Sunday, May 5, 2019

ACA Level 3 Instructor Development Workshop/Instructor Certification Exam

Last weekend I was fortunate to complete a goal I have had for some time. I took part in the Level 3 IDW,Instructor Development Workshop, put on by Sean Morley of River and Ocean.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and exceeded my expectations of intensity.

To be honest I was a little anxious about taking this workshop. I knew I was ready but didn't really know what to expect. Sean did an excellent job of preparing us beforehand by emailing us assignments and background information  before the workshop began.  The IDW takes place concurrently with the Instructor Certification Exam otherwise known as the ICE. Two out of seven of us were taking the Exam.

Sean Morley was our Instructor Trainer and was assisted by Larry Wagner of Kayak Connection in Moss Landing. Both incredible instructors with extensive kayaking and teaching experience.

Before I share my experience, let me give a little background information on the American Canoe Association, aka ACA, and what it represents. Briefly, the ACA is an organization that advocates for paddlers "at the local, state, and federal levels on a range of public policy issues pertinent to paddlers:
  • Work towards greater access to rivers, streams, lakes, bays and coastlines
  • Represents paddlers in meetings concerning lifejacket wear
  • Addresses paddlesports education standards from state to state
  • Represents paddlers in meetings concerning boat registration issues
  • Represents paddlers with state and federal entities"
It also plays a huge role in stewardship: "The ACA is committed to making the world a better place to paddle!

Our paddling community explores waterways from small streams to the sea, making paddlers stakeholders and potential stewards of all waterways.

The ACA's Paddle Green and Stream to Sea programs focus on conservation and education activities that protect the environment, strengthen peoples connection to the outdoors, and foster stewardship ethics that protect our natural resources."

I strongly encourage you to join the ACA because they provide a huge amount of resources and support for all types of paddlers.


One of the best decisions I made was staying at a hotel for the entire weekend. My friend, who was doing the instructor certification exam, and I stayed at the Travelodge in Mill Valley. We arrived Thursday evening and right away began studying, watching YouTube videos and going over what we had prepared for the next day. We awoke Friday morning at 6 a.m. and began packing up our gear and lunch for that day's instruction. We arrived at Sea Trek in Sausalito a little before 8 a.m. and made our way to the classroom. After introductions and an overview of what the day would look like, we turned in the lesson plans we had prepared and spent a couple hours going over ACA class requirements, how to register and report classes we would teach and teaching and learning theory. We then geared up and prepared to launch. Our Instructor Trainer, Sean, then demonstrated how a stroke should be taught using the side slip as an example. We spent a good amount of time working on this stroke and playing a game to hone our skill. In order to be certified at level 3, each instructor trainee must be able to perform the following strokes with skill and efficiency and be able to teach and assess each skill effectively and efficiently: FORWARD STROKE, SWEEPS (forward & reverse),REVERSE (& stopping), DRAWS (to hip, sculling draw, on the move),BRACES (high, low, sculling), LOW BRACE/HIGH BRACE TURN, RUDDERS (bow & stern), EDGING and SIDE SLIP. After working on the side slip we landed at a beach for lunch and while eating received a 10 minute presentation on tides and currents. Each trainee was assigned to do one presentation during the IDW/ICE. Back on the water it was my turn to teach one of the strokes. I chose the stern rudder. After which I critiqued myself and was given feedback from participants. We then paddled back to Sea Trek to be videoed of us performing each of the above strokes and a roll. Workshop participants are not required to roll but those taking the exam are expected to execute a roll. I've been working on my roll and have been successful in the pool but have not been successful in real water. After being videoed we loaded our kayaks and dressed into warm dry clothes and headed back to the classroom to watch and critique what we had just done. It was great to be able to watch ourselves and see where we could use improvement. Everyone was kind and thoughtful but truthful which is always best if you really want to improve technique. We left sometime after 6pm, grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hotel to study and watch more videos. 

We arrived at Horseshoe Cove at 8am and were greeted with a stiff breeze. Wind was blowing 12 knots with gusts to 19 or 20. The conditions were borderline Level 3 and above but each trainee had the skills to paddle and teach in these conditions. After a review of day 1, we launched and headed out the gate towards Kirby Cove. Two trip leaders were assigned for this leg of the journey and were required to teach a stroke along the way. We landed safely at Kirby Cove and presentations on Compass use for Navigation, towing and nautical charts were given. After lunch we were back on the water and began teaching and demonstrating paddlefloat rescues. My friend and I were then assigned as the trip leaders for our leg back under the gate. When we reached the bridge the tide was still ebbing and created a strong current against us as we rounded Lime Point. The rest of the afternoon was spent on rescues and strokes. In order to be certified Level 3, the following rescues must be taught and demonstrated effectively and efficiently: WET EXIT (with spray skirt), SELF RESCUES (scramble, paddle-float),T-RESCUE (& variations), BOW RESCUE (& variations), INCAPACITATED PADDLER RESCUE (Scoop) UNRESPONSIVE PADDLER RESCUE (Hand of God),SWIMMER RECOVERY (bow, stern deck).
ICE candidates then turned in their float plans for day 3 and we discussed what the best options would be considering weather and current predictions. We finished up again around 6pm and headed back to hotel for more studying.

I woke up around 630am Sunday and began experiencing some tummy issues. I could tell I was extremely low on energy and prayed I could make it through the day. We were having some guest paddlers from Western Sea Kayakers and Kayak Connection join us for the day so we would be working with "real" students. We again met at Horseshoe Cove at 8am and prepared to launch with our students. We went over the float plan for the day with the plan to paddle to Angel Island via Richardson Bay to beat the ebbing tide. The wind was up again and I began to have doubts whether  I could complete the workshop. We broke into two pods with Sean taking one group and Larry taking my group. We were to continue teaching rescues on our way to Angel Island. I was assigned the Hand of God or Scoop rescue to teach. Both of these rescues take a lot of strength and I pretty much knew I didn't have it in me but was determined to try. I had a glimmer of hope when someone spotted a whale spout in the bay. I turned to see it just in time as it dove beneath the choppy water and reminded myself why I was doing this. It was my turn to teach the scoop rescue and after finding a willing volunteer I proceeded. It didn't go well. I was able to get the paddler into his boat but upon trying to turn him and his boat over I proceeded to dump both of us in the water. Frustrated and discouraged I got back in my boat and knew I would not physically be able to make the paddle to Angel Island. I was confident I could get there but with the wind against us I feared I wouldn't have the strength to paddle against it on our way back. I pulled Larry aside and shared how I was feeling. Without hesitation he radioed Sean and both groups merged to discuss options. Thankfully, it was decided that we would not paddle to Angel Island and instead continue to work on rescues, towing and strokes near Yellow Bluff. We broke for lunch and I did my presentation on Hypothermia. I received some great feedback and plan on implementing the suggestions when I teach. I felt bad for wimping out on the paddle to Angel Island but a few paddlers mentioned to me that they were glad we didn't go. Not sure if they were trying to make me feel better but was glad to hear I wasn't the only person who was tired. We made it back to Horseshoe Cove around 4pm and thanked and said goodbye to our practice students. We loaded our boats and gear and headed to the Presidio Yacht Club for a beer, debrief and evaluations.


This was definitely one the most physically challenging endeavors I have ever partaken in but also the most valuable. I can't begin to explain how much I took away from this experience. In the end I was certified as a Level 2 ACA instructor and I look forward to taking my Level 3 exam next spring. I couldn't have asked for a better instructor than Sean Morley and I learned much from Larry Wagner. The group itself was made up of extremely skilled guides and paddlers and were so fun to be with! I have left quite a bit out of this post but hope this gives you an idea of what is involved in becoming a certified instructor. My highest respect goes out to all certified instructors who have taken the time to be the best they can be on the water. Kayaking is a sport that involves life long learning and that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Keep on paddling!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

San Joaquin River Trip #6- Antioch to Sherman Island County Park

This paddling trip is a great paddle for those who want  to spend most of the day on the water.  It's approximately 10 miles round trip and is best done during fall or winter. 

 Sherman island county park is well known for kite surfers and windsurfers alike. During the summer months you can see dozens if not hundreds of kite boarders zigzagging across what's known as Sherman Lake. During the summer months the Delta is known for its westerly winds that can average 20 to 30 miles per hour which makes this a good location for the kite surfers but not so great for kayakers or paddle boarders.

During the fall and Winter months it becomes a birders paradise. You will often find no wind and glassy waters during this time a year and encounter multitudes of migratory birds visiting.

There are multiple ways to get to Sherman island county park via kayak but the one I suggest for beginners is fairly direct. The map I have posted will lead you to the sandy beach nearest the restrooms. If you don't need to use the facilities you can always stop at one of the two small sand covered islands just before the park.  If you decide to choose a different route going through the marshy wetlands, be sure to bring a GPS, as it is easy to get lost and some of the many sloughs are cut off due to invasive weeds.

You should plan a minimum of 4 hours for this trip but if you prefer to paddle at a more relaxed pace, 6 hours or more would be ideal.

If you prefer a guided trip to this location please contact Delta Kayak Adventures to create an adventure you're sure to love!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Antioch to Martinez

On Monday, January 28th, 5 of us launched from the Antioch Marina at 10:14 am at the height of the incoming tide.  It was a windless day with high clouds above us.  The day couldn't have been more perfect with not even a ripple on the surface of the water.

The first hour or so we paddled against what was left of the incoming tide.  As we approached Pittsburg the tide began to slowly turn and helped us gain speed as we made our way down the San Joaquin River.  The south side of the river made for an industrial type paddle. We hugged the south shore all the way to Martinez and glided past commercial enterprises such as US Posco steel, Dow Chemical and PG&E.  After the PG&E plant there is a good deal of wetland marsh along the Bay Point Regional Shoreline up until Port Chicago.

We stopped for lunch at Middle Point adjacent to the Bay Point Regional Shoreline. The tide had turned, but there was not a lot of areas to choose from to get out that were beach like. We found a gravelly rock covered spot for just enough room for the 5 of us.  We covered nearly 10 miles in approximately 2 and a 1/2 hours and we average 3.2 miles per hour.

On this 1st part of our journey we encountered a couple of river otters, dozens of cormorants and  hundreds of gulls.  There were seals and sea lions on every channel marker buoy along the way. Their barking kept us company as we paddled downstream.

The 2nd part of our journey began after lunch as we made our way to port Chicago. Port Chicago was an extension of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, and is known for the location of the Port Chicago disaster in July of 1944 where over 300 soldiers were killed while loading a munitions ship. As we paddled this area it gave us a sort of an uneasy feeling, with huge signs posted "Restricted Area Explosives." We noticed a channel ahead that we thought would make a great shortcut but as soon as we began to enter the channel someone over a loud speaker told us we were in a restricted area and needed to leave. So we ended up paddling north around Seal islands and then gently made our way closer to shore as we paddled the Suisun Bay.

We continued to paddle on glassy waters and witnessed several grebes coming up to the surface and then bobbing back underwater and a couple more seals poked their heads out of the water. Behind us, a large ship began to approach and we made sure that we were out of the shipping channel so it could pass us safely. It was hard to judge distance, especially due to the haze but we watched silently as the ship passed and approached the  Benicia bridge.  We could see the mothball fleet north of us sitting faintly in Suisun Bay.

We passed under the Benicia bridge and I marveled at the structures above. The new span versus the old span, and then the old railroad bridge, built in 1930, which is still in use today, was something to behold.
There was a large tanker docked just after the bridge named Socrates. We paddled past as water from the bilge exploded out of the side of the tanker.  It took us less than 2 hours to reach the Martinez Marina after lunch. 

The narrowing of the waterway from Suisun Bay to the Carquinez Strait increased our speed along with the increase in speed from the tidal outflow, made for an extremely easy paddle.  We averaged 4.2 knots the last 9 miles of this trip. It was an amazing day with a great group of friends and I can't wait to paddle East on the North side of the river and bays!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Paddling the Delta

What makes paddling the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, AKA the California Delta, so special?

I'll try my best to answer that question in hopes you'll take it upon yourself to come and experience it on your own or with myself on a guided tour.

I'll begin with a little background information. The California Delta is unique in that it is an inland inverted delta. What that means is that it's not your typical delta where a single source of water flows to or though a narrow opening and then fans out depositing sediment. Our California Delta is fed by many rivers and streams and encompasses an area from Sacramento to the north, Tracy to the South and Stockton to the east. All waters come together at the Carquinez Strait where it continues to the San Francisco Bay and out the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean.

The California Delta is the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas. It encompasses an area of over 1100 square miles which include over 50 major islands and hundreds of smaller ones. There are endless paddling opportunities whether kayaking, paddleboarding or canoeing. One thing I love about the Delta is that every day it's different. You can paddle the same spot everyday of the year and you'll experience a difference in how it looks and feels each day. You'll have diverse animal encounters whether it's viewing countless species of waterfowl or a chance meeting with a family of river otters, the Delta never disappoints.  Viewing wildlife from a kayak is a unique experience. You become part of the river as there is no way to get closer to the water unless you swim. Your soundless movement over the surface of the water allows you to get a glimpse of the wild as it truly is. It's an amazing experience to feel solace and tranquility while being surrounded by nearly 7 million people in the Bay Area.

With so many paddling options where do you start? Because I am completely biased, I'd suggest Antioch. With Antioch being a designated San Francisco Bay Water Trail site it makes launching a breeze with the kayak launches available at the Antioch Marina. If you don't have your own kayak you can always rent from Delta Kayak Adventures where I will offer suggestions and tips based on weather and tides for the best possible experience. You can search my blog here for trips I've posted on paddling from Antioch. I will continue to add trips as time goes on. Beginning your trip from a SF Bay Water Trail site is a great choice because that site has been determined to be human powered craft friendly.

There are currently 4 SF Bay Water Trail designated sites within the "legal" delta with more additions planned. They include Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley, the Antioch Marina, Pittburg Marina and Riverview Park in Pittsburg, though Riverview is more practical for kiteboarders. There are also 2 sites in Suisun, not considered to be a part of the legal delta but another beautiful area to explore. My hope is that someday the SF Bay Water Trail will link to the Great Delta Trail which is in its planning stages.

Another reason the California Delta is such a special place to paddle is that it can be paddled year round. With proper gear and attire you can enjoy a cool winter paddle and view migratory birds visiting our area. When the summer winds pick up, you can surf the swells on the San Joaquin or find secluded islands and smaller sloughs to explore that are protected from wind. In spring you can see hundreds of egrets and heron raising their young. Fall brings new winged visitors to our Delta and is my favorite time of year to paddle.

The Delta is an exceptional place to fish. Kayak fishing is another way to enjoy time on the water. You can fish for Salmon during the fall, black bass, striped bass, blue gill and crappie year round. If you want a sleigh ride you can try your luck at targeting sturgeon. The Delta is known as a world class fishery with many tournaments and festivals throughout the year. Delta Kayak Adventures offers guided fishing tours or fishing kayak rentals throughout the region.

Delta Kayak Adventures is a Mom owned small business. My children are often at my side ensuring our clients safety on the water. We offer kayak and paddleboard rentals, guided tours, classes and use high quality equipment to ensure a good time on the water. Our classes include an Intro to Kayaking or Paddleboarding 2 hour class to get the basics and safety down and to give you the chance to see if kayaking or paddleboarding is a sport you want to pursue. We also offer more in depth sea kayaking classes that are a full day of learning and having fun on the water. Rescue classes are offered to ensure you can safely re-enter your kayak in real world conditions. We offer private group tours throughout the Delta region and discounted trips for veterans and their family. Rentals are available from the Antioch Marina 7 days a week and you can choose to rent for an hour, half day or full day.

I invite you to come and explore the Delta with me. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.