Do you wince at the thought of paddling inches away from a sandstone cliff?  Do you cringe at the idea of running a gap between 2 boulders?  Do you hyperventilate when someone suggests paddling into a sea cave?  Then you have Rock Intimacy issues.

Let the highly trained Rock Intimacy Counselors at The Gales Storm Gathering help you overcome your Rock Intimacy issues.  We know many paddlers that only see the rocks along the shore of Grand island from a hundred yards out.  They are missing out on that close personal contact that the rocks are longing to give.

Don’t be a rock fearer, be a rock lover. Our Rock Intimacy Counselors (RICs) will gently guide you through a progression of activities to develop your kayak confidence and control  so you will soon be lovingly approaching sandstone, granite and cobble as if they were long lost sweethearts.

the gales storm gathering sea cave paddling

In sea caves our RICs will help you feel happy going into the caves, maneuvering in them, and performing towing and assisted rescues in them.

the gales storm gathering rock paddling

Follow the leader, getting as close to the rock wall as you can, even paddling on only 1 side of the boat so as to get that much closer.

the gales storm gathering rocks and waves

It’s also not just about the rocks themselves but about the water AND the rocks working in unison

the gales storm gathering waterfall shower

If the rock intimacy becomes too much for you, a cold shower is always offered by Grand Island

Register for the Gales Storm Gathering NOW and take advantage of our Rock Intimacy Counseling


What we love to teach – Fun and Rough Water – Alec Bloyd-Peshkin

“You must be crazy!” That’s the response I sometimes get when I have been out
paddling on a particularly rough day.

That’s not how it strikes me. I have worked to hone my boat control and rescue
skills, leadership , and knowledge of the environment and weather; for me, going
out on a rough day is fun, and I like to make it fun for my students as well.

Having fun when you are paddling allows you to relax and perform better. When I

coach students in rough conditions, I start by working on the skills they need to be
safe and in control. But I really enjoy setting up activities that promote the kind of
unconscious paddling they have already achieved in less dynamic conditions. This
can be as simple as sitting relaxed in your boat to see how little active effort it takes
to stay upright as waves roll by (you may be surprised by how much staying loose
in your hips reduces your need for support strokes) or seeing how much of an edge
you can paddle with in bouncy conditions. These aren’t new skills for most folks,
but often they haven’t tried them out in advanced conditions.

When you realize that a large part of paddling in rough conditions is trusting the
skills you have, then you have taken a large step towards being a competent paddler
in rough water. And you will have more fun.

What I love to teach: Comfort in Conditions
– Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin
When the wind blows and the waves build, do you get a knot in your stomach? Do you lose your edge—literally—because you’re afraid you’ll go right over? And yet, are you eager to get out in wind and waves and enjoy them?

If you’ve got good boat control on sheltered water, there’s really no reason you can’t handle wind and waves, but you probably need to take it a little bit more slowly than your gonzo friends. There are classes for you at this symposium, too.

Experience is the best teacher, so I try to make those experiences positive. We might start by playing in the “soup” near the beach, seeing how much support we get simply by paddling with good form, making sure we immerse our entire blade with every stroke. Then we might move out and paddle parallel to the beach in small breaking waves, practicing our low braces and occasionally letting the waves push us sideways all the way in. We might practice effective launching (getting out before we get broached) and safe landing (ensuring that we are never between our boats and the beach). Eventually, we might break out through smaller surf and get comfortable turning in waves, then surf or deliberately not surf on the way back in. Or we might take a break, drink some hot tea and see what we can learn from watching the waves and the people who are paddling in them.

Everybody has his or her own pace and destination, both in paddling and learning. I love working with people who want to build up their skill and confidence gradually because each step is hugely rewarding for them as students as well as for me as a coach.

Tom Crosses the eddyline of the Reversing Falls of Cobscook Bay Tidal Race

From the Course Description:

“Long Boats in Current 1 & 2 – Prepare yourself to paddle in British Columbia’s “Skooks”, Wales’ “Penhryn Mawr” or the Bay of Fundy’s “Reversing Falls’”! Long Boats in Current focuses on the fun that sea kayaks can have in current! LBC1 will introduce sea paddlers to turning on eddlylines, ferry crossings and attaining from eddy to eddy. LBC2 will focus on play in current as we surf standing waves and holes, and move to areas of more significant flow. This course takes place on the Menominee River.”

As organizers of a Great Lakes rough water event, we needed a back-up plan. What if the sea (lake) goes flat for a day, or even two? If it happens on the ocean (which it does..although you’re not likely to ever hear that from any of our east or west coast paddling brethren) it can happen on Lake Superior, even in October. An hour and a half south of the Marquette is the Menominee River. This class II-III whitewater river is suitable (safe) for sea kayaks to play on and learn skills for paddling in significant currents.  It also give us rough water to play and learn in if the sea were to go flat.

More than a back-up plan for a lack of conditions, learning and improving your boat handling skills in current is one of the major factors in becoming an advanced and proficient sea paddler. Special skills are needed for paddling in these conditions, evident by the fact that all major paddlesport bodies include these skills in the upper level certifications. BCU 4* & 5*, ACA L4 and L5 and Paddle Canada 3 & 4 certifications require candidates to show proficiency in handling their boats in tidal current.  This leaves us Great Lakes Paddlers (as well as ocean paddlers in areas like southern California, many areas in the southeastern US and the Gulf of Mexico) in a bit of a conundrum. Without races, rips and overfalls at our “beckon call”, how do we learn, practice and master these skills without considerable costs in travel? Even if we are well-travelled paddlers, what about a little practice time between jaunts to tidal areas?  Some whitewater experience helps, but it’s not the same and you may or may not want to invest time/energy into another sport. The best answer that we’ve come up with is to play in sea kayaks in Class II-III whitewater.

Whitewater currents are created by gradient, the loss of elevation along the river. The steeper the gradient, the more powerful and technical the whitewater. Ocean currents are created by the tide. The larger the tidal range, the faster, more powerful and technical the currents and features. Beyond differing causality there are major differences in the currents themselves. Tidal currents constantly change as the current goes from slack to max and back to slack again (and then turns and go the opposite direction as ebb changes to flood). Whitewater currents stay relatively constant with the only changes due to rising or falling water levels.  Tidal current features are significantly effected or amplified by wind and ocean swell, whereas these environmental factors do not really effect whitewater. Though these are significant differences, there are many similarities when you’re paddling sea kayaks in both environments. Eddylines, standing waves and pour-overs are found in both tidal and gradient-inspire currents. How you handle your boat in these features is not much different as well. Boat speed and position, angle of approach and edging are basically the same. Eddy turns, peel-outs, attainments and ferry glide maneuvers are basically the same. The ability to surf a standing wave on a whitewater river transfers directly to surfing a standing wave at an overfall.

In 2010, Geneva Kayak offered a expedition on the coast of Downeast Maine and New Brunswick. During the expedition, we spent a day at the Reversing Falls of Cobscook Bay tidal races. Three of the six expedition members had taken our long boats in current trainings on the Menominee River while the remaining three had not.  It was amazing to see proficiency level differences between the two groups. Those with the Menominee River experience were able to transfer those skills to the new environment instantaneously…having a lot of fun playing in the currents and moving their boats around with ease. Though the other three were talented paddlers, this new environment caused many tightly gripped paddles, rescues and some shaky boats!

Two courses will be offered on the Menominee River at the Gales Storm Gathering. Long Boats in Current 1 will focus on developing the basics of handling our boats in current while Long Boats in Current 2 will work on refinement of these skills and play! It is recommended to bring a poly boat on these courses.

More Efficiency Equals More Fun – Scott Fairty

Being an efficient paddler is about two things; using the environment to your advantage and applying the right amount of power at the right time.

When I was just beginning my paddling career, I had the very good fortune to have trained with Linda Harrison, a whitewater paddler and slalom racer (she won a bronze medal at both the ’77 and ’79 World Championships). We were working on ferrying across a particularly swift current, each of the students windmilling their way across using dozens of strokes to make the move. Linda slides out and makes it in 2.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out that if you could make that ferry and others like it, in 2 strokes and not 20, you’d be a whole lot less tired at the end of the day (or make 10 of those moves with the same energy we were using to make just one). So began my quest to become the most efficient paddler I could be.

There are lots of ways we can quantify our relative efficiency. Counting strokes, like I did with Linda, is one of the most common.  Paddlers are often surprised when they discover they are able to make the same move with half as many strokes. Self-imposed (or coach imposed) limits on the number of strokes you can use to perform a particular maneuver forces you to really think about each stroke and plan for its maximum usefulness. It can become a game similar to the old “Name That Tune” show; Jim says “I can make that ferry in 4 strokes” Dave Says “I can make that ferry in 3 strokes” Jim says “Dave, make that ferry!”

A similar concept is the “stroke allowance.” You are given an allowance of say 50 strokes to use any way you want and there are 100 yards of rock gardens to play in. Once you’ve used your 50 strokes, you have to leave the rock garden and sit and observe the rest of the group. Some paddlers will blow through their allowance in a couple of minutes while others will take 10. Most of us tend to take more strokes than are necessary to do what we want to do, placing an artificial limit on those strokes forces us to get the most out of each one because we don’t have an unlimited supply.

If you want to have the most fun on the water and derive the most satisfaction from it, it pays to plan your maneuvers, to utilize paths of least resistance, and to make the most of every stroke you take.

Tom Navigates through the pea soup on the coast of Grand Manaan Island in New Brunswick. This island is in the Bay of Fundy and sea kayakers must deal with fog, a tidal range of 26 feet and complex currents. Learn how to deal with these type of conditions during our OW Navigation Workshop

From the Course Description:

“Open Water Navigation – Take your navigation to the next level with the OW Navigation course. A classroom navigation session will be followed by on-water navigation skills and a navigation challenge!”

Oy vey! Why would anyone want to sit inside working on navigation during the Gales Storm Gathering?  I want to be paddling with my mates and the coaches that are here.  Here’s the answer – “This IS NOT  your normal navigation class!” The coaches are prepared to offer the best nav course  you’ve ever taken, but we have an expectation of you as well. Know the basics. Be familiar with nautical charts and your handheld compass. Know how to plot a bearing on a nautical chart and paddle on that heading using a deck compass.

When paddlers come into the course with this basic knowledge, we can have fun from there! We’ll plan on offering this class when it is bumpy or foggy, or both. Learn how to compensate for current and wind, as well as navigating in limited visibility conditions.  Paddlers should have a nautical chart of the area, deck compass and handheld compass.  We will be on the water most of the day!

Each coach has a particular schtick, or thing that they like to teach students. Sometimes it is just a subtle approach to a common topic, like t-rescues, or positioning strokes, something that they were probably given by another really good coach.

This series What We Love to teach from the Gales coaches will outline what each coach loves to teach. Often there are things that coaches have to teach to make students effective. And then there are things they love to give students because it is what makes us love this sport. This is what we hope will make the Gales special, we will be teaching the sport of kayaking, not the past-time of kayaking. We hope the enthusiasm for the topics will shine through.

So in order to kick things off properly I thought I would kick things off with one of my favorite topics.

Body Trim in the Kayak
I love this topic because once you’ve got textured water you can really demonstrate to students how important their weight, posture, and seating position affect how the boat performs when it is planing over water rather than displacing water. This is actually true for both sea kayaking and surf kayaking, which is pretty cool. To be fair, it is also about how you position yourself in your boat to get it to plane, especially in smaller waves. This lesson applies primarily to moving ocean waves, or waves on the Great Lakes.

Catching Waves
The first exercise for catching waves somewhere between three-five feet in height, (waist to shoulder high) is to try to position yourself in a non-critical part of the break,( but still where it is breaking) and stay leaning forward the whole time, and paddle for waves. Next lean back and try paddling for waves. And last, try pivoting between upright, back as the wave picks up the stern, and forward as the kayak begins to plane. What most students will observe is that they felt that the tail of the kayak caught the wave better leaning back, but stalled out while planing downwave. Leaning forward made it harder to catch initially, but planing downwave was much more effective.  The most effective should be leaning back to weight the stern, and once the kayak starts downwave, leaning forward to drive speed forward.

We all do this instinctively while surfing sea kayaks when we lean back to stall the kayak, and stop it from pearling, and thus endoing. This is especially fun in surf kayaks that require you to lean forward once the stern has caught. Driving your head forward drives speed over the hull, and allows the kayak to really begin planing.

Your mileage may vary based on how your kayak fit. For instance, a high volume sea kayak with a small person in it, will have difficulty leaning back to weight the stern.

This is a small example of what I really love to teach, and what I would have students do to try and work on surfing waves on Lake Superior.

One look at symposium site on Google Maps will tell you there are rocks!

From the Course Description:

“Rock Gardening – When swell meets rock, the fun begins! “Keep one eye to the sea”, choose your wave, time it up and surf on through that slot! Coaches will work with paddlers on “reading water”, acceleration and boat control in the gardens.”

Rocks, plus fiberglass sea kayaks, plus people, usually does not equal a happy ending! So why head to the rocks for a play? First, being able to read water and control your boat in the rocks may allow you to travel in areas where you get reprieve from wind or tide. Second, learning to handle your boat in tight spaces is not an arbitrary exercise in steering, you really get to put your skills to use! Third, it’s fun and exciting! Waves stack up, bounce off cliffs and break on reefs. Progressing from simple survival, to control and utilization of these conditions, gives the paddler real flexibility as to where they can paddle in conditions.

So what does this course actually look like?  Of course it all depends on conditions, but coaches will work with small groups of paddlers in some of the rocky offshore islands surrounding Middle Bay or along the shore on the north and east sides of Presque Isle point.  The first step is reading the water in the area you’d like to paddle through. Judging waves size, where it’s breaking or staying green, and “keeping an eye to the sea” are all parts of reading water. We’ll look at wave selection as well as combining acceleration strokes and timing on your take off.  Edging your boat, body positioning and using a range of strokes will help us excel in the gardens.