Thursday, April 3, 2014

Surfers/Kayakers Ear

With my thirtieth birthday slowly creeping up on me and having spent the last 13 years of my life chasing a kayakers dream of throwing big move’s, running big drop’s and basically exploring different parts of the world I am currently on the receiving end of a condition I knew about but never took any action against, SURFERS EAR. My background in sport does not only involve kayaking, it ranges from Thai Boxing, Rugby, Mountain Biking and Hill Running to name just a fraction. I understand the importance of preparation and the importance of taking care of your body for longevity of a sporting career. With an honors degree in Physical Education and Sports Studies, I have spent countless hours looking at how sports athletes can make themselves stronger, faster and most importantly last longer. Especially people like us kayakers we generally get involved in this sport for the sheer love of the feelings it gives us, the noise of your hull echo after landing a big airscrew or landing a big boof.
Itanda

            I am writing this little blog to try and create some awareness to the young kayakers and anyone else involved in the outdoor industry to take care of their ears when on the water. I can remember a stage in my kayaking career where an influential kayaker mentioned the importance of wearing ear plugs to me so taking his advise I went and purchased some cheap plugs and tried to kayak with them in. Within 5 minutes on the water I took them out and never wore them again. I couldn't hear the water and it was so different I couldn't get used to it. So after that I never wore plugs till now! Yes over 10 years later. Here is a quick look at what Surfers ear is, which is taken from http://www.pamf.org/ENT/services/surfersear.html
Surfer's ear is a serious condition that affects hearing. Medically known as "exostosis of the external auditory canal," surfer's ear is caused by repeated exposure to cold water and wind. Cooling of the ear canal stimulates bone growth that narrows the canal and blocks the eardrum. This narrowing traps water and earwax in the canal, often resulting in painful ear infections and hearing loss.
Sounds pretty bad right! So right now I have ¾ closure of my left ear and ½ closure of my right ear. Not only does this tell me that I roll more on my left but it’s affecting me horribly in general life.  I have only now started to feel the effects of this and it is way worse than I imagined. I have currently had an ear infection that has stopped me from sleeping, the pain started down my jaw line, all around my ear and within the ear. Not only that but I have had to stop kayaking due to the pain. Antibiotics, painkillers and quiet time by myself was a daily routine. Would you believe that this is not the worst of it? Because my ear is in such bad shape my left ear closed off totally and I lost hearing in it for over a week. My father has had an issue with his ears for as long as I can remember, basically he has very little hearing in one ear and that's it. I have always been aware of this but I can remember times in my life where I had to repeat myself to him and I got frustrated with it. Not in a malicious way but I just found it hard to understand why he couldn't hear me when I spoke loud and clear to him. This experience over the past week has put me in his shoes and it has hit home pretty hard. The loss of hearing in one of my ears made me, cranky, irritable, unhappy and a target for people to make a joke about. I know it didn't last very long but I promise you one day is too much. Background noise was the worst, I literally could not sit at a table of people and get involved in the conversation because I couldn't focus on one person talking. Working on the river was very hard, the constant noise of whitewater in the background made it almost impossible to hear people.
Topping all this off – I currently work on the White Nile in Uganda and I have so many places to go and kayak and explore. With my ear worsening I am in desperate need of the surfers ear operation.

Ideas to help you prevent Surfers ear.
·      Bring a hat and wear it after you get off the water, wet ears and cold wind is not good.
·      Wear earplugs. (Ones that are designed for cold water)
·      Get your ears checked regularly.
·      Wear ear plugs even in warm water.

The ear plugs I started with (Fig 1) were a general pair of plugs that was said to be designed to stop water getting into the ear. I can tell you now from experience they don't work!! Don't waist your money at 20 euros your better off buying a few beers out on a Saturday night!
(Fig 1)

After these I started to use blue tack (Fig 2). This was great, no water got in. The issue was I couldn't hear a bloody thing with it and when I took them out to hear and coach putting them back in was a nightmare and they didn't work very well because they were wet inside.
(Fig 2)

The set I am using at the moment are (Fig 3). These plugs are designed to fit my ears and were done by a company specifically focusing on these types of plugs.

(Fig 3)


I hope this blog has helped some people and maybe created awareness of what can happen down the line if you don't take precautions. This is my experience and is unique to me so don't take my word as gospel. One size does not fit all!

Happy paddling everyone.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nile River Festival 2014

This year the festival not only changed dates but also had new organizers, Sam and Emily the new owners of Kayak the Nile. I’ll start this blog post by thanking them for doing a great job making the festival enjoyable for both the competitors and spectators.

 Nile Special Play Wave

The format for the weekend started on Thursday with big air ramp, Friday was the extreme endurance race that ran from the silverback dam to the Hairy lemon (40km), Saturday was freestyle on Nile Special wave and Sunday the Hendry Coetzee Itanda extreme race.

I’ve spent the last 8 months working here in Uganda for Kayak the Nile and Love it Live it as a coach and guide on the Nile River but I’m going to write this review based on my experience of the festival. After a long days work on Thursday I was straight off the river and down to the big air ramp at NRE campsite. NRE being my base for work you would have expected that I should have seen it if not tried the big air ramp previously. However coming off a 7-week work stint I wasn't so lucky. When I did get down to give it a go I was happily surprised by the quality of the ramp. It was amazing, so good that a few competitors even competed in their carbon boats. The competitors ranged from experts to total beginners trying everything from airscews, face plants, and sliding trough flames covered in petrol to riding other competitors down the ramp. Judging was based on how cool the move looked, skill and quality of the move and if it was very special you even won a free Nile Special beer to enjoy whilst watching the other competitors. I was very lucky to pick up fist place, which I think was based on constant flirting and winking at the judges and not landing on my face off the ramp. That night the party in the bar was just as much fun with a lot of zappa and funnels drunk by the majority of the competitors.

Quick nap before the race


The next morning I woke up early to try and get rid of my hangover with bacon and egg burgers and a lot of water and coke! Luckily I managed to sort myself out in the nick of time for what I think was the most difficult race of my life. Just so people know my background, I have a lot of years of experience in endurance sports ranging from down river, to mountain biking, to marathon running, adventure racing, etc. and that's just naming a few. So I was teamed up with Sam for the race and I was excited to compete. I thought this was a strong area of my paddling, I knew the river and I had a strong partner however I was in for a surprise. I’ve now been paddling the Jed for the past year and it has to be the perfect size for me. I’m 80kg and well able to handle this boat. However within the first 50 meters of the 40km race I realized when it comes to racing on flat water in this boat I was way too heavy. I followed Sam for most of the race trying to keep at his pace but the effort I was putting in was too much for the distance. I spent the whole race trying to see if I could speed up by changing my stroke technique, I was pushing my weight further back in my boat but there was no change. I had a few moments where all I could do was count my strokes and compare my stroke rate to Sam’s. It was ridiculous! My stroke rate was 2-3 times higher than Sam’s. We started to fall behind the front runners and Sam being his cheerful self kept me entertained by telling me jokes and calling me fat, which actually made me keep a good stroke rate up for the race. There was a stage where we were approaching Itanda and I needed to make the decision to run or portage, of course being my stubborn self I was fully convinced I would be ok. Thankfully I was ok with not the most stylish line ever but a cramp in my left chest muscle at the top didn't put me in the best position for the rest of the rapid and following that my left groin muscle cramped up just as I hit the bad place. All in all a great run down the hardest rapid on the river. Following that I made a promise to myself that when I turn 95 ill come back and run Itanda as I felt that old at the top. When we approached the finish in 8th position we were greeted with an obstacle course followed by a funnel which I refused to do with beer and did 3 cokes instead. I was then ridiculed by the lovely girls who were giving out the funnels for not doing the funnel of beer. I had to take this on the chin like a man so I went to bed at 9 straight after dinner.

After 11 hours of sleep I woke for breakfast the next morning feeling the total opposite of ready for the freestyle event. After breakfast I did what most athletes do I went back to bed like a baby needing a nap after food, I was so broken from the race the day before. When I returned after my nap I went to get some of lunch before the comp started. While I sat there and struggled to eat I was shown the rules of another competition going on at the same time. This competition involved two athletes (Nick and Tom). The rules included

Ground Rules
1.    Buffalo rules apply (you have to drink with your bad hand, if you don't and someone calls buffalo you need to down your drink)
2.    You must have a beer at all times.
3.    Headbands must be worn at all times.
4.    No shoes in the house. (house was made next to the wave)
Main Rules
1.    Spin/round house = yell boooo drink 2 fingers
2.    Anyone wearing a Go Pro = funnel
3.    Panam = jump 180, moon the competitor and drink 3 fingers
4.    Airscrew = yell “screw you” and drink 3 fingers
5.    Combo = yell fries and a drink then drink 2 fingers
6.    Any clean move = imitate cleaning yourself and drink 2 fingers
7.    Helix = funnel
8.    Swim = funnel
9.    All competitors must wear a BA and helmet.

Nick and Tom competing hard during the freestyle 

With this in mind I got geared up and headed to the wave. Amazingly when I got to the wave there was a huge number of people there to watch the event. 200 plus people from all over the world turned up. Of course before the event it is important to have some practice runs in and with the drinking competition in full swing we decided to see how committed the lads were to the cause. Anton and I were the only two on the water and our main focus was to see how much we could get the lads to drink. The best move was of course the helix to swim!!

The competition itself was scored in a way were the competitors had the freedom to try big moves, an expression session. It was 8 competitors in each heat and 30 minutes to do as many big air moves as possible. This had to be the best set of rules I have ever seen and for me as a competitor it was a lot of fun and it gave me huge freedom to try bigger and better moves. By the end the winner was obvious with Sam Ward putting on a show for everyone to enjoy with some crazy combos and seriously big air moves. I picked myself up a second place, which I was very happy with. Of course that night we once again partied hard and with Sam not able to eat gluten he donated his crate of beer to me, which was a nice beginning to the party that night.

Sunday morning was a very interesting morning not only did I have a terrible headache for reasons unknown but the day started with protest. Without mentioning names, for some reason we turned up at Itanda and people were trying to charge each competitor $15 and $15 for their kayak this also was for the spectators charging them $15. After some mud wrestling and a 2 hour wait we finally got in with the help of the police. The Itanda race was the idea Hendry Coetzee and is done in his memory, it involves competitors racing down Itanda in a timed race with the top 5 then going through to an expression session. Being a pretty big rapid, the nerves were going in the eddy at the top, “it's the loneliest place on the river” (Jamie Simpson).
54321 GO! We sprinted at the top and by the time I got to the lip of the ramp my arms were already burning, Sadat was ahead of me coming to the lip of the ramp and I knew I needed to do something special to get ahead of him. I decided to take a really tight line at the lip of the pencil sharpener to try and make up time however with the unpredictability of the boils on that lip along with my lack of energy I had a bit of a moment causing me to spin half way down the rapid. I still managed to get into the eddy at the end through the bad place however my time was not fast enough to qualify. The expression session at the end was an amazing final seeing different entry lines at the top of Itanda along with some surfing in the pencil sharpener and some classic bad place finishing. 
The event was overall a huge success and so much fun as a competitor. I have no doubt next year will be even bigger and better.



Results
RESULTS 2014
Big Air Ramp:
1. Colin Wong (IRL)

2. Sam Ward (GBR)
3. Ben (UG)

Endurance Race: 
1. Jackson Two and Musa Mutamba (UG)

2. Yusuf Basalirwa and Hassan Kanoli (UG)

3. Sadat Kawawa and David Luhiho (UG)

Nile Special Freestyle:
Mens-

1. Sam Ward (GBR)

2. Colin Wong (IRE)

3. David Moore (UG)

Womens-

1. Emily Wall (GBR)

2. Lowri Davies (GBR)

3. Jessie Stone (USA)

Hendri Coetzee Memorial Itanda Falls Race:
1. Sam Ward (GBR)

2. Yusuf Basalirwa (UG)

3. Jackson Two (UG)

Overall Women’s Champ:
1. Amina Nailrya (UG)

Overall Men’s Champ: 
1. Sam Ward (GBR)

2. Colin Wong (IRL)

3. Anton Immler (SWE)




Monday, April 29, 2013

Quadyaking!

Bored kayakers

So with the serious lack of water we had to come up with something to do to keep the thirst at bay. 
So what better to do than tie a kayak to the back of a quad bike and bomb around a field in it!!
Cheers to Johann and Marius for film and putting it on YouTube. Might be a good idea to wear a helmet  the next time!

Monday, April 15, 2013

14-4-13 (Day in Kerry with plenty of water)

Flesk 1.2


Here you are lads, I should be focusing on my final year of college assignments but this footage was to much fun to go through. Sorry for the fast forwarding but I just want to show how far the boat chasing actually was. 
I think there was some very good lessons learned on this day for all of us kayakers. Good on the lads for firing up I think by the time we got off it was around 1.3 so it was rising for the run. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Journey through my shoulder injury

Shoulder Injuries and kayaking
Ill start this blog post by explaining what happened to me. On the 28th of December I was unlucky enough to have injured my shoulder on poll gorm on the Flesk river. This river is my home run and I have run this rapid many times before but this time I wasn't so lucky. I had a subluxation of my shoulder. I flipped at the top of this rapid, my shoulder was in a very bad position and well the rocks took care of the rest.


Poll Gorm 

A shoulder subluxation is similar to a shoulder dislocation, the difference being that a subluxation is temporary and partial. It can be described as shoulder joint instability. A study of over 4,000 West Point cadets showed that shoulder subluxations are much more common than dislocations, and often happen in conjunction with other injuries such as Bankart lesions. (http://www.mmarmedical.com)

Just back from the hospital


I was told in the hospital that I needed to rest for the first week and then visit the hospital physio. I spent that week talking to friends via Facebook, E-mails, Face to Face, etc too try and find out as much as possible about this injury. Obviously as a kayaker and with a dream job with Love it Live it and Kayak the Nile starting in July I needed to make sure my shoulder was going to be as strong as possible after this injury. I heard some horror stories which freaked me out to be honest but I tried to ignore them. 
I went to the hospital physio and I was given some basic exercises to help me get my shoulder moving again. These included, pushing my hand against the wall (fig 1) and using my other arm to help the bad one move (fig 2).

 
Push against the wall (fig 1)

Before I continue I feel its important to make sure people know that if you do get a shoulder injury like this, find a sports physio who will take you seriously, has experience and knows what they are talking about. What I am showing you is what worked for me, remember everyone is different. Don't try and self treat, its not worth it. 


I found a physio, who came highly recommended and also very new school. By new school I mean her exercises are based very much on new research and she had no problem dry needling tight and knotted muscles. 

Words from my physio - "you should come back from injury strong than before" (true!!)

My healing process

Week 1 28-12-12
  • Rest 
  • Pain killers 
  • Depressed 
  • No driving
  • College work
  • No training basically a shit time and no fun.


Week 2 4-1-13
  • Basic exercises as above given from the hospital pyhsio
  • Research into shoulder injuries
  • Found my physio
  • Still no training.

Using my good arm to help lift the injured arm (fig 2)
Week 3 11-1-13
  • 3 physio sessions
  • New exercises
  • Back in the gym cycling to keep fit
  • Dry needling to loosen tight muscles and release knots
  • Exercises done twice a day 
  • Foam rolling done 3 times a day
  • Introduced to the importance of setting my shoulder (shoulder back and down) i focused on this throughout my rehab and still do in my training 
  • Back using my right arm gently throughout the day.


Stand up press ups against the wall

Doing the alphabet with my hand on the swiss ball.
(notice the shoulder is set)

Foam Rolling middle back (10 times, dont roll over the lower back)

Foam rolling lats (10 times do both sides)

Week 4 18-1-13
  • 2 physio sessions
  • Dry needling, new exercises
  • Foam rolling 3 times a day
  • Carrying on with some exercises from last week
  • Back in the gym (Im very lucky to have a strength and conditioning coach who was also in contact with my physio)
  • 20 minute kayak erg session
  • Driving again safely!


Progression from last weeks stand up press up to a kneel down press up

Single arm bent over row (before the injury i was using 36kg dumbbells after the injury i started with 3kg dumbbells)


Kayak ergometer 

Week 5 25-1-13
  • 2 physio sessions
  • Foam rolling 3 times a day
  • Keeping same exercises
  • 40 minute kayak erg session 2 x 20 minutes (these sessions were done at the easiest setting and not at a high tempo).


Theraband exercise (making sure the shoulder is set to use the rotator cuff)


Same as above but the band is on the other side (notice the elbow is slightly under the shoulder and the shoulder is set)

Week 6 1-2-13
  • 2 physio session
  • First flat water session (in my creek boat, technique and endurance session, stern rudder, bow rubber, forward, backwards, sweep, reverse sweep, hanging stern draw, draw stroke, stopping. all strokes were done back at a very basic level, slow steady strokes Thanks to the CIT boys for keeping me company and carrying my boat) When doing these focus on counting the strokes and structure the session, e.g. 10 x sweep stroke right hand, 10 x sweep stroke left hand, full focus on technique.
  • Pool session practising rolling
  • Foam rolling 3 times a day
  • Keeping exercises going
  • 40 minute kayak erg session 2 x 20 minutes
  • Back into the squad gym sessions lifting very light. 2 days a week


Bend over row (set the shoulder slow steady lifting, keep the core strong, light weight)

Floor press (slow steady lifting, make sure you have someone to spot, light weight)


Week 7 8-2-13
  • 2 physio sessions
  • Foam rolling 3 times a day
  • Squad gym sessions (upping the weight) 2 days a week
  • Kayak varsities (endurance race 6k)
  • Rest days before the race
  • Warm up includes Theraband exercises
  • Progression onto fast movements for the shoulder.


7 weeks and I had a good race the shoulder felt good throughout but I was still very aware of it


Week 8  15-2-13
  • Down to 1 physio session a week
  • Foam rolling 3 times a day 
  • Kayak erg session (2 x 20mins raising the tempo)
  • Squad gym session ( power exercises, box jumps, goblet squats) 2 days a week
  • Started pull ups again (make sure you dont fully extend at the end of the pull up and slowly come down)
  • Freestyle session for 30 minutes.
  • Still going with physio exercises.



Very happy to be back on moving water (this session went well however i was aware of the shoulder)


Week 9  22-2-13
  • 1 physio session
  • Foam rolling 3 times a day
  • Kayak erg session (20 minutes)
  • Squad session the weight  raising quickly
  • Galway fest (extreme race grade 3)


Galway fest final rapid, 3rd place (6 mins 09 secs)

Even decided to take part in the reverse boater x (shoulder felt great throughout the day much less aware of the injury)


Week 10 1-3-13
  • 1 physio session
  • Foam rolling 3 times a day
  • Kayak erg session (2 x 20 min session)
  • Starting to get back lifting good weight in the gym
  • NSR in the UK no kayaking or training
  • Bad hangover after this week 
  • Got the all clear from the physio


Week 11 8-2-13
  • Back front squatting (4 x 80kg) and power cleaning (92.5kg 1 rep max) in the gym 
  • Finding over the head exercises still difficult
  • Wacko on the Jacko extreme race (class 3) this race included 1 timed race (8mins 41secs 3rd place) boater x (2 rounds) teamed race.


Wacko race (shoulder feeling good all weekend even less awareness of the injury)




Above is a short account of my recovery from my shoulder. I am currently in my 12th week and still working hard at trying to make a full recovery. After 12 weeks I still have slight pain in the shoulder and movements over the head have to be done carefully. 

First visit to the Physio
When I first met my physio I explained my injury and the way it happened. It does sound kind of far fetched when you explain you fell upside down in your kayak and hurt your shoulder. What I did was send her footage of myself creek boating and freestyling and explained that I needed to do that again and at the same level. After this my physio changed her approach in terms of respect for the sport and the exercises she gave. The one thing that stood out to me after this visit was her telling me that I should be stronger and better coming back from this injury if I play my cards right and do what is needed. 
After 12 weeks i have noticed my lifting technique is better in the gym and my over all flexibility have improved hugely.

A few tips and advice from my experience.
  1. Dont use this to self treat, I left out loads of exercises on purpose so know one can.
  2. Find a good physio and stick religously to what they tell you to do.
  3. Try not to go on the piss your muscles tighten up and your physio will dry needle them and it hurts like hell (thank you NSR)
  4. Stay positive throughout your whole recovery, don't let anyone tell you, your shoulder will never be the same.
  5. Dont let your shoulder in the sling for too long, don't be afraid to move it.
  6. SET YOUR SHOULDER
  7. SET YOUR SHOULDER
  8. Dont rush into anything take your time
  9. Dont do nothing!!
  10. Make sure you train both shoulders don't let the good shoulder get weak!!


Any questions please comment bellow and i will do my best to answer.
I will add to this as much as possible.

Check out the comments bellow, some interesting articles placed up there, thank you!