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11th Annual Sweetwater Kayaks Symposium

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Hank Brooks, Photos Bobbie Jo Roe | Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers
Published Sunday, April 01, 2007

Anyone involved in annual events held outside knows that some years you struggle with the "weather gods" to hold an event together and some years everything just falls together. This year everything came together in late February for the 11th Annual Sweetwater Kayaks Symposium at Ft. Desoto. Although some days were a little windy, the temperature for late February was great for kayaking. The number of students this year was well over 100. There were students from many northern states and from many different foreign countries including Great Britain, Germany, Iceland and others. The word of this great symposium seems to be spreading.

Boats ready to go
It was quite exciting to see over 100 kayaks lined up on the beach ready for their individual "captains" to give the command to "shove off" and start paddling to propel themselves forward. It is also neat to see the four different colored flags flying in the breeze on the beach next to those boats as a signal to the students on where to assemble for the different classes being taught in the morning and the afternoon. With the wind blowing briskly, some of the flags seemed like they were trying to "take off".

Instruction and Funny Hats
The new thing in apparel this year was a Chinese looking shade hat. Check with Sweetwater if you want one.

Classes were as varied as the skills of the kayakers attending the symposium - something for everyone. There were classes on paddle strokes, rescue skills, rolling and being "one with your kayak". I took a class called "Body, Boat & Blade" which was about how your body, your boat and your blade (paddle) interact to make your kayak "dance" on the water. During the class they had us first put our legs outside the cockpit, then sit on the back on the kayak's back deck, then scoot on our stomachs to the bow of the boat and kiss the water.

I sat in my kayak in admiration and awe, as many of the kayakers were able to do these drills with only a few turning over. I don't think that I could do these drills even if my boat was on dry land. It takes me two hands to get my tired old legs outside the kayak. I soon realized that my boat was OK; my paddle was OK so it must be my body that was preventing me from being "one with my boat".

I also learned some "tips & tricks" about how to make my forward paddle more efficient. That the more vertical my paddle stroke became, the more power that I got. Of course I used up a little more energy doing this and lost a little stability if the weather was rough. Every stroke seems to have its trade offs.

As all paddlers know, you meet the great people "out on the water". There were over 100 of them at the Symposium sharing their stories and skill tips. Each year I learn something new - can't wait till next year.

Last update Thursday, January 17, 2008

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