Friday, August 29, 2008

Hurry Up...And Wait
I think it is an old army expression because there are large numbers of troops to manage. It is often necessary to place some men somewhere and have them wait while another group is placed somewhere else. This is also true of rolling classes.
I don't believe we can teach rolling as a class. True, we can have a rolling class, but it requires working one on one to teach the roll. Meanwhile, the rest of the class can end up waiting. There is, of course, something to be learned by watching another student work with the instructor. Then, too, there may be assigned exercises for those in wait. This can be something as simple as practicing hip "snaps" (I abhor the term) at the side of the pool or off another waiting student's bow.
Bottom line, it requires that one and one face time to transmit the mystical skill of rolling. More over, this one and one is best kept short. You just can't roll, or attempt to roll, for two hours. That's probably how classes came to be. By having most of the class on the "side lines", a student only ends up with perhaps 30 minutes of time alone with the instructor.
Still, folks do learn how to roll, in classes and in private lessons. I was surprised when colleagues told me that there is about a 10% success rate in classes. Now I realize that most won't get it on the first go around, but who would sign up and pay for a class that touts a 10% chance of success? I believe there are better ways and, given a flexible, relaxed, often young student, a roll can be achieved during the first lesson. I've seen it. I've done it.
So, don't wait. Hurry up and try it.
Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sneaky Self Serving People
Okay, I can't prove anything here (unless someone confesses), but I believe the suspect pictured above is responsible for a nefarious comment left on a recent blog. I was opining about the coming of winter and how it made me feel. This guy, using the alias "Mr. Joe", left a comment suggesting I post a picture of a cute baby. Ha. He doesn't even have a traceable e mail address.
Thing is, he probably isn't even a regular reader, so who is he to tell me what to post on my post? This is a kayak blog, and I post pictures like this:
So there. Don't try to manipulate me, I'm not that easy. So, I'll just leave one more image so you all can recognize this Mr. Joe (alias Mr. Man) should he try to tell you what to do with your blog:

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Say It Isn't So
It is still warm around here, and the big lake is the warmest it's been all summer. But the humidity is low. The weather is perfect, just the way I like it, but I am not so easily lulled into false bliss. All this is a set up, a preamble, a last hurrah. All this means that fall is coming...and you know what that means.Frost and crisp morning temperatures and gorgeous fall leaves. Lovely, yes? But this, too, is a set up, a preamble, maybe even a warning: Winter will soon follow.And that means ice and the dreaded dry suit and torn gaskets and dangerous landings. I tell you, the sky is falling. What to do? Well, some of the folks around here are already planning and reserving camp sites for a September and an October weekend up in Door County. Ha! We laugh in the face of the elements because we know that when it really gets cold, when there is really a lot of ice, real sea kayakers can... ...retreat to the pool.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's Called Sea Kayaking
I enjoy a lazy paddle on flat water as much as anyone. There are days that I take the Pygmy Arctic Tern I made and paddle the Milwaukee River. I can even entertain myself rolling in a pool. But, at the end of the day, I much prefer to sea kayak.

Now, we don't have a sea around here, however Lake Michigan does have its moments when it offers up some nice conditions for paddling. As a bonus, we don't have to figure out tide tables or wash salt off our equipment afterwards. The trouble is, many local paddlers won't go "outside" if there is so much as a wrinkle on the surface of the water, and this includes a few basic instructors.
In my judgment, this will result in arrested skills and, eventually, to boredom with the sport. Please understand, I don't think everyone should get out in the waves. After all, its not for everyone, and everyone is entitled to do their own thing. But not improving one's skills deprives one of many opportunities to have a challenging day on the water.

I believe, as well, that this improvement can be done safely with a little planning. Let's say that a person is comfortable in level 3 conditions. In order to grow their skills, they need to get out in level 4 conditions, and I suggest they do so in the company of paddlers comfortable in level 5 conditions (the levels I refer to are arbitrary numbers and do not correspond to any BCU or ACA ratings). Being out there with more competent paddlers provides safety as well as a reservoir of knowledge and teaching.

If you haven't gotten into rougher stuff since you took your intro course to sea kayaking, you're missing a whole lot of the fun of the sport. So, what are you going to do?

Paddle safe...


Monday, August 25, 2008

This Teaching Thing
I taught on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and I must say it was a joy. To begin, the winds were mild and old Lake Michigan (inside the break water) was 70 F. This made for a near by location without the drive out to an inland lake.

Thursday was a session with a paddler with whom I'd worked before, and it was a joy to see how much more comfortable he was in his boat. We moved on to more advanced strokes, and he did well.

Sunday was spent with a father and son (2 pics above). They were both athletic and worked well together. Some how Alden, the younger, had been rented a rather clumsy craft, but he was still able to make her turn (when he kept his tongue in his mouth). At the end of the session, I asked him to try Dad's boat. The change was dramatic, and he looked like an experienced paddler as he put it through its paces. Youth is wasted on the young. On Saturday I had the pleasure of working with two couples. All four had good energy and wonderful senses of humor. They had that wonderful ability to laugh at themselves, and the wives had that ability to laugh at their guys. Although they had all done a little paddling on their own, they had come looking to get a handle on the basics...and they did. That, in turn, brings me to that teaching thing.

All these fine folks allowed me the privilege of teaching them, and teaching is my passion. More over, some of them, in getting past their fears, showed trust and a willingness to stretch themselves in order to get better at the sport. Most of all, seeing the changes that took place, even after one short lesson, was personally rewarding. That, my friends, is that teaching thing.
Paddle safe...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Getting Together

I paddle alone a good deal of the time. I won't go out it the worst of conditions as I would with a paddling partner, and I take all the good precautions. These solo paddles allow me to go at my own unique pace (usually slowly) and to meander where I wish and practice what I want to practice. Sometimes, these turn out to be picture-taking sessions more than paddle sessions. Still, most days I enjoy paddling with others.Yesterday was such a day. Four of us managed to be off in the middle of the week and found time to paddle. One of us (me) was retired, one (Leslie, hidden beind the paddle blade) had the week off and two (including Vicki in the foreground and Doug farthest back) were teachers on summer break. That, in turn, led me to think about the variety of occupations amongst our contingent.

Within the Milwaukee group we have lawyers (Bob and Gary who is retired), an EMT (JB), a retired cardiologist (me), a couple in the advertising business (Sue and Jeff), a supervisor at Sprecher's Brewery (Greg...and Jennifer), a gal who works at a kayak shop (Sherri) and a whole bunch of others who do something or other for a living. It is, in the end, a great melting pot.

This sport of ours draws folks from across career lines and age brackets. Interesting in its self, the people make it all the richer. And when we go for coffee after a paddle, you cannot imagine the range of topics we discuss, and all we have to do is get together.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, August 21, 2008

All "Growed" Up
Life never seems to turn out the way I thought it would. While bad things do happen now and then, things have tended to evolve in a wonderful fashion for me. Take Simon, pictured here as a pup. He is now all growed up and solid as a rock. His breathing sounds like a vacuum cleaner with a problem...but I digress. This is supposed to be about his adoptive mother.

I remember when her older sister had a febrile seizure and the scare that went with that. Well, older sister growed up just fine and is a mother of a 14 month old boy.

Daughter number 2 (Simon's adoptive mother) had numerous respiratory illnesses, developed asthma, had a severe bout of E-B virus and went through the pain of having her tonsils out as an adult. Still, she is all growed up and married. More to the point, she (along with number son in law #2) has announced that she is expecting next April.

Seems like just yesterday that I gave her that kayak lesson and paddled with her. Yes, I am blessed. They've all growed up, and nicely. Maybe it's my turn now.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New & Improved

Yes, if you've been a reader of this drivel for a while, you've seen this picture before. It's JB, my good friend and kayak mentor. Being human, he has recently responded to my endless coaxing, complaining and shaming and has decided to return to the world of bloggers and bloggettes.

You may have known him as seakayaker JB speaks. But now, just like all those ads for detergents, he has announced a new and improved site. Rumor is that Derrick had a hand in developoing the new site which does, after all, have a new looks.

The new mast head reads as follows:

Wilderness Connection
...conecting with the wilderness by kayak, but not solely.

Sounds tantalizing, and I am looking forward to reading it. So far, the site only sports an announcement that it is a new site; and, while we're glad he's back, we want to see some of the good stuff that I know is in his head. AND WE WAND TO SEE IT MORE THAT TWICE A YEAR.
Welcome back, JB.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stepping Up
I've been talking about our Milwaukee group and how many of its members have been working hard to improve skills. I've taken heart from this as it is my belief that the better we all get at this game the safer we will be. With that thought in mind, I was happy when Greg took his IDW and passed his ICE.
Always a skilled paddler, Greg has stepped up and has begun to show that other valuable aptitude out on the water...leadership. I see him stepping (paddling?) forward to lead rescue exercises and to teach others. He has a good analytical eye, has developed his own teaching style and communicates well on the water.
Next step? Well, there's been some buzz on the Yahoo site suggesting we "organize" those of us who do traditional rolling. Sounds like a great opportunity for someone to step into.
Paddle safe...


Friday, August 15, 2008

They're Out There
Had a nice paddle with Doug yesterday. It was blowing 15+mph with confused two-footers in the outer harbor. We did a little paddling and a little mini-surfing. Along the way, we took in the sights, and I began realizing (again) what a variety of vessels and activities are going on out on the lake and in the harbor.This trimaran, out of Michigan, was visiting the South Shore Yacht Club bringing a message in support of clean water. I was invited to the reception but passed on the opportunity to go sailing. I wish I had gone and learned more about their mission and research.
We also came across this fire boat docked along side the police's dive recovery vehicle. Apparently, they were doing some sort of exercise. Around that time, the car ferry took off for the other side, and I began to realize how many different types of vessels are out there doing their thing. Tugs pushing barges and ocean going vessels can also be seen on various days.

Thing is, most of the time I'm not out there playing while these guys and gals are out there working.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A poet once wrote something about how he wished he could once more "...know the joy I knew as a child at play." He spoke, of course, of that fun feeling of just having fun with no strings attached.For many paddlers every outing has to be a mini work out. They have to work on this skill or that. They want to spend the day on the water getting the other or off side roll down, or spend an hour with heart rate at 80% of max.

To be sure, outings like those are valuable and desirable if one is to keep up their skills. But every single one? I think not. Myself, I spend lots of my paddling time going over basic strokes and the like, however, I spend most of it just paddling. You know, the messing around in boats thing. Sometimes I go out on the big lake and sit with my back to the city and just float and bob and forget there is a stinky, noisy city back there. I sit there and see nothing but water and sky and, sometimes, just for a moment, I experience the joy I knew as a child at play.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Walking Wounded
I remember from my marathon running days the many discussions and problems we had about injuries. There were shin splints and pulled ham strings, to mention a few, and we all tried to keep running in spite of them. This, in turn, led to discussions along a common theme: did we become marathoners because we don't feel pain as much as most others OR did we feel less pain because we were marathon runners? We never resolved the argument, but I do wonder if the same isn't true of kayakers.

Injuries in athletes are usually due to one of two causes. Sometimes there is trauma at the root of the problem. These types of injuries are more common in contact sports such as football and, to be sure, boxing. Marathoners and paddlers, on the other hand, get their aches and pains from over use. These sports, with their endless repetitions of movement, wear out our parts more slowly but just as assuredly.
Just now, I have several aches and pains from paddling that I have not allowed to keep me off the water. In fact, it was not until I took my recent vacation that I realized how much some of them hurt. For instance, I have pain at the joints in my hands where the thumbs join the hand. This, I am told by my orthopedic colleagues, is a common problem among many laborers and one that used to be treated by fusing the joint. In my case, a one-time cortisone injection has been recommended. Still, I wonder how I will need to alter my hand positions in order to avoid a recurrence. More importantly, what am I doing wrong that has led to the condition? But I have really digressed.

to get back on track, we need to be aware of these over use pains as they are trying to tell us something. More over, if we ignore them we will eventually break down on some level. In addition, we can look forward to some arthritic changes to eventually attack those tortured joints. Having said all that, I know that most of us will push on and continue, in spite of the best advise, to paddle through our injuries. What the heck, there are only so many paddle days in a life time.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

This may surprise you, but I hate to travel. Loathe it...if it is by plane or train. I do like automobiles for reasons that we don't have to go over now. Thing is, I hate packing, doing the airport thing and meeting schedules. On the other hand, blood is thicker than water...and I would walk through fire for the little guy in the window.
This trip to Disney was to celebrate Lady Linda's 60th birthday, so we all gathered at her favorite place (interesting from a psychiatric standpoint, don't you think)? As we all knew going in, she wasn't going to be the center of attention. Our grandson had that role in the bag.

Lady Linda and I, along with Grandma and an honory aunt and uncle, spent most of the time with him so his parents could have a little vacation of their own. There were, of course, time for the three of them to be together. After all, they're family.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hanging with the rat!

At Disney in Florida with family. The weather is here, wish you were fine. Back Monday.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Scattered To The Wind
Fluffy clouds and high winds descended on the Milwaukee River near downtown Milwaukee where I was helping out with a kayak class yesterday. I knew it would be my last day on the water as the family is leaving to see the rat down in Florida.

So, I shall be off the water and, some days, away from this page as Lady Linda, our two daughters (one pregnant), two son in laws, honorary son, mother in law and one grandson do Disney. I suppose I will, contrary to the Geneva Conference rules on torture, have to go on It's a small world after all ride. Never been? Don't.

Talk at you later
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Different Kind of Day
Doug and I went out yesterday with me in one of his boats. It was hot, and the wind was still. We paddled out a ways and got about the business of rolling. When I roll a new (for me) boat, I use a Greenland stick because it allows me to roll slowly and get a feel for how the boat comes around. Well, it didn't feel good, and I thought I was working way too hard to carry off the roll.
So I inserted my portable (closed cell foam) Masik which I carry and moved the pegs up a notch or two. It was no better. I realized that the problem (and I have found this in many of the newer boats) was that the braces were over my knees. That put all the force out at the end of a long level and made for hard work.
So, we moved the pegs further away to allow me to slide forward on the seat. A few ratchets of the back band and I had thigh braces. I felt locked in. I took my Euro blade and hit all my rolls. I had not thought about moving myself under the braces before although it now seems so obvious.
It was a different kind of day and well worth while.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Teaching Moment

A teaching moment usually refers to turning a mishap into a teaching piece. For instance, you are showing an introductory class the forward stroke when one of the students tips over. You, in turn, make the mishap a teaching moment by smoothly transitioning into teaching a T-rescue. This picture, that JB snapped on the last day of the Grand Marais symposium, reminded of a twist on this concept.

The day before, I had watched an instructor work with this young lady for 45 minutes in an effort to teach her a sweep roll. I had already seen her do an excellent C-C roll, but she wasn't getting the sweep...and, I knew she wasn't about to. In my judgment, she was being shown the wrong hand and arm movements. Miracles of miracles, I held my tongue.

The next day (Sunday) was skills buffet, and most of us were busy filling Ala Cart requests from students. I was tired and about to pack it in when I saw her on the beach. I approached, explained what I had seen and thought and offered her 10 minutes if she wished to work on her sweep roll.

She grabbed a demo boat, borrowed a paddle (she was carrying a Greenland stick) and we got her onto the water. It took about 30 seconds of explanation and 2 minutes more of going through the motions and, AHA, she had an excellent sweep roll. I complemented her and thanked her for the chance to work with her. As I left, I heard her tell a friend that, "...that guy actually sought me out to do a roll." Great way to finish up the weekend...and trip.

Paddle safe...


Monday, August 04, 2008

Just Another Day
At least that was what it looked like when I went to paddle of Montrose Beach in Chicago. Just a bunch of folks in the water, some swimming, some wading and one guy paddling. It wasn't until the paddler on the sit atop came to shore and folks rushed to help him that I realized he was an adaptive paddler. Looking around, I saw the others, sitting in outrigger kayaks and arm paddling as best they could.
I was filled with a mixture of emotions as I watched them go from wheelchairs to boats to wheelchairs. After a bit, I wasn't sure which impressed me more. The paddlers or the folks who had taken the day to help them out.
I noticed that Dave (standing on the far right), of Chicago Kayak, and his fellow workers were hustling to keep the pfds, paddles and boats available. What a great service. What a great day. At the end, Mother Nature showed her approval. It is so easy for the rest of us. The least we can do is... Paddle safe...

Friday, August 01, 2008


Up to a few hours ago, Google had a block on this blog. Apparently it's automatic soft ware detected a pattern suggesting it was an automated spam blog. I assure you, here and now, that this crap is hand crafted my artisans in a small village along the shores of Lake Michigan.

I clicked on the request for a review and, sometime today, they set me free to do what I do all over you. As I am not terribly creative this time of day (I usually blog early in the morning, before I can begin to think), I will call it a week. I am teaching this weekend and paddling with friends.

Paddle safe...