STEP 1: Assess your skill level

Please use the following descriptions and criteria to place yourself into one of the four categories. Self-assessment is important to you, to us and to other participants. As a participant, it helps ensure that you’re learning at the most appropriate level. When a class is too challenging or not challenging enough, effective learning is greatly reduced. In addition, self-assessment helps us to manage risk and allows a group of participants to learn and perform at a reasonably equal level.

Advanced Beginner Paddler

The Advanced Beginner has had some formal instruction and can perform a self rescue and a peer rescue in flat water. They can paddle forward with efficiency, steer their kayak, move sideways and brace effectively. They are able to maneuver their kayak in tight spaces and can paddle 6-8 miles in a day.

Intermediate Paddler

The Intermediate Paddler can perform all of the desired skills of an Advanced Beginner efficiently and effectively. They can paddle backwards and maintain a course in wind and current. The Intermediate Paddler should be able to scull for support and roll their kayak in flat water. They are proficient with deep water rescues and towing techniques. The Intermediate Paddler understands paddling theories such as trip planning, navigation and equipment. The Intermediate Paddler has the skills and experience in various water and weather conditions and can paddle 8-12 miles in a day.

Advanced Intermediate Paddler

The Advanced Intermediate Paddler has a variety of experience in the cockpit and can perform all the fundamental skills and deep water rescues in moderate wind and water conditions. The Advanced Intermediate Paddler has a reliable roll in moving water, is in good physical condition and can paddle 15-20 miles in a day. The Advanced Intermediate Paddler has good group awareness, assesses personal risk accurately and can travel well in a group of led paddlers.

Expert Paddler

The Expert Paddler has a excellent personal skills, good technical knowledge, great judgment, and plenty of experience in a variety of conditions. The Expert Paddler recognizes personal weaknesses and is motivated to practice and learn new things. The Expert Paddler has solid leadership skills and a desire to share their knowledge in the education of others.

If you have difficulty self assessing yourself, please consult a paddling partner or coach for advice. You can also ask us at 


STEP 2: Build your schedule

Choose the classes that correspond to your skill level and interest. Each class is clearly labeled with one of the 4 distinctions – advanced beginner, intermediate, advanced intermediate, expert. Classes that are labeled with multiple skill levels are appropriate for those specific skill levels. The instructors of multi-level classes will differentiate participants abilities, adapt their lessons, and teach to your level during the class. We encourage you to select a diverse range of classes and instructors to maximize your benefit from the symposium. Consider a combination of classes that include different skill trainings and locations.

Please note that while we will make every effort to give you the class of your choice, we reserve the right to cancel classes, create new ones and move students according to demand and the prevailing weather and sea conditions.


STEP 3: Register

Go to the Registration page and sign up for 1, 2, or 3 days of classes, plus meals. Use the following descriptions to determine which classes best suit your expectations and skill level. You will be prompted during the registration process to select your preferred classes.


Paddle Golden Gate 2020 Classes


Click here to download a copy of the 2020 Class Schedule.
Please remember to check online for the current class schedule. Availabilities are updated daily.

Class Descriptions

Alcatraz & Angel Island Journey

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

An iconic journey with a goal of circumnavigating Alcatraz and Angel Island (which is by no means guaranteed). The real objective of the day is to learn how to plan a day trip on a large body of open water and then execute that plan. This paddle will have many teachable moments, and the potential for stunning views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other iconic landmarks. Topics that may be taught during this paddle include practical navigation, tides & currents, dealing with boat traffic, group management, rescues, towing, directional control in wind and more. Paddlers should be prepared to paddle 8-12 miles at a moderate pace during the day.

Big Water

Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Wintertime conditions on the California Coast mean one thing – big water! Join Sean Morley and David Santaniello as they share with you their favorite rough water play spots out the Gate and along the Marin Headlands. The focus of this class will be on play and will likely include rock gardening and surfing. Throughout the day, the skills necessary for paddling in dynamic water will be reviewed and reinforced. Participants must have solid paddling skills including strokes, braces, and rescues and a reliable combat roll. Helmets are mandatory and plastic kayaks are recommended. Participants should have previous rock garden and sea kayak surfing experience.

Boat Control Master Class

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

This class is for paddlers who want to take their paddling skills up a notch or two or want to practice their skills under the watchful eye of some of the world's best coaches. You should have the concepts of a range of steering strokes and be able to edge your kayak in waves or moving water. We will take these skills to the next level by working on combining strokes and using these sequences in conditions.

Flight of Adventure

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Looking to put your paddling skills to use in an unforgettable adventure? Rough water, tidal races and rock gardens – San Francisco Bay and the Marin Headlands offer so much to explore! Join Jeff Laxier in an exploration of the coast designed to review and reinforce your dynamic water skills and rescues. Participants in this class should have solid paddling and rescue skills. Helmets are mandatory and plastic kayaks are strongly recommended.

Forward Stroke Refinement

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This class will help you refine your forward stroke with the aim of becoming more efficient, delivering power without wasting energy and thus giving you more control and greater enjoyment of your paddling. Be prepared to be challenged on how and why you paddle the way you do. Video will be used to analyze and refine your strokes. Throughout the class you will learn new drills to take away that will help develop your technique into the future. This class will be conducted on flat water at Horseshoe Cove.

Girls Rock!

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

This rock garden class is taught by women for women! The focus of this class is on playing safely and having FUN in the countless rock gardens that adorn the region. You will learn how to negotiate rock features with style and grace and what to do if things go wrong.  We will cover strategies for paddling within rock gardens and recognizing areas to avoid. You will have the opportunity to practice essential skills including self and assisted rescues within the turbulent water of a rock garden. Students should have solid understanding of foundation strokes as well as the ability to perform rescues. Helmets are mandatory and plastic kayaks are strongly recommended. Paddlers should be in good physical condition and be dressed and ready to swim.

Incident Mitigation & Management

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This is the class to prepare you for the unknown. We will look at common mishaps that occur when paddling in a group and how to handle them before they spiral out of control.  We will look at useful gear and necessary “hard” skills like rescues and towing. As important, we will also look at how good risk assessments and proper planning can help us avoid problems. You should already have solid self and assisted rescue skills and be prepared put these skills into practice during some true-to-life scenarios in realistic conditions. Coaches will set up a number of scenarios for you to manage ranging from multi-boat rescues to hurt or sick paddlers, broken equipment, getting lost, becoming storm-bound and more. If you can think of it, the coaches can instruct you how to deal with it. The lessons from this class will stick with you for your entire paddling career. Participants should be dressed for potentially prolonged immersion in cold (54F) water and should be ready for all conditions with appropriate kit. This course may cover up to 6 miles.

Introduction to Surfski Paddling

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

The surfski is the fastest, most exciting paddlecraft on the water! Discover why these versatile kayaks are gaining popularity worldwide. Surfskis are fun to paddle on calm water as well as the open ocean. It’s good for you, too! They are very fast, very safe (sit-on-top and self-bailing), lightweight (about 30 lbs), and incredibly maneuverable with a foot-operated rudder. In this session, we provide stable models to teach essential skills such as body posture, use of the wing paddle, and remounting the surfski in open water.

Marin Headlands Coastal Journey

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This day trip will go well beyond sightseeing and incorporate multiple mini-lessons throughout the day. Sea and weather conditions permitting, this class will be on the open coast outside of the Golden Gate. Coaches will use the landscape and features to introduce and develop coastal touring techniques including risk assessment, dealing with wind and current, navigation, paddling within the rocks, rescues and potentially surf. Paddlers should be prepared for 10 to 15 miles of paddling in swell up to 4 feet and wind up to 15 knots.

Practical Leadership for Safer Sea Kayaking

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Join your coaches as they guide you though an exploration of safety issues and solutions for all sea kayakers. Participants will learn how to develop effective safety strategies for sea kayak groups afloat with an equal focus on problem avoidance and incident management. You will discuss group management strategies and delve into the psychological challenges facing all sea kayak groups on the water. This class will help you develop practical problem solving strategies for your paddling group whether it be a commercial tour or a group of peers.

Practical Navigation

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This class will focus on navigating from the cockpit. Learn and practice all relevant aspects of navigation – plotting a course, taking a bearing, following a heading, using ranges, reading charts, etc. The challenge is taking navigational theories and practices outside the classroom and into your kayak. Learn skills to help you quickly and accurately navigate while under way. Students must be equipped with a waterproof chart or chart and case, compass (deck and/or orienteering), a watch and a writing device such as a grease pencil or a waterproof notebook and pencil. NOAA chart 18649 will be the chart required for the class.

Proficient Coastal Paddler (3 Day Progression)

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate

This class is for sea kayakers looking to take their coastal paddling to the next level. The emphasis will be on FUN as we learn, refine and improve foundational skills and then apply these skills as we venture out into more dynamic water. Working with one coach over a three-day time-span allows the coach to get to know you as a paddler and build upon the previous day’s progress. The daily schedule will be dependent on ocean conditions but students should be prepared for paddling in both sheltered and dynamic water (races, rock gardens and surf). The goal of the progression is to grow the confidence, skills and knowledge to being proficient on a coastal journey.

Rescues & Towing

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

Despite our best preparations, sometimes on the water things go wrong. Someone gets sick, injured, overextends themselves, or just plain meets the wrong wave and finds themselves out of their boat and separated from their gear. Be prepared by building your toolkit for handling these problems out on the water! There are a wide range of different rescue and towing techniques that can be applied to make sure people are taken care of and everyone stays safe. This class is designed to broaden your skills, build your confidence, and increase your familiarity with these methods.

Rock Garden 101

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate

If you are new to coastal paddling and want to develop the skills needed to start playing amongst the rocks, then this class is for you. You will need solid fundamental skills such as sweep strokes, the ability to edge your kayak and a low brace. You will learn how to use these strokes and others in the dynamic environment of a rock garden. You will learn about judgment and timing and where to go and what to avoid. Plastic kayaks are recommended. Helmets are mandatory. You will be working on the many rock features found inside and possibly outside of the Golden Gate depending on conditions.

Rock Garden Skills & Safety (Rock Garden 201)

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

In this class, students will work on the skills needed to maneuver amongst the rocks safely and with style and grace. You will discuss and practice various rescue techniques unique to the potentially dangerous environment of the rock garden, including the use of contact, short and long tows, self rescues and emergency landings. You will learn signaling methods and how to manage a group to prevent dangerous incidents from developing. Students should have a solid understanding of and the ability to perform rescues in a dynamic moving water environment. Helmets are mandatory and plastic kayaks are strongly recommended. Paddlers should be in good physical condition and be dressed and ready to swim. This class is essential for those that play amongst the rocks on the open coast.

Rock Garden Advanced Play (Rock Garden 301)

Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This class is for advanced intermediate and expert paddlers who have plenty of experience in coastal conditions, including the surf zone, as well as a reliable combat roll. Solid paddling skills are needed – strokes, braces, rescues. Coaches will encourage students to move beyond their comfort zone whilst exercising good judgment. The focus will be on play, however, coaches will be ready and willing to teach specific rock gardening skills such as the pour-over, paddling through arches, exploring caves, etc. whilst working on timing and appropriate stroke sequences, communication, and group dynamics. Plastic kayaks are highly recommended. Helmets are mandatory. Participants should ideally have previously taken a Rock Garden Skills & Safety Class and should be in good physical condition as this will be a strenuous class.

Rolling in Dynamic Water

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

Do you have a pool roll but always wet exit when you paddle in conditions? Your coaches will start by refining your flat water roll and discussing the various physical and mental barriers to rolling in three dimensional water. You will have plenty of opportunities to practice in increasingly dynamic water while your coaches offer feedback and strategies to successfully roll in chaotic conditions.

Rough Water Skills & Rescues

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

Rough Water Skills & Rescues will have you learning and fine-tuning your boat control and rescue techniques in real-world conditions. This course will start with a review of your strokes and rescues in calm conditions to make sure that they are effective and look at how they could be modified to take account of wind and waves. We will then move into dynamic water to put these new skills to the test! If time allows we will also be able to look at more complicated rescue scenarios. Helmets are mandatory, and tow belts are recommended.

Sausalito & Richardson Bay Journey

Advanced Beginner |  Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

Join your coaches on a journey along the Sausalito coastline and up into Richardson Bay. During this class, you will learn how to plan a paddle in an urban environment while taking in the unique culture of Sausalito. Topics that may be taught during this paddle include practical navigation, tides & currents, dealing with boat traffic, group management, rescues, towing, directional control in wind and more. Paddlers should be prepared to paddle 8-12 miles at a moderate pace during the day.

Simplifying the Roll

Advanced Beginner |  Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate |  Expert

Are you learning to roll and need help? Do you have a roll and are looking to refine it or learn some different rolls? Perhaps you teach rolling and are looking for new ideas? Helen Wilson is world-renowned as a wonderful teacher of the many types of roll. She uses innovative techniques to encourage you to focus on your body and torso floatation. She has an excellent way of troubleshooting many common problems found with the various rolls and this class is appropriate for beginners and experts alike.

Surfski the Gate

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Join Kenny Howell and Chris Hipgrave on a surfski adventure. The focus of this class will be on high speed fun as you leave the protected waters of Horseshoe Cove in search of swell. You will learn techniques for surfing ocean swell and downwind paddling. You must have previous surfski experience and be able to remount in deep water. Surfskis will be provided by Epic Kayaks.

Tidal Race Advanced Play

Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This course builds on previous tidal race courses and offers students a chance to refine their skills in moving water. If you are looking to surf in tidal races, link waves, and fly across the water with ease - this class is for you! Rather than surviving a tidal race, this course will provide students opportunities to take their paddling skills to the next level.

Tidal Race Paddling

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

This course starts by reviewing the skills needed for paddling in a tidal race environment. Then we take these skills into the dynamic environment of a tidal race. Learn how to enter and exit a race, surf waves, perform rescues, and successfully move yourself around in a tidal race environment. Helmets are mandatory.

Traditional Paddling Skills

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

Modern sea kayaking has its roots firmly based in the traditions of Greenland kayaking. The Inuit have used the qajaq as a means of hunting and fishing for centuries. The Greenland paddle is a different tool than a Euro blade and requires a different technique to paddle effectively and efficiently. Join James Manke as he reviews traditional paddling skills designed to expand your comfort and skill level using the Greenland Paddle in both flat and three dimensional water. This class will be offered Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; however, each day will paddle in a different location. Join for one day or all three! Topics covered will include: Greenland strokes in flat water, maneuvering close to rocks, and paddling in current.

Whitewater of the Sea

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Join Jeff Laxier and experience the different possibilities of paddling a whitewater kayak on the ocean. Surfing, running pour-overs, and paddling among the rocks in a short boat is FUN! Whitewater boats are incredibly maneuverable and can open up a world of new lines and features to run. This course provides an excellent opportunity to expand your abilities as a paddler and use a different craft on the ocean.