On April 7th, 2019, the first kayakers of 2019 set foot on the Marker Wadden islands. The islands are nestled in the northeast corner of Markermeer, a large manmade lake east of Amsterdam.
It's late november, but the sun still seems to come out every weekend. 2018 has been a gorgeous year, and it doesn't seem ready to give way to winter yet. Yes, the nights are getting colder, but as long as it's not raining, you'll still find me on the water, with a few extra layers!
This weekend, a group of intrepid paddlers headed out for a local paddle on the Kralingse Plas (lake in Rotterdam). Fiona inspired Marieke to go for a paddle, and Bonnie inspired Nena. And Iede is always self-inspired!
Bonnie, a friend from California who joined me in the Hague and Utrecht a couple years ago, is back in Delft for a month. Apparently, she was not scared away by the torrential rain we endured in Utrecht, and was ready for another adventure. After brunch at Man Met Bril Cafe, we stopped by my apartment to grab piles of non-cotton fuzzy or waterproof layers before heading to the club. It was a crisp fall/winter day, and our bare fingers did not enjoy the bike ride.
Marieke, Fiona, and Iede were already at the club when we arrived. Fiona is a friend of Marieke's who is visiting from Melbourne for work and is training for a kayaking race back home. We layered and layered, with Fiona setting the record at 4 layers on her legs. Armored with our wool hats, mittens, and spray/dry-tops, we launched into the breezier-than-expected lake. Getting my sprayskirt on with cold fingers was more of a struggle than usual. It's really time for me to get a different sprayskirt which better fits my boat...
Have I mentioned that I'm really missing my old boat lately? I've really been craving a chance to paddle the same model (Valley Avocet RM) again, to see how it compares to my new boat. I haven't had the opportunity to make a direct comparison, since there was a 2-year break between the two boats. There's a lady at my club who has the same boat and doesn't seem to use it, but I've never met her. Maybe I should email her...
We paddled around the lake twice - the first time with all 5 of us, and the second time with Bonnie, Iede, and myself. The slanted winter sun lit up the north side of the lake, highlighting a few remaining yellow trees. Iede surprised us by practicing 3 rolls before getting out of the boats. His onside roll was looking great! Nice and smooth. Someone's been practicing :)
Back in the warm clubhouse, we ran into Anaïs (Never Dry member) and Wiebke (mutual friend), who came for a run around the lake. We sipped on tea and had a good chat before parting ways. It was a satisfying glimpse of the role I hope the club will play more and more in my life: a warm space for spontaneous meetings of friends with a common appreciation for spending time outside.
Back in October 2016, after two years living in the Netherlands and Belgium, I made my first trip back to the US. My first stop was San Francisco, to visit friends and colleagues and my favorite sites around SF Bay and the open coast. Some of my favorite California kayaking buddies and I spent an afternoon on the water in Sausalito. Two years have passed since this trip, so this post will be more photos than words...
Today we have a guest post by friend and fellow Never Dry member, Nathalie! She writes about a beginner day trip on the Rotte River that I (Nena) organized for new members of the club. Edited and commented by Nena, with comment in brackets .
Today I went on my first official kayak tour with Never Dry!! Destination: Café Oud Verlaat along the Rotte River. [Nathalie and I were joined by Marieke, Francisco, Berend, Kim, Anais, Anton, and Iede, a very energetic, happy, and enthusiastic group!]
The day began with a lot of rain and even some thunder, which made me unsure of whether we would make it to our destination (easily). I rode my bike to the club, arriving damp but excited to paddle and ready to prepare for the trip.
Last May, Anais and Anton invited us to join them an a couple Canadian friends on a canoeing day trip and BBQ in the Biesbosch. Fully aware of the culinary abilities of A&A, we enthusiastically said Yes!
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 :)
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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