Tag: body boat blade

Shawna Franklin and Kathy Miller Rolling Double Greenland Style

Shawna Franklin and Kathy Miller Rolling Double Greenland Style

The technique to rolling a double sea kayak is no different than rolling a single kayak, with one exception. Syncopation. You have to roll together or all bets are off. The other technique is that either the front paddler tucks forward and the rear paddler rolls both up or vice-versa.

Obviously Shawna and Kathy have the technique down.

It is also really good fun. Doug Van Doren and I did this in the pool with a homemade double a while back. That Nigel Dennis Triton II Sea Kayak is the fastest double I have paddled yet. I really like it.

As we all know the greenlandic rolling jacket the tuiliq, makes rolling a lot easier. The flotation in the jacket is almost cheating. Both women appear to be wearing them.

Sea Kayaking Leadership and Risk Assessment CLAP!

Sea Kayaking Leadership and Risk Assessment CLAP!

I’ve written a couple of posts about leadership and risk assessment for sea kayaking. While writing this post, I tried to keep these other experiences firmly in mind.

My Apostle Islands experience began my leadership experience.
I had another foray into leadership in November on our Port Sheldon to Saugatuck trip.

I had some serious doubts about my performance under these conditions. Granted the November Gales trip was somewhat extreme, but I organized and planned it. So I was responsible for it.

When I was sea kayaking in Orca Island Washington, I was brave enough to ask for help/advice from Shawna and Leon on where I went wrong that day.

The answer was CLAP.

Line of Sight

For some this is not a new term. It is straight out of the BCU playbook, so to speak. Leon also explained that people in Alpine climbing have been using it for a while to plan expeditions and trips with groups.

I am going to break CLAP down as it was shared with me and as it pertains to the events of the November 15th Trip .


Without communication you really can’t exercise any leadership with a group, everyone is acting as individuals.

Signals can be more useful than one thinks. Set down and agree on them before hand. When using signals keep it simple, paddle straight over head means come to me. Paddle held over head in both hands = stay where you are-and so forth.

A marine radio is dead useful when there is more than one radio in the group. With only one radio, it is only useful for evac from the coast guard. I will most likely be making an investment in one in the near future.

No communication can really get you into trouble on the water, let me tell you. This is probably the key failure of the November Gales trip. Once we had split up there was no way to communicate with one another about the change of plans, or the shifting conditions. So everyone was sort of in it for themselves and the group cohesion was lost almost immediately. We also had no agreed upon signals when exiting the river channels onto Lake Michigan. I could have been leading the way out, and then turning to make sure everyone else got out. If a set looked ugly I could have held a signal for wait/stop etc.

Line of Sight

Line of sight to everyone in your group is really important. It is hard to lead a group you cannot see you, or whom you cannot see. There actually is a difference between the two as well. A good member of the group for a four star assessment will position themselves to be visible so that the leader of the group can see them, know they are safe etc.

Being able to see your group is essential to making landings, as I found out. When I lost line of sight to John and Joe during our November trip, I had to make an educated decision about where to land and then figure out how to regroup. If we had never lost communication or at least line of sight, we would have been able to use hand signals to figure out where we could all land together safely. I also lost sight of Doug for a short period during our launch out of the breakwall, where he almost hit the pier. Perhaps if we had all been within sight, he might not have come close to hitting the wall, and thus being a little jittery throughout the rest of the trip. Of course this is not what happened.


Avoidance of risk is easier than the cure, or so the quote goes from the BCU manual. If you can avoid a narrow jetty with breaking waves, go around it. If you can avoid a day with thirty knot winds, don’t go out, if that is not what the group is up to. (sigh). It can be avoiding risks that you know about before hand, or avoiding risks and problems that arise during the journey such as sharp pointy rocks, boats, etc. Avoidance to be fair seems to be the one that is the most subjective.

Risk I think is related to skill level, weather, tides, and a lot of other factors that are covered in the risk assessment bulls eye below. Clearly the point is that if you can avoid a risk for the group, all the better. We decided to engage the risks rather than avoid. We did adjust the trip based on the risk of getting caught in the dark. We shortened the trip by about 5 miles that day.


Position for a leader is being in the best position to exercise the above. A leader of the group cannot effectively help avoid say a narrow spot between islands where the rest of the group may run into the rocks if he/she is way ahead of this obstacle. The leader cannot communicate the risk to the other members of the group, have line of sight if there is a problem to even use a signal, nor can they physically help within a reasonable amount of time with rescues, towing or any other method of avoidance.

Needless to say, despite the fact that I was positioned with Doug when he was having trouble I still didn’t have any sort of positioning to the other members of the group to help them get safely back on shore.

These are short, cursory examples of the points. Hopefully by reading the account and grasping the concepts as described, you begin to fill in the picture of how these concepts work with real events. Certainly I hope my failures serve as a warning to others. And I think from reading the above you do get the idea that I got lucky more than I was skilled.

Risk Assessment

Body Boat Blade Risk Assessment Bullseye

Using this bulls eye the leader of the group can sit down with the group and plot risks from this Risk Assessment for Sea Kayaking PDF.

With the group the leader will take all of these variables and begin to plot them into the green, yellow, and red. When everything is in the yellow, and the green, it’s a go. When everything is in the yellow and the red, it’s a show stopper. The leader will have to make informed decisions based on who is paddling about whether the assessments of what is in the red, yellow or green is accurate. Beware, if you don’t know a paddler very well, everything that gets placed into the green, or even yellow might be suspect. It’s interesting to note that environmental variables such as bright sunshine may place certain people in the green, where as a dark and stormy day might put someone in the yellow.

The great thing about this is that the group participates in assessing their own risks. The leader is not the one saying, “hey, it’s a no go.” or, “you can’t come”, or, “we should paddle somewhere safer”. Hypothetically it’s the group that comes to this decision by plotting their own assessments. This might actually be a true measure of leadership. Guiding people into making their own good decisions rather than coercing, or imposing.

I encourage anyone who reads this to comment, or reply to the article with their own experiences. I have summarized a lot of this into short excerpts related to my own experiences and previous postings on this blog. Nothing can replace real world experience and coaching. I look forward to applying this to future trips and journeys.

WMCKA Sea Kayak Symposium 2008-My Home is The Sea

WMCKA Sea Kayak Symposium 2008-My Home is The Sea

WMCKA Sea Kayak Symposium 2008 My Home is the Sea

Every year I attend the WMCKA Sea Kayaking Symposium it takes me a few days to absorb the impact of what it means to me. It is easy to say this happened and that happened. It is also easy to say this is the one thing that it meant, to go for the grand recit. What is infinitely harder is to say what it meant in smaller terms that make up the big picture. For my part WMCKA means a lot to me, as it is a culmination of planning efforts and coordination with the Symposium Committee, the WMCKA governing board, and a governing of my own desires for a great symposium.

I’d been trying to get Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme to come to our symposium since about 2005. Finally this year it worked out for both parties. This alone made me very happy in my heart. We decided to plan an instructor update prior to Symposium. This event was very well attended by our instructor group.

Shawna and Leon suited up and got us all out on the water asking us to paddle across Duck Lake and turning upwind. Their approach was to allow us to find our own way. They asked us to find five ways to turn upwind and simply let us paddle. We all came back with about seven ways to paddle upwind. The objective here it seems was to give us an objective, and allow us to interact with our environment, and then come up with our own conclusions. Based on the level of skill and experience each person has, they will come up with a variety of ways to deal with the environment. Only after we had tried a few things did Shawna and Leon call us in to have us give our ideas about what worked and what didn’t. Then after we had told them what we thought, they finally gave us their input. It was a really interesting way to teach a class. They barely spoke and allowed all of us to teach ourselves, each other, and finally when all that was done they gave us some pointers.

Derrick and a lot of the instructors were very juiced up about the bracing and rolling progression Shawna and Leon were sharing. This progression starts in a low brace, then high brace, and finally rolling. It focuses on starting the paddler on their back. Shawna and Leon have been using it with a high success rate in Washington. I would love to see a video of this progression a couple more times.

One of the more interesting points of the instruction for me was a paddle power demonstration. Shawna and Leon had us pair up with another paddler and link in tail to tail with another paddler on a contact tow. One paddler would use a euro paddle, the other would use a wing paddle or a euro paddle. The objective was to see who would tow who with the different paddle. I was paired off with Alec Boyd Peshkin who is my size and of equal power and skill. We started out with my carbon fiber greenland paddle and his werner shuna. Invariably the euro paddle would quickly overpower the Greenland paddle. We switched back and forth with the same results. We then used an epic wing and the Greenland paddle. It was dead even on these two paddles, I was surprised by this. We then switched to the wing and the euro. Again the euro paddle started dragging the paddler with the wing around.

I’ve held a not very scientific or empirical bias that the Euro and the Greenland style paddle were pretty much the same under these conditions. But after this I am not convinced. Doug Van Doren and Steve Bailey experienced the same results. Though Steve Bailey is a very powerful paddler and much bigger than Doug. Food for thought!!

A few of us headed out to Lake Michigan to paddle in the wind and waves afterwards. My inguinal hernia let me know pretty quickly that it was too soon for this type of exertion. I was left in the dust within a few minutes. I managed to take a few pictures regardless.

This was the point of the weekend where my mental state went in the drink. As a person I am competitive, gregarious, and outgoing. I found it very hard to be the slowest man on the water. It was a knife like jab in my belly to be unable to lead the pack when there was wind and waves to be had. My greatest joy in life is to be flying down wave with the wind at my back. To watch others easily out pace me felt like a clumsy root canal from a sadistic dentist with no anesthetic. I find I am a very poor spectator.

Once on sight at the Symposium in my spectator status I observed that the energy and enthusiasm Shawna and Leon exerted was as palpable as the pollen in the air. They were the first to be suited up to paddle and often the very last off the water. They were omnipresent and engaged in a way I have not seen any other instructors behave. You could tell that they loved being on the water, loved kayaking. And this enthusiasm melted over to the instructors, and the participants.

They also participated in the rodeo, and I saw kindred spirits, (I love a rodeo) in their competitive fun loving nature in the races, rolling contest, and passion to be involved, in the thick of things. Leon may have been channeling my wounded spirit when he and two other racers tackled one another into the shallows. What more could one ask for besides a rugby style tackle in a drysuit?

My grand recit for the weekend was observing Shawna and Leon as a couple. They spent every moment happily in each other’s company. I can say with some authority that this is very rare. You rarely saw one without the other. This sort of affection and dedication was so genuine one could hardly not feel it’s contagious gravity. I found myself more calm, more open towards friends, Laura, and the symposium in general. It seems to be the sort of bond you only read about in books, or see in movies. And perhaps this is not unlike kayaking, where you only get out of it what you put into it. And if this is any indication, the relationship and their kayaking seemed to have an effortless grace. Meaning there has probably been a lot of hard work on both ends.

Their slide show presentation on the Queen Charlotte Islands or Haida Gwai was fantastic. This expedition took place on the inside and outside of this island group. The outside is right on the edge of the continental shelf. The unbroken Pacific Ocean has no barrier between swell generation and the islands. So the full force of the world’s largest ocean breaks on these islands. Justine Curgenven went with Shawna and Leon and filmed the trip, so look for it in the next installment of This is the Sea.

One of Leon’s opening statements about the trip has been firmly cemented in my mind.
“You will never have enough money, you will never have enough vacation time, you just have to go.” Too bad that is too big to get as a tattoo.

I actually had many many participants and beginner paddlers come up and tell me how great the presentation was. That was a first. It is further proof that the energy you give to something is very real and palpable.

I hope to be able to find someone, or somebody as dedicated, enthusiastic and as skilled as Shawna and Leon for next year. I know there are some folks I would like to ask to visit us on Big Blue Lake. Some small part wonders if this may have been the proverbial summit of our little symposium.

I will leave you with a song by Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy) that probably explains the energy we all feel about kayaking, instruction, and a life full of adventure, either small or big.

My Home Is the Sea-Bonnie Prince Billy Lyrics

I have often said
that I would like to be dead
in shark’s mouth

a woman swimming under
her warm breath sendin’ a thunder
on two parts south

and love is stripped and frayed
and duty is delayed
until next life

someone has my mind
holding yes so kind
it is my wife

and my home is the sea
my home is the sea
look not for me

my home is the sea
disaster flies upon me
and i sleep
we can see the house lights
colored from a distance
for a party as a dream

my tongue will into me
my arms unfold these seeds
cause im a strong man

and do not love my tummy
is round and firm and funny
and thats what i am

my home is the sea
my home is the sea

i am under your spell
you will have me i reckon
and the drowning this town
as a drowning i welcome

i know nothing and im over joyed
i know nothing and im over joyed
i know nothing and im over joyed

god gave you life and thought
now its ours to waste
i have the finest love
and the finest taste

see her when im home
i am home

you are home