You might have noticed that things have been a touch slow around here over the past little while. The reason is because I was away in Calgary, Albertafor the past two and a half weeks teaching several sea kayaking courses with my good friend, Tony Palmer from the local paddling shop, Undercurrents.
Over the 10 days I was teaching we ran a bunch of Paddle Canada courses including Level 1 Skills, Level 2 Skills, Intro to Kayaking Instructor and a Level 1 Instructor course.
I know that there are those of you who are thinking, “Alberta? Sea Kayaking? What?”
While it’s true that Alberta is known more for canoeing and whitewater kayaking there is some nice places to get out in the long boats including the many lakes all over the place and the long rivers that are perfect for the weekend of week-long trip. Also, the ocean is a quick 12h hop from Calgary to Vancouver if you are planning a paddling vacation.
A couple of quick highlights from my time out there include an overnight on the Bow River just south of Calgary. Along the 50km stretch that we paddled, the Bow is a meandering class 1 swift that runs along a valley carved out of the prairie grasslands. It was a totally fun experience.
We also got a chance (also part of the level 2 skills course) to get out on the Kananaskis River at Canoe Meadows and play in the moving water there. In the part that we paddled it wasn’t massive but a lot of whitewater kayakers did get kinda weirded out watching 16-foot sea kayaks take over the little eddies. Good times.
Check out the Google Streetview of the Canoe Meadows parking lot below. I’m not sure what they are doing but it looks like a game of tag by a group of adults all topless and in wetsuits. I can understand why the Google car kept driving by. I would have done the same.
One of the major goals of the courses in Calgary was to increase the number of active sea kayak instructors in the Province. Before this, there were only 2-3 SK instructors as well as only one instructor trainer. I was very happy to add another 9 instructors and 1 more IT to the ranks.
So now, I’m back in Toronto and getting ready for more stuff coming up. I checked the schedule and I’m teaching a bunch of land navigation and weather clinics at the upcoming MEC Paddlefest next weekend as well as another sea kayak instructor course coming up the weekend after that so I’m back to work on refining my lesson plans based on what worked and what didn’t out in Calgary. After 10 years of teaching instructor courses, lesson plans are a constant evolution.
Strange story came out of the UK at the beginning of November. Grough Magazine reported that a sea kayak instructor and his two students were starting a kayak lesson when the local ferry crew observed somebody falling the water.
The article doesn’t specifically mention what happened to the instructor but the comments below mentions that he might have slipped and fallen into the water unconscious.
It ended up that the instructor had to be rescued by a small boat from the Coastguard Rescue Team from Rothesay. A helicopter was able to spot the students and shadowed them until the lifeboat could also take them onboard. The instructor had to receive medical attention at the local hospital.
Accidents happen all the time but it’s a good reminder that instructors are not immune from trouble and something can go wrong to the best of them. In guide or instructor courses we usually practise rescues and group management with the idea that something goes wrong with a student (not the instructor). When was the last time that you thought about what would happen if your co-instructor got injured while out on the water? What would happen? Maybe it’s time to develop an action plan if you don’t have a clue.
Update: Richard let me know that the RNLI has posted a follow-up article about the incident. It has more details on what happened as well.
The past ten years have seen a very significant growth in the popularity of kayaking in North America. Kayakers are now seeking more and better training opportunities. Instructors are meeting these demands with more sophisticated programs and teaching resources, providing both new and experienced paddlers opportunities to develop skills in safe and challenging learning environments.