At 8am on January 9, 2016, registration opened for the 4th annual Pacific Paddling Symposium – and in a record-breaking hour all 100 spaces were filled. At a time when some paddling pundits are bemoaning the death of sea kayaking – what makes this paddling event such a resounding success?
“I feel passionately about facilitating experiences for people. This has been a theme throughout my personal and professional life,” explains founder Janette Galan – experienced sea kayaker, guide, instructor, and event professional. “Since the demise of the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium, there has been a gap here on the coast for our paddling community. I wanted to address this gap, and felt I was in a unique position—being both a paddler and an event professional—to bring together my passions and expertise and give back to the community.
The Pacific Paddling Symposium takes place at the beautiful ocean-side campus of Lester B. Pearson United World College on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. With expert coaches from around the world, the organisers strive to provide a range of workshops that enable experienced kayakers to further develop their skills. At this ‘kayak kamp’ for adults everyone has the opportunity to connect, learn and play in diverse paddling environments from the protected waters of Pedder Bay to the challenging tidal currents of Race Passage.
Participating kayakers are expected to have training in basic strokes and rescues, and can select workshops such as playing in tidal currents, towing, incident management, rock gardening, navigation, first aid, Greenland rolling, rescues, games, touring, and more. Other events include a traditional qajaq building, happy hours with local Driftwood Brewery, keynote presentations and a Leave No Trace scavenger hunt. Coaches also have their own day where they paddle together, bonding, learning and sharing tips and tricks with each other.
Passion and people have helped this event take off. “The Pacific Paddling Symposium has an advertising budget of precisely zero, and our success over the last three years has been a result of strong word-of-mouth marketing and an increasingly unique reputation,” says Symposium Coach & Session Coordinator Gary Doran.
“Ultimately, it’s the people!” says Galan. “The dedication of our volunteers, the commitment of our coaches, the generosity of our sponsors, and the enthusiasm of our participants makes for a dynamic force that has found a home at the picturesque UWC Pearson College campus on lovely Pedder Bay.”
When asked how she felt after the 2016 event sold out so quickly, Galan responded: “Honoured, excited, inspired, proud, overwhelmed, anxious, gratified and a little distressed and sad for those who didn’t make registration – who knew!!! In 2013 it took 12 days, 2014 it took 24hrs, in 2015 it was 5hrs, and this year— – wow!”
When asked if she had any advice for paddlers who didn’t catch the boat, ahem, manage to register in time this year, event organisers recommended signing up for the wait list at pacificpaddlingsymposium.ca/Registration.
“People’s plans change and cancellations do occur, so there’s always hope!”
On May 27-29, 2016, 100 lucky paddlers, 32 coaches and 25 volunteers will be exploring this playground of the Pacific Northwest. However, no matter where we are that weekend, we can be inspired by events like this to develop our technical skills, connect with the broader community and explore the diverse elements of paddling culture.