Sea Kayaking lessons and instruction recommendations

Hi all,

I’ve been a fairly avid kayaker on rivers and streams near me for a few years now with my Squall GTS, but want to get into sea kayaking. I live a day’s drive from the coast, so I’m thinking that later this summer, I’ll dedicate up to a week if necessary to travel to a reputable kayak instructor and start making this dream a reality! I’m not aware of too many ‘full service’ type kayak instructors out there though, so I’m hoping I can get some recs from you folks. Below is the link from Kayak Academy near Seattle, which offers the exact type of course and instruction list that I’m looking for (and they will remain an option for me).

Please share any of your recommendations! I’m located in western PA, but travel within the US and cost of this isn’t too much of an issue. Thanks everyone!

The Kayak Academy has a good reputation, although I haven’t taken their courses. George Gronseth has been at this a long time.

I did take a course from folks up near Bellingham
I thought they were exceptional.

Check out the American Canoe Association (ACA) website for sea kayak skills courses. There should be something within a couple hours of you. Randi @ Capital City Kayaks teaches in the DC area, or if you are in the area I teach, in the New Orleans/Mobile area.

Try to find someone who has been teaching 3-5 years or more.

I took an intro to coastal kayaking weekend course from an ACA instructor based near Buffalo, NY about 4 years ago but have lost her card. It was only a 3 hour drive from here in Pittsburgh to Evangola State Park on Lake Erie where she held the class. It was only her and two students so a lot of personal attention on skills development.

Checking the ACA website I could not find her (maybe I was selecting the wrong filters) but here is a list I cribbed from it of Level 4 instructors in PA, Ohio and NY.

Instructor Name|Home State/Province|Home City|Instructor Email

Mark Pecot|Ohio|Cleveland Heights||
John Tatro|Ohio|Galion||
Taino Almestica|New York|New York||
Todd Seidman|New York|Brooklyn||
Tom Potter|New York|BROOKLYN||
Michael Kingsley|New York|Mayville||
Richard S.|
Matthew Frey|New York|BROOKLYN|(
Julie McCoy|New York|New York (
Steve Maynard|New York|Peru []

If you could travel south to SC about a month from now for a weekend, you could meet a great bunch of paddlers and instructors, and I’m sure learn a lot about sea kayaking. You could get an idea of what some different instructors are like, and maybe even work out something of a plan for later this summer. There’s an “instructor” tab to get an idea of who will be there. There were lots of people swimming at the beach already this weekend at Huntington Beach State Park, so it could provide a nice jumpstart on warm water paddling for you.
Home | kayakoceans (

Wow! What a terrific lineup of coaches! Wish I lived closer to the coast.

BTW, somehow Mike Looman’s name isn’t associated with his photo.

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For a paddler experienced on rivers or small lakes, the big differences in moving to sea kayaking are the environment–wind/weather, tides, and the much large scale of distances, especially the potential distances from shore, and the additional skills and knowledge needed to safely negotiate that environment.
In the US, you can find courses from qualified instructors under either the American Canoe Association (ACA) and British Canoeing (BC) standards. Both programs have been well worked out and either would provide a very solid foundation. ACA instructors are more numerous here, and ACA courses are much more frequent & more widely geographically distributed. You can find courses/instructors on the ACA website. Here are links to two ACA programs that would be relevant for you:

If you are an experienced paddler, but not experienced paddling on the open sea, I would recommend starting with the Level 3 course, not the Level 4 course.

I found the information about my instructor for the Lake Erie open water instruction – Andrea Vaillancourt-Alder of Seabirds International. Here is a link to her website. Can’t swear to how current it is:

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Memorial Weekend in Western Michigan. An excellent Beginner/Intermediate weekend.

In July on Lake Superior:

Trey also does instruction

Or, check Michael Gray’s calendar to see if anything fits:

It might be worth a call to Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte Michigan. They have had lots of very good instructors but I don’t know where they are now with instruction.

Thanks. I hadn’t noticed that. I guess Mike needs no introduction!

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I met Andrea years ago when we were both candidates at my very first instructor workshop. I had the pleasure of paddling with her as she was passing through earlier this year. It was great to catch up. It sounded like she had a lot of fun things in the works for this year.

I highly recommend going through the ACA.

It’s not exactly your area, but on east coast consider this in September:

I attended in 2018 and had a good time. They have a wide selection of classes from many instructors. They try to customize based on skill level. There’s something for everyone. The link will show 2021 classes and descriptions until new schedule is released in May, I think. Nice thing is participants typically bunk together in cabins/houses (if you choose) so hang around and share stories, meals, advice, drinks, etc. As opposed to everyone dashing off after class. It’s very reasonably priced to spend the whole weekend, with options to extend, or just add the last night lodging and drive home fresh next morning. Can’t this year, but I will go back.
I can personally recommend Jeff Atkins, Todd Johnstone-Wright, Alison Sigethy.
There are many other symposia/workshops. But be aware some are specifically geared toward Greenland skills. Nothing wrong with that either, but a more specialized niche.
HRGF in N.Y. is already sold out.
If you’re looking specifically for surfing, west coast may be a better choice. Maybe save that for your 2nd or 3rd symposium. Good luck.

I can also recommend Cross Currents Sea Kayaking’s Kiptopeke Symposium. I’ve known & paddled with the organizer, Rick Wiebush, off & on for over a decade. He’s very good, and has brought together an excellent group of highly experienced instructors, several of whom I also have known and paddled with for years. The venue is good, with immediate access to ocean, sheltered bays behind barrier islands, and the lower Chesapeake. The group lodges in the Kiptopeke State Park are very good as well, and provide the opportunity for a lot of great off-water socializing at the end of each day. The variety of different sessions offers something for almost everybody.

Not sure if it floats your boat, but since you said Seattle was fair game…

You could cross the border and take your course in or near Vancouver BC. The exchange rate savings on the course might be attractive!

I have taken a course from David Dreves, of West Beach Paddle. Thought he was good.

There are many others of course. I’ve heard good things about SKILS on Vancouver Island.

Another Vancouver, BC, resource is Deep Cove Kayak Center about 20 minutes NE of the city on the beautiful Indian Arm fjord. They offer rentals, day tours and instruction. i paddled with them back in 2009 during my first trip to Vancouver.