National Sea Kayak Symposium and The Canadian Canoe Symposium - Palmer Fest Round-up

Tuesday, 12 May 2009
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Canoes and Kayaks waiting to get going in the morning.I got back late Sunday night from Palmer Fest but sadly I have been working flat-out ever since so I haven't had a chance to write a quick update about the new canoe and sea kayak weekend at Palmer Fest until now.

It was such a fun weekend that I'm already looking forward to next year. In fact, I briefly tried to think of a way to convince the family to send me up for the second weekend (May 15-15) which is focused on white water canoeing and kayaking but it has been sold out for several weeks so the plan was quickly scrapped.

Palmer Fest was very unique compared to other symposiums attended over the years mainly in that there was a super cool whitewater component woven all throughout the weekend.

You see, Palmer Fest takes place at the Paddler Co-op which is a whitewater paddling school located on the Madawaska River. Just upstream from the festivities you can find class I through III moving water. With deep water and few big rocks; it's a perfect place to get out and mix it up with the long boats and not worry that you are going to wrap it around a boulder.

Getting ready to paddle at Palmer Fest.Over the weekend there were the regular clinics you would find at any paddling symposium like intoduction to kayaking or canoeing, Greenland paddling, cooking in the woods, navigation, etc. What were different were clinics like, intro to surfing, dealing with ocean currents, and intro to moving water.

As an instructor, it was so cool working with beginners then throwing them out in a little bit of moving water and letting them discover just how stable and how much fun a sea kayak is in surf or tidal streams. We spent entire clinics just playing around with eddy line crossings, peeling out, ferrying across current and other stuff. Of course it was all pretty tame compared to the real world of whitewater but for attendees it was enough to keep everything fun.

Along with a moving water clinic, I also taught an intermediate Greenland clinic which was fun to do. I did end up breaking a blade during a rolling demonstration. I had to slow down and tell myself, "You are in the middle of a clinic, you are not allowed to swim!" I paused for a quick second, did a good set-up and somehow came back up.

I also taught two navigation sessions which was successful (at least in my head!). I got to use my standard opening line, "Glad you all found your way to my nav session." That's grade "A" material!

White Squall Winter Tent and StoveWeather wise, it was cold and it teamed rain the entire day Saturday. Yes, from 10am until 8:30pm. It was a good thing that Tim Dyer and Graham Ketcheson from White Squall brought down their winter camping tent. The warm stove inside was a real God send!

Other highlights include a fantastic catered Saturday night dinner and a really fun local cover band that played everything from Neil Young to Alanis Morissette.

So, next year when you are planning which symposiums to attend, make sure that you put Palmer Fest on your list.

Below are a couple photos I took during the weekend. Since it rained and I was teaching quite a bit, I don't have any on-water photos. So sorry.

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David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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