Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Golden Gate Symposium

Once again GGSKS kicked off the year with a weekend that's not likely to be equaled. Three days of teaching on the coast with world-famous instructors, skilled and eager students, incredible location, great party and presentations.  Topped off with a couple days of paddling with friends that simply could not have been any better.  The weather started cold, got rainy but then improved significantly - finishing up with some sunny weather and smaller swells that made everyone forget the slow start.

What makes symposiums so great is the spirit of the event.  As opposed to a single class, symposiums are about a mingling:  different instructors from all over the world working together, sharing information; different participants with vastly different backgrounds and skills levels, each pushing themselves to get better.  The learning during each day is only a part of the experience - everyone walks away with different perspectives, new tidbits gleaned over a beer at the hostel, an excitement to paddle a new location seen in pictures, and an overall appreciation for the true community that the kayaking world is.  My personal highlights were:  meeting Reg Lake (super nice guy!); hanging out with old friends (some older than others...); hanging out with new friends;  lots of swimming (and learning) in the rock garden rescue class; taking a group around Pt. Bonita (for their first time); general chillin' in the hostel the whole weekend.

And then of course comes the best part of any symposium - paddling with friends/coaches afterward.  Don't get me wrong - teaching is fun.  But nothing beats paddling with highly skilled friends without any stress or responsibilities.  So seven of us went out the day after the event when the swells had dropped even more and played at Pt. Bonita.  A beautiful day with lots of exploration and a chance to get in to all the nooks and crannies that our local easy access rock garden provides.

Then some of us headed up to Ft. Bragg - Dave, Paul and Matt on their way back north - where we headed out with Jeff and Cate of Liquid Fusion Kayaking to see what their back yard has to offer.  While the Bay area has some nice features the Mendocino coast is mind boggling in its density and variety of play spots.  We spent a morning playing our way down the coast and then surfing on a wave breaking off a series of rocks.  Once again everyone was smiling ear to ear as we pulled off the water in sheer bliss.

Lots of rain followed by technical problems limited my photos but what I have is up here.  UPDATE:  Video is now here:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The little things

The old saying goes, 'don't sweat the little stuff''.   But they also say the devil is in the details.  What I find interesting is that the little things that I do sweat over are often quite different from the average paddler.  For instance, I've been working on putting together my own short tow line for sea kayaking.  As an instructor and someone who plays in rough water a tow system is quite important to me and I use it rather frequently.  So I've looked an most every system out there and couldn't find exactly what I wanted.  I was looking to have something about 12' long, quick access (ideally using my integral rescue belt), easy to stow, and not too expensive.  Stohlquist had something close but there's is a long bungie attached to short webbing while I wanted long webbing attached to a short bungie.  So I stole an idea from Jeff Allen and built my own using a spare stainless steel carabiner, a 6' spectra loop cut in half, an old stuff sack and a cowtail that was river booty from years ago.  I think it all came together pretty well and I expect I'll have a chance to use it teaching at the Golden Gate Symposium next week.

On the other hand, I'm not too particular about the boat I paddle (most of the time).  I don't care what it has for a backrest or footpegs, rudder or skeg, 15' or 19'.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Ikkuma, but most of the time I just grab whatever is handy and go.  But many people obsess over the littlest things in the boat they are using for even the simplest outing.  They want to know the length of the boat down to the millimeter, its weight to the ounce.  Is it a shallow V or deep V hull? how hard is the chine?  Is it easy to roll?  And I do understand that when making a purchase you want to get exactly what you want.  But when it comes to paddling, pretty much anything can be made to work.  It's OK to appreciate the perfect boat and gear but it's also OK to enjoy a paddle in a rental sit-on-top and aluminum paddle if that's what it takes to get on the water.