Symposium Coaches

Please check back. This page will continue to be updated as coaches are confirmed.



Event Organizer / Coach: Helen Wilson

Helen Wilson is the owner and founder of Greenland or Bust, an instructional kayaking business with a focus on traditional skills. Helen is internationally known for her rolling and traditional skills instruction. She has traveled to Greenland four times to compete in the Greenland National Kayaking Championship and/or to guide expeditions on the east, south and/or west coasts.

Helen has two DVDs, Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson and Yoga for Outdoor People, and has written skills articles for several publications; including Sea Kayaker Magazine, The Masik, Ocean Paddler Magazine and Canoe & Kayak. She is on the Board of Directors for Qajaq USA, the American Chapter of Qaannat Kattuffiat – the Greenland Kayak Association, and is the Editor for Qajaq USA’s publication, The Masik. Helen is an ISKGA Coastal Guide and an ACA Instructor with an ACA Rolling Endorsement. She holds the DGI Certification (Denmark coach certification) and is a registered yoga teacher (RYT). She is also the Curriculum Publications Managing Editor for NOLS.

For more, visit


Event Organizer/Coach: Mark Tozer

Mark Tozer has been messing around in all kinds of boats and in all kinds of waters as an active paddler and coach for the past 25 years, with sea kayaking being his main focus. He feels privileged to have taught across the UK, US and Europe.

Mark has gained several British Canoeing instructional awards over his lifetime, including the coveted Level 5 Coach (Sea). He is also a Star Award examiner and Module Provider.

Having explored Greenland, Mark has come to recognize that modern paddling skills owe much to our Greenlandic cultural heritage of yesterday. Mark enjoys using contemporary coaching processes and exploring leadership philosophy when teaching, while at the same time, putting his students at the center of the learning experience.

Keynote Speaker


Keynote Speaker/ Coach: Maliqiaq Padilla

Maligiaq Padilla originates from Sisimiut, Greenland. His grandfather spent his days hunting seals, whales, birds and other animals from a kayak (qajaq in Greenlandic), and it was from him that Maligiaq was taught the hunting traditions of his ancestors. At the age of 12, Maligiaq built his first kayak and learned to hunt from it using a harpoon and a rifle. He has since built over 300 kayaks. These kayaks have been displayed in the Sisimiut Museum of Greenland, the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver and the Smithsonian Museum.

Maligiaq is world renowned for his strokes, rolling, kayak building and rope gymnastics skills. He has appeared in many films, including Rolling With Maligiaq,  Allunaariaqattaarneq and This is the Sea.

Maligiaq first competed in the annual Greenland National Kayaking Championship when he was 12. He won every event in his age group, and at 16 became the youngest National Championship winner in history. He has now won a total of nine Championships.

Maligiaq will be teaching a qajaq building class through Mind’s Eye Manufactory leading up to Storm Gathering USA 2017. Click HERE for more information. We’d like to thank Mind’s Eye Manufactory for supporting the event by bringing in such a wonderful keynote speaker and mentor.

We’re honored to have both Maligiaq and Mind’s Eye Manufactory as part of the event. Maligiaq will be Storm Gathering USA’s Friday evening keynote speaker, and will teach Greenland Strokes on the Friday and Sunday of the event. The Friday evening presentation is titled, “Indigenous Watercraft of the Arctic, and Modern Qayaq in Greenland.”



Coach: Don Cheyette

Don Cheyette tries to blur the line between work and play, and seems to have ended up with a pretty fun line to walk along in life. Don works for Seattle Adventure Sports, Seattle’s premier adventure company. He is a passionate outdoors man, whether coaching wilderness survival classes, working with kids, expedition canoeing or surfing the sea.

He feels most at home around boats and the water – be it salty or fresh, dynamic or glassy. In 2014, Don completed a 37-day circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. He feels fortunate to have been a coach and guide in Alaska, Patagonia, BC, Maine and all along the West Coast.

Don’s current leadership and coaching qualifications include: BCU 5* Sea and 4* Open Canoe leader awards, Level 2 Coach, and he is a practicing Wilderness EMT. Don has managed to work in and explore some unbelievably beautiful places with some incredible people. He is looking forward to helping you reach your adventure goals.

For more info about Seattle Adventure Sports and Don, check out –


Coach: Bruce Hales

Bruce Hales has been kayaking the Northern California coastline since 1998; fishing, trash collecting, crabbing, timber harvesting and photographing from his boats.

Bruce has also built from kit and scratch three boats and has carved three paddles; two wings and one Greenland stick.


Coach: Cate Hawthorne

Cate Hawthorne is a high energy person who loves sharing her passion for learning and the outdoors with others. Cate has several K-12 teaching credentials and a Master’s degree in Education. After 13 years working in the public schools, Cate moved her teaching talents from the classroom to the water.

She teaches sea, whitewater and surf kayaking, and leads nature history tours on the Mendocino Coast of California. In addition to kayaking, Cate is an avid mountain biker, birder and connoiseur of wild mushrooms.

She shares tales of her adventures on her blog – Woman on Water.

Cate and her partner Jeff Laxier teach a variety of paddlesports on the Mendocino Coast of California, through their business – Liquid Fusion Kayaking.

Kelly Henry Head Shot

Coach: Kelly Henry

Kelly Henry first paddled a sea kayak in her hometown waters of Narragansett Bay and immediately fell in love with the freedom kayaking provides to explore coastal regions seldom traveled by others. After completing a Master’s and Doctorate in oceanography, she realized the best way to share her passion for the water was through paddlesports.

In 2013, Kelly left a promising career in science behind to work full-time in paddlesports. She instructs introductory and intermediate level courses through California Canoe & Kayak and offers advanced-level instruction and long-term paddler development programs through River & Ocean. Kelly is an ACA Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor, Level 3 Surf Kayak Instructor and a Level 2 SUP Instructor. She is also trained in Wilderness First Aid.

Kelly is a dynamic paddler committed to pushing her limits and improving her technique. As a coach, she strives to help paddlers of all abilities find joy on the water. Be sure to look for Kelly as she continues to compete in West Coast surf kayak events in pursuit of a spot on the 2017 U.S. West Surf Kayak Team. Check out her upcoming sea kayak adventure, Fearless Formosa, a six-week sea kayak expedition in Taiwan.


Coach: Paul Kuthe

Paul Kuthe launched his career as a professional ‘action sports’ coach and athlete developing and managing programs for Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe. It was during those adventures that he learned the importance of coaching, commitment and operating in the moment with intense focus and determination, while simultaneously managing fear and self-doubt. The natural world can be one of life’s greatest teachers if you ‘attend class’ on a regular basis.

Paul started paddling some of the most demanding rivers anywhere at a young age. Soon after moving to Oregon he was making appearances in numerous film projects taking him to the very brink of what can be done in a sea kayak for National Geographic. He was asked back time after time as a guest coach at the top international symposiums in the years to follow after starting the now long running and successful Lumpy Waters Symposium. Paul served as a Marine Technical Advisor to Paramount Pictures and made appearances in national television ad campaigns for companies like Keen Footwear and
Tampax. He even worked a day on the set of the popular TV show ‘Portlandia,’ personally coaching actor Fred Armisen and serving as an expert consultant. Despite his long list of accomplishments, Paul’s most proud of his volunteer efforts spent cleaning his local rivers and fighting for access to clean water, and even graced the pages of the NY Times in defense of free flowing rivers.

Paul long considered his greatest achievement to be carving out a successful living that allows him to spread the joys of paddling to people from all walks of life, while creating positive change for both the individuals participating in the sport, and the waterways we all love and depend on. It was coaching paddlesports that brought Rob Yates and Paul together in 2012 at a skills symposium in the United States. The personal mentoring Rob provided in the weeks to follow helped Paul to achieve more than he ever thought possible. His career flourished while he became a father, homeowner and creek-racing champion.

With Rob’s help, Paul launched Tributary Coaching LLC to bring his knowledge and coaching skills to the corporate world, creating positive change in the lives of business professionals striving for the same sort of success and happiness. He and everyone at Tributary Coaching LLC are driven to help people thrive while finding happiness and renewed purpose in their lives.

Paul is a TetraKey qualified Lead Trainer and Performance Coach with over two decades of coaching and training experience.

For more information, e-mail


Coach: Ben Lawry

Ben Lawry has been paddling for over 40 years, and teaching/guiding for over 30. He has taught paddling on five continents and competed on three. Presently he is head instructor/owner of Kayak Camp with his wife, Elizabeth. Ben presented at the National ACA Conference in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 at the National WW Symposium in 2010. Ben presented at the ACA Europe Conference in 2013 and 2014.

He has led trips and traveled extensively in South America, South Africa, Europe and North America. Ben splits his time teaching paddling and working with stores. His work takes him to symposiums, shows and paddling rendezvous all over the United States, Europe and South America. As a Technical Instructor, he is involved with kayak design in sea, touring and white water kayaks, as well as helping in designing paddles, accessories and clothing for all disciplines. His rich experience has led to an in-depth knowledge of instruction/guiding practices and procedures, a strong commitment to quality service, as well as excellent organizational and problem solving skills. He has competed in sprint, sea kayak, slalom, rodeo, marathon canoe and kayak, outrigger, surf ski and wildwater events. He presently rides a bike, runs and does the odd multi-sport events.

Jeff profile

Coach : Jeff Laxier

Jeff Laxier is a patient instructor, guide and mentor. Jeff has fallen into a passion for teaching and guiding many kayak disciplines, since his start in the winter of 1996.  When not teaching, one is likely to find him messing about in kayaks on the sea, running down rivers and carving in the surf.

Coach: Sean Morley

Coach: Sean Morley

Sean Morley originates from the UK and is now a resident of Marin County, California. He began kayaking at the age of ten, and even as a youngster often paddled alone, exploring the relatively sheltered waters of the south coast of Cornwall. He was always curious to see what he would find beyond the horizon, and dreamed of a continuous journey around every headland and across every bay until eventually he had paddled all the way around Great Britain. In 2004 he achieved his childhood dream by completing the first solo circumnavigation of the UK and Ireland by sea kayak; the first ever to include all of the inhabited islands. The 4,500 mile expedition took 183 days and is the longest kayak journey ever undertaken in British waters.

In 2006 Sean competed at the Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival as a way as a way to promote a new surf kayak he helped design. There he met Gina, who became his wife and the mother of their two fantastic kids. In 2008 Sean attempted to break the record for the fastest circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. He completed the 700 mile circumnavigation taking over six days off the previous record. Sean teaches sea kayaking, surf kayaking and SUP in the Bay Area and is an Ambassador for Kokatat Watersports Wear and a Team paddler for Werner Paddles.

Coach: Roger Schumann

Coach: Roger Schumann

Roger Schumann Roger is the owner and lead instructor of Eskape Sea Kayaking in Santa Cruz, California. With over 20 years of teaching experience, he’s a regular coach at kayak symposiums on the West Coast from California and Oregon to Baja and Chile, as well as the East Coast and Scotland.

His certifications include ACA Level 5 Instructor-Trainer Educator of Advanced Open-Water Kayaking, Instructor Trainer of Surf Kayaking and SUP and Whitewater Kayak Instructor.

Roger is the award-winning co-author of the guidebook “Sea Kayaking Central and Northern California” and “Sea Kayak Rescue.” His latest book, “Falcon Guide’s Basic Illustrated Sea Kayaking” was released this spring.


Coach: Bill Vonnegut

If you find yourself paddling on the open coast in the San Francisco Bay Area, you will likely run into Bill Vonnegut. A San Francisco Bay Area native, he has a passion for paddling and an extensive knowledge of the coast.

An ACA Level 5 Sea Kayak and L3 Surf Kayak instructor, Bill teaches from experiences gained (good and bad!) while paddling his favorite coastal waters from Mendocino to Monterey. Bill especially loves sharing his enthusiasm with new paddlers and enjoys the excitement that is generated in them toward learning new skills and techniques.

Bill approaches coaching by giving students information relevant to the course at hand and by sharing his own personal paddling experience. He teaches independently as well as for Rivers & Ocean Coaching Collective and California Canoe & Kayak. You can find his postings on kayak related topics on several websites including Canoe & Kayak Magazine, The Paddler Magazine & Neptune’s Rangers, of which he is a principal founding member. Links to these can be found at


Coach/Volunteer Coordinator: Georgianna Wood

Georgianna Wood has been paddling the waters off of Trinidad, California for the past 15 years. She is incredibly familiar with the local area, and is a Humboldt local hunter, gatherer and paddler. She has been reaping the bounty of the local ocean for decades – sea veggies, fish, crabs and shellfish.

Over the years she has volunteered her time with the local kayaking club, hosting paddles and running Wild Harvesting clinics. These clinics are always popular and well attended, and we’re thrilled that Georgianna is bringing them to Storm Gathering USA. Georgianna is also the Performance Improvement Manager for the local Public Health Department.



Safety Coordinator: Michael H. Morris

In 1965 at the presumed age of six, Michael H. Morris was found in the high Arctic in the company of an enormous polar bear sow and her two cubs. It is assumed this foundling had been raised since birth by the surrogate ursine mother.  The explorers who “rescued” him turned him over to a family in Southern California where he was raised a Catholic and thrived under the firm but kind tutelage of the Sisters of St. Mary and the Jesuit Brotherhood.

 In 1977 he moved to Arcata to pursue a degree in Environmental Resources Engineering from Humboldt State University. With degree in hand Michael embarked on a career in the local food service industry at such legendary and defunct establishments as Paradise Ridge Café and Tomaso’s Italian Restaurant. His degree in higher education has served him well as Michael is now a Master Baker (careful with the pronunciation, please) at the North Coast Bakery, a division of Northcoast Coop Inc., located in the Arcata Coop.

His first forays into kayaking were goal oriented, namely fishing, and the kayak proved a versatile vessel in the pursuit of rock fish, ling cod, salmon, halibut and so forth.

After several years of using a Euro paddle he decided to try something different and carved a Greenland paddle using a $7 redwood 2×4 and plans from an old magazine article.  The result changed his paddling for good. The Greenland blade immediately felt right, and he began to study and learn traditional kayaking technique.  This led to his building a couple of traditional skin-on-frame boats and carving many more paddles, as well as attending seminars featuring some of the leading North American proponents and practitioners of native kayaking skills. While not an “expert” with a Greenland blade, Michael has been learning and refining his technique for some years now and is happy to pass on what knowledge he has gathered and set others on this path. Greenland technique is a fluid skill; there is little dogma even amongst Greenlanders and no “right” way beyond a few fundamentals.  One’s competence is always evolving.

Michael holds no accreditations, awards, certifications or merit badges of any kind proving his skill, abilities or sea sense. He observes, listens, studies, experiences and absorbs lessons from those of superior and inferior skills. He has been paddling the open coast of Northern California for over twenty years in all conditions. Shoulder injuries have curtailed some of his paddling daring but also refined his judgment of acceptable risk. He has some interesting tales to tell.

Safety: Larry Buwalda

Safety: Larry Buwalda

Larry Buwalda has actively paddled kayak and canoe for over 30 years. His product knowledge comes in part as a paddlesport retailer at Adventure’s Edge in Arcata, California. Prior to retiring, Larry received an American Canoe Association certification as a open water coastal instructor. In addition to paddling, Larry actively participates in cross-country skiing and mountain biking.

Larry enjoys being involved in organizing events. He is on the committee for Humboldt Bay Paddlefest, Six Rivers Paddling Club, Banff Mt. Film Festival and hosts ocean and river events for Explore North Coast paddling club.

When asked of his most memorable boating experience, he says it was his 17-day tandem canoe trip down the Grand Canyon.

Mike D

Safety: Mike Dedman

Mike Dedman has spent seven years paddling the Trinidad area, as well as up and down the coast. He loves rock gardening, surfing both long and short boats and paddling big water. He now lives in Reno, and is therefore becoming more acquainted with river paddling.

Mike believes that it doesn’t get much better then the Trinidad area for this level of a symposium. He was part of the 2015 symposium, and as a safety boater, he was able to witness the skills and techniques the world-class coaches passed along to willing students. He was thrilled to see so many happy faces, and said, “2017 is only going to be better. Bring it people!”

Tom H

Safety: Tom Humphries

Tom Humphries did not start paddling kayaks until the start of 2010. A diverse background in martial arts, technical rock climbing, racing MTB and cyclocross, skiing and alpinism and a lifelong love of being immersed in nature eventually lead him to a fifteen-year stint serving with Search and Rescue. Primarily a search dog handler, he also served as a trainer/tester for other dog teams, land navigation and other disciplines for multiple agencies and teams. Utilizing the same passion, motivation, study and practice habits with kayaking brought about a skill set that was quickly noted by more advanced paddlers. They offered tips and help. Many of those that helped him were members of the Neptune’s Rangers, and he began to regularly paddle with them. In a show of questionable judgement, they invited him to join their ranks. A habitual study and mentor, he started, and continues, the Lodi Paddle Club’s “Second Saturday Skills Clinic.”

Over the last couple of years Tom has enjoyed opportunities of assisting, teaching or safety boating at clinics, classes and symposiums. He also enjoys teaching rolling for CCK at the Rancho Cordova facility. Rolling, practicing skills and drills on flatwater, storm paddles, distance paddling, rock gardening and sea kayak surfing are all on the menu. Of all these, there is little more inviting than spending time on the water with his fellow Neptune’s Rangers rock gardening; unless it’s surfing sea kayaks in challenging conditions. Tom’s motto, “Go Big, but then go home,” reflects his attitude in all endeavors. He enjoys the support of his wonderful wife in all his lunacy.


Safety: Lily Kelsey

Lily Kelsey’s interest in paddling started on the Minnesota lakes and rivers where she used to canoe, boat and fish.

In 2009, an opportunity to work for the National Parks Service brought her to the San Francisco Bay Area and the Pacific Ocean. Six years later, she’s still in California and has fallen in love with paddling the open coast and teaching.

Lily is an ACA Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor and member of Neptune’s Rangers. Lily loves rock gardening, surfing and taking her little dachshund named Weenie out paddling.


Safety: Damon Maguire

Damon Maguire feels fortunate to call Humboldt County, California and its stellar coastline his home of more than 35 years. He enjoys the local seas, lagoons and bays, but also feels growing alarm at the threats to oceans worldwide. 

When not paddling Trinidad or southern Oregon with other members of the Explore North Coast kayak club, Damon enjoys the occasional foray to British Columbia for a change of scenery.


Safety: David Santaniello

After relocating to Santa Cruz, David Santaniello was immediately drawn to the sea. He decided kayaking would be the best way to explore the rocky and dynamic California Coast, and it quickly became his passion. When he’s not coaching, you’ll most likely find him paddling amongst the rock gardens around Monterey Bay and Big Sur. He is fortunate to be able to share his passion full time by instructing and guiding with Kayak Connection. From leading tours and running kids kayak camps, to teaching rock garden classes, David loves sharing his enthusiasm for paddling and helping others become more comfortable and confident on the water.

Land Crew

Land Crew: Rocky Whitlow

Chef: Rocky Whitlow

Symposium chef, Rocky Whitlow, comes with 39 years of experience with food. She teaches culinary and currently works as hot lunch lady for NPA High School. A major part of her culinary theory is based on sustainable, sound nutrition and minimal waste. Her dishes are organic, local when available and always delicious.

Storm Gathering USA uses real plates and forks (not paper, or plastic) for meals on site. Please bring coffee cups if you have them available. Thank you!

Storm Gathering USA is currently looking for land-based volunteers. For more information, please contact Georgianna Wood, our Volunteer Coordinator, at .


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