My name is Abbey, and I am a student at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. My school has one of the best outdoor programs in the nation, as we value outdoor leadership and education! I am currently part of a sea kayak guide leadership class; SKGL, as we call it. It is a hands-on, excursion based class that follows NOLS curriculum. We learn how to teach paddling, as well as how to lead trips for fellow students. We learn seamanship skills such as how to read charts and tides, and how to judge sea-states, weather, and terrain to make responsible decisions on the water. We learn a variety of rescue techniques, which requires a fair amount of immersion time!
A large part of the multi-day trips is also the camp time, so we learn how to safely create a backcountry kitchen and properly set up tents.
While this course has helped me to develop many technical skills for outdoor adventuring, I have also had the opportunity to learn about myself as a leader.
As an ocean enthusiast, sea kayaking is much more than just a sport to me; it is a way that I can connect with the ocean and share my passion with others. The ocean has always been a very important part of my life, as I am both a kayaker and scuba diver (working on getting my divemaster certification!). I love the ocean because it fills me with energy and inspiration. The ocean is what makes our earth unique, and it provides us with everything from oxygen to a beautiful place to live. The best thing about sea kayaking is how close it brings you to the ocean- you physically cannot be any closer without actually being in the water!
When I am out on the water, I feel at home. Many people are afraid of the ocean, and they are afraid of the unknown. I, however, am much more afraid of ourselves as humans. I am afraid of all of the damage we have done to this earth and I am afraid for the future if we don’t change our ways. I am not afraid of the ocean, but I am afraid for it.
I decided to become a kayak guide because I want to give people the opportunity to experience the ocean. I have come to realize that it is awfully difficult to convince someone to make changes about something they do not know much about. I believe that the first step to creating a positive change in the environment is getting people to care about it. I want to teach people about the ocean so that they want to make a change.
As a leader, I have the ability to influence the way our world sees the ocean. By teaching people to respect the ocean and nature, I can teach the world to make more eco-friendly decisions. I can teach the world how to be conscious consumers and how to limit footprints. I can begin to teach the world to love this beautiful place we call home. I might not be the next president of the United States, but maybe I can light a spark in those who might become our future politicians.
When I lead trips, I make sure my paddlers know that they must respect the ocean and all of her creatures. Whether that means keeping a proper distance from seals, admiring the gulls that fly above us, appreciating the kelp crabs that live in the bull kelp, or tossing washed up jellies back into the water, we respect all life. I always carry a trash bag with me in my boat so that I can remove any waste out of the water or off the beaches. I encourage my paddlers to do the same; and nothing makes me happier than to see them initiate their own clean ups. Small steps like these are just the beginning of a path to repair our planet.
We need to make a change in the way we treat our environment, and it must happen fast. It can be overwhelming to think about all of the problems that contribute to environmental distress, but all it takes is one spark to initiate the change. I want to be that spark, and I want to inspire others. I am the voice of the ocean.