Category: WMCKA

Symbiotic Relationship Kayak Clubs and Kayak Shops

Symbiotic Relationship Kayak Clubs and Kayak Shops

symbiotic relationship between kayak shops and kayak clubs

I had a great ride with Greg Anderson from Chicago at about 5:00 AM on Saturday during the Gales. We talked a lot about the kayak club CASKA and its relationship with local kayak shops. And I talked about WMCKA and its relationship with local kayak shops. In short we as a community, have a very dysfunctional view of our relationship with retail entities.

We as members of paddling clubs seem to be very reluctant to endorse kayaking shops. Shops on the other hand seem to be very willing to help support kayak clubs, as these are their customers, their community. I’ve been struggling with how to say this for some time, so in typical Go Kayak Now! fashion, I thought I would just come out and say it. Paddling clubs need local shops. We need to support them for the benefit of the community. The worry about getting in bed with a commercial entity is always a risk, but the larger risk, is not having a commercial entity around to get in bed with. Kayaking is a sport that is very gear intensive, and very skills intensive. In order to have a good paddle shop, the local community has to actually buy their gear from the shop.

I’ve actually even heard of retail outlets getting pissed at clubs for having a favorable relationship with a more local club than another. Meaning a shop that was further away didn’t get the treatment they would have liked because there was shop that was closer that did. To this I say, “Hell Yeah.”

Without a local shop, where are you going to send new paddlers to buy or try immersion gear, new paddles, new kayaks. Where can you send them to get charts, VHF radios, compasses, books on kayaking, get repairs done?

The trend in the outdoor industry has been to do comparison shopping and find the “best” deal online. The “best” deal often turns out not to be, as people buy something from somebody they don’t know, and they end up having problems. They also end up not having a relationship with the one local entity that can actually help them fix it, their local kayak shop. I’ve been guilty of this myself. I’ve done the comparison shopping, and bought some gear that doesn’t work the way I’d like. And I can’t go back to a person to return it. A student of mine just told me on the phone yesterday he bought a used boat from a stranger in another state. It is his first composite boat. I am really happy for him. But I am also kinda frustrated. Our local shop needs his sales, and I could have guided him to a boat he was going to love, and into a relationship with the shop.

In short, I suck. And I am not going to do it anymore. I am drawing a line in the sand, and I am going to start buying all of my gear at my local shop. I am going to encourage, (if not insist) everyone in my community to start doing likewise. There should be a symbiotic relationship with shops and clubs. Clubs should be telling shops the gear that they want, and the shops should be fulfilling that need by stocking that gear.

Sometimes it means having to wait for a special order to arrive. But to me that is a small price to pay, to know that there is a real person who is getting my money.

In my area, Lee’s Adventure Sports has invested heavily in paddle sports, they support my lessons, and pay for the pool time during the winter in Southwest Michigan. The were the first distributor of P&H Pyranha, before P&H became the wild US success you see now. They were carrying Lendal’s and Werner while everyone else carried mushy plastic no-name brand paddles.

How about investing something back? Our local clubs should be finding out what they can do to support local paddle shops, before there aren’t any… If there is something your shop doesn’t carry or offer as a service, for the love of Christmas, tell them. They want to be there for you! It is your shop make it the kind of shop you want to buy stuff from, by stepping up and offering some feedback.

21st Annual WMCKA Symposium This Weekend

21st Annual WMCKA Symposium This Weekend

Jeff Allen of Sea Kayaking Cornwall paddling in a race with a pool noodle.

WMCKA Symposium is this weekend. If you’re sick of your inlaws and want to stop by the best gig in town, come on by to big Blue Lake for the 21st Annual West Michigan Sea Kayakers’ Symposium.

Nigel Foster standing in his boat

Nigel Foster will be our guest speaker and instructor this year. This is the second time Nigel has come to our symposium, but the first in 7 years. Ironically that was the first time I attended WMCKA. So it is a full circle event for me.

I have been to almost every symposium in the Midwest, trust me this is the one not to miss.

I’ve been putting together a presentation on Surf Kayaking and wave dynamics for sea kayakers. I may post that here soon as well. I will be giving that presentation with Ken Fink.

Hope to see you there.

Uncommon Adventures Lake Michigan Surf Kayak Fest

Uncommon Adventures Lake Michigan Surf Kayak Fest

Michael Gray Sent this along. I plan on attending.

Surf Kayaking Outerbanks NC Valley Rush

Sleeping Bear Surfest 2009
Endless Summer
Summer seems to have crept in and out without much fanfare or heat, but has still left us with a pleasantly warm and refilled Lake Michigan. Most of us in the paddling world don’t give up on summer easily and we’re going to draw it all the way into October this year by holding our Surf camp Oct 2-4. If surf doesn’t cooperate, we’ll paddle along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, or mountain bike in our area’s myriad two tracks through the forest.
*Cost and what’s included? Like last year cost is $95 and includes 2 night’s camping, breakfasts, hot showers, access to our covered outdoor kitchen and dining facility and mentoring.
*When? October 2-4
*Who’s welcome? Anyone with proper immersion clothing and decent bracing capabilities
*What kind of boat or board? Anything you’ve got from surf boats to whitewater boats to Stand-up boards to short surfing sea kayaks (I’ll have a couple of Romany’s on hand that can be borrowed).
*Where? Moonshadow Herb Farm near Empire:gives us access to beaches in Empire, in Sleeping Bear and the long waves created by Southwesterlies around the pier in Frankfort.
*Registration: we are limited to 35 people.

Register for Sleeping Bear Surf Fest with Uncommon Adventures

Michael will send along more specific details on the where after registration.

20th Annual WMCKA Symposium Guest Speaker Jeff Allen

20th Annual WMCKA Symposium Guest Speaker Jeff Allen

Jeff Allen WMCKA instructor update

Jeff Allen co-owner of Sea Kayaking Cornwall visited this year to instruct and speak. Jeff came a day early to give an instructor update for the WMCKA instructional staff. The topic this year was incident management. Jeff has written a series of articles for Ocean Paddler magazine. Jeff is also writing a book on the topic of sea survival for paddlers. The articles and Jeff’s course cover a wide range of topics. Some of the topics are familiar to sea kayakers. They cover towing, deep water rescues, and the familiar CLAP and SAFE principals of leadership on the water. What is unique to Jeff’s approach is how he challenges the familiar aphorisms of sea kayaking such as “stay in the boat”. One example of this unusual approach is when entering a landing area that is through the surf into a hazardous rocky landing spot, Jeff has proposed that like the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) that swimming yourself in through the surf zone is better than crashing in your sea kayak. This hypothesis is magnified when you have a victim, (or as Jeff has labeled them according to the military term-casualty) who cannot get themselves through the surf zone. I highly recommend reading Jeff’s articles in Ocean Paddler, and keep a sharp eye out for that book!

The course normally runs over five days, and we had one day to cover a couple of topics. Our instructor update covered rescues and towing. Jeff continued to stress a practical approach about rescues focusing on what would be best for the group as a whole. Taking the SAFE approach stop assess formulate a plan and execute. For example if a member of your group manages to take a nasty swim in a cave, rushing in like the valiant hero isn’t always the best idea. You could have two casualties instead of just one. Jeff reckons that sometimes having the casualty swim out, or having a rescuer if need be swim in is a better bet than getting another kayak in the mix. It is not revolutionary, but it does go against several hard and fast rules or at least dogma about staying in the boat.

During the course Jeff covered many ideas about sea survival and group cohesion. He demonstrated many towing concepts. And he also showed us his throw/tow rig. He was kind enough to leave me a sample rig. He is not selling them, which is sort of unusual in kayaking. He is advocating safety without a fiduciary return, which is even rarer and if possible cooler. The idea is that instead of just having a tow belt, you have a throw bag combined with a tow belt rig. So that if you had this alleged swimmer in the cave, you could throw your rope just like a white water rescue bag, and then still have one side clipped in to your belt. This way the rescuer could tow the casualty out of the cave without having to paddle in, putting themselves at risk. I will post some more details and pictures on the tow rig Jeff left with me.

We ran through some incidents on Lake Michigan near Duck Lake state park. We covered deep water t-rescues for the first hour. And readers here may be pleased to hear that the time spent in analysis was not wasted. Further we picked up some other good tips I will share at a later date.

The last and most challenging incident involved a swimmer casualty incapacitated and separated from the kayak. We separated into teams of three plus the casualty. The object was for each team to get their casualty to shore first. Our team decided on the scoop for our victim. And despite having performed this in practice recently, it is entirely different when the casualty is completely incapacitated. The hardest part was entanglement of the limbs on re-entry I had to try three times to get Luis Caro back into the boat before I got his butt in his seat. Also to get his butt in the seat all the way, I had to sit him upright and push on his shoulders to get him all the way in. We towed in fairly quickly and straight. Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin and I swapped out once for good measure. Sharon is quite strong! She hauled out pulling a rafted tow! She can come to sea with me when I am not doing well anytime. Wendy had the hardest job actually which was holding Luis’s kayak upright and keeping him out of the water. She never got a break either. Towing was probably quite easy compared to that.

Jeff Allen Demonstrating his throw tow system on Lake Michigan

Afterwards we compared notes with the other teams. There was some diversity in the approach at the beginning. One team actually opted to tow the swimmer in the water while someone towed the empty kayak. This did give them an advantage and they did get to shore first. We were third. But as a result their casualty got quite cold. Poor Steve Bailey. In the end almost everyone opted for the scoop. But as Jeff pointed out, care for the casualty does come into play as good technique. Most opted for the face down scoop, which is ironically easier, but doesn’t allow you to keep a very good eye on your victim. So while coming in third we got some bonus points for taking better care of our charge.

I would encourage anyone running a symposium to consider Jeff Allen for an incident management course. His approach is revolutionary in that it is practical and covers a wide variety of very simple tactics for sea survival. After spending a weekend with Jeff, I won’t say I got to know him. I wouldn’t presume to jump to the middle of a book and claim to have read it. But my impression is that his life experience with the military, a nightclub bouncer, a kick boxer and an expedition paddler has given him a wide experience to draw from that leaves me speechless. He described some harrowing experiences with the military in Northern Ireland that left me wondering if any of us can really know how we will perform when pushed to our limits. Ken Fink is also one that will surprise you in this regard. Ask him about his Polynesia trip sometime. Ken has a long and storied past and continuing experience at sea. I hope we can hear more about his experiences next year at symposium too!

I’ve been attending the WMCKA symposium for almost 7 years now. It seems funny to me how much time has gone by and how quickly. I remember the first symposium I attended was when Nigel Foster was the guest instructor. WMCKA is in it’s twentieth year.

Ken Fink of Maine, sea kayaking incident management course wmcka 2009

The symposium has a long and warm memory for many people. Some who still come, some aren’t involved in paddling anymore. Ken Fink has been at all but one of the symposiums, and though he might be too modest to admit it, he is also the progenitor of the US sea kayaking symposium tradition.

Personally, the club and the symposium means a lot to me. It is an extended family away from the east side of Michigan where I am from; but in some ways it’s even better, because everyone wants to talk about paddling. I’ve been involved in the planning of symposium for about five years now. It’s been great fun to work with the club and to be able to contribute to a symposium that every one seems to get so much pleasure from.

The WMCKA symposium to quote Derrick Mayoleth has a unique vibe, “somewhere between carnival and peace rally”. Nothing could say it better. Other symposiums I’ve been to are obviously way fun, but lack that feeling of oneness and shared experience. They also lack another thing, children. It’s great to have so many kids out paddling and involved in the event. There are certainly more exciting symposiums for more advanced instruction, and sexier locations, but WMCKA holds it’s own for sheer good mojo. My hope is that whether or not I am a contributor, or participant that the symposium continues on for another twenty years.

The classes I taught this year were terrific, the students were really engaged and eager to learn. I got to do two different rescue classes. It was great to do both assisted and self-rescue classes. We did some great t-rescues with students. I lost my hat on the bottom during one. A student spotted it on the bottom and hovered over it. I exited my boat, took off my lifejacket, dove down 12 feet to scoop it off the bottom on the first try. I then demonstrated a re-enter and roll. This got a couple of students talking, and they decided to try paddle float re-enter and rolls. They both managed to get a re-enter and roll! One got a re-enter and roll on the first try.

Rodeo is often the highlight of this symposium. It is a series of silly races in teams. We start doing races with children on the backdeck and tagging a participant paddler who transfers the child to their kayak to race back to shore. I was lucky to get Deborah (friendly fire) for my rodeo team mate. We had a gas in the rodeo races, Osa Svensson was our child who held on for dear life!

The second rodeo event if possible has outdone the other races. 7 paddlers in a team use one boat paddle around a buoy using a variety of paddling implements. A trash can on shore holds a variety of implements. Each time you come back to shore a new team member grabs an implement from the trash can. You start with a paddle but as the race progresses the less desirable implements are left. So it starts with kayak paddles and towards the end of the race, plungers, and tin foil are left. The team waits on shore to turn the boat around while the paddler gets an implement and hops in the boat.

Jeff Allen stern ruddering with a pool noodle

What this means is that a highly competitive group of paddlers invent all sorts of ways to cheat. And in the words of Ron Smith, “we’re all highly competitive, but the difference is we don’t care who wins”. Aptly put. Doug Van Doren started off the fun by filling Jeff Allen’s Explorer with water before the race even started. Look out for clergy, they are the sneakiest of the bunch!

Our team started well with Jon Holmes using his Eddyline Falcon 18! He rocketed off the starting line and we were essentially unbeatable from that point forward. Jon coming off of his amazing Hugh Heward Ultimate Challenge is in top form. I couldn’t believe how fast he was. The cheating started early with Jeff Allen leading. He was filling the Falcon’s back hatch with water and I caught myself filled with adrenaline thinking that somehow I could tackle a 6’4″ former military commando/kickboxer/knightclub bouncer and drag him down by his pfd. Jeff just laughed at me when I couldn’t even budge him by his PFD straps.

Dressler Rodeo Game Face

Once we had it in the bag, the cheating started in earnest. Each time a paddler would come in, each team would capsize the opposition and fill their boat with water. It was great fun and high spirits all round.

Ron and Suzie Smith getting in some good natured cheating on Jeff Allen

Jeff’s talk followed. He shared his slideshow on Japan and South Georgia with Hadas Feldman. Jeff and Hadas formed a unique partnership and managed to go around all of Japan together. Jeff shared all of the challenges and amusing trip dynamics with well placed anecdotes with perfect comic timing. If you haven’t seen this is the Sea two, you need to watch it as it covered their expedition.

The talk on South Georgia was captivating. Jeff, Hadas, Nigel Dennis, Jim Rowlinson, and Peter Bray formed the team. Some unique challenges including katabatic winds and an infection from a drysuit gasket made this a really great talk. Jeff had great slides of wildlife including elephant seals, and lots of penguins.

The slide that capped it all, was the closer, “Some men claim to have seen borders, though I have never seen them myself, some claim they exist. Perhaps they exist in some men’s minds.” (more or less).

We delayed the rolling contest until the next morning. I managed to get everything packed in record time and participate. I managed to get 8 in thirteen seconds using my white water paddle despite a false start. Jeff also had a false start and eight rolls. Jeremy did really well, with 8 as well. Hannah Bloyd-Peshkin pulled it out of the bag with 9 rolls in thirteen seconds.

Bloyd-Peshkin Rollng Champs

A quick retreat found me wishing Jeff well on his journey. Only yesterday he shared the sad news that his Father died over the weekend in Cypress. Many condolences to Jeff and his family.

Jeff was kind enough to share these words about WMCKA,

“I found the event, the people and the location to be absolutely top notch for the aims of the symposium and it was an absolute privelege to work beside you all.”

Follow Jeff Allen’s endeavors here at Sea Kayaking Cornwall.

Jeff Allen Keynote Speaker for WMCKA Symposium 2009

Jeff Allen Keynote Speaker for WMCKA Symposium 2009

Jeff Allen Sea Kayak Expedition Photo

Jeff Allen renown expedition paddler, BCU Coach, and contributor to the increasingly awesome Ocean Paddler magazine will be the WMCKA Keynote Speaker for our 2009 symposium.

Jeff Allen is one half of Sea Kayaking Cornwall. Simon Osborne being the other half.

Jeff has a vast experience with long trips and a life long love affair with the sea. It shows in his long trips at sea in circumnavigating Japan, his trip to South Georgia Island, and his writing for Ocean Paddler Magazine. Jeff has written a series of excellent and I think groundbreaking articles on incident management for Ocean Paddler. I would recommend checking them out.

WMCKA is excited to have Jeff Allen come and visit us.

I would encourage particpants to sign up on facebook and friend Jeff Allen ahead of time.

Winter storm misfortune WMCKA Pool Sessions

Winter storm misfortune WMCKA Pool Sessions

Keith Wikle Volvo Broken Down on tow truck with kayaks on the roof

We tried to go to the pool in GR. Laura and I kept going back and forth about whether or not to go. It’s too snowy, I thought, then I got bummed because I really wanted to get in the pool and practice my rolls. Isabella was all gung ho! She was ready to paddle in the pool. So we eventually loaded up the 1993 Volvo DL with the kayaks and headed north.

Side note is, I love this car. I got it from my Grandmother in Florida. She decided not to drive anymore and I flew down to Florida with my Dad a couple years ago to get it. It only has about 60,000 miles on it. I put raingutter racks and a kayak stacker on it. I can fit four kayaks on their side on top plus a bike. It is very easy to load as it is low to the ground. I almost always prefer loading kayaks on this vehicle to the 2004 minivan we own. It takes half the time and harsh language to load the Volvo.

I bike commute almost year round. The only time I don’t cycle to work, is when there is 4-6 inches of snow still on the street. Which is of course now!

Not soon after we were loaded up and on the road, the car began sputtering, losing power and then finally stalled at a gas station in Plainwell. I called a tow truck to come get the car and we spent the rest of the day dealing with the car and getting the kayaks onto our minivan and driven home.

If you have kind words or prayers for the Gold Bomber send them my way.