The “AS IF Challenge” review

What is the “AS IF Challenge”?

cropped-1766562289.jpgThe “AS IF Challenge” is a bi-annual extended day trip event, that has been happening for seven years now (since 2007) has been a fun learning opportunity for many, and quite a few still attend on a regular basis to continue measuring their skills and have a pleasant, fun filled day trip with friends. The challenges are designed to represent possible events that could happen to an adventurer on an extended day trip on Lake Superior.

The origins of this event are based on a true (but not particularly harrowing) story (continued)

Stowing your gear for an extended day trip

Inland Sea Kayakers monthly meetings provide educational and informative topics for club members and visitors. Katie Katzner, Program Director, puts together these meetings, arranging for time, space, appropriate topics and presenters.

Last night, Christopher gave a talk on “What’s in your day hatch”. A show-and-tell style presentation of what he brings in his kayak provided attendees a good visual and hands on experience of the gear he totes around. Although he predicated the talk that his selection has evolved over time, it was evident the selection was well thought out and contained the most modern equipment available. It was a well presented topic with many good take-aways. The main one being: be prepared for any eventuality.

What is the “day hatch”? The day hatch is the smallest compartment in your kayak; located directly behind the cockpit and having an offset opening, it provides easy access to it’s contents while seated and on the water.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from Shawna Franklin still is: “Your day hatch is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment”. That’s where we pull our magic from while on the water: spare hatch cover, spare clothes, signal equipment, food, water… stuff you can easily dig out and use without having to stop; address the situation NOW!!!.

Be judicious about the gear you put in your day hatch: maintain the ability to rummage around with one hand, identify the piece of equipment you want to use and pull it out with ease.

Use the rest of the space to stow the extra gear you may need when you land: Spare clothes, shelter, sleeping pads, etc. These items can’t be applied for anything practical while on the water, but are still critical to comfort and survival.

For a more comprehensive review of suggested equipment to bring on an extended day trip, read What’s In Your Kit?

Staying Afloat

Mishaps occur in seakayaking, but what you do and how well you are prepared can mean a difference between enjoying a brief time on the water or going home, continuing a journey in comfort or discomfort,  or worse: life and death.

Whether you lose you hatch cover on the way to the put in, forgot it or lost it on the water, these few simple and compact items should be carried with you at all times. Or if you developed a leak in your hull, and gorilla tape might not be the answer, again, you’ll be forced to try other things.  Consider these items part of your “A Kit”, an item you bring with everywhere.


Flotation bags, commonly used in whitewater craft or Skin-On-Frame kayaks, are used to occupy space that unwanted water would. If your kayak is taking on water and there isn’t time to do a proper repair, these will keep your boat buoyant.




Two of them nested side by side will displace most of the water. Their long tubes make it easy to inflate while afloat.






IMG_20131009_170732_795 (1)


Emergency hatch covers needn’t be complicated or costly. Try an inexpensive nylon spray skirt along with a piece of bungy cord with a slip knot. This one applies in less than a minute. It’s not ultra resilient, but quick and easy. It’s a bonus when any piece of equipment can do double duty.







All of these items will fit into…




…a nice little pouch the size of a litre bottle; nice and neat, and the contents are visible from the outside.


Simple! Easy! Fast!


Train for the worst; Hope for the best.

2013 BCU 3 Star Training for Midwest Club

Nine members of the Inland Sea Kayakers had an opportunity to have BCU 3 Star training by featured coach, John Carmody, this past Labor day weekend.


As a BCU Level 5 Sea Coach (the highest rating in sea kayaking), John Carmody brings a wealth of hard earned and highly revered knowledge along with an understanding of student needs and desires. Weave in compassion for his students and a love for the sport, bring him to the student’s home waters and you get a perfect recipe for learning and growth. To learn more about John and his kayak company, visit his website Sea Cliff Kayakers.


Train for the worst; Hope for the best.

“Where Water Meets Land” class


This summer, Michelle and I taught 2 classes that are new to our local club (Inland Sea Kayakers): “Where Water Meets Land” , or as we nickname it: WWML and look forward to doing it again. A total of 12 students went through these classes and had a lot of fun. Besides learning the new skills of paddling close to rocks along with rescue strategies, we also journeyed to an inland lake and the Susie Islands to work on navigation skills.

WWML (Where Water Meets Land)



“Thanks a ton for a great weekend up north.  I had a blast weaving between the rocks and watching the group get more confident.  Thank you for leading and teaching!  Well done. ” S.G.


Review by Deb Strike:

Wow this class was serious FUN.   It could also be named where skills meet reality.  Lots of things to learn and do, it was the kind of class a paddler could take many times and always be challenged.   The instructors have kept the class small so each participant gets challenged within their comfort level.

The first day was a quick review of strokes that would be useful as we moved closer and closer to the rocks.  Eventually playing “pat the walrus” with our new confidence and skills.  OK,  so some of us left a little gel coat here and there, but nothing serious.

We learned different kinds of rocks form different kinds of water patterns.  Overfalls can be fun, but watch out or you might get parked on a rock. Experiencial learning was going on all the time.  As a group we decided to do some contact rescues near the rocks and we each got several attempts to clean up our strokes to get close enough to rescue someone.

Clean strokes and manuevers were a goal and the water quickly instructed us on technique.  We learned why you don’t want your paddle at too much of an angle or out too far when doing a bow rudder. It also helps to be decisive, but that is a work in progress.  A longer term goal would be to link the strokes and have them become unconcious or automatic. We each set individual goals and got individual coaching.

Day two was a paddle to the Susie Islands to do some distance, navigate and practice what we learned on day 1.   The weather and the lake provided ongoing teaching.  The fog rolled in and the weather changed, so the instructors changed the curriculum.  We paddled out quickly and safely by handrailing.

Day three the wind and waves dictated the schedule.  Instead of paddling to the Palisades and practicing amoung the rocks, we did launching and landing in waves, turning in waves and around rocks in the swells.   Who knew we were too slow putting on our spray skirts. This is something calmer conditions don’t reveal.   We had races putting on spray skirts using gloves and keeping track of paddles.   It was the little things that became important.

The town of Grand Marais puts on some mighty fine fireworks and if it is raining you can just head into town and eat at one of the very good restaurants there.  We all enjoyed that.

If you want to move out of practicing on flat water to learn and apply some of the strokes and manuevers you have learned take this class.  It is just too much fun to pass up.

Many thanks to Jeff and Michelle for the superb coaching.


Train for the worst; Hope for the best.

Winter Pool Activity: Wet Exits

The following is a reminder of a skill set for refreshing your memory…and is not intended to be instructional for beginners. As always: while learning new skills,  seek instruction from a current certified instructor; and follow the instructions of your instructor.  Also, (sorry to be a nag) always wear your PFD.

The basic foundation of safety for every kayaker is wet exits. It’s likely one of the first things you learn in a class and it’s something even the most experienced needs to be proficient at. Why? Exiting your boat is probably the last thing you may want to do while out paddling, but if you’re tipped over and don’t have a sound method to right yourself, the wet exit is the skill that defines your survival.

The single most important step occurs while putting your spray skirt on: ensure your grab loop is outside.


The wet exit process is usually needed when a capsize (intentional or accidental) occurs. Remain calm and things will have a better outcome.


Signal to those around you that you are “OK” by using your hands to  pound on the bottom of your kayak. Be assertive in this action: make some noise. Three good whacks says ” I’MOKAY “



[I have stricken this part of the text. See important note from Scott below.]



A good way to stay oriented to your boat while upside down is to start by moving your hands to your hips and locate the coaming,    




Then move move your hands forward along the coaming to locate loop.






With both hands, grab the loop, bend forward while pushing the grab loop (the spray skirt begins to release it’s grip of the coaming).




With both hands firmly holding the grab loop, and begin an arc towards your head.




Make a motion over one of your shoulders and the spray skirt should be nearly free of the coaming.
Move your hands back to your hips.
While pushing with hands (like removing a pair of pants) somersault forward to make the exit from the kayak.
While floating on your back, hold your upside down kayak with one foot while holding on to paddle.
Take a moment if you need to, then proceed to performing your self rescue or righting your kayak in anticipation of an assisted rescue.
This may sound like a lot of steps, but a little practice makes it second nature.

Be sure to have a spotter for the following activities:

These additional upside challenges will build other skills while also increasing your confidence and level of composure:

1)Using a stop watch, how long can you stay upside down before doing a wet exit or roll?


2)While upside down, wave at the camera or another upside down kayaker.




3) While upside down, look around and see if you can recognized whose boat is whose, or see if you understand why it’s on the other side from what you expected.



While upside down, tie or untie a short piece of line to your deck bungees.


While upside down,put you spare paddle together.