Optimist Symposium, Israel – October 2010

As I throw another log into the fireplace in my northern California townhouse, it is strange to think that a week ago I was in Israel swimming in the Mediterranean Sea under the warm sun and dressed in a bathing suit and sunhat. What brought me to Israel was the Optimist Symposium. This year, Ben Lawry and myself were the guest instructors.

I had never been to Israel before and had no idea what to expect. We were greeted by warm weather, friendly people, delicious food and spectacular scenery. The Optimist kayak club is located on the northern coast of Israel, near Kibbutz Sdot-Yam, and each morning a tractor pulls a trailer of kayaks onto the nearby beach.

The light blue, crystal clear, warm water of the Mediterranean is very inviting and perfect for a long swim before a day of classes. Each morning I spent a lot of time swimming around reefs or just floating in the warm, salty water before making my way to the Club for coffee with the group.

A ten minute stroll down the beach leads to the ancient city ruins of Caesarea. Obviously, Israel has a lot of history associated with it, but actually seeing the historical remains of the city is quite intriguing.

Throughout the four-day symposium I taught full-day classes of Greenland skills. We worked on rolling, strokes, rescues and played some balance and bracing games while Ben taught forward stroke or incident management.

The warm evenings were spent socializing and eating and drinking wonderful local food and beverages.

On my last day in Israel I joined the club for a relaxing paddle north. We paddled past Caesarea, weaving in and out of the reefs and enjoying the sun and light breeze.

That afternoon we went exploring by car, and ended the day in Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel. Anything could be bought in the city’s extensive marketplace, from shoes to hookahs to local tasty treats, including falafel. That evening Ben and I took a train to the airport and began the long journey home with full bellies and big smiles.

For more pictures, visit the Gallery.

For a video of the symposium, put together by Steve Gordon, visit, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64_5Ef98uJc&feature=player_embedded and visit his blog at http://homemadekayaks.blogspot.com/.

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