I can all but guarantee that you are not having as much fun today as this 2-year old boy is when he went out surfing for the first time.

If you didn’t at least smile while watching you have a heart of stone and thus currently dead.

 

It’s been a couple of months since our last instalment of “I Want Your Outdoor Job”. This time we catch up with René Seindal is a Danish paddler who lives in Venice, Italy where he has run Venice Kayak since 2008.

Like many others René got trained to work in the IT field and spent most of his time inside with very little physical activity.

Of course that lifestyle leads to some problems later in life.

“When I was forty”, René said, “I started kayaking following a problem with my back. I was told to lose weight and strengthen my back muscles, without stressing my spine, and the choices I was given were swimming, going to the gym or rowing. I went swimming but found it boring, and the gym was even worse, but practically all the rowing clubs around Copenhagen only take in children, and their focus is almost exclusively competitive, which I abhor.”

“I found sea kayaking by chance, signed up for beginner’s course in 2006 at a newly opened kayak shop on Copenhagen beach, and was immediately hooked.”

“At about the same time my marriage was going badly, and as a consequence I got a fairly severe depression. My reaction was as it often is for men when life hurts: I ran away, or rather, I kayaked away.”

 

1) How long have you been in business and what got you started?

I started Venice Kayak in 2008, so this is my fifth season kayaking in Venice.

As part of my coping (or not coping) with my illness in 2006/7, I wanted to go kayaking in Italy, and I was searching for interesting places to go. I looked at a map, followed the coastline with a finger, and took notes about possible destinations. At the very end my finger ended on Venice, which I had only visited on two very short visits years before. The idea of paddling in Venice immediately attracted my attention.

I spent a long time searching for outfitters, clubs, rental places, kayaking schools or just somebody with some gear, but there was nobody. In the end I found one contact, my now business partner Marco, who kindly lent a couple of kayaks to me and a friend, and we paddled around Venice and the lagoon here for a week in the summer of 2007.

Our trip got a good deal of interest when we returned to Copenhagen, so we organised a small group for later in 2007, and then started planning more tours for 2008. A few notices on a bulletin board had two weeks sold out in no time, which gave me a challenge. As the only one of us who spoke Italian, I had promised to organise all the logistics in Italy but my search for some local provider of equipment wasn't any more successful than before.

I was astonished that it was so easy selling two weeks kayaking in Venice to paddlers in Copenhagen. It made me think that there should be a market for kayaking tours in Venice, so I started spending a lot of time with spreadsheets with budgets, investments, expenses, prices and such, and it seemed to be doable. It would only give a very meagre income, and maybe only for a part of the year, but it should be possible to make at least some money.

I had lived through some of the darkest and most unhappy times of my life then, but I was slowly recovering. Still, my private life was in shatters and my work situation miserable.

The brightest moments in my life was when I was out kayaking, and the financial investment needed to start offering kayaking tours in Venice were modest. What was there to lose?

 

2) What’s the best part of your job?

Kayaking. Paddling makes me happy. Period. Even if I'm a bit down or tired, once I've pushed away from the beach and start paddling, everything lights up around me. Kayaking is the ultimate therapy for me.

I meet a lot of people from all over the world, that is very stimulating too, and I've learned to be far less introvert than I was when I was younger.

Being outside a lot, under an open sky.

Also, it is not bad being your own boss.

Rene Seindal

3) What’s the most difficult aspect of the job?

The bureaucracy. The Italians invented bureaucracy in the early Middle Ages, and they've spent most of the intervening time perfecting it into an art form. They are very good.

I used to find working with computers fun and challenging, but now its mostly just dull, stuff I have to do so I can go kayaking and pay my rent.

 

4) What are two tips you can give to somebody looking to start their own paddling school?

Venice Kayak does kayaking excursions for tourists, so we do sight seeing tours for people who like to be physically active and not just be transported passively around in a refurbished fishing boat with some guide on a loudspeaker in four languages simultaneously.

So it’s a paddling business, not a paddling school.

Firstly, pick the right place for your activity. You want a place with a distinct and recognisable identity, a place that is somehow different from the other places people can go; and you want a place people can actually get to, for example with an international airport not too distant. The easier people can get to your business, the more energy they will have to enjoy and participate in the paddling activities.

Second, focus exclusively on your clients experience. Do what they want to do, not what you think they should want to do. Success in the long run depends on your clients returning home happy, with a special experience and unique memories which they will then share with friends and colleagues, post on Facebook and review on TripAdvisor.

Kayaking in Venice.

5) What about your job do you think would most surprise people?

That it pays my bills, or alternatively, that it only just pays my bills.

In a close second position that at least half the time is spent doing other things than kayaking, like answering emails, making invoices, bookkeeping, updating calendars, posting on web sites, organising photos, and spending quality time with our accountant.

 

6) If you could tell something to your 18 year-old self, what would it be?

To get out and spend more time with others doing something active.

More info: venicekayak.com

Photo credits: venicekayak.com

kayak mainline logo

In episode three, Kelly Blades and I cover hard-hitting topics like polar bears trying to escape from zoos, a very famous mystery writer who was one of Britain’s first female surfers and the world’s longest kayak.

Also, we answer many of life’s toughest questions (as submitted by you).

There are now several different ways to get our sweet voices directly into your ears:

You can stream it live in your browser here:

 You can mp3directly download the mp3.

iTunes user? Why not subscribe and get each new episode downloaded directly to your iPhone/iPod as soon as it’s uploaded.

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Not an iTunes fan? We now distribute Kayak Mainline via Stitcher. They offer a free fantastic podcast app for both iPhones and Android and you can search and subscribe there as well. It's a great system.

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What are we missing? How else can we get it out to you easier? Tell us below in the comments.

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If you are a canoe or kayak instructor make sure you check out the latest issue of the American Canoe Associations, Journal of Paddlesport Education.

The Journal is a fantastic resource filled with tips and ideas to make your teaching easier and more fun.

Here is the description on the ACA website:

The Journal of Paddlesport Education is a monthly electronic newsletter from the Safety Education & Instruction Department that provides valuable information to paddlesport Instructors, Clubs and Affiliates.

From intriguing articles to new initiatives, updated course curricula, and policy changes, the monthly JPE newsletter is a primary tool for professional paddlesport development and disseminating pertinent information.

July 30th will be the 40th anniversary of that film that made everybody terrified to canoe down rivers, Deliverance.

Staring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, Deliverance is the story of four friends who decide to canoe down the (fake) Cahulawassee River in Georgia before the valley is flooded by the construction of a dam. Scariness ensues over the next hour and a half.

The Deliverance Canoe

To celebrate the anniversary, Yahoo movies (known for their hard hitting investigative journalism) interviewed the cast to get their memories of the making of the film.

The interview has the usual fluff but does have an interesting conversation about the cast learning to canoe and how they choose the canoes for the film:

Ronny Cox: That was the thing about Burt. When we were doing canoe practice, Burt couldn't be bothered with having to learn the right way to do stuff. But the thing was, he ended up being the best canoeist of us all, because he would just go there with this attitude of 'God D**nit, I can do this.' And he would just do it. So that spirit of 'I can do this' sort of pulled us through."

Jon Voight: Also, he had the much better canoe. He had the one that wouldn't sink!

Burt Reynolds: I didn't pick the pretty one, you did!

The Deliverance Canoe

Ronny Cox: The wooden Old Town canoe is not intended for white water. It's a lake canoe. No stability. The Aluminum canoe is very broad.

Burt Reynolds: Ronny, when we went out to pick the canoes, I said 'Jon is the lead in the picture, let him pick the canoe.'

Jon Voight: To tell you the truth, the reason why I picked the green canoe is because it matched our characters. There's no flash in our characters. We were kind of homeboys. And this was a more humble thing. But it was dangerous to pick that canoe, and we knew it, because every time you'd hit a rock you'd hear the ribs of the canoe give way. It wasn't a happy experience to have that canoe. But Ed should have been in that canoe. Lewis should have had the higher tech stuff, and he looked more like Lewis in that canoe.

But Burt laughed about my choice. Because we were very competitive always. And as soon as I made the choice, he was chuckling to himself knowing I'd be fortunate not to sink. Many years later he gave me the present of a small replica of that canoe, which I have on my mantelpiece, and it says 'Voight's Choice.'

Ronny Cox:  I saw in John Boorman's commentary on the DVD that in the course of making the film, Jon and I wrecked five canoes. That scene at the end of the picture where they find that half a canoe, they [the crew] didn't have to do that, we did that for them. Burt and Ned would run a set of rapids, if they had the slightest inkling of trouble, then the crew would make big bets that the two of us would wreck. You could make a lot of money betting on us wrecking.

If you are interested in seeing the two canoes in the flesh, they are currently on display at the Burt Reynolds Museum located in Jupiter, Florida.

Film capture credits: mickeyandava.blogspot.ca

If you have ever wondered what it’s like to kayak or row across the ocean here is a clip that give you a very good example of what to expect.

This is a short film about Bhavik’s several attempts to row across the Atlantic from Spain to Antigua without a motor or sail. The total distance was 6393km and took over 100 days to complete.

Who knew it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns out there in the middle of the ocean?

Bhavik’s website: bhavik.com

keen footwear logo

Not sure if anybody noticed it or not but buried at the bottom of the latest Paddle Canada instructor newsletter was the announcement of a very cool new benefit for instructors.

Paddle Canada Canada and Keen Canada Footwear have partnered up and are now offering instructors 40% off the suggested retail price of their entire line of which includes watershoes, sandles, shoes and hiking boots.

This goes along with all the other discounts available from companies like Red Cross, Sirius Wilderness Medicine, Wilderness Medical Associates, Northwater, Outdoor Research, and Level Six.

Sadly the Keen deal is only limited to one pair of shoes each year so choose wisely. You can find all the details on the Paddle Canada website.

Tuesday, 03 July 2012 14:02

Want Free Camping Gear? [Contests]

I got an email from friends of the site, Austin Canoe and Kayak who have just announced a new facebook contest where you can win a bunch of great outdoor gear.

Visit their Facebook page for all the details.

Sadly it’s only open to paddlers living in the US of A so I apologize to my Latvian brothers and sisters who, like Canada, can only watch the contest outcome from shore.

What the heck happened in Chicago this weekend?

Crews rescue 62 kayakers swamped in Chicago River during storm

Chicago police and firefighters had to rescue the novice kayakers on tours along the North Branch of the Chicago River when a severe storm swept through the city.

The city of Chicago has already issued citations against the two kayak companies, Waveriders Kayak Tours and Kayak Chicago for “violating restrictions on operating watercraft in hazardous conditions”.

A couple of questions that somebody could ask:

How many staff were out on the water that day and why could they not get people off the water in time considering the group were novices?

Was somebody back at the tour operators office watching the radar knowing that the conditions were ripe for a sever summer storm (high heat & high humidity)?

I understand that summer storms can come up seemingly out of nowhere but the National Weather Service did issue a severe thunderstorm warning for the west suburbs at 11:25am and then updated it to include Chicago at 12:24pm. The storm hit between 12:45 and 1:00pm. All of those warning should have given the tours enough time to get off the water.

Thank goodness nobody was physically hurt.

What a disaster.

Update: CBS Chicago followed up with one of the tour companies looking for some answers.

Update #2 - July 4, 2012 - Dave Olson, the owner of Kayak Chicago has written a very good report of what happened from his perspective that day.

According to Dave, the incident on the water was much more controlled then the media is reporting and that everything about the incident was blown considerably out of proportion.

I am truly appalled that the Marine unit and the Chicago Fire Department are taking credit for all of the rescues and make it sound as if there were over 30 people capsized and swimming in the river. They made the situation sound 10 times worse than it actually was. They never even made mention of the fact that our guides did the majority of the rescues.

It’s a good read.

For those who are business owners you might want to download and review these tips on how to deal with the media in a crisis. Its part of the large resource repository of free resources for instructors and outdoor professionals.

 

Video Capture Credit: WGN

I just got an email about a very cool event taking place here in Toronto in a couple of weeks. They are looking for volunteers (or donations) so if you are available, get in touch and help out.

The event:  Nine kayakers with disabilities will be paddling sections (like a relay) of waterfront from Port Credit to Harbourfront, Toronto, a total of 25 kms.

When:  Saturday July 14th, 2012  (raindate 15th).

Why:  We are raising awareness of kayaking for people with disabilities and fundraising so our programs can be developed further in Earl Rowe Provincial Park, Alliston and Harbourfront, Toronto.

We Need:   support kayakers to paddle with our disabled paddlers.  The support paddlers must be competent, able to tow and do rescues.

Who to Contact:  Bert Miller:  905-648-9851 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This event is to raise awareness of what opportunities people with disabilities have, what they can do. It is also a fundraiser so we can develop our programs.

Update: Check out their website at handsacrossthewaterinitiative.com

hands across the water event poster

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