Shawna and Leon have recently returned from a trip to South America, where they taught at the first ever South Pacific Kayak Symposium in Chaihuin, Chile.
The trip south had its fair share of excitement. It started before they even left Orcas Island with a broken ferry, and culminated in an emergency landing in Lima Peru to remove a passenger who had become violent on the flight from Dallas to Santiago. After a long and stressful journey, Shawna and Leon finally made it to Valdivia Chile.
They were met at the airport and taken to the local kayak shop where they met all of the organizers and owners of Pueblito Expediciones - thanks to everyone especially Sergio, Jorge, Roberto, and Eduardo!
Some of the world's top coaches flew in for the event, and Shawna and Leon met up with most of them on their first night in Valdivia at the Aires Buenos Hostel. Valdivia is a modern and lively town situated on the beautiful tree lined river Caille Caille. Valdivia has a great fish market, many shops and restaurants and is home to Pueblito Expediciones who organized the event.
The day after they arrived, the team piled into cars full of gear and boats and people for the drive south to Chaihuin. This area of Chile is very green, with lots of rivers, forests, mountains, and agriculture. Chaihuin sits at the mouth of the Rio Chaihuin, with big sand dunes leading out to a coastline of sandy beaches, rocky headlands, and granite sea stacks. Just across the river is the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, which is home to two of the world's longest living tree species, pumas and many other fascinating South American flora and fauna.
Shawna and Leon made their home for the week in a guest house with the rest of the coaching team. They enjoyed amazing seafood, engaging talks in the evening, and a wonderful view over the river from their temporary home.
This was the first event of its kind in Chile, and the local government took quite an interest in the proceedings. Due to the proximity to the nature reserve, an environmental group came out to show everyone how to clean their kit dealing with invasive species. The coast guard was on hand throughout the event with zodiacs and a helicopter to help keep an eye on safety. Even the mayor of Chaihuin, and the Corral provence tourist development officer took a keen interest in the event, hosting a dinner on the first night, and awarding medals in appreciation of the contribution the event made to the local economy!
Leon had been hired to teach all four days of the event from the get go. They asked Shawna to help Leon during the last three days of the event. Classes included safety and rescue, advanced strokes and maneuvers, and rough water rescues. Conditions varied throughout the week, including sunshine, rain, and strong winds. Two of the days were too rough to get out on the coast, and classes were taught in the river estuary. The first and last days were perfect for surf sessions and the rough water rescue classes on the rocky coastline.
The students at the event were fantastic. Everyone was very open to learning and trying new things. As fast as they were taught they were adapting their kit and practice to incorporate the new lessons. If learning is a change in behavior, these students learned a lot!
Shawna and Leon have been asked to come back next year, and they are very excited about that, but they both need to work on their Spanish before then!
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