Last Thursday the Commish and FrugalFisherman arrived at our place in St Anthony, staging for our annual fall paddle trip. This year the Commish and I would head for the traditional gathering in Akeley, MN and the VOR and FF would head up to Voyageurs National Park to rendezvous with RangerMark and the MayorOfTurtleRiver. We would meet up with them on Sunday. In my estimation this rendevous had about a 50-50 chance of success in the land of no cell phone coverage but we would give it our best shot.
The Commish has a kinda sorta on again, off again roll and was interested in perfecting a bombproof standard roll. Given the skinny paddle luminaries that would be in attendance, along with many of our local uber-mentors, I convinced him this would be the perfect place to get it done. My interest was in making my forward finishing rolls a bit more solid and a bit less painful, and also working on my chest scull and the aggravating static brace.
RonO, the Commish, and I set out for Akeley and arrived mid afternoon but not before a stop at Morey's Fish in Motley, MN for some pickled herring, smoked lake herring, smoked salmon, whitefish pate, and some sashimi grade tuna (along with ginger and wasabi, of course). Those staples, along with an enviable supply of micro brewed beers, had us in fine shape for a weekend of rolling. We settled into our lakeside cabin and commenced to 'Gather'.
Everything about the weekend was excellent. The accomadations were super, the location was perfect, the cameraderie wonderful, and the mentoring was helpful, patient, and effective. The Commish worried that he would stick out like an African American at a KKK rally with his voluminous plastic boat but he had nothing to worry about. They stuck him in a Qajaq USA tuliq, wedged him in a skin boat, and Cheri had him rolling it in a half hour. He then moved to his beloved 95 pound, 3' wide (OK, OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little) Prijon and successfully rolled that also. I worked with Dennis, Dan, and Turner a bit and got my forward stuff and the chest scull going. The static brace not so much. But, as that great philosopher MeatLoaf once said, two outta three ain't bad. Turner's forward stroke instruction was an eye opener for me as well. I'd learned the BCU style of bow rudder and sculling draw and when I saw the greenland version of the same two strokes it was apparent that this was the more natural, intuitive, and effective way to move the boat. Everyone was tired and, in my case, a bit sore by the time the paddling sessions were over but we managed to suck it up and make it to the big white tent for happy hour. There were feats of strength and agility, good natured competitions, smart talk, and an adult beverage or two. We almost lost Jeff, our medical director, after he was pulled off a pail but fatalites in general were limited. With all the harpoons flying around the next day I think we were fortunate that no one was wounded other than the inflatable killer whale that served as the target. RonO made the harpoon finals and also picked up a skin boat in the silent auction, a pretty good weekend in my book.
The style of instruction at this event really appealed to my natural anti authoritarian nature. Rather than the normal seminar schedule/set up with fixed and rigid times, subject matter, and instructor/student interaction, the mentors worked with whatever folks wanted to learn or improve. Also, people knew a bit more about certain techniques would assist those who needed help, even though they were not 'certified' in any way. There seems to be no star rating system in the world of skinny stick paddling, its a completely merit based community and by the end of the weekend the collective paddling skills of the group of 50 people had been raised significantly. Both the Commish and I agreed we would be back next year. Special thanks to Dave and Jo and also Chris and Alex for all their hard work in pulling this thing off. It is indeed a fine event.