AS IF Challenge, October 2013


2013 As If Challenge



What is the AS IF Challenge?

The “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, where two kayakers went on a short day trip of no more than a half dozen miles. During their journey, the weather changed suddennly; un-noticed because the view was obstructed by the island. Fortunately,  they found themselves stranded on a nearby island. Unfortunately they had few resources.

After sharing some quality time sheltering in a National Parks Services one-hole-biffy, the weather cleared and the travelers continued their journey home. But while they were getting their “one-on-one time” with each other, they realized they could have planned better. As they shared their experience with me, I too had a realization that things normally taken for granted by some are largely unknown to others.


“Train for the worst; Hope for the best.” 

The premise for the AS IF Challenge is to present challenges to participants “as if” they are on an extended day trip on Lake Superior.

The event focuses on learning, practicing and identifying the skills kayakers need to improve in preparation of the upcoming paddling season.



New for this event: Build your own team of 5 or join one on site


In years past, participants would be divided on site into groups; sometimes splitting couples and typical groups so they could learn without playing their customary roles and being dependent on others for certain skills. “He/she always does this tthis when we travel together, so I go off and do…”. This often prevents an adventurer from developing their own skills. Working with different people brings out different skills and also enhances the group process.
This year, I thought I would experiment with the idea that anybody who wanted to build a team, could do so and work together. I really can’t say why; there wasn’t a grand social experiment, I just wanted to change things up a little.
There was a group that created a team, and it seemed that as a group, they were higher skilled than the usual teams on site created groups. As requested, they let me know via email, that they would be on a team together. I mean: They ALL let me know via email and one even wrote twice.
This group was clearly out to test their skills; they knew their stuff, but they weren’t quite certain to what level. The other group was more ad hoc and more in the discovery phase of where their skills were at. So, we created to sets of challenges that were generally the same for both groups, but we added a few more challenges and held this group to a higher standard than the other group that was more in the realization phase of journeying.



Challenges will be doled out in a ‘friendly competition” style environment, similar to the “The Amazing Race” or “Survivor”, except nobody gets eliminated or voted off (everybody wins!).


The event focuses on learning, practicing and identifying the skills folks need to improve in preparation of the upcoming paddling season. This paddle is an “As if” — as if you were going on an extended day trip on Lake Superior. Topics covered are gear, clothing, navigating, weather, communications, group dynamics and leadership. Participation occurs at any level the attendee wishes, as a basis for self direction.



Advisors and Observers

In order to maintain safe situations, skilled and experienced observers are on hand. Their jobs are to hand out mystery challenges and at the same time, their constant vigilance ensures that things are going according to the “plan”. There is a tightly scripted plan, and unscripted scenarios are forbidden; there’s enough to do already. Observers are also a key component to providing feedback during the debriefing, as well as providing ongoing feedback, if requested.


An optional debriefing session..

As with any organized activity, the debriefing session allows for a calmer environment to review and assess. This review is when the greatest part of the learning occurs. Although the debriefing was an optional added activity. the whole group participated and all will agree, this is where they were able to compare thoughts. Treats, soup, beverages and laughter led into a more serious and focused, blow by blow review. Participants would share their thoughts, rationale, and “Aha moments” and learn form the other’s experiences as well.


What Challenges do we present?

It would be unfair to future events to reveal exactly what goes on, but some of the points to consider are:

  • Risk Assessment
  • Group Skills
  • Leadership
  • Decision making
  • Performance under stress
  • Skills
    • Shelter
    • Knots
    • Towing
    • Spare paddle
  • Communications
    • Verbal
    • Radio
    • Signaling
  • Navigation
    • Map reading
    • Piloting
    • Ded Reckoning Position verification
    • Ded Reckoning calculations
    • Ded Reckoning Transit (time & distance)
    • Local knowledge
    • Travelling amongst motor traffic
  • Medical
    • Sprains
    • Blisters
    • Hypothermia

Read the participant reviews here: