"What will be covered during the Paddler Development Weekend?"

Recently, I received an email asking what is taught during the Paddler Development Intensive (next offered on August 25-27).    I'll admit, I've chosen a vague course title for these popular intermediate-to-advanced clusters of courses, so that I can individualize instruction to each paddler's needs and create learning experiences that are responsive to the students' skills, their state of mind, and the opportunities that the environment presents us with.  Fixed curricula or specific course titles sometimes impede learner-driven instruction.

"But really, what's covered in the course?"  Fair enough - you want to know what you're signing up for.  Specifics vary somewhat with weather and the group’s needs, but here’s a likely example of how it might go.


We’ll spend day one in a coastal venue with some surf, some ledges, some swell - working to refine existing strokes, and utilizing the energy in the environment to make maneuvering more effective.  One of our goals might be to improve our understanding of how the environment effects the boat, and learn how to select strokes to use that energy to our advantage.  

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Day two will be at a Reversing Tidal Falls, and we’ll work on crossing eddy lines (from mild to extremely pushy, depending on each student's needs), use those skills to surf standing waves (from pequeño to grande, depending on each student's needs), practice rescues and perhaps towing in current, and maybe touch up our rolling technique in flat water and then in more challenging conditions.  Throughout, we’re looking for similarities between the different venues, and fundamental principles that improve our performance in all of sea kayaking.

Our venue for day three might depend on what the conditions are offering us, and perhaps what the students would like more of.  A likely option would be to seek a more exposed coastal venue, perhaps with a bit of offshore tide-race and do some more surfing and rock gardening, as well as a bit of safety and decision-making in rocky environments.  Incident management, difficult rescues, surf landing/launching, no-landing zone landings are all on the menu of possibilities.  In addition to continuing some existing themes (such as use of momentum, or stroke placement to improve turning effectiveness), this day might include some of the leadership concepts involved in planning and managing play in more complex coastal locales, and evaluating play spots for safety.  

This 3-day format has been well-received by students over the last few years, and I've been offering more of these options each season.  Participants have said that they appreciate the way concepts build through the three days, and how commonalities are woven from one venue to the next.  

If you've taken one of these 3-day clusters in the past, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the format, either in the comments here or in an email.   If you haven't, consider giving it a try, and let me know if you have any questions.  I'll try not to be purposely vague!

Looking forward to paddling with some of you in the coming weeks!



Leadership and Instructor training

Long before I was a sea kayaker, one of the common threads in my most enjoyable pursuits has been an interest in risk mitigation, leadership, and feeling prepared for challenges.  With my brief stint in firefighting and the swashbuckling ocean sailing adventures quite a few years behind me, I've been more than satisfied to challenge myself as a leader in the cockpit of a sea kayak for the last decade.  

While teaching leadership skills to guides and recreational paddlers has been a part of Pinniped Kayak since I started the business,  I've steadily expanded opportunities to offer leadership and instructor certifications at various levels to serve experienced ocean paddlers as well as those who are exploring more protected waters, so you too can get a flavor for one of my favorite aspects of taking to the sea with a cluster of small single-person boats.  Here are some of this year's offerings for Leadership and Instructor development, challenging paddlers at a wide variety of skill levels.

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For paddlers and aspiring guides who are seeking leadership training for the first time, I've scheduled a 5-day Leadership and Guide Training, May 29th-June 2nd at Old Quarry Ocean Adventures, in Stonington, ME.  This course includes navigation and trip planning, as well as basic incident management, towing, rescues, and other leadership skills appropriate for everyone exploring protected coastal areas, recreationally or as part of a commercial guiding operation.

For those with established skills, who want to expand their existing skill-set with an emphasis on leadership, I am offering an ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayaking Trip Leader Training and Assessment, June 9th-10th in Ellsworth.  This leadership course caters to paddlers with previous training, who have passed a L3 Skills Assessment, or have the BCU 3-star Award.  With boat-handling and rescues already under candidate's belts, this course will be able to focus on more advanced principles of leadership, trip-planning and incident management in the coastal environment.  Successful candidates will leave with the ACA Coastal Kayaking Trip Leader Award.

Experienced paddlers who are ready to expand their leadership and paddling skills into more advanced conditions may be interested in the BCU Sea Leader Training (formerly known as 4-Star), offered by guest Todd Wright (BCU L5 Coach, Sea) of Saint Michael's College and Synaptic Sport.  This 3-day training, June 14-16, based in Ellsworth, will use the diverse paddling venues surrounding Mount Desert Island, and includes the BCU Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning course.

Paddlers who would like to be more effective at introducing others to the sport, as well as covering aspects of effective leadership, may want to explore ACA Instructor Training, to teach paddling skills in Coastal and Advanced Coastal paddling environments.  In partnership with Carl Ladd, of Osprey Sea Kayak, we are offering ACA Level 3 and Level 4 Instructor Development Workshops on July 26-29.

Regardless of how long you've been involved in ocean paddling, and whether you aspire to guide commercially, or just want to be more effective and safer in organizing your own adventures with friends, leadership skills are fundamental ocean paddling skills that will benefit every kayaker.  We have diverse offerings that be a good fit for most every paddler, and I'd be happy to discuss which options are best suited to your needs.  Give me a call at 207-669-2174, or you can send me a message here.

Enjoy your spring paddling!



Class schedule now available!

Hello Paddlers, 

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Your patience is finally being rewarded.  Our 2018 Course Schedule is available!

Today feels like spring!  And while a paddling friend didn't quite succeed in tempting me away from my kitchen renovation to join him on the river this afternoon, I'm definitely having a hard time keeping my mind off paddling these days!  Spring will be here before long, and with it, all kinds of adventures on the water.  I hope you all have big plans this year, and I hope to share a paddling day with you at some point.  


Among our varied course offerings this year, here are a few highlights:

  • Whitewater for Sea Kayakers, to hone your rough water skills, and get a flavor for our other favorite paddling realm.
  • Two "3-Day Paddler Development Intensives" - sort of a soup-to-nuts instructional revue, making use of the best training venues that the MDI region has to offer.  
  • Offerings appropriate for those who are getting started, or have been paddling for a while but have not had a lot of previous instruction.  Refine your fundmentals, with me, with Mark Schoon, or with Gordo Wissinger in these courses ranging from half-day clinics to a 3-day journey.  
  • Leadership courses at a variety of levels, with everything from navigation workshops, to training for guides, and BCU Sea Leader Training.
  • Journeys from 1 to 4 days, in areas ranging from the islands of Stonington to some of Maine's most challenging sections of coastline downeast.


If you have questions, course requests, or any equipment needs for the new season, feel free to call or email me to discuss them.


Thanks, and enjoy the rest of your winter!








2018 . . . A work in progress!

Hello Paddlers, 


I'm popping my head above the surface for a quick gulp of air, and to say hello.  After a great 2017 season, I'm busily preparing an even more exciting and diverse schedule for 2018, and I look forward to spending some time on the water with each of you.  


I'll try to get all my dates published on the website in the next week or so, but here are a few teasers:

  • Baja, Mexico - April 22-28 - A week of Rock Gardening, Surfing and Leadership with Jen Kleck and Nate.  $995 (includes everything except getting yourself to San Diego!)  Contact me ASAP if you are interested - 2 spots remaining.
  • Whitewater for Sea Kayakers - May 23-25 -  We are repeating this very popular class from last year, with Todd Wright and Nate (in Colchester, VT).  Students from last year remarked at how these days in WW boats improved their sea kayak skills and state of mind while on the sea.  Plus, it's just fun!  
  • BCU Sea Leader Training (previously called 4-Star) - June 26-29 - Leadership training with Todd Wright at Pinniped Kayak (MDI area).  Includes Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning.  Candidates need to have solid 3-star (~ACA L3) skills, and can receive a 3-star assessment during the training.
  • ACA L3/L4 Instructor Training Workshop - July 26-29 - With Carl Ladd of Osprey Kayak and Nate, at Pinniped Kayak (MDI area).  Preceded by L4 Skills Assessment on July 25.

A variety of Coastal Skills trainings and multi-day Journey Trainings will of course be offered throughout the season, at various skill-levels.  I'll be in touch soon with a more complete schedule.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions, course requests, or just to let me know what you have planned for your own paddling season.


Now is a good time to think about equipment needs for the upcoming year.  I'll be receiving orders from Kokatat, Northwater, Werner, P&H, and Pyranha this spring, so let me know if I can help get you outfitted.  (Also, due to a design error on a custom boat, I have a brand new Carbon/Kevlar Aries 155, looking for a home, at a great price! Ready to hit the water immediately.)



www.pinnipedkayak.com      phone:  (207) 669-2174



Guided Group Paddles - Applying skills, and building a paddling community.


Hello Local Paddlers,

Becoming a better paddler involves the right instruction, but also plenty of time on the water.  This year I'd like to help provide more opportunities for local students to get out on the water and practice their skills, outside of the formal training environment, so some of the Pinniped Kayak assistant instructors will be running Guided Practice Paddles throughout the summer.  (Let me know if you have a better name for these!)

These outings will be facilitated by an ACA instructor, who can offer paddling tips and guidance, and generally help the group have a safe, productive and well-organized time on the water.  In addition to skills-development, we'd like to help build the paddling community in our area;  we hope that these outings will allow you to connect with like-minded paddlers, and spin-off your own group outings in the area. 

Gordo Wissinger (ACA L3 Coastal Kayak Instructor, Registered Maine Guide), will be running our first two Guided Practice Paddles in the Mount Desert Island area on Sat June 17, from 1 - 5 pm, and Sat July 1, from 9 am - 1 pm.  (2017 Dates, for current GGP dates, see our front page.)  The locations will be determined based on conditions, and shared a couple days before the trip.  The cost is $45 per person.  (To keep this simple and affordable, we'd prefer that people provide their own equipment, and pay cash or check at the put-in please.  If you are in a bind with gear, perhaps we can work something out for you.)

These first paddles will be fairly low key - perhaps 6-8 miles at 2.5 - 3 knots, and keeping to fairly protected waters.  If there is interest in longer or more adventuresome trips in the future we can consider that as we add more dates.

Contact me by phone or email with questions, and if you'd like to register you can do so on the Pinniped website.  www.pinnipedkayak.com/register

See you on the water!


To be added to the local paddler mailing list, please send a request using the Contact Us form.

2017 Season Update

Hello kayaking friends,                        

Though downeast Maine seems to be alternating between mid-spring warmth and dead-of-winter cold this year, we’re assuming that inviting paddling weather will arrive on the usual schedule.  To that end, I’m busy filling the Pinniped calendar with a mix of courses and journeys ranging from beginner weekends for people just getting started, to some adventures aimed at ambitious long-time paddlers.  Although the calendar is still a work in progress, you keep can check it out on the website.  We can still accommodate special requests at this point (particularly in August), so if you want to see a certain course during a time that works for you, please let me know.
Here are some highlights to look forward to:

•  I will be leading our multi-day journey courses this season.  We plan to visit Marshall Island in early August, and we will repeat our popular fall expedition downeast, exploring the outlying islands along the most challenging portion of the Maine coastline. 

•  We have scheduled 3-day Paddler Development Weekends in July and September.  These longer courses will provide the opportunity for more in-depth focus and refinement, improving underlying skills and applying them in more advanced environments. 

•  Though many of our students are traveling to the area for more advanced training, we are also trying to support those who are still working on fundamental skills.  We have a few clusters of classes this year aimed at beginners.  Please help us spread the word so we can share this awesome sport with newcomers and those who have not had previous instruction. 

•  For those paddlers who are looking to make big strides in their kayaking this year (regardless of your current level) I am accepting Long-Term Students.  The most rewarding relationships that I have with students are ones which allow us to consider the long-view, and build a comprehensive plan for individual paddler development, throughout a season and beyond.  If you are interested in committing to 6 or more days of instruction this year, I will commit to helping you to make long-term gains in your paddling development, and spending time with you on goal-setting and practice-planning, as well as incorporating some more time-intensive coaching tools like video analysis into our sessions.  Please get in touch with me to discuss this possibility in more detail. 

•  Finally, a reminder that I am happy to help students get outfitted for the season with boats from P&H and paddling gear from the suppliers that have performed the best for me.  You will find used gear listed on the website from time to time, and new equipment is available with a short lead-time.  Let me know how I can help get you ready for the upcoming season. 

I look forward to paddling with all of you again this year.  Until then, be well!


Thoughts on Sea Kayak Safety, in light of the recent fatalities in Downeast Maine

Many of you in Maine and those of you in the sea kayaking community have probably heard about the paddling fatalities last week in Downeast Maine. I understand Ed was a good man, and I know this loss is felt deeply in Gouldsboro.

I'd like the paddling community to look forward from this incident and consider our own behavior, rather than Ed's. Sea kayaking is an adventure sport where training and preparation are an important part of staying safe. While we can never eliminate all risk from outdoor pursuits, there is a lot that we can do to manage and minimize those risks.

The sea is large, and strong, and beautiful. We can safely have all kinds of adventures on the sea, but we need to be mindful of how we prepare ourselves for those adventures. I'd encourage everyone who takes to the water in paddlecraft - no matter how long you've been doing it - to seek qualified instruction from time to time. (And I include myself in that advice - In addition to running a sea kayak training company and training guides for the tour industry, I seek out instruction every season to expand my own abilities and understanding, so that I can be as prepared as possible for all the adventures that the sea has to offer.)

Check the weather and carefully choose your paddling area. Seek training in the environments you might encounter. Practice rescues in rough water where you have a safety net (with an instructor, or at the very least getting blown towards a safe shore nearby). Dress so that you can function for a while in cold water. Have viable emergency plans for when things go wrong despite all of the above.

Be safe and enjoy this amazing sport!

- Nate Hanson

Here's how our season is shaping up!

Hello friends and paddlers!

Though there is a trace of snow in the air this morning, the flakes feel like a pretty transparent bluff by a fading winter that never was.  Flowers are poking through the ground, and I've been busily putting together a diverse and exciting line-up for our up-coming paddling season.  You can view the entire schedule on our website.