Educator Expedition: The Gales Storm Gathering


Jan 8, 2015

By Steve Robitshek, NOLS Instructor


The Gales Storm Gathering event is intended as a fun, invigorating sea kayaking instructional event for students looking to gain experience “in conditions” on the Great Lakes, according to the website.

“We all want to know what variables change for rolling, rescues, towing, leadership, and group management once the placid waters of summer have dissipated.

“The Great Lakes offer a terrific opportunity for sea kayakers to experience the beauty of lumpy conditions. Lake Superior has a variety of wind conditions, sea states, and waves in autumn. Often students will seek training in far-flung locales on the east coast, west coast, or overseas; when in fact our freshwater seas offer this exact sort of paddling environment right next door. This coupled with some very world class coaches can make for the best learning experience.”

Ahh paddling to have fun, push skills, and get wet! No students, no responsibilities, no curriculum, no camping, and lots of learning—why would one not attend? I relished this chance to paddle to just paddle, with coaches and participants that simply wanted to push skill development in challenging conditions. All this and time on the Big Lake in Pictured Rocks National Seashore!

Goals of the Gales Storm Gathering, Oct. 3–5, 2014, included building confidence in existing skills, reinforcing good habits in wind and waves, correct bad habits with real-world experiences and top-notch rough-water coaches, teaching safe and fun paddling in beautiful surroundings, and providing access to outstanding coaches from around the world.

I’ve been looking to get outside of NOLS to experience what other organizations and people do to manage risk, teach, and coach. Thanks to the NOLS Instructor Development Fund, I was able to attend the Gales Storm Gathering. This symposium pushed me in challenging conditions. Jeff Allen, one of the coaches, introduced many scenarios to manage as well as great coaching during the event.

Adding the skills and experiences to my toolbox will enable me to coach and challenge students more in all the different settings we typically encounter on NOLS sea kayaking courses.

Written By


NOLS is a nonprofit global wilderness school that seeks to help you step forward boldly as a leader.

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