Rock Gardening Course - 2023

Sea Kayaking Course

Rock Gardening Course

A new multi-activity course format to collectively learn, experience, enjoy, discuss and progressively iterate your Sea Kayak Rock Gardening skills.

This new sea kayak course format seeks to help develop the Rock Gardening community in the Pacific NW - via multiple online sessions, and multiple in-person outings. 

Invitation: Bring together your love of dynamic water and desire to explore the open coast. Learn how to have fun, safely, in potentially dangerous rocky waters. Refine your technical paddling skills, 360 awareness, tactical decision-making, and challenge your physical limits. 

Requirements: Participants only NEED a Basic Sea Kayaking Badge to register, but are EXPECTED to be comfortable bracing and rolling in windy/wavy conditions; have incident management skills/classes under their (tow) belt; and have done at least some surfing. This is NOT an introductory course for paddlers new to coastal environments. This is a forum to help grow and bond a collective of experienced sea kayakers who have the ability and desire to explore more of our coast's rocky terrain - but haven't found the right forum to pursue it sufficiently.

Course completion: Initially, #4 online sessions and #4 in-person outings over a multi-month period will be provided and needed to complete the course. Up to #8 sessions of both online sessions and in-person outings may need to be created to allow personal schedule flexibility, and participation for course completion.

Only the online kickoff and first outing will be initially scheduled. >

< During the kickoff, we will plan the timing/spacing and potential location of other course activities. >

< This is a new course template and new activity template: expect corrections as we get this published correctly following Mountaineers best-practices. Thx. >

Likely target locations and timing: Crescent Bay, La Push, Ruby Beach (?), Cape Flattery and possibly Oregon. Almost all in-person outings will be in WAAll online sessions will be via Zoom at predetermined  times, including the required online kick-off. The timing and location for outings will be collectively decided.

Key Course takeaways: a deep understanding of and experience in:

  • Planningpredicting optimal location and timing for coastal outings, based on forecasted conditions for various venues, and the participants involved.
  • Incident Management: how to avoid incidents; the decision-making criteria for making rescues near shorelines; and practicing various tow and extraction scenarios in rocky environments.
  • Etiquette: how to set-up rock gardening circuits with appropriate roles; the etiquette to enjoy feature areas - i.e. how to have FUN, safely, in those conditions.
  • Group Decision Making: substantively grow your ability to handle coastal outings in challenging conditions with a group of capable energetic peers.
  • Bonus: future invitations to more advanced outings  in California (e.g. September's Mendo Madness), exploring B.C.'s southern coast and elsewhere with other advanced paddlers.

Collaborative Course Format: 

  • While the sessions and outings will be structured and rigorous, the spirit of both the online sessions and in-person outings will be collaborative, not top-down instructional - enabling all to learn together as a group.
  • Repeatedly engaging with the same pool of sea kayak partners -ones who you learn to trust (and who learn to trust you)- both in discussion and on the water through a course will stretch your ability to explore new coastal areas.
  • By getting to know each participants' strengths, limitations, interests and confidence-levels we can collectively grow a pool of Pacific NW Sea Kayak Rock Gardeners.
  • Everyone will be encouraged and expected to come prepared and contribute their insights and skills.

Online Sessions: The initial  format of each online session, planned for a Tue or Wed evening, will include:

  1. Introductory Inspiration - watching a fun rock gardening video together, then briefly discussing it.
  2. Core Learning Program - visualizing and discussing Incident Management scenarios in volatile water, on-the-water Group Management, and more.
  3. Planning - studying what the upcoming weekend looks like in various locations: using buoy data, surf websites, NOAA and other tools to plan the associated outing. Come prepared.
  4. Later in the week, approximately Thu 8pm-ish: we'll make a decision on whether the right conditions are manifesting to enjoy the Plan A or B outing we planned a few days earlier, or possibly cancel altogether - via email, text or quick phone call.

In-Person Outings:

  1. Typical outings will be a single-day on a Fri, Sat or Sun. Some outings to La Push and other places further afield may enable optional multi-day outings on the same weekend trip. (But to get credit for an in-person course completion outing though, only 1 day of the weekend will be required - to accommodate personal schedules. We may decide collectively to consider a weekend+ #2 of the in-person outings if we go afar together.)
  2. Extensive opportunities to explore and experience pour-overs, complex rock garden formations; time incoming swells; practice bracing, turning, spinning and rolling in dynamic water, and more - with a highly supportive team of peers - will be the epicenter of the course.
  3. Expect short effective pre-launch beach talks; frequent on-the-water quick reflections after exploring a rocky feature; and extensive post-outing analysis - to enhance the day's learnings.

Cost: $240. You will have access to at least #4 online sessions and #4 in-person outings (and up to #8 of each if needed to complete the course), together in a tight group of like-minded paddlers committed to growing their skills - all while enjoying some of the most challenging paddling in the Pacific NW. 


  • Participants in an Online Sessions may opt-out of the upcoming weekend outing.
  • Participants for In-Person weekend Outings are expected to have joined the week's earlier Online Session, but are not required to.
  • Plastic boats expected; composite boats willing to get scratched, ok; no wooden/skin kayaks.
  • Feedback on this course format will help refine future similarly-focused offerings.
  • The course is designed to encourage repeated healthy bonding opportunities within the same peer group in the same course period.


Take your paddling passions to the next level! Register!

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Course Materials

There are no materials for this course.

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Alan Marshall
Alan Marshall says:
Apr 30, 2023 10:23 PM

This online kickoff session will also serve as the planning session for the first weekend outing.

Alan Marshall
Alan Marshall says:
May 01, 2023 06:05 AM

The dates for the kickoff and first outing may change - pending responses from people. The goal is to get us started by mid-to-end of May and have the heart of the summer for the session and outing timings we will schedule together as best we can.