Coastal Kayaking Skills

Learn or improve on the foundational skills that support everything we do as kayakers.  Work toward more miles with an improved forward stroke; More fun with better maneuvering skills; More safety with rescues and basic sea sense. With an emphasis on the relationship between your body's core movement and the kayak's response, this class introduces students to the skills and knowledge that every kayaker needs for safe and efficient paddling in the ocean environment. Our small class size allows us to give individualized attention to each student, and customize the class to your specific needs. You'll leave this class with plenty to practice, and a clear plan of action for meeting your goals as an improving sea kayaker.

$140/person, as scheduled or by appointment                    Contact us for details.

Introduction to Tidal Currents - Boat-handling in moving water.

One of Downeast Maine's signature attractions are the reversing tidal falls, areas of strong current created by the rise and fall of tides.  For sea kayakers, these areas provide a variety of conditions (bumpy water, eddy lines, moving water, smooth green waves) making them excellent classrooms for refining boat handling in a more challenging environment.  They also make really fun playgrounds for applying your skills and learning some smile-inducing tricks, like surfing the standing waves produced by the strong tidal currents.  We are fortunate to have what we think is the best tidal current training venue in Maine right in our neighborhood.  If you're comfortable with basic strokes and rescues, we'd love to introduce you to the fun of paddling sea kayaks in a tidal falls! (Click to see a short video of students in their first class at Sullivan Falls.) 

$140/person, as scheduled, or by appointment                  Contact us for details.

More Tidal Currents - Leadership and wild fun in strong currents.

If you're comfortable with the basics of managing your boat in rough moving water, then join us for a more advanced tidal currents class, geared to help you get more out of your time at the races.  In addition to learning tactics and strategies to improve your surfing experience, we'll use the waves and current to work on leadership skills, and practice dealing with real incidents that can occur in this fast-paced paddling environment.

$140/person, as scheduled or by appointment                    Contact us for details.

Rocks and Ledges - Where the waves meet the hard stuff.

That dynamic strip of real-estate where the land and sea mix it up is full of opportunities for improving boat control, and having a good time.  For students with basic boat-handling and rescue skills, the cliffs, caves, slots, and countless variety of rock features surrounding our glacially-carved islands will provide the perfect venue to tune up your skills.  Since going straight is rarely an option in this environment you'll get lots of practice applying strokes in a challenging environment.  We'll focus on learning how to use the ocean's wave energy to our advantage, because paddling with the sea as your partner is always easier than going head to head!  (Read Nate's description of a rock-gardening trip on Mount Desert Island.)

$140/person, as scheduled or by appointment                     Contact us for details.

Rough Water du Jour

Occasionally through the year we schedule an open-ended day of intermediate-to-advanced training where the prime agenda is to find some good play spots, and use the ocean energy that we find as a playground to improve skills.  Specific put-in location is often determined the night before the course, based on the forecasted conditions and where we expect to find the best opportunities for play. 

$140/person, as scheduled or by appointment                     Contact us for details.

Incident Management (and Avoidance!)

Proper judgement and adventure-management are a subject in all our classes, because it's always easier to avoid accidents than it is to clean up after them.  However, sometimes stuff happens, and how you respond can make the difference between a good war story and a bad outcome.  Our Incident Management/Avoidance course is a scenario-based class covering all manners of rescues, improvise boat repairs, medical events, emergency signalling, and more.  Expect a lot of things to go wrong during this day on the water, and then learn by trying various approaches to fixing things.  Our goal is to send you home confident and prepared to adventure more safely!

$140/person, as scheduled or by appointment                     Contact us for details.

Journeys - Putting skills into practice

A few times through the season we plan journeys ranging in length from a single day to a full week.  These trips take us to unique locations perfectly suited for exploration by sea kayak.  These trips are as much about visiting an amazing place as they are about employing your trip planning and boat handling skills to get there.  Though we'll be covering a bit more distance than we do in our regular classes, there will still be time for working on stroke efficiency, navigation, camping skills, and other knowledge that will enhance the journey and make you safer, more self-sufficient paddler.  Single-day destinations for 2015 include Petit Manan Island (east of Schoodic Peninsula), Isle au Haut (off Stonington), Isle of Shoals (off the NH Seacoast),  and Baker Island (south of Mount Desert Island).  Multi-day destinations include a group of large islands located offshore of Mount Desert's southern headlands (Marshall, Swan, and Long Islands), and a week-long journey covering the entire Downeast coast, from Frenchman Bay to West Quoddy Head.

Pricing varies with course length, see our schedule for dates and prices                     Contact us for details.

Group Paddles

To help our students get more time on the water, we will be scheduling regular group paddles throughout the season.  These half-day or evening paddles will be led by an ACA-certified instructor.  While our instructor will be happy to offer guidance and top-tips, the primary focus of these outings will be to paddle with a group of skills-oriented kayakers to someplace interesting in the Mount Desert Island area.  We are setting the price of these trips as low as possible, with the hope that our students can use this as an opportunity to get out on the water between courses, and hopefully meet some new paddling partners.  

$25 per person, please provide your own equipment.  Look for Group Paddles to appear on the schedule throughout the season.   Contact us for more information.  

Rescues and Bracing

Rescue and Bracing sessions held in warmer, calmer waters allow students to expand their skills in a comfortable learning environment.  In this half-day session we'll improve balance and comfort in the kayak, and work on important safety skills like wet-exits, rescues, and bracing. 

$90 per person, includes equipment                             Contact us for details, or to register

Pool Sessions

This winter, join Pinniped Kayak for essential kayak safety lessons at the Mount Desert YMCA pool in Bar Harbor on Saturday afternoons.  New and experienced paddlers alike will benefit from small-group classes covering self-rescues, assisted-rescues, and more.  Every paddler who takes to the water without a guide needs to be proficient at rescues, so join us for a tune-up, and enjoy a safer summer paddling season.   
$40 per person, includes equipment (Additional $15 pool fee paid to MDI YMCA)

Nate is also available for private and semi-private Rolling, Bracing and Rescue lessons during the winter and spring months at the MDI YMCA, in Bar Harbor. 
$50 for 90 minutes of semi-private instruction, including equipment.  (Additional $15 pool fee paid to MDI YMCA.)    Call or email us to reserve your spot.

Rolling Lessons - Capsizes happen. Learn how to get back up!

Learning how to roll your kayak is a great confidence builder, and will greatly improve your safety. This basic skill is not a dark art, only attainable by the true masters - it's just an upside-down kayak stroke. We will work with you in a 2 hour private or semi-private session, guiding you towards a solid roll. Already performed a few rolls? We'll provide you with the tips and refinement you need to make it rough water ready.

Building your skills to the point of having a reliable roll takes time, but we recommend scheduling a few 2-hour rolling sessions rather than a single longer class.  This rest between lessons allows your body to recover, and your mind and muscles to consolidate what they've learned.

$40/hour private, $50/hour for two, by appointment      Contact us for details.

Practical Navigation for Kayakers - Because getting lost is no fun.

Basic navigation is an essential skill for kayakers anywhere, but particularly on the Maine coast, where indistinct spruce-covered islands are innumerable, and fog visits regularly.  This one-day course will introduce navigational concepts and tools on land, and then progress to applying those skills from the seat of your kayak, as we take to the water in a target-rich navigation environment.  We will cover chart-reading, tidal dynamics, trip-planning, and, in a nutshell, how to find your way on the water.  We'll spend time in the classroom, and outside with interactive exercises. 

$140/person, as scheduled or by appointment                          Contact us for details.

Maine Guide Training - For professional guides and aspiring leaders.

guide patch.jpg

Each spring Nate teaches multi-day leadership and guiding courses for paddlers who wish to work as Registered Maine Sea Kayak Guides, or who simply want to gain a more comprehensive skill set for leading others on the water.  (You can read an article about one of our previous trainings, published in Maine Magazine.)  Our emphasis is on the practical skills and background knowledge necessary for safe, competent leadership in the real world.  But we also have a good understanding of how the Maine State written and oral examinations are run, and we are proud of our students' high first-attempt pass rate.  While some courses are company-specific and closed to outside individuals, others are open to a limited number of students.   If you are interested in details about joining a guide training, or would like to discuss having Pinniped Kayak run a Maine Guide training for your organization, please contact us.


Looking for shorter guided adventures?  Pinniped Kayak specializes in providing instruction and adventures to people who are hooked on sea kayaking, and we find that full-day courses offer a less hurried pace and better value than half-day courses or trips.  But we understand that's not what everyone is looking for.  If instead you'd prefer a half-day or full-day guided kayak outing without instruction, in tandem or single kayaks, we recommend Old Quarry Ocean Adventures, in Stonington, or Coastal Kayaking in Bar Harbor.


For classes and adventures, a 50% deposit is due at time of booking, with the balance payable on the day of the event.  We accept credit cards by phone or in person.  Deposits are refundable up to 10 days before the start date.  In the event that we cancel due to weather or unforeseen circumstance, we will fully refund your payments, or reschedule the event, at your choice.