A Few Classes, the Delmarva Paddlers Retreat and a Stormy Southern Oregon

After returning home from Japan, I headed off to teach some private rolling classes during the Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) Mendo Madness weekend. BASK is a fun group of sea kayakers, and are wonderful to hang out with. This year however, I was finding that -16 hours of jet lag had caught up with me, so when I wasn’t on the water, I was hidden away, fast asleep. I do look forward to catching up with everyone again throughout the year though.

A gorgeous day on Big River in Mendocino, California.

After Mendo Madness I headed home for a day and then hopped on a plane to the Delmarva Paddler’s Retreat. It was my third time attending the Retreat, and I was there early to participate in the day-long Qajaq USA Board Meeting. It was exciting to hear about everything that is going on with Qajaq USA.

That evening Mark arrived. Mark is an instructor at BCU events worldwide, but it was his first time attending a Greenland style symposium. He found people to be very welcoming, and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the event. I spent the on-water time mentoring two classes of forward finish hand and norsaq rolls, one class of layback hand rolls and one class of the Chest Scull and Reverse Sweep. I also had the opportunity to take Maligiaq Padilla’s stroke class. If you get the chance to do this, it is well worth it. Maligiaq’s technique is very different than the way that most of us were taught, and many people opted to take both Maligiaq and Greg Stamer’s strokes classes throughout the weekend, comparing the two very different styles.

As usual, the silent auction was tons of fun, and I had a blast helping auction off a changing robe with Dave Sides. Palo’s Race was also lots of fun, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then maybe you should go next year!

Ben Fuller chillin' with some qajaqs.

Some very pretty qajaqs.

Palo's Race.

After Delmarva, Mark and I headed home to Arcata, California, and spend several days playing in the local waters, going on long bike rides, tying ourselves in knots at the yoga studio and trying out the climbing wall. Between finding sand dollars on the beach and checking out the music scene in the evening, we had several business meetings about our new venture starting early next year, Embrace the Elements, which will offer open ocean and flat water classes, BCU certification programs, traditional skills classes and mountaineering trips in the redwood forest. Classes will be worldwide as Mark and I have done independently in the past, but we will also be offering more classes and tours at home. We’re currently working on a new website, but to book early, e-mail info@greenlandorbust.org. Trinidad is an amazing, awesome, fantastic and superb place to paddle and hike… and with ten years of living here, I’m pretty familiar with all of the good spots on both the ocean and in the majestic redwood forests.

Trinidad, California.

Another picture of Trinidad, California... or home as I like to call it.

Mark hanging out behind one of Trinidad's many offshore rocks.

After all these meetings and a full summer of teaching, we decided it was time for a vacation, and with Southern Oregon just a couple of hours away, it seemed like the ideal spot. There are some great places to paddle in the southern part of the state, and we were hoping for a couple of mellow days on the ocean so that we could get into those spots… no such luck. 16 plus feet of swell from one direction, mixed with a long period swell from the other and some fairly substantial wind waves, and our rock garden paradise turned into a spectacular place to hang out… from the beach.

I have driven through Oregon many times and have seen ad after ad for the Sea Lion Caves. Advertised as “the world’s largest sea cave,” I was kind of curious, so we made the drive up the coast to see what it was all about. It was a bit strange to take an elevator from the cliffs above to the cave 200 feet below and to read signs asking for “no flash photography,” despite the lack of sea lions. With our faces pressed to the fence barrier, separating us from the cave, I thought about how lucky sea kayakers are. We go into places like this without paying admission, and instead of being spectators, we get to be part of the scene itself. Don’t get me wrong, the Sea Lion Caves were very cool, but it really did make me appreciate the things that sea kayakers get to experience that many are oblivious to. As far as “the world’s largest sea cave…” well, maybe if you add in that tunnel… and what was down the tunnel? Unfortunately, the fence prevented us from finding out.

Stopping for a kiss.

A totally different way to enter a sea cave.

The Sea Lion Caves.

We didn’t really have an agenda for our three day vacation, but decided to stop in Florence, mainly because it was so close to the Sea Lion Caves. After checking out a couple of places to stay, we stopped at the Edwin K Bed & Breakfast. Not only was it inexpensive, but it was in Old Town, and included sherry and cookies in the evening and a five-course breakfast the following morning that kept us going until late that evening. Our room had a jet tub, and the people that run the place, Marv and Laurie VandeStreek were wonderful and didn’t wink an eye at our sandy boots and my hair, which had turned into two temporary dreadlocks from all of the saltwater.

The following day we went to Port Orford to play in some caves, but the growing swell prevented us from going very far. We paddled out, bounced around a lot and then landed, with me telling Mark about all of the cool spots that we weren’t able to get into. That night we went to Gold Bluffs Beach, another place on the Oregon Coast that I tend to drive through slowly, always telling myself that I should check out sometime. We found a great room at Ireland’s Rustic Lodges, and watched the large waves from the comfort of our room with the fireplace going. Of course, a soak in the hot tub, a walk on the beach and an even longer walk to find food were part of the agenda, and we left feeling relaxed and refreshed.

The harbor at Port Orford.

We then drove to one of my favorite launch sites, and watched the huge waves breaking onto the beach… or lack of beach in this case. Being on the ocean is always wonderful, but sometimes the ocean really does want to be left alone, and seeing it in its splendor from the warmth of a good rain jacket is quite a treat. On the way home we stopped at a couple more beaches to check out the impressive incoming waves. Finally, we pulled into California, declared that we had no fresh fruit to the Department of Agriculture at the border then ended our trip with Mexican food and plans for our next trip…

Enjoying the ocean from a stormy beach.

Photos by Mark Tozer and Helen Wilson.

One Response to “A Few Classes, the Delmarva Paddlers Retreat and a Stormy Southern Oregon”

  • Moulton Avery says:

    My very best wishes to you and Mark on beginning your new venture, Embrace The Elements. I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes relating to starting new enterprises. It comes from Goethe; one of his couplets:

    Whatever you can do
    Or dream you can
    Begin It!
    Boldness had genius, power, and magic
    In it!

    I kept it close to my heart and by my side when starting my wilderness school, Carolina Wilderness Institute, back in the ’70s and also when I founded the Center for Environmental Physiology in Washington, DC in the 80’s.

    It never let me down and I have it with me still, as I begin the process of establishing a National Center for Cold Water Safety.

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