I could never write something like this myself, but I’m happy and thankful to share this feedback from Ron in Annapolis after a private coaching session in the surf:
“A few weeks ago I had one of those really great days of paddling on the ocean with coach Tom, and I thought others might be interested in my experience. Tom is gifted with a great combination of personality, knowledge, and incredible kayak skills, AND he is an outstanding educator. His enthusiasm for being in a sea kayak on the ocean is infectious. Tom doesn’t say too much when coaching, but when he does you get it right away. I immediately felt that he was working for me to reach full potential. Throughout the day Tom passed on a clear understanding of what was going on in the surf as we were seeing it. I got it right away, information that I could use. When paddling the surf he would demonstrate what he was asking me to do, and stay right there with me as I did it, watching. Occasionally he’d break in on my internal struggle with the boat and the wave with a comment that solved for the very problem that I was struggling with! At some point I was actually hearing his input and acting on it while on the same wave! Cool stuff! It seems simple when you experience it, but it’s the trademark of a great coach. Nothing like getting it right away, and immediately feeling the improvement. Needless to say it was a great day, and the skills I picked up carried over to my next trip to the ocean. Then few day later, Tom topped it off when he sent an assessment of the day, along with some homework! Outstanding experience all round.”
Here’s a great video on fiberglass kayak repair, particularly when you’re on an expedition or overnight trip.
During my recent Level 5 instructor certification exam, three words really stuck with me. Managed Learning Experience.
As most L-4 and L-5 instructors know, as you begin teaching skill development (and leadership, risk assessment and mitigation, etc.) in open water, the learning environment becomes more challenging. It’s often impractical to get everyone together, describe/demonstrate a technique, and then have them practice the new skill. If you have an area of protection from waves and wind, you can retreat to that area for the on-water classroom, and then venture back out into conditions for the skills. Continue reading
I read a few quotes from Laird Hamilton in a recent issue of Outside Magazine that struck me and got me thinking of kayaking, both as a hobby, and in my role as an instructor. One of the quotes is:
“We are each our own greatest inhibitor. People don’t want to do new things if they think they’re going to be bad at them or people are going to laugh at them. You have to be willing to subject yourself to failure, to be bad, to fall on your head and do it again, and try stuff that you’ve never done in order to be the best you can be.”
This is very true, and particularly so for people developing new kayaking skills, or even just paddling in new places or with new people. As instructors, it’s sometimes easy to forget that people can be anxious just signing up for a class. When you start moving toward more advanced classes and conditions, the fear grows, even if our students, friends (ourselves) or co-instructors don’t want to admit it, and hide it well.
Here’s an article I wrote for the Chesapeake Paddlers Association’s summer newsletter:
There’s an old naval expression, “Clear the Decks,” that urges seamen to stow gear, leave the deck of the ship and prepare for battle. That same mentality applies to sea kayakers, particularly as you start paddling in rougher conditions. You’re not preparing for ex- changing cannon fire, but if you have lots of gear on your deck, you may be in for a different kind of battle altogether.
I’m a big advocate of having as little gear on the deck of my boat as possible when on an open water paddle, or even when teaching or leading trips on flat water. The reasons are simple – safety and efficiency. The more items I have on my deck, the more there is to get in the way.
I recently added a Wolo Bad Boy air horn to the V-strom, mounting it in the upper right fairing. I used a relay triggered by the old horn contacts and powered the new horn directly from a fuse box under the seat.
The horn itself was mounted using a u-bolt around a vertical fairing support and a short piece of flat stock.
I’ve had to use it a few times and it definitely gets more attention than the wimpy stock meep-meep version! If you have some basic wiring skills, I highly recommend it.
We’re just a few weeks away from the 3rd Annual Kiptopeke Sea Kayaking Symposium and I’m really looking forward to my courses this year. I have some new exercises and skills for the students to work on, to keep things from getting stale and add in some new ideas I’ve been working on to help people get to the next level.
If you’ve worked with me in the past, you know one of my goals is to give students “homework” — exercises they can practice on their own to continue their progression and cement the skills in muscle memory after the class. Classes I’m teaching this year include the always popular “Life on the Edge,” “Advanced Sea Kayak Surfing” and “Open Water Skills,” and ACA L-4 training course.
If you can’t make the symposium, be sure to contact me about sea kayak instruction opportunities in Hampton Roads, including private coaching.
Here’s a quick tip for how to roll up your cam/kayak straps for storage so they’re organized for your next trip. BTW, these cam straps are great for motorcycle packing, too, and I’ve even hung a hammock from them when I forgot my hammock straps…
By the way, I’m a big fan of Yakima roof racks and found they work great on my Toyota Prius.
I had a great time teaching at the Garden State Sea Kayaking Symposium last weekend. Despite Tropical Storm Andrea barreling through Friday night, the weekend was mostly dry on land, but we definitely got wet on the water.
Saturday am was a scaled down version of my “Life on the Edge” course — a “graduate level” session on edging and bracing. The highlight for me was the unplanned synchronized capsizing of three students, who happened to be in a row. They all tried the same exercise, and all three went over, like a row of dominoes. Then they all rolled back up with smiles. Winner!
Saturday afternoon was Surfing I/II, and with the large surf from Andrea later became an advanced surf zone rescue course. Here’s a key takeaway if you’re starting out in the surf zone. Often you have to punch through a breaking wave or a wave that’s just about to break. The ideal is to paddle hard toward the wave, tuck your body low to the deck, almost like the setup for a roll, and push through the wave. As you push through, your front paddle blade immediately goes to the forward stroke and you keep digging to get through the impact zone.
What most newer kayak surfers do, however, is a very natural reaction. They push through the wave, then sit up straight, take a second or two to catch their breath, and shake the water from their face. They’ve lost all momentum, and are now sitting right in the impact zone for the next wave. Try not to stop after that first (or second or third) wave — just keep digging hard! Relax, clear your eyes and celebrate on the outside of the impact zone :-). Keep paddling until you’re sure you’re past the breakers. Trust me on this one!
Sunday was a great intro to surfing session in the morning, followed by surfing I in the afternoon. Great conditions and students who were eager to learn and ready to push themselves. I look forward to next year!
Someone recently asked me about the feedback I provide to students as part of a private instruction session, so I thought I’d share some observations made after a surf session. The names have been removed to protect the innocent:
I saw a significant improvement in your respective comfort levels, both in how you “addressed” the water, and in your body/boat alignment. Some of that can likely be attributed to just getting comfortable in a new environment, but I saw more natural reactions to the waves and wind toward the end of the day.
A great example of this for me, and hopefully you’ll recall as well, is the ease in pivoting the boat after coming in on a wave, so you’re quickly facing back out. At the start of the day, that was typically a series of sweep strokes, not too far on edge, and without a smooth transition from side to side. By the end of the session you were both generally exiting the whitewater already starting to turn out to sea again, and using more aggressive low brace turns and reverse sweeps to get the bow around. I saw you both (A in particular), also take off back out without worrying about getting exactly 90-degrees to the wave, knowing you could still punch through and brace (kind of a “forward stroke brace” where you just plant the paddle and let the stern swing around) on the ocean side and let the waves do some of the work for you.