As an outdoor enthusiast and being fond of adventure I am never left without something to explore in this diverse landscape. Being based in Ballina, it is possible to climb a mountain in the morning and kayak along the coast in the afternoon without much hassle.
When I was asked to write this blog I was a little torn. Being passionate about your surroundings and local area can be a double edged sword. Much of North Mayo’s charm and appeal is its untouched and undiscovered locations and the more we grow as a nation the harder it becomes to find these areas of remoteness.
Telling everyone how great it is will inevitably attract more people. However I feel a great sense of pride when I meet people on their first visit to Ballina and they can’t believe how much it has to offer.
Kayaking, cycling or hiking around North Mayo it is easy to forget your surroundings and feel a real sense of wilderness – not an easy task in modern Ireland. Here I will share with you some of the reasons why I love this region so much and why you might too.
Getting here could not be easier. Bus, Train, Car, Plan! Daily flights into Ireland West Airport Knock mean you could leave your home in Manchester or London in the morning and be taking to the water or trails by the afternoon.
I am delighted to announce that I have joined with Kokatat as a Regional Ambassador. These guys make the best kayaking kit in the business and are the market leaders when it comes to staying dry and safe on the water. Kokatat are probably most famous for there dry suits especially there Gore-Tex models, which are without doubt the driest suits on the market. They also provide a customer service that is second to none.
A company with high standards for quality and community, Kokatat have stayed true to there founding ideals in this age of mass production and still produce over 90% of there products by hand in Arcata USA. I have been using there kit for about 5 years now and I have first hand experience of there customer service, craftsmanship and dedication to keeping you dry. The work that is put in to servicing your old suit is phenomenal.
With new designs coming in January and a dry suit that is set to change everything I am already looking forward to 2015!
Check out I-Canoe for all Kokatat products in Ireland.
I managed to get to Down Patrick Head on one of the best days of the year so far. This is a local spot for me only 18 miles from home and a world class piece of coastline. A fantastic headland steeped in history and folklore with an impressive 60 meter sea stack Dun Briste broken away from the massive cliffs. The headland is dissected by a long cave that is only accessible a few days a year and on low tide. Half way through the cave is a huge blow hole called Poll Na Seantoine. This is an exposed piece of coastline and challenging on the finest days. Definitely not for the inexperienced.
Check out the video.
The Cliffs of Moher are world famous and attract about one million visitors a year but only a hand full of people get the opportunity to kayak under these 700ft goliaths. This is a trip that ranks high on most sea kayaker's to do list and its one I was fortunate enough to bag on a spectacular Monday afternoon in June.
It is nearing the end of May and the past two weeks have seen strong southerly winds change to stronger cold northerlies and a lot of cancelled tours and training sessions. So on Sunday morning while driving to a race I was surprised to get a call about a proposed trip around Achill Head on Monday morning. I hadn't taken much heed of the weather forecast for improved conditions to move over the country Sunday night as its been so wild lately.
That evening when I returned home I was eager to get out my new edition of OILEAIN and see what it had to say about our proposed trip;
"This one day expedition round Achill Head has to be one of the foremost Irish paddling trips, to be grabbed when conditions allow and with caution"
I was lucky enough to be sent a pair of these sunglasses a few months back to try out. I have to say I am very impressed with them so far. Whats the big deal you may ask they're just sunglasses
?! Well these are not just any old pair of shades. The Wave are specifically made to be used by people in and around the water for sailing, kayaking, wake boarding and even surfing.
If you found this review you probably already know the pedigree of these sunglasses, if not you might be surprised to know that Julbo have been in the industry for over 125 years and are trusted by some of the worlds best athletes and adventurers. With a wide range of products and specialist expertise in prescription sports eye wear these guys know a thing or two about making top quality sunglasses.
I am delighted to announce that I will be working with The RACE as an elite kayak trainer and adviser for the big event in March 2014. This will be the first extreme adventure race of its kind in Ireland and will require competitors to run, kayak and cycle 260km in under 24 hours. This will be one gruelling event that will push even the toughest to there limits.
Check out the RACE website for more details http://www.therace.ie/
I had the Sipre Marlin M surf ski for the summer just gone here in Ireland. This was my first ski to own and only my second to paddle. When I decided to buy a ski I wanted to get something that I could paddle comfortably and confidently in some decent conditions. As I would be paddling solo I needed a ski that was not a full on racing ski and that I could remount easily if needs be.
When my Marlin arrived I was delighted with what I had gotten. There isn't a lot of info on this ski on the web so it was a bit of a punt, but it paid off. When you first sit in the ski it might feel a little tippy, but once you get moving the stability kicks in and its a pleasure to paddle. It cruises on flat water at 10kmph and handles cross wind/chop really well. I have had it out in some nice swell and have clocked 25kmph into an offshore. Check the video below.
Overall I really like the Marlin. Its a perfect intermediate ski and an excellent craft to get started on if you have a bit of experience paddling racing kayaks. It's fully adjustable as well so it can cater for various leg lengths. My ski was a basic construction and weighed about 16kg.
The Crana Canoe weekend took place over the weekend (19th/20th). This year seen nearly 200 kayakers taking to the water in 6 disciplines. There was Sea kayak racing, Freestyle, Slalom, Rafting, Wild Water racing and Boater Cross to choose from. There is also coaching clinics in paddling technique and safety and rescue available to everyone over the weekend. This event has been running for a few years now and has become the biggest white water kayaking event on the Irish calendar. The setting is perfect for such an event. The Crana river is dam released for the weekend so the water is guaranteed which is fantastic as you can plan your weekend well in advance and not worry about the event being cancelled due to no water. A novelty in Ireland!
Saturday was a busy day packed with competitions. Starting in the morning with the sea kayak race. I took the win in the sea kayak category in the Tahe Marine Wind Solo. This is the second time I have raced this boat and the second win. Definitely one of the fastest plastic sea kayak on the go. Then there was a raft race which was great craic and after that the Dagger Dash fun race. At the same time there was also a freestyle competition on the lower part of the river and racers training on the boater cross course.
The main event of the weekend is the advanced boater cross which is raced over the upper section of the river and the infamous "Claw" drop on Sunday afternoon. The level of carnage here on race day is unbelievable and a real show for the spectators who line the river bank. I came 2nd in this event last year so I was hopeful of a repeat performance this year. I got of to a good start winning my first heat. But I got caught up in some dirty tactics at the start of the next heat and this left me in 3rd place coming into the Claw. Only 1st and 2nd would advance. So a last ditch effort was made to take out Eoin Keyes in 2nd. Boofing on to his deck sent me right into the "room of doom" and the slow line. Crossed the line in 4th and was out of the competition. The final was set to be a cracker. Irish international slalom paddler Ciaran Heurteau had come specially for the event and didn't disappoint. He charged through the heats and took the final win in style.
Well done to Adrian Harkin and the Just Kayak team for putting on such a great event. Put it in your calendar for 2014 no doubt it will be even bigger and better next year.
Welcome to the Paddle & Pedal blog. I hope to use this blog as a platform to share some of my paddling experiences with you, from trip reports and gear reviews to training updates and plans. There are hundreds of blogs out there but its not always easy to find the information you want on a new piece of kit or the logistics of organising a trip abroad. 2013 alone has been a busy year with two trips to Europe for white water and two trips to the UK for the Devizes to Westminster race and an Irish sea crossing thrown in there as well. You learn a lot from these events and it always good to share the little cheats and insider knowledge that might help others on there journey.
As for gear, I use the best gear I can afford for the job. If its LOMO or SWEET it doesn't matter. It works that's what matters. Lots of reviewers will tell you every piece of kit they review is great in the hope they might get more free stuff from the manufactures. I wont! I will share with you my thoughts good and bad on the actual gear I use when I'm paddling.
Anyway thanks for reading and hopefully you might get something helpful from my posts. If there is anything you would like to ask fire ahead.
David Horkan from Paddle & Pedal. Posting info on various outdoor adventures in Mayo and around Ireland.