Jen Kleck of Aqua Adventures must have pulled a few strings with the weather Gods. Even coming from sunny Florida I could not help but to be mightily impressed with the warm, Mediterranean-like weather in San Diego. The eighth Annual Southwest Kayak Symposium, held on Mission Bay, took place in glorious Spring conditions, with brilliant greenery, crystal blue skies and palm trees swaying in the warm sun.
As a Floridian, the conditions felt familiar, but distinctly different. The expected humidity was absent and the rolling panorama of hills, the Pacific swell, the cacophony of seals and sea lions on the rocks at La Jolla, made for a very memorable event.
The Southwest Kayak Symposium is held at “CampLand on the Bay”, a funky RV campground on Mission Bay. It’s an RV camp on steroids and is a microcosm of American/California culture. Lurking amid the lush vegetation are mammoth RVs with sides that pop-out to house-sized proportions, grocery stores, hot tubs, golf-carts and other conveniences. The venue (complete with chatty parrots overhead that attempt to drown out conversations), is a great place for a symposium, with large open areas of lawn and easy water access. Mission Bay offers beginners a safe place to whet (wet?) their appetite, while nearby La Jolla (the Jewel) offers more challenging conditions with Pacific surf and sea caves.
It was a pleasure to be reunited with friends and fellow coaches again, including Phil “rock star” Hadley, Russell Farrow, Nigel Foster, Kristin, Jen Kleck, Jake Stachovak (taking time off from his Portage to Portage expedition), Duane Strosaker, Michael Shugg and many more.
This was my second time coaching at the event. I joined up with Maine coach John Carmody on Thursday at La Jolla to introduce a number of students to the surf zone and to practice skills such as turning in wind and waves. This was the first time that I had witnessed John in action and was impressed by his quiet style and substance. I could only imagine the awe of one our students, living in land-locked Colorado, who had the thrill of paddling on the sea for the very first time; feeling the rising and falling swell, hearing the cries of sea birds echo off cliffs, and playing in the surf, all which combines to make this environment so alive.
I was on hand to coach students with their Greenland skills and together with instructors Duane Strosaker and Michael Shugg, thoroughly enjoyed myself. The students were enthusiastic and warm and many had at least one “AHA!” moment that excited and inspired them — which is what makes teaching so rewarding and truly worthwhile for me.
The party Saturday night included great food, a bonfire and music including Steve “Hullcracker” Wilson, Mark Sanders, Russell Farrow and Nigel Foster. The highpoint (err, lowpoint?…) was Phil Hadley performing a lively rendition of “Wild Thing”. The video, by Michael Shugg, appears below — watch it only if you dare! For the first time you can see what REALLY goes on at kayak symposiums!
Many thanks to Jen Kleck for allowing me to participate. I look forward to attending next year!
John Carmody coaching off the rocks at La Jolla.
Michael Shugg’s video “When Kayakers Go Bad….”