By @SimonCocking images by Jon Hynes

Great interview with Cian Walsh director of this documentary now available on youtube, covering the tech used to document the paddle round Ireland. Questions answered by Cian Walsh and Jon Hynes. 

Well done on the circumnavigation of Ireland by kayak! Were you aiming to beat the record?

JH. No, we didn’t set out to beat the record although we did want to go around quickly. It took years of preparation in order to get the time off, family onboard, gear, finances etc in order to do the trip. We wanted to be around sub 40 days and we did that (just)! The weather definitely slowed us up and we reckon we could have gone 5-6 days quicker at least had the weather been more cooperative. But despite those challenges of weather we really enjoy the trip. The post trip feeling of satisfaction is almost indescribable. Now we are happy to share our stroy with the launch of our documentary “Sea Kayak Around Ireland”.

Why did you decide to do it?

JH. Many many years ago while working at an Outdoor Centre in Co. Kerry my boss invited me on a weeklong sea kayaking trip on the West Coast of Ireland. Whilst I had been kayaking for many years, this was my first time camping and kayaking on a multi day trip and it just captivated me. He told me great tales of his own circumnavigation of Ireland which he had just recently completed. From that moment, I was committed to the idea.

You went clockwise around Ireland, why?

JH. Of the 60 or so people that have sea kayaked around Ireland since the late 70’s, to the best of my knowledge they have all gone clockwise. The prevailing south west winds in theory should aid you up the west coast. For our trip we wanted to get stuck into the more challenging sections first as I knew them well, they are my local paddle trips and places where I have ventured on shorter trips in the past. In theory that should have given us a chance to ease into the trip. However the bad weather really tested us that first week and we really had to be super switched on.

What tech did you use to document your trip?

CW. On the actual trip, we used 2 GoPro Hero 3’s. We jury rigged one to the back of Jon’s boat via a fishing rod pole and the other was suctioned onto the front of the boat. We did have another GoPro that unfortunately met a untimely demise up in Donegal but we still hope to recover that camera in the future for a directors cut.
iPhones were used to film small pieces onshore and some timelapses. For interviews and other scenery shots, we used a Canon 70D, Rode Video Mic and Manfrotto tripod. It was a nice flexible system for outside usage and a good quality tripod meant the wind didn’t buffet the camera around too much.

What online weather monitoring systems did you use ?

JH. We used websites such as windguru & met eireann which we found to be very accurate and reliable. However as with all forecasting sites its about your ability to apply that data to the coastline you are paddling and making sound decisions based on what you see and what you believe to be coming from the forecast. Often times we had to take chances and roll the dice just to prevail.

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How did you find using drones?  The footage is great, are they still limited by air time?

AW. The drone was provided and operated by our friend Oisin Mc Grath of iFlyTechnology . We used it on one section of coastline, Loop Head, that we knew would be particularly stunning. The challenges of synchronising two paddlers along with a drone flying over a narrow channel meant we had to rely on the expertise of the drone operator themselves. But we managed to have both a front facing, rear facing and drone shots for that section which meshed very nicely in the final edit.

What tech would have made the trip easier for you?

JH. Perhaps if we had more opportunity to dump footage that we had filmed into portable hard drives. I lost a very precious GoPro 4 in North Donegal that had 91 high quality clips of the North West. I cried that day, however it is amazing that we managed to produce such a great documentary with the footage we had. But the lesson learned is have back ups of everything!

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In the documentary you are using your mobiles – how was coverage while you were out there?

JH. The coverage was really good. Sometimes if we were in under steep cliffs of course it would be limited but most of the time it was really good. I had my iPhone in a fully waterproof Lifeproof case which I would highly recommend.

How is tech helping the world of sea kayaking?

JH. It is incredible how the sport has evolved due to technology. GPS revolutionised how we navigate and continues to improve every year. Phones coupled with GPS and navigation apps have been a great development for recording trips. However I have noticed many people have abandoned traditional navigation skills which then places them in great danger if the battery dies or they drop the GPS / phone overboard. Personal Locater Beacons (PLB’s) have also made for much safer paddling and they allow emergency services to locate paddlers quicker when things go wrong. Of course the GoPro and similar sports action camera’s have allowed us to record the beautiful things we see while on the water. They have created better training resources. However I have some strong feelings too that some paddlers have begun to live for the GoPro much to the detriment of the real reason we go to paddle. Some people just cant wait to post online from the kayak!

What future developments could help kayaking and water sports in general?

JH. I think the traditional VHF radio that we have used for many years at sea is on borrowed time. They are unreliable, heavy and require training to use. Lighter more reliable communication devices are definitely in the pipeline. Really any device that makes the sport safer ensures its success.

What were your highlights of the trip?

JH. There were many many memorable moments. Succeeding and prevailing on the days when the odds were stacked against us was really satisfying. When the sea is angry or challenging and you make decisions or use your skills to succeed, it brings a massive sense of achievement. However it was the kindness and hospitality of people that we met along the way that really made it. Making new friendships and feeling a deep sense of pride of being Irish. We had cups of tea, dinners made for us, stayed overnight in peoples houses. But I must say I enjoyed the Camping just as much as it allowed us to be out on the water really early in the morning.

The wedding ring had to be cut off, sounds serious, would you just leave it behind next time?

JH. Yes, my wife was really cool about it. She has been a great support to me on all my adventures and as a kayaker herself she knew what it took to succeed on such a trip. Anyway, the ring is replaceable!

What’s next?

JH. Good question. Well we are enjoying the very positive reaction to the release of this documentary. I have a lot of sea kayaking courses to run in early 2016. I really enjoy my work as a kayaking Instructor. In June 2016 I am going to Alaska on a Sea Kayaking expedition which I am really looking forward to. I also plan to compete in the National Surf Kayaking series in 2016. This is a discipline of kayaking that I have moved towards in the last few years and really enjoy surfing kayaks and wave ski’s. Ultimately in 2016 I want to deliver a book on adventure that I have had in my head for a number of years and now feels like the right time.


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