Archive for April, 2011

2011 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival

Last Wednesday I hopped on a plane to Charleston, South Carolina for the 21st annual East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival. It was my first time attending this event and I was greeted by friendly people, warm sun and incredible food.

The event takes place at the James Island County Park, which resembles a resort with its water park, climbing wall and playgrounds, and I stayed in one of the charming cottages on the property. I soon felt like I was in paradise as I stretched out in a rocking chair on the porch to watch a Cardinal flit from tree to tree in the surrounding marsh.

A little piece of paradise.

The Park is huge, and a bike provided transportation from the cottages to the dining hall, to the lake where classes took place all weekend. Vendors lined the shore, and it was great to chat with local outfitters at their booths, as well as others in the outdoor industry, such as Kokatat, P&H, Outdoor Research and Qajaq USA.

Kayaks, kayaks and more kayaks.

Bob Burnett demonstrating the easy way to empty a kayak.

Participants tried out kayaks while watching for turtles that swam around in the warm water. Both on-land and on-water classes took place throughout the weekend, and I had a blast instructing my classes as well as jumping in to work with other instructors. I also tried a stand up paddleboard for the first time, and had tons of fun figuring out how to maneuver the thing.

One of many turtles.

Alligators... I looked, but I didn't see any.

Enjoying the sun.

Evenings were filled with conversation, beer, delicious food and socializing, as well as a Friday evening presentation on Greenland and a Saturday evening on-water presentation put on by the instructors. Throughout the weekend I saw many people smiling as they loaded new kayaks and gear onto their cars, heard lots of people talking about the skills that they’d learned and listened to people comment that this event often feels like the beginning of kayaking season… and I think I have to agree.

Here Comes the Sun

Last Sunday, the clouds separated revealing a dark blue sky and a bright sun that hadn’t been seen on the Northern California coastline in weeks. Ocean spray danced in the spring breeze, and I sat outside, wearing a tank top and munching on strawberries. Although it was cold and goosebumps formed on my skin, the feel of the sun was amazing.

My winter has been spent mostly at home, working a winter job at a newspaper during the week and kayaking in local waters on the weekends. Every now and then I’ve traveled to a winter symposium, or taught a clinic or two, but for the most part I’ve been catching up on home life.

Sitting outside feeling the warmth of the sun was a reminder. Summer is rapidly approaching and my year is full. I am looking forward to instructing in seven states and eight countries over the next few months. The sun was also a reminder of how much I have to do before I leave. I have a skeg to replace, a skin-on-frame kayak that needs patching and another kayak that is screaming out for some gelcoat repair. All of my gear needs to be thoroughly washed, hung to dry (in the sun) and organized into bins to make packing for specific trips easier. Excitement for the upcoming months of travel is starting to kick in, and so is the overwhelming feeling of having so much to do before I leave, while jugging both a job and a home life (we all know that feeling!).

I was sitting on my mat in the yoga studio yesterday morning, my fingers in Shuni Mudra, my eyes closed and my mind racing all over the place. I kept telling myself to shut it all out, “let go of everything” as a good yogi will do… well sometimes I lack that ability. My body was in the perfect posture and my eyes were closed… yeah, at least I looked like a good yogi. I straightened my back, took a deep breath and felt the warmth of the sun shining through the skylight. Mmmmm, summer. My thoughts drifted again to broken gear, sandy gear, articles to write and even this blog, which you are reading now. So much to do before getting back on the road… but then a thought hit me, I’m doing it. I am getting ready for the summer merely by being in a yoga studio, committing to this 90 minutes of connecting with myself… and I shut off my mind.

Winter is often a time of hybernation. It’s filled with comfort foods and snugging up in front of fires with hot, chocolaty beverages. It’s often more appealing to sit in a movie theatre inside than brave a thunderstorm outside on an afternoon bike ride. Winter does it to all of us… whether we like to think it or not, we tend to get a little lazy. It often takes a day of sunshine to wake us up and remind us to take care of ourselves.

As I moved through asana after asana I stretched this way and that, opening up to the sun that warmed the room through the many windows. Stretch after stretch made me realize that this is the best way to get ready for the season ahead. It is way more important than that cracked gelcoat that needs fixing, or that tow belt that needs a new carabiner. I stretched and smiled, thinking of all the places I’m going to go and people that I’m going to meet, as well as trips I’m planning and beaches that I’m going to walk on.

I’m not quite ready for summer yet, but I’m a little more ready than I was last week and a little less ready than I will be next week as my body stretches and slowly wakens from its winter state.

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