Jonas Alexandersson, from Mellerud, Sweden, is our ProStaffer of the Month for March 2020. Let’s meet Jonas…
AB: Tell us how you got started kayaking. What do you love about it?
JONAS: I am raised in one of the best canoeing areas in Sweden. Hundreds, if not thousands of big and small lakes in a sparsely-populated area called Dalsland. (In the 1800s, 50% of the population of Dalsland moved to the US!)
I started to paddle open canoes as a child and got my first kayak in 2001.
My whole working life has been a life on the sea. I started to work on ships at 15, was a captain at 26 and started as a lake/harbour pilot at 35.
I'm a father of six children and one of them is into kayaking. I have two grandchildren and hope to teach them kayaking as well. At the age of 58 I have two more years before retiring—after that it will be kayaking full time!
I was reading canoeing/kayaking magazines for a year before I got my first kayak—a Point65 Crunch—and started to paddle by myself most of the time. Then I got a second kayak and a friend could join me now and then.
In 2012, when I turned 50, I went to Alaska for an expedition and kayaking course with NOLS. That really started my passion for kayaking. I did my first roll there and have been working on my rolling ever since.
Kayak trip to Greenland (photo courtesy of Minna Kettunen)
I have been back to Alaska in 2016, twice to Greenland, to Croatia, UK and more places, all for kayaking. It has been a few trips to Northern Norway that I have organized and this year I have already done a long trip in West Papua, Indonesia with (English sea kayaker) Nigel Foster.
Why do I love kayaking? It's almost a religious feeling. The nature: beautiful landscapes, fjords, islands and beaches. The water: calm, rough sea for surfing and rock hopping, currents and ice. Then the paddling itself.
I love the way I slowly improve my technique, both the paddle strokes and the rolling. If you read about Zen, the meditation, breathing, mindfulness, the connection to Japanese and Chinese martial arts, is something I feel when out kayaking.
Then it's also meeting people, camping with friends and the satisfactory feeling of physical accomplishment after a long day kayaking.
AB: How do you contribute to the kayak community, generally?
JONAS: The last 4 or 5 years I teach rolling and it's getting close to 100 persons I've taught how to roll now.
I organize privately many trips all year around and I'm a kayak guide/leader in one of Sweden's biggest outdoor organizations, Friluftsfrämjandet.
I teach navigation for kayakers and even have courses in the Swedish Shipping Administration’s ship simulator! There I teach how to navigate a kayak in currents and risk management.
More and more I also give lectures and show photos from my trips for private groups, organizations and companies.
I work for NOLS (Wilderness First Aid) in a few outdoors events and there I also have rolling classes. I teach cold water survival, kayak surfing, paddle technique and more.
Jonas kayaking the Swedish surf
AB: Is there a local Aqua-Bound dealer you help out?
JONAS: I have sporadic contact with a dealer called NAUTOPP. I was writing a blog post on their blog a week ago as a guest writer. (You can read it here…if you read Swedish, that is!)
AB: Do you introduce new folks to kayaking? How?
JONAS: All the time as a kayak leader and lecturer, and I invite friends to join me. I usually have four to six kayaks at a time, and like to introduce kayaking to beginners. And then it's my YouTube channel that is attracting more and more people.
AB: Tell us what it’s like having your daughter share your love of kayaking.
JONAS: My daughter, Paula Alexandersson, started kayaking with me at the age of 15 and loves it. She’s now 27. She is with me fairly often and has been with me on two trips to northern Norway.
A few years back I taught her how to roll. She’s my fastest student yet—it took 20 minutes! After one hour she was rolling on both sides.
It's nice to have someone with me on longer trips (when I am the sole leader) as an assistant who I trust 100%. She loves to go out surfing and a bit of rock hopping with me even if it's not as often as she likes to.
Jonas’ daughter and kayaking partner, Paula
Paula has also been my assistant in rolling classes, and on one occasion stepped in for me to lead a class. She did great!
The rest of my children has tested kayaking but prefer the open canoe. My two sons live in Stockholm and are mathematicians, one daughter is a district nurse, one a teacher and the last one is working with rehabilitation of addicts.
They are all scouts. Paula and the youngest, Jenny, are scout leaders today. I have been a scout leader myself for almost 20 years and have brought some kayaking into the scout clubs nearby.
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