Share | Gary Van Valkenburgh

Share | Gary Van Valkenburgh

I grew up in somewhat rural Michigan, learned to swim and went canoeing a few times, but I always
wanted learn to whitewater kayak. So, one day on the well-meaning advice of other people I went to
Dick’s Sporting Goods and bought myself a “nice kayak”, paddle and pfd. I was ready to take on some
serious water. I went out on the local rivers around me, lakes and even to the UP.

It was April 2012 and the spring weather was pretty nice. A friend and I decided we were going to go
out and paddle a local river. The snow had melted, the water was flowing fast and we were ready for it.
With our pfd’s securely strapped to the back of our boats and cooler in hand we set out. Everything was
great, until it wasn’t. Coming around a blind corner, I got flipped over in a giant oak tree that had fallen
across the river. I hit the water and while trying to breathe in short gasping breaths I immediately tried
standing up in chest deep extremely cold moving water. Boat was gone. Cooler was gone. That pfd
that I was going to get if I needed it…..gone! The current was trying to push me further into the
branches straining the water moving down river. Luckily I wasn’t far from shore and was able to hold on
to the bigger branches and wade to the side of the river. Soaking wet and freezing cold, I remember
thinking, if I want to kayak, I’d better figure out how to not end up in this situation again.

I started researching local paddling groups. I found a few, but, wasn’t really interested in showing up
and looking like a complete fool in front of people who were “actual” kayakers. I watched a ton of You
Tube videos and bought a different boat, a Liquid logic XP9 crossover with a deck skirt and all. I had
some mild success but it was still just me and no real way to know what I was doing. A friend told me to
call a guy they used to work with, who turned out to be Trey, from The Power of Water. Through them I
found real instructors and learned that I really didn’t know as much as I thought I did.
I decided I would attend a Power of Water whitewater kayaking trips, and so, my first actual experience
in real whitewater was in North Carolina on their Southern River Trip. They worked with our group of
less than stellar paddlers on techniques, safety, feeling the water and how we and our boats reacted to
it, and a litany of other things. The greatest part was it didn’t feel like a “teaching or learning
environment.” I came home a better paddler, a safer paddler and with more skill then I had when I got
there. We were having fun and meanwhile we were learning, a lot!

In The Power of Water, I found a community of paddlers that accepted me and were genuinely
interested in helping me get better and learn to paddle safely. I learned how the experience of
whitewater kayaking could transform not just my outdoor enjoyment, but how it could transform my
life. The power of water wasn’t just fast currents, big waves or deep holes. It was the “Power” of the
water. It was exciting, chaotic and sometimes scary. The river can humble you very quickly and it did
for me many, many times. I learned through lots of practicing and swimming, intentionally and
unintentionally, that the river will always provide feedback. I learned to paddle as a member of a group,
an actual group, not just a bunch of people paddling close to one another.

Since that first trip, I’ve upgraded boats more than a couple times, paddled many rivers and became an
instructor myself. I describe whitewater now as my “relaxing chaos.” I understand it’s not for everyone.
But, I wish everyone could feel the life-changing empowerment and the transformation of the power of

-Gary Van Valkenburgh

Share | Tara Fairty

Share | Tara Fairty

tara and scottOne of my earliest memories is sitting on one of my parent’s laps in their boat as we paddled around lakes, rivers, and on the ocean. While they ran courses and lessons I was mesmerized by the water.  I remember the drops of water falling from the paddle shaft onto my lap as we made our way across the water.

Truth is I don’t remember a time without paddling. I’m pretty sure I was taught to respect the water before I was taught to look both ways when crossing the street. So many of my core childhood memories revolve around the water.  I could write a book with stories and moments on the water from my first memory to last week. Moments of triumph, moments of curiosity, and wild imagination, and being connected to my family, myself and the environment. Paddling is deeply embedded into my story.

In the past few years, TPOW has been an integral part of that story.  I was able to join my dad on several trips and we were able to foster a better and deeper relationship through paddling and coaching.  As I stepped into a caretaker role as he had a short battle with cancer I was shocked at the impact our trips had. I have immense gratitude for those times together and for the opportunity to get to know the paddling community.  Had I stopped being involved with paddling and TPOW after he passed I still would never be able to express my gratitude for TPOW and the community. Yet, I didn’t stop, I continued to have a space. Through paddling and coaching, I’ve experienced deep healing, growth, and joy that has provided more than I could have hoped for.

Paddling, coaching, being on the water, and part of the paddling community is where I choose to be. It will also always be part of the fabric of my story.   I choose to be here and to continue to paddle because I have the privilege to make that choice and because I have witnessed the growth and healing of not just me but so many in this community. The Power of Water has created a space where people get to show up as they are and encounter growth and joy. Getting to be part of that is a great honor.

Two weeks after my dad passed I was in Grand Marais for the GLSKS, one of his favorite places to coach. As the sunset I paddled back in from spreading some of dads ashes on Lake Superior. I noticed just a touch of his ashes had gotten on my skirt. The droplets fell from my paddle shaft onto that tiny spot where his ashes had caught. A full circle moment in life and in death we are connected by water.

Ireland | Ocean Skills


Build your skills in real-life conditions with multiple days of low-ratio coaching. Donegal has something for everyone, 1,800 foot high cliffs, sea caves, arches, mile-long surfing beaches, protected bays and coastlines exposed to the full effect of the North Atlantic.

Aug. 22nd – 29th

Aug. 29th – Sept. 5th


Our low student-coach ratios allow us to embrace the environment offering challenges that are accessible and fun. Some skills we might focus on include, rough water boat handling, rock gardening, sea cave paddling, surfing, core stroke refinement,  leadership, and rescues.

florida sea kayaking

Aug. 22 – 29 or Aug. 29 – Sept 5| $2,700

Come with us to County Donegal in the Northwest of the Republic of Ireland for a week of unsurpassed sea kayaking. Donegal has something for everyone, 1,800 foot high cliffs, sea caves, arches, mile-long surfing beaches, protected bays, and coastlines exposed to the full effect of the North Atlantic.

Double occupancy lodging, breakfast, lunches, and some dinners will be provided.  Ground transportation and kayak rentals are also included.

Register: Aug. 22 – 29 or

Register: Aug. 29 – Sep. 5

What to Expect

Day 1: Dublin airport pickup and travel to Dunfanaghy, lunch on the road is not included, dinner at the house is provided
Day 2 – 7: Paddling and developing skills along the varied coastline
Day 8: Travel back to Dublin Airport or your airport hotel

The itinerary is reflective of conditions and group goals. The vast and dynamic environments in Donegal offer something for everyone. Some areas of learning and growth may include rock gardening, rough water boat handling, rescues, navigation, stroke refinement, and open water crossings.

What’s included?  Low-ratio professional coaching, double occupancy lodging in a house, ground transportation, kayak rentals, breakfast, lunches, and most dinners will be provided. Meals that are eaten out or on the road are at your own expense.

As the trip gets closer keep an eye out for an email with more specifics and a waiver. We will also host an optional Zoom meeting prior to our departure. Any questions can be sent to

Cost: $2,700.00. Paid in full or  50% deposit before March 1, balance due by May 1.

Check our our  Youtube channel for videos from previous years.


"10/10 would highly recommend! The experience will leave you in AWE! "


"This trip offered variety in venue, skill development and experiences. The cliffs and stunningly clear water are truly unmatched. "

– Tara

The Power of Water has been successful at developing the feeling of a welcoming, accepting, community over and over again! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! It’s a great place to learn and grow!

  • Deb

"The Power of Water has been successful at developing the feeling of a welcoming, accepting, community over and over again! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! It’s a great place to learn and grow!"

– Deb

The Beaufort Scale of Windspeed

The Beaufort Scale is a great way to estimate wind speed by visual observation of the sea surface or land features.  The following chart shows the general descriptions for land and sea observations for Beaufort Foce 0 to Force 12.

ForceSpeedDescriptionSpecifications for use at sea
(mph)(knots)Specifications for use on land
00-10-1CalmSea like a mirror.
Calm; smoke rises vertically.
11-31-3Light AirRipples with the appearance of scales are formed, but without foam crests.
Direction of wind shown by smoke drift, but not by wind vanes.
24-74-6Light BreezeSmall wavelets, still short, but more pronounced. Crests have a glassy appearance and do not break.
Wind felt on face; leaves rustle; ordinary vanes moved by wind.
38-127-10Gentle BreezeLarge wavelets. Crests begin to break. Foam of glassy appearance. Perhaps scattered white horses.
Leaves and small twigs in constant motion; wind extends light flag.
413-1811-16Moderate BreezeSmall waves, becoming larger; fairly frequent white horses.
Raises dust and loose paper; small branches are moved.
519-2417-21Fresh BreezeModerate waves, taking a more pronounced long form; many white horses are formed.
Small trees in leaf begin to sway; crested wavelets form on inland waters.
625-3122-27Strong BreezeLarge waves begin to form; the white foam crests are more extensive everywhere.
Large branches in motion; whistling heard in telegraph wires; umbrellas used with difficulty.
732-3828-33Near GaleSea heaps up and white foam from breaking waves begins to be blown in streaks along the direction of the wind.
Whole trees in motion; inconvenience felt when walking against the wind.
839-4634-40GaleModerately high waves of greater length; edges of crests begin to break into spindrift. The foam is blown in well-marked streaks along the direction of the wind.
Breaks twigs off trees; generally impedes progress.
947-5441-47Severe GaleHigh waves. Dense streaks of foam along the direction of the wind. Crests of waves begin to topple, tumble and roll over. Spray may affect visibility
Slight structural damage occurs (chimney-pots and slates removed)
1055-6348-55StormVery high waves with long overhanging crests. The resulting foam, in great patches, is blown in dense white streaks along the direction of the wind. On the whole the surface of the sea takes on a white appearance. The tumbling of the sea becomes heavy and shock-like. Visibility affected.
Seldom experienced inland; trees uprooted; considerable structural damage occurs.
1164-7256-63Violent StormExceptionally high waves (small and medium-size ships might be for a time lost to view behind the waves). The sea is completely covered with long white patches of foam lying along the direction of the wind. Everywhere the edges of the wave crests are blown into froth. Visibility affected.
Very rarely experienced; accompanied by wide-spread damage.
1272-8364-71HurricaneThe air is filled with foam and spray. Sea completely white with driving spray; visibility very seriously affected.

Covid-19 Statement


Currently we require participants to either be fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid test within 48 hours of the event