IOPCC Trip Report

Rough Water Training
Saturday 29th - Sunday 30th October



The Club booked Richard Uren of Sea Cornwall for 2 days of Rough water training. Richard Uren’s company is called Paddlecrest Coaching. Richard is a Level 5 Sea coach and a Level 3 Surf coach and is based in Penzance. Richard personalised the course to meet our needs and we benefitted from his strong local knowledge of the area.

There were 6 of us booked to go down to Penzance. Events conspired against Jill and she was stuck in Ireland on a business trip and wasn’t able to make it. The rest of us trundled our way down to Penzance on Friday afternoon and moved into the Backpackers Hostel at the YMCA. Camping at the end of October was never going to be good and the YMCA offers a place in a twin room (very basic) for £16. This includes a light breakfast and the use of a well equipped kitchen and some washing and drying facilities. We went up to the Engine Inn at Cripplesease for supper. It was open mic night so we were entertained by talented local musicians.

The weather forecast for Saturday promised roughness and we weren’t disappointed. The original plan was to paddle out of a cove near Gwennap Head called Porthgwarra. Richard met us at 9am at the YMCA. He had been looking at wind speed predictions and various web cams and had decided that Porthgwarra would be too rough so we headed down to Sennen. Sennen is famous for its surf but it also has a nice sheltered little harbour so we had an area of respite that we could retreat to.

The wind was steady form the SW all day. At 10am when we launched it was 32mph with gusts up to 44 mph. The Sennen lifeboat was just going out on exercise. We knew it was going to be full on when Richard suggested we wear helmets. Richard started with our edging skills – or rather the lack of them. There were some handy flags just outside the harbour that we could try to paddle around. The swell wasn’t a huge factor here but the wind was. After being blown around for a while we popped back inside the harbour wall and proved that in shelter our edging wasn’t really that bad!

The Cowloe reef lies off Sennen with the Tribbens channel between the reef and the cliffs. We paddled out to the reef and even on the sheltered side it was quite bouncy. The Atlantic swell was building and we ventured out from the relative shelter of the reef to practice our edging whilst battling with the swell as well as the waves. It was very reassuring to have our own personal lifeboat in the form of Richard as there would be no way we would have been there without him!

We practiced forward paddling down these huge waves and then back out again and then we paddled all the way down the waves to the beach. Richard then coached on forward paddling (to give us a bit of respite and a rest) and we then launched through the surf and paddled back into the harbour for a lunch break. Ian was recovering from a virus and at this point he decided to stop paddling and go to the pub. So we were down to 4 for the rest of the course. Hugh, John, Jackie and Barbara.

It was of course a spring tide and it was ebbing fast leaving more of the Cowloe reef exposed and less protection from the ever building swell. The wind speed increased to average around 35mph with several gusts over 40 mph. As we were paddling out we were confronted by a set of larger waves. John C was ever so slightly behind the others and he was picked up as a huge wave broke over him and flattened him down on his back deck and swept him about 200m . The rest of us watched (I say anxiously but also with vicious amusement) and were relieved and impressed to see John emerge upright – having rolled – and paddling back out to join us.

Communication was quite difficult in the wind and huge swell. We were trying to get as close as we dared to a small reef that had emerged now it was low tide and surf on the wave it was producing. Richard set off to demonstrate this and one of the large unpredictable waves arrived for his demo which made it quite spectacular and left us in awe of Richards paddling skills. It did however scare us into getting as close as he did! We all managed to stay upright and eventually made our way to the beach to practice surf landing and launching. Richard explained that we were trying not to surf but to make a safe landing. We were then supposed to paddle as close in as we could along the beach and then out through the waves again.

The key to success of this exercise was firstly to avoid coming in on a large set and secondly to dynamically reverse paddle when the wave inevitably came. Richard manfully fulfilled his responsibilities as coach and stood up to his neck in the surf – being frequently submerged as he helped us with this. We had varying degrees of success. Jackie and John had a few swims and we all were severely trashed by the breaking waves with some very vigorous bongo sliding. As the tide came back in over a sand bar the surf got bigger and bigger. After a short break Richard got back in his boat to demonstrate how to come into the beach backwards. As he launched the mother of all sets arrived - it was uncanny - it was huge and he was trashed! I sat in the shallows and survived and made no attempt to paddle out until it settled down a bit. We all made a half hearted attempt to try reversing through the surf but it was getting really wild as the wind and swell were building ( more gusts of 44mph at around 4pm ) so we managed to all get close together again and picked our way through the breaking swells back to the harbour. It wasn’t really sheltered even in the harbour by now so we got off the water without further ado. We’d had a super day of full on paddling in challenging conditions. We certainly would not have been out on the water without Richard to look after us!

Sennen Lifeboat launch Cowloe reef
Richard Vicious conditions
Landing on Sennen beach Battling out through the surf
Juggernaut waves John C landing safely
Surfing at Sennen Paddling out was...
Jackie rock hopping Heading for the Manacles
Moving water at the Manacles Jackie ferry gliding at the Manacles
John at the Manacles Jackie landing after a fashion
John launching after lunch Tricky conditions
Hugh, still smiling Even Richard got it wrong sometimes
The wind data made interesting reading!


The YMCA offered dry warm indoor environment for which we were very grateful. We debriefed over tea and cake. There was plenty of space to sort our gear our and even a tumble dryer. In the evening we walked down to Penzance sea front and had a splendid Indian meal at Baba’s. After good nights sleep – with the extra hour – Richard met us at 9am at the YMCA and we made our way to Porthoustock on the East side of the Lizard. Ian was not feeling well enough to paddle and although Jill had made it back to England she was still in Dorset – so there were just the four of us.

Porthoustock offered a sheltered launch. We set off without helmets on to Porthoustock Point which offered rocks and gullies to practice our boat control and edging skills. Helmets were quickly donned and although the swell was smaller and the wind at a manageable 15mph it was still quite busy especially with the inevitable unpredictable large set which surprised us more than once. John was caught by one of these early in the day and was capsized. He made a really good attempt to roll and almost made it but he was in a narrow rocky gully where lingering upside down was not an attractive option so he swam. Richard quickly had him back into his boat unscathed.

We played amongst the rocks and gullies at Porthoustock Point and Manacle Point whilst waiting for the ebbing tide to build at the Manacles. The Manacles are a set of treacherous rocks which extend 1 nautical mile east and south east of Manacle Point. Richard explained that if you draw a straight line from Lizard to Falmouth you go right over the reef which is why so many boats have been wrecked there. The Manacles consist of many submerged rocks and several groups of rocks which break the surface, although some only do so at low water. This was a spring tide and the extent of the reef was evident with the rock submerged rocks clearly visible below the surface and many rocks breaking the surface. It was inevitable wind over tide conditions so although the swell wasn’t huge it was quite steep with the occasional breaker. The tide was ebbing at a rate of 2 -3 knots through the reef and we practiced manoeuvring and ferry gliding on the moving water – interrupted by the swell at our backs. Edging became more of a challenge and paddling in tight circles around the reef whilst coping with the swirling tide and opposing swell was quite tricky. It certainly stretched our boat handling skills and our nerve in this ‘large’ environment. Richard was delighted that the conditions we had were ‘perfect’.

Right on cue Richard obviously spotted that we had had enough and we paddled up the waves to the other end of the reef and then down the waves – following sea practice – before going ashore at Leggan Cove. As we closed in on the shore Richard had us looking for a good place to land. We then avoided that and went in at a tricky spot with waves and rocks. Richard went in first and then offered advice as we came in. Jackie very elegantly came in side saddle. Ian had been watching our antics from the shore and joined us on the beach for lunch.

Launching from the beach was a challenge and we all elected to sit in our boats with decks on and be pushed out into the waves. John was a bit of a wave magnet and had a huge one break over him. Richard launched from deeper water with legs over the side and no deck on. He was lucky with the waves though! I must admit to not being disappointed that the tidal flow had passed its peak so we did not go out to the Manacles again. We spent the afternoon practicing boat handling skills amongst the rock and reefs off Manacle Point. The swell was big enough to make this challenging and our new skills from the surfing on Sennen beach were used. Lots of edging practice and practical use of stern rudder and even cross bow rudder improved our boat handling skills in this rocky environment.

We reached the gully where John had capsized in the morning. Richard explained about positioning of the leader (aspiring 4* leaders) and we went through one by one. Jackie went first and she had to pick her way slowly and carefully in a shallow channel around the rocks. Hugh went next and he was swept quickly through about six foot higher than Jackie’s level. I went through on the back of a wave which got me through the first bit and then sucked all the water out so I had to pick my way through the rest. Then it was Johns turn as he set off we heard a loud bang - this was his boat crashing into the side of the gully as the biggest wave of the day picked him up and thoroughly mullered him. The safest option was to get out of the boat which he did quickly and when the surge had died a bit Richard quickly had John back in his boat.

We headed in towards a nice gentle beach and I thought we were going in a bit of respite after Johns swim. No chance – Richard had us ‘land’ on a tiny rock which was only just above the water line – and then launch again. We all managed this successfully much to my surprise. We rock hopped our way back to the shelter at Porthoustock. Richard then had us paddling around whilst sitting on the back deck of our boats which resulted in the inevitable swims which led into self rescue practice. We got changed just before it started to rain and after a quick debrief we loaded up and made our way in the darkness back to Dorset – where it was still raining.


Pictures of the paddle are on the
Galleries Page.

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Report: Barbara Browning
Pictures: Barbara Browning



Paddling on the Jurassic Coast