Kayakers Unite!
by Blake Jones
Mar 29, 2006 | 592 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Expert and novice paddlers alike will converge for the fourth annual Southwest Kayak Symposium March 31 to April 2 at Campland on the Bay, 2211 Pacific Beach Drive. The event is a Mecca for regional and local kayakers interested in learning more about their sport.

Roughly 400 people and 100 kayaks will explore the waters of Mission Bay during the event sponsored by Aqua Adventures Kayak Center. Activities include lessons, talks, presentations, vendor exhibitions, kayak demos and handmade kayak displays.

Jennifer Kleck, longtime kayaker, instructor and president of Aqua Adventures, is familiar with San Diego's waters and helped organize the symposium.

"[The sport] is hugely diverse. You can do everything from surfing waves in a kayak, you can get a great workout on flat water, you can travel 20 miles a day and go for the weekend or a month"¦just like backpacking," Kleck said.

San Diego has a growing population of kayakers, with groups meeting regularly to ride the waves, paddle San Diego Bay, catch tuna and halibut off of La Jolla Shores and watch wildlife.

"We are surrounded by water, so there are quite a few [kayakers]," Kleck said of the area. "If you've never kayaked before, you are going to learn a lot [at the symposium]."

The event kicks off on Friday morning, March 31, with three all-day classes for experienced kayakers. Kayak surfing, incident management and guiding essentials run from 9 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m., and must be reserved in advance for $100 or $140 with kayak rental included. Additional all-day classes, including intermediate Greenland kayaking skills and forward stroke will be held on Saturday and Sunday.

Opening ceremonies begin that evening at 6 p.m. with a reception and presentation by Fiona Whitehead about her circumnavigation of the United Kingdom.

The assorted classes on Saturday and Sunday are the bread and butter of the event, taking place both on and off the water and catering to all levels of expertise. Instructors hail from Wales, Holland and all over the United States. The one-hour tent talks are included in the $15 entry fee, while the two-hour interactive lessons cost $30, $40 with a kayak rental. Among the varied topics presented throughout the weekend are how to camp and fish out of your kayak, how to dress for kayaking, tides and currents, navigation techniques, weather and ocean conditions, kayak photography, a class for kids and foundation skills for beginners.

Armed with newly learned skills and techniques, attendees can peruse the many vendor booths in search of the right equipment. Kayaks, paddles, car racks, clothing and all other accessories will be on display while manufacturers and retailers discuss the products and how they are used.

"Once you have your equipment, it's fairly inexpensive," Kleck said of initial startup costs. "You can take it on your roof and go launch anywhere." The price and style of kayaks vary with quality and function, ranging from $400 to $4,000. More experienced paddlers often own multiple vessels, such as Kleck herself, for camping, surfing or white water kayaking.

Assorted kayak models and styles will be available to demo with paid admission to the event. While merchandise will not be available for purchase on site, there will be sale offers and promotions to take advantage of after the event.

Other weekend activities include a display of handcrafted kayaks and a cookout on Saturday evening, with food, drinks, entertainment and bonfire for $20. Also, a raffle drawing for prizes, such as lessons, tours and equipment will take place at 5 p.m. that night and again Sunday at noon.
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