Door County Symposium

For the fifth year running, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the midwest’s largest paddle shop–Rutabaga in Madison, WI–at the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium (July 11-13, 2008). Door County is narrow finger of land that stretches about 70 miles out into Lake Michigan, dividing Green Bay to the north from open water to the east. It’s a picturesque place to paddle, dotted with small fishing towns, B&B’s, rocky harbors, and bluffs.

One highlight for me was the chance to test paddle the new Scorpio.

The week began with a bit of a road trip. Kelly Blades picked me up, his truck loaded like a gypsy with gear for two weeks of symposia: sea & whitewater kayaks, bikes, camping gear, a vendors tent, PFDs, sprayskirts, and Werner paddles for demoing. From there it was off to Madison where we joined forces with Ben Lawry and spent a wonderful evening with Rutabaga owner Darren Bush and his family. An impromptu acoustic jam session (Darren on banjo, Kelly on guitar, me attempting to lay down a bass line, and Ben lending moral support) then gave way to a “have you seen this on Youtube?” session. Of particular entertainment value was some of the kayak coaching we found online, especially the tips from this pectorally pumped instructor.

Ben, Kelly, and I arrived in Door County on Tuesday, and spent the next two days relaxing, paddling, hiking, go-carting, and crooning along with Kelly’s I-Pod.

An impromptu game of boulder baseball:

Werner Paddles own Danny Mogno cutting the inside corner


On Thursday, we conducted a SymposiumInstructor Tune-Up session, along with Steve & Cindy Scherrer of Confluence, in which Ben Lawry presented his “4 P’s of Paddling” workshop, Kelly explored rescue variations, and I led a session on using games and skills challenges to enhance your coaching.

Ben Lawry & Kelly Blades demonstrating the connection between power, rotation, and foot pressure.


WeatherOn Friday the symposium began, and as usual, the event flew by, the weekend melding into a blur of smiling faces, good friends, and late evenings by the campfire. Over the three days, we dodged thunderstorms, dealt with high winds, and pushed our students to expand their comfort zones in open water.

On Saturday I had a chance to test paddle the new Scorpio during the course of a short 3-hour day trip in windy conditions. I was impressed with the Scorpio’s rock solid stability (similar to the Cetus) and speed, which seems to be best I’ve experienced in a plastic boat). The boat carved turns nicely. At 5’9″, 150lbs wet, the boat was a little large for me, but still handled well. The LV version will probably be even better! Over the course of the symposium I heard similar comments from everyone who test paddled the boat. I think P&H has nailed it with this boat design.

On a sad note–sad for us, happy for her–Rutabaga “Jane of all Trades” Megan Pfieffer said her goodbyes on the final day after five years at the shop & symposium. Megan is off to Alaska for an undisclosed amount of time…hopefully we’ll cross paths (or boat wakes) again sometime soon!

Below: Megan “Color Me Surprised” Pfeiffer, Rutabaga maven.


Below: Sunrise over Rowley’s Bay, Door County, Wisconsin.

Sunrise_Rowleys Bay