Story and Photos by Eric Burnett.
Thanks to the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club, I attended an American Canoe Association certification class for Class I and Class II coastal sea kayaking between March 17 and 19 in Florida.
Friday morning at 9:00 sharp we all met with the main instructor Tom Nickels, who is the head instructor of Riverwind Kayak, and his secondary instructors.
I was a little intimidated by my other classmates who were all guides or business owners of kayak shops from places as far away as Texas, Minnesota and New York. Several were from the Jekyll Island area and already were leading groups for the University of Georgia out of the Tidelands Nature Center. One paddler was working on a goal to paddle every continent and had already paddled across Minnesota, Antartica, and several other places.
When we introduced ourselves, I was proud to mention the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club as my sponsor. Tom quipped, “Ooooo, no pressure there!”, for you see, we were not guaranteed certification at the end of this class.
Day 1 started with some ACA paperwork, then we focused on some of the logistics of the sites we would be paddling and talking about paddle strokes with detail to the “nth degree”.
Day 2 was spent doing paddle school in brackish water, taking turns practicing paddle strokes, and then evaluating each other. Getting feedback about my own various paddle stroke was like eating humble pie, but we all had to go through it and we all learned from it.
The second part of that day we were evaluated under the withering eye of Tom Nickels for each stroke and videotaped. Later that day we practiced “T” rescues and transfers of a person from the swamped cockpit to the deck of the rescuing boat, rafted T rescues, heel hooks, scoops, and a few others. I was very thankful that several of those are taught in Paddle School. Thanks to Eric Fleming and Rob Bartlett for that!
Sunday, we got out into the Intercostal Waterway with about 15 mph winds whipping up the surf. We practiced assisted towing, in line rafted tows, and communication. I was chosen as a leader for one of these groups and I tried not to let all of you down!
At the end of the that day, we viewed our videotaped “test” then each had our final evaluation. Several of the people that had travelled the farthest did not even get Level 1. I was humbled to receive both Level 1 and Level 2 certification.
Thanks again to the TVCC and all who encouraged me to undertake this after I expressed an interest.
“CONGRATULATIONS ERIC B. You old Salty Dog you!!. Eric will be instructing with our Flatwater Paddle School group in June. Thank you, Eric for all your hard work in getting certified,” said Eric Fleming upon hearing the news.