Reflections on Paddle Golden Gate 2018 by Greg MacIver

With Paddle Golden Gate 2018 a little over a month behind us, we are left to reflect on the exciting experiences, skills learned, and friends made. The biennial symposium drew paddlers from across North America and Europe to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge for a weekend full of fun and adventure. We, the organizers, are so happy with the success of the symposium, and are so thankful for the energy and positivity that students and coaches alike brought to the event. 

Throughout the weekend paddlers learned skills ranging from paddling technique and boat control in the calm marina to pushing their limits in the rock gardens and surf of the Pacific Ocean. Each day, students filled with nervous excitement left the safety of the harbor and followed their coaches for a day of hands on learning. After a full three days on the water, paddlers returned to port tired but smiling. Loading gear or sharing a beer, everyone regaled each other with the days successes and exhilarating moments of fast paced skill building. It was clear that students and coaches alike were having a blast whether they were washed onto rocks by the surf, swept through tidal races, or refining the finer points of paddling technique. Everyone’s positivity and excitement was truly contagious. 

In the nature of reflecting, we have a few thanks to dole out. 

First and foremost, thank you to all the students that attended. Your your willingness to push yourselves and take on new challenges is what makes Paddle Golden Gate so rewarding for the coaches and staff. In total, we had over 100 students participate, and we are thankful for everyone of you. Keep paddling, developing your skills, and exploring all that kayaking has to offer. 

Coaches, you all rock. Everyone is grateful for your leadership and desire to pass on the skills which you have worked so hard to develop. Your dedication to inspire paddlers keeps this sport alive and pushes paddlers of all skill levels to achieve more. The same goes for assistant coaches, volunteers, and everyone who helped along the way. The paddling community may be small, but our camaraderie is strong. Thank you for your for willingness and desire to share your excitement and passion for the sport. 

We can all agree that nice relaxing entertainment is necessary after paddling hard all day. Thank you to Chris Hipgrave and Justine Curgenven for allowing us to paddle vicariously through their adventures. Chris’s presentation of his bone chilling exploration of the Antarctic offered unique insight into not only what it takes to guide in such frigid and wild waters, but what it took for Shackleton and his shipwrecked crew to rescue themselves. Taking place in different hemispheres, but not necessarily warmer, Justine gave a glimpse into the trials, tribulations, and fun you encounter while expedition paddling. Paddling through unknown territory with rookie paddlers, sharing beach campsites with seals, shouting away bears, and enjoying the hospitality of strangers, Justine had some amazing stories. Chris and Justine’s stories are great encouragement for us to paddle outside of our own backyards and find our own adventures. 

One of the largest thank you’s should be reserved for Kelly Marie Henry and her crew for putting on the event. Though Paddle Golden Gate encompasses a single weekend and is over before you know it, the planning and coordination begins years before. Kelly’s love of paddling lead her to take on the roll of Event Director for Paddle Golden Gate. Her pure passion for educating and inspiring paddlers fueled her through late night planning, filling out permits, gathering coaches, organizing volunteers, scheduling classes, and so many more tasks that got lost beneath the waves. Kelly, your unwavering dedication to the kayaking community knows no bounds and is appreciated by all. Despite the great leadership, Paddle Golden Gate would not have been such a resounding success without the help of staff and volunteers. Volunteers made themselves available for any number of roles, from kitchen chefs, photographers, parking attendants, boat couriers, check in staff, and so much more. Thank you helping to make Paddle Golden Gate such a success. 

Last but not least, are the sponsors which helped to provide gear, boats, venues, and support. A special thank you goes out to P&H Custom Sea Kayaks and Current Designs. Your boats are tried and true, and aid us in pushing our paddling skills further than we thought possible. Thank you to Galen and all Sea Trek for providing a venue and safety boats. Thank you to all of our many sponsors that helped make Paddle Golden Gate possible. 

Everyone involved with Paddle Golden Gate 2018 should give themselves a hearty pat on the back for making it such a success. The paddling community is better for all of your involvement. Please continue to spread your joy for kayaking and dont stop pursuing your paddling goals. We are grateful for your support, and look forward to seeing your at Paddle Golden Gate 2020. Peace, love, and happy paddling. Stay Stoked.