This past weekend we went kayaking but not the typical day trip that we have been doing recently. Instead we participated in the 3rd Annual South Island Sea Kayaking Association (SISKA) 2012 Campout that was held at the Sooke River Campground.
Being the new kids on the block so to speak we didn't know what to expect so we decided to make a long weekend of it by arriving on Thursday afternoon. We pretty well had the whole campground to ourselves that evening and it was great to unwind from the week of work. On Friday morning we went for a short paddle down the river but the tide was really getting low and we couldn't pass the last set of babbling rapids unless we wanted to portage the yaks. Heck .... it's the weekend and no portaging was gonna happen on this expedition ( LOL ) so we just paddled upstream until we once again ran out of water.
Along the way we watched a number of birds with their young scooting up and down the shoreline. One of our favourites was this female Common Merganser and her eight little ones.
For the rest of the day while the other kayakers started to arrive, Robyn and I walked to find Geocaches nearby and visited the Sooke Museum located at the tourist information center. Tucked in behind the lighthouse seen on the highway, the museum has an amazing collection of memorabilia that is a must to see if you are in the area.
Saturday morning was the official start of the campout so the camp organizers who also happened to be Paddle Canada Instructors put together morning and afternoon on the water clinics for the participants. Wayne Horodowich of University of Sea Kayaking made the trip from the U.S.and conducted morning and afternoon bracing clinics. Robyn and I joined the paddle strokes clinic lead by Sheila Foehn-Wind Porteous and Joanne Nicolson. The clinic was amazing and we learned a lot of new strokes and fine tuned the ones we have been using for the past eight months. The perfect clinic for any level or experience of kayaker!
Sheila lead a Rescues clinic in the afternoon which Robyn and I promptly signed up for as we needed to complete our on the water rescues to get certified as Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayakers. Joanna Runnells also joined us to refresh her Level 1 skills. Sheila uses visual teaching methods and by demonstrating the self rescue using a paddle float while we were out of our kayaks standing in waist deep water was the first step. We followed along and simply got back into our kayak cockpit knowing that if for some reason we couldn't do this procedure we wouldn't be in the water too long. From there we did the complete self rescue in deeper water and three of us had no issues at all.
I asked Sheila if she would mind me using my GoPro Hero 2 during the clinic and record some of the rescues. For me personally, I like to get permission from an instructor prior to using the GoPro so that they feel comfortable with being recorded and also more importantly that the camera will not interfere with any activity we will be doing. So I mounted the camera on my helmet and recorded some of the activities. The YouTube video below is (in order of performing) Robyn, myself and Joanna completing the self rescue with the paddle float.
During the rest of the clinic we also completed a number of assisted and "T" rescues and I even tried out a cowboy or scramble rescue near the end of the session. It was a great day on the water focusing on skill development rather than our typical sightseeing day tripping. SISKA hosted a BBQ for dinner then we gathered around the camp fire to share stories and Sheila told us all about the Atlantic Paddle Symposium that she recently attended. A great way to end day one.
On Sunday morning we woke up to warm sunny skies and Sheila recommended that we sign up for Wayne Horodowich's Bracing clinic. Wayne also uses step by step teaching methods and we started to learn what bracing with our paddle would feel like by simply sitting on the ground and performing low and high bracing. The next step was to sit in the waters edge and perform the same bracing techniques that we did on land and only after that was completed we got into our kayaks and began the on water training. I have to admit that bracing was probably one of my weakest skills prior to Wayne's clinic but how he progressed us from land to the water clarified key components like hand, elbow, shoulder positions to avoid injury.
Moving through a series of different techniques such as sculling, emergency stops, bracing turns, sweep bracing Wayne then demonstrated an assisted rescue and he selected myself as the student to go into the water. As it happened, I was wearing my GoPro (with Wayne's permission) and recorded the rescue which turned out pretty good. You can hear Wayne explaining to the group the process he uses once he reached me in the water.
The Bracing clinic ran for about 3 hours and both Robyn and I learned so many new skills and our confidence in edging the kayaks increased tremendously. It really was amazing to learn how important our paddle is other than for typical forward and reverse propulsion. We are looking forward to using the skills that we have learned during the SISKA Campout on future expeditions on the water. By the way ..... we also completed our Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayak certification during the weekend and are in the process of learning rolling and our Level 2 skills. One of my goals is to become a Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayak Instructor as I really enjoy paddling with new kayakers and passing the knowledge that I have learned from such a great hobby.
Oh yeah ..... Robyn was loaned a dry suit for the weekend (thanks Sheila) and we are now in the process of buying our own suits since we plan to spend a lot of time in the water in the future. Are we hooked as sea kayakers???? I think those of you who know us know that answer. :-)
On last thing .... the battery charging system that I tested last week worked great. I'm using it again this weekend and will blog some more info this week after charging a few more items in my gear head collection.