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West Coast Symposium and Cape Flattery Paddle
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I’ve discovered that ‘networking’ is so much more exhausting than ‘paddling’. The West Coast Seakayaking symposium was full of interesting and influential people who I spent most of my time talking to or listening to. It was great to finally shake hands with people who I’d been emailing and talking to for ages, like Jon Turk who inspired me to go to Kamchatka and Rich and Mark from Snapdragon who have supported me with their bombproof spraydecks for a few years. I also got to catch up with friends like Bryan Smith, (who will be in ‘This is the Sea2’ surfing his seakayak at the famous Skooks tidal wave) and Ginni Callahan, who was organising the coaching. I met new faces like the dreadlocked “Dubside”, a Greenland kayaking expert who is very good at the rope gymnastics but also managed to roll all manner of sit-on-tops and wide kayaks. Like Madonna he doesn’t feel the need for more than 1 name! It was great to have my eyes opened once again to how many people are out there, pushing the sport of kayaking in their own particular direction.

There is always so much more to learn…. but how can talking be so tiring? OK perhaps my yawning was partly to do with the long long journey there and the jet lag, or even dancing to ‘the Walrus’ ‘til midnignt on Saturday night. I’m very grateful to Rob Cassey who emailed every paddler he knows in Seattle to try to get me a ride to the symposium, and to Kathrynn Scheele who kindly picked me up from Seattle airport and drove me to Port Townsend. We arrived at Fort Warden at midnight on the Friday, exhausted, smelly and without really knowing where my room was (that's me, not Kathrynn!). My first ‘adventure’ came at 7 o’clock the next morning when I managed to lock myself out of my room after a shower. I’m glad no-one saw me climbing out of the bathroom window, clambering onto the roof and back into my room through its window!

I was honoured to be asked to be the Saturday night keynote speaker at this symposium, which claims to be the biggest in America. In the registration area were posters advertising my talk about the first all-female circumnavigation of Tasmania. I kept stopping in shock at seeing my name on posters, wondering what I’d done wrong and who was telling me off!

The presentation seemed to go down well. The organisers told me they had never seen so many people at a Sat night presentation and people said liked the mix of slides and video clips. Two previews of ‘This is the Sea 2’ had a few people excited aswell. Thanks very much to ‘Canoe Kayak’ magazine for sponsoring the lecture and to my very good friends Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme from ‘Body Boat Blade’ on Orcas island who paid for my flight to the States. They really are lovely people and incredibly enthusiastic and skilful coaches of kayaking. If you’re thinking of taking a course then I can’t think of anyone better to learn from.


Although it was a flying visit, it would have been a crime not to get a little bit of paddling in. On the Monday after the symposium, Shawna, myself, Simon Osborne (the Friday night speaker who lives 30mins away from me in Wales!), Stenni (from Iceland) and Chris Duff had a wonderful paddle around Cape Flattery on the Olympic Peninsula. What a lovely area with fantastic wildlife. The 5ft swell was big enough to give a bit of excitement but small enough that we could get in close to the many sea stacks and explore some of the amazing cave networks. Chris showed us one small opening in the rocks which looked like it would peter out but if you turned a corner a shaft of light revealed a skinny channel which opened up into a wide dark chamber and finally came out the other side of a headland, 100 metres later.

Co-incidentally we banged into Alex Mathews and photographer Jock Bradley taking photos for Alex’s next book on “Advanced seakayaking”. Jock has a great set-up - his RIB has a rack for carrying kayaks from hot-spot to hot-spot. After paddling through a rock arch to a sandy beach for lunch, we paddled around Tatoosh island and saw one of the stella sealion colonies. One of the big poweful creatures lept right out of the water a few metres in front of us, snorting noisily. I wasn’t sure if it was a display of strength or just playful fun, but I didn’t fancy getting any nearer, just in case! We were also lucky enough to see pelicans, a sea otter and most exciting of all, a grey whale. The whale was travelling in the same direction as us at about the same speed so we saw him come up for air about 4 times just a few metres away. If that wasn’t enough, we came across a waterfall which poured over a small overhang, providing a fantastic freshwater shower. A great day with good friends who I don’t see as often as I’d like. Thanks a lot to Chris and his girlfriend Lisa for letting us stay on the Monday night. Now it’s back home – with 2 new Greenland style paddles for Alun –lovingly made by Kurt from Midwest Paddles.

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