I spent the week of 25 – 29 November taking the BCU 3 Star Sea Kayaking course – with Kayak Chang, the only sea kayaking company able to offer it in Thailand. Fortunately for me, they are based at the Amari Emerald Cove on Koh Chang. So, aside from paddling down to the Amari every day, I didn’t have to travel far.
I’m one of those people who can paddle in a straight line but don’t have much technical ability. So, although I’m probably the only person to have paddled a sit on top kayak to all the islands in the Koh Chang Marine National Park this just means that I’m reasonably fit & have a high boredom threshold, it doesn’t mean I really know what I am doing. So, for me, the aim of taking the course was to learn a few skills that would allow me to build up to doing more of the fun stuff , i.e. playing in big waves and around rocks, that having a sit inside kayak allows. I had thought about doing one of the expeditions, the longest of which involves a 12 day paddle from Koh Chang , south and including a circumnavigation of Koh Kood. But as I also have to be here, spending a couple of hours a day on email and also with people staying at our guesthouse, taking time away in High Season isn’t really possible.
There were three others on this course. Madi & Chadel, a couple of experienced Malaysian kayak guides and outdoor enthusiasts, came here specially for the course as it isn’t possible to take it in Malaysia and for them the aim was to fine tune their skills and also obtain a certification that is the first step in being able to improve their employment prospects and take other far more advanced BCU courses in the future. Our group was rounded off by Idun, a Norwegian woman with a taste for adventure who just wanted to learn more about kayaking and possibly use it as a new summer pastime.
All training , apart from an overview of Navigation, was carried out on the water. The first three days comprised not only learning strokes, rescue techniques etc but also how to use them whilst out on the water. This practice took place just off the beach at the Amari, around the rocky headlands near Kai Bae & Lonely beach and the islands just offshore from Kai Bae and Klong Prao beaches. The fourth day was a longer paddle from the Amari down to Bangbao village. Something that you wouldn’t do in a sit on top kayak but in a sea kayak is a relatively easy trip. ( We came back by road with the kayaks on the roofs of a couple of pick up truck taxis.) Another thing you wouldn’t do in a sit on top kayak is spend the journey zig-zagging in and out of rocks by the cliffs that run from Bailan to the southern tip of Koh Chang – a beautiful area of the island that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
The fifth and final day was Assessment Day. You had to demonstrate the skills you had learnt during the week. This included rolling the kayak. I’d never tried that before but after firstly getting used to being seated upside down underwater. Then learning where the paddle had to be and also trying to figure out how to combine the paddle movement with a hip flick. I’m not that co-ordinated or good at multi-tasking at the best of times so it was usually a case of one of the two components missing. However, in the end, I managed – just – to do it.
And that was that. I passed the course. And now I have a few months to practice before the rainy season kicks in and there are some real waves to play in. Big thanks to Andy, the owner of Kayak Chang and our Instructor and to the other guys on the course for making it a very memorable week.
The course will be held three more times this High Season. From 17-12-2013 to 21-12-2013; 17-01-2014 to 21-01-2014 & 31-03-2014 to 04-04-2014.
Definitely worth doing if you enjoy paddling any type of kayak on the sea. For most people getting the certificate won’t be of primary importance. However, you do learn way more than you can imagine and have a very enjoyable time doing it.
Photos: ( Most by me, a couple taken by Andy and more on the Kayak Chang Facebook page )