St. Mike's Team Paddles Rough Waters off the Isle of Skye


Leadership Training with British Canoe Union

"The massive weather conditions were rough enough that all our competencies were tested," said Todd Wright, Saint Michael's College Wilderness Program Director. Wright and four students traveled to the Isle of Skye, off the British Isles, for British Canoe Union 4 Star Sea Leader Training, January 7-14, 2012. The program was run by Gordon Brown and Wright, both British Canoe Union Coaches.

"We could have done it on the coast of Maine," Wright said, "but we wanted to work with Gordon Brown at his headquarters on the Isle of Skye, which is beautiful and wild and offered the challenges, and then some, we needed for the training."

Wright is being mentored by Brown as a British Canoe Union Level 5 Sea Coach, which he plans to assess for in November 2013. Wright already holds an American Canoe Association Level 5 Coastal Instructor Trainer Award as well as coaching and leadership awards in other paddle sport disciplines, but the BCU Coach Level 5 is considered by many to be the international standard.

Participating Saint Michael's students were Kyle deBouver, a sophomore biology major from Norwalk, Conn.; James Coolidge a junior engineering major from Poland, Maine; Anna DiSanto, a senior biology major from Dover, Mass., and Brendan "Tully" LaBelle-Hamer, a 2011 SMC graduate.

Students trained to lead groups kayaking on open water, and rough seas

Successful completion of the 4-Star Training Course makes them eligible to assess for the 4-Star Leader Award. The trip exposed students to exceptional challenges readying them to lead groups of other students on open water kayak outings.

"The training was outstanding for the students," Wright said. "Every day for six days, we encountered big wind, gales in fact, and big seas." The group therefore learned and practiced skills out of necessity. The rough waters required the application of serious skills "on the outer edges of their comfort zone," Wright said. "But the environments we were training in were very manageable for myself and Gordon," he said.

"We had to do very little" Wright said, "because the environment presented the salient curriculum points."

James Coolidge and Anna Di Santo are paddle instructors for the Saint Michael's College Wilderness Program already. DiSanto is an American Canoe Association level 3, and James Coolidge is a level 3 and 4 instructor. Kyle deBouver is new to the training, and moving up fast.

Saint Michael's College Wilderness Program sea kayak student and staff instructors are all trained to high standards. They are SOLO Wilderness First Responders or Wilderness EMT's, have completed a rigorous sea kayak guide training program and have logged many hours in a variety of sea states. Many instructors and all ocean guides have received training and assessment through the British Canoe Union and/or American Canoe Association.

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