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Paradise! Sun, sea, a vibrant island-mountain landscape. And wind. Wait, what? Wind? Well yes! It keeps us cool in the Baja sun and provides enriching learning opportunities and exhilarating downwind rides! At the start of this course, none of the participants imagined the progress they would make. By midway through the 6-day course of camping on the islands, traveling by kayak, relaxing into the spectacular landscape and doing focused learning sessions, they comfortably paddled across a lumpy 2nm stretch of open water and later went out to play in big waves!
We began with a 1.5nm crossing to Isla Danzante in a breeze that was just barely pushing up a few whitecaps on waves a foot in height. There were some nervous faces. We familiarized ourselves with our laden kayaks and played games along the way. After setting up camp, participants joined co-leader Jorge on the water for a session on bracing and rescues in the late afternoon light and clear water.
Day two we explored leisurely up the coast of the island applying principles of efficient forward paddling we’d reviewed on land before launching. At the northern point we had cell signal to get the latest weather forecast and discussed our options as a group. We decided to stay 2 more nights on the island and build our skills in the forecasted wind to be able to cross back to the Baja peninsula later in the week.
With games to enhance the fun, we practiced maneuvering our kayaks in light wind and rafting up with another kayak for support or assistance. Wind flowed over the water but there were no waves in the stunning Honeymoon Cove due to the protection from the land. Here we practiced turning upwind and downwind and paddling across it, as well as assisting others. Then we took the same exercises just outside the protective point and played in the waves.
It is exciting to power against the waves and feel the bow of the kayak leap out of the water and splash back down! Though it requires some steering finesse, paddling downwind offers free rides on the waves, causing smiles all around!
The crossing day was lumpy but manageable with our growing skills and confidence, and we made it the 2nm to a protected cove comfortingly near our take-out access, but remote enough to still enjoy being “out there”.
That afternoon an important mission was completed: paddling to nearby Puerto Escondido for more wine. Our courses and trips do not include alcoholic beverages, but participants are welcome to bring a modest amount if they would like. This crew did like, and agreed to share this resupply effort to lubricate the final 2 evenings. There was a celebratory mood after having completed the successful crossing!
Morning sun caused the nearby Sierra la Giganta mountains to blush gold and pink and day 5 presented us with the most wind yet! After some exercises in the sheltered water near the beach, we went out one at a time beside a coach into the waves just off the point and paddled some maneuvers. And surfed our way back to the shelter with excited shouts. There were capsizes and assists, and there were a great many whoops and yippees heard over the waves as participants gained confidence and improved their application of their skills in this environment.
The final morning allowed time for each person to practice what they wanted to consolidate, with coach feedback. Then we paddled together to the take-out, a cool refreshing beverage, and a ride back to town to freshen up before meeting for a delicious farewell dinner.
For more images of this Learning in Paradise course/trip, please see our photo gallery!