Saturday, October 29, 2011

Loreto Kayak Symposium

Sea Kayak Baja Mexico

This week I've had the pleasure of assisting Ginni Callahan with a 4-day sea paddler training at the Loreto Kayak Symposium in Loreto, BCS, Mexico.  "Mi espanol es no bueno" was my go-to phrase on the journey down since my conversational spanish is horrible.  After one flight and three bus rides I arrived in Loreto 24 hours after leaving Berkeley and was instantly greeted by Santiago Berrueta, Mexico's only BCU 4* paddler and lead guide at Sea Kayak Baja Mexico.  Later that day we met the group of 7 students - two Venezualans, one american and four mexicans.  Much of the course was run in Spanish and my conversation skills improved leaps and bounds in the 96 hours that followed.  

Sea paddler training works off the BCU 3* syllabus and can cover a large range of topics.  Since conditions on the Sea of Cortez were predicted to be light - read flat - we loaded trucks and ventured to San Juanico, also known as Scorpion Bay, arguably the longest right wave in North America.  Unfortunately it wasn't going off to it's potential, but we did encounter a nice surf zone to coach in and rather dynamic conditions for two days of training on the Pacific. 

Ginni is a fantastic coach and really brings out the best in her students.  Personally I'm improving my own coaching skills while shadowing and co-teaching with her.  She is leading the way for sea paddlers in Mexico and is raising quite a group of skilled paddlers.  Her business, Sea Kayak Baja Mexico, is a Nigel Dennis Expedition Center and uses the best equipment available - NDK kayaks, Werner paddlers, Seals, Snapdragon, Kokatat and more.  They offer everything from boat hire to training to full-on expeditions.  

It was impressive to watch the students progress quickly in four days and improve on fundamental skills.  Before the training some of these paddlers had never been in the surf zone and by day two they were side surfing, combat rolling and applying fundamentals in dynamic water.  It was beautiful to watch.  To top it off, we camped right on the beach between the ocean and the dunes.    

Back on the Sea of Cortez we said goodbye to Lorena and hello to Dave.  Launching at Rattlesnake beach on day 3, we set off for stroke training and navigation exercises in slightly bumpy water.  The brave stuck around for a fourth day boat control in wind and rescues on the rocks.  Sadly the water was just too warm to be refreshing and you can be out of your boat all day and not be a bit uncomfortable.  Baja is an amazing place and I feel very lucky to be here paddling & exploring with great people.  I'm in Loreto the rest of the day then we head north to start a 10-day trip from Mulege back to Loreto.  Check back for a trip report...  Adios.

my bed for the night

Baja Highway

San Juanico

Sunrise over Danzante

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last week I had the chance to participate in the first ACA SUP ICW on the west coast, hosted by California Canoe & Kayak.  After arriving home at 4:30am from Oregon, I had to be fresh and ready in Half Moon Bay by 10am.  Not sure about fresh, but I was there and ready.  Why am I taking an ACA SUP Instructor Workshop?  I figured it would be fun and educational, I'd work with some great ACA instructors, meet some new people and see what the ACA has to say about standup paddleboarding.  Personally, I really enjoy standup paddleboarding and am happy to see this program.  

I entered the course with an open mind and wasn't dissapointed one bit.  Part of what I enjoyed so much is that the program is still on the ground floor.  We were trying things that haven't yet been determined as standard practices.  Standup Paddleboarding is moving in leaps and bounds and I think it is appropriate for such a large paddlesports organization to create a program of safety and instruction.  I can't see it being adopted by the hardcore paddle surfers, but certainly the recreational crowd - which is gigantic.  

Since this was an ICW and not an IDW, the pace was very quick and participants were expected to know all the strokes and manuevers before attending.  We were split down the middle with four of us coming with a paddling background and four with a surfing background.  That division worked out to be advantageous since the crowd of new standup paddlers seems to be split as well.  For three days we worked on teaching styles, SUP concepts, building on paddling skills, and generally all things SUP.  It was an appropriate venue to bounce ideas off each other and try new things.  I'm excited for where this may go.  There are many people teaching SUP already, some with no background in paddle sports or teaching.  I strongly believe they could all benefit from a course like this and would be doing their students a service.  

My personal experience is that SUP is easy to pickup in flat water, but building technique, balance and speed takes time.  if you want to paddle in moving water, surf, wind or in coastal conditions, you should be training your body with skill development and physical conditioning.  Once you leave protected, windless waters SUP can be rather difficult and time on the board in dynamic conditions helps tremendously.  If you want to be a good standup paddler, get yourself into good physical condition, take some paddling lessons and practice often.  Your balance, control and speed will increase drastically as well as your enjoyment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lumpy Waters in Oregon

I recently travelled to Pacific City, Oregon with Bryant Burkhardt and Sean Morley,  two other California Canoe & Kayak instructors.  The three of us were coaching at Lumpy Waters, a terrific sea paddling event catering to different levels of boaters.  Without a doubt, anyone who is passionate about sea kayaking and training should go to this event next year.  No matter what drives you there - the class offerings, the coach lineup or just the overall experience - it's worth the trip.  

The event begins Friday afternoon allowing everyone the morning off to free paddle, to drive in or just to sleep in.  Friday came and went with lots of boating and some incredible Incident Management on the part of some instructors.  Saturday brought decent weather and beautiful ocean conditions and I'd estimate around 100 students in attendance.  Sunday was more of the same with nice paddling weather and conditions.  This was one of the first events I've attended as a coach.  I travel to lots of events, but often as a volunteer, student or organizer.  It was nice to attend from a different perspective and learn some things.  I've definitely come away with some new ideas for GGSKS this February.  I also got to spend some valuable time working on my coaching skills and observing top coaches at work.  

Symposiums in general are really exciting to me.  They are such a good place to learn, to fine-tune and to advance your skills in good company.  I got my first serious taste of the sea at a symposium and it kick-started my training.   For paddlers new to symposiums, though, I think it is important they step back and take in the whole experience, not just the on-water courses.  The social aspect is huge at symposia and meeting other paddlers and coaches is very easy.  It's in these social settings that we often talk shop and discuss other events, trips, concepts, teaching styles and more.  Think of it as a meeting of the minds - for sea kayakers.  If you're interested in learning more, check out The Golden Gate Sea Kayaking Symposium in San Francisco in February or The Southwest Kayak Symposium in San Diego in March.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pull Harder...

A couple times a year I dust off the equipment and print t-shirts for friends or events that I work with.  I really enjoy the process of going from idea conception to final product.  The printing itself is almost a form of meditation for me.  The beginning of each project takes precision and concentration, but once you get through the first couple prints, the process begins to flow and develops a rhythm.  Usually about this time I turn on some pretty lights, pour a beer and relax as my hands go through the motions.  The timing and measuring become natural and I briefly turn into a machine. 

Late Friday night I finished printing the t-shirts for Berto and the boys over at  If you haven't visited their website, do so.  It's climbing-centric with a hint of shenanigans.  On October 16th, they are hosting the 2nd annual marathon in San Diego and I hear the t-shirts are awesome!

San Diego has a special place in my heart and I try to visit as much as possible, but unfortunately I won't be running.  I'll be in Oregon coaching at Lumpy Waters.  If what I hear about this paddling event is even close to accurate, then it will be a hell of a good time.   Everyone I speak with agrees that the team at Alder Creek do a damn good job with it.