Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kayak Anna visited the shop!

After a busy morning yesterday with Christmas kayakers, the afternoon became quiet at the shop. Imagine my surprise when the door burst open, and there she was! Dr. Lina Lukashevich, in the flesh, walking into Sea Kayak Carolina!

"Who is Dr. Lina Lukashevich?" -- you may wonder. She is the author of the recent book Kayak Anna and the Palindrome Creek. It is "...a splashing eco-adventure for readers ages 9 - 13. Anna fights pollution in her neighborhood creek. Along the way she encounters bullies, leeches and alarmingly ravenous trolls!

Lina came to visit from her home town of Brookfield, Illinois! She was in Columbia with her Mom to visit her aunt. They came to tour Charleston and had a chance to drop off some copies of Kayak Anna. They are available here at the shop, or call (843) 225-7969 for a copy to be delivered to your door, or the door of a young reader/kayaker of your choosing. Lina is donating all of her profits to Living Water International, which helps provide clean, safe drinking water to children around the world. Copies of Kayak Anna are $12.99.

Lina may be back to Charleston in April for the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival - as part of Sea Kayak Carolina's compound. Keep your fingers crossed!

"And what is a palindrome?" you may wonder. A word spelled that is spelled the same way forwards and backwards. The first to email me an example of a palindrome will win a free SKC Nalgene water bottle with their purchase of Kayak Anna!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Great party - great plans for next year...

We had a blast at the shop party last night. Check here for some additional photos.

We're already gearing up for a big year in 2010:

February 27 & 28, 2010 - ACA Advanced Open Water (L5) ICE led by Dale Williams.

Starting April 9 - ACA IDW / ICE led by Tom Nickels. This is a modular event from L1 - L4.

April 16, 17, 18 - East Coast Canoe & Kayak Festival! Sea Kayak Carolina is the Gold Sponsor of this event.

April 19 & 20 - BCU 3 Star Sea Assessment led by Coach Tom Nickels.

And lots of rolling, navigation and other classes and events already on the calendar for 2010. Hope to see you at the shop or on the water soon!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thanks to our recent 5 candidates, who are all now American Canoe Association Coastal Kayak Instructors. Sea Kayak Carolina hosted a 6-day, American Canoe Association Instructor Development Workshop and Certification Exam here in Charleston, South Carolina. The workshop was led by Tom Nickels.

Days 1 and 2 were on a nearby private pond, days 3 & 4 on the Folly River and Charleston Harbor, and Days 5 & 6 on the Atlantic Ocean in the vicinity of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Check here for more pictures.

It's not too early to sign up for a similar ACA CK IDW/ICE here in April 2010, again featuring Tom Nickels as the lead Instructor Trainer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I’m a frayed knot!

Bow & Stern Toggles... lifesavers or killers?

Well, even I admit that the lead sentence is a bit dramatic. But we have had a few incidents related to toggles that it seemed timely for a post.

Bow and stern toggles on sea kayaks can help us manage our boats. However, they should not be used to carry the boats... read on:

Deb and a student were test paddling my personal (and at the time, brand new) P&H Capella 167. They were walking the boat across the parking lot, a knot holding the toggle came undone, and crash went the boat, taking a chunk of fiberglass out of the keel. But it gets worse...

I previously reported that Sue broke her wrist in a freak kayak accident. She was standing on the bumper of her SueBaru, pulling a fiberglass boat by the stern toggle to reposition it in the cradles. The line holding the toggle in place was frayed, it broke un-expectantly, and Sue experienced a FWOSH! (Fall with an outstretched hand.) Sue, by the way, is just recovering from surgery and could use some good wishes... send them to

We all have our terrible toggle stories to tell. The moral of the story is to carry sea kayaks with a hand cradling the bow or stern, and inspect the toggles periodically to ensure that the lines are not showing signs of wear. One more related story...

The string went into the bar, hopped up on a barstool, and asked the bartender for a beer. The bartender shouted “Get out -- we don’t serve strings in here!” The string went into the alley next to the bar, and just went nuts: Thrashing against the wall, the ground, wiggling around in a crazed manner. Can you picture it? Then the string went back into the bar, hopped up on the very same stool, and asked for a beer. The bartender shouted “Didn’t I just tell you we don't serve strings in here?!” To which the string replied — “I’m a frayed knot.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Surfing the Triangle!

I had a blast Monday playing in the "triangle" between Tybee Island and Little Tybee Island, GA. Scott and I had driven down to see off our Paddle Georgia scout team. While there we hooked up with sea kayaking legends Dale Williams and Nigel Law and had an awesome time playing in four foot breakers while battling a 15 knot east wind. It was great paddling with two world class sea kayakers and improving my personal skills as I continue my paddling journey.

-- William

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tom's Back? Gnarly!

How many of you remember Tom Nickels? When I arrived in Charleston in the Fall of 2001, the Charleston Audubon was the first group I got involved with on a trip out to Capers Island. Being on the water was great, and got me thinking...

In the Spring of '02 Melissa and I took the three day Kayaking Fundamentals class being offered at the James Island park, and Tom was our instructor. I mentioned I did freelance web work, he mentioned he was running a kayak tour and instruction business from his home on Folly Beach, and so it began. Through Tom I met Scott, and because of Tom's web site (be sure to look at his new one too) I got the nod to come on board when SKC was getting started.

That Fundamentals Class marked the second time I ever sat in a kayak, and for six years it would be the only formal paddling training I'd had. I really did enjoy that class, but somehow I hadn't learned the training lesson -- classes would improve not only my paddling, but my enjoyment of paddling. It's 2009. Lesson learned.

Lately I've had the pleasure of frequent paddles with great and generous paddling instructors. And I've been able to attend two tree-day Instructor Development Workshops. I'm a better kayaker than I was the last time I went out with Tom, and I am a much, much more enthusiastic paddler.

Currently my enthusiasm is focused on Tom's trip back to the Charleston area and his collaboration with our shop, teaching a modular ACA (Levels 1-4) IDW/ICE in December (and again in April, 2010), two days of open water "Gnarling with Nickels," and a multi-day BCU training paddle on the Georgia Coast. I'm not sure how much I'll get to be on the water, but it will be good to have him around. A bunch of paddlers are going to have some great times while he's here. Will you be one of them?


Monday, August 10, 2009

My First Roll Student

A routine tour Saturday turned into one of those milestone days in my growth as a kayaking instructor — I was the guide for a shop trip to Sandy Point on Kiawah Island. This is a favorite of mine; it has some distance, and we get to cross the Stono Inlet which can make for some fun kayaking on a windy day.

I had a great group, including new Sea Kayak Carolina students Keith and Samantha. In a class the previous weekend, Scott had told Samantha that he believed she was a natural rolling candidate. She really was enthusiastic to learn and asked if I could help her.

I'm an ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayaking Instructor but I don't have a rolling endorsement in my instructor profile yet, so I agreed to give her some "unofficial" pointers on the beach during our lunch break. She was a natural and absorbed my instruction like a sponge — and remarkably I had my first solo rolling instructional success just 35 minutes later.

It's a great feeling to see that look on someone's face when they figure how effortless a complex maneuver like rolling a kayak can be when executed correctly.

Samantha is a natural roller and will probably soon be performing better rolls than I can, but that's alright because I can still say I taught her how to roll.

- William

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Waterspout on the Cooper

For Charleston area folks who like to get out on the water, Waterspouts are more than just a technical note... On June 6th a very real waterspout formed over the Cooper River and wound its way into Charleston Harbor. You may have seen the photos which have been circulating via email — but if you've not seen them yet, here they are:

While the spout received some media coverage, we think it is worth taking an extra moment to appreciate just what sort of conditions can sneak up on us during our frequent summer thunderstorms. So be sure to keep one eye on the weather, check the radar before you head out, and paddle safe!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Sign of Spring

Is it the earliest azalea blossoms? Or the birds signing? Or the local paddlers heading out without their dry suits? Maybe. But for this blog post that's not what I'm talking about.

The sign I want you all to appreciate is the new shop sign we installed today. Gone is the heritage kayak and the vinyl banner -- replaced with a bright, crisp, new Sea Kayak Carolina sign:

And while we all like the new sign outside the store very much, it gives only a hint of the changes that are taking place inside.

Inside is where the action is. If you haven't been in to see us lately, it's worth a visit: We're saying goodbye to much of our old inventory (the March Madness sale continues,) and we've been stocking-up with new gear and a whole selection of new clothing. Spring and summer paddling will be more comfortable than ever with innovative shorts and tops from Reed and Immersion Research and Kokatat. And more is on the way.

Stay tuned for more product news and reviews.

Happy Paddling,

Monday, March 16, 2009

As the Kayak Rolls?

Like sands thru the hourglass, these are the kayaks of our lives...
My old Explorer went off to Georgia with a nice kayaker named Christopher.

Sue's "old" Impex Force Cat 3 returned from a trip to Canada. The boat had some repairs to battle wounds that Sue had inflicted, and a keel strip and turtle were added.

Don't let her pretty looks fool you; the kayak is a working boat anxious to get banged around in the ocean, performing rescues, and generally doing what a sea kayak is built to do. Sue, too!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hello from Key Largo!

Here we are again! William and Jane are ACA Instructor Candidates, and Sue and I are helping teach the Level 1 - Level 3 IDW/ICE at Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo. We left James Island yesterday at 0530, stopped to get gas (and pee) twice, and pulled in to our rental house on Blackwater Sound at 3:45 p.m. We checked out the canal in our backyard, and were happy to see a momma and baby manatee! Momma gave each of us turns scratching her head!

The photo above was taken at the start of our adventure today. We launched mid-morning at Florida Bay Outfitters on Blackwater Sound, paddled to a sandy mangrove beach 3 miles away, and had a lunch break. We met Louie, a nice man from Miami, and did some great rescue practice. Click here for additional photos - viewer discretion advised - contains partial nudity.

We've got a busy day tomorrow - first day of the course. I'll try to take some pictures and keep the blog up to date. We're quite excited about the Post & Courier article William coordinated. We're looking forward to warm Springtime paddling with all of our Charleston friends!

Scott Szczepaniak, pictured at left, was recently disgraced and lost his Weightlifting Hall of Fame membership due to steroid use over 6 years ago.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

SOF Kayaks

Recently I joined the Flatwater Paddlers, a community of kayakers in North Carolina, to learn the skills of building a skin on frame (SOF) kayak and to carve a Greenland paddle.

Mimi, the organizer for the class, convinced Brian Schultz of Cape Falcon kayaks, to make the journey to the East and teach not one, but two classes. Mimi met Brian last October at the Delmarva Gathering, were he taught a class on building SOF kayaks.

I was in Class II, and what a grand group of folks we were! We traveled through Raleigh rush-hour traffic and 4 inches of snow to arrive by 8:00 AM each morning. We worked as a team, pitching in to help each other through the long days. They often gave me a literal helping hand with aspects of the building process I couldn't manage due to my lingering hand injury. I couldn't have done it without them.

Camille, Mimi, and Lee built a variation of the F-1 SOF that Brian has designed: it has enough room to stow gear for overnight camping trips:

Ty built a SOF racing kayak. We couldn't decide on "Ty-ger"or "Ty-ak" for the name of this kayak:

Steve built a scaled up replica of a West Greenland kayak:

And I built a replica of the 1931 Disco Bay West Greenland kayak. And all in 8 days!

We were under the guidance and instruction of Brian Schulz, who earned the name "Saint Brian" during our class. Check out his website ( to find a page he devoted to our class and to learn more about this unique individual.

And visit the Flatwater Paddlers website) to learn more about this NC kayaking community.

May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.


Monday, January 26, 2009

It's All Relative...

I've been a bit down lately, 'cause it's cold and gray more often than not in the past few weeks. However, we did have a nice time on the Stono River in the rain the other day. And the weekend is forecast to warm up... a good Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Pod is scheduled to head out to Deveaux Bank on Sunday.

Ask me about how I started sea kayaking sometime... To make a long story shorter I will tell you now that it was in the Spring of 1991, and it started at Billington Sea Watercraft, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Doug Gray, the owner of Billington Sea Watercraft, just sent me some photos of the lake where I first sat in a sea kayak...

Yikes! Spring will be here sooner in Charleston, South Carolina than Plymouth, Massachusetts...

Scott Szczepaniak is the managing owner of Sea Kayak Carolina and a former poster child for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Contact him at with your story of how you first got started kayaking... he'll post it on the blog.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Navigation Rules for Kayakers

By Scott Szczepaniak

At the last Lowcountry Paddlers meeting, there was some discussion about kayaks and the Rules of the Road. There was some discussion over a recent Sea Kayaker magazine about the same subject. The following is my perspective on the subject…

The “Navigation Rules” are published by the United States Coast Guard. Rule 18 is entitled “Responsibilities Between Vessels.” This rule is often referred to the “pecking order.” Power driven vessels shall give way to sailing vessels, sailing vessels shall keep out of the way of a vessel engaged in fishing (not hook and line recreational fishing but towing a net such as a South Carolina shrimp boat), etc.

There is no mention of kayaks, canoes, vessels under oars in Rule 18.

Rule 25 is entitled “Sailing Vessels Underway and Vessels under Oars.” This is the closest that the Navigation Rules come to addressing kayaks. The Coast Guard Navigation Center has posted on-line a FAQ dealing with the issue:

Where do Kayaks and Canoes fit into the Navigation Rules? Neither the International nor Inland Navigation Rules address "kayaks" or "canoes," per se, except in regard to "vessels under oars" in Rule 25 regarding lights. One could infer that a "vessel under oars" should be treated as a "sailing vessel" since it is permitted to display the same lights as one, but, ultimately the issue of whom "gives way" would fall to what would be "required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case" (Rule 2).”

The experienced kayaker often interprets Rule 2 as the “Big and Ugly Rule” also known as the “Rule of Gross Tonnage.” These unofficial, but eminently sensible rules mean that if it is bigger or uglier than you and your kayak, stay out of the way!

Some additional practical navigation rules for kayakers:

Avoid paddling in marked navigational channels.

When crossing channels, cross as a group, at right angles to the channel to minimize your time in the channel. Look both ways before crossing.

When navigating in windy tidal creeks, get quickly to one side or the other if you hear a boat engine. Better yet, try to keep to on side or the other at all times.

If you capsize in the path of a container ship in Charleston Harbor, it is proper nautical etiquette to pray. Especially when the ship sounds the danger signal – 5 or more short blasts on the horn.

I often ask the question during discussions of kayakers rights of way – “Do you want your tombstone to read: ‘But I had the right of way!’”

Scott is a former Coast Guardsman and commercial boat captain. He is the managing owner of Sea Kayak Carolina and an American Canoe Association Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor. He considers himself an expert in Navigational Rules; what do you think? Email him at

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stono River trip today!

Too tired to post anything but photo link... but stay tuned for details on the Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group trip on the Stono River from James Island / Battery Landing to Kiawah Island / Sandy Point. Click here for photo link.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Kayaking in Charleston, S.C.!!

Kayaking in the snow is unusual; kayaking in the snow in Charleston, S.C. may well be historic. The shop is closed on Tuesday’s during the winter so while it was cold outside I decided to go for a paddle. There was a possibility of snow in the forecast but the sun was trying to come out and I didn’t really expect to see any frozen precipitation. So I set out for a solo paddle because no one else was stupid enough to join me in the balmy 39 degree air.

Some people may not consider paddling alone in cold weather very smart but it’s a lot about preparation. I wore a micro-base layer, a wet suit over that, form fitting fleece and finally a semi-dry top and pants. A dry suit would have been best but still I felt confident in this gears ability to protect me. On top of that I didn’t paddle in water that would test my abilities; I have a fairly reliable role and advanced self-rescue training. Finally I had dry clothes with me in a watertight hatch.

Paddling on days like this when it’s just me, my boat, the water and the elements makes me feel close to our kayaking forefathers. I ran into a pod of dolphins that were playing (probably trying to stay warm) and they circled diving in and out of the water while making eye contact with me. They were probably trying to figure what I was doing out there.

Finally it was time to return home and amazingly snow flurries began about a mile from my take-out point. So realizing this was maybe my only chance to paddle in the snow here I told myself if it was still snowing when I got to the take-out I was going to roll my boat in the snow.

As fate would have it the snow continued and I had to decide if I was going to go upside down in 49 degree water. I decided it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So I pulled on my rolling beanie, positioned my boat so if I missed I wouldn’t be but a couple of feet from the bank and went for it. It was like sticking my head in a bucket of ice but I made it and now I can say I’ve rolled my kayak in the snow in Charleston. I just wish I had a picture of it!!

All and all it was an amazing day and I reminds me of why I paddle. See you on the water soon.


Famous author caught by paparazzi!

Best-selling local Author Ralph Earhart caught by the paparazzi at a Daniel Island hotspot! Ralph is the author of Kayak Charleston, the definitive guide to kayak trips in the Charleston area. And what is he wearing? A Sea Kayak Carolina t-shirt!

Ralph Earhart, author of best selling book Kayak Charleston, with an unidentified starlet at a Daniel Island hotspot. Trendsetting Ralph is sporting a Sea Kayak Carolina Turtle t-shirt!

Monday, January 19, 2009

On-line Charleston Sea Kayakers social networking...

Good day! Lot's of opportunities for Charleston Kayakers to connect on-line. (I think this Internet thing might stick around; perhaps it is not just a fad.)

Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group has been active even in the cooler Winter months. Check them out here:

Facebook users - check out the new Charleston Sea Kayakers Group.

Another community of Charleston Paddlers can be found at

Finally, check out the goings on at

But I'd rather see YOU on the water, or at the shop! Scott

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yikes, it's cold out there! I'm just back from Folly Beach - just looking at the ocean from the heated car made me shiver. Good news is that it will be warming up next weekend for some good paddling...

Boys of Summer? Nope, the men of Sea Kayak Carolina! William, Steve and Scott buzzed some summer cuts in hopes of getting a jump on Spring! (Get it, jump on Spring?) Our motto? Hair care, or more time for kayaking!

Stop in this weekend for a free cup of coffee, watch a kayak video, and daydream about next weekend's kayak adventure. Sea Kayak Carolina is located on James Island, between downtown Charleston and Folly Beach in the great state of South Carolina.

Sea Kayak Carolina, a Community of Kayakers, a Place for Paddlers! Sea Kayak Carolina is the proud Gold Sponsor of the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Aaaahhh, ooowhoo, Werewolves of London!

Werewolf? There wolf! (Alright, if I haven't scared you off already, please read on for information on today's Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group trip, and a down and dirty lesson on the moon's impact on our tides.)

It's hard for me to see a full moon without thinking of the late, great Warren Zee Von. It was a full moon at perigee leaving the shop today on James Island headed over the Connector to West Ashley.

The Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group left the shop this morning under the direction of William. About 20 paddlers rode the last of the ebb (outgoing) tide toward Bird Key with a break on the sandy beach on the river just short of the Bird Key/Folly Inlet. A reported great time was had by all; complete with dolphin strand feeding and a spectacular capsize and an equally impressive rescue by Lynn. Click here for a photo link of the trip.

The low tide today was 0.6 feet below the mean (average) low tide. This was due to two lunar factors today. The moon was full - in-line with the sun and earth. So the sun and moon were working together to exert a maximum gravitational pull. A spring tide, which happens twice every month at the times of the new moon and the full moon. But today... a perigean tide. The perigiean tide happens at the time of a new or full moon when the moon is closest to earth in its elliptical orbit. What will you do tonight in recognition of the full moon at perigee?

Sea Kayak Carolina is a Community of Kayakers, a Place for Paddlers, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Surprise visit from a distinguished kayaker...

Tom Nickels graced us with his first visit to Sea Kayak Carolina this week. I had the great pleasure to paddle with Tom, Charlton DuRant, and William Seabrook from the Folly River landing, out around Bird Key into the ocean, and back into the Folly River. It was a beautiful way to start the week! It was a paddle I had often done with Tom, and words cannot express how happy I was to be on the ocean with him, on our old stompin' grounds.

Tom is an American Canoe Association Open Water Instructor Trainer, and a British Canoe Union Sea Assessor, Coach Level 3 A-1. He trained with Nigel Dennis at the Centre in Anglessey, Wales a few years back.

Tom currently is the Sea Kayak Director at Potomac Paddlesports in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. There is some talk about the new administration making Tom the national sea kayak czar, but for now Tom is happy at Potomac Paddlesports and as an occasional traveling kayak instructor.

The gang at Sea Kayak Carolina looks forward to collaborative efforts with Potomac Paddlesports and our good friend Tom Nickels. Contact Tom at to say hello.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Year

Happy New Year! I have a few resolutions for 2009:
#1 - blog more often!
#2 - never paddle without a digital camera!

I have a lot of reflections on 2008: My Father's death; opening Sea Kayak Carolina; hernia surgery and recovery; some spectacular local kayak adventures; a fantastic trip to Key Largo; lots of new friends; and the joy and love from the people around me.

What's in store for 2009? So much, I'm almost overwhelmed! A few upcoming highlights: I'm assisting Karen Knight with an American Canoe Association (ACA) Instructor Development Workshop/Instructor Certification Exam (IDW/ICE) in February at Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo. Sue will be going to help, and some other folks from Sea Kayak Carolina will be attending as candidates.

In April we will hold another IDW/ICE here in Charleston - with Dale Williams. Then, later in April... Sea Kayak Carolina is the Gold Sponsor of the 2009 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival - held just down the road from the shop at the James Island County Park. Charleston becomes the center of the kayak universe every April - Sea Kayak Carolina is excited to be part of it!

Well, that's all for now. We hope to see you at the shop, better yet, in a kayak on the waters in and around Charleston, South Carolina! ~Scott

Scott Szczepaniak (pictured desperately trying to overcome his natural shyness) is the managing owner of Sea Kayak Carolina. The shop is located at 1731 Signal Point Road, Charleston, South Carolina (on James Island). The number at 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!