Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ACA SUP Instructors Certification Workshop

What a fun weekend on San Francisco Bay!  Cindy & Steve Scherrer came down from WA to help me run an American Canoe Association Level 1/2 SUP Instructors Certification Workshop for 6 potential candidates.  We had a great team of paddlers with a ton of learning going on and super support from all.  In the end, we certified four new Level 1 Instructors and two new Level 2 Instructors - success!

Congrats to Adrianna, Kelsa, Jeff, Alon, Michael & Mitch!

One of the best venues I've ever worked in

Instructor Candidates from Massachusetts, Colorado & California

Near perfect conditions all weekend

The ACA SUP Instructors Program was created on the foundation of 40 years of paddling instructor development.  Since 1972 the ACA has been developing curriculum and implementing best practices for paddling instructors from canoeists to kayakers to standup paddlers.  

The common question with the 3-day SUP Instructor Workshop is "what are we going to do for three days?"  The answer usually consists of something like "we'll do as much as we can, but really we need 4 or 5 days."  The way this program is designed, candidates need to have already developed their personal paddling skills before coming to this course so they can focus on the how-to of teaching.   More often than not, candidates need personal skills training during the instructor training and aren't quite ready for level 2.  

In order to get certified, candidates must demonstrate proficiency & knowledge in a couple different areas like teaching & learning theory, safety & rescue, strokes, maneuvers, technical knowledge, group management, leadership, trip planning and more.  There's much more to know than just how to pivot turn and go fast.  

The essence of the course is to help candidates become ready to develop a paddling program.  The three major segments of that program are:

Strokes & Maneuvers.  Can a candidate exercise full control over their board all the time?  Do they have the cognitive skills to decide what stroke to use when?  Are their strokes efficient?  Is their body position safe?  Do they understand the main paddling concepts?  Do they know the names of each stroke and how to break them down into smaller pieces?  Are they able to develop teaching progressions?  Do they understand the different ways people learn and can they adapt their teaching methods to foster success?  

Rescue & Recovery.  Can candidates deal with the unexpected?  Are they safe?  This includes things like towing, paddler recoveries, unassisted rescue, rescue protocols & signaling.  Candidates are required to be certified in CPR and venue appropriate first-aid.  Candidates must demonstrate the strength and technique needed to respond quickly and appropriately.  

Journeying.  Is the candidate a good leader?  Can they manage a group of paddlers well?  Do they exercise sound judgement & make decisions quickly?  Are their trip planning skills adequate?  Do they understand the marine environment & the weather?  Can they read water?  

My best advice for future Instructor Candidates is to review the Instructor Criteria, master the paddling strokes forwards and backwards, onside and offside, and increase your marine environment knowledge as much as possible.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Never drive away from good surf

Sunshine and warm weather can sure help you have fun.  I spent the weekend in Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast for the 5th annual Lumpy Waters Symposium hosted by Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.  That crew operates as a true team and does a fantastic job delivering a fun & safe event for all.  On top of all their planning, the weather came together perfectly with abundant sunshine, warm air temps and fantastic surf building from 2ft on Friday to 10ft by Monday afternoon.  Couldn't have asked for more.

It was really fun spending more time in a sea kayak and seeing some friends I only see once or twice a year.  The students did a great job assessing their skills properly and were seriously going for it in our long boat surfing course on day one.  The ideal conditions gave people a reason to go hard and make the most of their weekend.  Sea kayaking felt young this weekend!

Monday is traditionally the coaches play day and this year there were about 15 people ready to charge.  A wise man from Portland told me 'never drive away from good surf' so I didn't.  I opted out of the coach paddle to three arch rocks and opted in to surfing the huge waves at Cape Kiwanda.  It was pretty intimidating paddling out into those monsters, but after riding the rip to the outside and getting a drop or two out of the way, I started to relax and focus.

By the end of the session, I was dropping in on 10 foot faces without hesitation and making them.  A couple got really hollow, a few beat me down, but overall I had an incredible session with only 5 guys in the lineup.  I feel like it was definitely a progression session for me and I'm pumped to get out on more big clean waves...

The view of the sea all weekend!  Haystack rock at Cape Kiwanda

Waves built to 6-10ft on Monday

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Adventures in Sea Leader Training

9 paddlers, one panga and 5 days of Sea Leader Training.  While in Baja this week, I sat in on a BCU course run by Ginni Callahan and Santiago Burreuta of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico.  As an observer, I had the best job - no responsibility, no stress.  I helped when they asked, when they were set, I simply paddled.  

We started in beautiful Loreto, founded in 1697 then moved slightly south to a more remote beach.  After 2 more days, we convoyed across the desert to San Carlos, on the edge of Magdalena Bay.  In San Carlos we made ourselves at home at a small eco-hotel right on the water, launching off the property two days and out of San Carlos port the third.  The highlight of the trip was the maddening logistics of getting to the surf.  First we drove to the panga, loaded it with sea kayaks and sups, drove the panga to the water, boated across Mag Bay, put the panga on a trailer and towed it across a low peninsula and re-launched into the surf.  It was an adventure in itself and added a ton of fun to the experience.  Even though the surf was small, it was totally worth it.

All of the students were BCU 3* paddlers, some pursuing 4*, some just out for more personal training.  The big question asked of a 3* paddler is 'Will this person be an asset on a trip?'  For this group of paddlers, the answer was absolutely 'Yes'.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Relaxing in Loreto

As many trips do, this one had a goal.  It wasn't clear, but it clearly involved spending time on myself & resetting for a major change.  I recently left my job in search of something more meaningful and more fulfilling, and a trip to Baja seemed a good starting point.  So far I'm feeling way more 'in touch' with myself and am taking the time to listen to my body.  I'm sleeping well, getting up early and my thoughts are more clear.  More than I even realized, I really needed this trip for personal growth over anything else.  I'm relaxed and stress free!

The drive down was quite remarkable due to the scenery, the company and the two fun-filled sup surf sessions along the way.  I'm on this trip with Ginni Callahan, the owner/operator of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico, to help get the company up and running for the season.  SKBM is the only Nigel Dennis Expedition Center & BCU Center in Mexico and they're experiencing growth after 6 years of operation.  After laying low in San Diego for a week getting work done and visiting friends, we started the 1,000 mile trek down the peninsula and pulled into Loreto three days later.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Alameda SUP Circumnavigation

For the last few months I've been paddling with locals on these weekly Meetups in the Oakland estuary and have seen a ton of growth in the paddling skills of the participants.  It seemed appropriate that we all get together for an end-of-summer paddle that included a reasonable amount of mileage, current, wind, vessel traffic & chop.  Alameda was the perfect route to provide all these challenges.

The plan was to launch from Tidewater at 8:45am, circle Alameda counter-clockwise and return to the start by 3pm at the latest.  The planning accounted for the best use of current & wind and the weather forecast was highly favorable with light wind & warm temps.  We ended up launching 25 minutes late, but nobody cared since we were all just out to have a good time.  By the time all 19 of us set off into the current, the sun had already burned off the fog and was heating up.  The first 3.5 miles were the hardest, but we were fresh and everyone powered through to our first meeting point, where we dropped 3 paddlers who didn't have time to do the whole loop.  It was right about then that the shot blocks came out, layers stripped off, we re-grouped and charged on towards San Francisco Bay.

We kept steady pace through the long, straight estuary highway of ferries, tugboats, sailboats, fishing boats and speedboats - half of them heading out for Americas's Cup activities.  Sure enough, their large wakes rolled right across the channel towards us but weren't too bad.  The clapotis created by the rockwalls of the estuary put a few people to their knees.  We rounded the corner into the bay then celebrated with another long break while drifting down the bayside of the island.  After taking in food & water and the crystal clear view of the San Fran skyline we got treated to small bumps and mini-surfs heading towards Crown Memorial.

We made good progress traveling with the current & wind from our backs.  Approaching our fourth and last bridge, we were perfectly funneled towards our finish and moving fast enough that nobody cared for a break on land.  The sky was bluebird with just a cloud of smoke peaking over the Oakland hills.

We turned up the estuary to complete the loop and paddled straight into the wind we were so enjoying at our backs moments earlier.  As we all staggered to the dock full of smiles, we joked about another lap but decided to eat & drink instead.  High fives all around.  Fun people, fun paddle.  Can't wait till the next outing on Friday the 13th...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Upwind Downwind

My favorite summertime paddling workouts are upwind downwinds.  We get such good wind in the San Francisco Bay Area that it's easy to forget the morning flatwater and save the workouts for the late afternoon when it's blowing...  I paddle straight into the wind for a set amount of time or distance and then surf my way back to the start for another lap.  It's a fantastic way to get a quick workout and develop technique, efficiency & power in lumpy conditions.  Not to mention, it's really fun whether I'm in a sea kayak or on a standup board.

Paddling upwind builds strength and lets me work on timing & stroke mechanics.  It's also a great way to reinforce wind dynamics on watercraft and practice the best way to turn into & with the wind.  Running downwind requires timing, sprinting, surfing, smiling, laughing, water reading skills and stroke technique among other things.  It draws on most aspects of board/boat control as well as balance, bracing and stamina.  It's good to mix up the training sessions and paddling upwind downwind creates a very natural & varied session for me.  Tonight I was playing around with a new camera & mount, so I got a few shots in as well.  And, I couldn't resist raising the sail for a few minutes..