Every Spring my husband and I make our annual trip back to our “roots”. Not only do we get quality family visits, but we also plan this trip around leading kayak clinics and workshops around the area.

 Kettle River Weekend near Duluth, MN

Women’s Only Clinic

This has been the second year leading a women’s only beginner/intermediate weekend on the Lower Kettle River. We had a handful of enthusiastic women, beautiful weather and the perfect water levels.

Nora Whitmore, a local kayak guru and ACA Level 3 Rescue Instructor, assisted me in this course and led a brief “river safety/rescue overview” during our lunch break.

Kelly grinning from ear to ear.

I am a big encourager of ‘women only” courses. I have witnessed for myself and seen firsthand the benefits of paddling with a group of women. The time on the water with laughter, smiles, encouragement, empowerment and support makes women feel more comfortable to try things that challenge them. I have noticed when women push other women, that instead of crawling into their "safe shell", they step up to the plate.

Alanna getting ready for her seal launch.

Maggie gearing up for her seal launch.

This clinic was no different. True success at the end of the day . . . and the feeling of accomplishment for everyone who attended.

I'm always so shy teaching these courses . . . NOT!

 Intermediate/Advanced Clinic

This was the first year holding an int/adv clinic in the area. We ended up with a solid crew of class III/IV boaters on the Upper Kettle River. With a down poor of rain the night prior, I was a little anxious about levels. But, the weather cleared and the water level was perfect to make a successful day for all involved.

Awesome crew.

Teaching an int/adv course can be challenging because there can be such a wide gap between intermediate boaters and advanced boaters . . . This course focused on the “basics” of paddling: Strokes, bracing, edging, draw strokes, rolling and river maneuvering.

I find that EVERY paddler, no matter the level of whitewater they paddle, can benefit from the basics. We spent 3 hours on flatwater cleaning up strokes and techniques and then spent the afternoon working our way down the river.

Melissa and I showcasing the JK schwag.

Hiniker Pond Clinic

My final clinic was a 2-hour Basics clinic in Mankato, MN (my hometown). This clinic was open to ALL types of kayaks. To my surprise, ALL the boaters that showed up ended up being whitewater kayakers. When I first learned to paddle in Mankato, there were only a handful of WW boaters. You rarely saw whitewater kayaks on top of vehicles driving around town. But, this year I noticed quite a few vehicles with boats (particularly JK boats – Karma and Zen to be exact).

There aren’t many opportunities to learn ww kayaking skills in the Mankato area, so I was stoked to be able to offer some instruction to these paddlers and to get them a little more stoked about WW (if that’s possible, as they are already super stoked).

If you’re looking for a WW group to connect with in Mankato, MN, check out “Yak Rats” on Facebook. They have created a group to get out on the local rivers.

The Mankato WW gang

I love to be able to offer instruction and coaching to a community of boaters that I learned in. Every year I am blown away at the growth in the local paddling community. Not only in the growth in numbers, but also the continued growth of events/festivals, instructors and classes offered.

When I tell people about whitewater kayaking in the Midwest, they all ask, “there’s kayaking in MN?”. Even though most MW rivers have a small window of opportunity to paddle, there is something to paddle always. For example, the whitewater park in Wausau, WI.

I feel blessed to continue to be a part of this special paddling community and look forward to next year . . . there is already talk about some exciting things J

Family Time

Can’t pass up the opportunity to get out on the water with my family. My last day in town, we headed to the lake with a SUP and a couple of kayaks and played all day. Love these family experiences. These are the times you remember always!

A family that plays together, stays together!

Sunshine giving the SUP a try.

 

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