K.A. Teaching Philosophy
We Teach Like We Wish We Had Been Taught
Every aspect of our kayaking school is a reflection of our commitment to put the student's needs first. No other kayak school combines our ideal course locations, class size limits, instructor experience, and equipment selection. If you believe kayaking lessons are worth taking, then we feel it's worth teaching them well. Our kayaking lessons are designed to maximize your learning and success. We screen out people who can't swim or aren't physically prepared so you won't be held back by someone who isn't ready. We provide free use of dry suits and wet suits to all our students (It's common knowledge that kayakers learn faster when they aren't getting cold). We spoil our renters with a selection of eleven sizes of the best handling rudder-free composite kayaks available, neoprene spray skirts, comfortable pfd's, and light-weight paddles; for students bringing their own kayaks, we check to be sure the equipment you bring is appropriate and fits you well -- practicing in a kayak that doesn't fit you properly is a waste of your time and money. We will also show you ways to improve your own gear, and we'll even loan you any other equipment you need for the lesson.
By design, other kayak schools teach beginners to paddle like beginners. At the Kayak Academy, we teach beginners to paddle like experts. With our instruction methods, there's no paddling stroke too advanced for beginners to start learning -- you'll start working on the Eskimo roll from day-one. In addition to expanding the limits of experts, the new paddling techniques we teach are actually quicker and easier for beginners to learn. The sooner you start on the path to good technique, the sooner you will learn to paddle well. And when you start with good technique, you won't have to unlearn what you were taught as a beginner. So with our instruction you'll progress on to higher skill levels faster. As you progress through our intermediate and advanced sea kayaking courses, you'll simply apply the same skills you learned in our most basic Paddle Strokes course -- you'll just be testing yourself in more challenging conditions.
In recent years, kayaking technique, equipment and the limits of the sport have improved too fast for large instructor certifying organizations to keep pace. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic nature of certification constrains most kayak schools and instructors to perpetuate the same old-school ideas and techniques -- much of which, in the name of safety needs to be thrown out. In George Gronseth's opinion, most paddling technique as it is taught elsewhere is a carryover from canoeing and never should have been applied to the teaching of kayaking technique (Coincidentally, it's canoeing organizations, British and American, that govern kayak instructor certification). As a result, most kayaking schools are out of sync with reality. Today's expert kayakers no longer paddle the way kayak instructors are trained to teach. Experts generally have good technique, but they've learned it the hard way -- on their own through years of experience -- not through their instructor certification courses. Even if you take a course from a certified instructor who is an expert, they are required to teach you to paddle the old way in order to keep their teaching certification and cover themselves for liability. We refuse to teach you to do things we would never want our friends to be taught, or that we ourselves would never do. At our kayak school, you don't have to suffer through the institutional approach to kayak instruction. As a small, independent kayaking school, the Kayak Academy is free to teach you the latest state-of-the-art kayaking techniques -- the same techniques that we've tested and proven in high winds, tidal rapids, exposed coasts and ocean surf kayaking.
The Smaller the Better
Larger classes would allow us to lower our tuition, but we won't do that because kayak instruction doesn't lend itself well to large classes - you get what you pay for. Our largest classes are limited to a maximum of five students, and that's not just a ratio of students to instructors -- that's the total number of students in each class (some of our courses have assistant instructors to further lower the "ratio", and some of our courses are limited to even fewer students depending on the type of lesson -- see "Course Descriptions" for details). Our small, semi-private class size allows us to provide you with the individual attention you need so no-one gets left behind, yet you won't be held back by the lowest common denominator either. We see to it that every student gets challenged to an appropriate level for his or her experience and learning rate -- no matter how advanced you are to start with.
Self Evaluation Vs. Silly Examinations
The key to kayak safety on trips is to stay within your limits, but to do this you need to know what your limits are. In our kayaking courses, you will learn to test yourself and push your limits while you have us there for support. We won't, however, make you suffer through phony proficiency exams with unrealistic and unnecessary requirements. Our courses are designed for you to succeed, making formal exams an irrelevant waste of time -- everyone who completes one of our courses passes. Of course some students enter our courses with more experience and some will leave with a higher skill level than others, but after completing a lesson with the Kayak Academy you'll be keenly aware of your limits and your individual successes at expanding them. In the end, the only kayaking tests that really matter are the ones that nature gives you, and we want to use all the lesson time we have together to give you the best chance of surviving your real world tests. We are focused and constantly driven by the fact that we have so much to teach you and so little time. Of course our focus on teaching rather than testing means we don't award certificates, merit badges, or Kewpie dolls. If that is what you want, you can buy them on E-Bay along with mail order college degrees suitable for framing, but all the merit badges in the world won't save you when seas get rough. If you need proof of attending one of our courses in order to rent a kayak or get a job, George Gronseth will personally write a letter of recommendation for you, and if that doesn't get your foot in the door you wouldn't want to do business or be associated with them anyhow.
Lessons Learned From An Authority On Kayak Safety
As co-author of, "Sea Kayaker Deep Trouble" * George Gronseth wrote the book on sea kayak safety. The accidents reviewed in this book illustrate a widespread lack of critical paddling skills and boating knowledge among kayakers. And as the book demonstrates, it isn't just beginners or daredevils who get into trouble. All levels of kayakers, regardless of their years of paddling experience, lacked something in their skill and/or knowledge needed to manage the risks inherent in sea kayaking. From his research for this book plus his years of kayaking and boating safety experience, George concluded there was a need for a new type of kayak school offering education and training courses that better prepared students for the risks inherent in the sport.
What George saw was a need for a completely new approach to sea kayaking instruction - for all levels, beginning to advanced. He visualized a new method of teaching, one that would exceed the industry standards for kayak courses, both here and abroad. Acting on this need George Gronseth went to work creating a radical new standard for kayaking instruction, one that puts the student's needs first -- not the instructor's or the schools. A school with kayakers who teach from experience rather than instructors who just repeat what they've been told, and courses that emphasize hands-on practice rather than indoor lectures. In short, a kayak school that spares no expense and instructors who spare no effort to provide you with the best possible kayak training. To do this George developed his own revolutionary course curriculum, teaching methods, proprietary handouts, and instructor standards. The result was the Kayak Academy, founded in 1991.
If you've already taken other kayaking lessons (BCU, ACA, etc.), you'll find our kayak courses as refreshing as they are valuable. We've dumped the dogma and obsolete techniques. Our only absolutes are those that nature dictates or safety requires. We only teach skills that have been proven to work, and unlike other schools, we'll never reply to your question with, "because" or "you don't need to know that". We will correct misinformation, break your bad habits, and fill gaps of essential safety skills and wisdom that were missing from your previous training.
Life is short and unpredictable, treat yourself to the best kayak lessons available.
Our lessons aren't just the best, they're beyond comparison - I guarantee it!
*founder/owner of the Kayak Academy & co-author (with Matt Broze) of "Sea Kayaker Deep Trouble"