The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium
A British Invasion
By: Conor Mihell

Don't be surprised if skegs outnumber rudders at the second annual Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium, held Feb. 26-28 in San Francisco Bay, Calif. Organizer Sean Morley says the British-style, rough water-focused event was designed as a counterpoint to the typical North American sea kayak "demo day" festival. "It's about skills training as opposed to being a sales event," says Morley, a British ex-pat and president of River and Ocean, a San Francisco-based outfitter. "The idea is for people to come and learn."

Morley says the Golden Gate festival was created to give experienced paddlers a chance to improve their skills in challenging conditions as opposed to providing paddlesports manufacturers a captive audience whom which to sell boats and gear. "Really this symposium was in response to the [West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium] that is very much an introductory skill level symposium and a major selling event," says Morley. "It was apparent to me there was almost nothing available for existing paddlers to improve their skills." And with the Trade Association of Paddlesports recently announcing that it will pull the plug on the long-time West Coast Symposium, held every September in Port Townsend, Wash., perhaps Morley's approach is closer to the pulse of sea kayakers.

The British-style sea kayak gatherings that Morley is trying to emulate are famous for rough water exploits in boisterous tidal races. While the sea conditions beneath the Golden Gate Bridge don't quite compare to the famous Penrhyn Mawr overfall in Wales, Morley says San Francisco Bay serves up a more learner-friendly variety of tidal races, rock gardens and surf beaches. The event is also timed to coincide with a pushy spring tide, which promises to amp up conditions in one of the strongest tidal areas on the Pacific coast. Combined with chilly early season water temperatures, Morley says the event "is not a beginners' symposium." But he insists it's not an exclusive hard-core gathering either. –
Conor Mihell

For an event schedule and a full listing of Morley's international roster of instructors, click on