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2004 Norcal BCU Skills Symposium


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This weekend I had a chance to attend the 2004 Norcal BCU Skills Symposium, thanks in part to a (carefully planned) business trip. For those of you that have never attended such a symposium, this is a multi-day event in which a number or well-known coaches teach two and three hour sessions of various contents and difficulties. It is an excellent opportunity to meet people and to gain skills directly from the experts.

This years symposium was held in beautiful Bodega Bay, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Through the organizers I was able to rent a boat. I got an VCP Argonaut, which is a bit big for me, but I did bring foam and Duct Tape to make the fit a bit better.

Friday morning started with a 2hr bracing session, taught by Fiona Whitehead and Karl Anderson, excellent!. Following that a two-hour advanced rolling class, mostly working on my off-site. The coach was Axel Schoevers, a fellow Dutchman and my twin according to Ken Cooper. The final session was solo recoveries, cowboy, re-entry and roll etc., great stuff to get you out of the proverbial doodoo.

Saturday morning surfing with Ian ??, (the guy from the BCU handbook). According to Ian, surfing with a sea-kayak is not surfing, you have to have a surf boat. These surfboats are quite different, they’ll do anything you wish,.... except go straight. Needless to say I got tossed quite a bit, so I was lucky that the afternoon session was Navigation skills, quite a bit dryer than the surf session. As it turns out also a bit safer, as one of the board surfers got a ‘friendly’ nudge from a great white!

Sunday two more excellent sessions. The first one was rough water recoveries with Nigel Dennis and Leon Somme. Whereas all participants were dressed in dry-suits, Nigel happily swam around in a T-shirt, in 50 degree water! ‘Victims’ ended up in the swells in between the rocks, and using tows and boats you learned how to get the swimmer and boats back to safety, all under the watchful eye of a couple of very curious seals. Another skill Nigel taught us was to land on the rocks by swimming towards it and then hauling your boat in and up the rocks. Quite spectacular actually, though frankly a bit intimidating when the larger swells came crashing in.

Finally the day ended with a forward stroke clinic by Ginni Callahan. For those of you who have never attended a forward stroke class, this is a revelation. Using video both before and after the instruction shows your improvement, but if you thought you had a torso rotation, think (or look at the video) again!


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Welcome back Werner. Glad to hear you had such a great experience out in NORCAL. I'm planning on going to Sweetwater Florida in February for BCU week, hopefully it will be the same great experience. Let's get together for a paddle so you can share some of your newly learned knowledge. I am especially interested in the rough water recoveries.

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