Archive for November, 2009

Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium (TAKS)

Fall is here, and with it arrived colder temperatures, crisp clean air, the first storms of the season and a wild and unpredictable ocean. But before any of this happened, there was one last 2009 symposium on the California coast. The Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium (TAKS) is a three day kayaking event that rotates locations throughout California. This year it took place in San Simeon, a small oceanside town in the southern portion of the state.

San Simeon, California

I arrived the morning of the second day because I had been instructing the week before in Italy and had to squeeze in a couple of days of “regular” work before taking off for another kayaking event. After quickly pitching a tent I headed to the beach, which was filling with beautiful handmade qajaqs, baidarkas and paddles.

Sea Lions

It was wonderful to work once again with Dubside, Greg Stamer and Brian Shulz. Greg worked with students on strokes, Dubside taught forward finishing rolls, I taught layback rolls and skin on frame rescues and Brian went from one group to the next, helping out where he was needed. Other participants chose to play in the surf break or lounge on the beach, while the rest challenged themselves by trying to make it across the slack line that Dubside had set up between two posts.

Slack Line

The event was a success and included a group paddle, rolling demonstrations, surf play, presentations by Brian Shulz and Greg Stamer, harpoon throwing, an interactive ropes demonstration and a silent auction.



I was in the water for most of this event, and unfortunately didn’t get very many pictures. The few that I took can be found in the gallery.

Weight and Flexibility

Question: The 2007 Chatham’s have a different seat design which in a weird anomaly, allows for giant black brackets (whose purpose we can only assume is to hold the seat straps, away from the body). My question is about flexibility training. Are there any tricks and techniques for stretching that could be used to optimize technique?

Answer: Yeah, I think those brackets are a bad design. My Chatham 16 has them too, and I’ve been meaning to remove them. I believe they create a safety hazard for women with rear relief zippers (butt entrapment issues) as well as cause unnecessary rubbing on a drysuit. I’m also not big on the long straps used to adjust the outfitting. They can hang out the side of the sprayskirt and be mistaken for a grab loop, causing a person upside down in the water to be unable to wet exit easily.

With rolling I have found that a person’s size has very little to do with ability. A person’s flexibility however can play a huge role. For advanced layback rolls the ability to twist out to the side keeping the shoulders flat is a huge advantage. To test your flexibility in this region, lie flat on your back on the floor and twist at the waist to put your body in an “L” shape. If you can get your body all the way out to the side with your shoulders remaining flat on the floor and your legs straight (knees facing the ceiling), then you are in very good shape for advanced layback rolls. If you can only twist a little out to the side, or your shoulders are not flat, then this is a good exercise to work on. Practice it often, on both sides, and flexibility will slowly come.

For forward finishing rolls, it is good to work on hamstring flexibility. The simple exercise of sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, holding your feet and putting your head on your knees (or as close as you can) with your legs remaining straight is a great way of increasing this flexibility (flexing your feet will make it more challenging).

If you have the time and interest, sign up for a yoga class at a yoga studio. There are many different styles to pick from. I practice Hatha Raja. A good “at home” yoga program is OM Yoga in a Box (these come in several different levels). I have found that these programs are simple to follow and beneficial for increasing flexibility, especially if they are done 3 or more times a week.

Vulcanoa Marathon Sea Kayak Symposium, Italy – Part 3

After the symposium the tour of the islands began. There were about 40 participants and up to 16 nautical miles of paddling each day. Gravita’ Zero lent me a Tahe Marine Reval Mini, and despite being just over 15 feet long, it was easy to load four days worth of gear and food into it. The kayak proved to be extremely maneuverable, and was perfect for the extensive rock gardens, tunnels, caves and archways that encompass the Aeolian Islands. The storms of the past few days had cleared up, leaving both the sky and the water a rich blue color. Fluffy white clouds lingered above each of the islands that dotted the Mediterranean Sea. Everyone’s spirits were high as we left Vulcano, the location of the symposium, and began our journey to three of the other islands.

A view of the islands.

Salina's sunset.

Over the next four days we paddled along the islands Vulcano, Lipari, Salina and Panarea. Each island has its own special features, and we encountered stunning cliffs, sea caves, tunnels and arches. During the crossing from Lipari to Panarea we stopped halfway to swim and eat melon in the warm afternoon sun. Dolphins entertained us with a playful show of leaps and tricks, and a large sea turtle meandered past, lifting his head to look at the group of kayakers before diving into the depths of the sea.


A place to explore.

A melon break.

At night we cooked together, laughing under the moonlight and enjoying the company of new friends. Plates were passed from one person to the next, as everyone wanted to sample the dishes of their neighbors. People slept in either bungalows or tents. During the day we stopped to rest and swim on beaches or at the small towns on the islands. Each island seemed to be famous for a different yummy treat, and I tried many of them, talking to the people that lived there and becoming mesmerized by the beautiful scenery, traditional Italian houses and charming verandas and alleys.


During my visit to Italy I realized that there is something special about this group of islands that sits at the very bottom of a country the other side of the world from my home. Magic lingers there amongst the warm air, the volcanos, the dark blue water and the wonderful people. As my plane flew away, I took one last look at the islands, trying to lock it all into my memory. When the last of them disappeared from my view, I smiled, closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep.

(more pictures can be found in the gallery)

Victoria Rolling and Skills Clinics: September 22 and 23, Victoria, B.C.

Date: September 22 to 23

Location: Victoria, B.C.

Description: On September 22 and 23, SISKA will host Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer for a number of rolling and paddling skills clinics. Enrollment is limited.

Contact: Mike Jackson – or South Island Sea Kayaking Association

Tuiliks and What to Wear with Them

Question: What do you wear under the tuilik in cold water? I have always used a drysuit and this is my first time using the tuilik in cold water. Any suggestions?

Answer: I typically wear my drysuit under my tuilik. Under the drysuit, for the top half, I dress according to air/water temperature, wearing either just an inner core layer, just an outer core layer or both. For the bottom half I wear just capilene, just an outer core layer or both. And for the feet, SmartWool socks.

Vulcanoa Marathon Sea Kayak Symposium, Italy – Part 2

After more cappuccinos and hot chocolate croissants, Justine, Barry and I headed to the beach for our first day of classes. I was teaching Greenland rolling, and Justine and Barry were teaching “Fun and Balance.” It was wonderful to work with Tatiana Cappucci, an Italian woman woman with a talent for Greenland rolling and instruction. Tatiana was kind enough to translate for me, and I realized once again (this happens to me often), that it is somewhat pathetic that I am only fluent in one language, when most people in Italy speak two or three.

Gravita’ Zero, an Italian outfitter, lent me a Tahe Marine Greenland to use for the classes. Tahe Marine sponsors me, and it was nice to use a kayak that I was familiar with. The students were wonderful, and despite the language barrier and the intermittent thunderstorms, all of us were laughing and having a wonderful time in the water.

Kayaks on the beach.

After the classes we headed to lunch. The food in Italy is wonderful and unique, and a very tasty but unexpected combination that I especially enjoyed was cheese with honey poured over the top. None of us were scheduled to teach in the afternoon, so we came back to the hotel for a little rest before Justine and Barry’s slideshow presentation on a circumnavigation of New Zealand’s South Island.

Fun at dinner.

The following day I had a another Greenland rolling clinic in the morning. I spent the afternoon exploring the town and decided then and there that I want to study Italian. It was somewhat of an adventure to find an ATM machine, sunblock and postcards, and it was days later before I found stamps so that I could mail them. The thunderstorms were still rumbling in the distance, but nobody at the event was bothered by the flashes of light and the loud rumbling filling the air. That evening I did a slideshow presentation on the Greenland National Kayaking Championship, which I attended in 2008. I had never had a translator for a presentation before, but Gianfranko Liotta made it very easy for me, keeping the humor light and the audience captivated.

The following day was a race. I opted out of competing and instead decided to hike along the volcanic headlands to find a high spot overlooking the sea to watch the competitors charge between the islands. The clouds were starting to clear, and the beautiful scenery was mesmerizing with the sparkle of the late morning sun. When the first racers came back into sight, I made my way along the rocky hillside to watch the finish. Eugenio Viviani soon crossed the finish line, exhausted but with a huge smile on his face.

The beginning of the race.

Racers Eugenio Viviani and Barry Shaw.

That evening Tatiana and I did a Greenland rolling demonstration in the swimming pool at the hotel before heading to a restaurant for more slideshows and another fantastic meal. The symposium was coming to an end, and the following day a four day tour of the islands would begin.

To be continued…

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