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.
By the time that we arrived in Oban, Scotland there was the kind of wind that you can lean into and not fall over. Huge waves covered in white caps rolled over the sea, and sharp hail moved through the air in a sideways motion, piling up in corners and flowerbeds. We were there for the 7th UK Storm Gathering, an open water symposium focused on skill building in challenging conditions. This year’s event was put together by Mark, and myself of Greenland or Bust, and Nick Cunliffe and Matt Giblin of Kayak Essentials. Our immediate thought upon arrival was that if the brunt of the storm came before the event started, then maybe things would settle and become slightly mellower for the following days. We wanted a storm, but this was a little out of control.
We settled into Strumhor, a bed and breakfast owned by local kayaker Tony Hammock and his wife Olga. Their place overlooks the Falls of Lora, and we spent two nights there taking care of final preparations for the event. The day the event started we headed to the event’s headquarters, the Kilbowie Outdoor Centre, which proved to be a fantastic venue. We had everything we needed, including a boat ramp, dorm style rooms, numerous rooms to meet with groups for indoor activities and even a drying room for our wet gear. The staff was wonderful, and they did a great job keeping us well fed and taken care of while we were there.
Numerous classes ran throughout the three-day event, which had 70 participants and 15 coaches. Weather conditions varied from mild to wild throughout the three-day main event and six-day BCU Week which followed.
During the Storm Gathering I ran Yoga for Paddlers each morning, which grew in popularity so much that once the room was full people were participating in the hallway. I also taught Fun, Balance Games and Rolling and Greenland Techniques and Traditions. Mark taught 4 to 5 Star Leadership, Moderate Water Boat Handling and 3 to 4 Star Leadership.
Sea Kayak Oban was the official event retailer, and Stuart Wagstaff and his staff were extremely accommodating and provided us with classroom space for both yoga and BCU Week programs in the days that followed the main event.
During BCU Week I took Nick Cunliffe’s Open Water Navigation and Tidal Planning class. Nick did a fantastic job of presenting the somewhat confusing material in a clear and interesting manner. The following day Mark and Nick ran a BCU 5 Star Sea Training, and later that week Mark and I ran a Qajaq Immersion Day in conditions that were appropriately chilly to say the least. While Mark was running a BCU 4 Star Sea Assessment, I tagged along with his co-assessor, James Stevenson of Adventure Elements. It was great to be led by the candidates and to get to see some more of Scotland’s incredible watery landscape.
After months of organizing this event, I think that Mark and I were a little relieved once it was over with no major incidences. We decided to stick around for a few extra days to relax and enjoy the surroundings. During those days winter seemed to arrive bringing with it a thin layer of snow. We spent our extra time there walking in the town, tasting local food and sampling Scotland’s famous whiskeys.
Thanks to everyone that made this event so successful; the staff at the Kilbowie Centre, Sea Kayak Oban, the fantastic coaches that came out to share their knowledge and mostly to the participants. Without you there wouldn’t have been an event.
So what’s in store for the future of the Storm Gathering? We’re already in the early planning stages for a US event, the US Storm Gathering, taking place next winter in Trinidad, California. And keeping with the every other year tradition, the UK Storm Gathering will return in Fall, 2015. Where you may ask… we’re thinking Devon, England, but that storm is still brewing.
Early this month I hopped on a plane for the journey across the Atlantic to England. Mark and I met up and headed south, to Devon, England, where we’d be running classes through Sea Kayaking South West. Rob, Anita and their wonderful girls made us feel right at home at the self catering accommodation that they run, Dyers Farm. Dyers Farm is a 400-year-old longhouse, and it is incredible! If you find yourself in southern England, it’s worth a visit.
Upon arrival I was exhausted (traveling on a plane for two days can do that to you). I was in a half daze while Mark and Rob discussed the venue for our classes that weekend. I heard them talking about winds of 17 miles per hour and was wondering what all the concern was about. As it turns out, I misheard, and winds were gusting to 70 miles per hour throughout the weekend. Upon our arrival at the beach, the Harbor Master approached and said, “You can’t be serious.” The weather made the classes interesting to say the least, but everyone was a trooper, and our somewhat creative venue worked out well.
Throughout the weekend we talked about Greenland kayaks and paddles and worked on rolls in both flat water and waves. We also covered re-enter and rolls in both flat and bumpy water.
On our way out of town, we went to Reed Chillcheater to meet up with Chris Reed and Reed’s enthusiastic staff. We got a tour of the facility and chatted with Chris about his products. He hooked us up with some fantastic new gear, and we’re happy to announce that we’re now a Reed dealer. That’s right, you can order Reed gear directly from us. We’ve got Aquatherm Fleece Hoods available for direct purchase, and starting next weekend we’ll have Reed Tuiliqs available for demo during our classes. If you aren’t familiar with Reed Chillcheater, check out them out by clicking HERE.
After leaving Reed, we made our way north for the 7th UK Storm Gathering. More on that later…
For many of us, summer days of bathing suits and sun hats is over for the season. Our shorts have been stashed away for a couple of months, and rain boots and sweatshirts have become a part of our daily attire… but not in Israel. Kayaking season is still in full force, and this year’s Optimist Kayaking’s Symposium was full. Mark, Ben Lawry and myself were this year’s guest coaches and we were thrilled to be there.
This was my fourth year at this fun event, and it’s always great to be back. I love Israel. It’s as simple as that. Sunny days, the warm Mediterranean Sea, fantastic food and incredible people make me want to return to Israel again and again.
Throughout the four-day event I instructed Developing Greenland Skills, and Mark instructed Rescues and Emergencies, Towing and Sea Survival and he ran a BCU 3 Star Sea Training and Assessment. We also did an evening presentation on an East Greenland expedition.
Evenings were spent socializing and eating tasty food at people’s houses or in restaurants. It was great to catch up with all of my Israel friends and for Mark to meet them.
After the event we had a full day to spare, and Hadas and Zviki took us exploring. First we went to Jerusalem and played in the old part of the city. Jerusalem is one of my favorite cities and it was wonderful to be back. While we were there we visited the Western Wall. No matter what your religion, I don’t think that anyone could deny the incredible energy that comes off that wall.
After leaving Jerusalem we headed to the Dead Sea. On the way we stopped so I could make friends with, and ride, a roadside camel. The Dead Sea is 1/3 salt, which provides an unusual amount of floatation. When I attempted to swim in it, it felt similar to swimming around in a slightly inflated drysuit. We played around for awhile, floating in the water and smearing Dead Sea mud on our bodies. Then we rinsed off in a nearby fresh water pool.
Then it was off to the airport, with a quick stop at the store so I could load up on tahini for the year.
Special thanks to Ehud and Avigail for having us at their event, and to Hadas and Zviki for showing us around. We miss you all already! On another note, a few days after leaving Israel we bought some hummus at the store, it just wasn’t the same…
After returning home from the Delmarva Paddler’s Retreat, I hopped in the car to head north for Lumpy Waters, which is put on by Alder Creek. I took the coastal route, and both the weather and ocean conditions were gorgeous, a good sign for the days ahead. This event has taken place for five years, although it was my first time going.
Lumpy Waters takes place at the Cape Kiwanda RV Park, which hosts a number of cabins, as well as RV and tent sites. Across the street is the Pacific Ocean, and the clear weather provided spectacular views. A large room and tent had been set up as a warm place for people to mingle, and outside a fire kept people toasty. Participants had numerous classes to pick from, and class rosters were displayed on large paper on the wall. The event started Friday afternoon with half day programs. I taught Simplifying the Roll at nearby Nestucca Bay.
The second day of the event hosted both half and full-day programs, and I taught Fun – Balance – Bracing and Games in the morning and Simplifying the Roll in the afternoon. Sunday’s programs were half day, and I instructed Complicating the Roll.
Evening entertainment included several intriguing presentations, and Saturday evening Danny Mongno hosted a very entertaining pub quiz game, which challenged coaches and participants both mentally and physically.
The event was incredibly well organized, and everyone was well taken care of. Special thanks to Paul Kuthe, Dave Slover and Suzi Elle for having me there!
This year marked the 25th annual Delmarva Paddler’s Retreat, which took place last weekend on Rehoboth Bay in Delaware. This was my fourth time at this event and every year I’ve gone it has been an absolute blast.
The event is organized by Robin Snow and Chris Beckman, and they do a fantastic job.
Several people arrived early to build kayaks with Brian Schulz. I arrived early to attend the Qajaq USA board meeting, and I stopped in a couple of times to admire the gorgeous F1 qajaqs that they were building.
What made this year a little unique was the weather. The usually calm bay was stirred up by wind and rain, which made the water quite challenging. Some chose to brave out the storm, which lasted throughout the entire event, while others chose a roll class in one of the camp’s two swimming pools. Others worked on Greenland Rope Gymnastics inside with Dubside or were critiqued on their strokes with Greg Stamer who was using an ergometer.
Of course the weather didn’t prevent usual activities such martinis with Dan Segal, a fantastic silent and live auction and a raffle, which had some incredible prizes, two of which I was thrilled to win. Eiichi Ito presented on Greenland Kayaking in Japan, and James Manke gave a presentation on kayaking the Grand Canyon. Peter Gengler kept people entertained with his 3rd Annual Peter’s Shorts (If you don’t know what that is, I guess you’ll have to come next year). There was also a qajaq skinning demonstration taking place throughout the weekend. Each morning I ran Yoga for Outdoor People, and the rest of my time was spent in the pool, working with participants on everything from first rolls to sculling rolls.
The usual Palo’s Wedding race began with a portage to the pool. It wasn’t easy though because Qajaq USA’s president Terry O’Malley aggressively chased racers with a hose.
All in all it was a fantastic weekend. Thanks to the organizers for having me there, and to everyone who attended for creating such a memorable event. See you next year!
For the past few months, Greenland or Bust and Kayak Essentials have been putting together the 7th UK Storm Gathering. This open water symposium began in 2006 on the island of Mull in Scotland. Since then it has rotated locations, and this year it returns to Scotland, taking place in Oban from November 9 to 11. BCU Week follows it from November 12 to 17.
This year’s coaching team includes Tony Hammock, Carol Lange, Ken Lacey, Jonny Eldridge, Chris Lockyer, Steve Mills, Jim Wilson, Richard Cree, Jim Krawiecki, Nick Cunliffe, Matt Giblin, Mark and me.
Class offerings include Fun – Balance – Games and Rolling, Boat Care and Repair, Navigation, Effective Stroke Work, Leadership for BCU 3 – 4 Star Paddlers, Sea Kayak Journeys, Intermediate Moving Water Skills, Leadership for BCU 4 – 5 Star Paddlers, Fundamental Seamanship, Rough Water Boat Handling, Efficient Forward Paddling, Greenland Techniques and Traditions, Introduction to Moving Water, Incident Management, Moderate Water Boat Handling, Intermediate Tide Race Skills, Open Crossings – Tools and Tactics. Classes are listed by level, so as you can see, there’s something for everyone. If none of this sounds appealing, the Oban Distillery is just down the road…
The BCU week lineup includes a 3 Star Sea Assessment, a 4 Star Sea Training, a 4 Star Sea Assessment, a 5 Star Sea Training, a 5 Star Sea Assessment, BCU Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning, BCU Open Water Navigation and Tidal Planning and a Qajaq Immersion Day.
The base for the event is the Kilbowie Outdoor Centre, which has everything that a symposium could ask for, AND it’s right on the water!
We hope that you’ll consider joining us for this fun event in Scotland. For more information or to register, visit www.ukstormgathering.com.