Gordon Brown Intermediate/Advanced clinic
- by Willi Fast
On a cold and snowy Wednesday February 8 in Cadboro Bay, ten lucky participants and two observers were treated to an exceptional instructional clinic with world renowned sea kayaking coach Gordon Brown (hailing from Scotland!).
To ward off the threatening weather system looming just off the bay, Gordon began with a group warm-up that had us all huddled closely in a circle, laughing, singing and moving together (what language were we singing anyway?). Once on the water, we began with the day’s first challenge: using only forward sweeps, count the number of strokes required to turn our kayaks 360 degrees. Initial results ranged from “low teens” to “twenty something”. To lower the stroke count, Gordon stepped us through a structured breakdown of the forward sweep, addressing all technical rudiments including paddle catch, power phase, foot pressure, body and head position and torso rotation. As each new element was incrementally introduced and practiced, each of us noticed improvement. Forward sweep practice was interrupted with an inadvertent capsize by an over-zealous participant (to remain unnamed!). Gordon calmly directed the rescue and re-entry, and the clinic continued.
The next skills addressed were turning strokes. Gordon introduced the low brace turn and the bow rudder, encouraging us to play with off-side and on-side edge turns. How can it look so easy and efficient, yet continue to be challenging? The off-shore north wind was continuing to build, and Gordon used that as an opportunity to work on stroke combinations for maneuvering in wind. We learned about kayak construction and wind-theory to assist with stroke choices for turning into and away from the wind. The final skill instruction focused on the forward stroke. Again, Gordon lead us through a clearly structured progression of rudiments that gave each of us elements for improvement.
By now, snow was starting to accumulate on our kayak decks, and it was agreed by all that we would call it a day and head back to shore. Afterwards, those participants with no worries about road conditions for return travel convened at a local coffee shop for story exchange, and presentation of thank-you appreciation gifts to Gordon. Unanimous consensus was that this was the best instruction ever received by SISKA members. In the words of one participant: “The best-ever instruction, in the worst-ever conditions.” It’s not the snow we will remember. Rather, we will carry with us the enthusiasm, humour and technical expertise that Gordon so willingly shared with us that day. Oh – and ample motivation to keep practicing. Thank you Gordon!
Thanks to Mike Jackson for SISKA facilitation, Jennie Sutton for clinic co-ordination, and attending SISKA members for perseverance!