When I left my house in Oregon to drive down to the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium last week it was snowing—all the way to Shasta Lake. Bad omen. Then it rained cats and dogs all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the Bay Area. Frankly, I was worried. Worried that I would get hypothermia in my wetsuit while teaching an all-day class on advanced rock gardening in pouring rain. I kicked myself, saying, “Cheapskate! Why didn’t you buy a stinkin’ drysuit?”
By the time I got to the Marin Headlands hostel on Saturday evening, the rain had subsided. I was grateful. The weather report called for sunny skies on Sunday, the day of the class. I was praying that just this once the weather guys would be right.
Tsunami Rangers Retrospective Slide Presentation
The first thing I noticed at the hostel was that everyone was upbeat—even after two or more days of kayaking in the rain. That buoyed my spirits. After we watched an amazing slide show on orca and humpback whales, it was my turn to talk. I showed old and new surf and rock action photos, recited the history of the Tsunami Rangers, and gave credit to Steve Sinclair and Force Ten for encouraging us to really go for it on the ocean back in 1984. I was happy to discover that in the audience was a new ocean whitewater kayaking team—the Hurricane Riders.
Wending through the three phases of the Tsunami Rangers, I was encouraged by an enthusiastic audience who helped me get into the zone. Out spewed never before told stories of Reg Lake putting me back in my slalom kayak in the Bolinas surf before the next wave hit me in 1986 (phase one), and of Michael Powers crawling around our rocky camp at Big Sur last summer because of his bum knees (phase three). It was a fun show for me. The theme? “Don’t paddle where it looks good but feels bad; but rather, paddle where it looks bad but feels good.”
Advanced Rock Garden Class
Sunday morning Steve King (who took the onwater photos here), John Lull, and I drove into Horseshoe Cove in Sausalito at 0830 for the photo op—I mean the opportunity to help teach the advanced rock garden class. Even though the weatherman came through and delivered a sunny (but cold) morning, I anguished over the safety of the students. I wanted to launch from Rodeo Beach at the west end of the Marin Headlands, since I knew the area well, but wasn’t sure the students (who I knew nothing about) could handle five-foot surf and rocks at the same time. John convinced me to launch at protected Horseshoe Cove with the other classes and scoot around the Golden Gate Bridge to Kirby Cove, where we’d get good rock action. Since I had never been to Kirby Cove, I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
Fortunately, John and I were joined by five great instructors, and everything clicked into place. We all made it under the bridge against the incoming tidal stream and landed at Kirby Cove to discuss the itinerary. We split into two teams and spent the morning paddling around rocks, led by John and Roger Schumann. Gregg Berman then took the entire class a half mile farther west to Black Sand Beach, where we crash landed in small but dumping surf and wolfed down a skimpy lunch.
As time was of the essence (the tide would strongly ebb at 1530), we needed to get back on the water and under the bridge while we could. We divvied up into three pods. John and I would leave first with anyone who wanted to cruise back and practice basic skills here and there. We were the A Team. Yeah. Deb Volturno and Jeff Laxier commanded the B Group, and they planned to play a bit more on the way back. Paul Kuthe, Gregg, and Roger were in charge of F Troop, whose mission was to maximize rock garden fun on the return trip.
At the agreed upon rendezvous time, A Team arrived at Kirby Cove and practiced positioning at a perfect little teaching rock in the surge. Deb and Jeff’s pod joined us and also worked on skill development. It was very rewarding to both help students myself and watch other instructors do the same.
Fifteen minutes later, fun-loving F Troop had not yet arrived at Kirby Cove. Jeff, Deb, John and I made an executive decision to boogie under the bridge and wait for F Troop in the sheltered waters of Horseshoe Cove. We battled the strong ebb current before it really started cranking and made it to safety at 1510. Twenty minutes later the F Troopers rounded the corner just in time and everyone was back, safe and sound.
As we left the symposium, John and I both agreed it was a huge success. In addition to sharing a quality rock garden class with keenly motivated students and giving a well-received show, I received a bonus reward by meeting up again with my hero Reg Lake and many other fine people. I thank organizers Sean Morley and Matt Palmariello for putting on a great symposium—in the middle of winter!
No doubt next year’s GGSKS will be just as rewarding, so mark your calendars.
Please feel free to add to (or correct) my recollections by pushing the “comment” button below this post. I would love to read the thoughts and feelings of fellow teachers and students about their GGSKS symposium experience.