Nigel Law may not be the most famous of Nigel’s. And maybe that’s ok. Kayaking has been a Nigel rich environment since the late 1980s. That said, Nigel Law has been involved in paddle sports in the Southeast for over 15 years. He was one of the original organizers at Sea Kayak Georgia of BCU week. Nigel has found a beautiful niche in the kayaking world of the Southeast and the US. He is one of the sole distributors of Mega Surf Kayaks, he was one of the first dealers of Tiderace Kayaks, and he was also one of the first ACA coaches to get his IT certification in Surf Kayaking. Nigel Law also competed and placed in the 2010 worlds surf kayaking championship in the outerbanks. Nigel developed a surf specific paddle for Saltwood called the double happiness.
Needless to say he has some significant credentials. On top of this he and his wife run a great business running and guiding trips on the coast of Georgia as well as ACA development workshops.
You can see Nigel’s Kayak @ time segment 2:16, which may help you spot him surfing.
The Surf ACA Instructor Certification Workshop I participated in comprised a Level 2, and Level 3. The Level 2 is all sit-on-top surf kayaking, with the final day demonstrating sit-in surf kayaking. We traveled down to Jacksonville Florida to Talbot island to run the course with Nigel.
The Level 2, believe it or not was a riot. I had not spent a ton of time in (on) a sit-on top kayak in the surf, but quickly saw the appeal and the freedom it grants to both the student and the instructor. The students can focus on catching waves and having fun, and the instructor can focus on coaching the students, rather than on helping them swim their kayaks to the beach to dump out and start over. There are still specific safety measures needed for sit-on-top surf kayaks, and a limit to performance, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Day one focused on skills needed for a Level 2 on flatwater, which was a quick recap of some basic skills on a beautiful backwater that was a tidal creek with lots of oysters and diving sea birds. We finished the day doing some surfing out on the ocean side. We had small, but peely waves as the sun went down.
Day two was a crash course in surf zone safety led by Nigel. It seemed like a Navy Seal indoctrination course as I recall spending most of the day in the surf wearing my drysuit, either swimming, or doing rescues from a sit-on-top. We ran through some scenarios and some rescues in the surf zone in a 25 knot on shore wind with manageable 3-4 foot surf. That said there was a 4-5 knot long shore current that made everything a little more challenging, paddling, swimming, rescues. We had a free surf session at the end.
Day three comprised the sit-in kayak session where I was expected to demonstrate the skills from level 2, plus some additional surfing skills demonstrated on certain parts of the wave. The Level 3 & 4 have some specific surfing moves that need to be demonstrated. In the windy onshore breeze on a beach break, certain components were pretty challenging. Nigel had me working on paddle out take-off’s and working the shoulder with cutbacks. He adroitly observed my tendency to take-off in the middle of waves rather than at the shoulder.
The program offered a lot for organizing and simplifying surf coaching. Some of my big take-aways:
- Location, Conditions, Location In order to provide an environment to students who are beginner surfers in any craft, the venue and the conditions dictate what you can do. Not the students. 1-2 foot surf on sit-on-tops, or frankly any craft, provides ample conditions for even moderately difficult tasks. Nigel’s coda: “Don’t try to improve people, improve the situation pretty well sums it up.
- Give instructions on the beach, set tasks, and allow time for students to try, and then give feedback on the beach. The surf zone doesn’t provide a very good environment for students to hear you, pay attention or focus on feedback. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on the water, but it does mean you shouldn’t be giving complicated instructions while waves are breaking over the kayaks.
- Sit on Tops are awesome a sit on top platform allows students with a developing roll and no surfing ability to get out and start learning how to surf pretty quickly without providing the unnecessary task of learning to roll first. This isn’t to say that rolling isn’t important, or that it shouldn’t be a skill focus, but rather that surfing can be fun for a much wider audience without rolling as a fairly steep skill curve at the beginning.
I was very pleased to participate in the program and to be able to spend time working with Nigel Law. We spent an awesome weekend shooting the breeze at the campsite, enjoying the wildlife, and the local culture.
This was but a fraction of the wildlife Nigel and I enjoyed during our visit. The raccoons, rats, and other small animals may have developed a taste for curry and Bud Light after the weekend. But hangovers aren’t just for people anymore.