Saturday, July 27, 2013

Practice, Practice, Practice

All the major coaches were at the dude ranch this morning. There was a lot on the schedule - a river trip, a trip to the Statue of Liberty, a kayak class, an SUP class. However, clients failed to materialize for half of these activities, and so I was nicked by one of the senior coaches for a practice trip to Morris Canal.

The highlights? As usual, a bit of role-play,with me as the trip leader bringing across two paddlers at the top of my ability to teach. I caught some major helicopter prop wash, which was awesome. I paddled deep into the Morris Canal, and got some clarification on some stern rudder techniques and cros-bow rudder practice - not to mention tips on group management, trip leading, and finding lessons to teach on the way.

The key point to the first is that as a coach, or instructor, I have to tailor my style to my students' abilities. Most of my instruction has been to new paddlers, but dealing with somewhat experienced paddlers is a completely different style. There's less micro-management, and the teachable moments are completely different.

As far as the prop wash goes: there is a helicopter landing pad on the waterfront, in front of the Goldman Sachs building (appropriately enough). It's possible to paddle underneath that pier, which is topped with what is more or less just a metal grate, which allows air to flow. Our lead coach led us underneath, to a choppy area he likes to practice in, and I was passing directly below the landing platform right as a helicopter came in. Oh my God, it was like five seconds of intense weathercocking - all of a sudden my boat was being pushing sideways and downwards. I actually edged towards the spray, and when I came out, my left side was soaked and my right side was dry. It was an intense experience.

In the canal, we talked a bit about traffic, and did some more lessons and learning. We went back behind the marina, to where it becomes marsh before hitting a dead end. We paddled back and took a break for lunch.

We did have one client, a woman who had bought a boat and some kit but did not have a lot of experience. We took turns teaching and demonstrating techniques. I learned a little how to make kayaking seem fun. By the end though, the other assistant and I were practicing rolling and rescues. Turns out my forward sweep rolle is better than I thought.

It all flows out to the sea.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Well buckaroos, it's been a while. The cowgirl took a couple of weeks off for a well-deserved vacation, before coming back to NYC and diving right into a certification course.

Why get certified? I've known plenty of paddlers who are really good, yet are not formally certified, or who once were but let it slip by. I've also known some people who were certified, but who did not really know what they were doing. Out on the trail, it's the skills and not the paper that will keep you upright and headed in the right direction.

That said, there is something to formal instruction. I've been fortunate to have a variety of coaches in a variety of settings. There is a distinct difference in the experience of a structured learning approach as opposed to some  talented cowhand showing you some rope tricks. The latter is good for working on specific skills, while the former, done well, ties it all together.

I enjoy sharing knowledge and experience. While I consider myself an intermediate paddler, there are people who come to me for tips and advice. It's hard not to mimic my own coaches and pass down the oral traditions I have received.

Thus, it is with more than a little pride that I can say I passed an introductory coaching exam. I passed a Level 2 ACA Coastal Kayaking Instructor exam. There's some paperwork to go through, and I'm being careful about doing more teaching than assessing, but it's nice to say that after two full weekends, not to mention the cumulative experience of the past eight years and my various coaches, I'm finally certified to teach the sport I love.