April 2019 - KAYAKING, CANOEING & SUP
Adirondack Paddling Symposium
By Danny Mongno
I was 16 years old when I first experienced kayaking. With my father providing for our family in the sport fishing industry, I just assumed boats started at 32 feet. So, I was awe struck with the intimacy with the craft and the water, the solitude and amazing waterways I found just minutes from the traffic flying by the kayak shop I worked at. But it was nearly 15 years later that I was exposed to real paddling instruction. Sure, folks had given me some pointers here and there and I would escape the cold winter weather by playing in pool sessions, but nothing structured. Nothing effective in making me a more efficient, more technically sound paddler.
By the time my friend, and later mentor, and I slid our kayaks into a small lake outside Virginia Beach I had done a lot of paddling. Kayaking had become what defined me. In my mind I had even become a good kayaker, confidently playing in the surf and even running some pretty solid whitewater. It was that ego of being a “good kayaker” that led my friend to plotting to trick me into my first lesson. I had no idea what we were about to embark upon and the difference it would make in my paddling and in the direction my life took. I thought we were just off for a paddle. A hurricane had recently passed and made a mess of his community, I assumed we were just going out to blow off some stress.
If he had said, “Let me get you out on the water and show you a few things,” my ego would not have allowed that. “I’ve surfed overhead waves, I’ve run this rapid and that rapid… what are you going to teach me?” But boy was I wrong. He taught by example. As we paddled, showing me things that I had never been exposed to. Showing me things in his technique that most certainly made me realize that what I was doing was wrong. When we took our first break my ego had evaporated, I knew I had wasted many years thinking I knew it all. “Okay, show me what you were doing there.” And with those words, so began my passion for learning and teaching paddling.
It’s this story that inspired me to sit down with Will Crimmins, friend and manager of Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company in Old Forge, and pitch the idea of a paddling symposium. Sure, there are many around the country, so this is not a new concept, but there is not one catering to the paddlers in our region. “We have seen so many kayaks, canoes, pack boats, and paddleboards leave our store each year, for the last 25 years to be exact. While we do our part equipping our customers with the right gear, often sharing many tips and instructional bits, the reality is while the products we sell might seem intuitive there’s concern that folks aren’t doing their part and equipping themselves with the proper skills needed to be safe and/or have the best experience on the water possible... I have to think they could be having more fun out there after gaining skills from a seasoned instructor.”
That’s Will, and trust me he and his staff from Mountainman Outdoors in Old Forge and Saratoga Springs have seen a lot of happy customers leave the shops with new craft tied to the roof. Even beyond Mountainman, there are so many shops out there, sending more and more canoes, kayaks and paddleboards out on the water. Are all those paddlers, are you, having the best experience possible without being exposed to formal instruction? How many paddlers out there are just like I was, ignorant to the potential that could be found from some instruction? So, with Will on board we brought the idea to the Mountainman himself, founder-owner John Nemjo. With no convincing needed, he was on board.
So, coming to Old Forge, is the Adirondack Paddling Symposium on Friday-Sunday, June 21-23. The goal, simple, to build skills to further your paddling enjoyment. With so many amazing places to explore by paddle power, the more efficient we are, the more confident we are the further we will go, the bolder we will be in the adventures we plan. “We look at this event as a way to give back to paddlers,” John says. “We are going to provide an outstanding event for a very fair price. We want to go beyond just outfitting in the shop, we want to outfit bodies and minds in the field, and on the water as well. This event is going to be very special and I am proud Mountainman is where it began.”
The event philosophy is to focus on the beginner to intermediate paddlers, and by choosing patient and caring instructors, create an environment of encouragement, that is judgement free and truly furthers the enjoyment folks get from paddling. It’s this level of paddler that has the most to gain from instruction, to understand how the body and boat/board work together to get the most from their craft, to get the most from themselves. The symposium will have a track for kayakers, canoeists, pack boaters and stand-up paddlers. Included along with classes will be morning yoga and catered meals on the banks of the Moose River.
The evening presentations will feature the Northern Forest Canoe Trail on Friday evening, which along with an update on the trail, will be a specially curated paddling film fest – different than you will see anywhere else. Saturday will be a double-feature, with “Wellness for Paddlers,” by Celeste Gabai, DC, ATC, and a select group of instructors with a short presentation to inspire our next adventures. Evening presentations will follow dinner and take place fireside with a few beverages. The vendor village will allow students to interact with manufacture reps, talking shop, playing with boats, boards and gear, and even having the ability to use stuff in your classes – the ultimate way to demo. We will have a rental option, for those who have not made the jump to buying their own craft.
The symposium will have an add-on option on Monday, June 24, to put your new skills to the test with a variety of guided tour options. We encourage taking the three- or four-day weekend to get the most from the experience. Cost for the symposium is $300 for Friday-Sunday, and it will be limited to 60 participants. Tour Monday will be $75. Rental options will range from $75 to $100. Learn more about the event at adkpaddlingsymposium.com.
Danny Mongno (email@example.com) has worked in the paddlesports industry since he was 16, and he’s currently an employee-owner at NRS. His experience as a paddling instructor at events around the world, made him the right choice to be part of the planning board for this event. Once the behind the scenes is done, you’ll get to experience his positive energy on the water as a coach as well.