You just never know with these things… My first time attending The Storm Gathering was in the UK several years ago. Mark Tozer put together a fantastically organized event complete with gale force winds, strong tides, and the rugged Anglesey coast line. Two years ago I was invited back to another gathering, this time in Trinidad, CA, I jumped at the chance! I packed up my gear at Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe in Portland OR and jumped into the P&H van for a free ride down to the event. Upon arrival it was clear this was shaping up to be more of a Sun Storm than anything else. This year on the other hand…
With big seas and strong winds predicted, this year was looking more like a Storm Gathering! My schedule was packed full and I was paired with some of my favorite coaches to work with on the sea. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning were offering up ideal conditions. We had plenty to work with despite the big seas since Trinidad is perfectly positioned with a fairly protected harbor on one side of the head and an exposed beach break on the other side. As long as the winds and swell don’t come from the SW the harbor stays very flat.
Everything changed on Saturday afternoon. You guessed it… the winds shifted as did the swell. The tranquil rock studded harbor became a wind beaten cauldron of foam and breaking waves. We did our best with the conditions and made every attempt to stick to the scheduled material. “Intermediate Rock Gardening” quickly became an exercise in group management of conditions and perhaps some coaching on reading water and paddling in a storm! We did manage to find some slots and features to play on near the launch after a fruitless slog into the wind earlier in the class.
The final day, Jeff Laxier of Liquid Fusion Kayaking and I ran a super enjoyable long boat surfing session with some fantastic students despite being pelted by hail! We set up a 10 minute repeating circuit that would have folks riding the swell out along the headwall. Once out at the end of the head they would turn down wind to surf across the edge of the harbor. After that, the circuit took them to a sea stack rock with waves curling around each edge, that was great practice for reading swell and anticipating rides. For the finale they would drop into the line up on a small but reliable surf break that was curling into a lovely little beach tucked in behind the head. Many great rides where had and folks hit the beach at the end of the day with seemingly perpetual grins plastered to their faces. One student even said “I learned more in these 3 days than I had in the previous 3 years!”
Events like The Storm Gathering help create opportunities for diverse paddlers to come together. The cross pollination of ideas and coaching from all over the world allows for the exchange of ideas that help drive our sport forward. Event Organizer Helen Wilson and her husband (and assistant) Mark Tozer did an amazing job pulling us all together and providing an environment for us all to succeed in. If you are curious about these events but missed the Storm Gathering, check out Lumpy Waters and sign up for the October event put on by Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe! Helen and Mark will both be there driving more stoke this fall. Don’t miss out!
“The tranquil rock studded harbor became a wind beaten cauldron of foam and breaking waves.”