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Wilderness Connection
Connecting with the wilderness, mainly by sea kayak, but not solely.

To Stretch or Not to Stretch . . . that is not the question

I am not a personal trainer, nor have I worked with one (though I’ve given a lot of thought to doing so) and other than studying/observing/ reading  a lot on this topic I am by no means an expert—this is my take on the subject of stretching and kayaking.

So, what is the question?  It is:  When to stretch, not if to stretch.

Warm-up of the musculoskeletal tissue is important prior to a high level of activity.  Whether you are lifting weights, running, snowshoeing, skiing, or kayaking, our body will respond better with a warm-up period.  What does that “warm-up” period look like?  It depends . . . for the casual performer (e.g., going out for a paddle with a group of friends) it might be nothing more that paddling at a slower pace and gradually ramp-up to cruising speed.  The more competitive performer (a high intensity work out) this might be a warm-up that moves through the gradual phase followed by some short bursts of higher intensity, before moving into the sustained high intensity.  We’ve all seen this as players warm-up before a game, as runners warm-up before their race, etc.  The fact is that our muscles, tendons and ligaments are like rubber bands and cold rubber bands aren’t as elastic as warm ones (got this analogy from an instructor candidate who gave an excellent presentation on this very topic).  As to stretching, observe the pros—notice how the baseball players start out playing catch, then run some sprints, then stretch out after a good warm-up, then game on.

For all the teaching I’ve done, I don’t recall ever having the students go through a period of warm-up exercises on the beach, I’d rather get them going and do a gradual warm-up on the water.  When I go for a paddle I spend a few minutes paddling around in the launch area executing many of the strokes and maneuvers, then once I’m warmed-up I do a torso rotational stretch to each side, stretch forward along the deck, then begin my journey with a gradual ramp-up to cruising speed.  Depending on the amount physical exertion, I may or may not stretch out after returning from my paddle.  Contrast this with when I go to the gym and lift weights—I start out with a few lighter weights to warm up, or spend 10 minutes on the rowing machine at a moderate pace, and then do the “heavy” lifting.  My routine varies working different muscle groups (e.g., I start with core, then shoulders, then arms, then back to the core, then to hips, then back to shoulders, then to back, then to legs, then to the core, then to stretching (especially the lower back and hamstrings), then to the whirlpool.  Then home and a Smuttynose IPA, or two!

One final note–there are (at least) three elements to physical fitness:  Cardio, strength, and flexibility.  While all three are, in my opinion, important, I find that often (not always) it is the flexibility that becomes more limiting in what we are able to do–that limits our performance and hinders our efficiency.  Flexibility is also the one element, again in my opinion, that seems to be the hardest to regain after a long period of neglect (read as we age).  A word to the younger folks:  don’t neglect flexibility, as well as the strength and cardio.

Rules of the Nautical Road

This is a re-post, with some edits, from a 2006 piece that I wrote—

Recently (back in 2006) on the Milwaukee Sea Kayak list (MilwaukeeSeaKayak@yahoogroups.com) there was a posting with the subject line of “Paddling among yachties.”  A rather catchy title actually–the message concerned the visibility of kayakers to other boaters (larger and faster) and a suggestion by at least one person that kayakers be required to attach orange flags on the end of a wand to their kayaks—similar to those sometimes seen attached to bicycles. This is certainly not a new, or unique issue/problem, nor is the recommendation unique, and it has been debated in other locales as well.  The issue has been “addressed” in Chicago, as well as the lobster waters of the northeast, and I’m sure there are other places as well.

The message cited the following concern from a recent meeting of the Harbor Safety Committee:

“. . .that boaters could not see the kayakers when they were backing out of their slips and that kayakers take short cuts through the ‘wave boards’.”

There are a couple of issues here, at least as I view it.  One kayakers are not following the rules of the nautical road, and in some instances not using common sense.  The other issue is that non-kayaking boaters are either traveling at an unsafe speed and/or not paying attention.

How many sea kayakers actually know the rules of the nautical road?  Not that we need to know all of them, but there are some “primary” rules that we should know—and observe—and there are some rules that fall more into the “concepts” arena that we should also be familiar with.  Then there are some “rules” that are just plain ol’ common sense.

To read the “navigational rules of the road” go to the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center’s web site: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent.  Here you will find the rules, and if you’d like, you can download a copy.  Navrule

First of all, since sea kayaks are considered a “vessel” by the U.S. Coast Guard, the “Rules of the Nautical Road” do apply to us, and we need to be aware of them so that we’ll know what other, larger, vessels are likely (at least are supposed) to do.  For example:  What are the bigger vessels likely to do when approaching a channel marked by green buoy and a red buoy?  When returning from sea (open water) in U.S. and Canadian waters the rule is “red right returning.”  Therefore, when returning from sea, the larger vessels will keep the red buoys on their right, and the green buoys on their left.  And, the opposite is true when leaving port.  In other words, the buoys mark the traffic lanes and it’s safer for sea kayakers to stay out of these lanes. Personally, I like to keep the red buoys close on my left when returning from sea—larger boats then know what direction I’m traveling (going with the traffic) and I’m out of the channel, but still in deep enough water that I don’t have to worry about submerged rocks.

Secondly, every boater has the responsibility to take the appropriate action to avoid a collision with another.  Such action should be clear in the intent—that is, if the relative bearing between you and another vessel does not change you are on a collision course, and clear and deliberate action is to be taken to indicate a change in heading, thus avoiding the collision.

Then there’s the “prudential” rule . . . if it’s bigger than you stay, out of its way.  “What?” you say.  Yes, sea kayaks are human powered, unless they are being sailed in which case they become a sailboat (and must follow the appropriate rules for a sailboat of their length).  And, while some believe that human powered vessels (vessels under oar) have right-of-way over many other vessels, tonnage trumps right-of-way in my book.  Additionally, a sea kayak is more maneuverable than most larger vessels—we don’t require the draft (water depth) of larger vessels; we can turn on a dime, while larger vessels may take miles to turn.  Other things to consider are barges being towed have limited maneuverability, as do fishing boats with nets or lines out.  Just as I don’t demand the right of way when I’m driving, I don’t demand it when I’m paddling either.  Nor do I play “chicken” with other vessels, either of the head-on variety or the race across the channel version.  To many other vessels sea kayaks are merely speed bumps.

And, there’s common sense—for example:

  •  Make yourself as visible as possible when paddling.
    • Wear appropriately brightly colored clothing.
    • Put reflective tape on your boat, paddle, and PFD.
  • When paddling in a group, make the group more visible by making a tight POD (group).
    • If you must cross channels and shipping lanes do so at right angles and at the shortest possible point in order to limit your time in the channel or lane.
    • Use your VHF radio to communicate with other vessels as appropriate.
    • Monitor VHF channel 16 for “securite” information from other vessels.  For example, the Lake Express high-speed ferry broadcasts a “securite” notice in advance of its movement in or out of port—good information to have if you are paddling in the area of its dock or the south harbor entrance.  Same is true for other large vessels and tour boats that use the harbor.
    • Don’t “play” in harbor entrances; this includes practicing rescues and just hanging out.
    • Don’t cut under the docks, you can’t be seen by other boats, and you’re focused on moving through so you won’t be as observant of other boat traffic.
    • Don’t cut through moored or anchored boats.  Again, you aren’t as visible to other boat traffic.  Additionally, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether a boat is moored, anchored, or underway.

There are other points that could be added, but I think this should give you the idea.  Now let’s have some questions and make this interactive!

Be safe!

“Power to the Paddle”

One of the great things about Canoecopia is the meeting of new people.  This year was no different–I had heard a lot about John Chase from another friend but had not had the pleasure to meet and speak with him yet.  And, with a name like “John” I knew he had to be a pretty good guy.  So it was great when he stopped by the Rutabaga Outdoor Programs booth while I was working and spend a few minutes chatting.

John Chase is a certified personal trainer and a paddler.  Fortunately for other paddlers John has a pretty expansive web site www.paddlingexercises.com (see also his site www.inspiredjourneyfitness.com exercise videos tab) which contains several good videos and discussions of exercises specific to the the paddler.

John has also recently published an e-book that is available on Amazon.com–Power to the Paddle. Power to the Paddle

I purchased  this book Monday night after Canoecopia and am quite impressed.  John keeps the equipment simple–resistance bands, stability ball, and a mat.  In the above mentioned web site he also demonstrates exercises with a kayak paddle — pretty simple stuff.  The descriptions of the exercises are clear, in a step by step format, and are accompanied by a photo.  Personally, I would like to have seen a short video of each, but the written descriptions are very clear.  I discovered many of the exercises are demonstrated at his web sites.

John reinforces one of the things that I’ve been harping on for a few years now–the importance of the three areas of physical fitness: cardio, strength, and flexibility.  It’s been my experience that many people tend to focus on the cardio, and a bit on the strength, and very little on their flexibility.  All three are important and need attention.  In fact, I believe that the flexibility issue, or lack of, is often a greater hindrance to sea kayakers than their strength and cardio.  One should have a well balanced fitness program that includes all three.  Another point that John reinforces is the importance of having a balanced strength training program, that is one that strengthens the muscles in all directions of use.

For some the e-book thing may be a bit too, well shall I say “techie”.  As you may recall from a previous post (August of 2011) I purchased my first e-book (The A – Z of Sea Kayaking).  I learned then that even though I didn’t have an “e-reader” device Amazon had a free download to my PC that enabled me to enjoy e-books, and though it’s been over 18 months since I purchased the first, Power to the Paddle was worthy of being my second.  I’m sure that this form of publishing will continue to become more popular and it is rather environmentally sound too.

As we are entering the paddling season (though it may not seem like it outdoors right now), it is important for us to take stock of our physical condition.  Many injuries occur at the beginning of the year because we go from zero to 60 in a couple of weeks rather than slowly ramping up to speed. Whether you start going to the gym, or you work out at home, using the exercises in Power to the Paddle will provide you with the “ramp up” to insure you have a more successful, and hopefully pain free, paddling season.  And, if you should over extend yourself, be sure to listen to your body and allow sufficient time to recover.

Now, what I’d like to do is go spend a couple of hours in the gym with John Chase, but since it won’t happen today, I’m on my way to the WAC (Wisconsin Athletic Club) to spend some time with the weights, followed by the rowing machine, then on to the mats for some flexibility, then to the whirlpool !!!

See ya on the water!  Seakayakerjb

Good Stuff!

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 2As I anxiously await the arrival of soon to be released DVDs, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, Volume 2 from Sunart Media and Sea Kayak Rescues (with Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme) from Reel Water Productions — both should arrive within the next two weeks!  I discovered a couple of bonuses the other day.

Sea Kayak Rescues DVD

While at the website for Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, I noticed a “free downloads” button, of course I clicked it — and wow!  An illustrated transcript of Volume 2 is available for download.  Dig a bit deeper (scroll down the page) and you’ll find a transcript of Volume 1.  SCORE!

It got better — then I surfed on over to Kayak Essentials to see if there was anything new, or that I couldn’t live without ;-) .  Already having purchased both of their DVDs earlier in the year, I was pleased to discover that there too was a downloadable illustrated transcript for Sea Kayak Essentials.

The value of these transcripts can’t be under estimated.  While they are meant to be used in conjunction with their respective DVDs, they contain a wealth of information that are easy to read.  Additionally, by printing them out you can make margin notes, and highlight special points for yourself.

So, while I watch the mail (post), I’ve got transcripts to read, and re-read.  Not to mention all the other things, including trying to get some fall (rougher water) paddling in.

I’ve provided links herein, and will be adding to my references page soon.  The learning never stops–well I don’t know about the “after-life” and hope I don’t for a long time, but for now, keep on studying and learning.


The A – Z of Sea Kayaking

While surfing my round of sea kayaking blogs and sites the other day, I came across an interesting publication from one of the “oldies, but goodies” of the sea kayaking world, Kevin Mansell.  Many years ago I remember Kevin from Sea Kayaking International, an organization that provided information to sea kayakers around the world.

Not having a Kindle, but wanting the publication, I did some research and asking around.  To my pleasure I found that I could download a Kindle application to my PC that would allow me to download e-books and read them using the Kindle app.  So, today while at my daily Caribou lunch session, I went to Amazon and found the Kindle app, downloaded it to my notebook.  I then deleted the three classics that were automatically downloaded, and then downloaded the “Kindle only” publication from Kevin Mansell.  Though I’ve not read the entire book yet, I will say that I’m very impressed with the information covered and the detail provided for each listing.  At $8.00, this is one of the best buys I’ve made in awhile (outside of a six-pack of Smuttynose IPA of course!).

Check it out, I think you’ll agree.  And, while at Amazon, check out all the other great sea kayaking books you can download, very impressive.

Now What?

RelaxingIt’s been 10 days since I returned from the round of July symposiums.  First the Door County Symposium, followed by a few nights of camping on the sandy shore of Lake Superior — right outside the door of my tent.  Then there was the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium.  Ten days on the road, and by the end, it was good to get home, even though all that gear had to be unloaded and carried into the house, hanging wet stuff to dry, and laundry of course.  This trip had been preceeded by the Inland Sea Symposium only 3 weeks before departure.  It is always kind of bittersweet to unload really, but it’s just the beginning of summer!

So, “now what?”  if you attended one of the symposiums, or two or all three, then you most likely picked up some new skills to hone — I know I did (for example the pry sculling draw).  So, this is not the time to simply hang up the boat and blades, it’s time to keep them and the body going–don’t stop now!  Get out there and practice.  But, don’t forget to have some fun too (not that practice can’t be fun), sometimes we just need to paddle.  While doing so work on your skill of self awareness and analysis.  If you are fortunate to have a paddling mate that has a keen eye, ask them for some feedback as to how a particular stroke is looking.

As for me, I’m in the prep stages for two instructor development workshops, and one instructor certification exam that I’ll be conducting between now and the end of September.  Then I turn my attention to prep for assisting with teaching a Wilderness Advanced First Aid course in mid-October.

I’m, however, going to make sure I take advantage of these warmer water months to do some paddling and rolling around too, which I’ve not done much of this year due in part to the weather, and the SI joint dysfunction that I’ve encountered–hoping that is about to get behind me though.  In the mean time, whenever I need to “chill”, I’ll take a look at some of the lovely sunsets that are memories from another good trip.

Big Mouth Gits Er Dun!

Being on the “physically unable to perform” roster on the home team, the snow shoveling position for this most recent game of snow fall was left up to my loving wife–Oz.  When I arrived home from a full day at the office, and 30 minutes in the whirlpool, and the bi-nightly visit to the grocery, the walks and driveway had been shoveled a couple of times during the day (Monday) by Oz.  With the little bit of additional snow that fell after the last shoveling, I was hoping that I’d get up early and go out with big blue (my snow pusher) and just be able to push the remaining bit away.  However, when I finally rolled out of bed in the morning and tried to straighten up, I knew that was not a good idea, at least at that point in time.

Oz came in the bedroom and announced that she was going out and clear the end of the driveway, which had been plowed in overnight.  And, as my luck would have it, by time I got downstairs, the coffee was made, the paper was in, and the wife was out shoveling snow.  So, what’s a guy to do?  Did my stretching exercises, being careful to maintain “PFA” (pain free activity), as much as possible at least.  Then sitting on the edge of the couch, I drank my coffee, read some of the paper, listened to the morning news.  Then I cautiously rose from the couch to start the process of getting ready for work.

Oz and "big mouth"

Oz came in from shoveling and announced that she loaned our neighbor my blue pusher and “big mouth”.  “Big mouth” is the name given to the red plastic grain/snow shovel that I had given Oz a couple of years ago for Christmas.  When I left for work the neighbor returned same.  After making sure that he was indeed done, I placed “big mouth” and “blue” back in the garage.  Then as I placed my bags in the car, I noticed that the garbage cans hadn’t been cleared.  So, I grabbed big mouth and within 5 minutes of easy shoveling I had them cleared, just in case today is collection day (I can never keep track of it).  And, the really good news is that my back didn’t complain by the little bit of shoveling I did do, and that’s a good thing! And, it was collection day, so a good thing indeed that I cleared the cans.

In just 6 more months

A few days ago I spoke of 2011 and all that is going on, I wanted to post this photo too, but for some reason the WordPress gods didn’t allow me to do so with that post.  So, I’m back today and will see if the stars are aligned for me to post this photo of Silbs and I toasting a great day on a Great Lake.  And for those of you in the South, see it does get warm enough up here to sit in shorts and a t-shirt.  I know, Silbs is in long sleeves and jeans, but he gets cold easily ;-)

To a great day on a Great Lake

To a great day on a Great Lake

2011, Oh What a Year its gonna be!

2011 is shaping up to be fully packed with lots of activity, at least through October and then there are the annual holidays in November and December. So guess that makes it the whole year!

January is loaded with planning and scheduling, along with a couple of pool sessions to maintain my “edge”. In February I’m off to Tybee Island Georgia for a few days of assisting with Rutabaga’s Kayak Camp with Ben Lawry. This will be a really great time, not only will I be working with Ben, but it will be in one of my favorite places to paddle. If I had things my way, I’d move to Tybee in a heartbeat!

March begins the paddling season here in the upper Midwest with Canoecopia. And, for those of us who are year-round paddlers, Canoecopia brings the excitement that kids get in a toy store in early December. For the past several years I’ve worked the entire show, either staffing the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium booth, or the Rutabaga Outdoor Programs booth. In addition to those “duties” this year I will be doing several presentations. The board of directors for the Lake Michigan Water Trail (LMWT) will be doing a presentation on the LMWT project. I’ve been working on this project for over 15 years, and these are really exciting times! I will also be doing a presentation on wilderness first aid. Then there will be a presentation on “kit” essentials, during which I will discuss why my kayak and my PFD weigh so much. And, I will be doing a couple of navigation sessions which will be “hands-on” with several other ACA instructors assisting. So, Canoecopia is going to be a scheduling nightmare, but soooooo much fun that I’m getting all giddy just thinking about it!

In April I’ll be conducting an early season Level 4 – Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor Certification Exam for Rutabaga. This will be for those that may have missed the usual late summer and fall exams last year, or who are looking to perhaps upgrade from their present level before the teaching season gets in full swing this year.

In May I’ll be assisting with a Wilderness Medical Associates Wilderness First Aid class sponsored by Rutabaga. These are always fun (especially when I get to work with my mentor Ann Dunphy). It’s amazing how much practical first aid knowledge and skill one can learn in two days. Also, for you ACA instructors, or aspiring instructors, don’t forget that you are now required to have first aid and CPR as part of your instructor credentials, and successful completion of this course satisfies that requirement.

In June I’ll be doing an Instructor Development Workshop (IDW) for Rutabaga (this will be especially fun since it’s also my birthday weekend!).  In mid-June the symposium schedule begins with the Inland Sea Sea Kayak Symposium in Washburn Wisconsin. I just received my invitation to be one of the instructors, and accepted immediately! This is the first symposium that I ever attended, and where I had my first “formal” lesson, with none other than Gail Green. I won’t tell you what year that was; just that it was awhile ago.

July is always a busy month with not one, but two symposiums and a bit of camping along the shores of Lake Superior between the two. First, there’s the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium. Always fun to see all the returning participants, as well as the new ones. I’ve been at this one from the beginning (this is the 8th annual), and have a blast. After DCSKS, I’ll be heading to Munising to camp on the shore of Lake Superior for a few nights with Silbs and Sherri.  We’ll be doing some paddling in the area, hanging out at the local coffee shop, and just sitting and relaxing before heading over to Grand Marais (Michigan) for the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium (GLSKS) which is still going strong after a quarter of a century (2011 is the 27th annual)!

In August I’ll be doing another IDW for Rutabaga. Then in September I’ll be conducting an ICE for Rutabaga. And, finally in October there’s the ACA National Conference in Louisville, KY.

Now, sprinkle among all of this the various one day classes (navigation, open water skills, video stroke analysis, first aid and CPR) as well as some two day instructor updates, and I’ve got me a busy 2011 ahead!

So this pretty much sums up 2011 for me, looks to be jam packed, to say the least! Hope to see you at some, if not all of these events.

Blood, Sweat & Tea




Most of the reading I do is of an educational nature, to increase my knowledge in the medical or sea kayaking fields, or the teaching of same.  Rarely do I read for the pure joy of reading, time just doesn’t permit me to do that.  Having disclosed that, I had been looking for something in my den the other evening, something I still haven’t found but if you saw my den you’d immediately know why (but I digress).  As I worked my way to the bottom of a pile of files and “important” papers, I found a book that I’d gotten a couple of years ago from my wife (not sure if it was for birthday, Christmas, or just because).  Hmmmm . . . I was about finished with the current edition of Ocean Paddler, and was tired of reading The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms, and re-reading The Outward Bound Wilderness First-Aid Handbook.  Standing there for a moment I opened the freshly uncovered book, which the spine looked like I had never opened it before, and I just randomly opened it and read a quick story, and I laughed out loud.  I realized that what I had just read was what I’ve been living for the past few years as an urban emergency medical technician (EMT).  Perhaps even more ironic, the previous evening I’d had a conversation at the station between calls talking to others about EMS in the urban jungle and how it wasn’t much different in any large urban city.

Reading a bit more of Blood Sweat & Tea (BS&T) I realized that urban EMS is also not that different six time zones to the east of Milwaukee either.  BS&T is a collection of blog posts from an EMT in London England describing life working the streets with the LAS (London Ambulance Service).

Amazon dot com has the book, as well as the newer one (More Blood, More Sweat, and Another Cup of Tea).   Either, or both, would be a good gift for anyone working in EMS.  What I like is that there’s no plot to follow.  You have two minutes—pick it up and read a short post.  Got an hour, pick it up and read several posts. Start in the middle, at the end, at the beginning, it doesn’t matter!  One reviewer called it “a great toilet book”.  Well that pretty much sums it up, it is indeed a great toilet book!

One passage:  “There is something deeply disturbing about walking on a sticky carpet—especially when the flat (apartment) is in a compete mess and the punter (patient) has called an ambulance four times in the last 2 days for a pain in the chest that has lasted 2 years. . . note that the pain hasn’t changed in any way, it’s not worse, or moved around the body, he has no other symptoms . . . It also doesn’t help when the patient smells so bad that I want to leap out the side window.”  Now I ask my colleagues in EMS, who amongst us can’t relate to this?  If you can’t then you’ve only been working the streets for a few hours, just wait until the next run.

You can keep current with the author of these books by reading his blog at http://randomreality.blogware.com/