Seeing the light – a 2 Star course with Paul Bull

Well here's this weeks article and I've not had to write a word of it! Thanks Russell for your review of our two days out on the water together!

There is nothing quite so revealing as coming out of the darkness into the glow of morning’s light especially if you have got used to being in the dark. It takes time to adjust, but once there everything takes shape and familiar things can be seen again. And so I began my 2 Star on Rudyard Lake in North Staffordshire with Paul Bull a professional paddlesport coach and all round good to know sort of a guy. At the age of 66 and a half I have more than 40 years experience paddling one boat or another, I did not think I was completely in the dark but my old 2 Star was really old and my skill level did need a bit of attention.

We started in canoes and we went through the basics about what a 2 Star paddler needed to know about their boat and their own personal equipment ... all good stuff with top tips on avoiding entrapment risks. And then it was on the water for some paddling. I can paddle alright, of course I can paddle, but I didn’t know about power pry’s, or how to minimise the swing when using the J-stroke or anything really about TRIM and very little about EDGE. With lots and lots of very patient encouragement Paul made me think in a different way about what I was doing. His feedback was constructive and helped me on to the next level in everything we tried. I learned how to alter the trim to make turns tight or wide and to begin to use the paddle more productively and came away with errors corrected and a restored set of paddling skills.

The next day started with a thorough review of everything we had already covered ... just to check that it was properly understood and to correct any misunderstandings. And then we did the same stuff in kayaks ... and lots more learning took place. We moved on to support strokes ..... not the paddle out at right angles job, but a very different and dynamic action starting at the back of the boat. I have never been able to properly do support strokes in a canoe but I can now!

Towards the end of the day Paul announced that it was time to get wet. I had already told him that despite loads of people trying to help me over many many years I have never been able to properly do a canoe self-rescue. So, Paul watched my first effort ... and we talked about moving the place on the boat for me to swim across, about the problems of the buoyancy aid getting in the way – he had a fix for that ... and he told me not to let my head drop down ... and to keep kicking. And after 7 minutes of coaching I rolled into my boat with an enormous grin and an even bigger sense of satisfaction and self pride.

Well, this course was just one revelation after another - it really is all about edge and trim and looking for future water – concepts that I knew about and used occasionally, but now have been properly understood. And it is also about self belief and being positive and in the end making your own way out of the darkness.

What a journey, bless you Paul you are a star!

Russell Fancourt