Would like to get input, opinions and know facts for the best destination sea kayak school. Can be anywhere, us, europe or other. Thanks
my two cents
body boat blade
Otter Bar Lodge
MKC, the Madawaska Kanu Center is also exceptional. having just reread your post, i now see that you said sea kayaking, my apologies...
for that i would say SKILS.ca
guideontheside.ca is good also, especially when his website is fully running...
I know of no better than BodyBoatBlade. They are exceptional.
Of course, I haven’t been everywhere.
But BBB may well be the best.
I wouldn’t even dare vote on Best, since I have limited experience with kayaking classes.
But BBB is definitely good.
BBB must be doing something right. The three of you that have recomended them are all about a thousand miles away from them at least, yes?
How have each of you came to learn about them and then end up going there?
BTW, I agree that they are an excellent school, thay have learned from the best, and I know I’m getting old when I’m able to say that i knew them when…
most places I’ve seen
focus on retail, boat rentals, trips, and training. BBB will sell you stuff too, but that’s not their emphasis. Their focus is on skills, and they don’t even offer the usual trips/destinations, a staple for other outfitters in the San Juans. So it’s a different philosophy, a different paradigm.
Then I was really impressed by the student-to-teacher ratio. You work in small groups, and often two or three of them will be present, so the ratio can be as low as 2:1. Plus they’re super friendly. Plus they are generous as instructors; seem to really care. Then there’s their skills. And they focus on fun (lots of games)!
A rare combination. Maybe unique. (The usual caveats about not knowing everywhere else …)
What makes “good”
Agree w/Bohemia, the best places are ones where selling boats seems to be a minor pasttime compared to getting people on the water to really enjoy and learn about kayaking. BBB seems to do that. We found the same at Maine Island Kayak Company in Peaks Island, Maine - selling boats was so uninteresting that it took Tom B a while to even accept a deposit from us for our first composite boats. We got extraordinary demo opportunities beforehand.
What about the place further south in CA, where Jen Kleck operates out of? Everyone I've heard from who has taken lessons with her just raves. And lest we forget the classics - the Sea Kayaking Academy in Florida, with Wayne Horodowitch, has gotten a heck of a lot of well-trained paddlers on the water.
I think it helps when a place has a wonderful paddling environment, including some challenges. For me, what I know of the Maine coast and hear of the Pacific Northwest fills the bill. But Florida and Baja may do it for others.
There are some smaller operations where the people are excellent. I'd say that if you wanted more personal attention and learn a lot, you could get it from people like Mel Rice and Mark Schoon of Aquaterra Adventures out of Bar Harbor or Carmody/ Steve Maynard, Sea Cliff Kayaking. (or find Steve at Plattsburgh State Univ) And there are lesser known coaches like Ray Wirth out of Belfast.
As to BBB's rep, much of that is due to Leon Somme and Shauna themselves. I finally had the chance to take a class from Leon at the Downeast Symposium last fall, and he was one of the few best coaches I've ever worked with. Excellent coach on skills, wonderful temperament, is still clearly enjoying the heck out of what he's doing - he's got the whole package. And we've been lucky, had the chance to work with some damned good coaches "named" and not.
I’ve heard good things about Gronseth’s
Kayak Academy in Seattle, but you’d better be sitting before you check out their price list. Must be for Microsoft tycoons … Not for the faint of heart.
is a term so subjective as to be useless.
some folks i’ve met, paddled with and taken classes from that i thought were very worthwhile experiences - mikco, bbb, sea cliff kayak, barrier island kayak, sea kayak uk (nigel dennis)in holyhead.
Barrier Island Kayaks (NC) is good
The only symposium I’ve been to was at Barrier Island Kayaks in Swansboro, NC. Beautiful setting. Good coaches from all over the East. The owner of BIK, Lamar Hudgens, is a very fine kayaker and coach.
I liked this symposium because it’s still small in relation to others in the Southeast. Very comfortable size. I got a LOT out of it.
This year the symposium is June 4 to 9. I’ll be going back.
Lots of reasons
- I read a lot of positive feedback from people who’d taken classes with them, and NO negative feedback.
- Most of the instruction took place at a state park where I could camp right next to the “classroom.” No need to stay in a motel or drive through crowded cities.
- It looked like they had depth to their classes. Even though I was/am not at the higher levels, it was good to know that these people knew their stuff and had the long-trip experience to back it up.
These three reasons clinched it for me. I would have had to travel at least 1000 miles to good classes in any direction anyway.
AFTER I got there:
- On the very first day, I was already a happy camper. Leon, Shawna, and Matt made everything so much fun to learn, it was like playing all day and being eager for more (of course, it helps to already love paddling in the first place). They watch what you do before they offer suggestions for improvement–it’s not just spitting out formulaic rote. Also, as Bohemia noted, the student-instructor ratio is probably among the best out there, for group instruction.
- Besides the fun factor and small class size, I really, really appreciated that they knew how to outfit a small person in the appropriate boat. Leon had me sit in a LV Explorer first and asked me how it felt. I had good contact in it and happily said, “Hey, this will work fine.” THEN he said, “OK, now sit in that LV Romany. I can get into the LV Explorer but not that one.” The LV Romany was an even closer fit, and I ended up paddling that one (and it’s an incredibly fun boat!). And for once, I did not have to use a 220cm paddle, either. They gave me a 205cm one to try, and I knew instantly I’d never use my 215cm again, let alone a 220cm.
- The location was fantastic, or should I say “locations” since we paddled both at a lake and in the sea. When it came to the overnight trip portion of the class, the students–not the instructors–got to cooperatively decide which islands to paddle to. Nothing was set in stone, and I liked that flexibility.
- The shop, though not large, had good stuff. For example, I lost my noseclips in the water one day. They sold those (and apparently lots of other students have lost theirs there, too, LOL). I found a terrific pair of Glacier gloves for cold-weather use. I also bought not only the Shuna paddle, I sprang for a Cypress as well. And NO hard sell from anybody, at any time.
AFTER I got back home:
I actually remembered most of what we had done in class and kept practicing it. I got my offside roll, in large part thanks to having taken that class even though it was NOT a rolling class. I learned and retained a bunch of other things, too.
NOW what’s so frustrating to me is that with my injuries, I doubt I’ll be taking any classes at all this year. I was planning to take another class or two at BBB plus perhaps another class elsewhere in the PacNW (have heard great things about Ginny Calhan, too). I guess it’ll have to wait till 2009
Sorry for the long post!
Maine Island Kayak
If I get out that way, I’m-a-gonna sign up for a class with them. Sounds like a great outfit. I’m a big fan of those who are paddlers first and businessmen a distant second. And, since I would have to fly there (too long a drive), they too have small-person kayaks to rent.
The ones mentioned above in Maine(which are the only ones I'm familiar with ---Aquaterra, Cliff and Miko) all have good reputations, particularly MIKO-- I'm not familar enough with anyplace else to have an opinion. but why are you asking if you don't put it down to a particular geographic area---do you just want the best in the world and can travel anywhere to get it?
A testament to their coaching
A couple years ago Fiancee and I where about to put in at the San Juans for a weekend kayak camping trip when another couple appeared with Kayak Sport boats. The couple was friendly and asked if we should all paddle together since we were headed to the same Island. We usually do not “hook up” with paddlers that we don’t know and are not familiar with their paddling skill, style, speed, attitude, etc.
We shyed away from them. Then they mentioned that they had come up from California and took a week long lesson with Shawna and Leonne. “A week long lesson”, I asked, "with Shawna and Leonne? Fiancee and I looked at each other and nodded “sure, we can all paddle together”.
We had a blast with them and they stayed at our house a couple nights before driving back to Big Bear.
Thats how much weight their names carry these days. I can say the same for Tom Berg at Maine Island Kayak Company. He’s an original, and knows a thing or two about coaching.
(I for one enjoyed it)
Gronseth is outstanding
He does a superb job of paddle skills, but also navigation, rules, etc.
Consider a Symposium
While I will pile on and say the Body, Boat & Blade, Maine Island Kayak, Carpe Diem and Barrier are each excellent with some of the most seasoned paddles and coaches, I suggest attending a sea kayak symposium.
At a good symposium you get access to all levels of skills training. You have the opportunity to interact with top coaches and paddlers of all levels.
My preference is for symposiums with BCU affiliation because the skills, conditions, and coaches are to my liking. We attend the Downeast Symposium in Bar Harbor every year. You can check out the BCU North America site (www.bcuna.com)for events and coaches.
In the PNW, BBB and Kayak Academy
are great. Don’t overlook organizations like Alder Creek in Portland, Northwest Outdoor Center and Seattle Raft and Kayak in Seattle. Chris Mitchell from Second Wind Sports in SW WA also is a great coach. Ginni Callahan is not far from Chris, either.
I think Pnet’s Otterslide teaches in that area but am not sure which shop front he is under. Highest recommendation and cheap at twice the price. I know he does a fair amount of guest coaching for BBB.
Another thought, ignore the dollar for pound exchange rate and fly to Scotland and take in their symposium; Or, go to the Anglesey symposium in Wales at the beginning of May. The dollar for thrill exchange is extremely beneficial.
How much would you pay …?
For seakayaking classes on the west coast of Norway taught by the best local paddlers but organized travel and guides from the US.
Same with Orkney and Shetland in Scotland
or Cornwall. Surfing in Scotland and Cornwall/Devon?
Three days of kayaking on unbelievably cool waters. Tours to waterfalls, castles, iron age ruins and stone circles.
Does this interest anybody?