Of course, the one of the main reasons we were here was to learn how to play and enjoy the ocean features that only the Pacific can provide. Swell that come from as far as Japan and Hawaii can carry a lot of power. Ryan holds the highest rating in the ACA for ocean instruction and Instructor trainer, and is the only instructor to bring students to the “outside” (Pacific) of Southeast Alaska.His experience with teaching in this environment is stupendous.
For months in advance, we were watching the weather systems wallop the shores we would be playing on and seas were often 14+ ft high. It would be interesting, to say the least, if we were going to get those conditions, and we did have the cove to work in if it got that bad.
“We talked about navigation and worked on our kayaking skills. Practicing our bracing, including sitting on our back deck with our feet in the cockpit. This gave us ample opportunity to practice rolls and rescues. We worked around the nearby rock features which was a lot of fun.”-Mike-
“There is a reason to practice basics and Ryan and Jeff did a great job of creating a progression of flat water skills to rock gardening and then to journeying on the ocean to return to Hoonah.” – Sharell
It wasn’t too long before we pushed out of the cove and were rewarded with fantastic views and gentle rolling swells to begin our play. Gentle swells and beautiful vistas were an occassional distraction from the tasks at hand
“We played in the gaps in the rocks. When it was my turn to go Ryan said “go now”. I thought, but the water was low now. Ryan said it won’t be go now! A wave would come from behind lift you up and shoot you through the gap. I learned an important lesson, look where you want to go not at what you want to avoid. I looked at the rock wall and kayaked right up and over the rock it made a lot on noise and scared the hell out of me. Aside from that, it was kind of fun. It was interesting the way the features we were playing around kept changing with the tides making them either easier or more difficult. The tides always kept changing what you experienced.” -Mike–
In a way, it was almost too calm, and Ryan and Jeff had to work hard to locate features that would meet the quickly advancing skill levels. Fortunately the ocean provides ever-changing environment. Her a roller wraps around a rock requiring Mike to turn and accelerate to catch a nice ride.
As the days advanced, so did the weather, and appropriately matching the advancing skill levels. Here a wave is constricted between rocks, lifting and accelerating Katie.
Here is a bigger swell, lift and acceleration. Timing is a critical factor.
And of course, things can go awry. fortunately,
this paddler hung onto the kayak and got out of there before the next wave made a real mess. The timing was close.
While paddling next to a wall in irregular and confused water, one learns to breathe and keep their hips loose
Nobody objected to doing the same exercise repeatedly – everyone wanted to “nail’ it
“I have been hearing “look where you want to go” for so long now that it finally stuck. It became the technique for getting myself out of trouble to move around and between those rocks. It works!” – Sharell
Catching the current as it hit the wall
Of course, we practice rescues. Here we were confined in a slot with waves to distract. This group has practiced rescues in so many different places prior to this trip, that this was a piece of cake
And through it all, Ryan and Jeff kept a watch for safety: large wave sets, personal mishaps, and the best places to play next. Strategically located, here’s Jeff sitting in a foam pile (calm water) while the water rages and boils around him. Ryan is skilled and famous for getting to a capsize before a subject can come up for air.
Even though there were capsizes, the only injury was a mild scrape on the hands from a rock. A true testament of instruction/observation and great skill development of the paddlers. Days later, however, this needed treatment for infection.