Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Sebago Day to Remember

Joe Glickman coaching Laurie Pea on her forward stroke
Yesterday afternoon, Sebago Canoe Club Commodore Tony Pignatello posted this comment on facebook: “Coming back on the Open Paddle I saw about 50 kayaks on the water. Open Paddle, Stroke Clinic, Level 2 classes plus individual paddlers. That's what makes us one of the best in the city. Thanks to all who gave their time.”

I was one of those paddlers Tony saw. My wife was another. She and I were not participating in the same activity but happened to be on the water at the same time.

Yesterday was indeed a day at the Sebago Canoe Club to remember, a day that rivaled our annual open house in terms of people and activities. Vicki and I pulled into a nearly full parking lot a few minutes before 9:30 AM. Vicki came to the club to participate in the second half of the ACA Level 2 class. I came to participate in a Forward Stroke Clinic led by Joe Glickman, one of the premier paddlers in North America.

As the stroke clinic and ACA Level 2 class were gathering and preparing for the day, the open Paddle was finishing outfitting. A few minutes later, they were all standing in a circle, paddles in the air, Stonehenge like, making introductions and receiving a safety briefing and short paddling instruction. I estimate that about thirteen to fifteen paddlers were among the group.

While the open paddle carried kayaks down to the water and began to paddle, five students and three instructors as well as a dozen or more participants in the Forward Stroke Clinic stood around Joe Glickman as he demonstrated the forward Stoke. After half an hour or more of instruction on terra firma, the two groups broke apart and the ACA Level 2 class hit the water, paddling out into Jamaica Bay while the Forward Stroke Clinic finished outfitting.

By the time the Forward Stoke Clinic put their kayaks into Paerdegat basin and headed out toward Jamaica Bay, the ACA class was already out of sight. As those of us in the Stroke Clinic paddled, Joe observed our forward stroke. Once in the bay, we caught up with the ACA Class, passed it by, and paddled into some shallow water where Joe offered each Stroke Clinic participant some one on one instruction.

Sitting on the bow of each participant’s kayak and facing the paddler, but with his feet on the bottom of the bay, Joe prevented the paddler’s kayak from making forward progress while observing the paddlers’ forward stroke. From Joe observing me while paddling out toward the bay, and from the one on one session, I learned that I need to keep my paddle shaft and shoulders more parallel, follow-through from 11 O’clock to 12 O’clock, and focus on not allowing my right hand to drop during the follow-through.

While were receiving our individual instruction, the nearby ACA Level 2 Class paddled away toward Ruffle Bar and were eventually out of our sight. Those of us in the Stroke Clinic eventually paddled to the concrete ramp at Floyd Bennet Field, each paddler focusing on their forward stoke as we paddled.

At Floyd Benet Field, most of us beached to stretch our legs. As we were standing on the beach, we watched two large NYPD Boats circle nearby to the south. Eventually, a helicopter took off from Floyd Bennet Field, hovered about 15 yards above the bay between the two police boats, and three scuba gear clad swimmers jumped out of the helicopter into the water. The swimmers eventually climbed into a motored raft and headed toward shore while the helicopter flew away. Apparently the NYPD was doing the same thing we were doing, capitalizing on a beautiful day on the bay to practice and refine their skills.

Already having been out on the water several more hours than we had expected, and having paddled farther than we expected, we climbed back into our boats, paddled toward Sebago, again focusing on our forward stroke while paddling, even though Joe was no longer observing us.

Back at the clubhouse, the open paddle had long been back and there was no evidence of their even having been there. With our boats on the wash racks, washed but not put away, we sat around a picnic table and pulled our collective lunch resources to enjoy a late lunch. As we were finishing eating, the ACA Level 2 class began pulling in to the dock, so we hastily put our boats away to make room on the wash racks for their boats.

After the ACA Level 2 Class had washed and put away all their gear, instructors and students gathered around cold beers in the Sebago Club house for some post class debriefing. Those few of us still around from the Forward Stroke Clinic were permitted to listen in. Hearing both students and instructors debrief the day as well as the entire two-day class was itself instructive.

About seven and a half hours after we arrived at Sebago, Vicki and were a slightly tired, a slightly bit more tanned, and slightly improved paddlers. Throughout the day and as we headed toward home, we were both amazed at the level of activity at the club that day, three major events, but a few individual paddlers and sailors doing their own thing. We were also impressed with the level of expertise possessed by so many of our club members, expertise they were willing to share with others as trip leaders, assistant trip leaders, and instructors.

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