Known for its friendly welcome, delicious seafood, countless headlands (many with historic lighthouses), empty beaches, intricately beautiful inlets and more than a thousand islands (many of which are publicly owned and make for wonderful camping) the Canadian province of Nova Scotia is a sea kayaker’s dream. Off the south western shore of Nova Scotia lies the Bay of Fundy, famous for its massive 56ft tidal range – the largest in the entire world. Add some wind, swell and fog and you have the perfect recipe for one great sea kayak symposium!
Before the Symposium proper begins, there is the opportunity to ride the ‘Shubie’ tidal bore. There are several of these unique phenomena around the world, but none quite like the Shubie. The Shubienacke River drains into the top end of the Bay of Fundy and for the most part looks like a normal tidal estuary, albeit with an awful lot of red brown mud exposed at low tide! But there is another side to the Shubie; a roaring monster that is awakened whenever the phases of the moon and sun coincide to generate the largest tides. During periods of Spring tides the Shubie turns into a class 3/4 ‘brown’ water run – the only catch is, you are going UP river!
The run begins right where the Shubie opens into the Bay. And as you sit in your kayak waiting for the ocean’s rush you can’t help but imagine a wall of churning brown engulfing everything in its path. The arrival of the bore can seem anticlimactic – the formation of a front wave is fickle and somewhat unpredictable, especially since the river channel was scoured deeper by spring-time floods and ice. But riding the front wave is not the point of the Shubie run. The incoming tide is heralded by the many shorebirds that take flight as the sand banks quickly disappear and bubbles of air trapped by the rushing water fizz to the surface.
But patience is a virtue and if you hold station and allow the initial surge to pass you by you will be rewarded by some of the best standing waves you are ever likely to surf. The trick is to try and follow the critical bugle of raw hydraulic power that pours over the many underwater features that make the Shubie so unique. Leave too early and the waves have yet to build. Too late and the features are drowned by the fast rising water and the waves disappear. But time your run correctly and you can bounce from feature to feature, surfing your brains out! And just to be absolutely clear, unlike a regular whitewater river, on the Shubie you are facing towards the ocean as you surf waves that build to an incredibly exhilarating 8ft high on the ‘Killer K’.
The regular run finishes just after Anthony’s Nose, a rock cliff that produces a chaotic series of standing waves bordered by a wicked eddyline with whirlpools large enough to spin a full-size sea kayak. And sea kayaks are the craft of choice. The fast current and large waves are perfect for highly rockered sea kayaks and the Jackson Journey proved to be absolutely ideal – fast enough to catch the biggest waves of the ‘Killer K’ and super maneuverable and playful on the smaller waves and many eddylines.
After two consecutive day’s runs of the Shubie with students, it was time for the coaches to go play! The Walton Whopper sounds like a delicious burger (which it is) but it is also the name of a class 4 hole that forms on the ebb under a road bridge in the small village of Walton, Nova Scotia. It was the first time any of the visiting coaches had been to this spot and even the local crew had never played there on such a big tide. The feature starts with a fairly green wave but turns into a hole big enough to chew up and spit out full size sea kayaks. We all got humbled as we tried to tame the Whopper and whilst some of did manage some cartwheels and ‘enders’, they were not always deliberate! I managed to snap the blade of my rudder which I had foolishly left on the boat and that was just with the hydraulic pressure alone!
The following day it was time to head down to the southern tip of Nova Scotia to the district of Acadia for the Symposium itself. The venue is perfect. The Old Argyler Inn has a dreamlike setting overlooking Lobster Bay and the staff were so friendly and accommodating to such a ragamuffin bunch of boaters. Christopher Lockyer of Committed to the Core Sea Kayaking and his organizing committee deserve full credit for staging a perfectly executed event. Classes from the mild to the wild were on offer and Mother Nature delivered with stunning sunsets, tricky fog banks that tested the navigational skills of the coaches and participants and plenty of wind to spice up the tidal races and provide ideal conditions for my Rough Water Rescues Class! Someone described the venue as trembling with the buzz of excitement of a community of paddlers so totally stoked with the joy of sea kayaking. Notable personalities such as Justine Curgenven, Paul Kuthe, Nick Cunliff, Jaime Sharp and Rowan Gloag and many other excellent coaches worked hard to ensure everyone got the maximum benefit from the classes and it was apparent that Nova Scotia has its own vibrant and highly skilled sea kayaking community. Next year’s dates are already announced – September 13/14/15, so mark your calendar, this one is not to be missed! For more information go to www.bofsks.com