I love traveling, I truly do, but one thing that traveling does for me is it makes me appreciate home, my friends and Trinidad, California, my home waters.
After the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium earlier this month, I took the rest of February off, to enjoy being home. For Mark and I, kayaking “season” gets busy again starting next month, so I’m soaking up as much of home as I possibly can.
Last Sunday our local kayaking club, Explore North Coast, had a rescue practice day at Trinidad. Conditions were a little wonky, to say the least, with forecasted swells of 14 feet at 13 seconds. One thing that’s nice about Trinidad though is that it has both a harbor launch and a surf launch, so there’s usually a way out no matter what the conditions. In the nine years I’ve been paddling here, I can only recall a couple of days when we were unable to launch and went for breakfast instead.
I met my paddle pal Michael Morris for a before rescue practice paddle, and the two of us headed south to go around some of the larger rocks. This was not a good day for rock gardening, and as we went around one of the larger rocks we had to pick up the speed a little as a large swell started to crest. As we dropped down the other side I couldn’t help but smile. I LOVE Trinidad.
After going around a few more rocks and stopping to watch the waves crash in amongst others we headed back to the beach to meet up with the Explore North Coast group. We didn’t land, but instead sat back and watched as everyone made their way out.
Mike Zeppegno and Damon Maguire were the hosts of this paddle, and they had several exercises for people to practice, including both assisted and self rescues, as well as rescue scenarios in rocks using both towlines and swimming. All in all it was a great day to practice skills, but an even better day to be home, on the water and with friends.
Last weekend I headed to the San Francisco Bay Area for the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium (GGSKS). This was the event’s sixth year, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been at each one. The GGSKS is an open water event that takes place under the Golden Gate Bridge.
This year’s event had more sign ups than any other year, and spirits were high as the sun shone brightly the first day. Throughout the weekend I instructed two days of Bracing and Rolling and one day of Fun, Balance, Games and Rolling. One thing that I always enjoy about the GGSKS is working with instructors that I haven’t worked with before. I had the opportunity to run classes with Jarrod Gunn McQuillian, David Johnston and Cindy Scherrer. Clear skies and bright sun filled the first two days, and on the final day the rain and the wind arrived. This was good, as California is in a drought, and participants celebrated the much needed rain by spending the day playing in it on the bumpy water.
This year’s keynote speakers were Erik Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry. Their presentation was on a 65 day, 1,000 km journey across Baffin Island in traditional skin-on-frame kayaks that they built for the expedition.
The GGSKS is an open water event, with classes that are designed to challenge participants. Once again, Sean Morley and Matt Palmariello did a fantastic job of putting everything together. This year’s event hosted both new and previously popular classes. It was great to catch up with participants, coaches and staff. Thanks to Sean and Matt for having me there once again, and to Riley and his assistants for keeping everyone so well fed.
When our train pulled up to the station in Ronde, Denmark we stepped out to a fresh layer of snow and a strong breeze. We were here for the DGI Sea Kayak Winter Festival, a symposium for kayak instructors. This was our first year at the event, and we were thrilled to not only be there, but to be there in the winter.
Michael Sorensen organized the event, and guest instructors were Jeff Allen, Trenk Muller, Mark and myself. The forecast for the weekend was for snow, rain and strong wind. This being a winter festival however, we were prepared to get creative to minimize exposure to the elements.
Participants arrived at the fantastic event headquarters, Lergravgaard & Brugnaturen, on Friday evening for a wonderful dinner and social gathering. On Saturday morning I ran Yoga for Paddlers, and was impressed that 16 people dragged themselves out of bed early to participate. Several people were there to take a weekend-long first aid and CPR program. Those that were left split into two groups. Jeff took one group for a towing class. The second group split in half, with me instructing how to teach rolling, and Mark and Trenk teaching paddling technique. In the afternoon I traded groups with Mark and Trenk, and the following day, we switched groups with Jeff. This was a great format, because it meant that everyone had the opportunity to participate in all of the classes.
As much as this event was for instruction, it was also a fantastic social gathering. This was clear Saturday night when we had a communal dinner cooked over open flames in the Viking Banquet Hall.
Thanks to Michael for taking such good care of us. We had a wonderful time!
Pictures by Trenk Muller and Mark Tozer.
For the past few summers Mark and I have traveled to Scandinavia to teach classes in the Nordic countries. We’ve witnessed people sunbathing on warm rocks, kids dressed in shorts and tank tops enjoying ice cream on park benches and have chatted with friends during barbecues long into sunlit nights. We’ve heard stories about winter in Sweden, how the sea transforms into an ice field, kayaks are replaced by ice skates and how the rock gardens that we usually paddle around become passages only accessible by foot.
When Pelle and Carina of Nynas Kajaks invited us to visit, Mark and I were thrilled to go. We had a very busy 2013 and decided that a vacation with friends during the “off-season” for kayak instructors was just what we needed, and experiencing a Nordic winter sounded like a blast.
As luck would have it, Sweden was having an unusually warm winter, with rain and fog replacing the usual ice and snow. It was still good to be there though, and Pelle, Carina, Mark and I took advantage of the chance to explore both the land and the water.
One morning we awoke to winter. The transformation was amazing, and where there had been grass the night before, there was now a thick layer of snow.
We’re now on our way to Denmark, for the DGI Sea Kayak Winter Festival. Thanks Pelle and Carina for a great vacation!
Pictures by Pelle Hammarstrom, Mark and Helen.
In 2009 I was contacted by Tahe Marine to discuss becoming an ambassador for them. I had tried their kayak called the Greenland, and loved it. The kayak looked, felt and performed like a west Greenland skin-on-frame kayak, and a good one at that. I was not aware of any other similar Greenland-style composite kayaks on the market, and I saw it as a huge breakthrough. I was thrilled to be representing the kayak.
In 2010 Mats Von Wowern, a distributor for Tahe Marine, organized a Nordic tour for me and Johan Wirsen, the designer of the Greenland and the Greenland T, as well as several other kayaks, sailing boats and rowing boats. The two of us drove from location to location, with me teaching rolling and doing demonstrations, and Johan teaching kayak design. During the three-week tour, and many hours in the car, Johan and I became good friends.
In 2011 I returned to Scandinavia to do another teaching tour. Johan’s busy schedule only allowed him to do part of the tour with me, but it was great to see him and to catch up. In 2012 Mark and I did the tour together, and in 2013 we took over the organization from Mats and created a tour that included classes in everything from rolling to strokes, and we even threw in some BCU programs.
During each trip to Scandinavia, we visited with Johan. Happy memories were formed during wonderful conversations with him at his dining room table, around the barbecue in his backyard and on his sailboat, which he built himself. It’s always great to see him and to hear about what he’s been up to.
During one conversation with Johan he told us that he was going to start his own company, Rebel Kayaks, and start with the production of his two Greenland models, the “Ilaga” and “The-T,” which were the names that he’d always intended for what became known as the “Greenland” and the “Greenland T.” He has made some manufacturing changes to the kayaks, including putting in a smaller skeg, and laminating the skeg box together with the hull.
He asked Mark and I if we’d become ambassadors for Rebel Kayaks. We are thrilled to announce that we have accepted his offer. This decision was made for several reasons. First, the Greenland is the kayak that I was originally impressed by, and it was the reason that I became an ambassador for Tahe Marine in the first place. Second, Johan is a wonderful person and a good friend. He has put his heart, soul and a ton of money into designing several kayaks that are now recognized worldwide, and for good reason. We have full faith in the quality of his kayaks, which are being manufactured by Aquarius, located in Poland, and we can honestly say, he’s a real kayaker, an awesome person, a great designer and a good friend, and we want to support him and his new company, Rebel Kayaks. We hope that you’ll join us in this support.
In conclusion, this year’s Nordic Tour will be supported by Rebel Kayaks, and our company, Greenland or Bust. The tour has grown from its original length of three weeks in 2009 to three months in 2014. We are excited to be going back to Scandinavia and representing Rebel Kayaks. If you’re part of a club, school or organization that would like to be included in this tour, e-mail email@example.com. For more information on Rebel Kayaks, visit www.rebelkayaks.blogspot.com.
After the Storm Gathering, Mark and I made our way to the Lee Valley White Water Centre, to run rolling classes for Kayak London. This was our second year running classes there, and it was great to see some returning participants. Everyone braved the icy cold water, but other than the cold, it was tons of fun. The white water part of the 2012 Olympics took place there, which makes it feel like somewhat of a novelty. Our classes ran in the incredibly clear pool that the white water courses drop into. Thanks to Mattias Altin for hosting us!
After the weekend at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, we headed to Anglesey, Wales for a few days of rest, relaxation and preparation for the following weekend. We celebrated the U.S. Thanksgiving while we were there by going for a paddle and then to dinner. We paddled to Porth Wen, and made our way around the stunning headlands to the old brickworks. After exploring, we paddled offshore via Middle Mouse and let the current carry us back to the launch site at Bull Bay.
Once all of the play was over, it was back to work, and we hosted a BCU 5 Star Sea Assessment with assessors Nick Cunliffe and Fiona Whitehead. The weather turned out to be just right, with sufficient wind to run the assessment, as well as spring tides. Candidates showed their skills in places such as the Skerries and Penrhyn Mawr, and the assessment included night paddling, which followed a gorgeous sunset.
This week I headed back to California, where we have classes scheduled for the next four weekends.