Paddler's Development Weekend - September 23-25, 2016

Organized by the Seattle Kayaking Committee, "PDW" brings kayakers together at Deception Pass for two days of clinics designed for advanced paddling skills in dynamic waters and build a community of experienced paddlers.
Linda Cooley Linda Cooley
August 24, 2016

Each year, Mountaineers kayakers come together to attend the advanced clinics sponsored by the Seattle Kayaking Committee at Deception Pass. Staying at the Environmental Learning Center at Cornet Bay, Mountaineers paddlers attend two full days of clinics that teach skills such as advanced paddle strokes, incident management, on-the-water navigation, introduction to moving and dynamic waters, and more! Being so close to the waters of Deception Pass for an entire weekend allows time for paddlers to spend more time learning skills and to connect with each other. 

Paddler Development Weekend, September 23-25, 2016

2016 Paddler Development Weekend (PDW) offers a full weekend of on-the-water paddler development workshops led by ACA trained instructors held in beautiful  Deception Pass State Park!    

What you get for the registration fee of $90.00

  • Two nights lodging at the historical Cornet Bay Environmental Learning Center
  • Two hearty breakfasts, with coffee, tea, fresh fruit
  • Saturday evening dinner
  • Two full day, instructional clinics of your choosing, one on Saturday, one on Sunday

Upon Registration you'll receive:

  • A complete list of Clinic Descriptions.
  • Clinic Registration Information. First come, first choice.
  • Additional information including what to expect, what to bring, when to arrive, etc. 

Primary Instructors include: Carol Asplund, Brian High, Michael Kennedy, Melinda Moree, Don Rice, Teresa Wittmann, Todd Scheuer, Felicia Wibowo, Maureen Meehan, and Tom Unger.

Register now!

Clinic Descriptions

Bracing and Rolling (Saturday)

Offered  by Tom Unger

Come and work on your low brace, high brace, and roll.  I’ll cover the elements of these on shore and then we will practice in shallow water.  We will spend time watching and assessing each other to better understand what is effective.  I’ll bring a camera to capture video and review.  Then we will take it on the road and practice our skills in deeper water and dynamic water.  I think this class will be most effective for students who have some training in bracing and rolling but know that they can improve.  Please contact Tom Unger if you have any questions about where you are and what you may get out of the class.  I am pretty good at rolling, have some experience coaching, but am no expert and my skills will benefit a day of messing around and practicing.  I suggest that people bring nose plugs and goggles.

6 student’s max.  1 assistant possible.

Introduction to Moving Water (Saturday)

Offered  by Melinda Moree

In this introductory course, learn how to understand tidal currents, "read the water" and practice maneuvers while crossing eddylines, ferrying and eddy-hopping. Comfort in up to 2 knot currents waves up to 2 feet (SK-III) and be ready for practice in stronger currents (SK-IV).  Efficient with forward, reverse, bracing, and sweep strokes.

Introduction to Rock Gardening (SAT & SUN)

Offered by Don Rice  and Leonard Ingalls

In this introductory rock gardening clinic, students discover the fun of actively seeking to play safely where the waves and rocks meet. ParticipaInnts will push their skill level and boat control beyond the basic level to being confident around moving water and a rocky shoreline. Participants need good self rescue skills, good boat control skills and familiarity with bow rudder and other boat maneuvering skills.

Introduction to Trip Leadership (Sat & Sun)

Course offered by Brian High

Learn how to combine your skills in chart reading, route selection, participant screening, logistics, navigation, group dynamics, safety, incident management, and mentorship to plan, coordinate and lead an SK-III day paddle. Participants must be comfortable and confident paddling in SK-III conditions.

Learn, Refine, and Practice Basic Strokes & Maneuvers (Saturday)

Offered by Theresa Wittmann

Start the day with a review of strokes and maneuvers including when to use them and proper technique. The strokes and maneuvers covered will depend on the experience and expertise of individual students. Then in the afternoon we will go on a paddle in the area to use these strokes and maneuvers on the water in different situations.

Coastal Kayaking Unmasked (Saturday)

Offered by Carol Asplund, Mike Kennedy and Dennis Egan

You have most likely come to realize that sea kayaking takes place in a fluid and dynamic environment, and there is much to be said for judgment and preparation. When you paddle a sea kayak in coastal areas like Puget Sound or the San Juan Islands, the landforms can often look alike, and the water can move up, or down, or sideways. If you are interested in improving your ability to know where you are, and to get where you  want to go safely and efficiently, we'll help you hone your navigational skills, control your boat's bow angle, edge angle, and speed. We will also devote time to methods of assisting fellow paddlers.

Saturday, 0900-1500, launching from Cornet Bay; comfort in up to 2 knots of current and 10 knots of wind recommended.

Introduction to Incident Management in Dynamic Water (Sunday)

Offered by Melinda Moree

This course is aimed at the paddler who has some experience in dynamic water and would like to increase his/her confidence in this environment. The scenarios will be typical of what might be experienced on a day paddle such as capsizes or minor medical issues. All of the learning will take place in dynamic water so previous familiarity with these techniques on flat water would be helpful.

Towing Happens (Sunday)

Offered by Carol Asplund, Mike Kennedy and Dennis Egan

If you've paddled for a while or, if you intend to, you'll come to know the importance of being able to ofer assistance., to fellow paddlers, such as towing and carriying swimmers on your boat.  Most experienced and conscientious kayakers would not leave home without the means ot render this type of assistance to other paddlers. We'll begin at the beginning--with a dry-land review of all the towing systems presented for use in this clinic. Once on the water, we'll work our way through many of the common situations. If you have questions regarding the selection or purchase of a tow system, contact Mike.

Sunday, 0900-1500, launching from Cornet Bay; comfort in up to 2 knots of current and 10 knots of wind recommended.

Effective Maneuvering Strokes (Sunday)

Tom Unger

Practice and improve your maneuvering strokes.  I’ll review technique for sweeps, rudders, and edging then present practice exercises.  We’ll do some practice around buoys which provide feedback on the effectiveness of our strokes.  Finally, we’ll take a tour to put the strokes into practice. This is a good class for anyone with some experience with the basic maneuvering strokes and desire to become more effective.

6 student’s max.  1 assistant possible.

On the Water Navigation and Trip Planning (Sunday)

Offered by Teresa Wittmann, Felicia Wibowow, Maureen Meehan, Karen Cramer

Check out this action shot of Kitsap Leader Charlie michel from 2015:

Awesome action shot of Instructor Charlie Michel

Exceptional Feedback

Because of the new feedback system on, we can verify for everyone that the students for PDW 2015 UNIVERSALLY thought it was "outstanding"  and an "excellent course they would recommend to others." Every single participant who responded to the feedback survey selected these responses. Here are some of the other reasons The Mountaineers is one of the most amazing models for volunteer civic engagement in the country (from the survey responses): 


  • The great instruction and time to practice, the beautiful venue, the focus on safety, and the wonderful community of people.
  • The people I met and interacting with other paddlers.
  • The location and meeting paddlers from other branches.
  • PDW is a great and very well organized event.
  • Doing eddy turns.
  • I really enjoyed being on the water with paddlers who not only have amazing skills but also have the ability to impart knowledge to others.
  • Being on water and learning.
  • Really being able to improve my skills.
  • Learning new skills, increasing my confidence level and meeting wonderful people.
  • The full day focus on an activity that gave me time to refine the skill.
  • I have had this towing equipment for years but I wasn't sure how to use it. Now I know a whole lot more.


  • Protect our outdoor places through stewardship or advocacy (6 responses)
  • Spend more time with people I met in this course (7)
  • Volunteer to help with this course or other Mountaineers activities (6)
  • Spend more time outdoors (11)
  • Spend more time pursuing the activity taught in this course (11)
How rewarding would it be to paddle through this?

Photo of the currents behind a kayak at Deception Pass by Kym Ahrens.


  • The instructors are knowledgeable, experienced, and well-prepared for the day. Directions were clear and instructors demonstrated the skills before students were asked to try them. Instructors also clearly explained "why." For example, why the boat turns when on edge and why the eddy lines are created by current. They were also tuned in to the conditions of both weather and participants throughout the day.
  • Very well organized weekend. Awesome skilled, patient, supportive and helpful instructors who love the sport and sharing what they know with others. Beautiful location.
  • Instructors are very well organized, highly trained and they really care about improving the skill levels of the whole club.
  • I loved PDW and loved my clinic with Mike, Carol, and Karen. What a privilege to paddle with them!
  • Melinda was outstanding because she adroitly managed a diverse group in challenging conditions, she adapted to conditions in a way that increased group learning opportunities, she was personable and communicative, she was masterful at nudging students to test their abilities while staying safe. She did a great job of utilizing her help (Tom and Maureen). Tom was outstanding because he presented information very clearly and effectively, he was willing and able to get down and dirty to make his points (he spent a lot of time on the ground showing how to move legs and hips and how doing the wrong thing will cause you to capsize). He was a master at combining technical instruction with fun. He put together great progressions that allowed students time to practice the techniques. He provided plenty of feedback and helped students to understand the tasks and their purposes. He also showed imagination in leading students on a mini trip where they could employ the new skills they had learned through drills and exercises. Maureen was outstanding in her supporting roles. She skillfully demonstrated techniques and made sure that the group was kept together and safe. She was outstanding at talking students through a paddle through deception pass under conditions that were relatively mild yet still potentially intimidating for students.
  • The event was very fun and incredibly informative while also feeling casual and relaxed.
  • Friendly (with a smile!), inclusive, and amazing depth of knowledge And of course, safety
  • They always seem to display a really high degree of professionalism and substantive knowledge. Rarely do I think of any difference I might perceive between a professional instructor and a volunteer.
  • They were extremely knowledgeable and great teachers. Not everyone who is skilled is able to teach someone else a new skill. They were patient and able to tailor their instructions to the individual needs of the students.
Register for PDW 2016 NOW!

"The Mountaineers enriches lives and communities by helping people explore, conserve, learn about and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond."