I took an 'advanced' workshop and a subsequent 1-1 with Sean Rice this week-end in Newport Beach and thought I'd write up my impressions. I wish more people took the time to write reviews, it would help all of us, including the instructors, wouldn't it?
The workshop started with Sean going over all the 'basics'. I wasn't thrilled when he started and expected to be somewhat bored, but he surprised me by talking more about the why than the what, which was actually very interesting. For example one of the topics was the feather angle and he argued that we should be using 45-60 degrees because of the way this forces a certain posture and wrist alignment. Sean agrees that Oscar's zero-degree angle has its purpose, it's just that he is looking to achieve a different outcome. This type of discussion left me with new ideas to chew on and I can now decide what I want to do based on the outcome that suits me.
In the water in the morning he had us do a number of exercises, for example, paddling backwards to a buoy and back. For me it was fun and something different that I found useful and I just don't take the time for when I go paddling. For the afternoon he asked the group whether to stay in flatwater or go out to the ocean and the vote was to go out. Unfortunately, due to the venue, getting to the ocean was time-consuming and complicated. Not the best conditions for learning and not really Sean's fault.
I took a 1-1 with him the next day and when he asked me what I'd like to focus on I simply asked for 'brutally honest' critique of my stroke. Long story short, I walked away with a list of 12 bullet items to improve that span literally from head to toes! "You asked and you shall receive!" It was awesome! I now have lots to work on, which is exactly what I was hoping for. Again what was valuable to me are the justifications. To take the feather angle again, he argues for 60 degrees but had me try 30, 45, 60 and we concluded that I have the cleanest catch and stroke at 30. He then suggested I try to get to 45 because of how it changes my posture, which he explained in detail. For me this focus on understanding the why is key.
Something to be aware of is that Sean's teaching is around a powerful stroke. If I were to summarize his style in one sentence it's that he optimizes his stroke to be able to bring a maximum of his power to bear. (And when you watch him in person the result is impressive, to say the least.) If you expect to learn how to cruise down a wave without paddling, you're in the wrong place.
(Note about the ratings: I gave the location 4 stars because of the difficult ocean access, but since this is not a 'school' it's really not Sean's doing. The 'supplied equipment' similarly should have been N/A, if that had been a choice. It turns out that I was able to try two boats that I was interested in buying, which was awesome.)