Jersey Kayak Adventures

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Free Kayak Skills Safety Class

April 16th, 2014

Our free 2 hour kayak safety class is a great opportunity to get safety and paddle skills training.
Saturday 26 April 1700-1930
Safety class information.

Sea Kayak Courses in April and at Easter

April 4th, 2014

Introduction to kayaking courses in April and over Easter have some places left. Get ready for Summer.

Sea Kayak Navigation. Putting Theory into Practice

March 28th, 2014
sea kayak navigation

On the water navigation exercises

Join us on a weekend of practical sea kayak navigation making theory become reality around the scenic coastline of Jersey.

Based on the BCU Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning course the weekend moves from the classroom onto the sea to apply your sea kayak navigation skills to a selection of on the water challenges.

Having planned trips ashore we go afloat to paddle some of the best sections of Jersey’s coastline. This will enable you to develop your practical map/chart reading skills and navigation techniques. Practice using transits, assessing speed and drift, allowing for tide streams and cross tides as well as micro navigation and even paddling in low light/darkness.

Date 13-14 September. Or call to arrange other dates. £200

More information.

Essential Sea Kayaking Skills and Leadership Development Courses

March 3rd, 2014

Develop your paddle and leadership skills while exploring the fantastic coastline of Jersey over 4 or 5 days. Improve your sea kayaking skills in a range of conditions along with trip planning and safety and rescue techniques.

Easter dates: April 18-21 or April 21-24 Easter offer £300 with kayaks and kit available. Courses

DAG Midway Sit-on-Top Kayak Review

February 25th, 2014
A fun kayak to paddle

A fun kayak to paddle

If you first see the DAG Midway from a distance, or as an upturned kayak on a dealers rack, it’s likely that you will not realise it is a sit-on-top kayak until you look closely or flip it upright.

This is a kayak that aims to position itself between two different segments of the paddle sport market. Hence the name “Midway”.

Described by DAG Kayaks (now part of RTM) as “fast, elegant and of high performance, the Midway combines the performance of a traditional sea kayak (speed, manoeuvrability, responsiveness) with that of a sit-on-top.” This certainly sets a design challenge and considering the design has been about since around 2010, the surprising thing is how few Midways are about.

It’s worth noting that the Midway has a brother the Tiwok evo, which is a very similar to the Midway but is a sit inside style sea kayak and 5cm narrower. RTM also produce a similar style of kayak, the Disco+ which is a little shorter (428cm) with a max load listing of 120kg. But more about max weights later …

Technical bits

Scupper Pro and Dag Midway comparison

Scupper Pro and Dag Midway comparison

Roto-moulded plastic construction

Length: 440cm

Width: 65cm, 25.6”

Weight: 23kg, 51lbs

Max load: 140kg, 308lbs

Colours: Sunburst and White options.

Front hatch with water tight bulkhead

Grab handles fore and aft and on side

Removable thigh brace

Fishing rod holder.

Background

I’ve owned a Dag Midway for over two years and this is my second Midway. I was lucky to get long term use of an earlier model – which my dealer accepted as a trade in (there’s a clue here). The main difference is the hatch cover has changed. In the past two years I have paddled the Midway in excess of 300 times on both sit-on-top kayak tours and also in more challenging waters.

Why did I buy the Midway

The thigh brace gives more connectivity but may make self rescues more trcky

The thigh brace gives more connectivity but may make self rescues tricky

As a professional sea kayak coach running tours and coaching for both sit-on-top and sit inside sea kayakers, I wanted a more responsive sit-on-top kayak.

The mainstay of our fleet is the Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro, a great kayak and one which has stood the test of time both in terms of its design and build. Though I could use a sit inside kayak on our sit-on-top courses and tours, I feel this might distance myself from clients as there are differences between sit-on-top and sit inside kayaks and users. Plus, if I were to use a sit inside kayak hopping onto beaches, working in challenging conditions etc. might be less easy and I might lose empathy with our paddlers. On paper the Midway looked like a good compromise for my needs.

Build

Both models arrived well kitted out. Handles and fittings are in the right places and my current model has drain holes in better positions. The ‘D rings’ for lines and the straps are of good quality with no sign of rust. The rubbing strip at the stern is made from a more solid material than found on the Prowlers.

The seat area is quite wide, which suggests a large paddler will fit. The height of the moulded back tends to encourage you to lean back more than is needed. I solved this by gluing extra paddling made from sleeping mat foam. As a result I now have a customised seat with better connectivity and a warmer and drier bottom!

On my earlier Midway I experimented with seats such as the designs by Feelfree and also the Ocean Kayak Comfort Pro. The latter, though very comfortable and hard wearing, increased the centre of balance by more than 1½ inches making the kayak more tippy. The position of the D rings (attached to the handles) needed changing to reduce the length of strap running from the seat to the D ring mount for both the Ocean Kayak and Feelfree seats. This was easily achieved by moving the D ring on the handle from the forward position to the rear.

A deck-line runs almost the whole length of the kayak which is great for rescues and hauling the kayak out the water.

The rear stern tank well comes with a net to keep items from washing overboard. I found this a bit of a nuisance as it gets tangled with equipment and have removed it.

A bow hatch with an internal bulkhead is fitted which is very water tight. If you end up with water between the bulkhead and stern section a thoughtfully recessed drain plug is added. I rarely need to use this drain plug which reflects the excellent construction.

The drain holes are well thought out but the diameter is small, so an Eckla sit-on-top Kayak trolley might not be a good thing to use in case you damage the seams around the drain holes.

The thigh brace

DAG Midway

DAG Midway

If you have paddled a surf ski, this will look familiar and enable the paddler to brace themselves in rough water or perform more radical moves. The thigh brace increases your connectivity with the kayak to allow more edging and support strokes in rough water. With a bit of practice rolling is possible but you need to keep your legs pressing inwards against the thigh brace.

Self rescues with the thigh brace installed can be tricky. If you use the over the side method the thigh brace can get in the way as you rotate your bottom into the seat. A lot depends on your agility and build so it is worth practising in advance.

The hull has a notable transition between primary and secondary stability. This tippiness will not come as a surprise if you have paddled various sit in kayaks. If you are used to a more flat bottomed sit-on-top kayak expect a few surprises.

The recessed channels on the hull add strength but the front two drain holes do result in a bit of hull distortion occurring. However, this is not as much as seen in some sit-on-top designs. In hot or cold weather you might also need to loosen the stern drain plug to stop the hull distorting (which also indicates just how airtight the stern section is).

Weight range

Midway with a 70kg paddler

Midway with a 70kg paddler

140kg is listed as the maximum loading weight and you’d therefore assume this suggests a paddler weighing to 20 stone can paddle this kayak. This is grossly over the top and is based on how much weight can be applied while the kayak remains afloat. A problem is that some brochures and websites have taken the maximum loading rather than the maximum paddlers weight as the benchmark. Search around and you will find that the recommended maximum paddlers weight is a more realistic 90kg (200lbs). However I’d suggest around 80-85kg might be a better guide.

Paddling

As you might by now guess the Midway is a lively craft which, given its hull design and length, make it quite manoeuvrable in a range of conditions. Compared to the Scupper Pro I find the Midway more responsive. However, there does not seem to be much difference in speed between the Scupper Pro and Midway and a few of my instructors feel equally at home paddling the Scupper Pro. Given a choice many would still opt for the Scupper Pro over the Midway.

Connectivity – especially with the thigh brace fitted – makes a big improvement in handling. This lets you paddle in bumpy waters where you can rely on your edging and support skills. Coming from a surf/white water and sea kayaking background means I enjoy experiencing a responsive kayak in moving water. This contrasts with many sit-on-top designs which have little to stop your bottom lifting off the seat when bracing or edging.

Initial stability is a bit sensitive when sitting still but improves once you are moving. Secondary stability is good providing you are used to slightly transferring weight to one side when stationary. The Midway will lean over a lot before you reach the point of no return so sculling and support strokes are worth developing to allow you to get the most from this kayak.

In rough water and tide races – like with many sit-on-top kayak designs – the open seating area fills with water and takes a couple seconds to drain, while you feel as if you are the captain of a submarine. Compared to the Scupper Pro life on the Midway at this point can feel a bit less stable, but if you keep the kayak moving this sensation is overcome. In swell and surf the Midway tracks quite well and once the kayak broaches the thigh brace helps you remain connected with the craft. Having a bit more speed is useful in headwinds.

In beam winds or swell there is a slight tendency for the freeboard to catch more than the Scupper Pro.

If you are coming to the Midway from a background with sit inside sea kayaks and some of the higher performance designs, then the transition will not feel very different. Much will depend on your personal preferences in terms of length and handling requirements. You may also be more critical of the design as a result of the limitations of not having any connection with the deck for your knees/thighs and exposure to the elements.

If you are used to sit-on-top kayaks, be prepared to step up your paddle skills because this is a lively and responsive kayak.

Fishing from the Midway

Though a fishing rod holder is included, this is a design which is going to appeal to the more experienced paddler who fancies doing a spot of fishing rather than the other way around. Reaching behind for gear may feel unstable, even when your legs are dropped over each side of the kayak to give more stability. The minimalist angler will perhaps find this less of an issue. Some report the thigh brace makes it harder to move about and change position, if fishing for any length of time.

Unlike the Midway the Scupper Pro makes angling a little easier and allows more freedom of movement.

Who is likely to buy the Midway?

This is a kayak that is perhaps best suited for a paddler around 85kg or less, who ideally has a good repertoire of paddle skills. The Midway has that little bit of ‘edginess’ which makes it fun to use, if you enjoy getting out for a spot of paddling instead of heading for the gym. A smaller built paddler, who finds it hard to keep up with friends paddling some sit-on-top designs, may also find the speed and liveliness a good option.

The person already paddling a sit inside sea kayak is unlikely to find a reason to use the Midway unless they often find themselves paddling solo and do not have a reliable roll. If they also paddle with friends who use sit-on-top kayaks then the Midway may bridge both types of craft.

Approach the Midway from a sit-on-top kayak background and you need to have, or be willing to spend, time developing a range of paddle skills. This design will give you more confidence compared to using a sit inside sea kayak, though you cannot just jump onto the Midway and paddle away – which may explain why it has not been hugely popular with sit-on-top kayakers in the UK. The reason I ended up getting long term use of my first Midway from our local dealer was because the original buyer though wanting a sporty kayak did not have the range of skills to rally get to grips with it.

The Midway is a kayak you must try before you buy and preferably give it a few tests to see how you get on with it. And: ensure you practice your self rescue techniques due to the thigh brace and wear appropriate paddle gear and carry safety kit, unless you want some big scares.

To put it in a nut shell: The Midway requires a good foundation of paddle skills. Once mastered the Midway will be fun to paddle and gets you whizzing around the coast. Just don’t think of the Midway as being like most sit-on-top kayaks.

Derek Hairon

Sea Kayakers make the Grade. BCU Coach Training and Assessment in Jersey

February 21st, 2014
Clare. On of our newly trained BCU Level 2 Coaches

Clare. On of our newly trained BCU Level 2 Coaches

Paddling the ocean waves as a sea kayak coach and guide is not exactly most people’s idea of a day at work and it is easy to forget that like any other profession there is a lot of training and assessments involved.

For local residents Clare Robinson and Nic Hairon their office has just become a large and very wet world following completion of the British Canoe Union/United Kingdom Coaching Council Level 2 certificate in paddle sport.

Working at Jersey Kayak Adventures Clare and Nic have undertaken a range of on the job and training courses over the last 10 months to develop both their personal paddle sport and leadership skills to reach the Level 2 standard.

To reach the Level 2 demanded considerable on the job experience while working for Jersey Kayak Adventures. Both had to reach high personal skill levels and study additional training modules. There was also the need to complete a weighty portfolio documenting their kayaking and coaching progression rounded off by an examination by a UK assessor who observed their ability to put theory into practice around the coastline of Jersey with a group of clients.

kayak coaching courses in Jersey

Nic our newly trained BCU level 2 coach

For Clare the decision to become a kayak coach developed out of her love of the outdoors while working in New Zealand. However, it soon became apparent that without an internationally recognised training her chances of getting work was slim. Luckily for Clare one of the best places to obtain her coaching awards turned out to be back home in Jersey.

“I get lots of enquiries from people wanting to become kayak coaches but many fall by the wayside once they realise the training requires lots of commitment. It’s more than just jumping in a kayak and drifting about on the ocean. If there is one thing the Level 2 Certificate demonstrates, it’s that people like Nic and Clare are motivated to step up to the national standards.” commented Jersey Kayak Adventures director Derek Hairon.

kayak instruction along the Jersey coastline

Sea kayak training in Jersey

For Nic even though he comes from a family, where sea water is probably in his genetic make up, passing the Level 2 still required a lot of work after completing his university degree. This included trips to paddle big Alpine rivers and the slightly less exotic but technical rivers of North Wales. There were also sea kayak leadership and navigation courses to be taken and logged hours both coaching and kayaking to be completed “Unless you can get plenty of experience running courses, coaching and just getting out paddling you’re going to struggle to pass.” said Nic.

Armed with this internationally recognised award both Clare and Nic can now lead kayak tours and run paddle sport courses at Jersey Kayak Adventures.

“Over the last 5 years we’ve tried to train local people because both visitors and local clients like the fact that they are able to get afloat with local coaches who know their island. Plus, as a business, we need to invest in our future.” said Derek.

For Clare and Nic this certificate also opens up worldwide employment opportunities, because BCU national standards are considered an international benchmark for kayak coaching in the adventure industry.

Their horizons are now a lot bigger as a result of their training.

Derek Hairon

Jersey Sea Kayaking Guide

January 20th, 2014

Jersey Sea Kayaking. A guide to the top places to sea Kayak in Jersey

jersey caves

Devils hole caves

Arrive on Jersey and things look British. The cars drive on the left, the people speak English and all the usual high street retailers are in the capital of St Helier. It all looks rather familiar.

Gradually you begin to notice that things are not quite what they seem. The currency is sterling, but there is a watermark of a cow instead of the Queen on Jersey bank notes. Car number plates carry long numbers and drivers seem to spend most of their time stopping to let people out of minor roads or playing “No, no, after you” at mini roundabouts called filter in turn. The more you look, the more you realise that you are no longer in England.

When you get lost travelling around the island (and “when” is the correct word to use), the labyrinth of lanes is confusing. Stop a local for directions and road names become a verbal challenge, as you try to pronounce the Jersey French place names. I’ll leave you to decide how to pronounce Le Ouaisné or St Ouen. Place names also vary between maps.

Independence and war

sea kayaking beneath Mont Orgueil Castle

Mont Orgueil Castle

Jersey is largely independent from the UK and sets its own taxes. Laws are based on Norman customary law, so do not assume the same laws of the UK – or “mainland” as the locals like to refer to the UK – apply. An example is that local kayakers are legally required to have their contact phone number written on their sea kayak, though visiting paddlers are exempt. This is probably good practice in case you underestimate the speed the tide rises around Jersey and return from a stop at one of the many excellent beach cafés to find your kayak has drifted away.

Though Jersey is geographically much closer to France than the UK, the island is loyal to the British crown. This dates back to Norman times when the Channel Islands became part of the English realm in 1066.

In 1204 King John lost Normandy to the French kingdom. Jersey and Guernsey though remained with the English crown. To all extents the islands were Norman and with Normandy visible on the horizon, it would have been easy to switch sides and join France. The geographical position of Jersey made it a strategic asset whenever England was at war with France. To keep Jersey on the English side King John poured huge amounts of money into Jersey for its defence and granted the island more independence. In return the island became the front line for English forces and a haven for privateers. At every bay and headland you will see 18th and 19th century British fortifications.

sea kayaking the north west coast of Jersey

Exploring the North west coast. Range control tower at Gros Nez

In 1940 the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazis and Jersey quickly became an almost impregnable fortress. All the Channel Islands were more heavily fortified than any other coastal region in Europe and this level of fortification far outweighs the strategic importance of the islands to the Nazis. Around 10% of the entire Atlantic wall defences were constructed in the Channel Islands.

By 1944 an incredible 244,000 cubic metres had been excavated compared to 255,000 cubic metres for the entire Atlantic wall in Europe. The Führer greatly prized the islands in part because he had captured the oldest possessions of the English Crown. Hitler even ordered that all plans for the islands must be sent to him personally for approval. By 1943, 42,800 Germans were based in the Channel Islands – equivalent to two thirds of the civilian population.

Sea kayaking in Jersey

Jersey’s rich maritime history today manifests itself in the vast number of boats moored in the small harbours. For the Jersey-man owning a boat is almost a constitutional right, and as you drive around the island, it seems that if you don’t have a surf board, SUP or kayak on your car or in your garden you’re probably a visitor.

Jersey tides

sea kayaking into caves at Bouley bay

Jersey has a large tidal range so there is always plenty to explore.

Jersey has big tides of up to 12.5m. Get your timings wrong and the tide streams will easily send you backwards. On spring tides a rise of up to 3” per minute is common.

That’s not to say that Jersey is only suitable for experienced kayakers. Much depends on selecting the best location based on the wind and tide streams – which is a good reason for the less experienced paddler to get afloat with a local kayak company.

There are plenty of bays and coastline to explore and discover on an island of 45 square miles. If conditions are unsuitable on one coast, it is usually possible to paddle on the opposite side of the island, which is usually only a short drive away. And the big tidal range means, you can paddle a coastline which appears completely different within a few hours . This means the return trips are never boring, and if you time the tide streams right you will get assistance both ways.

Along with a good chart the States of Jersey 1:25,000 map and a copy of the Admiralty tidal stream atlas NP264 are essential items.

Apres paddling

There is a huge choice of accommodation on the island ranging from camp sites to 5 star hotels and lots of other activities and sights to visit when not kayaking. Wild camping and sleeping in camper vans at local bays is discouraged, so you may wish to opt for a hotel, B&B or camp site.

The southeast coast of Jersey

Seymour tower. kayaking the gullies

Sea kayaking on the seabed. Low tide in the south east coastal gullies of Jersey

The intertidal zone in the southeast coast is remarkable. Select the right tide and this is literally a paddle on the seabed with many different habitats. Since 2000 the area is an internationally designated Ramsar wetlands site.

During the third hours of a spring tide the rise and fall is around 3” per minute, so on the ebb tide you need to get your timings right, unless you like long portages up the gullies. Alternatively bring a set of kayak wheels with you.

Start at the old lifeboat station in St Helier Harbour. If it is a big low tide, expect to wade through ankle deep harbour mud.

To the north of the Dogs Nest (Le Nic ès Tchians) on a big low tide is the wreck of the SS Diamant (sunk 1942); this reef can be exposed to a south west swell.

Aim 0.5km south of Green Island (3km distant) for La Sambue channel. Initially this looks like a mass of rocks, but you soon notice routes appearing and your speed will increase as the flood tide rushes between the reefs. From now on you will be going with the flow as if on a travelator. This is when river techniques come in handy.

As you cross St Clement’s Bay slipping down gullies like a Mackerel going with the flow, observe the seabed and the jungle of seaweeds (most are edible). The deep water Laminaria releases an iodine like smell; there are records of Laminaria being used as a dressing for wounds during the Nazi occupation.

sea kayaks at Seymour tower

Seymour Tower. Built in 1782 to defend against attacks by the French

La Rocque Harbour was the site of the French invasion led by Baron De Rullecourt on 5th January 1781. The British garrison wrongly assumed the treacherous reefs of the Violet Bank would stop any landing. De Rullecourt, however, had local knowledge from a somewhat dodgy character named Pierre Journeaux.

At midnight 26 boats sailed up the main gully, the nine militiamen on guard had been celebrating Twelfth Night, so they were in no fit state to detect the 700 men. The French attack was finally defeated after a brief battle in St Helier.

A metal safety tower (0.75 km east of the harbour) is a good target, as the water will be flowing through dozens of small channels by now. Take care if you climb the tower as the tide rapidly covers the shingle spit.

A detour out to Seymour Tower (1782) is worth doing before the tide gets too high. You can stay over a tide on the parapet. Sleeping inside the tower, which is fitted out with bunk beds and cooking facilities, must be booked in advance with Jersey Heritage or Jersey Walk Adventures. The view is superb and you may see gannets fishing.

If you have time paddle out to Karamé and La Conchière beacons and the Violet Bank. There is a good chance of seeing seals here though you will now be 4 km offshore and tide streams run fast.

seymour tower and kayaks

1 mile offshore

From Seymour and La Rocque it is a straight run across La Baie du Vieux Château to the busy harbour village of Gorey with plenty of places to eat and enjoy a pint.

Oysters galore

Until 8000 years ago it was possible to cross to France on foot. As the sea rose shallow lagoons formed off the east coast of Jersey, which were perfect for oysters. In the 19th century oyster fishing developed into a huge industry. This led to the construction of most of the small Harbours around Jersey at an average cost of between £2500-£3000 per Harbour.

The high levels of extraction were unsustainable and the oyster stocks had collapsed by 1872.

Gorey to Bonne Nuit Bay

white water sea kayaking in tide races off jersey

Tide race at La Tour de rozel

From Gorey a north going stream runs between Le Nez du Château rocks beneath Mont Orgueil castle. Few people get the chance to see the castle from this angle, so it is worth looking up, while you try a few ferry glides.

Instead of paddling directly to St Catherine’s breakwater follow the coastline, which is best paddled around high tide. Archirondel Bay marks the start of the Rozel Conglomerate, a product of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

The slip at St Catherine is a handy take out and is next to the Jersey Canoe Club boathouse. It’s worth contacting the club in advance for advice and the opportunity to paddle with club members.

Unless you are in a rush, explore the usually deserted bays of Fliquet, La Coupe and Scez as you head to Rozel. The small harbour has long been the departure point for fishermen (and smugglers). Onwards to Bouley Bay the inshore route has many tiny coves to explore. There are also plenty of rock gardens of varying technical levels.

La Tour de Rozel (or White Rock) is a well known tide race and play spot, which works best on the rising tide (east going stream). If the overfalls are big at La Tour they will be even bigger off La Belle Hougue point.

Beneath La Tête des Hougues is the wreck of the SS Ribbledale which ran aground during a storm in 1926 and is visible at low tide. All that remains is the engine and boiler after the ship was broken up for scrap metal.

Le Petit Port or Égypte is a tiny cove with an ancient guardhouse that is maintained by the Jersey Canoe Club as a bothy style accommodation (for hire).

Survival at sea

sea kayak among rock gardens in Jersey

Rock gardens

On 9th October 1964 Jersey was battered by westerly 94 knot winds. During the storm the yacht Mariecelia was found abandoned off Noirmont Point on the south coast. There was no sign of the five people on board and a search ensued.

On the 10th came news that 14 year old Alison Mitchel had survived. Having abandoned the ship one by one her companions drowned. After being swept around Jersey for 18 hours she struggled ashore at Égypte, her body so swollen by the seawater, she could only see by forcing her eyes open with her fingers.

La Belle Hougue and unexploded bombs

Between La Colonbine and La Belle Hougue the coast shows off some fascinating geology and a narrow gully in Les Ruaux can often be paddled.

La Belle Hougue Caves lie in the gully below the viewing point and can be explored on foot in very calm conditions. Take care as you scramble over the rocks as I once found a large unexploded German shell here. Paddling against the stream around Belle Hougue on a big tide is difficult unless you are prepared to handrail the coast and use every tiny promontory as a breakout.

Bonne Nuit

rock hopping in sea kayaks

West of Bonne Nuit is “The Toilet” where you can get flushed through!

At the entrance of Bonne Nuit Bay Le Chaval Guillaume rocks once formed part of the St John’s day celebrations (24th June). Back in 1792 Phillipe Dumaresq wrote: “For years an old custom has drawn … people to enjoy the insipid amusement of being rowed in a boat around a rock. That done, there is nothing to do but to drink gin and cider.” Dumaresq decided to liven this event up with a two day fair. This became so popular it was closed down by the authorities for being “contrary to good morals”.

Bonne Nuit is the finishing point for the annual Sark to Jersey rowing race. The single seat rowing boats make the 28 km (15 nm) crossing in around 2 hours. Currently sea kayaks are not permitted to enter the race.

Greve de Lecq caves

sea kayaking in caves at Greve de lecq in Jersey

One of the many caves near Greve de lecq

The harbour is a good example of how things were not always built to last in the past. Constructed in 1872 it collapsed within 13 years. Above the bay though is a late Iron Age promontory fort. The headland is a popular spot for Jersey’s national sport of “cliff jumping” as well as coasteering.

Rounding Rouge Nez are some of the best sea caves in Jersey. Entry to each cave varies depending on the height of tide. Half tide gives some of the best opportunities to explore the caves, some of which are up to 100m deep. Check there is no swell running and keep an eye for sudden changes in swell height unless you fancy some advanced rescue practice.

Look out for lengths of rope and even ladders leading down to rocky ledges along the coast. They are used to access good fishing spots – fishing in Jersey can be an extreme sport.

caves near greve de lecq

One of the huge sea caves in Jersey

Beyond L’ île Agois, a small islet with narrow gullies and a sea arch, the cave entrance at La Touraille (Devil’s Hole) is tricky to find. It lies just below the line of the small valley and before the path swings west. Though facing north east there is often a swell inside this cave, which opens into a large amphitheatre complete with tourists looking down on any kayakers. The name Devil’s Hole is reputed to come from when a ship’s figurehead was washed into the cave in 1851. A statue of a devil was adapted from the figurehead by Captain Jean Giffard “Stonemason, self-taught stone-carver, Prison guardian, Master Mariner and reputed smuggler” and erected above the Devil’s Hole as an attraction. The statue was regularly ‘borrowed’ as a prank in the 19th and early 20th century and would reappear outside the local newspaper office in St Helier.

In calm conditions you can approach a small waterfall at the end of La Vallee de Mourriers. Continue round Sorel Point towards Le Cormoran Rock. Nearby is Wolf’s Caves. The unsafe cliff path descent is now closed, but you can land at low tide on the boulders and enter a tiny entrance on the right at base of the cliff. Around half tide it is possible to paddle into the cave system via an entrance between Cotil Point and the boulder beach. 100m further east are some excellent rock gardens known by local paddlers as “The Toilet” because you get flushed through them.

Gros Nez

Head west beneath the cliffs from Greve de Lecq to La Tête de Plémont. Check it is not the Puffin breeding season as a voluntary 100m exclusion zone exists. From a few hundred birds in the 1920′s Puffin numbers have plummeted. It is suspected that this is a result of rats, wild cats and perhaps the arrival of Fulmars, who have colonised traditional Puffin nesting spots.

Le Creux Gabourel is one of the few caves to have a sandy beach. Above the entrance of the cave, wedged into the roof are rounded boulders from when sea levels were 8m higher.

exploring caves by sea kayak in jersey

Le Creux Gabourel

The small cove of Le Petit Plémont (with evidence of boat moorings on the rocks) is a good spot to assess the tide race and swell off La Tête de Plémont. There can be a huge difference in the swell size once you round this headland.

Plémont Bay or La Grève au Lanchon (lanchon the Jersey French name for sand eel) has some caves and a very good café. The beach is completely covered above half tide.

This section of cliffs beneath Gros Nez castle is rarely paddled by local sea kayakers because it is quite exposed and it is rare not to have some swell about. As you approach the sea stack known as La Vie, there is a sea cave with two entrances which can sometimes be paddled. 300m west of Plémont beach (and above sea level) is La Cotte à la Chèvre, where some of the earliest Palaeolithic remains of habitation in Jersey were discovered.

At the base of the cliffs below the Nazi range control tower lie the remains of some heavy artillery guns which are visible at low tide. At the end of the occupation the guns were dumped over the cliff. Some have been recovered and can be seen at Noirmont Battery.

Le Pinacle Rock is an important archaeological site with Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman remains. For more than 4500 years this imposing rock which resembles a huge Menhir (standing stone) captured the imagination of the inhabitants of Jersey as a very special place. A narrow cave runs beneath the headland.

Kayak surfing

La Baie de St Ouën is an excellent surfing beach and it is not until you are near La Pulente that you may find a relatively sheltered landing. In large surf it is a good idea to head inside the reefs towards La Rocco tower and land at La Pulente.

If you are planning on surf kayaking, you are required to have third party insurance such as is provided through BCU membership.

La Pulente and La Corbière

La Corbière and sea kayak in rough water

La Corbière

This area has many reef breaks, so you’ll need to keep a close watch on the wave patterns and keep a good distance apart. Victor Hugo (who lived in Jersey 1852–1855) described this area as the ‘herdsman of the waves’. I’ve seen sea kayaks go airborne here, as paddlers frantically dash beyond the swells, and this is also where tow ins (surfers are towed in to catch huge swells by jet ski) may take place …

Landing at the La Corbière lighthouse is tricky, as a tide stream runs over the causeway on both the flood and ebb tides. The causeway is a great spot for ferry glides and overfalls occur off the western end of the lighthouse.

There are numerous shipwrecks in this area, the most recent was the St Malo high speed ferry in 1995 with 307 passengers. The captain was attempting a tricky inshore passage as a short cut. Fortunately all were rescued.

St Brelade heading west

sea kayaks at Beau Port

Beau Port

There is a sea stack at Les Jeteuses below Beau Port battery. The gun battery is one of 13 that defended St Brelade bay from French attack. Le Beau Port is a jewel. On a sunny day the bay takes on a Mediterranean feel and often has a few luxury yachts at anchor. The red granite cliffs along this part of the coast have a wonderful warm feeling.

The cliffs continue from Beau Port to La Corbière with many small caves and sea arches that are easily missed, if you stay further offshore. There are a couple of peregrine falcon nests at La Grosse Tête and Trespass point (La Tête) and lots of bird life around Les Leaux de Ficquet.

A little offshore, Les Caînes reef was the site of the grounding of the SS Roebuck in 1911, when travelling in thick fog at 17 knots the steamer ran onto the reef. A subsequent inquiry suspended the somewhat accident prone Capt Le Feuvre’s master’s ticket for only three months even though it was the second time he’d hit rocks off Jersey. In 1897 he’d lost his ticket for six months after the Ibex, which was racing a rival vessel, hit rocks off La Corbière.

sea kayaks near Portelet

Cave with a view

Near Point La Moye is a large cave. On the cliff top is a huge hole which some locals recall once worked like a whale spout in storms. You can paddle into this cave, but look out for the swell from passing boats. Inside, you can see the remains of a few old cars that used to be pushed into the hole until the 1960′s. From Point La Moye to La Rosière there are numerous channels and stacks. The granite wall at the base of the cliffs in La Rosière was constructed in Victorian times as a tourist path into the caves.

The large tidal range makes the return trip very different and worthwhile.

The you-can-do-it-here island

With such a huge range of sea kayaking opportunities on Jersey this brief guide has not even covered the offshore routes to Les Écréhous, Les Minquers, Sark and beyond.

Apart from excellent kayaking the small island also offers an astonishing variety of things to do and visit – be it walking, coasteering or explore neolithic dolmen, a mediaeval castle and romantic harbours with inviting restaurants, not to forget friendly shopping precincts.

Landing at les Ecrehous

Landing at les Ecrehous

Add that there are regular high speed ferry links and flights from most regional airports, and you may well be out sea kayaking the Jersey coastline quicker than if you were driving to some “Mainland” paddling destinations.

Derek Hairon

This article was originally published in Ocean Paddler. View as a pdf.

Sea Kayak Skills Training in a Warm Pool

January 8th, 2014

Practice essential sea kayak skills and rolling in a warm indoor pool. 4 Friday evenings starting 10 Jan at 1830-2000. £25 per class. Lots of 1:1 coaching. Call 07797853033. Email

BCU Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning Course (CNTP)

January 7th, 2014

Learn essential sea kayak navigation skills on this practical course which is specifically designed for sea kayakers. 6 Tues evenings. Starts 14 Jan 1900-2130.  Email us

We’re in Canoe Focus Magazine

December 10th, 2013

Some months ago we won the prestigious  Jersey Enterprise Environment Award. The latest edition of the BCU members magazine Canoe Focus features us in an article.

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