Thanks to Nikki Rekman Sales team and Kokatat Regional team member, Kate Hives for this great write up of her recent experience at the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium.
It will never cease to amaze me how much I love packing up my kayaking gear, tying down my boat and lashing my paddles to a trailer getting ready to jump into a cramped car for 18 hours with 4 other people. With full knowledge that I will be drinking gas station coffee, eating biscuits smothered in gravy at strange roadside diners at 2:30 in the morning and traveling the same distance back not 3 days later with the same stinky boys and the added bonus of wet gear...I couldn't be more stoked!
The whirlwind trip down to San Francisco for the 6th annual Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium was even better than I had imagined. Traveling with coaches Rowan Gloag and JF Marleau, film maker Marty Perry and with Sterling from Sterling's Kayaks at the helm, the drive was an entertaining blur, streaking across Washington and Oregon into Northern California. This event brings together paddlers from across North America of all skills and abilities, with a stellar lineup of coaches, and then lets them loose in one of the most scenic and dynamic ocean environments around.
The monolithic icon of the Golden Gate Bridge frames the awesome ocean playground of tidal races, pounding rock gardens, surf break, kayak fishing and coastal tours of infamous places like Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
Organized by Sean Morley and Matt Palmariello both dedicated to the paddling community, the Symposium offers collaborative teaching opportunities for coaches from around the world. It focuses on intensive skill building workshops for students seeking everything from basic rough water skill and rescue refinement to dynamic conditions coaching in rock gardens and surf, long boats and short. The end result is a high concentration of quality coaches and motivated sea kayakers all brought together to create a tight-knit community that rivals the enormity of it's red-gated backdrop.
...And all that brings me to the point...
Rough water paddling is a Team Sport!!! The thing that makes all this rough water paddling possible, what allows us to push the limits of what has been done before and have more fun than should be legal while doing it, what helps us to access that deep visceral connection to 'play' is... the people who you get to do all of that with, who support you in your growth and that you trust to save your ass in a tight situation. Yes, sea kayaking can be about the freedom to pick up and leave, off on our own and in charge of our own adventures. This freedom is something that I value deeply and am so often grateful for, but when I decide to go PLAY in some big water, surfing waves into beaches or over rock shelves, I know I will have so much more fun if I know I have my team watching my back...and my boat.
On day two we shuttled down to Halfmoon Bay, California. This spot is said to have a great break and the right aspect for the direction of swell we had for the day. Just outside of 'Mushroom Rock' where we were surfing, is where the famous 'Maverics' wave forms up, with the right conditions, for big wave surfing. The swell report was not epic, but we hoped to catch some good waves in more moderate conditions. When we arrived, the sea state was small with a 10-15kn NW wind, creating a little chop and confusion. The waves seemed to be ghosts. One minute you were looking at a 5-6 foot face and the next it had been reduced to a tiny white ripple. As students learned about waves and how to catch even the most elusive, my favourite part was hearing the calls from a friend and fellow paddler sitting outside the surf break, hollering to paddle harder to catch that perfect wave. It's about knowing that if something goes wrong that there will be someone working on making it right. It's about solving a puzzle with the input of other experienced boaters and about the smile on your face when all the pieces finally fit together. What I saw at Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium this year was a sport reinvigorated, tonnes of new and young paddlers bubbling to the surface ready to learn from the masters in order to push this sport into the future.
On night two of the event I had the opportunity to present The Hurricane Riders premier screening of our latest film edit called 'King of the Beach' in front of a good sized audience. They were not all there to see me, no, they were all gathered to see what was about to be a most amazing presentation from Eric Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry about their epic journey across Baffin Island by kayak, ski and foot. It was packed with film and photo eye candy and I am glad I did not have to follow that act, but feel honoured to have been able to experience the energy of this community. Events like Golden Gate not only bring together world class coaches and students but they also create a sense of belonging to those who otherwise enjoy the freedom and autonmy of the kayak.
Being jammed in a car for 36 hours is totally worth it, to then be swept up with a whole bunch of strange, usually interesting, talented and often independent people together for a weekend of inspiration, great conversation and some good ol' fashioned shredding! I'm so excited to see so many good friends and new faces and can't wait to see where we steer this ship!!!