About our Company
Sea Kayaking Skills and Adventures (SKSA), Ltd. was incorporated in 2000 with the mission of providing the people of all ages and skill level with a source of quality paddle sports training. Long Island has rich shoreline resources with a myriad of excellent paddling locations. We also have many outfitters providing fine equipment with whom SKSA is proud to work. SKSA is here to to guide the novice paddler in developing fundamental skills, to introduce paddlers at all levels to new aspects of the sport, and to help the advanced paddler to achieve higher levels.
SKSA, Ltd acts as a resource to other organizations, including summer camps, paddling clubs, outfitters, paddle shops and training and touring businesses. Through the ACA we provide assessment services to individuals and clubs where skill certification is required at levels (novice through Open Water). Through ACA we are authorized to train, assess and certify Instructors and Trip Leaders for advanced responsibilities.
It is the goal of SKSA to promote the growth of safe, competent paddling on Long Island and also to foster appreciation and understanding of inland waters and our coastal environment. To that end we developed a tours program where those new to paddling can experience paddling in a safe environment, more advanced paddlers can practice skills in the company of experts, and others can simply relax and have fun while developing an appreciation for the coastal environment.
As of 2010, SKSA spawned a daughter company: Changing Tides PaddleCraft which is based in Connecticut. We continue to honor continuing commitments on Long Island from our CT base. For more information on the new concern in CT follow the link to Changing Tides Paddlecraft.
Elizabeth O'Connor - CEO, Instructor Trainer
Elizabeth O'Connor is founder and head instructor for SKSA. She grew up around and on the waters of Long Island and there has been a paddle of one type or another in her hand for more than 20 years. Kayaking become a major part of her life starting 1995. Elizabeth has trained extensively with the American Canoe Association, achieving the status of Open Water Coastal (L4) Instructor Trainer. Only a few hundred paddlers have achieved this certification across the country and less than a handful service our region. For many years she has served as Divisional Instructor Facilitator for the Atlantic Division of the ACA. She also on a short list of kayaking Instructor Trainers for Suffolk Red Cross and has trained extensively with the British Canoe Union.
- ACA Open Water Coastal Kayak (L4) Instructor Trainer
- ACA Coastal Trip Leader, Trainer/Assessor
- ACA Open Water Coastal Kayak (L4) Instructor
- ACA Open Water Coastal Kayak (A4) Skills Assessor
- ACA Essentials of River Kayak (solo/tandem) (L2) Instructor
- ACA Essentials of Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Instructor
- ARC Basic River Instructor Trainer
- ARC Basic First Aid
- SOLO Wilderness First Aid
- AHA CPR (Adult, Youth, Infant)
- AMC Trip Leader (basic)
Background:Elizabeth holds a degree in Equestrian Studies and had a career in the breeding and racing industry before choosing to raise a family. She subsequently worked for 15 years as an Environmental Educator and wildlife rehabilitator specializing with raptors. When not kayaking she is a wildlife artist working in paints and wood, carving detail bird sculptures. She has also crewed on a racing sloop in charge of the foredeck. For a time, her interest in carving primitive paddles grew into a business of constructing modern high-tech paddles, and remains a current area of expertise. She also has experience in fiberglass boat design and manufacture. Elizabeth brings a depth of educational resources and experiences to her classes and tours that goes beyond her qualifications as a trainer of advanced kayaking skills.
Kayak Racing: throughout the 2000s Elizabeth was an avid kayak racer. She has successfully defended her title of National Champion Woman's Sea Kayak Marathon racer for the U.S. Canoe Association (USCA) five years running from 2001 to 2005. In 2005 she won the women's title in both Sea Kayak and ICF Marathon races on successive days. In 2003 she was selected as the senior woman member of the United States National team competing in the ICF Worlds Championships in Valladolid Spain where she was the top US point achiever having finishing 11th overall in Women's Marathon. She also races ICF sprints and has helped guide the Long Island team to a series of medal wins in the Empire State Games in the late 2000s. Today she offers services as a paddling coach with specialization in forward stroke.
Charity: Elizabeth is the first women to circumnavigate Long Island in a kayak. This was accomplished over a seven day journey with her partner Danny Broadhurst, in 2002 as a charity promotion which raised over $165,000 for the Long Island Alzheimer's Fund. The pair was followed and supported by a team of local paddlers and power boaters who filmed the event.
Volunteer work: In addition to her work with ACA Atlantic Division and with the ACA Safety Education and Instruction Council (SEIC) Elizabeth has, at the request of NY Boating Division and the US Coast Guard - Region-1, taken on the challenge of coordinating the annual Long Island Paddle Sport Symposiums. This event offers talks, demonstrations and contact booths in a free to the public gathering each spring. Each successive event has been more successful than the past, resulting in special recognition from NY State Boating Department and the ACA "Joe Pina" Volunteer of the Year award.
Gordon Dayton - Associate Instructor
Gordon Dayton started as an SKSA student in 2002 when an encounter with an unexpected squall galvanized him to find a competent instructor. He has since progressed from a novice paddler through training programs offered by SKSA, ACA and BCU. Gordon also adopted kayak racing in a semi serious way, both in sea kayaks and in ICF boats which enhanced his appreciation of forward stroke. He particpated in many local and regional races including the USCA - Nationals in 2003 and 2005. He has since served on the coastal and canoe committees of the Atlantic Division and the National Association, served on the ACA Board from 2006 to 2012, and continues to serve on the SEIC Council. Gordon has also completed basic training with BCU passing his CST and receiving his 3-Star certification in 2004. He joined the SKSA staff in 2005 when he received his formal certification with ACA and has continued to instruct SKSA students and instructor candidates and maintain the SKSA website.
- ACA Open Water Coastal Kayak (L4) Instructor
- ACA Coastal Kayak (A4) Skills Assessor
- ACA Essentials of River Canoe (solo/tandem) (L2) Instructor
- ACA Essentials of Touring Canoe (solo/tandem) (L2) Instructor
- ARC Basic River Kayak Instructor
- SOLO Wilderness First Aid
- AHA CPR
Background:Gordon has a history of adventure hobbies starting with speleology in 1975 where he skills as a cave explorer and cartographer for the National Speleological Society in Central Pennsylvania and also lead the local cave rescue team while pursuing his doctoral degree in Solid State Science at Penn State University. Later while serving as a Professor at PSU he developed a passion for whitewater rafting and rock climbing. Gordon retained these hobbies during his stint as R&D manager for a New England electronics company, but always found kayaking to be an attraction. When his career transitioned him to Long Island in the early 2000s he finally had the resources to take up kayaking full time.
Paddling ClubsGordon quickly became active in Long Island paddling clubs which offer camaraderie, information and group safety. Later, after becoming certified, he joined a group of local instructors in founding and developing North Atlantic Canoe and Kayak, Inc. a Long Island based paddling club. After 5 years with the club, he now serves as a Life Member, Senior Advisor and Founding Director. His experience in founding a skills-based club led him to run for a position on the ACA Board in order to bring clubs issues to the attention of the Association leadership. Gordon continues to serve in the role of Clubs Liaison to the ACA Safety Education and Instruction Council (SEIC) and to have leadership within the Atlantic Division.
Staff associates are utilized by SKSA in a variety of capacities. In some cases we are mentoring prospective instructors who co-teach with us as part of their training and certification program. In the case of large training functions, where significant numbers of students are instructed we are able to draw upon a cadre of well trained Instructors that have been certified through SKSA. One example is a weekend training for paddlers making the LI Sound crossing for Kayak for a Cause. SKSA arranged for 13 instructors to participate in various on-water and off-water classes throughout the day preparing paddlers for the crossing. This well organized and tightly timed program trained more than 135 participants for the crossing in a single day. Special thanks to LL Bean for providing boats for this program.
Some instructors you may see work with us regularly include Dan Troup, Doug Ford and John Weikert. These are instructors who have worked with SKSA to obtain and maintain their certifications and who have become regular associates of our programs. Thanks for the support!
Paddling Pups: Elizabeth has always loved poodles, and usually has one as a companion. Being water dogs they take well to paddling and enjoy being with us on the water. The mascot best known to Long Island paddlers is K-Sea. She loved group paddles and would bark out orders to keep the "pack" in order. She would easily move from boat to boat if she new the paddlers. She often provided vehicle security when groups were out on long trips. She left us in the spring of 2013 but paddles yet in our memories.
Two new mascots have joined the team: Morgan (3) and Talulah soon to be 1 year old in 2017. Morgan is an entry level kayaker and L2 SUP pup. Talulah is begging to be introduced to the water.
Certifying Organizations for paddlers include American Canoe Association (ACA), American Red Cross (ARC), Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and British Canoe Union. Of these the most accessible organization with the best defined program for paddlers in the US is that of the American Canoe Association. They offer training, assessment and certification programs in coastal, river and surf kayak, touring and river canoe, stand up paddleboard and rafting. British Canoe Union has a limited presence in the US and offers kayak training programs through its certified instructors in selected locations. Their programs are similar in quality to ACA coastal kayak training but not universally accessible. Both these organizations certify Instructors with an exam process, require first aid and CPR certification and require regular proof of competency in order to maintain certification.
Appalachian Mountain Club offers training in kayak and canoe to as part of their member programs. They are based solely in the east. Their curriculum is not written or not available for review so the difficulty and quality is not accessible but they are known to paddle in areas of significant challenge.
The American Red Cross paddling programs are older programs developed along with their sailing programs. They offered basic training in river and coastal kayak and canoe and certified instructors through a mentoring program which required no maintenance or update. These programs were based in local ARC chapters and may still be spottily available in some areas. It is in question whether they are still maintained on Long Island.
SKSA has worked with a number of organizations to acquire training and certification. Our basic programs are defined through our work with ACA. We think that ACA represents the best practice in paddling training across the United States.