Optimist Kayaking’s Symposium (Israel) 2013

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.

Participants gather at the Club every morning to hear announcements.

Participants gather at the Club every morning to hear announcements.

The Mediterranean Sea has incredibly clear and warm water.

The Mediterranean Sea has incredibly clear and warm water.

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.

Scenarios were presented during the rescues class.

Scenarios were presented during the Rescues and Emergencies class.

A reef provided a great learning environment.

A reef proved to be a great learning environment.

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.

Mornings were typically calm, and in the afternoon the wind picked up.

Mornings were typically calm, and in the afternoon the wind picked up.

Water around the reef could be challenging at times.

The reef created texture for the surrounding water.

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.

Avigail dishes up a tasty chicken and rice dish.

Avigail dishes up a tasty chicken and rice dish.

The ancient town of Caesarea is very close by.

The ancient town Caesarea is very close by.

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.

Hadas and I were given coverings at the Western Wall. Bare shoulders and knees are not permitted.

Hadas and I were given coverings at the Western Wall. Bare shoulders and knees are not permitted.

Mark experiences the energy of the Western Wall.

Mark experiences the energy of the Western 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.

What happens on the other side of the wall is a mystery.

What happens on the other side of the wall is a mystery to those on this side.

This friendly camel was happy to say hello.

This friendly camel was happy to say hello.

Then it was off to the airport, with a quick stop at the store so I could load up on tahini for the year.

Floating in the Dead Sea is an unusual (and very relaxing) experience.

Floating in the Dead Sea is an unusual (and very relaxing) experience.

The mud in the Dead Sea is fantastic for the skin.

The mud in the Dead Sea is fantastic for the skin.

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…

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