With North Wales being so diverse, it’s great to just browse through recent postings on social media sites taking a look at what different people are up to in the North Wales area.
Every now and then a user will catch the eye and make for an interesting article on www.extremenorthwales.co.uk and that’s precisely how we stumbled across James Crook.
His sea kayaking and fishing videos caught our attention so we got in touch to find out a bit more about the man and the hobby.
James can you tell us a bit of a bio and more about your background?
I was born into a service family. My mother and father both served in the RAF and I was born at RAF Wellesbourne in 1968, I have travelled most of my life through my father being posted and was no stranger to being the new kid at school. I think I then grew up with itchy feet and always looking outward in life.
How long did you serve with the armed forces?
I joined the Royal Artillery in 1988 and completed my training at Woolwich, the very same my barracks my Grandfather had trained at 70 years previously to serve in WW1. Half of my family are Welsh and during training I was told I would be posted to Germany to serve with 22 Air defence Regiment “The Welsh Gunners”.
How did you first get into Kayaking and why in particular Sea Kayaking?
My first taste of kayaking came about during adventure training on the famous Mohnesee in Germany. I didn’t realise at that time the later impact this hobby would have on me.
I then worked near Buxton in Derbyshire with children with emotional issues and was asked if I would be interested in learning kayaking to assist in outdoor pursuits offered to children. I attended a course locally to me at the time and worked my up to 2 star Kayak.
When I moved to North Wales it was a natural progression to go into Sea Kayaking as a main hobby being surrounded by such stunning coastline.
How long have you been Kayaking and what level would you put yourself at?
On and off over 20 years and officially I am level 2 but I class myself as the novice as the Sea is always the master.
Any interesting tales about your Sea Kayaking adventures?
I purchased a new kayak January this year and one particular day I wanted to test the kayak in choppy and windy weather so I could learn its limits and what to expect should I be caught out on a tide. I was in Llandudno Bay the wind blasting and the tide coming in and a good swell, I only intended to remain 10 or 20 meters from the shoreline.
As I got to it paddling up and down testing her stability a Search & Rescue Sea King from Valley spotted me and flew in low and hovered above me and began to ride the coast monitoring me, the winch man held his thumb up to me and I replied with the same and gave a signed gesture I was testing the kayak. Another thumbs up and the Sea King pulled away. Sadly SAR are no longer with us and its yet again the end of an era but I have heard good things about the Coastguard from the RNLI guys in Rhyl.
What kit do you use (kayak, clothing, fishing)?
My Kayak is Galaxy Sturgeon and my reason for this is it comes with everything I need for paddling and fishing fitted as standard and at a very affordable price (I’m not on commission just like the kayak).
Summer times I’m always in a short wetsuit and occasionally a full length, winter time its neoprene gloves and waders or a dry suit.
My fishing stuff is an 8ft spinning rod, and a 5ft boat rod for fishing off or near to the bottom. I make my own rigs to suit where I am planning to fish, I just search the internet and look at rig designs.
Where are you based and where are your favourite North Wales places to Sea Kayak and Kayak fish?
I Live in the small village of Gwespyr over looking Talacre Beach not too far from Prestatyn.
My favourite places are starting at Barkby Beach Prestatyn and continue westerly. Colwyn Bay and Llandudno are particular favourites but I love Angelsey and Puffin Island but you really have to have the right weather and conditions for that little trip.
What do you catch?
I catch Mackerel, Whiting, Dogfish, Pollack, Cod and this week a Gurnard.
My nickname is “the Crap Fisherman” so don’t think I bring home the supper every evening.
2 weeks ago I caught a sizable Pollack in Cemaes Bay Angelsey it made my day and my eyes lit up like a child on Christmas Day, I managed to catch it on film too.
Are you part of any groups for the sport?
Dai Roberts runs a Galaxy Sturgeon Owners Group on FB, it allows fellow kayakers to swap stories, adventures or advice and a couple of us get together and have started getting out in little fishing parties of any kayak owners and we hope it will continue to grow.
Are you into any other outdoor sports if so please tell us about them?
I’m keen on filming and a bit of photography and with the landscape around us its a gift, I am a firm believer that best of the British Isles has been compressed into a corner know as North Wales and I try to take advantage of that as much as I can.
I’m in the process of making a nature film through a whole year in North Wales just showing wildlife and the seasons and it may take 2 years but will be worth it “I hope”.
I also draw and paint on occasion and have done a commission for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight of “Spitfires Taking Off”. I have done quite a bit of military art subject matter for various people to help raise money for charities and I have never charged for my work when its been used in this way.