“Thank you! See you!” The petite Japanese woman beamed, bouncing onto her tiptoes to give each of us a hug goodbye. Strangers just three days earlier, Maiko and I parted as friends.
When I look back at more than a decade of kayak tripping, guiding, traveling, writing and coaching, it’s the other paddlers I’ve met along the way who stay with me the most. Their stories, advice, questions, stumbling blocks, victories and, yes, hugs are woven into the rich tapestry of my own experiences.
Most of my closest friends, I met through kayaking. Much of what I know about paddling techniques and tools—not to mention coastal environments, weather, group dynamics, risk management and much else—I learned from them. Nearly everything else I absorbed through mentors and students. Our playgrounds may be vast and widespread, but the sea kayaking community is a relatively small one, and I’ve had the good fortune to paddle with many of its luminaries.
An offhand observation from Body Boat Blade coach Leon Sommé at a symposium my first year of kayaking transformed my roll from dubious to dependable. In an instructor workshop on navigation, SKILS coach Michael Pardy explored the history, art and science of mapmaking, adding fascinating depth and breadth to the standard angles-and-equations lesson plan.
Most recently, I spent a day with Have Kayaks Will Travel coaches Sharon and Alec Bloyd-Peshkin, who demonstrated a simple, effective way to identify hazards and evaluate risk with your group before getting on the water. Their approach is now integrated into my own paddler’s tool kit, and packaged with...