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 2018 Classes


Click here to download a copy of the 2018 Class Schedule.
Please remember to check online for the current class schedule. Availabilities are updated daily.

Class Descriptions

Advanced Surf Kayaking (Short Boats)

Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Join members of the US Surf Kayak Team, Mat Hoff and Chris Bensch as they teach you how to take your kayak surfing to the next level. Your coaches will demonstrate and coach you in techniques such as the take-off, bottom turn, cut backs and re-entries. Participants in this class should have solid paddling skills, including a reliable combat roll in surf. Previous short boat surfing experience either in a whitewater kayak or composite surf kayak is strongly recommended. Helmets are mandatory. Participants need to be in good physical condition as this will be a strenuous class. The location of this class will be determined by swell conditions, but will likely be Bolinas or Half Moon Bay. Transportation to and from the class location will be provided.

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.

Coast Guard Safety & Tour (Half Day)

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This is a rare opportunity to get practical information from instructors who have both served in the Coast Guard and are sea kayak instructors. Our instructors will help you to understand the Coast Guard rescue techniques and procedures so you have a better idea of how to handle getting help if needed. A tour of the rescue boats may also be included in this class.

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 Surf Kayaking (Short Boats)

Advance Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

Join the US Surf Kayak Team Captain, Mat Hoff, for an introduction to short boat kayak surfing. This clinic will cover the fundamental skills of kayak surfing including the paddle out, take-off and bottom turn as well as surf zone safety and etiquette. Participants in this class should have solid paddling skills and already be familiar and comfortable paddling in the surf zone. Kayaks appropriate for the conditions and your paddling level will be provided. Helmets are mandatory. Participants should be in good physical condition as this will be a strenuous class. The location of this class will be determined by swell conditions, but will likely be Bolinas or Half Moon Bay. Transportation to and from the class location will be provided.

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.

Ocean Rolling, Bracing & Rescues

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate Expert

In this signature class by JF Marleau, you will learn new and innovative techniques to ‘think outside the box’ by adapting, improvising, and succeeding in challenging rescue situations. You will have the opportunity to practice and improve your sea kayak rescue skills, including assisted rescues, rolling, towing, and seal carries. This is a practical class for practicing techniques for rescuing paddling partners or yourself from capsizes on the open coast in dynamic conditions.

Practical Boat Repair (Half Day)

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

This land based class will take you through ways to repair your boat from start to finish beginning with ways to do emergency repairs to get you home, then permanent repairs to get that boat sea worthy again. Our instructor will show you the equipment you need and how to use it on actual boat hulls, or pieces. This class will include lessons on plastic welding and composite repair.

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.

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.

San Francisco Waterfront Journey

Advanced Beginner |  Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate

Join your coaches on a journey along the historic San Francisco waterfront. Cross San Francisco Bay in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and paddle past Crissy Field, Fort Mason, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (assuming conditions allow). During this class, you will learn how to plan a paddle in an urban environment while taking in the unique culture of San Francisco. 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.

Sea Kayak Surfing

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Join coaches and classmates in the search for the perfect sea kayak surf wave. This class will involve driving to the chosen location – likely either Bolinas or Half Moon Bay. The location of this class will be determined by swell conditions. Transportation to and from the class location will be provided. Paddlers in this class should have solid paddling skills – strokes, braces, rescues and some experience in the surf zone. Coaches will encourage students to move beyond their comfort zone whilst using good judgement. Helmets are mandatory. Participants should be in good physical condition as this will be a strenuous class.

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 Paddling for Fitness & Adventure (Half Day)

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.

Surfski the Gate

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

Join Kenny Howell and Sean Morley 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.

Tactical & Technical (Skills & Safety)

Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

In this class, you will learn the tactics and techniques to overcome interesting challenges to keep you and your fellow paddlers safe. In the morning you will focus on the ‘Art of Towing’ – setting up different tow systems and understanding their practical application in dynamic water and rock gardens. The afternoon will be spent doing ‘Tricky Launches & Landings’ – find a dock, find a rock, land on some sand and launch into current. In this part of the class you and your teammates will take your kayaks into areas of the unknown. You will practice methods to get on and off the water with and without friends, with a tow system, and whatever else we can conjure up!

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 & Rolling

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced Intermediate | Expert

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. Rolling a kayak was considered an essential self-rescue skill that was learned and practiced on a regular basis. This class offers the opportunity to learn about a range of Greenland rolling skills and paddling strokes, as well as be immersed in the culture of Greenland. It is a chance to find out about the avataq, akuilisaq and norsaq, as well as to find out the difference between a tuilik and a tupilaq. Dress for immersion. Greenland paddles will be available for participants to try.

Water Confidence

Advanced Beginner | Intermediate

This class is for those who want to become more comfortable under water in preparation for learning to roll. We will focus on exercises to promote comfort under water and progress to moves that will help with rolling and bracing. Participants are encouraged to bring nose plugs, goggles and/or a face mask. Being comfortable under water is the first step in learning to roll. This is a great session to take before taking a rolling session. Please note, you will be in the water for prolonged periods in this session.