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My First Annual Lumpy Waters Trip

Published on 11/1/2014
Lumpy Waters 2014
By Tomas Tabisola  
I first heard about Lumpy Waters last year when I won a certificate for Basic Skills Sea Kayak Class for Two at a Washington Waters Trail Association Auction Dinner. I misplaced the certificate and found it a year later. I called Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe, the issuer of the certificate, to find out if it was still valid. In googling Alder Creek to get its phone number, I saw a video and photos of the Fifth Annual Lumpy Waters Symposium on its website and it looked like everyone was having a great time. I knew immediately I wanted to be part of it. Since I was already much beyond the basic level sea kayaker, I asked Paul Kuthe who confirmed that the certificate was still valid, if I could apply its value against the $500 it would cost to register for the 6th Annual Lumpy Waters Sea Kayaking Symposium. He said I couldn’t but I could apply it towards some of its other classes and clinics.

Signing up for Lumpy Waters can be a daunting experience for one who’s never done it before. One of the first things it asks for is an evaluation of what level paddler you are -- advanced beginner, early intermediate, or advanced. The evaluation is relatively detailed as it asks about your experience in rolling, rescue techniques, your comfort in various sea conditions, etc. Renting of equipment is available from dry suits to kayaks so it asks about your height and weight, and what size shoes you wear. Suzi Elle and Paul Kuthe are the main organizers of this symposium and having done it for six years now, they’re pretty knowledgeable about nearly all aspects of this event. They emphasize catering to the needs of the paddler and will quickly respond to your requests from assigning you to another RV site to placing you in another class you may find more to your liking. Suzi has been very helpful to me in this regard. I didn’t realize how long the drive would be (5-1/2 hours for me, 6 hours at least from Seattle) and arrived there late Thursday night. The person at the entrance directed me to my campsite and to my dismay, it was rather small for me. I was in an RV towing a trailer. The next morning, I asked for a larger one and in less than an hour later, Suzi arranged an exchange with someone who was going to sleep in the bed of his pickup truck. He didn’t need all that space in the site he was assigned.
As soon as one year’s event is over, Suzi and Paul are already planning for the following year’s symposium. One can register almost a whole year in advance. For me, it was just a week out and most of the classes had been filled. Suzi had me give her three choices for each time period and she would try to accommodate me in putting me into each of my top choices. In other words, I really didn’t know what classes I was signed up for. The venue starts at the Cape Kitwanda RV Resort in Pacific City, OR. The classes take place in the Pacific coastal and in the tidal waters of the Nestucca River. This is a three-day event beginning on Friday and ending Sunday afternoon. Registration and other administrative affairs are conducted Friday morning, there’s a lunch break, and classes begin that afternoon. Instructors came from all over the world: Four were Scots, a South African, a New Zealander, and of course, most from the USA. My Friday afternoon class was “Paddling from the Edge and Beyond” with Steve MacDonald, one of the Scots, and conducted in the tidal waters just a mile or so from the campground and about 2 miles to the mouth. There were 105 students with about 30 staff personnel and it seemed that all of the first day’s classes started at the same place. It was a sight to see well over a hundred kayaks in one place! (Almost as many as those that showed up for this summer’s Raft Up at Vashon Island. Just kidding!)
Steve, like the others from Scotland, is a great instructor. Many of the topics he covered, I had received before as far as edging your kayak and turning using your sweep strokes, except for executing the turn while closing your eyes with your partner somewhat “guiding” you! This I had never done before and I thought the results were amazing. Pick a floating target and try it sometime.
We all returned at various times back to the RV Resort to Thule’s happy hour. There were three kegs of beer and appetizers to consume, an amber and an IPA with second one as backup for the beers and various meats, cheeses, and chips/dips to chew on as appetizers. By the time dinner was served, the last of the beer was being sucked out of its container. The dinner selection was somewhat healthy with fruits and veggies on the side and sandwiches as the main dish.
Breakfast the next morning consisted of cereals, a lot of thick bacon, eggs, yogurt, muffins and toast. For those whose classes were all day, one had to prepare a take along lunch. A lunch was prepared for those who returned to the campsite. My class on Saturday was “Ninja Navigation & Seamanship Strategies” by the New Zealander known only as Kiwi. I think the Ninja term attracted me to this class and unfortunately, most of the topics covered, I had already seen before. For me, there wasn’t that much of the “black art” that he could show me. The morning part was classroom and we covered topics as downloading maps from NOAA, selecting ranges, and determining distances to paddle. In the afternoon, we were on the water and executed the plans we had developed that morning.
We returned to the RV resort to Saltwood’s happy hour with a fruity beer that I only liked a little and an IPA that was much better. The appetizers consisted of various cheeses, nachos, and some exotic sausages. A pizza and salad dinner followed with meaty and veggie selections to accommodate all, even a gluten free selection. Then we proceeded to a slide show by Nick Cunliffe, another Scot who had paddled to this rather isolated island in the North Sea I believe. Fantastic shots! This was followed by a very funny video that poked a little bit of fun at our Scottish coaches. I was able to find it on the Internet and you can watch it for
We continued to the team competition where we were presented with some very unique questions such as “Which of the Scottish coaches has 5 children?”, “In P&H Kayaks, what does the P and H stand for?”, “Where is each of the Werner Paddle models named after?” or “Who of the coaches used to be a high wire balance performer?” Each team had to write its answers down with the correct answer valued at a point each. The winning team would get an extra raffle ticket where the grand prize was a fitted dry suit, the new model coming out in January, new Gore-Tex material with zippers at the waist. Our team didn’t win and I was good until the last number called for the dry suit.

Earlier that evening I had asked and Paul told me I had Incident Management for Sunday. I almost changed it to go fishing with Jason Self who by coincidence, is the original owner of my Tiderace Xcite. While setting up camp on Friday morning, he came up to look at the Xcite on the trailer. The Innuit salmon decal on the bow confirmed it was his before. I found out later he was the fishing guru for kayaks and I wanted to compare his methods to mine, to see how he organized his kayak for fishing, what equipment he used, etc. The people that went out with him earlier that day had a wonderful time and I was very interested in going out with him myself. But when I realized Gordon Brown was going to be the Incident Management instructor, I told Paul Kuthe to leave it the way it was. Good decision he said. It’s cheaper to get instruction from him here than going all the way to Scotland!

I have Gordon’s Sea Kayak Volume 3 DVD which is excellent. If I had changed I knew I would miss a great opportunity to experience him in person. I had taken Mike Everett's (Mountaineers) version of Incident Management, I still learned a lot from Gordon -- to include extras like some of his kayak tricks -- standing your kayak on end with its nose under water or balancing and standing up in two kayaks, paddling away like a SUP.

On the serious side -- although it looks kind of funny, it works. If you have someone who’s is becoming hypothermic, one way of warming up is to blow your warm air into your dry suit. You wind up looking like the Michelin man but it can warm you up quite nicely….and you can float on water. It didn’t work for me because I had a bib and jacket dry suit. It only works for the one piece version. Then in a scenario where a kayak was punctured under the paddler’s seat, how would you get to repair it? Please see photo of the kayak sitting across and upside down on another kayak. It’s so stable that the paddler can stand on it and move from one side to the other.
Well, the weekend quickly ended and except for a few like me who needed a little longer to get on the road, everyone left. We were told that the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium is cancelled for 2015 due to lengthy construction in its area. This means that Lumpy Waters will be the largest of its kind on the West Coast next year and it’s certain that there will be quite a few of those who were going to GGSKS 2015 who will head north to LWSKS instead. In other words, it’s going to fill fast. This is a paddling event that I whole-heatedly recommend. I know I’m returning and I’ve already signed up for it. I’d guess that there were almost 10 paddlers from WA for this year’s symposium. I hope there will be more joining me and making this contingent larger.

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