Strokes and Maneuvers Refinement and Strokes and Maneuvers Applied
Last year, I was looking to bring a larger purpose the Strokes and Maneuvers Refinement course that Peggy and I usually teach together ( fourteen students last year and thirteen students this year), so I devised the Strokes and Maneuvers Applied course. This is a class that puts a practical and useful purpose on the maneuvers we’ve been learning: turning around obstacles such as docks or other kayaks, using the wind to our advantage, and linking strokes together to maximize effectiveness. Students were challenged and excited to learn that their kayaks were highly maneuverable craft, like little sports cars racing around a different track all the time. Fourteen students have gone through this class so far.
This year Michelle and I wanted wanted to give our club members a couple of new opportunities to bring things to a different level; an opportunity to put those skills to use; skills they’ve been working on developing.
Bass Ackwards Paddling
“Bass Ackwards Paddling” (my spell check always underlines the word Ackwards) was a lot of fun for folks; paddling backwards can really challenge the way you think, while at the same time improve your forward paddling skills. One survey response: “It was lots of fun.” Watch for more of these classes in the future.
Where Water Meets Land
“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 and worked on navigation skills. Spoiler alert: look for another WWML as well as a WWML 2 for more advanced paddlers next year.
WWML 2013 (for club)
My summary of WWML:
“Rock Gardening” or “Rock Hopping” is nothing new to the world of sea kayaking, but it’s relatively unexplored in this region of the country. Thus we devised this curriculum to start bringing our students and friends this exciting and safe aspect of sea kayaking.
Base camp was established in the Municipal Campground of Grand Marais, Minnesota, and provided us with on location wet and dry classrooms. Additional amenities included a hot tub/sauna on site at the Municipal Pool, and a large selection of eating establishments in town if participants opted to eat out. Two outfitting stores supplied us with last minute items that were needed or forgotten, such as maps and shoes.
The true feature of this classroom setting is the varied shoreline inside and outside the harbor of Grand Marais. We began the day reviewing and polishing skills such as starting, turning, accelerating, reversing, timing, leaning and edging, all the while working ourselves closer and closer to the rocks. There was a lot of confidence growth and fun doing it. Of course, we worked in some rescue strategies as well.
On Day Two, there were variations between the two classes that was determined by the weather. The first session had to move to an inland lake because the forecasted winds would have exceed the trip parameters. We divided into two groups, and navigation became the exercise for the day; a large scale and intense piloting exercise kept us occupied as well as enjoying the beauty of the BWCAW. Session two was able to visit the Susie Islands on their Day Two, using navigation skills of bearings and headings and Ded Reckoning due to the fog. Thanks to a special permit issued, we enjoyed a lunch on Susie Island. The Spirit tree was visited twice that day.
Day Three was to be another journey, but alas, onshore winds again exceeding trip parameters, kept both groups from moving far from the launch site. Instead we worked on skills such as launching and landing, holding position in the wind, maneuvering around objects using the wind to advantage.
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. Experiential 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 maneuvers 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 unconscious 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 hand railing.
Day three the wind and waves dictated the schedule. Instead of paddling to the Palisades and practicing among 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 maneuvers 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.