Palmer Fest/National Sea Kayak Symposium - We Hardly Knew Ye

Friday, 03 December 2010
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National Sea Kayak Symposium 2010

This was turning out to be a pretty decent day but then it took a turn for the worse when I got news that Rapid Media has decided to stop running their extremely popular Palmer Fest/National Sea Kayak Symposium festivals that take place in the Ottawa Valley each May.

If you haven’t heard about it do not read a past write-up on it I did as you will quickly be as bummed out as I am. For me, it has always been one of the best events to both attend and teach at each year.

Why is it stopping you ask? Simple, the event runs at a loss and the three months of full-time work to put together is difficult to justify each year. Even though the event sells out each year, there is limited capacity at the site so it isn’t a matter of just increasing the numbers. You can find out the more detailed on the press release they sent out.

Here are my top 3 reasons why I loved Palmer Fest over many others:


1) Super accessible people
There were no keynote speakers or big heads flown in from far off lands. There were just participants and instructors. Everybody met on the water for their lessons then met later at the campfire to hear a lot of bad jokes and few good stories. The egos were left in the car.

2) Awesome location
It took place on the Madawaska River on a flat stretch between two rapids. This make for some very unique learning opportunities (especially for sea kayaking) as you could have your group working on flatwater skills then paddle 250 feet and work on some gentle ferrying across the current. It sure was different then most of the events that take place on a large lake or sheltered beach leaving everybody to play around in just calm water.

3) Laid back
That’s probably the best way to describe it. I have been to several other events that while fun, always seemed a bit rushed. You just got into your lesson when it was over and you were whisked off to another clinic to learn more. Taking or teaching four or five clinics over a day always left my head spinning.

Palmer Fest had two clinics of two-hours in length throughout the day which left plenty of time for solid instruction. It also left plenty of time to go out for quick paddle with your daughter over lunch.

I’m confident something else will get started to fill the hole left by Palmer Fests death so I’m not really overly concerned but it always pains me to see something so much fun go the way of the dodo.

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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