I just checked the odometer on our van and realized Hadley & I have traveled over 3500 miles in the last nineteen days. We will log another 500 plus miles next weekend when we travel to San Diego. Our trip took us to Canada, Washington, Oregon with our final destination in Southern California. The primary purpose of our travels was attending symposia and teaching clinics.
After seeing hundreds of sea kayakers taking advantage of all that is offered at a sea kayaking symposium, I felt the urge to share my feelings about symposia. I am a big fan of do it yourself. However, with time and resources being so tight for so many, why re-invent the kayaking wheel? Many of the kayakers I know have taken one class. Some have taken two. Even fewer will admit to taking three or more. I know a number of paddlers who try to keep up with information through magazines, books and videos. I must admit one of the best learning venues for sea kayaking is at a symposium type of event. It is one stop shopping at its best.
Imagine spending one, two or three days listening to lectures, taking on-water classes, testing a variety of different kayaks and speaking with the manufacturers about their equipment. You are also sharing the experience with others who love the sport as much or even more than you. Thats what goes on at different symposia and paddlefests around the country at different times of the year. We just got back from the 3-day West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium in Port Townsend Washington. Last weekend the Bay Area Paddlefest happened. Next weekend the Southwest Sea Kayak Symposium is scheduled in San Diego. If you have the opportunity to attend one or more of these events I highly recommend you do so.
As a professional educator I believe one can never have too much information. Sometimes the volume of information gained at a symposium is overwhelming. However, the more information you have the more you can draw from when a decision is needed. I love attending the different symposia around the country. It is a great opportunity for me to shares ideas with others from different paddling environments. I also get a chance to see, feel and try new designs. In addition I get to hear concerns and desires of paddlers. It is a great place to network and make new friends.
One of the complaints I have heard from symposia attendees is "Who do I listen to?" The answer is yourself. You are likely to hear many varying opinions on the same subject. Each manufacturer will point out the great features of their equipment. Each friend and participant will tell you their preferences. The best answer is "for you to do or use what works best for you." The greatest tool in your own decision-making toolbox is experience, so you need to get out there and paddle. Sea kayak symposia offer you a fabulous opportunity to try different kayaks, paddles, PFDs, rescue equipment clothing, etc. I have been paddling for over seventeen years and I still pick up new ideas whenever I attend one of these events.
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