Kiptopeke Sea Kayak Symposium

The Fourth Annual Kiptopeke Sea Kayak Symposium is coming up next weekend and it’s sold out!  Looking forward to teaching some great courses and I thought I’d share the descriptions. If you see something you like, but can’t make the symposium, contact me and we can schedule a private coaching session this fall.

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Summer Sea Kayak Surfing in Virginia Beach

We’ve been fortunate to have some good surf days in Virginia Beach this summer, and we’ve had some great morning beach break sessions before the lineup gets too crowded.  Of course we prefer getting out to inlets with long sandbars offshore for longer rides and no crowds at all!

Here are a few shots from the GoPro, mounted on the kayak and held by a swimmer in the water.  These are from different days, with larger swells on the overcast days.



Feedback from a Student

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.”


Advanced Sea Kayak Skill Development

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


Meet Your Students Where They Are

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.

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Clear the Decks! and Get Ready for Action

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.

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Adding Air Horn to V-Strom

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.


3rd Annual Kiptopeke Sea Kayaking Symposium

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.


Quick Tip: Storing Kayak Straps

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.