Kayak and Stand Up Paddleboard Training Highlights


Last week, Abby Nash from our West Hartford, CT store shared her experiences at our 404 level staff rock climbing training event in North Conway, NH. This week, Ben Cargill from the Eastern Mountain Sports Outdoor Demo Tour sat in on the opposite side of the summer sports spectrum, our annual Washburn Island kayak training event. For two days, our best paddle sports staff members learned all about the latest kayak and stand up paddleboard gear straight from the vendors who make/market them. It’s all part of our commitment to making sure every Eastern Mountain Sports store is staffed by passionate people who know what they’re talking about. Here’s what Ben learned during his two days of kayak and stand up paddleboard training.

June 11th 2013. 6:30am

I’m awakened to the harsh screeching of my alarm, urging me to escape the clutches of James’s extraordinarily comfy couch. As I slowly roll out of my nest of pillows and blankets, I begin the tedious process of getting my gear ready for a few days of staff training. Before I know it, the planned departure time is upon us, and yet again I find myself scrambling to get out the door on time. Today we planned on leaving at 7am sharp, however our trusty Eastern Mountain Sports rig roars to life at 7:10. Not bad, someday we’ll manage to leave exactly on time. As we head north to Falmouth, my excitement grows. I’ve been to plenty of EMS staff training events before, but never one that required me to paddle to an island. No where near the size of other training events, this voluntary event is hosted each year on Washburn Island, a smallish spit of land just off the coast of Falmouth, MA.

Joe Sherlock from the Eastern Mountain Sports Kayak School talks about proper balance.

Joe Sherlock from the Eastern Mountain Sports Kayak School talks about proper balance.

We get there and before we even get the chance to set up camp, we’re divided into paddle board and kayak groups. Balance exercises came first followed by drills on turning, agility, and efficient paddle strokes. I didn’t realize there was that much finesse required to sea kayak proficiently! The small group size allowed us to really absorb a great deal of information. Teaching in his usual laid back manner, Eastern Mountain Sports Schools Instructor Joe Sherlock went through the basics of sea kayak technique. No Eskimo rolls this time, but we did have an opportunity to paddle on the open ocean. Like I mentioned in a previous post, man is it tricky! For those of us like me who are significantly susceptible to sea sickness, the constant jostling around can be physically taxing. Still, it was a memorable experience.  How many other employers out there will give you the option of spending a few days on an island to hone your paddling skills and beef up your knowledge of kayak gear? Plus spending a few days camping with other people who share the MNTN life passion is always a blast! Pretty much anywhere I go, whether it be a training event, demo event, or just traveling in general I can count on feeling right at home at any EMS location.


Kayaks and stand up paddleboards weren’t the only things we learned about on Washburn Island, here our rep from Osprey, Big Agnes and OR gives us some great info on pack fitting techniques and sleep systems.

Other than a fantastic evening in the rain, perhaps the greatest element of this trip worth recapping is the annual cook off. Each year, organizers hold a contest for the best camp food. Sadly, my instant mashed potato/mac n’ cheese combo didn’t make the cut. Among other creative submissions, perhaps the most resourceful was James’s unusual desert creation. Though other entries looked a little more appetizing, the peanut butter, jelly, and birthday cake oreo (flavor is key) sandwich won a prize for creativity. James walked away with a JetBoil Flash camp stove for his efforts. I was quite surprised, but hey, points for resourcefulness. As the night progressed, our JetBoil rep awed us all with his cooking skills. Delicious fried stuffed peppers—All 100% prepared with a few JetBoil stoves. I never knew you could do so much with these handy things

Rising early the next day, I was again baffled by the flurry of gourmet JetBoil cooking. Only this time it was omlettes and grilled bagels. All of which were delicious. Following breakfast, we jumped right into a day of vendor clinics. About halfway through the day, we got a brief break during which James decided to invent a new sport: Paddle Board wakeboarding. The result? A complete success. Turns out the Boardworks’ Joyride is also well suited to wakeboarding. After a few face plants, we decided to call it a day.

James about to get better acquainted with the water.

James about to get better acquainted with the water.

After all that excitement is this awesome experience over? Nope. We ended our excursion to Falmouth with calzones and lobster flavored ice cream.

Lobster flavored ice cream - for real!

Lobster flavored ice cream – for real!

No, that isn’t a mistake. After trying grilled octopus in Leonia, there isn’t much that strikes me as odd cuisine at this point. The ice cream itself was so-so, until I started chewing the lobster meat. Then things just got weird! These calzones were HUGE, but also amazingly delicious. Finishing the entire thing in one sitting was not one of my best ideas.

That’s it from Washburn Island. This week on the Demo Tour,  it’s off to Massachusetts and then on to the great Granite State! Cheers!



Ben Cargill

An employee of our North Conway, NH store since 2009, Ben is excited to be hitting the road as one of our 2013 Outdoor Demo Tour drivers. Ben was born and raised in the White Mountains where he started skiing and biking at a young age. He spends his free time hiking the High Peaks of New Hampshire, shredding the backcountry and skiing or running with his dog. He recently finished hiking all 48 4,000 footers in New Hampshire and hopes to take on the Appalachian Trail some day.