As a journalist, I'm trained not to write with adjectives: Just present the facts and let the reader be the judge. But it's hard for me to avoid superlatives when writing about the river training offered by Ken Heaphy and his assistants.
Ken starts the class with the basics, including how to properly tie down a boat to a car and proceeds to paddling skills and safety lessons. It's obvious that this veteran instructor has honed his teaching skills to the point where he knows how to optimize the learning experience of each and every class member.
When this yearís class gathered for the first day of instruction at Washington Crossing State Park, it was immediately evident that we varied greatly in experience. We had those who were never in a kayak before -- they rented one for the class, and those who were experienced paddlers. All came for the same reason: Because they know they can learn a lot from Ken Heaphy and his assistants.
And learn they did! Regardless of how much or how little one knew coming into class, we all agreed we left with much more paddling skill and confidence. I, for one, progressed from saying, "I'm never going to do that," to "That was fun. I want to do it again."
What I liked about Ken Heaphy's teaching style was that he first had us practice each skill on dry land, then in the water.
For a while, I didn't know which would come first for me -- social security, retirement or learning a duffek. So far, social security might be winning.
But Ken has three teaching methods that work: Repetition, repetition, repetition! Class members appreciated the fact that when he told us something for the 32nd time, it was with the same patience as when he told us the first time.
Another thing we appreciated about the course was the number of assistant instructors to help us. That gave us much one-on-one instruction, especially paddling the S. Branch Raritan and Delaware Rivers.
Other things we liked about the class: Those using Canoes and Kayaks were separated -- each with top-rate instructors. Ken Heaphy's insistence that we try each other's boats was also worthwhile.
Adding to my enjoyment was the help and encouragement from other class members, especially Mary Fillius who even shared her new paddle with me. Both she and Lennie Fillius, an instructor, helped to nudge my learning experience up a notch.
The class was downright fun! Every minute of it. But the mark of a good teacher is how long his lessons "stick." I can personally attest to the fact that Kenís and Lennieís lessons linger long after the class ends.
The week after class was over, I joined in the Lehigh River Sojourn. Ken was nowhere around, but I heard his voice clearly in my head, saying: Lean into the rock. And I heard Lennie's voice saying: "Put more torso into your stroke."
The price for Ken Heaphy's four-day class was $60 but I don't think that reflects its worth. It's true worth? Priceless! I've learned why people say, if you take the class, you'll learn so much that you'll want to do it again. I only regret that it's such a long wait for the next class.
Thanks, Ken Heaphy, Lennie Fillius and assistants for offering the best value around -- second only to the value of club membership itself. And thanks to Mitzi and Leona for telling me about the training class.
Do a similar favor for others and help spread the word. Tell them about Ken Heaphy's river training class. They'll thank you for it.