3rd Annual Georgian Bay Storm Gathering Was a Complete Success

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Standing Around Waiting to Start - Flickr Credit: akasharkbow

This past weekend Tim Dyer from White Squall and myself hosted the 3rd Annual Georgian Bay Storm Gathering at Snug Haven Resort just outside of Parry Sound. 55 intermediate and advanced paddlers from all over Ontario came together to play in the lumpy, cold waters one last time before the season wraps up.

Snug Haven Resort is a great location to host an event like for several reasons. Firstly it’s located in a sheltered harbour in Georgian Bay making launching and landing easier. It allows instructors to find the perfect location for their lessons as teaching in high winds isn’t optimal. The location is also perfect as participants can run back to heated cabins with showers at the end of a long, wet day.

Of course running an event with the word "Storm" in it on the Great Lakes is always a gamble. Those who participated in last years Gathering will remember fondly the ultra smooth waters of Georgian Bay the entire weekend. It was great news to finally saw, “Small Craft Wind Warning” come up on the marine forecast as we got closer to the weekend.

Friday brought us 20 knot winds mainly coming out of the North which isn’t the optimal direction for us due to the short fetch in that area. That resulted in smallish one foot waves and though not exactly a raging storm when looking at photos the strong winds did make for some great downwind surfing for participants just getting into it. Keep in mind that massive waves isn’t exactly what we want in the first place. The reality is that if it was larger then everybody would have been terrified and stayed on shore accomplishing nothing.

Saturday the wind died so we ended up fooling around doing other stuff to keep ourselves happy. Gary Doran from Victoria did a great job getting everybody to pretend that there were huge crashing waves during his surf launching clinic. Also, Tim Dyer played a mean unconscious victim during a rock extraction session. Good times.

Wet Landing. Flicker Photo Credit: akasharkbow

Later that afternoon everybody got busy doing other stuff. The SUP’rs were out figuring out how to look good, an awesome kayak polo match got up and running and it wasn’t to long until it dissolved into just trying to flip people over. Paddlers who weren’t into either of those went off to the Snug Harbour pier where they slid, jumped and threw each other off in boats. The 7-8 foot drop kept us happy for a couple of hours. Yes, pretty much everybody turned into children paddling around having fun.

Sunday was our regular daytrip and the weather finally came up. The wind had been blowing out of the NW at 25kn throughout the night so we decided to go out to the Snake Islands which is about 3.5km (2 miles) offshore. Let me tell you that it’s a pretty amazing site sitting at the back of 40 paddlers all struggling against the wind. Head down, acting tough on the outside but totally nervous of the wind and waves on the inside…

The surf on the outside shoals of Snake Island was pretty good and a gang was out in no time playing in the surf and avoiding rocks for a couple of hours.

Lunch on Snake Island - Flickr Photo Credit: akasharkbow

The great thing about the expedition was that by the time everybody decided to head out and cross back towards home, the swells had grown to consistent 3 footers with the occasional 4 foot set. Combine that with the expected wind waves and everybody was either having a great time or was slightly white knuckled about the whole thing. I was quite pleased with it.

The one thing that I realized about the Storm Gathering is that it isn’t about the waves. It’s about community. The only way that intermediate paddlers will ever get better is to be plugged into a community of like minded paddlers to push them along. That’s where the Gathering fits in. It’s a weekend to give you the opportunity to work through whatever skills you always wanted to work on in a semi-controlled environment. It’s also a weekend to hang out with fellow paddling nerds and build friendships.

Here are the three reasons why you need to join us next year:

  1. We work hard to keep the macho stuff to a minimum. It isn’t Navy Seal training; it’s about getting out and just having fun in a super laidback setting. Over a 1/3 of the participants are female speaks to the lack of machoness there.
  2. It’s a community. We share gear, we have pot-luck for dinners, we lie about past trips, we gossip. All good stuff.
  3. There is a hot tub.

Here is a quick collection of a couple of my photos. Sadly my rough water shots from out on Snake Island didn't turn out very well as there were to many drops on the lense. I will try to clean them up this week.

[flickr set=72157625066150593]

More info: georgianbaystormgathering.com

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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