Saturday, September 15, 2012

How to have a no-regrets paddling season

Autumn isn't the end of the paddling season, but it is the end of most of our out-of-state paddling. We're back at school and back to work, squeezing paddling into our evenings and weekends, acutely aware of the later sunrises, earlier sunsets and ever-cooling water and air temperatures. Board shorts give way to surf skins; surf skins yield to drysuits. Before long, we'll wear gloves or pogies and neoprene hoods, and the long Chicago winter will begin.

The key to contentment during this season of transformation is feeling good about what we did during the summer. Did we get out in a variety of conditions, from calm to rough?

Sharon paddles in a calm bay along the Pukaskwa coast.
Alec disappears behind a wave on Lake Michigan.
 Did we paddle in a variety of places, from the Great Lakes to the ocean?

Heading out in search of tidal races in the San Juan Islands.
Did we practice our rescues so they're snappy when we need them?

Bonnie and Alec practice a scoop rescue.
Did we repair our gear?

The NDK Pilgrim awaits its new skeg cable.
Did we paddle multiple craft?

Leon gets into the long, skinny Valley Rapier 20.
Seth in the Rapier 18 and Sharon in a Canoe.
Did we paddle multiple craft in current?

Sharon, Ryan and Greg on the Menominee River.

Alec and Scott use a sit-on-top to move materials for engineering the Yorkville whitewater course.
Did we paddle at night?

Bright lights, big city, quiet harbor.
Did we spend the night under the stars after paddling?

Sunset from Sucia in the San Juan Islands.
Did we spend time paddling with friends?

Our good friend Keith Wikle.
Above all, did we teach as well as learn, and develop as paddlers as well as coaches? It's rare to answer all of these in the affirmative, but this year we came close.

Our last trip of the season will be to coach at The Gales, an intermediate, rough-water sea kayak symposium on Lake Superior. If your season is coming to a close and you're looking for one last paddling fling -- a chance to work on your skills in dynamic conditions with some of the top coaches in the US, Canada and the UK -- come join us at The Gales. The location is spectacular: Naturally Superior Adventures just south of Wawa, Ontario. The coaches will include Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme of Body Boat Blade, International; Nick Cunliffe of Kayak Essentials; Chris Lockyer of Committed to the Core; as well as a host of top Great Lakes coaches from both sides of the border.

If you're looking for a no-regrets paddling season, sign up for The Gales.

Take the leap! Come to The Gales!


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