Kayaks were invented by the host cultures of the Kenai Peninsula millenniums ago and were a fundamental means for hunting and fishing that allowed the cultures to survive for thousands of years. Today on the Kenai Peninsula, kayaking is among the fastest growing recreational sports that provide visitors, as well as residents, with a wilderness experience like no other. An awe inspiring experience of nature’s wonders that can very quickly go bad due to conditions and inexperience. To meet the need for sea kayak training, a local chiropractor and Dr. Matthew Pyhala has completed his training certification and recently launched Immersion Paddling Academy (IPA) an instructional sea kayaking school based in the Central Kenai Peninsula, utilizing the pool at Skyview middle school with plans to offer monthly courses for all paddling levels according to Pyhala. “After graduating from Homer High I started kayaking while going to chiropractor school in Portland, Oregon, where I was exposed to rivers but mostly flat water kayaking. Then when I came home and started my practice and family, there wasn’t much time for the boat until about seven years ago I started taking classes at the Alaska Kayak School in Homer. Tom has now moved to Kodiak, which left a void for kayak instruction on the Peninsula,” said Pyhala.
Pyhala decided to step into that void because of his love for teaching and the need, “Kayaking is something that takes a lot of specialty skills to enjoy it safely, its popularity here on the Peninsula, without the training has created an increased risk for inexperienced kayakers, so seeing the need I went forth to get my certifications so I could step into the void with adequate skills to teach others,” he said. The availability, reasonable cost and variety of kayaks on the market today has simply added to the problem according to Pyhala, “Many times someone will get inspired and buy a boat before ever having paddled it or taken a class and there is such a variety of kayaks that are each designed for a different styles of kayaking, such as white water or sea kayaking, but within those disciplines there is a huge variety of designs and purpose for those designs that the novice can’t relate to, but within the designs there are skills that cross over very well in the basic strokes, maneuvers and safety equipment that in my opinion, someone wanting to pursue the sport should learn and explore before buying a boat on sale or from a friend at a garage sale. Once you have an idea of how a kayak performs you can better understand the design and purpose and what you will be doing with the kayak. One of the main things we instill in our classes is the connection of the boat, body and the blade. When those things are working in sequence the sport becomes much more enjoyable and safe,” explained Pyhala.
IPA plans on beginning an outdoor club as well this summer for group excursions. No equipment or prior experience other than a bathing suit is required for IPA classes. The next class at the Skyview Pool will be Saturday, December 6th. To learn more about future schedules or to register on line go to Immersionpaddlingacademy.com.