Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day Two - Rock Gardening

This post is not about Japanese rock gardens but rather the sea kayaking equivalent of a whitewater slalom run down a rocky river. The difference is that the water is moving in both a horizontal and vertical plane, yet another dimension of paddling fun. While the wind and waves were a bit anemic, we still had enough water flowing around the rocks to leave us high and dry in the teeter tottering position more than once. Those of us in composite boats also left a few noticeable gelcoat deposits on the ancient rocks surrounding Presque Isle in Marquette.

As happy as I was to have had the Delphin the day before in the surf, I was even happier to have it as we squeezed through some cracks and crevices in the rocks. Once again we had a great group of paddlers with Scott Fairty lead coach and Alex Bloyd Peshkin assisting. We also had Randy Henriksen, all the way from Manhattan, with a trailer load of Tiderace boats for us to test paddle. I'm not sure that a new bright red Tiderace Xtreme would have been my first choice to tangle with some of the oldest exposed rock formations in North America but hey, it ain't my boat! We sand paddlers from the Apostle Islands area had a blast in the nooks and crannies of the black rock that jutted out into Lake Superior from Presque Isle Park. Probably my biggest 'aha moment' was that certain strokes that I'd seen, practiced, and promptly forgot because I could see no earthly use for them, were suddenly effective and even necessary when six inches away from a rock face. One of the tougher things to keep focused on was the twin role of student and coach. Trying to learn the skill properly and then figure out how to present it and pass it on to students made my head hurt at times but it was all good.

One of the highlights of the afternoon had more to do with rock climbing than paddling. Our group came upon what the lawyers call an 'attractive nuisance', loosely defined as a dangerous condition that tends to attract children....or kayakers with the mental age of 14. In this case it happened to be a roughly 15 foot cliff that exuded the siren song of 'climb up here and jump off me, just jump off me'. So we did. The drill was to paddle next to the cliff, stand up in your boat, grab the hand and foot holds on the cliff, and give the boat a shove with the free foot. We got some looks from a couple of hardy Yoopers wearing swim suits with our dry suits and helmets, but it was great fun for all concerned. A couple cowboys and a couple T rescues and we were on our way again, playing and learning in the undulating waves along the rocks.

Once again a great day of paddling at a great event. It would appear we may have been a week too early since the nearshore for Marquette today calls for gale warnings, NW wind to 30 knots, gusts to 37mph and waves building to 8-11 feet. Nonetheless we found conditions, whether they were on Lake Michigan, the Menomonie River, or right in the city of Marquette. Now if I can only figure out an easy way to get up to Naturally Superior in Wawa for next years event........
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