutral spinal posture (i.e. not slumped) in my boat. Finally I paid extra attention to the leg-drive element of my paddling technique. As a physiotherapist I specialise in assessing an individual’s musculoskeletal system and then prescribing a custom exercise programme tailored to their needs. Therefore there is no one “cure-all” exercise programme that I can write about. In fact doing so could be dangerous for some people – particularly those with a history of back problems, sciatica, disc prolapses etc. However I have thought carefully about this and would like to give some basic guidance and exercises that will help the majority of people with this problem. However the best advice is to see your local chartered physiotherapist for assessment and treatment. As detailed above, the development of pain, numbness and “dead legs” when kayaking is almost always related to your sitting position in the boat causing tension, stress or compression on the sciatic nerve and its branches which run all the way from the low back to the soles of the feet. The following usually helps this problem


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1)

Mobilising the sciatic nerve

2) Stretching the hamstrings and calf muscles 3)

Stretching the gluteals

4) Improving sitting position in your boat – so that you can sit in a more upright position 5) Improving paddling mechanics – with particular attention to pushing harder with your feet i.e. the leg-drive component of paddling The key is to make very gradual improvements in the length of the tissue. Begin with sitting with your feet wedged against a wall, your knees straight and your trunk slumped forward. You nod your head forwards (about seven times works well) and this will tug gently on the nerve tissue. You then rest briefly by looking upwards and repeat the process – reaching a tiny bit further each time. Carry out about 9 or 10 sets of 7 nods. Then follow this with the next exercise outlined below. Sciatic nerve mobilisation This exercise is a classic yoga pose called “Downward Facing Dog”. You can find it all over the internet and You Tube – usually being demonstrated by supple, flexible yoga teachers-see below!

exercise is to gradually build up the flexibility over a period of weeks. “Listen to your body” and don’t push things too far but do enough to make a difference to the tissues. If you are very tight then use a step or a thick book to rest your hands on and hold for about 25 – 30 seconds and feel all of the tissues on the backs of your legs getting a great stretch. Repeat three times. Perform both of these exercises twice per day and within a few weeks you should find that the numbness is taking longer to come on or disappearing altogether. Not wanting to sound like a broken record but these two exercises are the most general exercises for helping this problem but a physiotherapy assessment would enable a more tailored approach to improving your flexibility and paddling position. Eoin, a chartered physion can be reached at http://www.ebtc.ie/ admin@ebtc.ie Tel: (091) 727777 Evidence-Based Therapy Centre 1st Floor Geata na Cathrach Fairgreen Road Galway

Health Measures for Kayakers Back Hygiene Our modern lifestyle often involves a large amount of time seated. We sit for leisure, travel and work, an activity which is fundamentally hard on the back. If you are a tradesman, a lot of time can be spent bending over and lifting, also wearing on the back.

It is perhaps more realistic to see it demonstrated by me – stiff, inflexible kayaking physio guy. In fact when I first started doing this exercise, I couldn’t get near the floor with my hands. Again the key to this 8!

Add to this a sporting activity which is seated and you have a recipe for back pain. Once you have started to get back pain, it is rare that you stop. Assuming the back pain is not trauma related, doctors no longer speak of “curing” back pain. Instead we focus on the more holistic notion of “back hygiene.” The idea is comparable to brushing your teeth. You perform a regular


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activity to help prevent dental caries. Similarly with the back, you perform a set of regular activities which maintain the health of your back. If you fail to do these, and continue to insult your back with prolonged seating or indeed heavy one sided work, you will suffer.

exercises can you do to offset the detrimental effects of seating? On these pages are a series of sketches of back and core exercises for person with a reasonably healthy spine.

This all assumes no major fractures or disc prolapses are present (minor disc prolapses are not unusual and treated with a similar back

hygiene strategy. Sitting strains the back in the following areas; with your knees flexed, your hamstrings shorten. The small of your back- the lumbar area- loses that nice concave curve. Your glutes are stretched across your sciatic nerve and atrophied. Your hip flexors on the front of the hip tighten. Your abdomen becomes lax. After hours, then days of such activity, to suddenly challenge your back and core with a weekend of kayaking is a big ask. So what 9!

The basic philosophy is to redress the imbalance caused by sitting. It involves three components; Stretching those muscles that have become shortened, improving the tone of those muscles that are neglected and strengthening those muscles that have become weak. Muscles to stretch; Hamstrings, Hip flexors, glutes (bum muscles- you stretch these to make more room for the sciatic nerve), spinal muscles.


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The basic method for stretching is a quick easy stretch for a couple of seconds, shake out, then stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Remember; Stretch, don't tear.

Muscles of improve tone; the focus here is on the “core,” that multitude of muscles in barrel of our thorax that give excellent support to the spine when active. Muscles to strengthen; hamstrings, glutes and spine. How frequent? Twice per day can be necessary for some periods then reducing to three times per week if things are under control.

Remember, if you have acute significant focal back pain, particularly after an incident where you lifted or pulled something improperly, these exercises and stretches

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are definitely too challenging. You should see a chartered physio. They will usually educate you on simple stretches to initially loosen up the back, then prescribe some far simpler movements to begin your recovery.

Some kayakers’ problems come not from the low impact paddling side of the sport but in the activities which occur between periods on the water. We try to land on rocky shores, drag laden kayaks above the high water mark, then scramble onto grassy banks carrying kilos of gear. Ankles, knees and backs are very vulnerable to injury, particularly if the kayaker has spent a long time on the water, is fatigued and dehydrated. Firstly, pulling the kayak out of the surf can be dangerous. Always keep to the seaward side of your kayak. If you jump out on the landward, and a wave catches your laden boat, even a small wave can drive the kayak under you. Get the kayak emptied asap rather than taking the lazy way of trying to drag both kayak and load up. Always be very wary of pulling a back muscle. Drag the boat only as far as you have to out of the worst surf, always using proper lifting technique, straight back, bent knees, then empty. Use help from others where you can. Lifting a kayak onto a car roof is always difficult. Again, use help. Hopefully, our manufacturers will begin to use lighter materials such as carbon or kevlar for a reasonable price which will make this whole process safer. The cute sea kayaker always parks their car bonnet into the wind; easier for loading and unloading and warmer for dressing and undressing behind the boot.


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Try to pull the toggle using both hands rather than relying on one hand thus overstressing one forearm and side of your spine. Obviously, if you have help, share the load. Acute back pain; Unfortunately common, standard advice if rest for 24 hours, then resume usual activities slowly and carefully, avoiding any heavy lifting for several weeks thereafter. People often worry about “slipped discs,� however these are thankfully rare and although a scan such as an MRI will often show some degree of discs poking out from between the vertebrae in most people, that is a long way short of the serious medical condition when discs press into the spinal cord causing profound weakness, numbness or paralysis of a limb. Elbow tendonitis. Paddlers, even experienced ones, can be prone to a particular type of elbow tendonitis which can occur on the bony prominences either outside or inside the elbow. An outer tendinitis is known as either lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow while the inside, medial epicondylitis is also known as golfers elbow. To manage these tendonitis, it is necessary to take a fairly holistic view of the area. We expect the hands to perform the most subtle and complex of actions such as sew, play a piano or type. At the same time, we paddlers expect them to be strong enough to transmit the accumulative strength of out leg drive, core rotation and upper arm contraction. Its a fairly broad range of skills and unsurprising the arms occasionally com-

plain. The basic anatomy is worth considering. Our muscles are set into tendons which in turn are anchored into bony prominences. Those muscles are also bound circumferentially by fascial sheaths. 11!

These sheaths are vital in allowing muscles slide over each other, particularly in the forearms where different muscles will contract (shorten and expand) at different times to allow separate isolated finger movements. Into these sheaths we need to pump blood to keep muscles fueled and to allow waste be taken out. Very subtle changes in wrist angle will cause significant muscle expansion at different levels inside those sheaths and place focal starin on those tendons. In kayakers, the problem may result in a paddle stroke which in which the wrist is excessively flexed ( medial epidcondylitis) or excessively extended (lateral epicondylitis). Current thinking is that rather than a purely inflammatory process, there is a inappropriate modeling in the region which ultimately leads to pain. Cure lies in modelling the tendon/muscle into a structure more appropriate to paddling. In the short term, stretching and massage can ease symptoms. For a long term cure, the paddling stroke and a graduated strengthening programme are required. Regarding stretching, the standard forearm stretches are illustrated below, but these should also be accompanied by stretches of the hand and fingers, stretches of the biceps and triceps and the entire shoulder joint. It is worth massaging the affected areas and indeed the entire forearm to try break down any tightness in the area. This can be done by hand, or using a tennis or hockey ball rolled over the forearm. These can provide short term relief. Regarding activity, study in detail how your arm pulls on the paddle shaft. (Remember always that the ideal is that the paddle should be stationary in the water, you should be pushing the kayak past the paddle.) How do you catch the water? Does your wrist project in one way or another as you catch? Are you pulling back properly? Again how does your wrist travel back? How is your grip- appropriate or excessively tight? And on exit, does our wrist follow the line of the blade? Try to keep a straight line between the centre paddle shaft, centre of your wrist, and elbow. The ideal grip would be quite neutral however, as our fingers are small levers, we tend to be slightly stronger in slight wrist flexion when paddling, fine if you don't have problems but you should certainly look at neutralising the wrist if you are having any problems.


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Examine then your wrist during the recovery part of the stroke. Is your hand recovering ie loose and neutral? Is your paddle feather appropriate, necessary and effective? Many paddlers travel perfectly adequately with no feather whatsoever. Look at how much water you are throwing up on each stroke- you are not working well with your blade if there are buckets of water flying about you, and tossing those buckets about during the vulnerable recovery phase of the stroke is definitely going to stain your shoulders and elbows. Similarly, are you slapping or causing cavitation when you catch? An overly aggressive, early or misaligned catch causes this slapping and leads to tremendous unsustainable strain on the forearms. Pause before the catch, slow the catch down, let the noise disappear. Keep your entire stroke as quiet and soft as possible. This is a good guarantee to prevent injury.

position toward extension (if medial epicondylitis) or flexion (if lateral epicondylitis). You are trying to bring a better balance into your wrist usage so strengthening the side opposite that to which the wrist is being pulled off to, if that makes sense. Its also worth looking at other activities outside of kayaking particularly those requiring repetitive use of the arm. Can the other hand be used? With epicondylitis, you must first rest, which is to say, zero paddling, usually for a couple of weeks. When painfree in day to day life, then begin a daily programme of exercises, tailored to suit your issue. After a week or so of this, begin paddling gently again, but only paddle short distances with a light boat and focus on paddle technique. Try to fix any obvious errors. If you’ve got it right, painfree paddling should be the reward. If youve got it wrong, back to the drawing board. It is always worth going through things with a chartered physio to check your diagnosis and exercise technique. There isn’t too much point in attending your GP as most of us wont know enough to advise rehab exercises. Medications and rest are not going to provide a long term solution if the underlying asymmetry remains.

Kayaking injuries by Rob Scanlon “Body, Boat, Blade” is the mantra that we often hear when learning to kayak and improve our technique. Damage to the latter two can often look dramatic, make for good sound effects and a good story in the pub at the end of a day, but an injury to the first part of that trio can have you shorebound for a long, lonely time!

The ultimate cure appears to lie in a graduated programme of increasing strength. Regarding strength, again, some excellent forearm strengthening exercises are illustrated, particularly the rubber tube roll (this can be replaced with rolled up towel) but the emphasis of the effort should always be on strength in the neutral 12!

Most injuries I hear about when kayaking are musculoskeletal from paddling with the wrong technique or for sudden prolonged distances. This is when the “i know I’ve been paddling” Monday morning ache becomes a problem that impedes more trips out. It is pure common sense, but it is best to avoid injury in the first place by keeping fit,


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using good technique and avoiding sudden unaccustomed bursts of exercise. However, we all know what it is like when a stunning high pressure come in and you can convince yourself that you can do the extra mile or ten. Wrist: Wrist tendonitis often affects people after a long break from paddling. Rapid and repetitive forearm movements under pressure can inflame the lubricating sheaths around the wrist tendons, causing inflammation. Instead of gliding, the tendon then sticks to the inside of its sheath, causing pain on even the smallest movement. A typical site of pain is in the wrist diagram below, at the level of a watch strap.

anonymous 16/03/ 2014 19:35

You can feel and sometimes hear the tendon scraping along the inside of it’s sheath. I had this once and it made a nightmare out of working and cooking, let alone paddling. Rest, anti-inflammatories and even steroid injections can help, but it is really worth trying to figure out what has been the underlying cause. Some people find crank shafts help and i know one person who has had to resort to cutting the latex wrist grips out of his dry suit to prevent this problem for occurring. People also suggest relaxing the thumb on the upper, pushing hand when paddling so that the thumb isn’t held tightly against the shaft for hours at a time. 13!

Rotator cuff injuries: Our shoulders are wonderfully mobile and the only bony connection between our arms and our trunk is at the collar bone. The shoulder blade just floats in a bed of muscles. Anything that is very mobile is prone to injury though. The body prevents this by having muscles that keep the head of the upper arm bone ( humerus) tightly applied to its socket. These muscles are the rotator cuff. Our rotator cuffs degenerate with age and half of people over the age of 60 will have a tear on MRI, often without symptoms. It is all too easy to suddenly injury the rotator cuff with a sudden pull on the shoulder or an awkward fall on seaweed. These injuries can be caused with a difficult X rescue or high bracing with the upper arm away from the body. There may be a dull ache in the shoulder, that is much worse when you raise the arms away from your side, go to brush hair or do up a bra strap. Usually, lying on the affected arm at night is quite painful and disturbs sleep.

The symptoms will often get better without surgery with rest, physiotherapy and antiinflammatories. It is important to strengthen the remaining muscles after an injury to protect the joint. Joint injection with steroids and local anaesthetic can be of help but in an active person who wants to get back out again, I would usually get orthopaedic advice if physiotherapy isn’t helping. Surgical repair may be considered in this case.


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The Athlete and the Common Cold I sit here in with a slightly swollen throat, a slight tightness in the chest and nose running like niagra falls. I can't or shouldn't train properly so I am twitchy as hell; endorphin withdrawl. Its been about three days since this illness started so its been three days since I've had a decent “hit-out� as the Aussies say, on the water. It's a typical northern European winter here in Ireland- temperatures fluctuating between 2 and 10 degrees Celsius for the last couple of months. Perfect flu weather. Both in practice and in paddling I frequently get asked can I train? What can I do? How much? This article is intended to address those questions. However, it does not attempt to provide a simple catch all answer, rather it will address the full complexity of the answer, and hopefully within it, allow you find a solution. My background is bicycle road racing as a teenager and in recent years as an adult, sea kayaking, marathon K1, downriver and surfski paddling, so my focus is on power endurance type competition. We know little about viruses and their role in humans. Our relationship with them is highly complex. Recently, it has been postulated that viruses may help us facilitating rapid genetic shift, faster than natural selection may otherwise provide for. So the relationship may not be entirely predatory. Most people will typically get five to six viral infections per year, with most of those occurring during winter. Athletes appear to be prone to them due to the stress of exercise diminishing their immunity. If ever there was evidence for karma as a living concept, viral infections are it. When you get a virus, your immunity usually defeats it or at least contains it, you then retain that immune response and can deal with similarly structured viruses more efficiently for about ten years into the future. If you don't get infected one year, you wont have immunity so you invariably get hit pretty hard the next time something similar comes round; karma. Think of it like a library. You need to get these viruses in order to keep your library of immunity well stocked.

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So if your training partner is flying because he hasn't been sick all winter, fret not, their comeuppance will come. Their quota of infection is out there waiting for them. There may be an argument that the competitive athlete should allow themselves be exposed to plenty of these infections during their off- season, to build up a wide ranging library of immunity, so that during their racing season they are far less likely to be caught out by a virus to which they are naive, but you didn’t hear that from me. Generally, in my winter training program, I won't incorporate rest weeks. Now I know rest and technique weeks are vitally important and will use them in spring and summer, but I also know that I will probably be getting sick at least three or four times during the winter. Instead these sick weeks will constitute my rest weeks. Another difficulty is that winter training often involves slow endurance training; 2/5 hour paddles/ cycles. These are particularly stressful on the body, demand large amounts of energy and take place in pretty inhospitable conditions. More than a hard interval session, they seem to culture respiratory tract infections. Such sessions can take days to recover from, even for a healthy athlete. Again factor into your timetable that you might end up with a cold or flu after such a session. Avoid doing long slow endurance sessions when you are fighting a mild infection because such a session will almost invariably allow it become a significant one. How do you know if you have a cold? Generally, most begin with the characteristic signs of a watery running nose, popping bunged up ears, muscle aches, a couple of days of fever and a sore throat. Viral infections tend to produce a multitude to diffuse mild symptoms which migrate from nose to throat and occasionally to your lungs (and occasionally other organs)


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Generally, with a viral infection, your appetite will remain. If your infection remains above the neck, you can usually continue to train but always keep warm. Work on shorter sessions and be constantly mindful of trying to avoid stressing yourself such that the virus descends onto the chest. Sometimes you can rid yourself of the virus in a couple of days and resume training at full intensity. On other occasions, despite your best efforts, the virus can descend onto the chest causing a cough. Typically with a mild virus, you will cough for one or two days, often producing a little green or yellow sputum- as the cough “breaks.” The sputum should cease after a couple of days but the cough can persist for a couple of days after. For the athlete this timeline has two important junctures. When the infection is above-neck, it may be possible to still train but one should do all possible to “keep it off” the chest. If it goes below neck, ie onto the chest, athletic performance will be impaired. Aerobic and endurance efforts should be stopped. The second juncture is when the infection is below neck, ie coughing, wheezing and producing sputum. Rest is the only sensible option here. The distinction of above the neck and below the neck is an important one for the athlete. Generally, if it above the neck, you can do some training and if it is below the neck, ie on the chest, you need rest. The first thing to do when a cold begins is to reassure yourself. You have time. Muscular strength doesn't deteriorate with inactivity for around one week. VO2 doesn't deteriorate over a similar time frame. Cardiovascular fitness may diminish a little sooner but not substantially. So basically, you have time to recover from most simple viral infections without any loss in form. You may find when you return to training that your threshold heart rates run slightly higher but you should be capable of similar muscular and respiratory efforts as prior to the infection. We'll address the numerous anecdotal “cures” for the cold next. The one factor which unites most of them is heat. We don't get viruses so much during our summer months; the viruses that are prevalent in winter don't like heat much, so we heat ourselves to kill them. Probably the most effective strategy is to stay warm and stay indoors as much as possible. This means we are inhaling 15!

warmer air, again creating conditions which are inhospitable to a winter viruses. Wrap up warm, again in an effort to maintain a local climate inhospitable to the virus. Sweat is out. This strategy used by cyclists involves wearing excessive clothing and cycling for a short low intensity endurance ride in which the body temperature is kept artificially high- sweating it out. (Remember that most of the energy we burn produces heat rather than movement). It can be effective. However it has two potential downsides; 1 Training outdoors will still involve inhaling cold air, which can increase the chances of the infection affecting the chest. 2 It is important not to tire yourself with the effort such that the effort actually weakens the bodies ability to fight the infection. For the kayaker, this would involve indoor ergo training, fully clothed low-medium intensity effort ie 20-30 mins keeping the HR well below AT ie around 50-70%. You want to get to that place where the body is hot but you are not having to breath deeply. Obviously, after the effort, don't hang around sweating as you will cool quickly- shower and get warm again quickly. Chicken Soup; Hot Whiskey; Again, their primary benefit is probably in the temperature of the fluid rather than its content, but consume away. Honey; An oft used “cure” particularly in eastern Europe. Again evidence is limited but it wont do harm. Steaming; Again the strategy of using heat to create inhospitable conditions for the virus. Obviously don't scald yourself or your airways and it might help. It is important to remember that the strategy of warming the body to kill the virus will dehydrate you. Thus it is important to keep well hydrated when fighting in this fashion, particularly if using the sweat it out strategy. Two additional strategies. First is to put on the heating in the car when commuting full pelt. This means dressing down to a t-shirt (so I don't arrive at work covered in sweat) then put the car's air con at as close to full heat as I can tolerate. The air con delivers a warm dry air which can be directed toward the airways. The second is to place a small radiator in the bedroom at night, to maintain a consistently warm room while sleeping. People like to treat their running dripping nose, which they find unsightly


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and inconvenient. Typically this is treated with antihistamines or a vaporub like Vicks. However the athlete needs to remember that a dripping nose is a mechanism the body is using to clear the virus from the nasal passages. It is a physiological response with years of evolution supporting its use. In as much as is tolerable, the running nose might be best left alone. The athlete also needs to note that some of the nasal sprays used to treat nasal problems contain steroids, even the ones given to you over the counter by a pharmacist. TUE time? A similar argument is to be made with both fevers and coughs. People are always eager to treat fevers with antipyretics, fine for small children who are at risk of febrile convulsions. But remember, fevers are not the illness, they are your body's method of killing the infection. If you can tolerate it, the fever might be best left alone to do its job. The cough is a reflex action intended to clear secretions and infections form the chest. While it may at times become debilitating and inconvenient, it works. There should be no need to immediately dive into cough suppressant medication at the first hint of a cough. Leave the cough do its job. While it might be ill advised to train your aerobic and anaerobic systems during an above neck illness, it is usually possible to train other aspects of your fitness. For kayakers, that means you will probably be able to do gym. You should emphasise lower reps rather than getting yourself out of breath doing 100 burpees. Cyclists could probable do some leg and core gym work. Warm up properly. Make sure your gym is warm. Rather than sticking with your bench press/pull routine, do a miniprogramme up which can hit the different muscles over five days. Again, keep well hydrated. For kayakers, it is a good opportunity to do some rotator cuff work and some stretching to correct some of the asymmetries that the repetitive pulling motion of kayaking causes. One situation in which I would avoid such gym would be if my muscles were sore due to the virus- the typical muscle ache usually felt in the large muscles of the shoulders and legs, your muscles are sore when you poke them. These inflamed muscles need rest, not further stress. For cyclists, gym could also be useful working on the usual cycling muscles; low back, quads, hamstrings, calves and core. 16!

Cyclists tend to ignore the upper body, lest they gain unwanted muscle mass. Other cycling techniques could include erg sessions which involve one leg pedaling to develop a more fluid pedaling motion and good stretching sessions. Consider using the time to do some video analysis of your stroke/ pedaling motion. On the bike check for shoulder rocking, check your back position, check your breathing. You will probably feel poor after the illness having lost some of your onwater- coordination, some little aerobic fitness and then challenged your musculature with several days of lower rep gym sessions; but you should notice returns in the following weeks. Obviously, some viruses can cause a more pervasive and persistent illness, which require even longer periods of rest. The influenza virus for instance causes significant fever associated with muscle aches and pains, a feeling of “being hit by a truck,” as well as a multitude of other typical viral problems. The fact that you are unable to train will be readily apparent. Bacterial infections can be far more serious. They tend to begin isolated in one area; an ear, the throat or the chest onlyand produce a significant and persistent fever. Do not train if diagnosed with same until the doctor says so. There are certain situations when you should not be doing any training whatsoever; when a fever is present, when you are producing green/ yellow/ red phlegm from your chest or when you feel to unwell to train. See your doctor. Get checked out. Most people are aware that the viral flu cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Circumstances which would make one concerned about bacterial infections would include fevers lasting more than three days, persistent symptoms occurring in isolation such as a sore throat alone, cough alone, sinus problems alone, green sputum from the chest for longer than four days. It can sometimes difficult for a doctor to differentiate between a viral and bacterial.(The most bestest usefulest tool we have to help us differentiate between the two is time. So don't be surprised if you are asked to “wait and see” and return in a couple of days if you don't improve.) See your doctor if things aren't getting under control for you. One final word of warning. As stated, the fit athlete who is regularly stressing the body with training is


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more vulnerable to infection. Rarely, even simple viral infections, which either through bad luck or continued stressful training can have serious complications particularly upon the heart which can result in a serious inflammation of the heart or can affect the heart valves, illnesses which not only end ones athletic career but can also cause a lifetime of illness. Always, always err on the side of caution.

Knot (Canutus canutus)

Winter Sea Kayaking; Taking a Natural History Perspective by Seán Pierce Sea kayakers are uniquely placed to discover and experience the natural world in a close up and intimate way. Our means of transportation along Ireland’s coastal margins is quiet and unobtrusive and our passage is very much within the rhythms of the natural world. There is no engine noise to dull the hearing and our two foot perch above the water surface allows sea kayakers a close approach to wildlife causing minimum disturbance. The Inuit invented a wonderful craft for hunting purposes. Modern sea kayakers can utilise the same craft to engage and closely observe and come to understand the yearly cycles of Ireland’s coastal wildlife. Sea Kayaking along the Irish coast in winter can open up a multitude of experiences for any kayaker. Individuals with an inquisitive and curious mind can add another dimension to their winter trips. There is much to discover regarding the origins and life histories of those animals and birds 17!

that we regularly encounter on our coastal voyages.

Background Ireland lies between 51-56 degrees north and is subjected to the vagaries of a temperate oceanic climate. Winters are described as “cool and moist with no great extremes of temperature” in the geographical literature. While this means Ireland has no shortage of rainfall, it also means that our bays, estuaries, coastal waters and islands remain ice free in winter. The latter situation is extremely important from the perspective of millions of birds who exit the Arctic from August onwards. Ireland lies on the western approaches to Europe but it is an integral and important location within what is known as the “East Atlantic Flyway”. The “flyway” links a discontinuous band of Arctic breeding grounds that stretch from Canada east to central Siberia with wintering grounds in Western Europe and West Africa. Each autumn, huge numbers of arctic migrants, especially water birds, converge on Western Europe from the far north. Coming from the Western Hemisphere (Canada, Greenland, Iceland) are arctic breeders including ‘Light-bellied Brent Geese (Branta bernicla hrota) and Greenland White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons flavirostis). Arriving from the Eastern Hemisphere (Scandinavia, Arctic Russia and North West Siberia) are the Eurasian equivalents; Dark-bellied Brent Geese (Branta b. bernicla) and ‘European’ Whitefronted Geese (Anser. albifrons

Redshank (Tringa totanus)


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individual or flock which takes flight ahead of one’s kayak comprises of individuals from many of the lands of the East Atlantic Flyway. The spectacle, beauty and fascination provided by Ireland’s winter wildlife requires time, knowledge and patience to experience and search it out. Yet all of Ireland’s major bays, estuaries, islands and beaches have sights and sounds waiting to be discovered. The following is a personal selection of suggested winter wildlife “must do at least once” kayaking trips! All the trips require the usual planning regarding tides and weather, safety and respect for the environment considerations. A pair of good binoculars is essential to really enjoy the action. October.

For many arctic migrants, especially ducks, geese and swans, Western Europe and especially Ireland is the final destination. For others, it is a stepping stone on a journey that eventually concludes at wintering grounds in Africa before the flyway routes begin again in spring back northward to the arctic. Birdlife International estimates nearly 6 million birds of some 267 species utilise the” East Atlantic Flyway” annually. Ireland plays a really important role in providing wintering/spring and in transit stop over quarters for many of the Western Hemisphere visitors to the western European seaboard. Canadian, Greenlandic and Icelandic birds dominate our winter shorelines but they are supplemented by Scandinavian, Russian, Scottish, Faroese and Siberian birds which also flock to our coastlines in huge numbers. Thus, on an average day’s winter sea kayaking, any single bird species rising off the sea or from the shoreline has a fascinating life history behind it. The bird’s place of origin, the route way selection to find a particular stretch of the Irish coastline to ‘over winter’ on is determined by global factors and migration patterns forged over millennia. Some of the birds seen may be Irish born and bred but by and large the

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Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) Location: Kincashla, Co. Donegal Route: Kincashla-Inishillintry-Owey Island Target: Autumn Migration of Geese and Swans on the East Atlantic Flyway Kayak amongst the islands of North-West Donegal between the 6th-14th October and experience the ’V’ formations coming off the Atlantic formed by skeins of Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) from Greenland and Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) from Iceland as they announce their arrival over the Irish coast. One can sense the relief as they call and honk and whiffle down losing height after the long open sea


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crossing. The birds will have flown directly from their breeding grounds or may have staged briefly in Iceland waiting for the weather window to allow safe passage. This wonderful sight that marks the passage of the seasons from autumn into winter.

Route. Wexford Town to Raven Point Target: Roost Flight Spectacle

November Location: Inishark & Inishgort, Co Galway. Route: Aughrus Beg. Target: Atlantic Grey Seal colony

White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons flavirostris) A trip to Wexford Harbour in deep midwinter can make for a very special and memorable kayaking experience. This trip involves positioning one’s kayak at Raven Point or somewhere discreetly tucked in along the North Slob foreshore. Timing is critical as one should plan to be in position towards dusk. Seal Pup (Sealus fluffycutus)

The trip combines a kayaking trip of real quality with a dramatic wildlife dimension. Atlantic Grey Seals give birth to their pups on many of Ireland’s offshore islands, on the more remote beaches and particularly favour quiet storm beach areas within cave systems. Although, the majority of key sites are on the south, north and west coast, small colonies also exist on the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford coastal areas. Do not disturb the animals by walking through colonies but observe quietly from a safe distance. The nursery areas are full of the eerily “child” like cries of the pups and there are few of Ireland’s mammals that are so “cute” as newly born Grey Seals in their “whitecoat” phase. Be patient and watch the comings/goings of the female and dominant males on and off the beaches.

The first clues of the forthcoming event are the obvious increase in the sound levels of the calling birds. The birds on the Wexford slobs begin to take to the air all calling loudly and that triggers the evening roosting flights of thousands of Greenland White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons flavriostris) off the slob lands. The birds fly out over head in flocks of varying size and density heading south and east to their overnight roosting areas on the sand banks of Wexford Harbour. There are often flocks of wading birds also involved in the spectacle that “wheel and turn” in perfect unison and add further interest to the occasion. A clear, crisp, frosty evening will give memorable views of the geese silhouetted against a winter sunset. The experience is one of Ireland’s best winter wildlife events. January Location. Carrigaloe, Cobh, Cork Harbour.

December

Route: Carrigaloe-Marino Point-BelvellyRossleague-North Channel, Great Island, Co Cork.

Location: Wexford Town

Target: Winter Ducks/ Waders and Geese.

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February Location: Boyne Estuary, Co Louth Route: Boyne Estuary- Ben Head- Skerries, Co Dublin Target: Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra)

Wigeon (Anas Penelope) This is one if those early morning winter kayaking days that can be imitated all over Ireland especially on any of our larger estuary areas. The route above is one that combines a nice variety of habitats and has a high density of bird species over the winter months. Ideally, the day should be planned to coincide with one of those rare, calm but very foggy days with perhaps occasional clearances. The trip is a journey into the audio rather than the visual aspects of natural history. The passage of the kayaker should be slow and full of pauses, drifting gently on the flooding or ebbing tide to listen and then listen again, navigating by handrailing the foreshore and occasional compass bearings. The reward is a sea journey dominated by the sounds of wild ducks, waders and geese who call persistently and evocatively through the fog. The whistling calls of Wigeon (Anas Penelope), the gentle piping of Teal (Anas crecca) and loud quacking of Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) seem heightened as they penetrate the low fog. The sounds of birds scuttling across the water as you approach will be heard as will the calls of many of the wading birds on the mudflats as the kayaker’s presence is detected. Curiously, though the birds are uneasy and suspicious and calling constantly, few will take flight and most will remain quietly and tantalisingly out of sight. The kayaker travels in a slightly surreal world where the auditory feedback is intense and the visual is impaired. A great part of the experience is to later try and figure out what bird species makes what sound as surprisingly, the calls will be well embedded in the mind. 20!

Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) This is a stretch of the Irish coastline that receives little attention from sea kayakers primarily because the coastline is dominated by kilometres of low lying coastline and sandy beaches. There are no offshore islands or dramatic cliff faces to provide interest. However, it has its own charms and one of the real and rare wildlife experiences found in only a very few Irish locations. Plan the trip which does involve a shuttle or drop off to begin at Mornington, Co Meath. The route to Skerries is offshore once clear of Boyne Bar and passes Ben Head and a possible way stop is on the Cardy Rock’s, 2km north of Balbriggan. The trip is best done on a falling tide. The views and sheer numbers of these tough sea ducks are well worth the effort. The vast majority of the wintering birds are of Scandinavian origin. The sounds of their whistling and wing beats will stay in the memory long after the event. Watch out for other offshore species like Grebes, Divers and seabirds interspersed amongst the scoter flocks.

March Location: Ballyvaughan Co. Clare Route: Ballyvaughan to New Quay, Co Clare


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Target: Great-Northern Divers (Gavia immer)

Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises The following are an excellent list of strengthening rotator cuff exercises from American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The day’s kayaking objective is both an audio and visual experience. If at all possible, pick a calm anti-cyclonic day. The trip is timed in early spring to coincide with the growing and ever increasing movement back northwards on the” East Atlantic Flyway”. Three species of Divers over-winter around the entire Irish coastline. These are Red-throated Divers (Gavia stellata), Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) and Great- Northern Divers (Gavia immer) also called Loons in North America. In March, increasing numbers assemble along the Irish west coast preparing for their long haul flights back to Iceland, Greenland, Scotland and Scandinavia. Inner Galway Bay is a particularly favoured location. The wildlife interest is two- fold. The first is to attempt to view the birds which are stunningly beautiful in their fresh spring breeding plumage. The second is to listen out for and experience their haunting and highly evocative calls. Loons have a long quavering even eerie quality to their mating and territorial calls. It easily transports the listening kayaker northwards to visual their breeding quarters on the lakes of the tundra and boreal forests. As stated above, all six trips are personal favourites of mine. There are many other similar and undiscovered experiences possible all around the Irish coastline. Enjoy.

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