Kayakers Rejoice! Kokatat Re-Invents the Dry Suit – The Idol

24 01 2015

This week I was one of a few privileged souls to witness a revolutionary development in the kayaking world: The unveiling of the Idol dry suit by Kokatat, Inc. Why is the Idol dry suit revolutionary? Answer: The Idol is the first dry suit in history that can be zipped into two pieces – and each can be worn independently.idol-drysuit-leaf-small

Why Own A Dry Suit?

A dry suit is an expensive proposition. A top notch Gore-Tex drysuit from Kokatat or Sweet Protection can set you back $1,100, and that’s not chump change. So, what is the big deal? Your life. If you exit your whitewater or sea kayak in 50-degree water, and you don’t have a wet suit or a dry suit, you are a goner in short order. So, you ask, why a dry suit instead of a wet suit? There are several reasons. Suppose you are paddling and the water is 45 degrees. You’ll need a wetsuit north of 10mm to be safe if dunked more than 30 minutes. And you must get wet to even get warm. When dry, that wetsuit is useless. Wind goes right through it. Now, imagine paddling with that. With a Gore-Tex dry suit, all you need is a dry, comfy fleece layer under that dry suit. When out of the water, you’ll be warm and dry. It shields you from wind. The Gore-Tex will move your perspiration out of the suit. If you do take a spill, this doesn’t change. Even under water, Gore-Tex moves your sweat to the outside environment.

Dry Suit Trivia

Are dry suits something invented for 21st Century adrenaline junkies? Nope. Dry suits have been the immersion wear of choice going back to ancient times. Fact is, Arctic Inuit hunters invented dry suits centuries ago. They discovered seal intestines had the ability to pass sweat in one direction and keep water out. They used dry suits in their whale hunting exploits.

What is the big deal with a two piece dry suit? Well, for one thing, in a one piece dry suit you are stuck when needing to relieve yourself. Manufacturers have come up with rear zippers or front zippers. But still, kayakers have to wear this garment with neck and wrist gaskets even when it’s warm outside. Always a source of irritation. And it’s all or nothing because it’s one piece. Garment makers offered Gore-Tex pants or Gore-Tex tops. But if you are capsized, either meant total immersion in icy water as water enters at the waist. Therefore, for many years, the vast majority bought a one piece dry suit.

The Challenge – A Zipper That Can Do the Job

The Holy Grail was to somehow make a two-piece dry suit. And one that can be three garments in one. A dry top, dry pants, and a total dry suit if zipped together. The challenge has always been a waterproof zipper capable of the job. Metal zippers when worn around the waist are just unforgiving and uncomfortable-after all, a spray skirt has to fit over the zipper. The breakthrough is an upgraded T-Zip plastic zipper, and its SwitchZip technology and Ringseal closure. The plastic zipper is waterproof and much more flexible than a metal zipper.

idol dry suit,kokatatThe Kokatat Idol drysuit can be split into two separately worn pieces. The top can be worn as a standalone dry top. The pant can be worn as a waterproof breathable pant-with included waterproof breathable socks. That means on warm days, kayakers can launch their boat completely dry and paddle comfortably without having to wear the whole dry suit. So while the Idol drysuit costs $1,100, it replaces two additional garments! Not only that, it makes relieving oneself in the great outdoors so much easier. Whether you need to go #1 or #2 you can separate the pants and perform the duty much easier than performing the whole machinations necessary with a one-piece dry suit!

OK, I Wanna I Wanna! How Can I Get My Mitts on One?

To order one of these amazing products, you must visit a Kokatat retailer. In Portland, Oregon, visit Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Kokatat says the Idol will be available in the 2nd quarter 2015. But you can order today.

Here’s a Kokatat Video on the Idol Drysuit





Hope Island, WA: Staff Kayak Camping Trip with Alder Creek

18 03 2012

I work at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe in Portland, Oregon. I’m a sales consultant but I also guide and do instruction (ha ha, and even website content stuff). Every spring, the company pays for the staff to go on a kayak camping trip – a kind of pre-season employee bonding kind of thing. Most years, this trip goes to Washington’s San Juan Islands. Since Alder Creek offers guided San Juan Islands kayak camping trips every summer, this employee trip is traditionally a way to train new staff on these trips so they can work them and sell them. On this trip, it was myself, Paul Kuthe, Dave Slover, David Trageser, Chris Bensch, Jason Self, David Dalbey, and Alex.

This spring, we only had three days, which is not much time to travel from Portland, Oregon to the San Juans and back. So, we decided to do the trip to Hope Island in the South Puget Sound – only 2-1/2 hours from Portland. In the weeks prior to the trip, everyone was nervous about weather. Normally March in the Pacific NW is very volatile! It can be snowing, hailing – or sunny. You can imagine in our minds, we were thinking, “I have to do this as an employee. But sh*t. It might be snowing or raining and awful! I don’t want to commit!” I confess that I was looking for an escape not wanting to sit around a windy wet and cold campsite.

But all these trepidations melted away with the magic of luck and weather. In the 72 hours before our departure March 6th, the forecast was for three days of SUN! And little wind. Unbelievable, but true, and this was borne out during our three-day employee trip!

Our departure morning was sunny. What a break. We loaded the kayaks on the Alder Creek trailer – 8 of them. Food shopping was done the day before. Eggs, bacon, chicken, cheese, the makings of breakfast scrambles or breakfast burritos. Also stuff to make Reuben Sandwiches for lunches – bread, cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut etc. Lots of snacks. We also had a Caesar Wrap lunch – chicken, flat bread, Caesar Dressing, romaine lettuce…etc. There was a lot of fruit.

Boston Harbor Marina is a great provisioning and put-in spot for all South Sound trips.

Our destination for launch point was Boston Harbor, which is about a 20 minute drive west of Tacoma, Washington. The Boston Harbor Marina has an excellent shop – where we loaded up on some adult beverages.

We set the boats down on the beach next to the marina and set to pack up! I’m always amazed how much stuff we bring – and surprised we can actually fit the stuff in the kayaks.

Packing a kayak for a camping trip is an art. I won’t go into details, but for sure, you want heavy stuff like water as low and centered as possible. You want anything  you might want to reach during your paddle, or lunch, at the top!

Of course there is the mix of the safety, comfort and pleasure amongst the gear.

And some are willing to go to extra lengths to sleep in comfort even if it means carrying the pad on the deck!

Before we left, Chris and I were responsible for lunch – we prepared Chicken Caesar Wraps. These turned out to be darn good!

We ate whilst watching the snowy Olympic Mountains to the west. It’s a really pretty sight.

Hope Island is out there under the mountains!

We set off about one-o’clock. On this day, the water is smooth as glass, and we feel super lucky! Dry, windless and relatively warm.

All are in good spirits.

Paul naps with a nice view...

We reach the island in a couple of hours.

The site has a beach with a couple of picnic tables, and set behind there is an old orchard – tents can be set up on the periphery of the orchard.

Top priority of any group camping is the setup of the kitchen!

All the cooking gear and of course the afternoon snacks and dinner food is first priority.

Once tents and the kitchen is all set, it’s time to relax, have beers, throw the frisbee, check out the island, or not.

Sometimes, it’s perfectly acceptable to avail ones self of the best available rest spot, the hammock…

Well, as sunset approached, Mount Rainier got a beautiful Alpine Glow on!

As the day closed and early evening began to set in, it was time to get the meal going!

We actually had some great meals, carefully and not-so-carefully prepared. But at least here, our Martha Stewart kitchen looks very appetizing…

Some re-fried beans being opened. The first night is Mexi-Night…a hearty meal for everybody!

And time for some adult beverages consumed in a not so adult fashion!

Some serious bonding for the staff! The rest of this mis-adventure will just have to remain in our memories…or not?





Adventure 2011 Argentina / Chile

28 11 2011

I am a decidedly hooked overseas traveler and could not wait to get my fix any longer! I’ve had some tough times these last couple of years, so I’d put off venturing, but nothing would stop me from exploring in 2011! I had over 100,000 frequent flier miles with United Airlines, which were set to expire. Last time I went overseas was in 2008 to Laos / Cambodia, and that was fantastic. I’m in love with SE Asia and the Himalayan region. I was tempted to return, but I’ve been there seven times – and I’ve never been to South America. So this time, I decided to head directly SOUTH. Time to save my soul and escape my world…to Argentina and Chile – to Patagonia!

Because  for me, getting outside my neighborhood, city, state – my country – seeing life from outside, from another perspective – only that refreshes my spirit!

Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of information, but I knew I’d like to experience the Andes, and probably Tierra del Fuego. Timing was important. In 2011, I worked as a sales consultant and guide/instructor at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe, and their busy season is summer, winding down with the Lumpy Waters Symposium in October. I inquired with Suzi Elle, one of the owners, about taking vacation and her reply was “anytime after Lumpy!’ So with that in mind, I targeted late October/November for a start time!

It looked like this would be a good time for Argentina and Chile. But it would also be a good time in the Himalayas – prime time is right after monsoon season. Also in the southern hemisphere, I could head to South Africa, or New Zealand. But it seemed the right time for me to see the “other America.” It would be late spring down there. Without a lot of time for research, and wanting to see a lot, I wanted to do an organized trip, so I looked at two companies I’ve worked with, Djoser, out of Amsterdam, and Mountain Travel Sobek, based in San Francisco. I had gone to Thailand with Djoser in 2004 and had a great experience. In 2007 I did an unforgettable 110-mile Himalayan Trek in Bhutan with Sobek. Sobek had a 3-week hiking trip focused on Torres del Paine National Park. I looked into this and really was interested, but I couldn’t get frequent flier flights to match up. So, I looked at Djoser again, and began to realize their agenda might be more an experience I preferred. That is because their three week trip covers much more of Patagonia. They do time in the Fitz Roy Range, and Tierra del Fuego, and even have some days up in the Lakes District, as well as seeing marine life on Peninsula Valdes. It would be more “road time,” but one would get a better overview. Sobek’s trip would be much more in touch with the outback areas of Torres del Paine, away from the throngs of backpackers.

So I inquired at the Djoser USA office in Pennsylvania. They cautioned me that the trip I was looking at was an international group, so I might be the only American. I’d have to be OK with that. I was not worried one bit. Djoser’s groups mostly cater to Dutch, and some other Europeans too. I knew from my experiences with Dutch citizens that they are gregarious, considerate, polite and nearly everybody speaks English. I didn’t worry about any issues. I signed up, and went about calling the frequent flier desk at United. I tried. And tried. “No seats for those dates” was the response for several tries. I began to despair. But one customer service agent took me under her wing, telling me that, “Seats open up, so don’t get discouraged! Keep calling every day!” So I did.

And then it happened. One day I reeled off the same inquiry, dates, times, and the response was, “OK, we have seats on these flights…” I just about hit the ceiling! Hardly containing my delight that I got a FREE flight to South America on the dates matching my itinerary, I booked them on the spot!

I was going! I was going on a trip to Patagonia! We would be seeing penguins, southern right whales, elephant seals, carakaras, guanacos, condors, hike in Torres del Paine, watch tango dancers, bask in the view of the spires of Cerro Fitz Roy, walk on the Viedma Glacier, cruise the Lakes in the Lakes District near Bariloche, and reach the end of the world at Tierra del Fuego!

Here’s a great photo of my comrades on this trip! We were American, Dutch, Belgian and Turkish. A wonderful group…of varied ages and professions!

I was in! So what follows is a story of the trip to the highlights of Patagonia! Stay tuned!





When Life Gives You Lemons…Switch Paddling Venues!

31 07 2011

Sunday July 24th was to be my day to enjoy paddling in “conditions.” Conditions – means rougher water and wind. We sought out 20+ mph winds, 2+ foot wind waves and maybe rollers. The goal was to learn to paddle in these seas, but also to perform assisted rescues and self rescues in them, too.

Paddling and doing rescues in flat wind-less water is completely different from doing them in rough water and wind…so taking a class & practicing with instructors around is really helpful! During the days leading up to the session we watched the weather forecast closely and found it to be questionable. The forecast wasn’t calling for a windy day. Still, it seemed like some places in the Columbia Gorge would offer winds kicking up.

The group met at Alder Creek in Portland, early in the morning, and loaded up cars and the van.

And we headed out. First venue: Viento State Park. We arrived and I soon saw my old kayak, a P&H Scorpio nicknamed “Diana,” on another student’s car.

My old flame...with someone new...

I immediately recognized the Welsh and British flags I had put on her deck.

We headed out to view the wind conditions on the Columbia. It was starting to blow, but just not enough for a meaningful class just yet.

So Paul decided to drive east, to the Klickitat River area to see if things would be more conducive to this class. Well, it was even worse! Just glassy. Well, we figured we are here, might as well paddle, something. We crossed the Columbia and entered the Klickitat. Paddling up, up, up to finally find some fast-moving water.

We got up to a section with a 1-foot drop and couldn’t paddle any further. So we dropped back to a spot with eddies on both sides of the main channel and practiced peel outs and eddy turns.

Fun! Here is Dennis Pennel doing a nice job peeling out, and then eddy turning on the other side of the river.

We did these forward. We did them backward. We did them eyes closed. We did them without paddles. And finally, Paul did it standing up…sort of. One of the few times you’ll ever see Paul Kuthe swim!





Lumpy Waters Symposium 2010 Sunday – Three Arch Rocks

25 10 2010

OK Sunday morning at Lumpy Waters Symposium I was feeling the effects of three days on the Oregon coast. Definitely a bit worn out.

Badge of honor-dry suit rash from NRS and Kokatat...1 per day

And showing the effects of a tight fitting neck gasket! Gotta do something about that.

I was scheduled to do a Three Arch Rocks tour, and I knew several paddlers had to be rescued there Saturday and one guy threw up seasick. On the other hand the weather had calmed somewhat. But I just had to be there because two of the instructors would be Leon Somme and Shawna Franklin of Body Boat Blade! They are two of the best instructors in the country and I couldn’t miss a chance at experiencing instruction with them! And Mark Whittaker of Columbia River Kayak School was also teaching. In fact, Rob Avery of Valley Sea Kayaks and Karl Cohagen of Kokatat were paddling.

Coaches Leon, Shawna, Rob and John

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is a really special place. It’s an Oregon landmark. Home to cormorants and gulls, it’s also a nesting site for tufted puffins, storm petrels, common murres, and pigeon guillemot.

It’s also a pupping site for the 2,000 lb stellar sea lion. It’s rare to get close to the rocks, because Federal regulations prohibit watercraft from coming within 500 ft of the rocks from May 1st to September 15th – the time when it’s calmest!

It was spectacular weather! As dawn broke frost covered grass and windshields. But the day was to warm to near 70 degrees! At breakfast everyone was talking about how crazy incredible the weekend’s weather was turning out! THREE days in a row of clear, pleasant weather in OCTOBER on the Oregon Coast? And, no fog whatsoever! WOW. It’s so unlikely especially as those of us who were trying to practice the weeks before the event kept finding the coastal conditions big – swells often over 10 ft and smOur destination comes into view!all craft warnings. We couldn’t get over our good fortune!

We headed to Oceanside, about 30 minute drive north. The route winding along the coast revealed vista after vista of fabulous headlands and gentle seas! Here’s what I saw as I neared the town.

The Three Arch Rocks tour had 24 students signed up. So it was split into three classes, and I got Shawna and Mark Whittaker! I was so excited not only to watch Shawna paddle, but to experience how she teaches.

Yeah, I knew the dry suit was open. I just threw the PFD on while carrying stuff to the beach!

Since there were so many students and coaches it took a while to get organized, but it was such a lovely morning. Everyone was in great spirits. They put some rocks on the beach and drew some lines representing Three Arch Rocks and the wave energy surrounding. Sunday’s swell was 5-6 feet max, and there was calm wind when we started. There would be some reflected waves on the north side.

Launching was pretty basic, except that once a little beyond the beach the surf was breaking in two directions, meaning you’d punch through one and then there would be another coming right at a 45 degree angle – so you’d need to quickly turn the kayak into it. Once beyond the small breakers it was nice!

Like Saturday it took me a few minutes to settle in. One problem was the paddle. I figured since it was a “tour,” and calmer I’d use the low-angle Werner Kalliste paddle. But right away, getting out through the surf zone and into the moderate swell, it didn’t feel right. Right then Shawna was talking with another student about using high angle for dynamic conditions and with that, I switched to my high angle Werner Cyprus. I should have loosened my thigh braces out a click, though!

It was 3/4 mile to the rocks. Very pleasant paddle, and as the rocks drew closer we saw there were some caves and smaller outcroppings. Plus, various birds and some small sea lions about. The sea lions, probably pups, watched us closely and once we got too close they jumped in the water and made their escape! I witnessed a brutal struggle amongst sea birds. A cormorant came up out of the water and swallowed a fish – then flew up 30 feet onto a steep ledge. Almost immediately two gulls began harassing the cormorant, until it eventually regurgitated its hard fought catch – and one gull immediately wolfed it down. So, even a swallowed fish is still in play! Not fair!

Here’s a video by Chris Lockyer, one of my Saturday instructors, of what it is like paddling in the area! Kind of hard to watch.

Watch the video by clicking on this text.

Shawna and Mark Whittaker were my coaches. Watching Shawna paddle, and experiencing her coaching was like watching a symphony performance. No matter the rocks or water surging around – every stroke/rudder movement was smooth, and all the while smiling, remembering the students’ names and giving everyone personal attention. She’s very re-assuring, calming nerves, telling students to breath deeply. We made some moves in and around the rocks near one of the big arches.

We found a small sea cave too!

Then we moved out to the weather side of the arch. There, the conditions were different as the swells reflected off the arches. But it wasn’t as unsettling as off Cape Kiwanda Saturday. Shawna suggested we paddle the surge in between two of the arches. That was fun and exciting! The swell surges in between, squeezing through the arches, and you kind of get “pushed” along as on either side of you it crashes along the rocks.

The group paddled through the arches. Randy tried to do a re-enter and roll in the swirly conditions in between the arches, but after several attempts gave up and got an assisted rescue from Mark Whittaker. Laura, back behind the arches did a nice cowboy self rescue! I didn’t feel like it because I already did that the day before. But now I regret not doing a roll out there just for kicks.

We played around the rocks for another 45 minutes, and then heard one of the other groups needed to head back because they had a sea sick paddler. We eventually decided to head back to the Oceanside beach, too.

I was one of the first to try the landing, and I picked up a little surf and rode it in, only to capsize and get thrashed in knee deep water. No matter. I forgot my Feelfree Kayak Snap Pack was hung around my neck with my non-waterproof camera inside! I dreaded opening it but was excited to find my camera 100% dry inside!

Well, the day was done. I was really stoked to have Mark and Shauna as my coaches, and maybe I’ll just have to take a session with Body Boat Blade. What a great weekend of ocean paddling!

Here is a 14 minute video of some of Lumpy Waters 2010!





Lumpy Waters 2010 Saturday

23 10 2010

Another day of Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe’s Lumpy Waters Symposium!

Saturday broke beautiful and blue bird clear! My class for the day was Cape Lookout Tour. It was to be an all-day class and I was really looking forward to it. In 2009 I did only half day classes, which are good, but I wanted to experience a full day on a major landmark on the Oregon Coast.

My cabin-mates Stuart, Gary and Dave all got along well. Friday night everyone was crashed out early to re-energize by getting a good night’s sleep. At six a.m. I motivated to grab an early shower and get refreshed. Once done I headed to the “kitchen shed” where All Star Rafting’s staff put together a spread of breakfast goodies for the hungry paddlers. Everybody was in a terrific mood looking forward to an epic day on the water!

Classes gathered at 8:30 for a meet and greet and to set out the day’s plan. My instructors were John, Chris and Ron. Unfortunately they told us we couldn’t do a Cape Lookout tour because the swells were north->south, meaning very rough conditions on the north side of west-pointing Cape Lookout. Friday evening Neil Schulman told me a story of a time when he had a group launching on the north side of the cape and most wound up swimming. Later, Mark Whittaker told me he and Ginni Callahan had paddled down from the north one time to scout the put-in on the north side and described the conditions as “catastrophic.” Although there is a way to put in on the south side of Cape Lookout, it’s a complicated logistical problem with property rights/access issues.

The upshot was John proposed an alternative of rock gardening by Cape Kiwanda, then heading out beyond the cape to see what the north swell was like, then heading south to check out the haystack rock and maybe paddle to the mouth of the Nestucca River and up back towards Pacific City. That’d be a very long day but at that time we were up for it.

We launched and headed out into the swell coming into the beach at Pacific City. Weather report said it was a seven foot swell. Not all the waves incoming were that big.

Wind had dropped from Friday. Anyway we were given instruction on rock gardening in and around the rocks near Cape Kiwanda. It takes time to get used to the wave action but it’s manageable. You can surf down an incoming wave in between rocks.

We practiced along the rocks...

We did a bunch of laps. Then they asked us to try it backwards. Like surfing, rock gardening requires patience. You do OK if you pick the right surge to take in between the rocks. Everything isn’t as hard as it looks.

Then John said let’s go out into the ocean, beyond Cape Kiwanda. There’s a buoy off the cape, a good meeting spot. The swells were coming around the end of the cape and bending into the beach. The plan was to paddle beyond the cape, in between it and the haystack rock, and head north to check things out.

The swells entering the beach at Pacific City were all reduced swells – meaning despite their size, they didn’t have their full energy since they were wrapping around the cape. Also none of them were reflected. But once we rounded the cape we experienced their full energy, plus reflection off the cape. My kayak was going uphill on the incoming swells and downhill on the reflected waves.

North (left) side of Cape Kiwanda was much worse Saturday

Then there were “lumpy” waves, wind waves in between the swells. For me, even looking at the cape was unsettling. The swells were crashing against it. I had to look out to sea. I was not feeling sea sick, but I was feeling a sense of adrenaline making my body stiffen up. What was bothering me was that I knew I should be loose – my lower body should be able to be loose from the upper but I kept transmitting too much of the wave action from the boat to my upper body. Usually this feeling goes away in 10-15 minutes. Making things worse was I think my foot braces were a click too close, meaning too much body English /wave energy was being transmitted from the boat to my body, making it seem more unsteady. Out there, reaching under the deck to my feet to adjust the braces seemed unthinkable.

All smiles, besides pitch poling twice!

I was the only one feeling that way Saturday afternoon. Everyone else was comfortable. Either way, John decided to ask us to meet at the buoy, which was much further out to sea away from the reflected waves. One thing all the instructors told us was to keep moving if possible. They said think of it like a bicycle – it’s hard to stay upright if stopped, easy when moving. Same in a kayak.

Once we neared the buoy, I felt much better. Out there it was mostly incoming swells, less reflected. We headed down and planned to gather past the haystack on the south side. From where we started it looked to me like the swells were breaking way out on the seaward side of the stack. But John assured me it was just foam moving out to sea. That turned out to be the case, though it sure looked from afar like breaking waves!

So we spent some time messing around the rocks on the back side of the haystack. We all did some rescues back there. No problem. At least I can say I did my first deep ocean rescue! It seemed not much different than anyplace else I’d done it. Just the fact that the water was moving up and down 7 feet. It reminded me of rolling a kayak. It is all about nerves. If you calm yourself down, all the points are the same, just a different environment. If you do the same steps, so what if you are out in the ocean? You just remain calm and go through the steps. So I need to do a roll out there. It would be the same thing, just settle your brain down and do it. In fact they often say doing the roll calms your whole body down. Like getting wet – once you are wet it is all over and you are used to it.

Then it was decision time. Choices? Either head back to the beach for more rock gardening/surf session, or a long kayak to the Nestucca River mouth and another 7 miles up the river. We chose to head back to the beach area to practice.

Window shading!

Testing out the surf!

When done, I hung out on the beach watching the “Fear to fun in the Surf” class.  Here’s a video with lots of kayaks going back and forth, some succeeding, most not! And then…a paddler makes her way in and someone else doesn’t make it!

Here’s a 2009 video of Lumpy (conditions were more difficult) but there is one shot of me in the orange/black Pyranha burn heading out…

I even saw a woman pitch pole (rolling stern over bow) twice!

Later in the evening we had another happy hour and pizza! Then Karl Cohagen of Kokatat put on a fun trivia contest. Lots of schwag for prizes, all about kayak trivia! The unruly crowd was hard to control! One of the trivia questions concerned a pair of instructors from the Pacific NW…

During the trivia contest Karl did a shout out to all the instructors who came to Lumpy Waters!

Here’s Carl’s shout out for all the instructors!





Alder Creek Paddle Festival 2010!

28 04 2010

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?

Registration!

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!