I’ve been paddling for while now, close to 4 or 5 years, but I didn’t really start skilling up relatively recently. I was already a very competent paddler at that time, but had become comfortable in my local river runs and didn’t push myself too much past that.
During my progression from casual to addicted kayaker, I made it to the pool every week during the winter learning/practicing my roll, was fortunate enough to meet a highly skilled ocean paddler who dedicated a lot of his time to helping me learn how to approach the ocean(and paddling in general) safely, stepped up my boat game, and started to do some skill based classes, including a really fun swift water rescue class, whitewater skills class, and a level three ACA sea kayaking assessment. I was also introduced to kayak surfing, which is quite fun.
I have been wanting a new surf boat for some time now and after attending a symposium last summer, have been focused on an NDK Pilgrim. I’ve surfed a great deal in a Romany and it is a fun boat, but wanted the Pilgrim because it is a bit smaller. The knee bumps it has were also a big driving factor as in addition to just feeling really comfortable, it helps me stay in a low volume boat more comfortably, whereas the low volume Romany I tried was not a good fit height wise.
Finding the Boat
I spent a bit of time calling around to some of the NDK dealers and kayak outfitters on the East Coast, but was unable to find any used Pilgrims…only several Pilgrim Expeditions(the longer version.) I did find one on Paddling.com that looked perfect, but it was unfortunately in Ohio and and about an eight hour drive from me. I talked with the owners back and forth for a few weeks and was hopeful that we would be able to get the boat to the East Coast for an upcoming Charleston SC symposium, but we were not able to find someone to transport the boat.
During one of our talks, I had mentioned that anything South of Washington DC would be an acceptable meeting place for me, because I could do it as a day trip, whereas driving to Ohio was going to be at least an overnighter. The owners, who turned out to be very cool folks, suggested a meeting place of Summersville Lake, which is in West Virginia and feeds the Gualey river(in addition to being close to the New River and a bunch of awesome looking water/country.)
So, with the place set, we picked a date that worked for both of us to meet at the lake.
I, along with I think the owners, couldn’t justify driving five hours and not paddling, so we met at Summersville Lake and spent several hours rolling and paddling around. They were big into Greenland paddles, where most of my experience is with a Euro blade, and so after we got back, they spent a bit of time working with me on some Greenland paddling techniques.
Ultimately, I spent 2 more hours on the water than I should have and coupled with pretty heavy rain, didn’t get home that night until almost 10PM. But, it was totally worth it! I met some really cool people, who I hope to get to paddle with again, and picked up an awesome new boat!
One of my First Rolls in the Boat
Some Pictures of the Lake