We were very fortunate to have Aaron Heisohn attend the 2014 Gales Storm Gathering in Munising. Aaron quickly became the most visible photo on our website and on social media for obvious reasons. It was a pleasure to have him, and the other participants from Loyola at the Event.

Why did you sign up for the Gales?
I attended the Gales in order to improve my paddling skills for work in outdoor education and to network with excellent paddlers.

What did you come to learn at the Gales?
I learned much about kayaking and about the paddling community from the Gales. I attended workshops on efficient paddling in big conditions, on surfing, and on longboats in whitewater. These clinics helped me improve efficiency and boat control. The diverse coaches offered various new tricks that helped me break old habits and build up safer, improved technique. The Gales was the first kayak symposium I attended, and I learned how welcoming and supportive the paddling community is. Two of the coaches lent me a drysuit, and the coaches welcomed questions and answered with energy and passion. And I enjoyed playing and learning beside the other participants. In other words, I was reminded the best part of paddling is sharing the sea with good people.

What were the conditions like during the year(s) you attended?
Lake Superior provides dynamic conditions for play and for learning during the Autumn gales. Most notably, gale force conditions on the surf day challenged me. The actual risks of cold, gale-force conditions provide a unique environment for experimentation, challenge, and mistakes. I am grateful to have worked with such skilled coaches in such rewarding conditions.

What was the coaching like at the Gales?
The Gales coaches are internationally successful instructors. Such expertise brings diverse teaching methodologies, years of experience, risk mitigation, and an un-paralleled opportunity for learning. The coaches welcome learning and experimentation, while managing risks and providing feedback. The coaches are warm and amicable, and I am grateful to have paddled with these new friends after the event.

What was your takeaway moment from the Gales?
On the surf day, I accidently performed and landed a pirouette (something I had never done). The moment was exhilarating and a reminder of how fun our sport can be—even amidst such challenging learning environments as the Gales. Even more so, I enjoyed celebrating this moment later with friends and other conference participants. Sharing the sea and our learning—with its triumphs and challenges—may be our sport’s best reward

How has your paddling changed since attending the Gales?
I took what I learned about paddling efficiency, boat control, and instruction methodology back to my work in outdoor education at Loyola Chicago. Most notably, the networks I made at the Gales helped me find work as a kayak guide in Washington. I spent last summer paddling alongside orcas, humpbacks, and seals in some of our nation’s most beautiful, dynamic waters thanks to the friends I made at this conference. If you want to become a more skilled paddler, to enrich your seamanship, or if you are looking to play and learn alongside excellent paddlers and people, attend the Gales.