During fall on the Great Lakes, strong, dense winds blow across the flat expanses of Canada and collide with the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes making explosive sea conditions. Those steep waves — the old timer fishermen called them square because almost vertical wave faces separate the wave’s tops from their bottoms — provide a mess of peaks and valleys to chuck yourself and your kayak into. In the past, the big names in kayaking, such as Nigel Dennis and Stan Chladek, staged a yearly November (statistically the stormiest month but stupidly cold) event on Lake Superior that challenged paddlers from around the world. Rumor has it that Valley’s Pintail was developed specifically for those gatherings. Now, Keith Wikle of Go Kayak Now is putting together a new Great Lakes symposium for intermediate to advanced kayakers who love paddling in the rough or who want to learn how to do it.
The inaugural weekend for this new event called the Gales Storm Gathering occurs in Marquette, Michigan on October 8th through the 11th. This isn’t a typical first year event with no-name coaches, because it features world-class instructors. Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme of Body Boat Blade fame — you may recall seeing them in the excellent This is the Sea #4 video and others in the series — headline the event. Other coaches include Wikle himself, Sam Crowley, who paddles in scary crazy conditions, Kelly Blades and others. Basically, the event features top notch instructors with plenty of rough water experience. Not to mention a surprisingly high number of American Canoe Association “Levels” and British Canoe Union “Stars” attached to their names.
The course offerings happen based on the conditions with some sea kayaking courses occurring on the Menominee River to take advantage of the holes, waves and current. If the surf is up, the weekend offers courses in surfing small boats and
real boats sea kayaks. There are rock gardening courses, rough water rescues and incident management courses. Plus several courses on navigation. As a participant, you won’t get bored, but you will get wet. The venue, Presque Isle Park, is one of the most stunning locations on Lake Superior’s south shore. A picture of mine from there graces the cover of Ocean Paddler issue number 27. Future events are planned for Wawa in 2012 and Duluth in 2013.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make this event, because I’m gearing up for a 21-day canoe expedition, but you should go, take pictures and then rub it in about how fun it was. Cost ranges from $120 to $330 depending on the number of days you want to have fun. That price includes lunch. Lodging at Harlow Lake ranges from $20 to $60 based on the number of days you stay.
Register online at the Gales Storm Gathering registration page.