Mentoring is the best way to teach a newbie how to sea kayak. But many beginners and even advanced paddlers don’t have the luxury of a knight to patiently teach them all they know about sea kayaking. Or even if you have a mentor, you may still wish to learn something your mentor doesn’t know. The best way to learn a new kayaking skill is on the water with a teacher. A class is a suitable way to do this—and you get the added benefit of learning from someone new with a unique teaching style.
A Sea Kayaking Class for Beginners
In my opinion, all beginning sea kayakers should take an Introduction to Sea Kayaking class before they ever go out on their own. This way they can find out if they even like the sport and will also learn rudimentary skills and safety considerations. In general, on their first time on the water, novices should not rent equipment from an outfitter and go out unescorted. This would be like jumping on a bob sled and zooming down the hill. Though you have never been on a bob sled, you’ll go downhill fast, but how will you stop? When you fly off the track and hit a tree? Not the ideal first experience. Equally bad things can happen while kayaking, so don’t sally out with a pod of kayaking virgins. Instead, take the greenhorn class. You’ll be glad you did. These classes are available from professional trainers, kayaking clubs, and at sea kayaking conferences.
Sea Kayaking Classes for Intermediate Paddlers
After the intro class and a few dozen times on the water, a student should up the ante and acquire more knowledge and skill. Now it’s time to take a Stroke Clinic. My wife took this class from Olympic gold medalist Greg Barton a few years ago, and she then paddled twice as fast with twice the efficiency.
Other good classes to take as you become more proficient: Navigation, Bracing, Rolling, and Rescues. I took a Knot Tying class years ago and have tied good knots thousands of times since. An intermediate paddler could also take classes in How to Paddle in the Bay, Paddling With and Against the Wind, and Paddling in Tide Rips.
Sea Kayaking Classes for Advanced Paddlers
After months or years of paddling, you may wish to branch out into more advanced skills. You may wish to take classes in Surf Ski Racing, Expedition Planning, Storm Paddling, Surfing, and Kayaking in Ocean Rock Gardens.
Last week, Deb Volturno and I taught a one-day advanced class called Paddling the Open Coast (for more details on what the class entailed, link here: https://tsunamirangers.com/2011/05/30/tsunami-rangers-rock-garden-class-in-august-learn-to-kayak-the-open-coast/). Our students practiced scouting, swimmer rescues, kayak surfing, and basic rock garden paddling techniques. Deb and I felt that they all improved significantly as the day progressed. Luckily, it was an easy day with small surf and no wind, and that helped build their confidence and skills. We only offer this class once or twice a year, so stay tuned to this website for the next scheduled course.
As an aside, teachers learn just as much as their students. After the class last week, while we treated them to a surprise abalone feast, our students told us that we spent too much time scouting and not enough time on the water, they loved the swimmer rescue drills, and they wanted to do more rock garden paddling. Whew! That tells me that next year we’ll go back to our two-day format so students can take away even more knowledge and skills.
I did not list every sea kayaking class that’s out there. What did I miss? Tell us about the most beneficial classes you have taken. If you are an advanced paddler, please describe the classes you teach, and share your teaching philosophy. Just push on the COMMENT button below and go for it.