Kiptopeke Symposium

This summer I have two working arms and intact ear drums so this event is on my radar. Let’s say for arguments sake I’m beginner +

What will I get from the symposium, what should I sign up for……is it worth it?

Not a lot of reviews out there. A couple of people I paddle with say it’s a great experience but I’ve never been to a paddling symposium so don’t know what to expect.

There is a listing of available Symposium classes at Skills-driven classes from beginner to advanced, rescues to kayak handling to surf to rolling. Highly recommended, particularly for beginner to intermediate level paddlers. Great coaches who are passionate about teaching sea kayaking. Half-day or full-day classes available. On flat water or in surf. Evenings are fun with dinner, activities, and stories and comraderie. You will leave with a slew of new skills, tired, and happy.

Here is the list of courses and skill levels for each. Definitely look through the descriptions of paddler level on page 5 and determine what level you are. I am guessing you will be either novice or intermediate.

Cross reference that level with the classes to see what your options are. Then think about what of those classes you would most benefit from. What interests you or what would provide skills which you could most benefit from.

Very likely that there will be symposium classes that aren’t offered in your local area, so aim for those over classes that you could take in your local area (though is possible that none of the classes offered in the symposium are ones you could take locally).

Note - assuming you are Intermediate, but not strong intermediate, you may want to think twice about the classes listed as Intermediate/Advanced.

For those of us aging a bit and/or not in top shape, 3 full days can be a lot. Don’t be afraid to add in a tour as one of the days to give yourself an easy option/less strenuous day. The guides on tours are usually instructors and add in stuff when teaching opportunities present themselves, so should still be educational.

Edit - to be clear, I don’t know this symposium, but have been to ones on the west coast. Some of the instructors on the symposium are names I recognize, and 1 (Dale) I have met at another event. I think it is a good sign of event quality to have instructors known outside that area. they do these symposiums a lot, so know how to make them work for the students.


Right now I am planning to attend the symposium, but I may have a change in plans due to a change in work plans. Won’t know for sure if I can go for another couple of weeks.

I have been to a few other symposiums (Sweetwater/Gulf Coast Sea Kayak Symposium and Paddle Golden Gate). They are usually lots of fun and a generally low key learning environment. Rick Wiebush who runs the Kiptopeke symposium is a great guy - I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to him if you have any questions about whether or not the event is right for you.

I’m really hoping to make it to the Great Lakes symposium in the next few years. Really want to paddle in that area and I’ve heard great things about that symposium as well. Just need to get my schedule to work out.

Let me endorse this symposium.
I’ve known the organizer, Rick Wiebush, and paddled with him multiple times, over more than a decade. He’s highly skilled and knowledgeable, and an excellent instructor. He’s been running this symposium annually for years now, and it’s a refined operation. This event really focuses on different paddling skills. It’s not an event at which to obtain certifications. The location, Kiptopeke State Park, is great–good lodging and easy access to a variety of paddling venues. It’s a very sociable event. I know a lot of the other instructors well; they are all excellent. The course descriptions are accurate and properly rated in terms of appropriate paddler skill level.
I have attended in the past. I had hoped to attend this year but other obligations got in the way. If you attend, you won’t regret it.

1 Like

Thank you to everyone who replied

Go! You’ll have fun! You’ll go back to do it again!

Rick, the organizer, is pretty amazing at least in the customer service dept over email. I dragged my heals on this and had some questions. His responses amounted to an advisor helping me select my courses. I wish there was this level of thought and customer service in all aspects of life!

1 Like

West Coaster here, but I recognize some of the names of instructors from some old internet forums. I do think learning skills in an organized setting is worthwhile. I’ve found my self learning what I “don’t know I don’t know.” I have also found that any large gathering of fellow paddlers is a great way to meet new paddling partners in your area and to meet people who are good sources of information, gear and used high level kayaks.

1 Like

What sort of water temps should I expect?

The only video is from years ago and shows some people in swim suits and others in farmer johns with dry tops. I want to make sure I have the proper clothing system.

Here is the current temps from

Kiptopeke, VA

Clicking on the monthly average, it looks like it averages 75.8 for September and 67.1 for October.

This could be bathing suit temps if air is comparable, but having some light thermal protection might also be good (particularly for a class where you might be swimming a lot, like a rescue class).

Thank you Peter. I should have worded my question better because it wasn’t my intent to have anyone check the water temps. I know how to do that! Thank you anyway.

I was after more general guidance about conditions as related to clothing systems.

Just to provide a bit more granularity to Peter-CA’s comment above–Several different, but geographically very close, venues are used at the Symposium. The water temps differ by up to 10 deg F or more between them. The warmest temps are in the bays inshore of the ocean barrier islands–currently in the range of 84 def F. The venues in the Chesapeake is about 5 deg cooler right now, and the ocean temps are about 5 deg cooler than that. As we get more into autumn, these differences will close and then reverse. If you’re planning courses in the ocean venues, then bringing a wetsuit, and deciding on the day whether to wear or it not will give you the best options.

This symposium sounds fantastic, I wish I could go. Maybe next year. Does anyone know if many of the participants use Greenland paddles?

Here is the description of the symposium:


I am definitely going to the symposium! I had a couple of confounding issues that have resolved enough that I can go. @Bobonli, I’ll see you there?

I’ll definitely write up my thoughts when I get back.

1 Like

Ok so the weather forecast for the vicinity of the symposium next weekend looks dismal. 15-25 knots and rain all three days. :frowning: Not sure what to do now - is it worth driving 14+ hours each way to potentially not be on the water much, or at all? Confounding issues are that I likely won’t get any of my money back for the Symposium or the hotels by canceling this late. What would you do?

The organizers will have alternate plans to ensure it is a great learning experience. Go! And, be sure to pack your foul weather paddling gear.

Someone once told me that kayaking is a water sport, soooo…plan to get wet.

1 Like

NWS Forecast winds are out of the northeast to east. So near-shore activities on the Bay side will see significant protection. Four days out, I’d view the forecast as a possible, not a definite. The weather changes a lot here on the southern Chesapeake.
Pack up and hit the road.