Thursday, June 6, 2013

2013 Pacific Paddling Symposium

This past weekend Robyn and I participated in the first ever Pacific Paddling Symposium that was held at the Lester B. Pearson United World College, set on the wooded shores of the Pacific Ocean. The location provides easy access to diverse paddling environments, from the protected waters of Pedder Bay to the challenging tidal currents of Race Passage.

Many of you know from previous blog posts that we spend a lot of time at the Pedder Bay Marina and RV Resort while kayaking and the area has become our playground of sorts. Although most of the symposium participants stayed at the college for the weekend, Robyn and I set up camp at the RV park and simply commuted each day (less than 5 minutes) by kayak. Our entry package included 2 full days of instruction, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners and we were excited and honoured to be part of what would be a fantastic weekend.

Instead of waiting until the end of this post, I think it is fitting to give the PPS Committee, Coaches, Volunteers and the College a much deserved THANK YOU. They made the weekend extremely successful for everyone and for a first year event all I can say is WOW!! Awesome job everyone!

Arriving at the college for registration on Friday afternoon in our civies we had our own private dock to park our yaks. 

After setting up camp we paddled over to the college to check in and get ready for dinner which was followed by guest speakers and presentations. But first the coaches were returning from their day on the water and some had unique methods of coming ashore.

On our way to the registration area I spotted Michael Pardy with a brand new P&H Hammer that he was going to use for the weekend courtesy of MEC. I was really excited to see it in person for the first time but I have to admit it really didn't get my "gearhead" senses going. Coming in at around 13.75 feet it has the look of a hybrid whitewater boat / sea kayak that is specifically designed to 'play the sea' as P&H describes it.

I have always believed that if you serve great food at events like this then the rest just falls into place. So was the case at the symposium with awesome food throughout the weekend. After dinner on Friday we headed to the Max Bell Hall for presentations from the college and the BC Marine Trails Network. After a long day, we then paddled back to our camp and hit the hay to get rested for a busy couple of days on the water.

On Saturday morning we commuted :-) back over to the college, had a great breakfast, picked up our
prepared lunch boxes and went to the 09:00 briefing to meet our coaches for the day.

Kate Hives of the THR was busy capturing the event and took this picture of the 09:00 briefing.

Robyn and I were in similar all day clinics but for the first time in our paddling adventure we would not be together. I was taking the Intermediate / Advanced Currents clinic run by Rowan Gloag, Costain Leonard of The Hurricane Riders and Greg Mason from Ontario. Robyn was taking the Novice / Intermediate Currents clinic run by Matt Nelson of Body Boat Blade and Chris Ladner who is the owner of Ecomarine.

I was really excited to be able to learn from a Rowan and Costain and hear about their passion for big currents and dynamic water conditions. I didn't know too much about Greg but as the session went on I soon learned that his technical knowledge was amazing and was just what I needed. My goal for the day was really simple .... learn how to use the P&H Delphin in current conditions and see how far I could push my own personal performance envelope.

Leaving the confined waters of Pedder Bay we practiced a number of different rudder strokes in combination to allow our kayaks to hug the rocky shoreline. After a quick lunch stop on Bentinck Island we headed out to the western islets of Race Rocks in search of the predicted 3.9 knot ebb currents. Although the workable current was only present for a short period of time we practiced leaving the back eddies into the main current flow allowing our kayak to edge as far as possible.
Trying to find the edge point of no return while entering the main current from a back eddy. 

As the current started to diminish, the group as a whole decided to head to Eemdyck Passage to see if there were any current flows that we could practice in.

Rowan demonstrates "head freeze" in the sun. LOL Actually I think it was just a squinting technique he uses.

It was pretty quiet so Rowan, Costain and Greg decided to conduct an on land stern rudder lesson to better show how to use the core muscles to move the kayak with our legs. Start by sitting on the sand like you are in your kayak, turn your core and complete a stern rudder by driving blade into the sand to create a firm anchor (like on a moving wave), lift your hip on the side of the paddle as in an edge and use your core muscle to swing your knees and legs towards your paddle. Repeat on the the other side. For carving a big wave simply lift your hip on the opposite side of the paddle. We then headed out onto the water and practiced these new rudder turns gradually increasing forward speed to feel how effective the technique was. I was pretty amazed with how effective the stern rudder responded when I engaged my core muscles. I think the term Rowan used was that you get 'feedback' through the paddle and kayak which in turn allows you to make necessary adjustments.

Rowan demonstrates how he uses his stern or pry rudder in combination with his legs to carve on the Skook 

We spent a little bit of time on the way back towards Pedder Bay playing in a current flow and I decided to try and roll in the middle of edging into the flow. Now my roll(s) have been pretty reliable but in a current I soon learned that I needed to let my kayak settle before attempting to roll upright and that I needed to roll into the direction of current flow. Looking back at my video I could see my kayak stalling before it got perfectly flat on the water and I attempted the first roll which failed. I reset and tried again but this time the flow of the current built up on my top deck as I got about 3/4 of the way upright and back in I went. It was time for a wet exit followed by a successful cowboy reentry which went pretty good. The best part was that Robyn's group was just coming up on ours and she saw me bobbing down the channel with my kayak. I bet she was so proud!

Everything going wrong on a current roll. Maybe not .... I learned what didn't work.

Robyn Comments: My first course at the PPS was a full-day "Introduction to Tidal Currents" with Matt Nelson and Chris Ladner.  There were 12 of us in the course.  After staging our kayaks in the parking lot (tennis courts) we finally had our turn to launch and we all headed across the bay to a secluded spot.  Matt got us working on our edging right away and we slowly made our way out of Pedder Bay. We stopped on little beach where Matt and Chris used the hull of a kayak (as a chalkboard) and a tarp (to imitate moving water) to help us understand the effect the currents have on our kayaks.

Lots of theory here - winds, tides, land masses, etc.  We all jumped back into the kayaks and headed out to Bentinck Island where we stopped for a great box lunch courtesy of PPS.

After lunch we headed around Bentinck Island and into the currents (what little there was).  We practiced entering and exiting the eddy lines and ferrying.  The currents were a bit stronger between Bentinck and Rocky Point but not enough that we really had to paddle hard.  We could see a big group of kayakers ahead of us and I guessed it must be Mark's course.  As we got closer I saw an capsized lava colored Delphin and a red helmet, just like Mark's, floating down the middle of the channel.  Sure enough, it was my hubby, practicing rolling in currents.

So after Robyn arrived back at our camp from her clinic we decided to walk the trail between the RV park and the college to go for dinner. We headed back up to the Max Bell Hall for the evening activities and I think there was a lot of droopy eyelids from a busy day on the water. James Manke teased us with a 6 minute clip from his epic Grand Canyon paddle that was done over the 2012 Christmas / New Years holidays. Everyone wanted more and it looks like a full featured film will be coming out in the fall sometime. Keynote speaker Ginni Callahan also did a great job keeping us awake with a slide presentation of her sailing / kayak trip from Mexico to New Zealand. It was around 10pm when we walked through the dark forest trail back to the RV. What a great first day!!

Robyn's track from her currents clinic. My clinic was much the same except we made it out to Race Rocks to play a while.

2013 Paddle #34 - PPS Saturday currents Course
Distance: 15.15 km (8.18 nm)

On Sunday morning we decided to drive our kayaks over to the PPS since I was going to be heading off site on a Rock Gardens & Surge Channel clinic. We packed our gear for the day and headed over to the college for an early breakfast and once there we got to see a little hijinks between some of the coaches.

It looks just like my Delphin but it's not. Turns out it belonged to SKILS coach JF Marleau

It turned out that JF Marleau's P&H Delphin was strung up about 30 feet above the water by the yet to be named. JF has a pretty good idea who he, she or maybe a combination of both might have been responsible and I'm sure payback is going to be sweet.

After the release we headed to the briefing area to meet our coaches for the day. I was taking the full day Rock Gardens & Surge Channels clinic for Intermediate / Advanced kayakers and was just a little bit apprehensive about this session. Our group headed off site by vehicle to Whiffin Spit just outside of the Sooke Basin and from there we launched over towards Possession Point to explore some of the rock features that would be our playground for the day.

Although I had done some rock gardens work in the past I really didn't know what to expect but the session coaches Michael Pardy, Greg Mason and Costain Leonard were really great in gradually introducing stroke techniques during warm up exercises in some of the smaller rock gardens. It turns out that a number of the maneuvering strokes that I had been working with the weekend before and on Saturday were put to good use on Sunday. It wasn't long before my apprehension started to fade away.

Warming up through the smaller rock gardens with a little wave surge.

We stopped for lunch in a small cove and the water was absolutely crystal clear. The restroom area was just off to the right and you can see Michael Pardy heading there to get the paddle. The rule was that you took the paddle with you to the restroom. No paddle leaning against the rocks meant it was occupied, paddle leaning against the rocks meant it was available. I never thought kayakers were that smart to come up with such and easy system. LOL

After lunch we practiced some towing techniques which also involved a simulated kayaker in the water. The 3 person team that I was on decided to make the practice as realistic as possible so Reale Emond headed into one of the finger channels cut through the rock and literally became the swimmer. I had the task of going in to retrieve her while the third member of our group went in to retrieve Reale's kayak. It was the first time that I got to use a tow system and I was pretty amazed how effectively it worked. So much that I now have my own system that will be put to use this coming weekend.

On the way back to Whiffin Spit we played a bit more in the nooks and crannies and I began to feel really comfortable with my ability of move my kayak in the tight confined areas of the rock gardens. Having Costain and Greg as coaches for a second day in a row was a huge benefit and it seemed that they pushed me a bit to get results. I was really grateful for that as I like a 'Get It Done' type of coaching.

Arriving back at the college I tracked Robyn down in the pool just finishing her afternoon session. I'll let her take over from here with a few comments of her day.

Sunday I had two half-day courses.  In the morning I did a "Maneuvering and Edging" course with Wayne Horodowich.  This was more of a refresher course for me (which is always a good thing).  We stayed right in the bay and got lots of pointers on edging, bow draw turns, bracing and stern rudder turns.

After a quick lunch in the dining hall I had a "Balance & Bracing" course with Gary Doran in the pool!  (Yes, there's a nice warm indoor pool at Pearson College).  We practiced edging our kayaks to the point of capsizing before performing a brace to recover.  It was lots of fun and everybody got wet.  We also did static braces which is really fun once I learned to relax.

All-in-all a great weekend.  The most important thing I learned was that I need to start taking more advanced courses!  I still consider myself a 'novice' but I realize now that I need to challenge myself more.  I got lots of great compliments from my instructors and it really made me believe that I actually knew what I was doing and was capable of lots more.

My Sunday Rock Garden & Surge Channel track. You can see how far in some of the finger channels go.

2013 Paddle #35 - East Sooke Rock Gardens
Distance: 7.68 km (4.15 nm)
YTD: 373.29 km (201.56 nm)

We decided to spend an extra night at the RV resort and boy are we glad. We were totally beat after the great weekend of instruction we received. My word of recommendation  .... if you missed the 2013 PPS, don't miss the 2014 event!

NEXT UP: SISKA Campout / Clinics at Sooke River this coming weekend.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to try to take your advice for not missing the PPS 2014! I won't so easily let my spot go to someone else next year.