Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Florida, dear Florida!

Manatees, alligators, warm water and sun;

Yes, it's the time of year when places in the south appear more attractive than those further north! Late February is when Sweetwater Kayaks hold their annual sea kayaking symposium, and that gives me the excuse to visit Russell and Claudia, and Jean Totz and to meet up with friends from across the country and from across the ocean!

The BCU (British Canoe Union) is grappling changes imposed by UK government, and one interesting result is a shift in focus bringing an upsurge of interest in canoing.... that's "canoing" of the North American meaning, not the "canoeing a.k.a. kayaking" of UK usage. I'm pleased because I've always enjoyed canoes and finally had the opportunity to use them in Florida this winter! As Steve MacDonald and Phil "4th of May" Hadley from UK began stitching canoe skills into the US kayakers, it was fun to see all manner of American kayaking coaches on their knees for a change, freeing themselves of white "kayakers legs"!

Apart from single-bladed paddlers at the event, there were the usual narrow double-blade contingent (ably aided by world-class instructors Greg Stamer, back from circumnavigating Iceland last summer, and Cheri Peri and Turner Wilson). Plus there were the usual "we're here to have fun and get wet in warm water!" contingent, learning to stand up, or to roll, or to laugh outside the box (a place where I typically hang out), and a crowd of paddlers steering their way through the changing levels of BCU certification. I didn't see many long faces.

After the symposium I lingered longer to paddle with Swedish friends Roland and Britta (who coordinate my annual trips/courses in the Stockholm archipelago), Seattle photographer Joel Rogers, and of course Russell and Claudia. We skipped around the local rivers seeking manatees, alligators, turtles and roseate spoonbills, hiked a couple of places and watched Russell's band at a gig in Dunedin... Florida is always synonymous with music for me, jamming with Russell and other friends, checking out used guitars at "Legends" in Tampa or heading out to to a live concert. An amazing number of my kayaking friends are talented musicians!

So, now back in sunny Seattle, I'll be wondering where the warm went until the next trip south... to San Diego for the Aqua Adventures symposium and some fun in the rock gardens of nearby Baja Mexico! Will I see you there?

(Jennifer Kleck, owner of Aqua-Adventures recently became the first American to qualify as a BCU level 5 sea kayaking coach! Congratulations!)


David H. Johnston said...

Where do you think that the swell in interest for Canoeing is coming from? I also heard this from a friend who is a magazine publisher here in Canada.

He mentioned a very similar trend here in North America. Kayak sales (both ww and sk) have flattened out and canoe sales are the only thing they expect with any real growth for '08.

David H. Johnston

nigel said...

In UK a government initiative has set the BCU scrambling to restructure its awards, and one of the directions has been to encourage instructors introducing kayaking to broaden their approach to incorporate all kinds of paddle-craft, including canoes. That means kayak instructors moving sideways into the new scheme must acquire training/assessment in open canoe if they don't already have that and vice versa. With more kayaking instructors than canoe instructors I think that'll generate more interest in canoeing.

Richard at Point 65 said...

Hey Florida -that looks so nice. How I long for that warm sun and water. Interesting about Canoeing growing again. Is that a fact? I had no idea. Will be interesting to see how the season will go. Cheers Richard,

High Power Rocketry said...

: )

Kri Kri said...

The manatee moment was magical! Chilly weather is a plus if you want to see see them. This group of five was relaxed with our group of ten! The little one loved the video camera. Was it the hum in the water? We stayed for over an hour and they were in no hurry to move on. Thank you for not being in a rush!