The biggest difference between sea kayaking and other paddling disciplines is the unique challenges brought about by the vastly diverse and constantly changing marine environment explored by coastal paddlers. The suite of skills needed to address these challenges is known as seamanship, and includes navigation, interpreting the weather and understanding how weather influences bodies of water. In short, sea kayakers who venture onto to big water must be equal parts paddler, sailor and meteorologist.

To this end, the latest publication of SKILS, a Vancouver Island-based sea kayak instructional consortium, has you covered. Rather than providing an exhaustive array of material, Navigation, Sea State and Weather, the first title in SKILS’ new Freedom of the Seas series of instructional manuals, covers the topics experienced paddlers use everyday. This includes things like working with charts and compasses to plan coastal routes, using tide and current tables, gleaning relevant information from daily weather reports and understanding the hazards of a marine environment.

Authors Michael Pardy, JF Marleau, Andrew Woodford and Piper Harris escape the often cerebral, confusing and boring tone of typical theory-based texts and instead present the material that matters in an engaging and approachable manner. Their decades of combined experience as high-ranking Paddle Canada instructors and Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia leaders shines through in their selection of text, photos and illustrations. While their words sometimes struggle to explain technical concepts like calculating ferry angles and paddling speeds to plan crossings in tidal waters, easy to understand line diagrams and pertinent examples drive key learning messages home. Obscure, less frequently referenced topics like interpreting aids to navigation are simplified in an approach that highlights what’s critical for paddlers and doesn’t get bogged down by trivial knowledge.

Unlike many self-published works, SKILS’ has achieved a level of professionalism that demonstrates the passion and experience of its instructors. Navigation, Sea State and Weather is sure to become a textbook of choice for intermediate- and advanced sea kayakers. –Conor Mihell

Navigation, Sea State and Weather can be ordered online at for $24.99.