This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
“You would never have been able to run this

event five years ago,” he says, citing the recent availability of good, affordable dry suits; recog- nition of sea kayaks as true rough water vessels by the press and public; and skyrocketing in- terest in rolling brought about by the popular Greenland-style paddling trend. Like any new event, Storm Gathering has

had its share of growing pains. Both the in- augural year and the 2009 gathering suffered from uncooperative weather: Flat calm and bluebird skies for three whole, stinkin’ days. “I told Tim [Dyer] that if it is calm this

year, we are done,” Johnston tells me Thursday evening. He’s smiling; the historical weather data he studied to find the dates with the best chance of strong winds on Georgian Bay is fi- nally paying off. This year’s weekend forecast is much more promising: 20- to 25-knot winds and waves to three feet.

Friday October 15: Strong wind warning in effect, wind north 15 knots, increasing to 20 near noon. “Most of you tell yourself, ‘Some day I want

to try this.’ This is that day—we’ll try anything,” Johnston addresses the circle of still-groggy faces gathered post-breakfast in Snug Haven Resort’s spacious log lounge. He’s introducing the weekend program: four loosely structured on-water workshops, padded with dry land discussions, presentations and generous allow- ances for goofing around in boats, soaking in the resort hot tub and sharing stories. One of this morning’s sessions is called Attack of the Savage Rocks. Two hours later, I’m watching a delicate-

looking woman getting hammered against the rocks. Together, her matching dry suit, PFD, helmet and shiny new kayak comprise an in- vestment of at least $4,000. The sound of fi- berglass on granite grates my ears as kayak and occupant are dashed between polished stone and curling wave. She keeps her wits, pushes off and escapes. She doesn’t cry. Betty Wang, like the other



With ideal conditions and a great turn-out in 2010, organizer David Johnston says plans are already in the works for Storm Gathering 2011.

WHEN: October 13–16, 2011


Snug Haven Resort, Nobel, Ontario

participants I’ve met here, is grateful for any learning experience, even an expensive and po- tentially painful one. She read the registration disclaimer: Please note that due to hard rocks and big waves, there is a good chance that boats, paddles and gear will get damaged, broken or lost. At day’s end, only a few paddlers are too

tired to race to the adjacent harbor for John- ston’s dock launch competition. When the line-up for falling off in boats starts to resem- ble the nearby Hwy 400 artery on a summer long weekend, people who celebrated mid-life nearly a decade ago leap like lemmings into the harbor. Johnston and Dyer—radish and mango dry suits clashing like cymbals—run hand-in-hand off the end of the pier, literally into the sunset.

Saturday October 16: Strong wind warning in effect, wind north 10 knots, back- ing to southwest 15 late afternoon, then increasing to 25 late evening. “Just give it everything you’ve got and get

them the hell outta there.” Tim Dyer is debrief- ing a rough water extraction scenario in his in- imitable soft-spoken yet hard-hitting way. The surprise scenario is a Dyer classic that


sets the eight participants in his workshop scrambling to retrieve his “unconscious” body from the over-turned kayak, and then holds

them in rapt attention as the challenges of the mock rescue are addressed. In the millpond calm of the morning, the

conditions might be contrived, but the learning is not. Reality is dirty, demanding and unpre- dictable—just like Dyer’s workshop. The second day wraps with a fresh fish feast

and uproarious gear auction at Gilly’s Restau- rant in Snug Harbour. Afterwards, partici- pants stagger back in the blue light of a neatly bisected half moon to Snug Haven’s cloister of cozy cottages. The cottages each house four to five participants, making them a social affair— building community—as well as a practical answer to the sub-zero evenings. This year, dubious bunk assignments have

seven instructors—business adversaries outside this gathering—sequestered in a single cabin, sharing dish duty while guarding trade secrets.

Sunday October 17: Strong wind warning in effect, wind southwest 20 knots, backing to northwest 20 early morning, risk of waterspouts. White horses gallop through the four-kilo-

meter-wide passage. Kayaks alternately disap- pear amid, and emerge from, the rolling sea. A snorting giant, foaming at the mouth, consumes Snug Harbour light. Moments later, the cheer- ful red and white dollhouse reappears on the horizon and I adjust my wind-blown course for it, continuing methodically toward the goal. A flash of blue at the edge of my vision

catches my attention. I turn my head to see Stewart Todd, a tirelessly enthusiastic new kayaker, ripping across the face of another long roller. Todd’s return journey from the Snake Islands is 30 percent longer than the rest of ours as he zigzags across the channel, pursuing waves like a hound on a scent. The storm has finally arrived at Storm

Gathering. Cumulous clouds are piling up in the western sky and the forecast is calling for a risk of waterspouts and exponentially increas- ing winds for the rest of the week. Too bad to- morrow is Monday. Back in the harbor, we’ll huddle in circles

and swap tall tales involving harrowing rescues, near misses and half-mile surfs before packing vehicles for the long drives home. So, I ask Johnston, are you still thinking about calling it quits next year? “No way,” he grins, “We’ll be back.”

VIRGINIA MARSHALL is the senior editor of Adven- ture Kayak magazine. 47

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56