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!)