Sea Kayaking Weekend Whitesands 2022
On the last weekend of April Cardiff Canoe Club organised to meet for a weekend of camping, sea kayaking, wave surfing and even a little bit of cycling for some. Throughout the Friday club members arrived at the Lleithyr Farm campsite in dribs and drabs, staying in a mix of tents, campervans and the well prepared came along in their caravans. It was clear to see the more experienced groups, some with clothes lines and fancy tarps. But the Wilfords would take the trophy with a caravan and awning setup that became the go to spot to hide from the rain and the wind! The club split into different groups for the evening, some exploring the farm, which boasted a selection of micro animals, Buddy and Nugget the Falabella ponies were favourites. Then it was time for dinner, this was more successful for some than for others, but after being fed raw burgers, Simon luckily survived. Afterwards we came together as a group to make plans for the next day, Sue went above and beyond with a whiteboard diagram showing the coastline and the tidal flows to help portray the route, clearly showing her past life as a teacher!
Saturday morning brought our first day of paddling. We had an earlyish start, beginning with a drive down to lower Fishguard, where we would be launching from the harbour and paddling up to Pwllgwaelod Beach - we were led to believe this was to be a five kilometre paddle each way, but turned out to be closer to five miles; depending on if you trust the books or the GPS!
We were a group of 17 paddlers, of mixed age and experience, for a few of the group this was their first time in a sea kayak. Luckily for them, it was a warm day but the clouds gave some protection from the sun, and there was little to no swell or wind. The group was expertly led by Colin, Sue and Rhys. Paddling out we hugged the coastline to allow the group to explore the caves and hop between rocks. As the day went on improvement could be seen for the newer paddlers who learned to better control the sea kayaks, and learn to harness small swells to move between clusters of rocks. Andy and Jackie showed expert control at this in their two person sea kayak as well! On the way Hugo learned a valuable lesson about always wearing a helmet, when he was “accidentally” pelted with a sea snail by Riley, which drew a little blood.
After exploring every possible cave and rock formation, and arguing about which breed of bird was which, we made it to the planned lunch spot on Pwllgwaelod Beach. Here some of the group left to explore “The Bitches'' (follow the link to see the full story), a tidal race near Ramsey Island that makes for some excellent surfing. The rest of us enjoyed our lunch, relaxed and had a well earned break.
It was here where Riley brought out the Kelp he had been collecting along the way, Anna had told him it could be cooked, so he informed us that he (well, Lydia) would be cooking it later for us to enjoy - more on that later. After lunch the remaining group got back on the water and paddled a little further up the coast, before taking a more direct paddle back straight across the bay, giving the first timers another a new experience of Sea Kayaking.
The group split up as they got their heads down and relaxed into their natural pace. John P put in an almighty effort of being in the front group in his Hybrid boat! After making it back to Fishguard we loaded up the gear and went back to the campsite, where after various dinner plans, we met in the Wilford estate to hide from the rain and try the Kelp. Despite it being cleaned and boiled the reactions were mixed. Some of the group, including Kent and Shayne didn’t really mind it, whilst Rhys had all but a lick before turning his nose up in disgust!
The third day brought a very welcome later start, there wasn’t a planned sea trip this day, instead we headed down to Whitesands beach. Some of the group were content to sit in the café and enjoy the coffee and views, while those that had brought along their whitewater boats took to the sea to enjoy the five foot waves. While the surfers code of conduct had been discussed, this quickly fell away between us as we jostled to get the good waves. There were a good few swims, as the first timers like Pete learned that if you dip your nose on top of a wave, you get catapulted down head first, even Hugo and Kent had a swim. Shayne struggled with his gear as the sea kept ripping his spray deck off, and switched to using a body board instead to enjoy the waves. At the end paddlers and spectators reunited at the café and some restorative hot chocolates were consumed before we headed back up to the campsite.
On Sunday we took once more to the sea kayaks for our final paddle, this time starting from picturesque Porthclais. Whilst we had the same nice weather we enjoyed on the first paddle, the calm water had been replaced with a meter plus swell. As we hugged the coastline heading east, we tested ourselves against the swell trying to time entrances and exits of the caves and rock formations. We mostly got this right, but there were some sketchy moments. One cave in particular saw Sue get stuck on a rock when Pete came flying into her, and Colin bagged a perfect surf to avoid colliding with Rhys - who Paul managed to just avoid hitting. Further up the coast, Preston managed to perfectly (or luckily, if you ask Rhys) exit out of a cave before the waves came crashing in. A few miles further up the coast we came across a rocky beach, with a rather narrow entrance. It required us to enter one at a time, which we managed to do, without any swims at that. The same strategy was needed to get out from the beach, this required timing of the waves, some of us had a pleasant trip out, others like Meg, got a bit unlucky with the set of the waves and had a bumpier ride out! From here it was a straight blast back to the start point across more open water to avoid the swell, a lovely seven mile round trip!