The weekend of 7th and 8th March was an important one for the CANI Surf Development and Talent Squad, and their Lead Coach Marty McCann. As part of the Performance Coach Development Programme, a visit had been organised to welcome Edu Etxeberria from San Sebastián in the Basque Country to Northern Ireland, in order for him to share his skills and expertise with our coaches and paddlers.
Edu has a life-long connection to Paddlesport, and runs a highly reputed school based at the Real Club Náutico de San Sebastián, specialising in various disciplines within canoeing – Surf Kayaking, Freestyle, Creeking and Sea-Kayaking. It is within Surf Kayaking that Edu is most well-known, not only for his coaching abilities and his development of the sport in his home country, but also for his personal success in Surf Kayak HP and IC and Waveski at National and International levels.
From the many people who pass through the school, enjoying the sport and learning at an introductory level, Edu and his fellow coaches are able to build the strong and greatly respected Basque National Team.
Edu’s first few days here were spent surfing with Marty McCann at the North Coast and in Donegal, along with some of our own high profile surf kayakers – Corin King, Dessie McGlinchey and Jonny Bingham to name a few. This also allowed Marty and Edu quality time to share notes on their respective approaches to coaching and to developing the sport, which was of huge benefit, and showed many similarities between the two countries.
The weekend was a great opportunity for intensive training for the squad juniors, who were joined by other club paddlers and coaches who are keen to develop surf-kayaking in NI. Saturday saw cold and blustery conditions at East Strand, with extremely strong winds. The squad therefore worked predominantly in the white water, rather than on the green waves, practising controlling their kayaks in the white water, as Edu and Marty coached from the shore. As the day progressed and the wind picked up even further, the decision was made to move to the shelter of Portrush Harbour, where the squad worked on Fundamental Paddling Skills, such as forward strokes, and also rescue techniques which they will need for their 3*assessment in the future.
The day finished up in the comfortable surroundings of Portrush Yacht Club, where Edu gave an interesting and informative talk on the development of his school and its place within the life of San Sebastián, the links between the social and sporting sides of the club, and the development of the competitive aspect. He also gave insightful comments on the relationship between the athlete and the waves, indicating a need above all for an athlete to understand the waves and their quality. “It is never a case of what I can do on a particular wave, but a case of what the wave will allow me to do.”
Sunday was a much brighter day. It was still windy, but was cross-shore, and the session was moved to Portstewart Strand, where Edu spent all day on the water with the squad coaches, giving coaching advice at close quarters. They spent much of the time working on specific drills to improve their overall movement skills on the waves through practising paddle-out take offs.
Overall it was a wonderful experience, and the coaches and squad are definitely looking forward to meeting up once more with Edu and the rest of the Basque team at the forthcoming world championships in Galicia, Spain.