Sea kayaking course thoughts

At long last, I recently obtained knowledge and real experience regarding sea kayaking from a source other than the people here. This was a four session course with the last session being Deception Pass to tie all the skills together. It turns out I did not go for the fourth session which was a serious disappointment, but I’ll explain why later. The three sessions I attended were each about 2.5 hours long at Lake Union in Seattle, the site of the houseboat in Sleepless in Seattle and sporting striking views of the downtown skyline, the Space Needle, and Gasworks Park.

This was no gentle introduction to sea kayaking thanks to Mother Nature. During the first two sessions it was raining almost the entire time, with air around 50F and water around 45F. I’m glad I arrived early on the first day because negotiating the drysuit, booties, foot pegs length, and the rest took plenty of time. It was my first time trying to put on a drysuit and to be honest it wasn’t awful. I think the aforementioned temperatures and conditions helped me to feel quite grateful for the thing, and I was amazed to learn that I could be choked by the neck gasket and breathe at the same time. I did however make sure to confirm with my fellow newbies that my head was not turning into a blueberry after wearing it for some time.

The night before I had stayed awake thinking about wet exits in the cold water. I was still thinking about that first wet exit as I entered the kayak while still nice and dry. Once we got into the water, while I was wondering how the hell I would remember all the things I was being taught, these thoughts faded a bit and I was able to settle in and paddle to the site where we’d practice rescues.

Once I saw someone else tip over it was on, as I wasn’t going to be the guy who chickens out. For the first one I did start with my hand on the skirt loop, and after I fell over it felt like only an instant before I was floating with my head above water. It does seem true that especially once the skirt comes off, my body just naturally dropped out of the kayak and the PFD naturally brought me to the surface.

The paddle float rescue took me three tries to get right. I made the same mistake a couple of times where I was leaning too far on the opposite side of the paddle float and flopped back in the water on that side. Then I decided to put some more trust in the float and favor that side, and it was easier. However I took the paddle float off straight away and stowed it, which meant I had to pump out the water and put the skirt on while balancing the boat! The next time, I made sure to make use of the paddle float’s handy services until I was ready to start paddling again.

The worst part of the experience by far was losing my glasses to the gods of the lake in the third session. I was wearing chums but they slid right off when I entered the water one time. I never saw the chums or the glasses again. I have a (decidedly mediocre) pair of backup glasses but I had left them at home, so I couldn’t even drive home. I needed to Lyft home, get the glasses, and Lyft back to my car. This is when I decided to make the painful decision to skip the Deception Pass adventure on Sunday, since if anything happened to my backup glasses there, I’d be SOL for the long trip home.

Overall the experience was positive. Along with rescues, I learned about proper forward stroke technique, keeping the lower body separate from the upper body, edging the boat to aid in staying on course or in turning, doing a skulling draw, a forward and reverse sweep which came in handy numerous times during the lessons, and then finally the low brace. The first time coming out of nasty weather and dunks in the water and being dry and ready to go home felt miraculous. Reading about it does the experience no justice. It must be seen to be believed on a deep level.

I was not as fluid in my movements as I want to be, so it felt tiring. I assume this will improve with time and it’ll feel less like I’m forcefully pushing water and yanking the paddle around. I just had to remind myself over and over to ease up on my grip, ease up on the strokes, keep the shoulders relaxed, etc.

I’m not entirely sure where to go from here, but I’m certain I want to go back to NWOC to rent from them and practice the skills I learned. Buying all the gear still feels overwhelming, like maybe I’m not sure enough about what I want to drop the big bucks. Luckily summer is on its way so I should be able to get out for 3-4 months without making larger investments such as my own drysuit. I did buy an inflatable kayak but it’s not related to sea kayaking, just for summer family fun on the lakes. I suppose ultimately however I can get on the water is time well spent, and eventually I’ll know when it’s time to pull the trigger on the bigger purchases.


So good to hear from you again, Daniel. That was a great report about your courses except for the part about losing your glasses. What a bummer, not only for the inconvenience but because you had to skip the last session. So disappointing.

Seat time does wonders so I hope you get plenty of it this summer.


Good write up on your experience. Successfully executing lots of sea kayak skills takes practice…few new paddlers get anything, much less everything the first try. But, it is worth it once you get the hang of our sport.

I think most of learn the hard way to use real floats on our Rx glasses/sunglasses…I sure did. I now float test any glasses retainer floats b4 wearing them on any paddle.


Sucks about your glasses, but glad overall it was a good experience. Sounds like a great class!

As far as buying a drysuit, Kayak Academy sells used suits that they make sure are good to go for around $400. It’s a lot less than buying new. You may also have luck finding one used online. I picked up a Kokatat GFER from a guy in Maine for $225 that just needed the wrist and neck seals replaced, which was only another $100.

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What do you use for your floaters?

Yeah… know that experience all to well. I think I’ve lost 3 pairs of prescription glasses. Since I wear “progressives”, we talking $700 plus per pair. :scream: Now, I just don’t wear them on the water at all. I also keep an old pair of prescription in the car as a backup for driving home.

Glad you finally got on the water. Way more informative than than talking about on a forum. Real life seat-in-kayak time trumps internet chat.



on any classes involving water entry or leaning of kayak (eg: bracing, sweeps, etc):
maybe they do (haven’t attended any classes recently), but why don’t they advise attendees to stow away any items they don’t want to lose - specifically glasses, electonics, etc. and/or secure items well (eg: hat with tie string)

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When I took beginner courses, safety warnings about personal items were provided in the pre-class guidance (written and email) AND mentioned prior to underway (verbal) . Now as an instructor, I offer similar warnings. In fact after a good buddy lost his wedding ring while we were practicing rescues one day, rings and all jewelry (including earrings, nose & body piercings, and watches) have been added to the list.

Some folks either don’t read/listen, or more often they go on the water after multiple warnings with the thought, “it won’t happen to me. I won’t lose my xxxxx”

I have used $5 ones from WalMart which are usually available only in spring or early summer. And, replace the fake surgical tubing every year or two when it wears out. They are not pretty, but these have worked for me when Rx sunglasses come off while rolling, after coming out of my kayak, and when window shaded while surfing. The bright colors help!


A good report.
Anyone that paddles a kayak and goes beyond an hour in a rubber duck better know how to wet exit, re-entry, and how to deal with cold water and bad weather.
Otherwise your life could be in jeopardy.

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Well I was using a Chums strap on the glasses, but the frames I had were quite thin, so the strap probably didn’t attach tightly enough to the stems. Plus the frames were kind of flexible and such. Comfortable and light on land but not really made for watersports. My new pair will have sturdier frames, but I’m also considering getting a separate sports pair that has either a floating frame or one with a built-in strap, so it’s sort of like a goggles style (but not necessarily goggles that seal around the eyes).

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Oh how I wish my eyes weren’t so bad that I could enjoy myself without glasses! I could manage to get around the water without glasses, as I did after I lost them, but I wasn’t able to see things with much clarity, which is an important part of the experience. I think I need good floating straps that I make sure secure tightly to the stems (plus stems that are not super smooth or thin) or better yet a separate sports pair that really grabs my head nicely.

I’ve paddled on Lake Union, wouldn’t want to fall in. Did you take antibiotics after?

Great class report. During my first several lessons I felt the exact same way, overwhelmed by all the info. Actually if I’m being honest I still often feel that way after quite a few lessons! But they’re always fun.

I’m also unable to see well at all, or to drive, without corrective lenses. I wear contacts since my peripheral vision is pretty much nonexistent with glasses. Unfortunately contacts are problematic on the water too, because of acanthamoeba. I’ve gotten daily wear lenses for lesson days, since they are slightly safer. But I feel your pain!

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I took that same course from NWOC a couple a few a lot of years ago. See if you can’t join a later session for the Deception Pass day. That was by far the most fun part of the class, and gives you the opportunity to tie everything you’ve learned together. Playing in six or seven knots of current was a blast and makes you feel like superman if you paddle hard and ride it all the way into Bowman Bay.

Good idea on the sports frames. I prefer to wear sports frame Rx sunglasses AND a float when surfing, anticipated rough conditions, and roll practice. On intended easy going paddles, the standard sunglasses frames (with flexible hinges) and floats work fine - and they have been known to enjoy surf, rolling, & rough conditions also (when I forget the sports frames).

Thank you…misery loves company.

Glasses for us vision challenged persons are important. The design of the glasses may have more impact than the strap and float. For example, I have three pair of glasses. The left hand and middle glasses have both come up from a dunking nd agitation in the surf and stayed on my head. The more stylish right hand glasses fall off onto buffet tables when I look down.

The sport frames are spring loaded and push in at the temples. Which can be uncomfortable at the end of the day , but they stay on and guard against wind blowing them off. The strap is nothing special. Fishermen use fishing line to strap the glasses. It is a test for your knot tying skills. I dislike floats on the strap because they get tangled up in my hat straps easier.


Yeah… Having extra glasses is where I am at!!! Now, if only I could have extra set of 20/20 eyes… :nerd_face:

I like your low-profile cord strap. Croakies worked for me. My problem is that the best surf for me comes in the colder months. Even though the glasses stay on, they immediately fog up and blind me when I come up from a roll or a brace into the foam pile. So, I just gave up on it. I do use my glasses when I am just paddling around and, more importantly, when I’m kayak fishing. There I have to add on magnifiers so I can tie on lures or re-tie leaders.

If there is no more a reminder of aging eyes…


Classes are a great idea.
Next try a trip like the San Juan Islands.

I would have loved to do that- and it would have been worth losing my glasses. Flew up to Washington twice last year just to kayak (Lake Crescent for recreation and Port Angeles for a sea kayak lesson. :slight_smile: Thanks for the detailed review.