ACA Kayak Skills Class. Terrific!

Spent August 4 on Lake Bellaire in the ACA Kayak Skills Class, L1. Superb weather, nice classmates, and excellent instructor. Videos, books, and forums are all informational, but nothing, absolutely nothing compares to on-the-water learning and the ability to ask questions and watch various strokes demonstrated in real time. And paddle.

Controlled capsize/wet exit was fun. I just leaned over like a drunk and fell out of my boat. Deep water exit and re-entry with a paddle float - well, getting out was no problem. There sure are lots of things to think about (like not losing your paddle - duh) in getting back in. One of those experiences where you think of how you should have done things, not how you did them. Ordered a paddle float today so I can work on that. Yes, I did get back in my kayak, just not very gracefully.

Also learned how unstable a kayak containing lots of water feels when you’re in it, or sitting on the stern.

Practicing what I learned will keep me busy until the lake ices up and I’ll be first in line to sign up for next year’s class.

I did leave with a bad case of paddle envy. John, the instructor, let me try his Werner paddle. It was like holding air.

Hearty thanks to all you experienced paddlers who counsel new kayakers to take lessons with a qualified instructor. Keep singing that song.

Good to hear
Honestly, if I tan the world every new paddler would be taken out and made to re-enter on the water almost before they knew how to make the boat go straight. There is nothing more helpful for a newer paddler trying to figure out what is most needed in boat features.

Unfortunately most start out with a point of pride about not capsizing, which works great until… or are afraid to and won’t admit it so they avoid such opportunities.

While I really like the Eddyline I found on CL two days before the class, it needs deck lines on the bow. Not having them wasn’t all that important with an instructor right there, but since I paddle solo they would be nice to have.

Was told it would be easy to install them. Not sure if I have the courage to drill holes in the deck, so will probably take it to a nearby outfitter who sells Eddyline and have it done there.

deck line
Just make sure they use really large washers inside the kayak at fittings. I was helping a guy last year do a paddle float re-enter and it was a thermoformed Hurricane which is like Eddylines plastic, maybe Eddylines is better BUT we managed to pull one of his deck fittings right through the whole. It didn’t seem to damage the plastic it just kinda popped though. What I noticed on the Hurricane didn’t have any large washer so this wouldn’t happen. Had it had a large washer inside it wouldn’t have pulled through so easily.

Oh good to here your learning to re-enter as that’s pretty important for a solo paddler. Go for a roll class next. Plus learn to re-enter without a paddle float. Good luck.

When I took my first class
some 30 odd years ago, this is what the instructor did. We were all bundled in our immersion gear and on the beach with the boats. Before we were allowed to launch, he had us all jump in Monterey Bay and get sufficiently soaked. It was both a lot of fun (there was a lot of uncontrolled splashing and the like) after the wetsuits warmed up.

More important, however, was that the realization that this was the worst thing that would happen all day and it wasn’t an issue at all. Even in a kayak or canoe, you are isolated from the water and begin to think, in the back of the mind, that the water is to be avoided. If one is dressed for the conditions, the entire concept of getting wet is no longer foreboding and one is willing to try things that could lead to a capsize (surf play, leans, braces, draws, etc.). Even better, skills improve more rapidly when fear and discomfort are removed from the equation.

To anyone taking up the sport for the first time, I insist they get prepare for immersion, get wet, play around in the water a bit, even throw a ball back and forth for a while, before getting in the kayak. I leave them with the message that that worst has already happened and the rest is learning to control the boat.

Every one of those I introduced to the sport this way has taken it up for the long term.


you’ll get there
I like kayaking because you don’t have to be a supreme athlete to do it well. You’ll get there with practice, you have the right mindset.

Sometimes when I go out it’s just rolls and re-entries and I never leave sight of the put-in. Great way to spend a hot afternoon.

Lake Bellaire is a gorgeous setting to practice in!

Thanks for that bit of info. about the washers. Will pass that on to the fix-it crew.

We did do assisted rescue and a scramble, the latter in shallower water. I need to practice both the scramble and the paddle float, taking my time to think about what I’m going to do before I try it.

I think the ACA introduces rolling in the Level 2 Coastal course. Not sure if L1 or L2 will be scheduled next year. While walking in our local Sportsplex in the winter, I have noticed kayaks in the pool. Need to check into that once the weather turns.

An added bonus were the loons on the lake. We could easily see them and hear their calls. Had never been to Lake Bellaire before - it is a lovely lake and the instructor had found a really nice access site, which was more of a park and not a boat launch. Was a gorgeous breezy day and when the wind picked up it was a blast to paddle through the waves, spray flying. I intend to go back soon.

When we were into the class, floating on the water and discussing a controlled capsize, no one seemed really eager about doing it. I know I had some trepidation - in spite of watching tons of videos on the topic - not about getting wet, but about getting back in.

Getting solid in that skill is my #1 priority. Actually, #2. Staying upright is #1.


– Last Updated: Aug-06-14 4:46 PM EST –

In an ideal setting the water and air are warm. Then the worst thing you do is swim.

I even showed someone on a sandy beach how easy they'll come out of the boat when it capsizes.

Personally I think there's something to learning a reentry and roll before a roll from upright position. you're out of the boat in an R&R so the fear of being upside down and trapped is all but gone. Anyway that was my path.

Eddyline Skylark
I saw in your other post that your Eddyline is the Skylark. Very nice rec kayak – it was my first boat a few years ago. But you may find, as I did, that you’ll outgrow it pretty quickly, and you’ll want something a little longer and leaner, and properly outfitted for sea kayaking. I traded up to the Eddyline Samba – two feet longer, a couple of inches narrower, and only 2 pounds heavier – and it is indeed fully outfitted. It’s a great hull, faster, and lots more fun than the Skylark. And once you get used to the skeg and the backband, you won’t want to go back.

Meanwhile, before you drill holes in the Skylark, I’d contact Eddyline by phone or email and ask if this is a good idea for a thermoformed boat. It might be fine, but they may have other ideas. If it’s botched, your resale value for the boat will be compromised.

Don’t take it to a dealer
As an eddyline dealer, I would be dumbfounded if someone brought me an older eddyline and asked me install deck lines on it. We are simply a store, much like a shoe store, and we will not resole your shoes for you, you need to go somewhere else for that. We will however sell you a new pair! Haha

I’m guessing that since it’s an older eddyline, it’s fiberglass. In that case I’d just do some research to find out what kind of screws or bolts to use. The drilling is the easy part. You can either install lines with pad eyes or with loops of nylon webbing.

Outfitter repair
Thanks for the suggestion. I called the outfitter this morning, explained how I had purchased the boat and asked about the perimeter lines. He remembered the kayak as he had sold it to the couple who sold it to me.

He told me that in addition to selling Eddyline, P&H, and Venture, they do repair work and that perimeter lines probably could be added, but reworking the existing bow lines was an option. He wants to take a look at it and I’m happy to oblige. Not fiberglass - Carbonlite 2000.

They also sell Werner paddles. Sigh.

I sure hope I develop sufficient skills to outgrow the Skylark and move up. Smiled when I read your post because I had visited the Eddyline site and checked out the Samba specs. Are there U-bolts installed on the deck, as there are on the Skylark? That’s a feature I really appreciate as I transport the kayak inside my Toyota Matrix, and the deck U-bolts make it easy to secure it to the interior D-rings using the cam straps that came with the car.

Yup, it has them.