Wednesday, May 20, 2009

UK spring, 2009

I made my usual spring trip to the UK, primarily to hang out at Nigel Dennis' sea kayak symposium on Anglesey. It was a great event as always and I got to do some fun paddling, coach a lot, and catch up with friends from all over! I rarely take photos at these events - it's usually blowing too hard to take your hand off the paddle - and I alway regret it!

Nigel Dennis about to head out with a bunch of 5* hopefuls. Saddly, the Force 8 wind that had been blowing for days and was forecast to continue throughout this day, unexpectedly and suddenly vanished, making it impossible to complete the assessment.

I did take photos during a memorable day canoeing with Phil Hadley....
We paddled a section of the Dee in northern Wales. The shuttle is excellent - you simply park at the bottom and paddle up the canal that runs along side the river! Old steam engines run along the river and dappled sunlight streamed through the trees. We passed a barge being towed by a big draft horse and waved at the tourists onboard. At the put-in, you climb over the bank and off you go downstream. It was a fun little stretch of river - nothing too tough for my second ever whitewater run in an open canoe....except for the Serpent's Tail! It was a proper class III+ rapid with undercuts and holes. I wouldn't have thought twice about it in my kayak, but a canoe was a different matter. We had a good water level and it was a pretty straight shot, super fun, and I didn't flip! Phil went first and made it look easy.
My run was a bit less graceful....
After finishing the whitewater run, Phil had a surprise.....

We drove a few miles and stopped at another access point to the same canal. Here, there were lots of canal boats - 7 feet wide and up to 70 feet long - that are used as "holiday cottages". People drive them around the canals by day, and tie up along the banks at night. That was pretty cool, but then the canal narrowed down to a single boat width and headed out into thin air - 173 feet above the river valley! It was extremely cool to paddle across a Victorian era aqueduct!

Southwest Kayak Symposium 2009

Everyone kept telling me this was the best year ever. At first I took it personally, then I decided that Jake can run it every year from now on! A few months earlier, I'd decided that I was going to run a BCU Level 1 coaching course at the symposium - 4 whole days worth. It kept me busy Thursday -Sunday which meant that I was unavailable to help with the set-up, actual event itself, or the tear-down. I worried about this a lot, but it turns out that for all these years I've just been getting in everyone's way! Jake, Matt, and a slew of fabulous helpers including Amy, Dan, Onalea, and Gary (the "Grunts") from SUNY Plattsburgh did a fabulous job with the whole event while Phil Hadley and I molded 11 new BCU paddlesports coaches.
You can see lots of photos at

Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium

Ok, this is going back a while, but it's worth mentioning the fantastic weekend we spent in San Francisco in January. Sean Morley, Matt Palmariello and I organized a 3 day sea kayak symposium geared for the advanced conditions one usually finds during spring tides, in the middle of winter, in San Francisco Bay. It could have been epic: gnarly winds, huge surf, fast tide races, and pouring rain.....and we would have loved it. Instead, it was paradise and it we loved it twice as much! We had beautiful sunny skies, moderate swell, and enough tidal current to make things interesting, but none of the wind and horrible weather that SF can dish out. You can see for yourself in the photos what a spectacular weekend we had in one of the most beautiful cities in the world! If you missed it this year, we're doing it again Jan 29-31, 2010. You can learn more at

The organizers at morning briefing.
The event proudly boasted an array of talented coaches from the US and abroad including Nigel Dennis, Nigel Robinson, Jim Kennedy, Sean Morley, Steve Maynard, Tom Bergh, Tom Pogson, Ben Lawry, Matt Nelson, Djuna Mascall, Marce Wise, Roger Schumann, Dave White, Rob Avery and a host of local talent.
While some locals slept in their own beds and a few opted for nice hotels, the rest of us bunked at the Marin Headlands Hostel - a set of huge old officers' houses just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. A 5 minute drive could get us to either Horseshoe Cove on the Bay, or Rodeo Beach on the Pacific. The digs were comfortable and inexpensive and ideally located for this event. We could be in either Sausalito or Fisherman's Wharf for sight seeing or a nice meal in less than 20 minutes. I absolutely LOVE this city! I took a couple of the visiting coaches into town for a little sightseeing: the wharf, street cars, the crookedest road in the world, etc. Letting Nigel Dennis drive my truck in San Francisco was about as exciting as following him around in a sea kayak!

Our view of the city from Yellow Bluff. What an amazing backdrop for kayaking!

Dave White shredding it up.

Glassy waves as the ebb begins with San Francisco as a backdrop!

That's Alcatraz in the background! The 5 Star night navigation group attempted to paddle to the island and bust onto The Rock.

The paddling conditions were excellent and the scenery was just awesome! Urban paddling at it's finest!

Two groups getting ready for a day on the water.

After a long day of paddling in the roughest water we could find, we returned to the calm of Horseshoe Cove and one of San Francisco's little-known gems - The Presidio Yacht Club. After changing and loading kayaks onto cars, happy paddlers retired to the cozy comfort of the yacht club's bar. Reclined in comfy chairs, cold beers in hand, we told stories and made up lies and enjoyed this view through the picture windows.

A group paddling in under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Djuna in the Yellow Bluff tide race on a spring ebb.