2014 Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium was a Huge Success

Thursday, 06 February 2014

This past weekend I had the immense pleasure to be invited to teach at the 6th annual Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium in San Francisco.

Organized by Matt Palmariello and Sean Morley, GGSKS is aimed at advanced beginners and intermediate paddlers who want to push the envelope and paddle in rougher waters in a welcoming and controlled environment.

Under the Golden Gate Bridge

The entire event takes place right beside (and under) the iconic Golden Gate Bridge which makes it one of the coolest places I have ever paddled in. I will be honest with you, the first time I paddled under it on Friday I promptly forgot that I was helping to teach a class and ignored all my students. I don't even remember what the water conditions were like as I spent the entire time looking up at the bridge.

Looking out over the bay itself how could you not get excited about all the cool stuff that has taken place there? Remember that time on Alcatraz Island when Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage saved us from those rockets filled deadly VX gas in The Rock? Or when the Kaiju first attacked the bridge in Pacific Rim? Good memories.

Kaiju attack!

Next year, make sure you think about coming a day early and do some paddling on your own. On Thursday, I got a chance to get out paddling with Matt Nelson, Paul Kuthe and fellow Canadian, Jarrod Gunn McQuillian from Nova Scotia. We put-in just outside of the bay at Rodeo Beach and worked our way East hugging the shoreline. I was glad to get out on the water that day as the seven foot swells proved to be the biggest conditions over the weekend and made playing in and around the rocks a total blast.

golden gate rock hopping

Returning back to the beach, the conditions were much larger than when we launched and I was nervous at first due to the fact that the 4.5-5.5 foot crashing waves were a little intimidating. I'm happy to say that I made it in with probably the longest side-surf of my life leaving me with just enough time to turn the boat forwards just before hitting the beach. I got out in one piece trying to act like I do that all the time but inside pleasantly surprised it worked out.

The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium was flooded with world-class coaches who have all been teaching since the dawn of time. You got superstars like: Jen Kleck, Shawna Franklin, Cindy & Steve Scherrer, Ben Lawry, Gordon Brown, Christopher Lockyer, George Gronseth, Leon Sommé and Rob Avery. Also the cool kids from The Hurricane Riders including Rowan Gloag, Kate Hives and Marty Perry were awesome to hang out with.

On Friday's schedule I was really happy to be assisting on a rock hopping class with Roger Schumann and Cate Hawthorne. I've wanted to teach with both of them for several years now so I was quite pleased to jump on the water and help out. Throughout the day we worked on a wide variety of skills including rescues, scenarios and towing. We also set aside a healthy amount of time for smashing into rocks.

Saturday was all about teaching rolling with Helen Wilson. She is a rolling legend so my goal was to sit, watch and steel all her secrets. I did.

Teaching beside the Golden Gate Bridge.

On the last day of the symposium Ginni Callahan and I got paired up for an advanced boat control clinic. That morning we jumped on the water to dark skies, rain and a lot of wind. We didn't have to fake what it would be like paddling in high winds that day that's for sure. Luckily it calmed down quite a bit in the afternoon giving us a chance to get out of the harbour and back out under the bridge.

If you missed it this year, you really should consider making your way out and attending in 2015. It's completely different than any other symposium you have ever attended, I can guarantee that. The atmosphere is super laidback and it doesn't have any of the macho man, pissing contest environment that could easily happen. I found everybody to be very welcoming and clinics are set-up so that there is zero pressure for participants. If you are feeling intimidated by the activity, that's fine, you can either sit and watch or the group can change plans so everybody feels included.

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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