I’ve been working hard in the paddle sports industry for 15 years. In that time I’ve never considered it a career, although it has accounted for a large percentage of my income each year. I’ve met many wonderful people through this sport including many of my best friends. I’ve helped people achieve paddling goals and it’s felt wonderful. I’ve had paddlers injured under my watch and it’s felt terrible. I’ve failed and succeeded. I’ve won a couple races. I’ve taken trips to incredibly beautiful places and pushed my paddling limits over and over. I’ve guided. I’ve coached. I’ve managed events. I’ve worked hard on my personal skills all these years. I’ve been mentored. But most importantly, I’ve learned. I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about others while working in this industry.
So, I’m honored to have been awarded the American Canoe Association July instructor of the month. Kokatat sponsors the program and has graciously sent me a new PFD as a gift. I’m proud of this award and of all the work I’ve contributed to the paddle sports industry.
ACA: What drew you to become an ACA certified instructor?
Palmariello: In 1999 I was finishing an internship in the ski industry and looking for a summer job on the coast. Without experience, I was positive I’d like sea kayaking so I bought some equipment, taught myself the basics and talked my way into a guiding job for the summer. I quickly realized how much I didn’t know and sought out the best training I could find. That led me to the ACA. I was hooked after that first course and on a mission to become a competent well-rounded paddler. That summer job was the beginning of a new lifestyle and my introduction to the ACA and paddlesports.
ACA: Do you have any memorable trips, events, or stories that stand out as your ‘favorite paddling moment?’
Palmariello: One of my most exciting and most memorable padding experiences took place in 2013 when I entered a 100 mile river race in California. In a field of one hundred twenty paddlers, five of us accepted the 100 mile, 1 day challenge on standup paddleboards. I approached the race with the goal of finishing but just 25 miles into the race my competitive side took over. A paddling colleague, Michael, was clearly racing hard and took a lead over me by a few minutes. I chased him for a long time and thirty miles later I was only thirty seconds behind him. For another fifty miles we battled downriver within a minute of each other. In the end we finished that 100-mile race in 12 1/2 hours and just five minutes apart. The real enjoyment, however, came from the paddling community that embraced each other and the people I met that weekend. I bonded with Michael on the water that day and was so impressed with the camaraderie that I became involved with the non-profit group that runs the race.
ACA: Have you participated in any particularly meaningful paddling programs, outreach events, educational sessions, or projects?
Palmariello: From 2009 to 2014 I managed the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. Bringing an amazing community of paddlers together once a year to celebrate sea kayaking made me incredibly proud. Witnessing all those people paddling outside of their comfort zones and achieving success was very rewarding to me. More importantly, a diverse group of people with various backgrounds were making friends and memories on and off the water. I’ve met some of my best friends through paddling and it has been such a meaningful piece of my life.