Meet Don Beale and Joanne Barta, CRK Greenland Paddle Carving Workshop Instructors.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Don Beale and Joanne Barta, who have lead Greenland Paddle Carving classes for CRK over the past decade. We met at Skamokawa Resort, future CRK headquarters, to show them around. They graciously accepted my offer of being interviewed for our monthly newsletter.  I am so glad they agreed because it really allowed Lance and me to get to know them better. 

How did you get into kayaking?

For Joanne it started when she was on a vacation with her daughters in Alaska. Her girls wanted to try kayaking. Once they got out on the water she enjoyed seeing the crabs and all the other little critters under the water, and it all started from there.

Don is a sailer who likes to build things. He built a rowboat but thought it was too heavy. So after going to a wooden boat show he built a kayak before he even really knew much about kayaking. 

Why do you recommend a Greenland paddle?

I really enjoyed getting to hear about the benefits of a Greenland paddle from them. Joanne told me learning about the Greenland paddle was “life changing” for her. She was on a paddle out of Scappoose Bay and was struggling. She noticed a petite woman in front of her who seemed to be cruising along at ease, and she wondered how this woman was able to paddle so well. After talking with the other woman she shared her knowledge about the Greenland paddle. Its “easier on the shoulders and not heavy”, said Joanne. “You can make one that fits you personally and everyone is a different.” Joanne loves that she has made her own. She also shared with me that it’s easier on the wrist for someone that may have carpal tunnel. 

Don enjoys that the paddles are “ergonomically correct and easier on the shoulders.” He enjoys making them as well as the feel of the wood. He’s made over 800 paddles so far!

How did you get into offering Greenland paddle carving classes?

When Don first started kayaking and didn’t want to spend money on paddles, he wanted to make one that was better than he could buy. SSTIKS (South Sound Traditional Inuit Kayaking Symposium) was forming and he meet some people at the Greenland event. “It was a natural fit”, said Don. Then he went to other clubs like OOPS (Oregon Oceanic Paddling Society), where he meet Joanne, and broke into offering classes. The two of them sound like a great team for their classes. Joanne’s background in teaching allowed her to make the visuals for their carving classes and she is a natural instructor. Don assists students with the tools and making sure everyone is comfortable with carving. Don mentioned that he always invests a portion of the profits from his classes back into his tools in order to make sure he’s offering high quality carving tools for his students. 

Can someone who isn’t too handy still enjoy a paddle carving class?

YES! Hearing both of them answer this question certainly put my mind at ease knowing that anyone can attend their class and walk away with an amazing custom Greenland paddle. Joanne and Don said their classes are intended for all levels. They get a full range of people who sign up for them. Last weekend they had a construction worker and someone who had never held a tool before, and they both walked away with great paddles. Because Joanne and Don excel in being organized they can offer classes for up to 12 people. Classes are typically eight hours.

I read that Joanne teaches rolling classes in a pool and I asked her to share with me the benefits of practicing in a pool. Joanne said “to be a good instructor, you minimize distraction, so not having cold water or waves can make you feel safer.” I am looking into this option for CRK at our local pool, while it is open in the summer (more to come later on), to add to our rolling class options. 

Do you have a favorite kayaking moment? What’s something special you experienced while on the water?

For Joanne it was a time that she was kayaking with her college students during one of their Puget Sound trips. The class was on the north end and had just enjoyed a stop for ice cream to stretch their legs. When they returned to the water they saw five orca whales and were able to kayak near them while still being a safe distance away.

Don shared with me a time when he was paddling the Salman River. “When you’re in the ocean, you normally can see down about 4-5’. But at this particular spot, you could see down about 25’. Looking down at the rocks, I saw lots of critters, and there was a group of sea lions and seals next to them.” Another time he was kayaking for a week and went through some kelp beds, and a sea lion popped up next to him. This made Joanne a bit nervous, but she mentioned sea lions are generally not a threat to kayakers, though this particular one was larger than her kayak.

If you’re interested in carving your own Greenland paddle, we will be holding a class on August 17th. See more information here.