Friday, December 19, 2008

First Ocean Paddle

Today was one of those landmark days in my kayaking journey as I left the relative safety of the protected waterways and paddled out into the Atlantic Ocean. I will say, first off, I would have never attempted this without Scott and Mary Ross at my side, but it was still a day that opened exciting new paddling horizons.

I will always love paddling the quieter waterways of this awesome area, with their unique wildlife and natural beauty. However, I found that when you leave the safety of land and paddle straight out into the Atlantic on purpose it is a surreal experience like no other.

The waves were not huge today but they were challenging to me. I was able to practice paddling through breaking surf, bracing, and even a little surfing. I accomplished my first true combat roll after a wave knocked me over. I did have to swim once, when I missed my roll, but my winter paddling gear protected me while Scott helped with a rescue.

We finished the day with an ocean paddle back up the beach to our launch site. It’s hard for me to describe the feeling of being one-half mile offshore or so, in a sea kayak, but suffice to say it was humbling and awe inspiring at the same time. I truly felt at one with my boat as on no other paddle I have done.

While this is not an activity I would recommend for beginners, once your paddling skills develop -- to where you are comfortable bracing and have some knowledge of advanced rescue and paddling techniques -- it is some of the most fun you can have in a kayak. On top of that you will gain personal confidence in your abilities and an appreciation for the oceans natural beauty and raw power.

I’ll sign-off with thoughts of my next ocean paddle and I hope you can join me.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Howdy

Howdy, Happy Paddlers! So much news, so little time to write about it! First of all, an overdue thank you to our students, customers and supporters as we approach our first year in business. We appreciate your enthusiasm as we share our love for kayaking with paddlers in, around and visiting Charleston, South Carolina.

We have been proud of our association with the Lowcountry Paddlers. President Todd Beach, Vice President Jim Miller, Secretary Leslie Maple, and Treasurer Michael Condon give freely of their valuable time and energy to share their love of the sport. Thanks to Todd and his gang for all they do for the paddlers of Charleston. Check out the Lowcountry Paddlers at

Sea Kayak Carolina is also pleased to be the sponsors of the Charleston Sea Kayakers Meetup Group. Check out this informal association of Charleston kayakers at the Charleston Sea Kayakers Meetup Group website.

We are very excited to be the Gold Sponsors of the 2009 East Coast Canoe & Kayak Festival April 17, 18, 19, 2009. Sea Kayak Carolina will help bring you the latest news related to this world class kayak event in Charleston at the James Island County Park - right up the road from our shop!

On behalf of Deb, Sue and the rest of the gang at Sea Kayak Carolina,

Happy Hanuka, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Paddler to Be

Welcome the newest kayaker! Our friends Kimberly and Matthew had their second child yesterday. Meet Benjamin Edward Faust. He arrived at 8 pounds, 11 ounces! Mom, Benjamin, Matt and Benjamin's big brother Jonah all are well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shop Notes from Scott

Lots of stuff happening at Sea Kayak Carolina during our "slow" time of the year! We had a great day after the Turkey paddle. I'm looking forward to seeing the trip report on-line in our "Kayak in Charleston On-Line Guide" -- stay tuned. One nice bit of news is that Amy Sloane (pictured in her new P&H Capella) will be working around the shop and helping on trips. Amy is an enthusiastic new paddler with an engaging, effervescent personality. Hopefully you will have a chance to say hello to her soon. That's all for now -- I'll try to get some of my contributions to the Sea Kayak Carolina blog caught up soon. -Scott

Friday, November 7, 2008

Moooooovie Night

We had a great turnout at our first of many movie nights at the shop yesterday. Susan and Susan and Todd and Todd, Sandie, Amy, Dan, Tom, Diana (who brought cheesecake that tasted like an ice cream sundae!), William, Deb and me.

This is the Sea 4 is a spectacular DVD. Incredible scenery and inspiring kayaking. Rock hopping on the Baja peninsula, white water seakayaking on the Ottawa River, balancing tricks in the freezing water of Norway. One of the coolest parts was watching Dubside rolling his folding kayak in rough tide-race waters. That guy is incredible. And I learned about some spectacular kayaking spots on Lake Superior amongst the Apostle Islands.

We were all amazed, terrified, inspired, energized, and just plain entertained by Justine and her film-making.

And it was such fun to view it all with fellow kayakers!

Thanks everyone for coming and experiencing this with me!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Howdy from Key Largo!

You know how to whistle, don't you? Just pucker up your lips and blow.

After a long drive from Charleston, with a stop at the Miami Airport to pick up Karen Knight, I've arrived in Key Largo. We start our ACA IDW/ICE (up to level 3) here at Florida Bay Outfitters tomorrow.

Today I reviewed strokes and teaching strategies with Karen. My new friend Dallas, pictured here, and I paddled from Garden Cove to the wrecked barge, thru the "Meadow" between Rattlesnake Key and Sound Point. Then into Largo Sound, thru the Marvin D. Adams Waterway. Huge, colorful iguana on the seawall! Did I say "Hey, Buddy!" to him? Of course! Into Blackwater Sound, round Stellrecht Point, and landed at Florida Bay Outfitters in Sexton Cove. That's all for now, I've got a bit of a cold. More pictures here! -Scott

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wasn't that a mighty storm!

Hello from the shop! I'm back from BCU Week at Tybee Island, Georgia. Not too battered, bruised or bloodied!

No 4 stars for this Sneech. Steve Maynard and Shawna Franklin cancelled the assessment at the beginning of the second day of the assessment. Not enough wind. We had a good day training, got good feedback, and had a ball surfing. It was a great 5 days, but I was glad to get home.

So far on this Saturday, a quiet day at the shop. We should have held a class out front today!

Some additional shots of the flood can be found by clicking here. That's all for now, hope to see you in the shop or on the water soon. -Scott

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tybee Day 2 — BCU '08

Hello from Tybee on BCU Day 2! Yesterday we had some time in the classroom with Nigel Dennis leading a navigation class, and a short time on the Back River heading from Inlet Avenue to Little Tybee. Warm - almost near 80! Today we landed on the old Tybee Lighthouse for lunch.

A day with a lot of highlights - not the least of which was Nigel almost capsizing laughing at my "mucous joke." And it was great to share some laughs with, and at the expense of, my old friend Tom Nickels.

Tom taken from the top of the lighthouse:

Big day in Charleston, I understand. Deb Mitchum won a few ribbons in the Folly Surf competition, and she won a surf kayak from our friends at Savannah Canoe and Kayak in a raffle drawing! Click here if you would like to see some more photos from today.

Well, that's all for now. I'll check in when I have a chance. -Scott

Thursday, October 16, 2008

BCU Week '08 at Tybee ISland

BCU Week at Tybee Island, Georgia

Hello from Tybee! I arrived on Tybee Island after a 3 hour drive (or so) from Charleston. It's always great to see our old friends at Sea Kayak Georgia. I'm signed up as a student for coastal navigation on day 1 with Nigel Dennis, then 4 star sea training on days 2 and 3. I'll finish up the experience with a 4 star sea assessment on days 4 and 5. Whew! I'm a bit stressed out about leaving the shop (but it's in good hands) and the BCU experience. But I'm already running into old friends, and making new ones.
Coupla mugs above!

Pretty ladies below!

BCU, ACA, stars and levels

Scott is going off to Georgia for some BCU training. BCU is the British Canoe Union, so you may be wondering why he is going to be trained by some Brits in paddling a canoe (After all, we're an American Sea KAYAK shop, right?)

When I first started paddling and looking for instruction I encountered all these various alphabet soup organizations and talk of stars and levels and it was all very confusing. Since many of you are likely new to the sport, I thought it might be helpful give a brief explanation of these organizations and what they do for us.

When you are looking for instruction in a sea kayak, you want to find someone that has accreditation and training in teaching people to kayak. That way you know you are learning safely and learning good technique. Here in the US there are two organizations that provide instructor training. The ACA (American Canoe Association) and the BCU (British Canoe Union). Don't be put off by the "canoe;" These organizations both focus on kayaking in addition to canoeing.

The ACA is a US based organization with an extensive curriculum of courses in kayaking. These courses are taught by ACA certified instructors. To become an ACA certified instructor, you must complete several days of Instructor Training, pass a multi-day Evaluation and be proficient as a paddler. The certifications come in different levels of proficiency (both as a paddler and as an instructor). To maintain certification, an instructor must continue to take updates. Scott, Deb and I all have ACA certifications. The courses we offer at the shop are based on the ACA curriculum.

The ACA has recently added a way to assess your individual proficiency in paddling. Sometimes we like to know where our skills stand, receive feedback for ongoing skills development, see how we match up to others, etc. The ACA has created a program of Level Assessments. If you want to 'earn' a Level Award, go to the ACA website to see the skills needed to earn a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 Award, then sign up with an ACA instructor who is certified to asses your skill. At our shop, Scott is available to assess for Coastal Kayaking Levels 1–4.

So that's the ACA.

The BCU is not just for the British!
The BCU has an excellent cadre of coaches that travel around the world to raise the level of paddling skills – including here in the US. The BCU does not provide a curriculum of courses. In their system, you receive coaching from BCU certified Coaches. When you have received enough coaching and had enough practice, you can be assessed for a Star Award. A Star Award is an indication of your paddling proficiency, seamanship, and leadership (at the more advanced star levels).

Scott is off to get his 4* award. To make things more complicated, the BCU is currently changing their star requirements - Scott is going for the NEW 4*. He has his NEW 3*. Deb has an OLD 4*, Sue has an OLD 3*. Deb and I need to upgrade : )

The BCU puts aspiring coaches through a quite rigorous course of training. Coaches are rated as Level 1 - 5 Coaches. (These Levels are not to be confused with the ACA Level Assesments. Oy.)

See how simple?

Basically, if you are looking for someone to teach you kayaking skills, look for an ACA certified instructor or a BCU certified coach. If you want to have someone assess your individual paddling skills, either the ACA or the BCU will be happy to do that for you.

Good luck to Scott! He will be learning from and being assessed by some of the best sea kayakers in the world: Nigel Dennis and Steve Maynard.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rainy Day Swap Meet

The rain was an on-again, off-again sort of thing last Saturday for the first Lowcountry Paddler's Kayak & Gear Swap Meet hosted at the shop, but that didn't stop folks from swinging by, and it didn't stop us from keeping the doors open — we just moved under the awning as required! Inside the shop was a fine place to be too, with drinks and snacks, and a bunch of new stuff on the shelves, including the snazzy new Kavu Hats with the SKC turtle embroidery!

By the end of the day we'd seen some 75 folks – local paddlers and visitors attracted to the scene. Gear was swapped, from flashlights to paddle racks and boats: In fact, every boat brought to the swap meet was sold! And several demo and consignment boats from the shop found new homes as well. So lots of happy paddlers left with new gear that we hope will be used and enjoyed by the new owners.

It was a great day for mixing and milling about the shop, meeting new folks and old paddling mates. As something of a "new guy" in the wider paddling community, it was nice to realize I'd already enjoyed meeting and kayaking with quite a few of these paddlers before. Good company, snacks and music seemed to keep everyone happy – there were only a few times when there weren't at least 15 or 20 people around, catching up, story telling and comparing notes and opinions on boats and gear.

I have to admit, I also got a dog fix from our several k-9 visitors, and that's never a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

Now I'm looking forward to the second swap...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hooray for Hats!

Sue in Blue (Navy Blue, that is!)

I'm not normally a hat guy. Kayakers need 'em, to keep the sun off their noggins. And off their faces. The brim can't be too large, or else it gets floppy in the wind. That's about it. Hats. Like other kayak clothing, synthetics are superior to cotton. Or as the Lowcountry Paddlers chanted -- "Synthetics are sexy!" "Cotton is rotton!"
But I'm excited! Our new Kavu synthetic strapcaps just arrived from our friends at Palmetto Outfitters. We're selling them for $25; and they are the quintessential kayakers cap.

We've got different colors; and smalls, mediums and larges -- for diffent sized heads.

Can you tell? I'm really excited about the Sea Kayak Carolina hats! I've even taken a picture of myself in the mirror!

Sad, really!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

P&H Scorpio Low Volume

As Scott said, he and I went out in the ocean yesterday (October 7) to try out some new boats. I normally paddle an Impex Force 3. The Impex is a long, skinny, fast boat that is tough to turn unless I put it up on edge (but then it carves a nice turn!). The folks at P&H think that the Scorpio LV would be to my liking.

Immediately upon sitting in the boat I discovered one challenge - When I adjusted the footpegs as close to me as possible, they were not close enough. I know my legs are short... but this is something I think P&H needs to address. Otherwise, the cockpit fit me pretty well. I would need to pad out the sides a bit, but that is all. The knee braces were comfortable and allowed for a high knee position while paddling (see Ben Lowry's forward stroke technique!).

As we paddled (sustained wind of about 15 knots with gusts up to 20 knots; confused seas with waves between 2' and 4'; pretty strong current from the incoming tide) I couldn't help but compare it to my Force 3. I also tried to compare to the Capela 161 that I have paddled some recently. The Scorpio punched through the waves with gusto. It is a fast boat. It did weathercock a bit more than my Force 3 -- just about any boat would -- but it didn't take much effort to correct my direction and stay on course.

Before getting too far into the waves and wind I needed to see if I could roll the Scorpio LV. Halfway through my roll (while hanging upside down), I realized that the cockpit fit (both side to side and the footpegs not getting close enough) caused me to fall "down" out of the seat. Hhhmmmmmm this would be a challenge... After a few attempts, I was able to roll up, but I had to really focus on my lay back (which the boat does allow for). I think once fitted properly, it would roll easily.

Onward into the clapotis! I felt very comfortable and stable in the Scorpio LV. The boat reacted predictably to the wave action and was lively in response to my strokes. I was pleased to feel safe and very sea-worthy in this plastic boat!

Overall, I like the Scorpio LV. It is fast, adequately maneuverable, and fun in the waves. It is definitely an option for medium-sized women and some smaller women (but unless the footpeg position is changed, not an option for most small women) who want a quick, ocean-worthy plastic boat.

There were lots of dolphin in the area this day. They were very active - tail slapping, circling. The dolphin must have been driving the fish to the surface because the pelicans were diving and taking advantage of the dolphins' work. I caught a couple of glimpses of a very small dolphin with its mother - the small ones are so cute! And one larger dolphin came up about 10 feet from me and gave me a really good lookover.

I hope to see you on the water soon. Paddling this time of year is quite comfortable in the cooler weather, but with the water still warm. - Sue

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

P&H Cetus versus...

Hello, Happy Paddlers! I paddled the P&H Cetus for a few minutes at the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival in April 2008. On the lake at the James Island County Park. As you can imagine, I was a bit preoccupied as Sea Kayak Carolina was making its public debut that weekend. My initial reactions were "fast" and "maneuverable." That was all; I literally paddled the kayak for less than 15 minutes.

The first two Cetus arrived at the shop last week. From England, via Asheville, North Carolina, then on to Charleston, South Carolina delivered from our friend and P&H rep, Scott Sullivan. Scott and I unloaded a bunch of nice new kayaks, and put the shops new grey over white demo Cetus, and his plastic Scorpio, on my car. We went to Folly Beach for some surfing. The wind was onshore, 15 knots gusting to about 18 knots. Two foot waves, sloppy and choppy. An occasional 3 footer.

Well, I was in a pickle! Not the kayak, but an emotional dilemma. I have been paddling a NDK Explorer for a number of years, in all kinds of waters. I wanted to give the Cetus a fair shake; but all I could think of was how the boat compared to the Explorer. I had a long relationship with the Explorer, and felt a bit guilty about even paddling another boat. On the other hand, P&H has been supporting Sea Kayak Carolina tremendously; and we have been impressed with their line, especially the Capellas. I wanted to love the Cetus as part of our support for P&H. But again, I wanted to give the boat a fair evaluation.

The waves were choppy and sloppy. Scott Sullivan was having a blast in his Scorpio. At some point I decided to forget about the Cetus vs. Explorer dilemma; and enjoy being in a sea kayak on the ocean. I was, however, and bit loose in the cockpit. I need about an inch of foam on either side of my hips. This modification will be similar to how I have padded out my Explorer. So, not fitting too well in the cockpit, and being in an unfamiliar boat, my surfing was not up to par. My impressions from the day: "need to pad out the cockpit to fit me," "fast," "maneuverable."

The bow and stern compartments were bone dry after an hour of surfing, punching thru waves, and a few rolls. The fourth hatch was completely dry as well. There was a few tablespoons of water in the dayhatch. I will replace the "snap top" hatchcover with a standard hatchcover. While the snap top hatchcover is easy to put on and off, it is reported to leak a bit.

Sunday (October 5, 2008) I paddled the Cetus on Lake Moultrie, thru the locks, and in the tiderace canal. The shop led this trip as part of the Berkeley Blueways Paddlefest. 5 shop staff, 14 participants of various levels of experience. I was like a sheepdog herding sheep. I was able to race from the back of the Pod, to the front, circle it. Smiling a big smile, tongue lolling out occasionally like the aforementioned sheepdog. Fast! Maneuverable!

Today Sue Kershaw and I launched from Fort Moultrie into Charleston Harbor. Recorded wind speed was close to my approximation: 16 knots gusting to 19 knots. Winds were out of the east. This caused some whitewater over the breakwater, and some interesting clapotis on the way out to the breakwater. Sue was evaluating the P&H Scorpio LV. (Look for her review soon.) My impressions of the Cetus were the same. Fast, maneuverable and I need to pad out the sides of the seat to keep my skinny little behind from sliding side to side. Once I do that, I just may paddle the Cetus next week in Tybee. BCU Week. 4 star training with... you guessed it... Nigel Dennis! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The P&H Scorpio

Before this summer, I'd never paddled any kayaks from the P&H line-up, but during the past few months I've enjoyed paddling one of the shop's Capella 161s on a few trips. So, when Scott asked me to track down whatever reviews I could find on the P&H Scorpio -- their plastic boat based on their Cetus design -- I was curious to find out how this model was being received.

A few hours and a dozen Google searches later, I was convinced: The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. From the innovative 4th hatch (forward of the cockpit and between the knees), to the well-balanced performance -- intermediate and advance paddlers have put the Scorpio thru its paces and found very little wanting.

I haven't had a chance to paddle one from the shop yet, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity. Curious what all those reviewers have to say? Don't miss our compilation page on the Scorpio, complete with all the manufacturer's specs and links to the best reviews and commentary we could track down.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hello from Scott...

Hello, friends of Sea Kayak Carolina! Thanks for all of the support and energy from the Charleston kayak community -- the Pod has be great to us as we have opened the shop.

Good news from the doc today! Seems that after some minor surgery which sidelined me for a bit; I'm on the mend. Should be back in a kayak in a couple of weeks, and fit for full duty the first week in September. I'm looking forward to riding my first wave in awhile. The only question is will I be in my old NDK Explorer, or will I try one of the new P&H Capellas? I fit real nice in the Capella 167... hopefully I can convince Deb and Sue to let me use it!

Again, thanks to the Pod for the continuing support. We are looking forward to serving the kayak community in Charleston (and beyond.) Please stop by the shop to say hello.

Scott, pictured with a friend above, is the managing owner of Sea Kayak Carolina. The shop is located at 1731 Signal Point Road, Charelson, South Carolina. The number to the shop is (843) 225-7969, web site Sea Kayak Carolina is a full service kayak shop, offering kayak tours, kayak classes and retail sales for the Charleston kayaking community. Sea Kayak Carolina, a Place for Paddlers in Charleston!


Welcome to the Blog. Since he shop opened in June, we've met some great folks; some on tours, some in classes, and many just stopping by to see what the shop is all about.

While the Sea Kayak Carolina website is a great tool for keeping people informed about what we're doing — what we're selling, and what our kayaking class and tour schedule looks like — we thought a blog would be a better, friendlier way to stay in touch with with all our fellow paddlers.

Keep an eye on new posts here for trip reports, photos and more.

And, Happy Paddling!