We’re thrilled to welcome Rebecca Merz to the coaching ranks of the Gales as an assistant this year. We’re sure you’ll be as impressed with her skills and insights as we are.

Coaching thought: This past year as a coach I have been really focusing on creating a psychologically and physically safe space for students to learn and challenge themselves in ways that they may not have realized they could. I want to give my students the tools that they need to be safe and competent paddlers at whatever level they aspire to, whether that be the local pond or the open ocean, and I want to instill in my students the excitement and joy that I have for the sport.

Paddling thought: The thing that I love most about paddling is the myriad of ways in which we can experience water, and how we can always find new ways to challenge ourselves. Some of my favorite times on the water this past year have been in my whitewater boat, which is a new discipline for me, and even though I found myself upside down far more often than I would have liked, it really pushed me to learn and grow as a paddler in ways that have been incredibly fun and rewarding.

Don’t be fooled. Trey Rouse may seem like he’s into paddling and coaching, but he’s actually TOTALLY into paddling and coaching.


Coaching thought: What I have been focusing on recently is identifying that key, basic piece that is preventing the completion of the puzzle.Sometimes it can be discovered by reverse engineering the skill and sometimes it lies in fears or anxieties (acknowledged and unknown). THEN, once we identify that key piece, how do we teach it in a way that is learned by the whole body and not just verbally comprehended. There are so many simple components that we as coaches or instructors take for granted that students say they understand, yet are unable to actually apply in the learning environment.

Paddling thought: Something I really found joy in this season was a 6 week training routine I did this spring. I am not one for daily workouts (ok, I hate working out), but I challenged myself to get out on my local river and do an attain on my SUP every morning. The joy came not from better conditioning or water reading skills (that was nice), but the true JOY came from being a PART of the water breathing life into itself. Incremental, yet so powerful. I totally did not see that coming. I was left full, energized and amazed.

Did you know that Chuck Norris’ twin brother, separated at birth, will be coaching at this year’s Gales?

Coaching thought: I’m thinking about enhancing guided discovery by trying out different approaches with different learning styles: how to better have a thinker doing and then analyzing, a watcher doing and seeing how they did, having a doer learning as they do and guiding the feeler doing & learning. What cues, support, directions, etc gets that learning style deeper engaged in discovering.

Paddling thought: What paddling did I do that made me really happy to be in a kayak? Paddling from Dublin Ireland to Isle of Skye in Scotland. Crossing Ireland to Scotland across the North Channel and its challenge of currents and navigation. Islay and touring the Laphroaig Distillery. Visiting Iona with it’s 5-6th century Celtic Christian monastery site and arriving by small boat from Ireland as did its founder.

Alec Bloyd-Peshkin is the wrangler of all the Gales coaches — including himself.

Coaching thought: This past year I’ve been thinking the role independent practice plays in a person’s development as a paddler and how to model different forms of practice into my coaching sessions. I think that if practice can be done as a game, a challenge or a what-if question (as opposed to rote repetition of a skill), then it is more fun, making it into something we want to do, and more varied, which is how we actually need to use our skills.

Paddling thought: This past June, I did a paddle with Sharon and some friends from Rhode Island out to Fishers Island in Long Island Sound. It is an area with strong currents and tidal races that can easily overpower a kayaker. The ferry glide from the mainland to Fishers Island is magical. Using ranges, you can see the current take hold of your boat and that you are slipping down toward the end of the island (your target for a landing). There is a bit of fear about miscalculating and you know it is not possible to paddle hard enough to overcome the current. You watch, check the ranges and then the current slows as you get into an eddy created by the island. It is the aggregation of boat handling, tidal skills and observation that allow me to get there and I love it!

Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin is the Gales’ wrangler of the weather whiteboard.

Coaching thought: “Less is more.” People can only absorb and incorporate so much at a time, and if they move on too quickly, they’ll never dial in what they set out to learn. So I’ve been emphasizing taking time, using various ways of exploring and working with a concept or skill, and ensuring that students know how to continue developing it on their own.

Paddling thought: This season, I spent more time at home and therefore paddling in the Chicago area than I have in many years, so it was a year of rediscovering what I love about our shoreline. In particular, I love the little, unofficial beaches facing various directions that get surf no matter what the wind direction; the clapotis along the breakwalls; the shoals where waves build up in deep water. I love that an urban environment can still have such wild water, and that when it’s windy, we can be the only ones out in it.

Scott Fairty will return again this year to coach at the Gales. Little known fact about Scott: He has an awesome pair of Minions pajamas he wears under his dry suit!

Coaching thought: Most recently I’ve been looking to see if there is an optimum position for the top hand while stern ruddering (preliminary evidence suggests there isn’t one but that “it depends”). I’ve also continued my crusade to replace paddling dogma with paddling evidence. The 4 most common issues relate to high braces, bow rudders, wet exits and sweep strokes.
Paddling thought: In Ireland this year, Kelly Blades and I went into a sea cave on Horn Head that I hadn’t gone all the way in to before (it’s really deep). We had one headlamp between us. We go about 75 yards in and the cave forks to the left and right, we went left and traveled another 50 yards back through a narrow passage that opened to a large room. Inside the room was a pair of beaches with many green glowing eyes of annoyed seals. Off to the left hand side was a pinpoint of light. We investigated and found another beach with a small opening at the back that accessed daylight. We had to crawl out on hands and knees but emerged in a small grotto completely hidden from view from both land and sea. We are sure this is the home of fairies or Selkies.

As the Gales approaches, we’re going to post some photos and statements from each of the coaches. We asked them to tell us what they’ve been thinking about in their coaching this year, and to share a time when they’ve been happy just to be on the water.

Our first is Keith Wikle, godfather of the Gales (in good ways only).

Coaching thought: Our bodies are amazing things. But they are chained to a giant melon of doubt and worry. My coaching thought is how to put the student in a moment where they are disconnected from their doubt, where they are in the moment, they are happy, confident, and ready to drive their boat where they want it to go. The Gales is the perfect opportunity to coach the mind, where we give students the opportunity in small moments to be super connected to themselves, and the water.
Paddling thought: The Great Lakes in summer cough up a couple of days with sustained 3-4 day storm systems. It’s like Poseidon grudgingly decided he was going to pick up the check at an all-you-can-eat buffet with all of his siblings. This August, we had a solid week of storms. I surfed my guts out every day that week. But the day on my home break in South Haven where it reluctantly coughed up a day with a solid right hand break that went on forever [N+1] was a pearl. I caught a steady double overhead wave where it walled up glassy and hard and it went forever. It was like being shot out of a cannon. I kept taking bottom turns and top turns until the nose of my boat hit the shore. Home is where the heart is.

We are happy to announce that Dale Williams will be joining the coaching staff of The Gales this year! Dale is an ACA L-5 Instructor Trainer Educator (ITE) and former paragliding ski instructor who is committed to helping sea kayakers up their skills in challenging environments. The owner of Sea Kayaking USA, Dale is the East Coast importer and distributor of SKUK/NDK kayaks, Celtic Paddles and Reed paddling gear. We’re thrilled to have him with us this year!

Of course you do! The Gales has reserved a block of rooms at the Pictured Rocks Inn & Suites adjacent to our event headquarters. The rate is $105/night (plus tax) for a room with two double beds or one queen bed. If you want one of them, call 906.387.2493 by September 1 with your credit card number and let them know you’re part of The Gales.


If you heard the rumor, we can assure you it’s true: Registration will be capped at 35 participants for The Gales 2018. We’re doing this because, based on past experience, we’ve found that to be the ideal number for offering the kind of learning community this event provides.

We plan to open registration in January. So check back then!