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Joseph Berkovitz

Skills Practice Sessions 2021

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Building on last year's success, Skills Practice sessions will be held July through September 2021. These events offer NSPN members a regular opportunity to improve their fundamental paddling skills. The sessions are held exclusively in coastal saltwater locations, allowing us to practice in a range of real-world conditions from protected water to open ocean and offering a complementary environment to the flatwater Chebacco Lake sessions. Joe Berkovitz ( @Joseph Berkovitz) and Bob Levine ( @rylevine) are the organizers.

All Skills Practice dates are booked on the NSPN calendar. Check the calendar as the dates may shift due to conditions.

Each session is dedicated to specific kayaking skills, and includes one or more volunteers (“facilitators”) from the club who can help with practicing and developing them. There will be a variety of facilitators.  The learning program and venue will be decided a few days before each event, so that we can make the most of predicted weather and conditions.  Skill areas are likely to include:

  • Edging and Turning
  • Forward & Reverse Strokes
  • Draw and Pry Strokes
  • Bracing
  • Rolling
  • Open Water Wind and Waves
  • Tidal Currents
  • Surf Zone Landing/Launching
  • Surfing
  • Rock Gardening
  • Boat Outfitting
  • Pod Dynamics
  • Rescues
  • Towing

Sessions typically split into pods, each with its own facilitator. The aim is to place paddlers with compatible goals together, and for groups to be small enough for everyone to get attention. The activities of each pod are steered by its members, so not all pods will do the same things in the same way. All attendees are encouraged to contribute their own practice ideas. Skills Practice is a dogma-free zone!

Who can benefit from Skills Practice? Any NSPN member, from newbie to expert, can get something out of a Skills Practice session. Practice at the level that works best for you. If you know a topic well and want to help paddlers gain that knowledge, consider being a facilitator.

Is this some kind of official NSPN course on “How To Paddle”? Nope, it’s not official, and it’s not even a set course. The focus is on picking up skills from each other, without prescribing any single way to paddle. What you get at a given session depends on who is there. Facilitators do work from an existing workbook of ideas, but they are free to adapt and use these as they see fit.

Where and when does this happen? Sessions begin at 8:30 am sharp on Saturday or Sunday mornings at various locations in the North Shore area, and will usually end by 12-1 pm. 

Want to attend a session? We will post the registration link for each event on the Trips Forum on the preceding Thursday. (Last year we used the NSPN calendar but this led to many no-shows as people's plans changed, causing some events to appear full when they were not.) There are no level requirements: all members are welcome. The number of slots will be limited depending on the number of facilitators available for a given session.

What do I need?  You will need a closed-deck sea kayak suitable for coastal paddling, with sealed bulkheads or float bags, and grab lines along the perimeter. Dress for immersion and a spray skirt are required (and for a few sessions, a helmet). Bring lunch, snacks and fluids for yourself. Optionally, bring a tow line, radio, and spare paddles. (Don’t have something? Contact the organizers and we’ll try to scare something up for you.)

Want to facilitate a session pod? We want you on board to share your knowledge! Please PM the organizers with your availability, contact information, sessions of interest, experience helping other paddlers improve, and gear you may be able to lend. 

How does facilitation work? Although demonstration and explanation are part of the picture, the main aim of Skills Practice is to give paddlers the experience of performing a skill. This often involves breaking it down into clear, approachable steps. Before each session, we’ll have some online exchange among facilitators to share our thoughts.

Got another question? There's a conversation thread right here!

Edited by Joseph Berkovitz

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Biggest disappointment last season was missing the sessions due to injuries.  Hopefully I'll be in shape to make it this year.



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