Friday, May 28, 2010

Kayak Immersion

After GalwayGuy and I completed our greenland sticks at the North House Folk School last Sunday at 5pm, we took off on the 4 hour drive to MSP. A very quick nights sleep and I was on my way to the St Cloud State University Center for Experiential Learning & Leadership Cell on the south shore of Lake Mille Lacs, 90 minutes to the north. I was to report at 8am sharp to begin the IDW/ICE to be certified as a coastal kayak instructor.

The Learning Cell, as it will henceforth be known, is a stylish '60s style single wide trailer, painted a striking beige, on a lovely lake lot on the south shore of Minnesota's most famous walleye lake. It's kind of an under the radar operation and even has the classic broken down Dodge pickup with peeling paint sitting next to it for camouflage. No one would suspect that this modest setup is a state of the art university classroom rather than the home of some toothless hillbillies with 6 ragamuffin kids and a couple redbone hounds. I rolled into the Learning Cell a tad late and the classroom session was already underway at 8:05am. MarkC, noted big dog kayak instructor from Vermillion CC up in Ely was the lead instructor and Ivan and the not yet present Evan were working on upgrading a level. The instructor wanna be's consisted of myself and Chuck as the graybeard part of the contingent, and Ivan's employees from the SCSU OE program, Zach, Max, Chelsey, and Winner. It was a diverse group as far as age, gender, national origin, and kayak experience but everyone was pumped to learn the skills.

Learn the skills we did. The nice thing about everyone staying in the Learning Cell is that we pretty much ate, slept, talked and drank kayaks (OK, we drank a little bit of beer as well) 24/7. It really was like immersion in a language and I felt that it really boosted the learning geometrically versus a setup where folks do the 9-5 stuff and then head back to their own place for the evening. The first nights instruction ended at 11pm and the second at a hair past 10pm. Long days but extremely productive. Improvement was startling in many cases and the cross pollination of ideas, techniques, and the inevitable war stories all added to the learning. Common meals including Chucks home made spaghetti one night and my infamous jambalaya with Selk peppers (a disturbing blend of the five hottest peppers on the planet, dried, crushed) made for continual kayak talk over the course of the 3 day event. I did warn a certain individual who shall remain nameless but whose initials are Max, that adding more peppers to the jambalaya could result in gastric distress on at least a couple levels but I was ignored. Those of us who lived through it know what happened but this is a family blog.

Personally, it was the most fun I've had sitting down in quite some time. I've always been able to perform most of the skills but imparting that knowledge to others in an effective manner has always been a bit elusive. Watching good instructors at various symposiums over the years has made me cognizant about how much I didn't know about teaching skills and this course has pointed out how much work I need to do before I even achieve that 'decent instructor' moniker. The one thing I excelled at however, was playing a crotchety old fart in the scenario simulations. I was the elderly community member that was too dumb to wear his hat and suffered heat exhaustion in one scenario. My Oscar winning role however, was as the domineering and over bearing father when my twin 9th grade offspring capsized. Chelsey, our lone female and soccer star from Omaha, NE and Winner, our lone Kenyan, played the twins with simulated whining 9th grade aplomb. When they capsized I ignored the instructions from Evan and Max to raft up and kept questioning their competence and letting them know that my poor twins were freezing in that 40F Lake Superior water and couldn't they get their asses in gear a little faster? I would have told me to shut the f**k up and get over with the others but they got it done and the 'twins' were back in the boat in fine form.

Now its time to practice imparting the skills. SKOAC has bi-weekly skill sessions and other opportunites will crop up over the summer. I may even sneak up to Ely in the fall to serve as MarkC's able assistant in one of his courses. I am definitely in the conscious incompetent quadrant of the instructor matrix and want to move up to the conscious competent quadrant over the summer. My classmates will have ample opportunity teaching in St Cloud over the summer on idyllic Lake George. Some of them may even drift over to the Traditional Gathering, held in the same spot the end of July. In another shocking development, I paddled the entire class with a Eurospoon paddle and have already had a comment or three on a photo on Ivan's Facebook page. I didbriefly introduce a couple of my fellow students to the dark side however, and believe that the photo below could be the only extant image of a native Kenyan with a greenland stick in modern history.

After a brutal 1.75 day work week, it's time to get back on the water. The annual wood making at CampO will commence tomorrow morning bright and early and after that its paddle mania. Who knows, I may have a student or two in Lake O'Brian after the work is done. It's gonna be a great Memorial Day weekend. Drive and paddle safe.


Silbs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Silbs said...

What an excellent experience