You can be guaranteed that somewhere in the world someone is always paddling. As we Canadians begin to trade dry suits for snow suit and kayaks for skis, paddlers down in South America are dawning their colorful Gore-Tex dry suits in readiness for the kickoff to the Chilean paddling season at Simposio de Kayak Pacifico Sur.
In its 4th year running, hosted by hardworking Pueblito Expediciones in the small coastal community of Chaihuin, Chile, this year’s sea kayak symposium was better than ever. With venues that include the flat water of the river estuary, southern pacific breaks onto long sandy beaches, and spectacular rock garden play spots at “los cormillos” or “the Fangs”, there is something for everyone here.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the delicious Chilean cuisine of local fish, classic lamb ‘asados’ (barbecue), soups and local brews by Cuello Negro – the food is definitely part of the experience.
With participants arriving from all over Chile, Argentina and even Uruguay, this event continues to draw new paddlers to the sport while creating its own gravitational force within the South American paddling community. Familiar faces return year after year to share their stories, and I have so enjoyed taking part in the magic.
One of the highlights for me this year was seeing the strong showing of women who attended. It seems as though each year there are more and more, and this year they were fierce. There is some serious talent and determination in this group of ladies. I can’t wait for next year!
Among the surf sessions, rescues and maneuvering classes, there were two young boys, ages 11 & 12, who were excited to learn all the technical skills they possibly could. These two boys quickly mastered balancing skills, showing up even the coaches in their abilities to stand and dance on their kayaks.
The diverse mix of participants made for wonderful learning environments for everyone, participants and coaches alike, and I haven’t even mentioned the whole English/Spanish language adventure.
One evening after a long day of paddling, the entire coaching team held an open Q & A session with the participants. We shared stories, answered questions (both serious and silly) but one of the most interesting questions that arose was “How does the paddling community here, in South America, differ from those in other parts of the world?”
There was a long pause from the coaches’ panel, which is unusual, as you might imagine. The easy answer might be: this paddling community speaks Spanish. The final consensus was the obvious: Paddlers are people and they are fundamentally the same the world over.
Students bring an excitement to learn, a passion for the water and often a fear or challenge to overcome, no matter which ocean you are on. What changes from place to place is what happens in the moment; the conversation shared over a plate of food, the smiles exchanged after a tough rescue on the ocean, and laughter as you help a stranger zip up their dry suit preparing for a day in new waters. These are the moments that bring an event to life.
This vibrant Latin American affair is one of the highlights of my year. From the amazing people, to the beautiful place, the delicious food and not being made fun of for using my hands more than most to talk… This event is one of my favorites! It’s a tease of summer and warmth that inspires me to keep my dry suit in use during the cold Canadian winters. Thanks Pueblito Expediciones for continuing to deliver the best event, and to Kokatat for the ongoing support.