We just returned from the Autumn Gales in Stonington Borough, CT, the ocean sibling of our own Great Lakes Gales rough-water symposium. Run by Greg Paquin and Paula Riegel of Kayak Waveology, the pre-symposium events included a BCU four-star training and assessment, a BCU five-star training, and an ACA Level 5 ICE.
The main event was three days of rough-water courses designed to take advantage of the conditions each day. Some days that meant paddling tidal races and navigating short crossings in current; other days that meant surfing or dialing in rough-water rescues. But while there were plenty of challenges for intermediate and advanced paddlers, there were also ample opportunities to learn or refine fundamentals, such as boat control in wind and current, or launching and landing in waves. And, of course, there was attention to weather, navigation, tidal planning and other ocean paddling essentials.
A full contingent of high-level Welsh coaches were on hand: Nigel Dennis and Eila Wilkinson of Sea Kayaking UK, Phil Clegg of Sea Kayaking Anglesey, and freelance coach Pete Jones, along with Kierron Tastagh of Adventurous Experiences on the Isle of Man, Dale Williams of Sea Kayaking USA, Greg and Paula, a substantial contingent of local coaches and five-star leaders, and us. Approximately 40 students attended the event, which was well documented by kayak, power boat and drone by professional photographers, including Archee Jan Bloch and Dave Grainger. That explains the gorgeous videos from this event in past years.
Like our Gales, this symposium doesn’t promise courses in advance. Rather, it offers a list of possible courses that might be offered, and then finalizes them each morning based on the conditions that day. Also like our Gales, all classes are a full day, which allows maximum flexibility to conduct each course according to participants’ interests and needs without the pressure of needing to return to switch courses or coaches. In an environment like this, that just makes sense.
The location was pretty much ideal: Headquarters was at the New England Science & Sailing center in the quaint town of Stonington Borough. It was a short, warm-up paddle to get outside the break wall and into Long Island Sound, where currents and shoals create races and other features, and where we could cross to Fishers Island. The weather cooperated, too, providing wind on two of the three days, as the event’s name suggests. But even without wind, this location has enough currents and features for challenges and fun.
We value geographical “cross-pollination” of coaching, and favor collaboration over competition. For us, this event was an example of both. We hope to be back next year, and bring some of our Great Lakes students with us.