Team SK‘s Christine Burris and Bob Burnett show ‘em how it’s done
Taking a sea kayak into a coastal impact zone is like a fabulous game of chess. Your body becomes one with blade and boat, responding to the swell and its pathway through the rocks to create what some call flow. This flow in a potentially hazardous environment is a product of training. At Rogue Wave Adventures we often have requests to “sign me up” for Coastal Impact Zone courses. Often we have to say no. We don’t advocate the practice of crash and burn. Instead we provide the tools necessary to enter that environment with a greater degree of safety. We offer a series of courses to take students step by step through the skills needed to get to that level.
The first course for those who like to paddle but have not had much structured training is Boat Control. In this class we focus on Rotation, Body Boat Connection, Edging, Bracing, and maneuvering strokes such stern draws, draws on the move, bow rudders and active bow draws. (Some students with beyond basic training can enter the Coastal Impact Zone series without this class.)
The second in this series is Advanced Strokes. This course features additional strokes including a blended series which are then drilled against and between obstacles such as docks pilings and the instructor. Although not all students need to take boat control, Advanced Strokes is a prerequisite for Advanced Strokes Applied, which in turn is a requirement for the three day Coastal Impact Zone.
The next step in this series is Advanced Strokes Applied. It is a favorite, often filled with “ah ha” moments. We take students who have completed the previous course and had time to practice and drill these maneuvers. Before entering the ASA classroom we provide free two hour skill sessions for alumni Tuesdays in Seattle and Wednesdays in Gig Harbor to provide time to drill with a coach. In this way by the time we put students in a more aggressive environment we know their skill set. Once in an impact zone we can dictate the selection of features accordingly.
There are some who need to find a place of comfort and stability in unstable conditions. The best way to gain comfort in waves is through immersion. Surf Zone Basics is an introductory course. It begins with instructors standing beside the students in reform waves to assist them in responding via body and boat without a paddle. By the end of this class students are side surfing and learning to remain upright and in control in aggressive conditions.
The follow up to Surf Zone Basics and another prerequisite to Impact Zone Survival is Surf Zone Total Control. This class covers holding position, two person surf rescues, self rescues in surf, in general, the skills needed to safely get in and out of a beach through surf in a sea kayak.
After completing Advanced Strokes Applied and Surf Zone Total Control, Students are qualified to take the Impact Zone Survival course. This three day training on the Pacific Coast provides students who are competent in surf swell and impact to advance their skills in engaging coastal impact zones. Students learn how to identify boomer fields from a chart and on the water. They learn to recognize various types of beaches and assess their potential for safe to severe landing hazards. They practice rescues in rocks with aggressive swell/ impact and learn to paddle as a team. They practice risk assessment and learn protocols, selecting challenges and features that will not place team members at unnecessary risk. This class is where Bob Burnett’s years in protective service come in to play. The constant reminder of “360 degrees of awareness!”; never allowing a moment of inattentive paddling, creates a degree of safety that stems from self reliance- forcing individuals to bring complete attention to their environment and their team.
Although the classes described above are in no way the limit of what RWA offers, they are ones which require prerequisites. Next weekend we are again offering the Impact Zone Survival Course. This class is not yet full but we are assured of the skills of the students enrolled and thus it will be as always, amazing. For those who do not live in the Pacific North West there are remarkable coaches all along the Pacific and Atlantic Coast who provide similar instruction. If you are at all interested in finding flow within your paddle, boat and body at that place where the ocean meets the shore, I encourage you to seek out great instruction in your area.
by Christine Burris