Roger Chandler Q&A (1)

In 2016, Roger Chandler from Coastal Spirit, teamed up with Explora to create a yearly sea kayaking course that supports paddlers looking to fast track their development. The Sea Kayak Leader (4*) and Paddler Development Course  has a 2 week duration and takes place in November in Anglesey. The idea to create the course arose from the fact that most training courses are delivered over 2 or 3 days and paddlers then practice over time what they have learnt. But what if instead of cramming in, we had plenty of time to learn, fail, develop and achieve? 

 We stayed in a lovely bunk house in Anglesey Outdoors and trained for just over two weeks. We had the opportunity to really taste what sea kayaking in Anglesey has to offer and in plenty of different weather and sea conditions. We trained in the fast flows of the Menai Straights, in lumpy seas off the north and west coasts of Anglesey, on the tide races of Rhoscolyn and Penrhyn Mawr and had plenty of fun playing off Mini Mawr. We even had a full Saturday afternoon rolling practice at the pool in Plas-y-Brenin and an interesting day at the lakes one day it was blowing a breezy Bf8.

During the course, students will find that they can develop according to their own personal needs and progress at their own pace without pressure. As students live all together, breakfast time and study evenings give the opportunity to discuss progress and the learnings with the group and with Roger. A lot of the group work focuses on mastering coastal navigation. At sea, participants work in pairs and larger groups learning how to become more efficient in areas such as incident management, towing, paddling and rescues in wind, fast waters and big seas.

For Roger, training the Sea Kayak Leader Award (4 Star) over an extended period represents the chance to get deeper into personalised coaching and meet participant's objectives. At the end of the course, Roger creates personal action plans with each student to work through in the weeks and months after the course.

The article below is the first installment of a Q&A with Roger. It aims to pass on some of the experiences and learnings we had in 2016.

-          Why did you agree to try an experimental new sea kayaking course? I would hope that I’m always open to new ideas.  More time on a course to really explore the skills, strategy, increase understanding and self confidence in a variety of conditions that Anglesey offers.

-          What preparation did you do?  Made sure I had a few days off before and at the end of the course!

-          How did your expectations matched the reality of having participants with you over an extended period? I’m motivated by progress and self-development. I saw that and in some cases in a big way. That was great.

-          What benefits do you see about having the opportunity to coach the Sea Kayak Leader Award (4 Star) over a longer period? If an individual is at the right level and fit, this can be an amazing spring board for a person to really develop their sea kayaking skills and have greater clarity on what they need to do when they leave. 

-          How does the difference of skill level among participants impact the course and how did you manage it? This can be a challenge and as long as the group is open minded, each person can support and help each other.  One may be comfortable to lead while another can look after themselves. That’s ok. Working in pairs/buddies, or in two teams of three, plus having another coach who observed and assisted all helped.

-          As an experienced coach an assessor you gave us a lot of insight and advice over the two weeks on the technical and interpersonal skills which I would like to share more widely:

o   In your opinion, what are the qualities of a Sea Kayak Leader (4 Star)?  Someone who is personable; approachable; good communicator and inspires confidence; has good technical skills and can clearly manage themselves in the conditions. Motivated and happy.  Is able to adapt and change the plan, can empathise and connect with individuals, able to look at the small and the big picture.

o   What are the key things to prepare before assessment? This is very individual and hopefully your action plan, gives direction. Sometimes it’s a clear need to focus on technical skills, such as their roll is poor. Go and get specific coaching and begin to put this skill into a mixture of environments. Don’t set up, but capsize in a stern rudder position, left and then right. Paddle forwards, gain acceleration and capsize in a forward paddling position and roll. If air gets caught in the dry-suit and tends to trap you on the surface, make sure you walk into the water and allow the air all to escape.

If a person’s technical skills are in a good place then it’s much easier to focus on the process of leadership – Task (what needs to be done – big and small picture), Team and the Individual’s need’s. Make sure you paddle with other’s known and unknown. Setting up the conditions to get as close to an assessment as possible will really help with reducing stress.

o   What are the most common reasons why candidates fail during assessment? In many cases a person, was simply not ready. Not enough time has been spent on their action plan, they booked because the 3 years between training and assessment was running out. They knew about a weakness yet did very little about this. In brief, specifically a poor forward paddling style, lack of efficient and effective roll, not looking or performing comfortable in the Moderate environment. From a Leadership side, too task focused, ending up doing it all themselves, overlooking the needs of the individual and sometimes the team. No real awareness of the requirements and level of the Sea Kayak Leader Award (4*)

o   What scenarios would you tell candidates to prepare and rehearse? We have all heard horror stories about complex incident management scenarios. Nothing specific.  Get efficient with various techniques and strategies, such as contact tows in a mix of conditions, use of a tow line and re packing the bag effectively, create a list of various scenarios that you think could happen and practise working the techniques to resolve them. Manage the scenario all by yourself and then the same scenario but this time, you involve and co-ordinate the team.  Be clear and understand when would the leader get involved and when would you use the team.


In 2017, Nick Cunliffe and John Willacy will join the course delivering specialist modules. John Wllacy is record breaker paddler who list the circumnavigation of the UK among many other impressive achievements. Nick has 25 years experience coaching sea kayaking in Anglesey and will be working with Roger in rough water environments. We will also be staying at Anglesey Outdoors.

Click this link for the next installement.


About Roger:

Roger was introduced to inland and white water kayaking by his dad and brother. From being involved with a youth club he choose to pursue a career in the Outdoors, working in various centres and projects, ranging from the role of instructor, operations manager and technical adviser. During this time Roger gained further national governing body qualifications, such as the level 5 sea kayak coach, the highest British Canoeing (BC) award which is a highly respected award across the globe. 

Roger is a BC Advanced Sea Kayak Leader (5*) sea trainer and assessor, as well as safety training course provider with the BC Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning (CNTP) and the Open Water Navigation and Tidal Planning (OWNTP) course.  He holds a national diploma in youth work, a degree in development training, has over 20 year’s experience of working in the outdoors and is the director of Coastal Spirit.  2017 marks 10 years for Coastal Spirit!

Roger has paddled and led groups in the Southern Ocean and Chilean Patagonia, the Mediterranean Sea, such as, Sardinia and Turkey with a circumnavigation of Sicily (10/2010). Paddling throughout the UK with a 1000 km paddle around Wales (using the canals inland), West Coast Canada, the Gulf Islands and above the arctic circle, to Norway’s Lofoten islands. He has paddled solo out and back to the Isles of Scilly, lead a group across the English Channel and crossed to Ireland.  In 2013 he achieved a long-time dream and paddled the 900 nm around Ireland. Early on in 2016 he paddled with good friend Barry Shaw, around Mallorca, Menorca and completed the 60 km open crossing form Menorca back to Mallorca

Roger is a pro paddler with P&H sea kayaks, sponsored by Reed Chill Cheater with aquatherm spray deck, UK made Mitchell Blades paddles and Kokatat paddle gear.  He has also achieved a Highly Commended, Professional Coach of the year award 2012, through Canoe & Kayak magazine and more details can be seen by clicking on the photo opposite. 

Roger is passionate about protecting the ocean and promoting cleaner seas.  He is proud to be a member of the 250 club and support Suffers Against Sewage (SAS). 

Roger believes strongly that it essential to ensure his personal skills and ability are maintained at a high standard, so on his days off over the Winter, he goes paddling (just started Stand Up Paddleboarding - SUP). He is highly dependable, passionate, cheerful and really enjoys being under the stars next to a driftwood fire ...

The next 4 Star Leader Training & Paddler Development course starts on November 13th 2017. For more information contact To visit & join our Facebook group, click here.