This weekend was abnormally warm for October. Actually, record-breakingly warm. A few of us decided to spend it on the water! Tom, Berend, and I spent Sunday exploring a new (to me) part of Haringvliet, a former estuary-turned-lake just south of Rotterdam.
Sometimes I like to set goals, and occasionally check in to see how things are going. It's always satisfying when you realize you've made progress towards a goal, without consciously thinking about it for a while. Back in March I was having a bit of a kayaking existential crisis, which inspired me to put together a set of goals for 2018 to get myself back on track. Let's see how it's been going!
1. Blog a lot!
The goal was to write an average of two posts per month. It's early October now, so I should have 2*9+1 = ~19 posts. As of this post, I'm at 24! So I've already met my goal for the year, and expect to exceed it by at least a few posts.
2. Paddle a lot!
Obviously meeting Goal #1 requires, to a certain extent, Goal #2. However, let's look at the data. I wanted to paddle in 10 new locations, and a total of 350 km. Here are the new locations:
Additional distance covered in non-new locations: 20+ ~8 km + 10 km + 4*8? = ~70 km
Total distance so far: ~324 km (probably a bit more). I think I will manage to paddle in ~2 additional new locations this year, and the distance goal should not be an issue given trips that are already on the calendar!
Verdict: On track! / basically complete
3. Do a couple open coast paddles!
I wanted to paddle in two different locations on the open coast in the Netherlands. Success! Went for some fun trips on the North Sea (again in a few weeks) and on the Wadden Sea.
4. Refresh my Greenland paddling & rolling skills
At the time of the goals blog post (which I wrote in the US), I had presumptively written that I'd brought my Greenland paddles with me to the Netherlands. However, that did not actually happen, so this goal quickly hit a wall. I've been thinking about giving up on bringing my paddles over from the US (big hassle), and instead making my own here. That's something I've always wanted to do, and I have a few friends who I can rely on for email-based paddle-making advice (Ben & Mike!). Let's see how that evolves over the rest of the year... I really miss Greenland paddling and rolling, and I would get back a big part of my kayaking identity by bringing it back into my practice.
Verdict: No progress, but hopeful
5. Find my paddling community
This was my main goal for the year, and I'm proud to say that it's the one I've made the most progress on. It's certainly nowhere near "complete," but some concrete steps have been taking!
Some specific updates:
Verdict: Going well, can always improve!
6. Write a few more Water Nerd posts.
Hmmmm how do you define a "few"? I would say 3. SO far this year, I've written one new Water Nerd post, describing sandbar migration near Stellendam, the first place I paddled on the North Sea. I'm not really hopeful that I'll write two more posts this year, as the motivation isn't there, and I'd prefer to direct my energy towards #4 and #5... When I first made the Water Nerd section of the website, I was really excited about my work as a coastal engineer and its intersection with kayaking. Now that the content of my work has changed a bit, I"m a bit less inspired/excited to write about it or research things I encounter during my paddles. It's sad, but I hope that, as is so often the case with my non-kayaking hobbies, this is a temporary phase that will pass, bringing a new phase of inspiration!
Verdict: Not on track, but that's alright?
7. Name my new boat!
While this may sound like the easiest of the goals above, I'm finding it quite difficult. I got so many good suggestions, but a good name just needs to stick. My terrible memory isn't helping, either. There have been a few occasions when a name is mentioned during a paddle, and I say "yes, that's the one!" and promptly forget it... After requesting help in naming my new kayak, the suggestions rolled in - thanks everyone! Many of them play to the name of my first kayak, Big Purple. Maybe it's fun to share the full list with you - feel free to vote in the comments!
Complete (and growing) list of potential names (my favorite names in bold):
Verdict: Not on track
When we recieved an invitation to Tanya and Ken's wedding in Switzerland, I jumped at the opportunity to go on another kayaking and hut trip in the Alps! My first kayaking trip in Switzerland, on Lake Brienz, was (and still is) one of my most beautiful paddling experiences, and I hoped to recreate it on another Swiss lake. We planned to attend the wedding on Saturday, do a hut trip on Sunday/Monday, and go kayaking on Tuesday before flying out Tuesday evening - busy to say the least! Before building it up too much, I'll warn you that the paddling experience was a bit disappointing, but the wedding and hut trip were wonderful!
I don't have so many pictures of sea kayaking in the Netherlands yet, so I've thrown in some fun sea kayaking pictures from kayaking in New York and California to make this post a bit less text-heavy :)
Before getting into it, just a heads-up that this article is based on information from September 2018. Requirements for certifications change often, so make sure to check out the linked websites throughout this article for the most recent status, should you decide you want to get certified!
This summer I've regained an interest in teaching kayaking and more formally practicing/refreshing my paddling skills (i.e. not just joining trips, but really focusing on improving my technique). Teaching the recent introductory class helped with this, as it reminded me that I enjoy practicing technique (with a fun group of friends) almost as much as going on trips.
This led me to wonder what types of paddling certifications are relevant in the Netherlands. Paddling skill and instructor certifications in the US and UK are managed by the American Canoe Association (ACA) and the British Canoe Union (BCU) - now known as British Canoeing, respectively. These pages provide descriptions of what is required for each level of sea kayaking (instructor) certifications:
In this post, I briefly describe the experience of teaching my first Never Dry "introductiecursus". For details about the skills we covered, I've made a new page which I plan to update/improve each time I teach future intro courses. Did you stumble onto this blog, and are you interested in joining the paddling community in Rotterdam? Then please reach out! Contact form available on this page.
When new members join Never Dry, we invite them to participate in a 3-evening series of introduction courses to learn the basics of paddling (essentially: enough to be able to paddle alone on the Kralingse Plas in good weather). Having taught kayaking in the past, I decided it would be fun to give one of these intro courses myself. The opportunity recently presented itself when Nathalie (a friend of mine), Fran (a colleague of Henk's), and Marieke (who found me through this website) expressed interest in joining Never Dry. They were the perfect guinea pigs!
In my (short) experience as a member of Never Dry, I've observed that the intro courses are fairly ad-hoc. Essentially, we tell potential members to "stop by on a Wednesday evening and paddle with a fellow club member". This works well when new members are highly motivated and comfortable meeting a bunch of new strangers at the same time and taking the lead in their own kayaking development (all good things). However, I know that I never would have gotten into kayaking if that had been my experience. I find it helpful to have a bit more structure when I'm learning or getting involved in something new. Therefore, I decided to bring some extra structure to the classes, both for the benefit of myself and (hopefully) the new members.
My goal is to help potential members feel more at home at the club, make their first Never Dry friends, and motivate them to stick around and learn more by joining the club and participating in broader club activities. Below are some ways I hope to do this:
I'm happy to say, our first set of classes were a blast! Fran, Nathalie, and Marieke were all enthusiastic, eager, and fun paddlers, and quickly picked up the basics of kayaking in the first two days. They were not scared away by our first rainy evening on the water. On the second day, Fran and Nathalie even practiced wet exits and assisted rescues! We spent the third day exploring more advanced paddle strokes. By the end of the evening I saw some pretty smooth edged turns and bracing. Marieke also practised a wet exit and assisted rescue. We have some new rising sea kayakers in our ranks! <insert heart emoji>
So what did we do? Rather than write it all in this post, I decided to make a separate page where I will maintain and update a rough lesson plan. Since this was my first Never Dry intro course, I learned a lot and plan to make plenty of adjustments for the next one.
See "Intro to Kayaking" under the "Resources" tab above, or click here to see the new page.
We also enjoyed a drink/snack/chat after each class, back in the cozy club house, when we would plan our next class and ponder what we could practice next time. I'm a bit sad that it's over, but we're already organizing our first real paddling trip, so stay tuned for that post soon :)
It was an unusually hot sunny morning as I cycled down the Rotte River towards Crooswijksebocht (literally: Duckweed District Bend, where "bend" refers to the bend in the River). As I approached the bend, I saw a colorful crowd milling on the riverbank. Overheating, I removed my sweatshirt to reveal a bright blue t-shirt: our club uniform. I locked my bike on one of the many temporary bike racks and wandered into the crowd, keeping an eye out for other blue-shirted people.
In this whirlwind of a weekend, we camped and kayaked in Friesland, crossed the Wadden Sea to Ameland, camped and biked, paddled back again, and made it back to Rotterdam in time for dinner. We encountered a bit of wind and waves, some friendly currents, big ferries, and a (real!) message in a bottle.
While I was making my way down the length of New Zealand in January, dipping a paddle in the water whenever possible, I recieved a friendly email through the contact form of The Naked Kayaker. Leigh and Nico, the founders of pagaja, were wondering if I'd be interested in spreading the word about pagaja, an (awesome) new website/service to providers of paddlesports activities in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg (and eventually elsewhere). What is pagaja, you ask?
First off, how do you pronounce it?! For English speakers, you pronounce it as <puh-gaah-yuh>. It comes from the word for "paddle" in French and Italian. Elegant, right? Once you know how to pronounce it...
What is pagaja? It's the first online booking platform for any human-powered watersports. Kayaking (all types), canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and rafting are all included. Companies who provide rentals, tours, trips, and lessons can post their activities on the site for booking. To the customer, the website looks a lot like other booking sites (e.g. Airbnb, Booking.com, etc.). You choose a location, dates, type of activity, and immediately see a list of fun paddling activities that can be booked. The site works on commission fees, so providers don't pay anything unless one of their activities is booked.
I was genuinely excited when I saw the site for the first time. If you've followed this blog for a while, you might be familiar with the where can I rent a kayak in Belgium/Netherlands map. I made this map in 2016 out of frustration - I wanted to go paddling in the winter and was having trouble finding kayak rentals in Belgium, let alone rentals in the off-season. So, as I often do, I took a systematic approach. I created a database and map of kayak rentals in Belgium and the Netherlands, which I have often referred to in the years since. I was also contacted by kanokaart.nl, who put the information on their nice kayaking map.
In my experience, most paddling company websites are low-tech at best, and (instant) booking systems are rare. I've also navigated many non-English websites to find, understand, and book kayak rentals. So I'm super stoked that there is now a centralized website to find paddling activities all over the world, and even more so that I get to be involved!
So, to continue my story, I said yes, and planned a weekend to visit the pagaja headquarters in Germany! I stepped off the plane in Munich on a Saturday night, and Nico picked me up in his van at the airport. Yes... I got into a van driven by a stranger from the internet, in the middle of the night... Luckily, I'm here from the future to tell you I survived! We drove one hour southeast of the airport towards their headquarters - at the border with Austria, in the foothills of the Alps! It was dark, so I couldn't see anything, but I could tell it was hilly.
The next thing I knew, I had dropped my belongings in a beautiful B&B and found myself with Nico in the local restaurant, having a beer! It was exactly how you might imagine a German bar: all wood with cute decorations and even waitresses in Bavarian dresses! I thought that only happened during Oktoberfest...
The next morning, I woke up and looked out my window:
Not a bad view! I had an hour before I would meet Nico and Leigh for breakfast at the restaurant, so I decided to go for a walk. It was pretty, to say the least. I had somehow imagined it would be just like the Netherlands, not realizing you could have an awesome job running a kayaking website and live in a place like this:
Over breakfast I met Leigh, and the three of us discussed pagaja and how I could help get the word out to the BENELUX market. Later, we stopped by their snazzy office (it looks like a Bay Area start-up inside), and they showed me some of the nuts-and-bolts of the backend system. I was prepared with a list of questions, which they patiently answered. After another delicious meal at the town restaurant, I took the train back to Munich and flew back to Amsterdam - it was a whirlwind 24 hours!
Fast forward a few months: Our collaboration is now official, I've registered myself as a one-woman company in the Netherlands, and I'm starting up with marketing efforts in BENELUX! We're looking for pioneering paddling providers who are interested in getting their activities up on the pagaja website. Contact me for a brochure with plenty more information!
Linschoten is a small village (~3500 inhabitants) in the Netherlands, between Gouda and Utrecht. Juliette, a fellow kayaking club member, recently moved there, and planned a trip for all of us to explore the area by kayak. This day trip took us from the town of Linschoten through some canals to Montfoort. From there, we rode the Hollandse Ijssel River to the old town of Oudewater, turning right onto the Lange Linschoten River. This lead us back to the starting point, but not before stopping at a "tea garden" along the way!
This is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but previous posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. See the Complete List of Blog Posts for a history of the site. Looking for something specific? Search the site here.
In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where I write about coastal engineering and hydrology.
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