Sea Kayak Strokes

By Judee Fong

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Doug Alderson acquired his early attraction to water living near the Esquimalt Lagoon as a child.

"We would ride our bicycles down the hill to our lagoon playground," Doug recalls with a grin. "My love of paddling started then because I would tie a raft together and paddle about."

Today, Doug, author of Sea Kayak Strokes, A Guide to Efficient Paddling Skills, still embraces life with curiosity, energy and enthusiasm.

An experienced scuba diver, black belt judo instructor, boat builder and designer, draftsman, high school teacher and author of three previous kayaking books, Doug's life is full. Currently, chairperson for both the Paddle Canada's Sea Kayak Program and the National Kayak Committee, he is responsible for writing the curriculum for a series of courses certifying paddlers and instructors across Canada. He is in his element discussing his favourite water sport.

"Recreational and sea kayaking has gained a strong foothold on our coastal waters since I was first introduced to it 20 years ago," says Doug.

"Recently, Sea Kayaker Magazine did a survey of its readership and found the average age was 50 ," he cheerfully adds.

Noticing there were books on golf strokes and tennis strokes, Doug felt the time was right for a book on kayaking strokes. Sea Kayak Strokes, however, is definitely not a dry tutorial textbook. With clear text, helpful tips and photographs of kayakers in all shapes and sizes, the book demonstrates efficient techniques for both novices and more seasoned paddlers.

"A kayaker uses 1,500 strokes per hour. Adjusting his paddling more efficiently, a kayaker can safely travel farther and conserve energy for paddling back to home base," says Doug.

While the techniques outlined in the book can be beneficial to all paddlers, including canoeists or outriggers, the paddles are specific to each type of boat.

"The kayak paddle is a double-sided paddle specific for a boat with a closed deck," Doug explains. "Single paddles are used in canoes, although I recently read an article on someone using a canoe paddle with a sea-kayak. It's like racquets - used for racquet ball, tennis or badminton - are specific for their ball or shuttlecock. Certain aspects are similar, but they're different."

The popularity of the recreational kayak is due to its design - shorter and wider for navigating easily along shallow shorelines - making it fun for short trips.

The transport or sea kayak is longer and thicker. It is designed for longer distances, greater speeds and meant for hauling heavier loads in deeper waters.

"Kayaking is something that is easy to learn, needs a modest amount of boating skills and everyone can have fun on the first day. It requires the same degree of strength used in hiking or walking, plus a lot of common sense," says Doug.

"Expert kayakers can browse [the book] for bits and pieces, but my targeted audience would be the beginner and the intermediate kayakers," says Doug. "Sea Kayak Strokes gives them lots of tips and ideas to fine-tune their technique."

Problems generally occur at the end of a long day when a paddler is feeling cold, hungry and tired. Vancouver Island has some of the finest paddling waters in the world. Doug's book coaches kayakers to perform at their best energy levels to enjoy the total experience.

"You want to have a good time on the water. Sea Kayak Strokes shows by paddling efficiently, you can conserve your energy to deal with emergencies or problems with a clear head."

"We're very fortunate to have such beautiful coastal waters," says Doug. "I like to take time and explore areas I've never had the opportunity to see before. I've met a lot of nice people in isolated places other paddlers bypass because they're on a schedule."

In addition to the people he's met, Doug has stumbled upon extraordinary beauty and wildlife, enhancing his experience of nature.

"I narrated a few animal encounters and my editor said, ,that's a good story, but where do we put it?, So, I have a number of wildlife stories and one day, probably years down the road, I'll compile a book with kayak adventures."

Doug Alderson's book, Sea Kayak Strokes, A Guide to Efficient Paddling Skills (Rocky Mountain Books) is available at local bookstores including Bolen Books, Hillside Mall, 250-595-4232 and Munro Books, 1108 Government St., 250-382-2464.

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