The year begins and ends with the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium. It’s where you can assess how much progress you’ve made in skills and how much more you need to learn, and also see how many more kayaking friends you’ve gotten to know, because just about everyone is there.
This year I showed up early and got a parking spot right on the beach. I took Moonlight Dancer out for the Early Morning Paddle, weaving among a multitude of brightly colored boats to the front of the group. It was a fantastically beautiful Saturday morning. Afterwards I met Dubside and Tom setting up their ropes demonstration by the beach. While we chatted the instructor coordinator ran up and asked if one of us could start the on-the-water Greenland Paddling course, since the instructor was late. I said sure, I could say a few words and kill some time until he showed up. Still in my tuilik, I lifted my new skin-on-frame Chapelle replica on my shoulder, grabbed Beale #127 and headed for the class. At least I looked the part.
There were four students with varying levels of experience, but all new to the GP. They picked through a pile of GPs on the picnic table.
“OK everybody, this is how you hold the Greenland paddle. Two fingers on the loom and two on the shoulder. Forward cant about 30 degrees…”
Hey, I’m playing instructor, talking about foils and windage and abdominal crunches as the BCU crowd looks on!
“The forward stroke is different from the Euroblade… Why do we paddle this way? Because that's how Maligiaq's grandfather taught him!”
When the real instructor doesn’t show up, I said, “OK, well… let’s get on the water!” I helped everyone carry their kayaks to the beach. “Oh yeah -- everyone here OK with wet exits?”
When everyone was in the water I slipped into my replica. By the way, it was the official launch of Chapelle’s Forgotten Jewel (Jewel for short). Unceremonious, but it felt good and I couldn’t help but break into a big smile as she glided across the water.
“Allow the paddle to exit way past your hip. Remember to open your grip on your pushing hand. Also push with the foot on the side of your stroke.”
We practiced the forward stroke and later ran into Warren in his Arctic Hawk SS. I gathered everyone around and asked Warren to say a few words about the forward stroke. He’s been paddling Greenland Style exclusively now for the past five years.
“Keep your elbows low and shoulders parallel to the paddle. That keeps you paddling with the big muscles of your torso…”
He doesn’t use the abdominal crunch that I talked about. Check it out -- the BCU Dropout and me teaching a class! Neither of us was wearing a PFD by the way, or had a bilge pump, spare paddle, or tow rope. And to top it off, we weren’t even registered to be at the Symposium! When I think about the legal implications if something had gone wrong, it’s scary. I got a free t-shirt out the deal but I think I better stay away from instructing: I may have the skill, but I lack the judgment.
[For more picture of The Jewel see the Photo Album]