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The Unconscious Competence Series

There will be an UnCon I program inthe summer of 2024. Venues will include Kent Island, Rocky Point Park, the Potomac River and Rocky Gorge Reservoir in Maryland + the Susquehanna Rver in PA + Metompkin Inlet and Cape Charles on the VA Eastern Shore. There will be five weekend sessions (10 classes) + three mid-week evening practice sessions. See below for the schedule.

This is the course (“UnCon”) that won a national award from the American Canoe Association (ACA) for innovative programming. Over the past five years, each group of participants has seen their skill set skyrocket, has gained enormous confidence, and has had big fun doing it!


The themes underlying this course are long-term paddler development and unconscious competence. The first refers to an intensive, summer-long series of skill development sessions. "Unconscious competence" means that the paddler has learned something so well that they can do it without thinking much about it i.e., it's virtually automatic.


Goals. For this skills series, the focus is on developing unconscious competence with respect to BCU 3* and ACA Level 3 skills.

The 3*/L3 skill set marks the very solid intermediate paddler and is the gold standard for coastal kayaking.  We want to help you get to the 3* level through a series of planned and progressive coaching sessions that will take place on both flat water and rougher water. 

StrategyThe basic strategy of the course is to gradually increase the range of skills taught and mastered, and then start to apply those skills in more challenging environments.

Sessions will focus on refining and nailing down the various strokes, maneuvers, rescues and other skills required at the 3*/L3 level. This will be done initially on flat water to develop confidence, but the key will then be to transfer those skills to bigger conditions. "Bigger conditions" means:  11-16 knot winds (Force 4), 2-3 ft. seas, 2-3 ft. surf and 2 knots of current.

Specific skills include:  1) Strokes (forward, stopping, reverse, multiple draw strokes, bow rudder, stern rudder) and maneuvers (low brace turn, figure 8’s, etc.); 2) Edging, sculling and bracing; 3) Rescues (t-rescue, paddle float, cowboy, eskimo, scoop, Hand of God); 4) Launching, landing and paddling in the surf zone, open ocean, and in current; 5) Towing; 6) Incident management; 7) Navigation and route planning; 8) Risk assessment, judgement and leadership; and 9) Group awareness and communication.

Schedule. Training typically involves six, two-day weekend sessions spread over three months, with evening practice sessions taking place between the weekend trainings. The number of skills on which we focus during each session are limited to avoid overload. There is a lot of instruction, drills and games. But we also review the skills we learned during previous sessions to provide constant reinforcement. There will be the expectation that you would practice the skills during the ten-day period between each session. This is critical.

Coaches. The training is conducted by a team of top-level instructors and coaches including Paula Hubbard, Laurie Collins, Rick Wiebush, with guest appearances by Mike Hamilton, Denise Parisi, and Ashley Brown.

The Expected Impact.  Based on the outcomes of the previous UnCon participants, you can expect to come away with:

  • A dramatically-improved skill set

  • Greater confidence and comfort in rougher water

  • A desire to learn even more and constantly improve

  • An incredible sense of community and camaraderie with the other members of the group (the people who previously took UnCon continue to routinely paddle together)

  • A wonderful sense of accomplishment!


May 18 - 19 (Sat - Sun) - at Rocky Gorge  (Paula Hubbard, Laurie Collins)

May 29 (Weds eve.) at Rocky Gorge - practice (laurie, Rick)

June 12 (Weds eve.) at Rocky Gorge - practice (Laurie, Rick)

June 15 - 16 (Sat - Sun) - at Rocky Pt  (Paula, Laurie)

July 6 - 7 (Sat - Sun) at Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers (Paula, Laurie)

July 10 (Weds eve) - at Rocky Gorge - practice  (Laurie, Rick)

July 20 - 21 (Sat. - Sun) - at Metompkin Inlet, Onancock, VA (Paula, Laurie, Rick)

Aug 3 - 4 (Sat - Sun) - at Cape Charles  (Laurie, Paula)

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