Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My QajaqTC Training Camp Adventure....

Qajaq Training Camp 06

This was an amazing adventure for me. I am finally coming down from my bliss and need to write about my experience while the event is still fresh in my mind.

It was a year ago this month when I started thinking about building another kayak. My search for the right design led me to discover Greenland paddles and rolling. I have now come full circle. From making my first GP, to the discovery of the $200 Anas Acuta, to meeting my mentor Dave Braun, to hitting my first roll, and finally making it to my first symposium….the Qajaq TC Training Camp.

Camp Lookout is one of the best spots for a symposium that anyone could look for. Having two lake accesses, Lake Michigan and Lower Herring Lake, the site has some of the most beautiful views of northern Michigan I have ever seen. We stayed in rustic cabins and some stayed in tents by choice. There were showers and running water so it’s not like we were really roughing it that much.

The food was incredible. It was prepared by Michael Gray of Uncommon Adventures. Seriously, I haven’t eaten that well in many restaurants! I will be looking forward to his cookbook. I was never hungry the entire trip.

Harvey Golden was there reskinning a skin on frame kayak. I was fascinated by the process and took a lot of notes and pictures. I had a chance to talk to Harvey quite a bit at meals. He is very interesting and his passion for kayaks really shows. He gave a great presentation of the history of Greenland Kayaking. I liked his voice. His tone is always pleasant and positive. And although he is more of an expert in our sport than most, he listens intently to opinions of others, offering his thoughts in a non confrontational way. I found him a very positive addition to the event and hope to meet him again.

The mentorship at this event was invaluable. Turner Wilson gave a fantastic strokes class which has greatly improved my technique. Will Bigelow, besides making me laugh till my sides hurt, helped me with my sculling. Dave Braun and Chris Varner also helped immensely with my sculling and bracing. The list goes on and on. There were some mentors I just didn’t have time to meet on the water. When your there, it is an open group. Much of what goes on is one on one. Much of the time I just paddled up and listened to what someone else was doing and then tried it myself.

What I liked most about this experience were the people I met. Kayakers are great. The vibe was positive and relaxed. I can be a shy guy around new people and I felt very welcome here. I got to meet a number of folks I always wanted to meet. Alex Pak was one of them. His site is This guy whitewater paddles in a Tuilik! How cool is that? He also is a rolling master and just a blast to hang out with. Dubside paddled up to me my first time on the water. He introduced himself and gave me some advice on handrolling. He also did some rope demos which were amazing. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this guy a hippie, just minimalistic, if that is a word. I hope I get more time to just talk to him in the future.

Kevin Hill, thanks for the great conversation and the beer. Bruce Stitt, thank you for teaching me my first butterfly roll. You are a great mentor. May Zhang, thank you for your amazing energy. You light up a room and are fun to be around! Keith Wikle, I am glad I finally got to meet you. Bring your pal Matt with you next time and we can talk blogging! Dianne Walker, when you raise your hand we shut up. Sorry you lost your voice trying to speak over us! You have more patience than I. Roy Martin, thanks for letting me paddle your Anas Acuta. I cut out my seat when I got home and it is a much better boat. Margaret Fako and Tanya Stratford, thanks for the good conversation. I was good to meet some locals and I hope to be paddling with you soon. Jeff Bjorgo, your SOF is beautiful. Thank you for your advice and instruction. And Don Goss, it was good to meet another builder to talk to. Your stripper copy of your SOF is beautiful. It was very motivating to me to see something like that up close. You have a wealth of knowledge and now my deepest respect. Nancy Thornton, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! That was all a ton of work I am sure. You are a great mentor and leader.

I would especially like to thank Dave Braun for suggesting I attend this event. You are an amazing instructor and I hope the other paddlers at the event were able to learn as much from you as I have. I hope someday my skills and knowledge will progress to your level so I can help them the way you have helped me. Thank you for being patient with me.

So, Training Camp was amazing. It is a great combination of the kayakers and the venue that make it such a great experience. It ranks up there as one of the best experiences of my life. I will be going back.

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