Paddle Canada LogoBack at the end of January I had the pleasure to be invited to attend a strategic planning meeting for Paddle Canada. I got invited because I’m the Chair of the Sea Kayak Program Development Committee. The goal of the weekend meeting was to develop a 3-year plan and it already had a catchy title: Float Plan for Success.

The reason for the meeting came about because the Board of Directors felt the organization was just about to enter a new phase in the life of the Organization. For those who studied the long and sometimes weird boring history of Paddle Canada will remember several years ago when the Organization had major financial trouble that left it hanging on for dear life. Thanks to good leadership at the top who made some tough choices, Paddle Canada has come back stronger than ever and is now ready to tackle some new projects.

Overall the weekend was a lot of fun (as fun as strategy development can be I guess) and filled with lots of fellow paddling policy wonks nerds like me who were happy to chat the days (and evenings) away talking about how to turn all Canadians into paddlers.

A couple of days ago Executive Director, Graham Ketcheson posted a pdffinished report about some of the changes you will see over the next 3-4 years. If you are bored already the short summary is that the new strategic plan isn’t ground breaking but it is a change in direction for the organization.

Here are a couple of highlights:

1) New Vision and Mission Statements
The new Vision and Mission Statements have a stronger focus on the development of its paddling instructional programs and the development of complementary partnerships with other organizations.

2) Strategic Priorities and Goals
After hours of brainstorming as a group we boiled down the ideas into four major categories which are Public Awareness & Membership, Youth, Partnerships and Instructor Development.

  • Public Awareness & Membership
    Paddle Canada is seen publicly as the authority for safety and education for paddling. Paddlers and organizations value membership in Paddle Canada.

    This one isn’t rocket science. We want to make more Canadians aware that a) Paddle Canada exists and b) we are the experts for all things recreational paddling. This will likely mean the development of more public awareness campaigns and membership drives, etc.
  • Youth
    Paddle Canada engages youth to participate in recreational paddle sports and to grow a vibrant Canadian paddling community.

    Paddle Canada supports youth in healthy lifestyle choices and appreciation of the natural environment.

    This just makes sense. We need to focus stronger on Canadian youth if we want more people paddling tomorrow. Look for youth focused programs to be developed and stronger partnerships with organizations that already have inroads with youth.
  • Partnerships
    “New and existing Paddle Canada partners support and promote common goals and values.

    Paddle Canada's goal is to: Strengthen and grow relationships with new and existing partners, in order to support the Paddle Canada Vision.”

    It’s a lot easier to work with friends rather than strike out on your own and from what I hear; Paddle Canada is often approached with partnership proposals so over the weekend they were able to develop a rough framework to help decide which proposals to explore further.

    For example, a very interesting project that Paddle Canada has been working on is the development of new water safety programs with AdventureSmart. AdventureSmart is a national program to encourage Canadians to “Get informed and go outdoors” by offering online resources as well as instruction to small groups like Scouts, school groups, hunting clubs, etc.

    They offer a wide variety of safety programs to kids and adults alike such as Hug-A-Tree, Survive Outside Program (trip planning and basic survival) and Snow Safety. 
  • Instructor Development
    Paddle Canada is seen publicly as the authority for safety and education for paddling. Paddlers and organizations value membership in Paddle Canada.

    Some of the proposed projects here include the development of new teaching resources for instructors as well as getting all of our manuals translated into French.


That does this all mean for Paddle Canada?
There are a couple of advantages to formalizing a strategic plan. As I mentioned earlier, none of these were ground-breaking revelations or direction changes. What it does do is to make sure that the members of the Board of Directors are on board with the new plan and everybody has bought in. The second (and more important) outcome of it is that the Board has developed a clear set of “marching orders” for the Executive Director to take and figure out how to implement over the next 3-4 years. This gives him a lot more freedom to work with people and grab the opportunities as they come along without wondering what the board thinks about this new direction.

What does this mean for you as a member or instructor member?
It means that there is going to be a whole lot more work coming down the pipe for the volunteers so we will need your help. If you have 10 minutes of free time on your hands and are interested in helping out, get in touch with Graham and he can set you up.

More info:

Mobile satellite communication company, Thuraya will be introducing this April a new product called the SatSleeve that will easily transform your iPhone into a satellite phone allowing you to be able to make phone calls and send SMS messages around the world.

The new phone case has a couple of features including an extra battery built in to charge your phone and give it more talk time in the field as well as a built in emergency button that will make an automatic call to a pre-programmed number.

Right now the SatSleeve will only transmit voice and SMS but look for a version to be released in the third quarter of this year that will also transmit data turning your iPhone into a truly global smart phone. Just think how fun it will be to be able to get work emails throughout your entire canoe trip vacation in Northern Canada.

The price for this bad boy isn't cheap with an MSRP around $500. No word on the proposed pricing for the data version but rumours put it at a couple hundred dollars more.

More info:

Oh John Rambo, why do you tease us with those massive God-given pipes while kayaking with your daughter on vacation in Hawaii last week?

The Daily Mail wins the award for the worst headline in the Sylvester-Stallone-going-kayaking coverage: Don't Rocky the boat! Sylvester Stallone enjoys kayak ride with daughter in Hawaii

Photo Credit: Splash News

If you are looking for an adventure this summer you should consider joining me on Lake Superior as we circumnavigate the extremely remote, Michipicoten Island (map link).

Michipicoten Island Trip Route

The Michipicoten Island Expedition (as we've dubbed it) is being organized by Naturally Superior Adventures and is an 8-day sea kayaking adventure for intermediate paddlers looking for a challenge yet still want to be under the care of a guide.

The plan is to take a 60 kilometer boat shuttle from Michipicoten Bay out to the mystic Michipicoten Island. We will then circumnavigate the island, make the 18 km perpendicular crossing from Bonner Head to the mainland, then eastwards along the Superior Highlands shore before finishing back at the NSA base in Michipicoten Bay, a total of about 140 km over the eight days.

Michipicoten Island caves.Michipicoten Island has a bunch of caves. This is one of the largest and they used to store dynamite in there when the cooper mine was active.

Michipicoten has a very interesting cultural history. Once shunned by First Nations peoples as a place of malevolent giants, Michipicoten Island became one of Ontario's most promising sources of copper and an easy access point to Lake Superior's seemingly endless bounty of fish in the early 1900s. Since then, the copper mine and fishing village have been abandoned. All that remains are old mine shafts, ramshackle buildings and flourishing populations of woodland caribou and beaver. Throw in a couple of lighthouses and a few shipwrecks, rugged shoreline and you've got everything all wrapped up in this island expedition.

For those who have always wanted to do a trip on Lake Superior but shied away from a fully pampered guided trip, this is the adventure for you. It's unique in that it's designed as a self-reliant expedition so all members of the group are responsible for their own food & gear. I won't be cooking for you but I'm quite happy to bring you a cup of my famous poor tasting and burnt coffee in the morning. My role in the as leader will be to provide logistical support, local knowledge, a safety net and completely made-up stories of my time living with a pack of wolves.

Rest break in one of the sea caves on Michipicoten Island.Rest break in one of the dry sea caves on Michipicoten Island.

Because it's a self-reliant trip in a very remote an inaccessible part of Lake Superior participants need to make sure they have a strong level of both kayaking skills and wilderness camping experience.

Michipicoten Island is an amazing place and completely unique to the rest of Lake Superior. I had the opportunity to visit back in 2007 and have wanted to return ever since.

Lunch break on the north shore.Lunch break along the north shore.

The dates of the trip are Friday, August 2-10th. There is a floating price scale depending on the number of participants so for example, if we have 3 people the price is $1190 but that price drops to $750 if we get six people onboard so make sure you get a buddy to come along. Of course taxes are not included in those prices.

Check Naturally Superior Adventure's website for all the details and feel free to contact me or NSA with any questions you may have.

It's going to be wicked awesome.

Caribou Antler found on Michipicoten Island.We found this Caribou Antler one evening walking along the rocky shoreline.

Sunday, 31 March 2013 22:05

Google Maps: Treasure Mode [April Fools]

ArrrrGoogle Maps: Treasure Mode

Google has rolled out a treasure map mode for Google Maps just in time for April Fools and I'm currently on my knees praying that this is becomes a permanent feature as it's terrific. Arrrrr.

They even released a cute video explaining the key features of Google Maps: Treasure Mode.

Good hunting people.

Don’t let the recent poor press steer you wrong. The Cook County Forest Preserve is still a family friendly place despite the occasional discovery of a dead body. Adventure awaits kids!

I'm totally on a paddling film roll these days but don’t worry, I will get back to other boring topics soon enough.

Last year at this time I interviewed Steve Weileman to shed some light on an expedition he was planning which would look for and survey Tsunami debris that has floated over from Japan and washed up on Washington state coastline.

Well, the kayak expedition happened and it was a complete success and Steve made a film out of it which was released earlier this winter. It did quite well at a couple of paddling festivals winning Best Environmental Film at both the Waterwalker Film Festival and the Reel Paddling Film Festival.

This past week Steve uploaded the full-length documentary, Ikkatsu: The Roadless Coast to Vimeo and released it free to the public.

In March of 2011 Japan suffered a devastating earthquake followed by a series of equally devastating tsunamis. As the waters receded, an estimated 1.5 million tons of debris was washed back into the Pacific - all of which was destined to land on distant shores.

In the summer of 2012 three professional kayakers, supported by a group of scientific advisors, undertook an unprecedented journey to paddle the roadless coast of Washington, and to survey the debris on some of the wildest shoreline in the United States. When they returned, they shared the data they had compiled with the scientific community and put together their story of adventure and environmental crisis in this documentary.

Steve is planning on going up to Alaska this summer for a month to survey that region and is hoping for your support. All the details on their expedition can be found here.

My friend Conor sent me this email letting me know about a new sea kayaking film that he discovered. I couldn’t have written the description any better so I just stole this from him:

Thought I'd share this great short film about sea kayaking in B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest--the same wild channels that could soon be plied by supertankers if the Northern Gateway Pipeline happens. The 8-minute film is excellent not for its technical proficiency but rather for the compelling story it tells. It doesn't focus on politics but rather the simple joys of being immersed in wilderness. It's well worth watching and sharing with others.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013 11:17

Walk on Water: A Kayaking Film

Walk on Water is a very inspirational whitewater kayaking film that you need to watch.

Here is the description on the Youtube:

When a skiing accident left Greg Mallory paralyzed from the waist down, he turned to whitewater kayaking to help him escape his wheelchair. Now he's an accomplished Class V whitewater paddler who finds strength, challenge and meaning in paddling rivers. This is his story.

Walk on Water was directed by Andy Maser who has shot several other whitewater films for both PBS and National Geographic. Check out his website where he has a very good documentary he put together about the largest dam removal project in the US. It’s called Oregon Field Guide Special: The White Salmon River Runs Free. If you are into exploding dams and huge flood water it will be right up your alley.

Thanks for Bryan for the heads-up.

P&H Kayaks ready to go out the door...P&H Kayaks ready to go out the door...

The thing about taking vacation the day Canoecopia ends is that it takes you forever to get around to reporting in it when you get back. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

The short report is that it’s a great event and if you don't go, you need to. It’s one of the few consumer trade shows that the owners and reps of various gear manufactures actually attend so if you can get the goods on new products straight from the horse's mouth.

I had the great pleasure of being invited to give two presentations this year so I showed up with laptop in hand to speak on, "The Search and Rescue Machine" and, "Paddling in Georgian Bay". The first presentation was a look into the technology, gear and history of search and rescue while the second presentation was about why Georgian is the second best freshwater paddling destination in North America behind Lake Superior.

Throughout the weekend I was mainly working in the Naturally Superior Adventures booth meeting people and giving them all the reasons why they needed to cross the border and do a trip on the Canadian side of Lake Superior.  I'm super excited about leading a trip for NSA this year (more on it another day) so I spent most of my time telling people that they need to step up and register for the trip if only for the reason that I’ve already asked for the time off work and I really wanted to go.

Naturally Superior Adventures booth at Canoecopia.My buddy Ray working the Naturally Superior Adventures booth at Canoecopia.

Wandering around the show floor, I got to hang out with my buddies at P&H Kayaks who were selling kayaks like a flood was coming soon. I will admit that I ended up spending spend too much time sitting in the new Aries 150 and I kinda fell in love. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Really neat Bending Branches paddle display.Bending Branches had a very cool paddle manufacturing process display.

For 2013, P&H tweaked the deck and outfitting of the Aries a bit by adding a day-hatch and recessed slots for a spare paddle. To make room for the day hatch, they replaced the rear oval hatch with a smaller hatch which makes sense as it’s a boat built for rough water and this should help keep the hatch from imploding in big surf.

Of course there was a huge pile of new gear on display at the show and by now you have probably read some of the very good reports by other bloggers of their Canoecopia shopping adventures. If you are looking for a solid report, check out Preston Ciere’s blog, It’s super extensive and he has several great posts showing off some of the treasures he found along the way.

Two of the items that really interested me that were new this year included:

Kokatat Maximus PFD

Kokatat Maximus PFDNew Kokatat Maximus PFD.

Kokatat has a bunch of new new lifejackets are on the market this year including the very cool Maximus. I tried it on and found it to be super comfortable and streamlined. I really like the small design features like the tapered foam edges which help bulkiness feeling to a minimum. Ticket price for this bad-boy is about $160.

Lendal Paddles

Lendal PaddlesNew Lendal Paddle Kenitic blade.

Did you know Lendel Paddles are back? For 2013 they have released several new blade models including their Kinetik Touring line which is a fully carbon blade with a foam core. The construction looks really solid and I like their redesigned Lendal Paddlok ferrule that uses a titanium insert that is pressed out against the paddle shaft to lock the unit together.

I’m really keen to give the new Lendal Paddles a try this season to see how they feel in the water. When I was standing in in the Lendal booth I decided to take one for a paddle up and down the aisle and in the process almost took a ladies head off who was standing next to me. I still feel it was her fault.

Gales Storm Gathering booth at Canoecopia.Keith Wikle and Scott Fairty working the Gales Storm Gathering booth.
Registration is filling fast so get yourself signed up for their event pronto.

I will admit that it’s a bit of a haul driving 12 hours for a weekend but it's a total blast hanging out with paddlers who I see only a couple of times a year. It reminds me of friends you might have had a summer camp when you were a kid. Even though you go months without talking, you fall back in the rhythm and pick up right where you left off when spending the evening figuring out how to change the paddling world over beers.

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