Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Trains, planes and automobiles
I did a seminar in Atlanta this past weekend. Flew in on Friday, talked all day Saturday and flew home Sunday. Sounds straight forward enough; but, for me, some of it was a hell. The flying part was the antithesis of everything I love about paddling.

To begin, I had no control over anything. We sat in the Milwaukee airport for two hours waiting for a storm in Atlanta to clear. When we finally got there, I was faced with a hike (not a walk) down a terminal longer than some towns in my state. Then there was a ride down an escalator which had a drop of about 90 degrees. Are we there yet? Not likely.

Onto a train I went and began a journey that had more stops than Amtrak has between here and Chicago. Off the train and up another 90 degree escalator before taking a mini hike to the baggage area. I'll skip the comedy act of locating the (not free) hotel van outside.

The trip back was lightened only by the camaraderie of other passengers as we sat through delay after delay while waiting for the plane. Nothing (except my well-honed seminar) went on time. I didn't even get to camp out (hotels...that's for another day).

Instead of all this self-imposed torture, I would have rather been rolling out of a tent (with a 6" self-inflatable mattress) along the shore of a large body of water. I would rather have decided when and if to leave and which route I would take. I would have my kayak lying right there, pre- flighted and ready to go when the urge struck. A few bars would have been better than the crappy cookies on the plane, and I could have changed directions as the muse directed.

Now, I am looking forward to the summer and wondering how on earth I can get to Seattle, San Francisco, Baltimore and New York by kayak.

Paddle safe...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dam It All
a damsel in distress
No, this is not a drowning girl who has had too much plastic surgery. The doll is, however, part of what I believe to have been one of the more effective demos at Canoecopia
This simple tank, sitting in the main hallway, eloquently demonstrated the dangers of going over head dams (which are aplenty around our state).
Standing off to the side, one easily sees what the boater headed down stream does not. Lurking beneath the surface is the hole, or dynamic flow that can easily trap a boat and/or person long enough to cause drowning.

The set up was simple, the message obvious and effective. So....

Paddle Safe...

Friday, March 27, 2009

and his
Little Toy Boats
It was my good fortune to host the room when Steve was giving his little toy boat show at this year's Canoecopia. It was the second time I'd witnessed this presentation having heard him at last years Door County Sea Kayak Symposium. My interest in this sort of thing had grown out of 30+ years of sailing big boats on Lake Michigan.

Sailors, as a group, are generally (in my judgment) more knowledgeable about hull design than most other boaters. Understanding the dynamics of a displacement hull v. a go fast stink pot is the foundation for many on deck and around the bar discussions among sailors. So, it was with great interest, that I listened to Steve's presentation.

Using little hulls and seas, all made of what appeared to be closed cell something or other, Steve made clear the differences in hulls, their motions and how they each respond to different seas. The little models, and Steve's good humor, made for an easy to understand explanation of what can be a boring and heavy topic. If you are at another boat happening and see Steve on the list of presenters, get yourself over there.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If a Tree Falls In a Forest...

...and no one is there, does it make a sound? That's an age-old philosophical question that has made for much lively debate. But, let me ask you, if there is a thing of beauty in the woods and no one sees it, is it beautiful? After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so they say. If something is out there, it is just there. It isn't until someone discovers it, recognizes it for what it is and declares it to be beautiful.

I want to believe that there are an infinite number of things waiting somewhere for me to find, appreciate and declare beautiful...to me. In fact, I do believe these things exist, and that they exist everywhere. It isn't, you see, just a matter of discovering something, but taking the moment and having the eye to appreciate its beauty, no matter how mundane the object might be.

It may be a series of lines, even man-made ones, that draws one's eye. Often it is the splash of
color or the delicate petals of a flower that catches one's eye and makes that person pause to look and declare, that is beautiful. To make the leap, one of my great joys in kayaking is to just look and wait and discover one beautiful image after another. And, if I am lucky, I sometimes catch it with my camera.

Okay, so sometimes it is more amusing than beautiful.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Das Machine
This isn't a new concept to us in Milwaukee. Our local racing guru, Gary Simon, long ago had a Concept II rowing machine adapted to a kayak paddling machine and has used it ever since. Someone out there must think there is a decent market for this sort of thing and that paddlers are willing to pay the price of a kayak to paddle on dry land.
This particular model also appeals to the currently-in-vogue madness towards video games and includes a TV showing you and the competition racing down a water way. The fan is adjustable to vary resistance and it does feel pretty much like paddling an actual kayak.
This won't belong in your garage however, and you will need an area that allows for swinging the potentially lethal shaft from side to side.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Perfect boat
Let's see, there is the perfect boat, the perfect mate and a pot of gold under the rainbow. So far, I've only found the second and have never looked for the third. Like many of you, however, I seek far and wide the perfect boat.

That's why I was out in the Force 4 on Sunday. I was looking for my next perfect boat. Of course my Romany is a perfect boat...for teaching and short paddles. It handles almost like a skin on frame and turns as much on a dime as any hull I've been in. The perfect boat I seek now is one between 17 and 50 feet in length. It will go from zero to sixty in two, at the most three, strokes and will track like a bullet train (and carve a tight circle with a nuance of edge). It will behave equally well in tumultuous waves as it does on glassy smooth waters. Of course, it will surf as well as anything out there and roll with the twitch of my quadriceps. Oh yes, it will be light and amazingly low-priced.

If you have such a boat for sale, please contact me. But first, you will need to explain to me why you are selling it Unless, of course, you have found a more perfect boat.

Paddle safe...


Monday, March 23, 2009

Here We Go
Time to think symposium(s). We did get onto the water yesterday, and some of us (okay, me) felt the rust. After such a poor winter season, during which we hardly could access the big lake, I didn't have the guns to power the Force 4 I was test paddling. There I was in a boat with a water line 10x that of my Romany (okay, 2 feet longer), and I had a tough time trying to keep up with the group. Something didn't feel right, and I believe it is time to let a real doctor check me out. Not to worry. There is time to rebuild the aerobic base. Besides, all the skills are still intact.

In any event, it is time to think about the notable events that will take place this spring and summer beginning with the Inland Sea Kayak Symposium up near the Apostle Islands (Lake Superior, or, as the natives call her, Gitcheegumee). In addition to all the usual lessons and demos and vendors, there will be short visits to some spectacular scenery. And, oh yes, Nigel Dennis is expected to attend.

It was only at Canoecopia that some of us learned from Honcho Gail that the ND of NDK boats will be giving an on land and on water set of lessons for certified instructors...for free. I ask you, does it get any better than that? I envision how proud he will be to see that I continue to paddle Brian Day's old Romany.

So, job nuber 1 is to getthe old bod checked out, and to get out onto the water andgradually extend my paddling times. Join me.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Clever name
Simple concept
Here's a new twist on keeping your hat on. Unlike clips at the back of the neck, this sucker keeps the hat on in the first place. Called CapSurz, it is available in different styles at capsurz.com
I thought is was great that in these economic times folks are still coming out with new ideas.

Paddle safe...

Friday, March 20, 2009


At the bottom of all my e mails is a permanent "signature" the reads, Teaching is my passion. For me, teaching, i.e., passing on your knowledge and skills, is a high calling and a skill to be honed. It is not surprising, then, that I admire great teachers in all fields. I especially love to see new, innovative techniques used for good teaching. It is not surprising, then, that I requested to be a host in the room where folks like Danny Mongo (see previous blogs) and Ben Lawry were to present.

Ben has developed his "dry land paddling" sessions to a fine art by which he vividly demonstrates how it is the lower body, and not the paddle, that "rolls" a boat up. More over, his 4 P's of paddling is a succinct method of showing how the positions of the sits bones (I. Tuberosities), legs, chest and arms are crucial to good balance and sustainable paddling. From the picture above, you can see that Ben had the audience, and himself, on the edges of their seats.

In talking with Ben, I sensed that he thought the talks may have "run their course" in that everyone has either seen his DVD's or been to one of his presentations. Maybe so, but this material is worth more than one go around, and I always pick up another nuance when I see and hear Ben present. If you don't have any idea about which I speak, you be sure to be there the next time Ben Lawry is on the program.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh Danny Boy
Everyone around here, and I imagine around the USA, knows or knows of Danny Mongo of Werner paddles. Soft spoken in one and one conversations, he is a knowledgeable paddler and a great presenter. I was lucky enough to be hosting the room during one of his presentations on high v. low angle paddling
People were attentively listening as Danny expounded in an easy to understand way the mysteries of the angles. His good humor and thoroughness combined to create a simple yet effective lesson. Later in the weekend he also did a white water presentation with all the same skills.
Padle safe...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Canoecopia, as most of you know, is a product of Rutabaga, a paddle shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Within its structure there is the Rutabaga Outdoor Program, or ROP, section which is headed by Nancy, seen above watching one of her crew do a presentation. We call her boss.

A unique mixture of fun, sternness and nuclear energy, she manages to get a fantastic group of folks of all shapes and sizes to make the big show work. Some how, she gets this complex, multifaceted circus to work year after year. Now that it is over, she will begin organizing all sorts of paddling classes and activities for the summer.

If you had watched her at the big show, you would have seen her direct us much like an air flight control manager on an air craft deck manages to get a bunch of jet fighters (low on fuel) safely onto the deck. You would have also seen how readily all of us were willing to follow her and pitch in to get the job done. We affectionately call her Boss. (Nice foot wear, Boss)

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Kids of 'Copia
Where ever there is a crowd (and there is always one at Canoecopia) I love to look for images worth recording. Among those things I see, it is the kids that always draw my attention, especially when they are there with dad and/or mom.
So many of our problems, especially those in schools, seem to start with the families. I see kids in our city who have never seen Lake Michigan let alone a kayak. I see parents all around who are too busy to "play" with their kids. Instead they foist them off to the computer game or T.V. or, worse, the streets.
So, it brings me joy when I see a family doing things together. It brings me joy to see loving parents parenting their children and modeling good behavior.
It reminds of all those Boy Scout camp outs and how my dad was always there with me. These kids are going to have some fine memories and some fine roll models as they grow into the future.

Paddle safe...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Copia...it's in the books
I'm pretty sure all my fellow Midwestern bloggers are talking about Canoecopia. It was, as usual, a well run, interesting and worthwhile event. After being to a few, I spent most of this one hosting speaker rooms and a little time at the Door County Symposium Desk. I did have a little time to shop, but I had already pretty much seen or bought everything I've wanted. In the next few days I will be posting on some interesting (at least to me) tidbits about the show.
Today, however, I'd just like to share some of the visual images that caught my eye. I want to do this because a, I think they're interesting and b, it means I am coming out of my winter slump and "seeing" the world around me once more.
In some areas (like the pool), the light was soft and wonderful.
In some places (the pool, again), the colors were great.

And, everywhere, the kids were delightful. More later.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Going For The Distance...
Or, Not So Much
So Doug and I sat around musing about doing some camping this summer. As I will be teaching on Wednesdays, these would have to be long weekend affairs at the most. My first idea was to set up camp somewhere on the Door County Peninsula, maybe do some short paddles, maybe do an out and back day trip and take lunch along and even spend some days hanging around the campsite while reading and napping a lot. If one of us wanted to paddle and one didn't, fine. A solo paddle is good as well.

Doug, on the other hand, has ideas to set up camp as described and, for a few of the days, trip to one of the islands and set up camp there for a few days. My first thought was, why the hell would I do that?

I was once a marathon runner and loved nothing more than going anywhere for 4-8 miles as a break in my day. That was then. Now, I read of all the circumnavigations to, literally, no where, and I find no interest in doing anything along those lines. I love to paddle, and I love to be on the water. I don't like endless hours, even days, of keeping the island to my right.

I am not attracted to longish paddles unless I am alone and can control the pace or I am with folks who are not out to race. I am also not into racing or living out of my kayak. Let me set up my tent, lay in a little food and water, make sure there is coffee, and let the rest just happen.

There was a time when some of those things would be tempting; but time, loss of flexibility and injuries have changed me. Having been at both ends of this spectrum, I understand others doing it differently than I would. Each to his own. After all, if we are not each thoroughly enjoying the experience, why bother doing it.

Paddle safe...

Monday, March 09, 2009

The 3 Secrets
to becoming
A Perfect Paddler
I first ran across this concept many years ago at the first meeting of a night writing class at a local university. The instructor began with, "There are three secrets to great writing...." The class went on for several weeks during which each of us tried to achieve the holy grail of becoming a great writer. During that time, I noticed something.

A few of the students seemed to have intrinsic skilsl and were writing fairly well right out of the gate. At the end of the series of these classes a few were writing no better than they had on the first night. Most of us, however, had improved, and it was interesting to see our different interests. Some were doing fiction, one stories for children, one science fiction and so on. During our time together, some of the students became very good, maybe excellent, writers. It was as if they had tapped into the 3 secrets.

So it is with kayaking students. Some get it all right off, some never and many slowly but surely master it. Then, some of those excellent paddlers go on to specialize in traditional paddling and rolling, some race and many make long voyages in all sorts of conditions. Watching their progress and seeing how fast and how well some of them get it suggests that they intuitively know the 3 secrets.

Since that first day in writing class, I have observed people in all sorts of pursuit who have magically progressed and learned a skill, a language or what have you. When I talk to them, they are unable to explain exactly how they did it...and made it look so easy. They just shrug when asked and walk away. At such times I am brought back to that first night of writing class when, to paraphrase the instructor, I heard, "There are three secrets to becoming an excellent kayaker, and no one knows what they are."

Paddle safe...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I've Been Here Before
Seemingly endless days, repetative days in a chair working on exams and lectures, little to no exercise, little human contact out side of the home, dreary weather and feeling in a funk. I've been here before. Lot's of times, in fact. Now, however, I understand why.

Once, while going through this, I underwent extensive testing and was found to be neither left, nor right brain dominated. In fact, I was off the scale on both sides. Meaning? I need a balance of intellectual, logical thinking and creative, spontaneous thinking to keep my brain cells happy (a condition, I suspect, that knowingly or not you may have). With little to no kayaking for some time now, little time for photography, etc., I've been living a left brain existence for most of the winter.What I need, and soon, is to get out with the other children and play. It won't be in the next few days, too much to do here in the chair. But, this weekend, it is off to Canoecopia where a lot of old friends will be, where the Midwest kayak bloggers will hang out and where the talk will be about kayaking. I've been there before, as well.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Still A Good Idea

My recent posting regarding writing skills touched many on and off line comments...all well expressed. I have discussed this with other professors and, as I mull over it more, I began thinking about the old way. You know what I mean (if you are 35 or older). There was a time when there was no world wide Web and no e mail. There were long distance calls, but they were expensive and basically for urgent communications. What we did back then was to write letters by hand, sometimes with a type writer (that's a computer without a computer, just a place to type directly onto paper).

Letter writing was an involved process and began with good writing skills. One had to be succinct or too many pages would be produced and postage would be higher. One had to be clear and use just the right adjectives and other words to convey exactly what needed to be said. Then there was addressing an envelope, finding a stamp and locating a mailbox into which the letter was dropped. Then you waited. It might take days for your letter to get there, more days until the receiver posted (in the mail) an answer and more days until it was delivered back to your home. Being such an involved happening, one didn't waste time writing about trivial things.

Taking the time it did, trivial things were left unsaid. More over, there wasn't the embarrassment of dashing off a note (to be later regretted) or hitting a "send" button before rational thinking took over. No, letters were for important matters of the heart and business.

Back then, the arrival of the post man was an important daily event. On those rare days when a letter arrived for just you it was carefully carried inside or to the swing on the front porch. Then there was a delicious delay while the envelope was examined and you let the joy of receiving mail wash over you. Finally, and carefully, the enveloped was opened, the envelope carefully set aside and the letter removed and carefully read. Not once, but many times. The hand written message you held was the most personal of communications. It was important and had been written carefully...just for you. Those were the days.

Those were the days when you mailed in your quarter with some cereal box tops and waited, it seemed for ever, until your secret decoder ring came by return mail. The process often took weeks and was nothing like on line shopping. It was heavenly torture.

Now we have pixels, abbreviations and so much dribble going back and forth that we skim over or just delete most of what's coming to us. Some of us still love the written word or an idea well expressed. If you've read to this point, you just might be one of us.

Paddle safe...


Monday, March 02, 2009

There is a Native American saying that advises, "When you are running to something and you come to a gap in the earth...Jump! It is never as far as it seems." Seems to me, they knew something about risk taking. At the moment, to be clear, I am not thinking of the physical risks we take when we go out on big waters. Right now, I am musing about personal risks that involve our sense of security as far as emotions and money are concerned.

It has been said that falling in love is a risk without a net. In doing so, one exposes themselves to the possibility of being hurt in the deepest emotional sense. When that gut feeling happens, however, most of us jump, make the leap of faith and say those three little words. To be "dumped" in such a situation can lead to the deepest of hurts and even loss of self esteem.

Now men (especially) have a lot of their self esteem tied into who they think they are, and most men think they are their jobs. On top of it all, for them to lose at something financial can be equally painful as losing at love. So it is, in troubled economic times such as these, that we look to the risk takers who are willing to put them selves on the line financially in the hopes of doing some good and making a profit. To many of us, these times may appear as the widest "gap in the earth" we have ever seen; but who, amongst us, will just jump and land on the other side? I'm not going no where with this.

Sherri Mertz (seen teaching...on the right) is a well liked and well respected paddler/instructor in the Milwaukee area. She works at a "Paddle shop" on the river that (in my judgment) wouldn't be half as successful were it not for Sherri's knowledge and abilities. There has, apparently, been a gap in her life, something that was not being filled up (to stretch an analogy). So, the other day, she announced that she was leaving the security of her job, forming an LLC (a type of corporation for out of town readers) and going into the teaching business.

She has used her own money to buy equipment and will soon have a web site up (I will let you know as soon as it is running and put up a link). Now, lest you think this is no small act, remember that she is doing this during the worst economic times in an area known for its limited paddling days. Talk about jumping.

The entruepenarial spirit is alive, and I join many others in wishing Sherri the best.

Paddle safe...