Sea kayaking schools for beginners

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of November 21-27, 1996
Sea kayaking schools for beginners
Saltwater adventures in Honduras
Camping tips for the desert
Trekking to the North Pole
Backcountry ski trips near Steamboat

Sea kayaking schools for beginners
Question: I have a strong interest in sea kayaking, especially along the western coast of Canada up to Alaska. I'm very fit and looking for a new sport, however, I have no knowledge about sea kayaking. My first step is to read The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking, and then I would like to participate in some hands-on training. Can you tell me where to find a good school that I might attend this winter? Depending on the outcome of my training, I would like to make an open-water trip next summer or, if need be, in 1998.

Bob Anderson
Milwaukee, WI
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Committing The Complete Book of Kayaking to memory is an okay start, but to really get the hang of open-water sea kayaking you'll definitely need to suck it up, shell out some dough, and take a multi-day paddling course of some kind. You can't go wrong with the National Outdoor Leadership School's (NOLS) 21-day course in the Sea of Cortez, off Baja California. Clearly a force in teaching outdoor skills with a low-impact, hands-on approach, NOLS will offer you stellar instruction in everything from paddling techniques and ocean safety to navigation and wave- and tide-reading, plus they'll throw an ongoing emphasis on minimum-impact camping and the natural history of desert coastal environments into the mix (plenty of octopi, crabs, sea lions, whales, and dolphins along the way). Be aware that the minimum age of participants is a wet-behind-the-ears 16 but the average is 23, so this is by no means an adult-only trip. But who cares, considering NOLS's top-notch instruction and well-earned reputation as the leader in wilderness education. Courses run from late October through mid-March and cost $2,125 per person, not including air fare to Mexico. For details, call NOLS at its Wyoming headquarters at 307-332-6973.

If you're working on a limited time budget, consider Outward Bound's similarly focused two-week trip in Baja. You'll learn the basics of expedition sea kayaking, including stroke technique (of course), plus self- and partner-assisted rescues, and boat-packing strategies. Outward Bound offers two courses annually, in September and April, for $1,595 per person; call 800-547-3312.

Traditional skill-oriented courses aside, you may want to opt for a guided kayaking trip. Plenty of outfitters run multi-day paddling excursions, where the emphasis is first on the client's enjoyment and second on basic open-water instruction. In most cases, the guides are just that--guides. Their job is to make sure you don't get lost or worse, stay fed and happy, and generally have a good time wherever the trip goes. They'll likely throw in some entry-level instruction on safety, tidal stuff, and technique, but you probably won't get the heavy-duty skill instruction that'll leave you comfortable enough to plan and execute your own open-water trip. That said, here are a few outfitters to call. Bear in mind that signing on for a winter trip will meant schlepping to somewhere warm (aw, shucks) like southern California, Florida, or points south. In the Bahamas, try a five-day to two-week paddle in and around the Exumas with Ecosummer Expeditions (800-465-8884), or Ibis Tours (800-525-9411) for $1,295-$1,895 per person.

Search the archives | Ask the Adventure Adviser

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web