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Guest post: Nick Schade's take on The Risk of Sea Kayaking

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Nick Schade is the owner/boat designer and builder at Guillemot Kayaks. Follow that link but, be forewarned, it’s a deep rabbit hole of boat models, plans, build instructional videos, books, etc.. Of particular interest to open water paddlers, is his huge pile of rough water Go Pro style play videos. Some of his most well known kayaks are specifically designed for big water usage. These weigh MUCH less and can be every bit as durable (= impact resistant) than their composite cousins.

The majority of my active water play paddling (non work outings) include Nick Schade. On the bulk of those paddles, it’s just Nick and I on our own and, due to our busy warm season schedules, a strong minority of our outings take place between late fall through to early spring. Safety considerations are a frequent topic of conversation out of both necessity and the sport of debate. Nick is one of the most accomplished and capable paddlers I’ve ever seen. That said he has never taken a class, becoming as knowledgeable as he is through 30 years of experience and reflection. I, on the other hand, am a class and certification hound. Further, his early career was as an engineer and mine has been as a filmmaker so our brains function differently down to a molecular level. Makes for very interesting and fun back and forths for sure.

When the goodly Saint Nick (deserved moniker on a number of levels) recently wrote a blog on safety, I jumped at the chance to re-post here. It’s makes for a well written and very informative read. After you finish, please come back to this page for some peanut gallery commentary. Enjoy.

Click this titled post below. ↓

Good stuff, right? I’ve taken avalanche training and would have never thought to make the parallel. That was a big chunk of thinking. A couple of observations:

  • Fun video of our most recent paddle. Caveat: The few shots I snuck into were before we started full on play time so it looks like I’m just farting around, cause I am. The day was big enough (seas in “the field” 4′ – 5′) that we kept a respectable distance so no action-figure shots of me having at it. Also, this video exemplifies the biggest problem with Go Pro style footage – the crazy wide angle lens shrinks the heck out of the conditions.

  • Nick does elude to our pushing boundaries and the “luck” factor. My take is that given a certain level of experience, basing actions on that experience and staying present makes for a sane & safe day in conditions many would consider insane & unsafe. Our choice of kit, clothing, extra clothing, communications capacity, knowledge of weather (forecast and observing changes real time), knowledge of venue, knowledge of paddling partner(s), back-up plans, sharing a float plan, etc… are all elements that diminish or even negate the potential impact of bad luck. In short, we both feel that, given our level of experience and preparedness (and, hopefully, yours) we are operating a ways south of line between adventure and bufoonary.

If interested in reading further on this issue, check out our other blog post Sea Kayak Adventure: Experience Vs Consequence

Please Note: Included photos may be subject to copyright protection. Photo credit: Carl Tjerandsen

Sea Sherpa Kayak LLC specializes in coaching kayakers of all levels of experience in the black arts of open water paddling. While located in the Connecticut/Rhode Island area, which enjoys fantastic tide race, surf and rock gardening options, we often do events in far flung, exotic waters including the Pacific Northwest, Baja, California, Tybee Island and most often, the spectacular coast of Maine. We offer group classes, privates and custom events. Check us out at Sea Sherpa Kayak LLC and sign up for our newsletter, or connect with us on Facebook

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