Demos line the beach at Vancouver Lake
This past weekend I volunteered to work at Alder Creek’s Paddle Festival. Every year Alder Creek kicks off the season with a late April event – at this event novice and experienced paddlers alike can enjoy free demos of kayaks, paddles, gear and even get instruction all FREE. It’s held at Vancouver Lake, Washington.
I like working paddle events, so I volunteered about tw0 weeks before to help. Suzi Elle, one of the owners of the store, put me on as a coordinator for “First Strokes,” which is the class introducing people to paddling. I worked with Paul Kuthe in helping coordinate, and there were a number of instructors teaching groups of beginners all weekend long. Jerry, Annette and Josh were there all weekend introducing people to the wonderful activity we know as paddling. Saturday, we had both instruction and lots of paddling industry companies on the beach with demos to try.
Feelfree and P&H Kayaks on the beach.
So not only was I helping coordinate classes, but during lulls I went down to the beach to help people find a boat that fit them best. This was lots of fun. To the untrained eye, kayaks kind of look alike. But once sitting in the cockpit, people realized there are noticeable differences. I guided folks to boats most likely to fit
them. It’s lots of fun watching someone return to shore with two thumbs up!
The event got pretty packed about lunch time. I was told to go ahead and take lunch. But right before, in the midst of one of the busier moments, some guy asks me, “do you know if they have any Feelfree Kayak brochures?
My jaw almost hit the ground. I wrote the last Feelfree kayak brochure a couple of years ago. What was this guy talking about?
Well, at the other end of the beach, there was a Feelfree kayak flag flying from the Pyranha tent. Damn! I had to get down there. Jamie, the rep, said yep he was going around the country to events like this and the folks in Asheville had him bring all three brands. There were people on the beach trying Mokens, Moves, a Corona and a Gemini. I made a point to bring back a catalog next day.
For We Love Clean Rivers, and for myself, I was also networking. I spoke with Josh Hoopes, the rep from Confluence Watersports, and Cindi Sherrer, of Confluence (who used to own Alder Creek) as well as with Jim Miller of Werner Paddles and Carl of Kokatat. Looks like I can get dona
tions. Also it was nice that Cindy had read my article on the Clackamas River Cleanup in Sea Kayaker Magazine!
Most industry manufacturers left to do another demo day in Bend, OR for Sunday. Sunday’s activities centered less around demos and more around free instruction. I expected there’d be fewer folks. But it seemed even busier. By late morning we’d run out of paddles, pfds and we had more students than instructors. When an instructor came back after a lesson I had to just throw them at the next class! It was OK, as they seemed to take it all in stride.
There were other classes – wet exits, rescues, towing, paddling destinations, rolling and more. Weather had improved. Like Saturday I found myself down by the lake helping people find boats that might work for them. To me, it’s not work, it’s all about helping people have fun!
Later on, Neil Schulman paid a visit. He asked me if I’d like to try rolling the NDK Triton – a tandem. I’d never rolled a tandem so I figured, why the heck not! So I grabbed a dry suit and got ready. But unfortunately two girls had taken off with the Triton! And they stayed out in it the rest of the day. Fun foiled.
Time to clean up. Today’s activities were over. Kayaks, gear, tables and tents had to be removed. All hands on deck to haul the stuff out. This is where the hard stuff happens. I was told that because of my recovering shoulder, I didn’t need to worry about lifting boats. But I knew my right shoulder was OK – so I went ahead and moved a lot of boats. We were all working pretty hard! Then the boats had to be loaded onto trailers. Once the trailers left it was all about tearing down tents. We set about that task.
I think my paddle is backwards?
Well, it seemed like time for me to head home. Paul said I ought to see Suzi – she might have something for me. So I went over to say good bye. Yep she did have something! She took me over to one of the Alder Creek vans. She told me they had a meeting and decided to give the best volunteer the grand prize from the weekend raffle…and that volunteer was me! She gave me a really nice snap dragon touring spray skirt. That was really nice! I also earned more than a couple hundred bucks worth of store credits. All fun!