About a year ago, I went to my first kayak symposium, Lumpy Waters. Over prior years I listened to my friends talk about kayaking symposiums and I imagined all of these super skilled and confident kayakers helping each other get even more skilled and confident, and I must admit I had a high level of insecurity about attending one. A year ago my anxiety was still pretty strong probably somewhat fueled by menopause, but mostly from lack of regular and frequent experience paddling in the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to go but hadn’t gotten more forceful with my conviction to go until 2017.
Despite the organizers’ clear, well-written descriptions of the overall event information and class descriptions, I had no experience on which to draw in choosing my classes in advance. So I did the best I could to get coaching in surf, rolling, and paddling on the open ocean. I packed as best I could and off I went with a couple of buddies.
2017 Day one, Friday afternoon, Fear to Fun in the Surf. First of all, our class had to be moved to a less gigantic surf wave beach nearby because conditions that weekend were too big to use the originally-planned venues. Friendly and warm coaches greeted us, led us through a comfortable introduction to surf and boat handling, safety, swimming in the surf, and, as we students began to get in our boats and start working with them in the surf… BAM! My stomach was clenched with nausea. Sea sickness… When that sets in for me the game is over. Crap! I realized I hadn’t really eaten lunch because I was so chock-full of anxiety I had no desire to put anything into that butterfly-full stomach. Plus, I had completely forgotten my accupressure bands for my wrists that help stave off the motion sickness. But I was able to stay and watch everyone else work on their kayak surfing and still learn some from that.
2017 Day two, Saturday full-day, dynamic roll development. Everyone around me was excited about the crew coaching ths because this year they were incorporating some NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) techniques into the curriculum. Having benefited from some of this in other aspects of my life I was like, “way cool – bring it on”. In the morning we did all these cool exercises on getting calm being upside down in the water of the swimming pool without panicking that we were not in the air where we could breathe. Then when it came time to roll back up, and I did, my coach said “great! Now, just do that over and over, each time faster and faster and you’ll have your ‘storm roll’ ” ( a forward finishing roll unlike the one roll I had reliably which had me finish face up on my back deck). After about the third time… you got it – that same nausea set in and, yes, I again spent the rest of the class watching other people develop their dynamic roll in the pool.
2017 Day three, Sea Journey. This ended up being a more subdued repeat of what my kayaking buddies and I had done in Tillamook Bay about a year prior. The main seas were again much too big to go out into so we had a sea journey in the protected bay. It was lovely but nothing new, and one of the guy who was supposed to be leading the group got usurped by the other more self-absorbed assistant coach who was more interested in telling us all how great he was rather than giving any coaching feedback to the students.
I was glad I went to the symposium. I learned a lot. And I prepared…
Enter Lumpy Waters 2018… This year I had a plan: bring both my NDK Romany, my 15 footer I can do most anything in somewhat to completely competently, and BABS, my 19′ NCK expedition boat built by the guys in Tacoma for next year’s journey. My goals: make sure my surf zone and open sea paddling skills are actually there using my Romany and, if they are actually there, make sure I can do it all in BABS equally as well. This year’s mantra: eat as big a meal as possible just before the activity and wear sea bands.
2018 Day One, Friday, Fun and Feedback (the follow-up to Fear to Fun). Number of students: 5. Number of coaches: 2. Sweeeeet! Before this I made an extra effort to eat as much as I could at lunch, donned my sea bands, and off I went in my Romany. Caught some sweet waves. Never any anxiety – just pure fun with useful, real time feedback from good coaches. A couple solid hours of playing in the surf with no fear and no nausea. Even though I didn’t get to pulling BABS out, I knew I’d get the chance over the next two days. I even got to see some whales. Goal #1 check!
Bonus track: the evening presenter, Calvin, talked about his wintertime circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. Loads of useful information. Someone asked him for his top three pieces of advice to anyone else planning an expedition and they were as follows:
1) The devil is in the details.
2) Systems matter.
3) Be kind to yourself.
Thank you Calvin!
2018 Day Two, Dynamic Roll Development. Number of students: 4. Number of coaches: 2. Again I luck out! Full belly check. Sea bands check. BABS way to big to fit in pool during morning session. Fat short whitewater boat perfect emulator for BABS. It took some work (mostly hair pulling from my great coaches) to get my timing and technique cleaned up. The biggest shift for me was in using my body weight more for edging and do less strong-arming or, well, strong-legging in this case. After a big lunch we went out into the ocean along the cape. Two words. Gray whales. All over. All around us. I was in BABS the whole time, surfed her out through the surf zone, successfully rolled her in dynamic water enough times to know I could now do it when I need to, next to whales spouting and spyhopping everywhere. To top it all off, I surfed BABS into shore just as easily as if I were in my Romany. Goal #2 check!
2018 Day Three, Sea Journey. Number of students: 11. Number of coaches: hard to say exactly. There were three that had coach stickers on their helmets and one guest celebrity expedition person. The lead coach was delightful and helpful with my nervousness at heading out to the open Pacific Ocean for the first time. I had the chops; I just needed the confidence and he helped me bring that about through humor and kindness. Biggest lesson learned: don’t fret about things before you need to. I was nervous about going through what looked like three meter breaking waves in BABS. We ended up taking a route where we never had to even go through surf. All that fretting for nothing. I again paddled BABS in big ocean swells, through rock arches, between rocks on a six-mile sea journey without a hitch. Goal #3 check!
I recommend this symposium to any kayaker at any level. Even if you are an expert paddler, it is a beautiful place to explore by kayak. The organizers do a terrific job with the entire event. Now I get to start putting more focus into organizing gear/supplies. For instance, I am writing this blog on my new tablet complete with keyboard. It is taking some getting used to, but I can see it working on next year’s journey, which I now know I can physically handle.