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Kayak Academy

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Sea Kayak 401 - Exposed Coast Kayak Expedition Training - Sitka, Alaska - Kayak Academy

Sitka Sound Chart, Alaska  Kayak Academy Easy Rock Gard Paddling at the Fun-House, David in TideRace Xplore S Alaska

Kayak Alaska! If you dream of ocean swells, sea cliffs, outer coasts, islands and wilderness camping make, make the dream come true - join us on our "Exposed Coast Kayak Expedition Training" in SE Alaska w/ Kayak Academy. Each year Kayak Academy ships a trailer load of performance sea kayaks from Seattle to Sitka, AK for this 10 day trip - your kayak or one of our performance rental skeg kayaks can be waiting for you there. No driving or fighting over crowded campsites, experience real wilderness sea kayaking just a few hours flight from Seattle.

A hundred plus years ago, Russian fur traders and Capt. Cook sailed this coast and the Tlingit natives paddled their dugout canoes here; now you can be among the first sea kayakers to explore the islands and capes on the outer coasts of the Rakof Islands and Biorka Island. (sketches below of Mt Edgecomb outside Sitka are from one of Cook's voyages to Alaska) Click on the chart at right (NOAA Chart No. 17326) or the Google map link below and you'll see endless possibilities for playing in rocks, circumnavigating hundreds of islands and camping on beautiful beaches. George and Barb Gronseth and our K.A. students have had the privilege to explore these islands every year for over a decade, and yet each trip reveals some new, exciting terrain to paddle and there's still more to explore.

Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound are a major destinations for cruise ships because of their sheltered conditions and tidewater glaciers, Misty Fjords is known for its scenery and wildlife. But these inside waters are tame compared to paddling on the outer coast of Baranof Island, the Necker Islands, and the Rakof Islands. We leave the cruise ships and flat water behind on the first day of paddling. Someday when more kayakers discover the west side of Baranof Island, it's going to be famous for its rock gardens, slot canyons, and sea cliffs (as well as fishing, birding, whale watching, and wilderness camping). Local rock garden attractions include: "Entrance Exam" (off Cape Burunof - the S. entrance to Sitka's Eastern Channel), "The Fun-House Rocks" & "Jaws" (two side-by-side features - be careful of "Jaws", they sometimes bite), "The Hallway" (which many have found is short for "Hallway of Doom"), and many more yet to be named play spots. The capes and cliffs on the outer coasts of the Rakof Islands and the Necker Islands archipelagos are spectacular to paddle along. Not every rock feature is working or safe to mess with on any given day, but no matter what the conditions, we can find find something to thrill anyone, any day. As a result of our experience and intimate knowledge of this area, when conditions are too extreme for one spot we know several others that will be really fun. When you know the place like we do, the choices are infinite.

If you've worked hard to develop your kayaking skills and feel ready for an advanced kayak trip (with coaching), reward yourself with the adventure of a lifetime on one of the last great wilderness coasts. If you have the skills, you can be among the six to eight lucky students to join George and Barb Gronseth for this amazing trip.

Note, this is no beginner "float n' bloat" guided tour; you'll paddle a one-person sea kayak with skeg (no rudder), set up your own tent, take turns leading the group and share in cooking meals - that's why it's called an expedition not a guided tour. All participants share in the cost, planning, and cooking of the food for the trip (that's part of the learning), and you will need to provide your own transportation to and from Sitka. For the last night, we will make dinner reservations for the group at a favorite restaurant in Sitka. During this no-host celebratory dinner, George and Barb will present commemorative awards to all the participants.

Click Play button on image at right to see a short taste of some of the rock garden kayaking in Alaska.

We only offer this Alaska sea kayak trip once or twice a year. Plan ahead - see the bottom of this page for prerequisites.

Sea Kayaking 401 Schedule:

Instructors: George and Barb Gronseth
Location: Begin and end in Sitka, Alaska (daily jet flights from Seattle, WA)
Duration: 10 days total (eight days on the water) The start date is the day you need to arrive in Sitka and meet for a team safety briefing, chart folding, and food prep. The kayaking starts after breakfast the next day.
Group Size: 8 students plus 2 instructors
Tuition Fee: $2550.00 ($100 Discount for sign-ups before Dec. 31st, and $100/per person discount if sharing a room) Special discount for repeat team members. Fee includes: shipping your kayak or our rental kayak round trip from Seattle, US Forest Service Use Fees, transportation from airport to hotel and hotel to put in, private hotel rooms before and after the paddling, navigation chart, tide tables, and use of: bear pepper spray, bear resistant food box, distress signal flares, water bags, and group gear such as cooking tarp, cook-set, stoves and fuel, food hanging pulleys.
Kayak Rental: $250.00 for glass or $100 for Roto-molded kayak (or we can ship your personal kayak with ours for no extra fee. If needed, you may rent a kayak from us to use back home in the NW while yours is in transit for special $100.00 rate)


2014 Itinerary: Arrive in Sitka, Alaska no later than mid-afternoon on the start date, Tuesday Aug. 5th 2014, and leave Sitka no earlier than middle of the day nine days later, Aug 14th, 2014

Sitka is serviced with daily jet flights from SeaTac airport in Seattle, WA on Alaska Air (Boeing 737s), NW Air, and Delta or by the Alaska State Ferry (which leaves from Bellingham, WA and takes about five days to reach Sitka - camping is allowed on the ferry and is a lot of fun if you have the time).

Call us at (206) 527-1825 or E-mail us at info@kayakacademy.com to make a reservation.

This Alaska kayak trip is participatory advanced sea kayaking adventure ... eight days of self supported kayak camping along the open coast of the Pacific Ocean in SE Alaska with George & Barb Gronseth. You'll paddling one of the Kayak Academy's performance, one-person sea kayaks with skeg (rudder-free) or you can arrange to use your own kayak. We ship all the kayaks on one of our kayak trailers via barge from Seattle to Sitka. (If you prefer to use your own kayak, it must meet our safety standards and be delivered to us two weeks before the trip).

(Click Play button on image at right for a taste of the beaches, fishing, and scenery)

This lesson/kayak trip starts with a team trip-planning, chart folding, food preparation, and safety meeting at our hotel the day you arrive. The next morning after breakfast at the hotel, we'll take taxi vans to the barge company and move the kayaks to the beach. As soon as we get the kayaks packed, we'll start paddling out of the protected water of Sitka Sound's E. Channel and round Cape Burunof - which marks the beginning of the exposed coast. You'll play in rock gardens, enjoy primitive camping, and see lots of bald eagles -- typically all in the first day of paddling! The kayaking, camping and wildlife get even better the further we go. There're sea otters, puffins, harlequin ducks, loons, and lots of other wildlife to watch for including humpback whales, orca whales, brown bears, mink, and river otters. The camping is incredible, mosquitoes are rare, and there're no ticks, no scorpions, no poisonous snakes or spiders, and no poison ivy or poison oak! We'll camp at some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Alaska, some with views of Mt. Edgecumbe's volcanic cone (3271') on Kruzof Island. In the middle of the trip you can enjoy a soak at a hot spring with natural mineral-water.

The rock gardens, slot canyons, and capes get progressively more challenging as we head south along the west side of Baranof Island and we choose between rounding the exposed outer coasts of the Taigud Islands, Biorka Island, the Rakof Islands, and/or Cape Aspid. From Sitka south to Cape Ommaney (at the south end of Baranof I.), Biorka Island and the Rakof Islands are among the most exposed capes and points on the Pacific Ocean side of North America. Rounding capes and circumnavigating these outer islands are to sea kayaking what summiting a mountain peak is to climbing. It will test of your nerve and skill. Even our most experienced students usually say it's the biggest water they've ever kayaked in. It's an achievement you will always remember. Go with the Kayak Academy and you'll be one of the few sea kayakers to ever paddle these outer coasts.

(Click Play button on image at right for a taste of the Sitka area wildlife)

After rounding Cape Burunof, we'll paddle a loop around the Necker Islands and Rakof Islands -- these two island archipelagos form a partial barrier of the west coast of Baranof Island south of Sitka Sound. The area is like a combination of Barkley Sound, the Queen Charlotte Islands, the San Juan Islands, Cape Flattery, Trinidad Bay, and more all rolled into one destination that you can paddle through in a week, and there's hardly any other kayakers there! KA has the only permit for a guided kayak trip in this area) Along the way you'll: surf ocean swells, thread a loaded sea kayak through rock gardens and slot sea canyons, explore a sea cave (conditions permitting), learn to navigate complex outer coasts and islands chains, and practice decision making as you take turns leading sections of the trip. You can fish for salmon (AK state fishing license requires, 3-day licenses are available in Sitka) and rock fish from your kayak, and learn to forage for safe wild foods such as edible kelp, red huckleberries, and "chicken of the woods". You'll learn how to: stay warm and dry while camping in rain forest climates, use Leave No Trace camping skills in a marine coastal environment, plan food for long expeditions, and pack efficiently so as to get everything you need for a week or longer trip into a sea kayak. In other words, you will be practicing the skills needed to plan and lead your own future wilderness expeditions. You'll also: practice chart reading and compass skills, on the water navigation, rescues and rolls in loaded kayaks, and learn safety and etiquette for camping in bear country (we provide bear-resistant food barrels, Ursaks w/odor-proof liners, pulleys for hanging food, and bear-repellant pepper spray for each member of the group). Note there's no alligators or crocks, just brown bears and Stellar sea lions to be mindful of. We've never had bears in our camp and we take a number of precautions to minimize this risk, but we sometimes see bears in lagoons and salmon streams we paddle by.

This expedition is based out of the beautiful, historic town of Sitka, Alaska -- a gem worth the trip in itself. Sitka was once the capital for the Russian-America Company, and it's where the papers were signed when the U.S. bought Alaska. We recommend spending some extra days after the trip to check out the Aleut and Inuit kayaks at the Sheldon Jackson museum, take a self-guided walking tour of the Tlingit Totem Poles at the outdoor historical park, watch salmon running in Indian River, visit the Raptor Recovery Center, hang out at Old Harbor Books (a great bookstore specializing in Alaskan history and natural history), check out the native arts galleries in town, and take some day hikes such as Mt. Verstuvia (3354') behind town. And of course Sitka is a world renowned destination for charter fishing so you could stay an extra few days to go fishing and bring home a year's supply of fish.

We ship the kayaks by barge on one of our kayak trailers so you won't have to make do with the typical clunky rental kayaks. If renting a kayak, we give you a choice of a fiberglass or roto-molded poly sea kayak. All the kayaks we rent for this trip have retractable skegs, front and rear bulkheads, adjustable backbands (not tall seat backs), and day hatches (with rubber hatches covers). If you bring us your kayak in time, we can ship it with our kayaks (barge leaves Seattle about two weeks before the trip and returns about two weeks after). We can also send your paddles, tent, and sleeping bag in our trailer's gear box to save you the expense and hassle of lugging it through airports - just UPS your gear to us a few weeks prior to the trip so we can get it on the barge.

This Alaskan kayak trip is made possible by our Special Use Permit for the Tongass National Forest and South Baranof Wilderness (we are the only outfitter with a Forest Service permit for kayak trips in this area), Kokatat Gore-Tex dry suits (Which you may rent from us if you don't have your own.), the Kayak Academy's very own premium rudder-free sea kayaks (Choose from: Tiderace, Valley, Maelstrom, and Wilderness Systems. Rental kayak reservations are "first-come-first serve", so sign up early for best selection), and our staff of highly skilled, experienced instructors (George Gronseth: founder of the Kayak Academy; Barb Gronseth: founder of Issaquah Paddle Sports, ACA/BCU Sea Kayak instructor. George and Barb have been leading and co-teaching these trips since 2000.)

Google Map of Typical Paddling Route

"I didn't think about work for the whole week", PB

"Every day had some great new experience", MF

The total cost for the expedition is only $2550 (plus $250 if you need to rent a kayak), which includes: permit fees, transportation within Sitka, lodging in Sitka the night before and after the paddling days and use of our: signal flares, bear-repellent pepper spray, bear-resistant food box, group cook tarp, camp stoves and fuel. We will also give you your own US government navigation chart, tide tables, a waterproof logbook, and the Kayak Academy's "Guide to Expedition Planning". The cost of this course is comparable to that of guided tours in Alaska, which offer none of the training materials let alone the advanced kayak instruction by George Gronseth, or the use of one-person kayaks.

Prior trip experience alone is not enough to qualify for this training expedition, as a minimum you'll need to have a reliable roll, prior low impact camping experience, and take at least one of the following courses: Surf Kayaking, Tidal Rapids Training, High Wind Kayak Training, River Kayaking Intro I and II. (If you lack certain of these prerequisites you may be able to take our SK 301 Adventurous Journey - Intermediate Plus Level Trip - On The Coast of Alaska, Sitka.) The best preparation is the Kayak Academy's "Five Day Training Camp" plus one or more of the above intermediate courses, however some upper level BCU three - five star kayakers or ACA Open Water kayak instructors may be able to qualify for equivalency for this expedition. If you start with the Kayak Academy's Five Day Training Camp, a beginner can meet these requirements within a year and an intermediate kayaker can generally meet all the prerequisite training in the same year they take the Five-Day Training Camp. So start preparing for this year's or next year's trip by signing up now for our Five Day Training Camp or intermediate courses (Kayak Surfing, River Kayaking, etc.).

Some islands we paddle to sea kayaking Sitka, Alaska Humpback Whale Sitka, Alaska View of Mt Edcumbe from camp

kayak fishing in Alaska kayak fishing for salmon in Alaska

As part of your trip planning and education about the USFS and wilderness preservation, we encourage you to read the following resources:

Leave-No-Trace
Weeks Act
Wilderness Act of 1964
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980

Kayak Academy is operated under special use permit with the Tongass National Forest
Kayak Academy is an equal opportunity provider and employer

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