Georgia on my Mind

A last-minute decision made me go to the British Canoe Union week at Sea Kayak Georgia from October 24th until November 1st 2003.

The second year running, it again had an impressive number of BCU coaches delivering trainings and assessments: Steve Braden, Gordon Brown, Peter Casson, Nigel Dennis, Phil Eccles, Scott Fairthy, Russel Farrow, Shawna Franklin, Nigel Foster, Ben Lawry, Steven Maynard, Leon Sommé, Andy Stamp, Jean Totz and Dale Williams.

Don was very kind to lend me his NDK Explorer to use for the week. Don and Marsha where in charge of transport logistics and all had their kayaks and equipment right where and when they needed them all week; with a smile.

Because every day there where at least ten courses scheduled, any personal report is bound to provide only an incomplete account of the weeks events.

Interested in attending BCU events in North America? Check out the BCU North America web site! Sweetwater Kayaks is running a sea kayak symposium and BCU week in February 2004.

Friday 24 through Sunday 26 October 2003
Three days of BCU 5-star sea training. The group of Steven and Andy do an overnight trip and night paddle. Nobody prepared me for a typical British '5-star condition': midges. I had left my head net at home. We see dolphins regularly for the rest of the week. My waterproof camera quits working.

Monday, October 27th
The official start of the BCU week. The sixty-plus attendants come from all over the east coast of the USA and even from Canada. The weeks schedule has a whole range of BCU trainings and assessments, skills sessions and day paddles. I hang around at the Strand beach and do some sea kayak surfing. There are excellent 4-star sea training surf conditions. The air temperature is in the mid twenties (Celsius) and for me feels 'summer like'. The water temperature is higher than we have in the Netherlands even late summer; I never get cold. Ben Lawry, a kayak racer, ran a forward paddling course. I did not attend this, but in the evening some took seat in a paddling trainer 'apparatus' and had Ben comment on our paddling stroke.

Tuesday, October 28th
At 08:00 there is a very informative coast guard lecture by Dan Deuterman. The main thing for any sea kayaker is not to hesitate to use the services the coast guard can provide (for free!); be it for just information or, in worst-case, rescue. Nigel Foster runs a 'Discovery Learning' session. I had met Nigel before only in 1995 in the Netherlands when I just started sea kayaking. I very well remember how he explained than that one could have support from having the blade vertical in the water. I capsized in the middle of the group trying this and was astonished that it did NOT provide support. Only to learn that Nigel was not finished with the explanation that one needed speed for this to work (hanging draw). Although by now I mastered many of the skills, doing them 'in reverse' opens a whole new range of possibilities. And there a lot of things to learn about learning skills. Kristen shows how to stand on the back deck of her Silhouette sea kayak; there are always new tricks discover and learn.

Wednesday, October 29th
The morning starts with a coast guard rescue demonstration at the 'triangle'. A kayaker is rescued and the helicopter makes some low runs over the crowd gathered on the beach. I join Jean Totz for a 3-star training. Finding our way out of the marsh at the put-in at the centre provides a challenge.

Thursday 30 and Friday 31 October
I join a Level-2 coach training run by Kelly, Shawna and Steven. Kelly is a 'natural' and all enjoy the course. Conditions for the 4-star sea assessment are at the upper limits. The candidates (and the sea kayaks) are put to the test at the 'triangle'; a sand spit at the mouth of Tybee creek. A NDK Romany gets 'speared' by another sea kayak and shows a big hole in the cockpit area. It is a sad sight, but the damage is repairable. At the least it shows that off Tybee Island one can find 'conditions'.

Saturday, November 1st
I try my luck at surfing with a WW-kayak. Piranha has supplied a whole range of kayaks for us to use. I have surfed in my sea kayak many times; on three occasions even damaged my sea kayak on pitch poling. But this is only my second time in surf with a play boat. Apparently I am making common mistakes as I frequently get comments by coaches on how I use, or better said: not use, the waves. Only my upper body is enjoying this; and fun it is. But I am not used being crammed into a cockpit and my legs and feet hurt to the point that I cannot immediately walk after I get out of the kayak. Back at the centre the result of another 4-star sea assessment is plain for all to see. A NDK Greenlander Pro has a hole in the rear compartment. In the evening the BCU week officially ends with a lecture by Shawna and Leon about their circumnavigation of Iceland with Chris Duff.

Sunday, November 2nd
I join a few of the remaining people for another try at surf kayaking. Today I find a kayak that really fits me 'comfortably' and that provides me with control. For the first time I have runs in which I think I control the course of events. I can even make some flat spins. I am 'catapulted' out of a high crashing wave by leaning back. Fitting comfortable in a WW-kayak makes a lot of difference in experience. I definitively will do a 4-star surf training on a next opportunity. In the afternoon I finally get to paddle at the 'triangle' with Mark. The sand spit at the mouth of Tybee creek has confused breaking seas over it. Bracing on the right and then seeing a shadow approach from the left just in time to change the bracing side. And when I am lucky, I am in the middle of the 'zipper' closing up under me. We have one small 'epic'. I find a water bottle floating around, mine for the taking. When after ten minutes or so I show the bottle to Mark he in shock looks behind him to his day hatch. The cover of his day hatch is gone and the compartment is swamped. Within half a minute he has the hatch covered with a neoprene emergency hatch cover. After emptying the compartment we continue playing and the neoprene cover stays in place despite crashing waves.


- BCU North America (Information and Events)

- Sea Kayak Georgia

- Sweetwater Kayaks (Symposium February 2004)

To Don I would like to express that one could be going separate ways in the same direction ;)

An article by Phil Eccles about the Sea Kayak Georgia symposium appeared in BCU Canoe Focus, issue 2004-04, No. 148.

A video by Justine Curgenven about this symposium is for sale through Sea Kayak Georgia.

© A.M. Schoevers