Coastal Kayak Coaching: Alder Creek Lumpy Waters Symposium

29 10 2011

Catching a nice one!

The highlight of the Oregon sea kayak season has become the Lumpy Waters Symposium. This three-day festival of everything Ocean Kayaking is a hoot!

Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe’s sold-out 3rd Annual Lumpy Waters Symposium took place October 14-16 2011 in Pacific City, Oregon. For the third year in a row, the weather cooperated. Six foot swells and northwest winds topping out at ten knots led to great learning conditions! Not to mention fun even for the coaches! We had 90 students with 30 coaches involved. Classes take place in Pacific City plus up and down the coast depending on the class subject.

This year I was not a student but a coach! I worked all summer at Alder Creek, but my coaching was limited to beginner classes, so I was flattered to be selected to teach at Lumpy Waters, but also a bit nervous, as I hadn’t had much time in 2011 down at the coast. When I got the roster for the weekend I was more than stoked to be a coach!

I had recently completed the British Canoe UnionLevel1 coach curriculum – so as far as the basics are concerned and for teaching skills, I was good to go. I just hadn’t had much time to practice in waves! I knew from past experience all it takes (for me) is time on the water.

A beautiful setting!

I was scheduled to help teach the Saturday morning Current and Waves class. Cindy Sherrer was lead coach. The class starts out in calm waters of the Nestucca River behind Pacific City, Oregon, and then culminates with taking the students out into the currents and waves out by where the Nestucca meets the Pacific Ocean. We had five students. The challenge here was more the conditions being calmer than needed to teach the syllabus. We struggled to find a good spot for a clean eddy line to practice getting into and out of eddies. Finally, out toward where the river meets the ocean, we found a reasonable eddy line. Out there, there was also some wavelets that came into the bay to practice on.

Sunday, I was scheduled to assist coach the coastal surf zone class called “Fun and Feedback.” This class was a follow up to “Fear to Fun in the Surf.” Since I hadn’t been at the coast in a while, I wanted to “warm up.” So, I observed the Saturday afternoon version of Fun and Feedback.” I had an absolute blast. We did launching, landing, backing up over waves, some surfing, and some back surfing. The conditions were ideal for learning! It was not long before I was able to land without capsizing, time and time again.

Sunday I wound up on the beach a bit nervous about the level I might be expected to coach. Lucky for me, I was to assist in teaching bracing! That I definitely could teach. We taught bracing, and depending on the group, taught side surfing along with bracing. It was me and Cate Hawthorne of Liquid Fusion Kayaking. We got along great, and I have to say I got very enthusiastic teaching students how to hold their brace in the waves. It’s so exciting to show them how rock solid they can be when bracing into an on coming foam pile! Watching them “get it” brings me tons of positive energy! The water was not all that cold – of course I had my Kokatat dry suit on. But the energy of helping people learn these skills just drove me on!

Once class was over I got my chance to enjoy the wonderful surf on my own. I was able to surf some of the waves, actually controlling my kayak on the wave using stern rudders on either the port or starboard side…then, when the wave broke, either side surfing the foam pile, or managing to ride back over the back of the wave to find another!

Lumpy Waters Ocean / Surf Kayaking Symposium Day 1

20 10 2010

Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe put on the Lumpy Waters Symposium in 2009, and it was without doubt the highlight of the year. So when they offered it for 2010, I didn’t hesitate to sign up right away.

It is a three-day series of ocean and surf kayaking instruction, and it’s based out of Pacific City Oregon. The location is perfect. They picked Cape Kiwanda RV / Campground to stage the event. It’s walking distance from the beach and the Pelican Brew Pub. And it’s 30 minutes or less to fabulous paddling locations such as Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge and Cape Lookout. Behind Pacific City the Nestucca River meanders and is a good place for flat water instruction.

Everything is included – three days of lessons, all meals, lodging (either camping or a bed in a cabin) and this year even happy hour was hosted each night – by Kokatat Watersports Wear and Thule. Alder Creek spared nothing and reached out to bring in some of the best instructors in the country – even some world champion kayakers! I didn’t realize the level of instruction was so high until I arrived.

I spent plenty of time preparing for Lumpy Waters. Three days full of ocean / surf kayaking can wear you down. Plus the environment can put demands on anyone’s skills and confidence. So for the month ahead of Lumpy Waters, I was working with a group to find rough water for practice. We also went to as many pool practice sessions for rolling as we could handle. I spent time just preparing for endurance by “fast paddling” with my Werner Corryvrecken Carbon paddle, doing laps around Ross Island on the Willamette River.

Friday at Lumpy Waters – my class was short boat surfing. I arrived and the weather was sunny and gorgeous.

Sean Morley ripping it up!

Once registered and settled into my cabin, I enjoyed a turkey sandwich lunch and then met my class for the 1:00 afternoon session. This was when I found out one of my instructors was Sean Morley, who holds records and is a surf kayaking champion! Holy Geez. Our other instructors were Alder Creek waterman Shawn McClure, and Chris Bensch who’ve been to this beach many times

Sean Morley

We gathered on the north end of the beach at Pacific City to find some easy waves for practice/learning.

The group was using mostly dedicated surf kayaks, and there was one sit on top, and two whitewater kayaks including my medium Pyranha Burn.

It was a seven foot swell from the north which curled around Cape Kiwanda. It was windy. Windy enough for the occasional gust to cause beach sand to get in my eyes when out on the water. Before we went out Sean and Shawn explained that once we get into our routine, we should surf as a cohesive group. There’d be a line waiting for a wave and most of the time one at a time would ride in. Then, paddlers returning out to the line were to stay down beach away from those surfing. It worked out. We also picked a spot with consistent gentle waves suitable for learning.

Surfing involves lots of patience because not every wave is ideal to ride. You need to learn to pick out a good one and then get the timing right to ride it. Get the timing wrong and most of the time it will pass under you. It’s also important to have an active paddle in the water. That doesn’t necessarily mean paddle blades whirring like a hummingbird, just might mean a low brace or a stern rudder. Though in my case, it seemed nerves made me more like the bird! With enough experience and time on the waves I think I can learn to carve.

I rode a whole lot of waves in. The way swells work, every so often there’ll be a group of three or four huge ones with smaller ones in between. I was intimidated by those big ones but Sean was encouraging us to ride them in.

I rode some of the waves all the way in, and some others blew it and rolled over. Twice I was able to roll up. One time I got nervous and abandoned ship, and another I was just sucked out of the cockpit altogether – no chance to even decide. Result? Nothing. Nada. Who cares? Just empty the boat and go out again.

Later on I watched as the fear to fun class took their knocks in the surf!

The best was to roll up to have Sean Morley standing waist deep giving me the two thumbs up!

Later that day Thule sponsored a most generous happy hour, which was followed by a Mexican feast cooked up by a crew from All Star Rafting. There were 80 students plus instructors to feed.

Thule had a sweet party trailer! It had a roof top deck, a big stereo/TV on the side to show movies, and they put on a nice spread of shrimp, veggies, Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and various types of wine – bottomless! To say the least the guests were satisfied.

Stories of the day shared with friends!

And lots of stories were told of the day’s activities. I heard a long boat surf class out by the mouth of the Nestucca River had numerous capsizes and rescues. Sounded like the surf down there was a lot harder!

Following the meal, Rob Avery, instructor and sales rep for Valley Sea Kayaks, showed a presentation of an expedition to remote Aleutian Islands.

All in all a very full day! Some of us tried to stay up a little longer but everyone drifted off to their sleeping spots for the night. Saturday would no doubt test our mettle again!