Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Full Immersion Surf Kayak Weekend

Last weekend, 6 paddlers joined us for a full immersion weekend of surf kayak skill building.  The idea was a basic whitewater kayak skill instruction specific to surf and rock gardens.  We started the weekend in the comfort of the CV Starr Center Pool with roll instruction and roll tune-ups.
Kayak roll instruction in Fort Bragg's community swimming pool.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne
After lunch we progressed to the beach.  The goal of the Full Immersion Class was whitewater kayak skills and surf and rock garden instruction but a sizable swell nixed the plans for instruction in the rocks.  One of our surf breaks was perfect for learning and we maximized our first afternoon of class coaching our students in the surf.
Fun, friendly waves for kayak surfing.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
One of our favorite drills for all skills levels is having paddlers hand paddle in the soup zone (the area of the surf zone nearest the beach where waves have already broken and are mostly whitewater foam piles).  This is fun and challenging and a great way to build balance and edge control in the soup zone.
Hand paddling in the surf to build balance and edge control.  Photo by Jeff Laxier.
From there, we progressed to controlled landings.  Some coaches call this following the wave in.  It is one of the hardest skills to learn in the surf but with diligence and practice one of the most valuable.  The idea is maintaining control by timing and positioning yourself so that you back paddle over the face of the wave and ride the foam pile in.  It is definitely a dance with the sea.
A student back paddling to get on top of the wave for a controlled landing.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Of course, we finished the day with a little surf session emphasizing surf etiquette and a circuit.
A student catching a wave in LFK's surf kayak class.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Day two began with scouting several locations and seeing first hand the effects of tide and swell.  The substantial long period swell and negative tide made for some good examples of hazardous surf zones.  While we waited for the tide to fill in at our venue for the day, we followed up with the previous day's roll instruction, stroke work, and waveology.
LFK's Cate Hawthorne explains the difference between short and long period waves.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Gale force winds were forecasted but fortunately didn't show in the area that we had chosen to work.  The surf at the break where we were working was monstrous, but we found an area on the inside to work.
LFK's Cate Hawthorne coaching a student onto a wave.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
It was a fun weekend for all with lots of learning and skill building.  We are looking at doing more full immersion courses that include rolling instruction.  If you are interested, please let us know so we can keep you posted.
Thumbs Up for LFK's Full Immersion Surf Kayak Weekend.  Photo by Jeff Laxier

Friday, March 31, 2017

Whitewater Kayaking the Eel River

As we head into spring, many Californians are rain or snow weary.  It is amazing how just 1 year ago, most of the state was considered to be in severe drought conditions.  Drought or flood seems to be the long standing weather record in California.  There isn't much we can do about it but go with the flow.
Eel River Whitewater Kayaking
Whitewater kayaking on the Eel River.  Photo by Liquid Fusion Kayaking
Whitewater kayaking in California literally follows the same trend.  The drought years make for slim picking for whitewater rivers.  Dam release waters like the South Fork of the American (SFA) often become everyone's staple since it is the only thing running.  Many novice boaters learn the C2G run and that becomes their go-to weekend run.  Intermediates will venture into the Gorge and/or Chili Bar.  This year with the record snow fall in the Sierras, these go-to runs on the South Fork of the American are going to be flowing at epic high flows.  This is going to be a lot of fun for those with the skill and nerve; however, it is going to be too much water for SFA's usual crowd of novice and intermediate paddlers.

This spring, Mendocino County's Eel River is going to be a great option for kayakers whose normal staple is the South Fork American.
Whitewater Kayaking on Eel River
Whitewater river runners enjoy a variety of surf waves on the Eel River. Photo by Liquid Fusion Kayaking
The Eel River is an often overlooked whitewater gem.  The Eel has many personalities and something for all classes of whitewater enthusiasts.  The moving water on the Eel ranges from class I through class V (flat, moving water through steep, difficult whitewater).  
whitewater kayaking Eel River
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff Laxier whitewater kayaking on the Eel River. Photo by Chris Hansen
It has roadside stretches for day trips and easy shuttle logistics and wilderness stretches for multi-day kayak camping trips.  
Whitewater multiday kayak trip
Spring kayak camping trip on the Eel River. Photo by Liquid Fusion Kayaking
The boating season depends on the rainfall in the area and snow pack and run off from Mendocino National Forest.  It is difficult to say what is typical, but usually we are kayaking on it December through May.
Eel River Whitewater Kayak
Jerry Albright enjoys an early fall run on the Eel River.  Photo by Liquid Fusion Kayaking
Jeff and I love the Eel River and are really excited about kayaking on it this spring.  The ground is saturated and gushing, and we expect to have good flows on the Eel this spring.
Spring is our favorite time of the year on the Eel.  Longer days, warm weather, and wildflowers are a real treat.  We have 2 whitewater kayak classes on the Eel coming up.  April 15-16 is our Precision River Running Class for Intermediate Whitewater Kayakers to build their river running skills.  May 13-14 is a Whitewater Kayak Class for novice whitewater kayakers.
Whitewater kayak class Eel River
Liquid Fusion Kayaking Whitewater Class on the Eel River. Photo by Mark Boyd
Private whitewater kayak lesson Eel River
Liquid Fusion Kayaking guides private trips on the Eel River.
Want to know more about the Eel River, CaCreeks is a website with information on many of the Eel's Runs.  Also Dan Menten has a new book The New School Guide to Northern California Whitewater that has lots of information on the Eel and other Northern California Rivers.

I also am planning to write a series of stories and information on my favorite stretches of the Eel.  Subscribe to my Woman on Water Blog for that series.
Eel River Whitewater Kayak
Liquid Fusion Kayaking Instructor Cate Hawthorne whitewater kayaking on the Eel River. Photo by Mark Boyd

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Team Minnesota

It was the end of January 2017.  The high temperature was 5 degrees.  Winter was in full-on, cold, blustery force . . . in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Here on the Mendocino Coast, we had a break from the rain and 4 glorious days of sunshine, surf, and whitewater.  It was quite a treat for the crew of 7 Minnesota paddlers who came to California to paddle with us.  Guest instructor Ben Lawry joined us in sharing the fun of whitewater kayaks in the surf and on the river with them.
Ben Lawry does a hilarious broach surf imitation.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Day one we began with outfitting whitewater kayaks and then headed to a local flat water estuary for a warm-up in the boats and introduction to skills specific to whitewater kayaks. 
Outfitting whitewater kayaks for surf and whitewater kayak fun. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
We played, drilled and drifted with the ebbing tide to the mouth of the river and for surf zone training.  Jeff, Ben, and I tag teamed instruction and coaching roles.  I of course got to play in the sand.
Cate Hawthorne coaches students on surf zone etiquette. Photo by Jeff Laxier
The group got their first thrills and spills in the whitewater kayaks in the surf and set the foundation for our upcoming days.  A highlight at the end of the day was watching the United States Coast Guard helicopter come in and pick up the crew that was doing maintenance work on a navigational aide on an off shore rock.
United States Coast Guard at work on the Mendocino Coast. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Day two, we had more sunshine and perfect spilling waves for learning to surf.  Our paddlers started to get the hang of the short boats (of course they had some expert coaching).  The day was full of lots of rides and smiles.  It was fun to have a trio of coaches.  One coach was on shore taking giving feedback and assisting swimmers.  One coach was in the paddle out zone, and one was in the take off zone. 
Deb dropping in on a friendly wave. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
The most challenging but my favorite role was coaching from the take-off zone.   It is a juggling act of sitting just inside the breaking waves, constantly assessing and reading the swells and ever changing conditions of the beach break, coaching students with different speeds and skills, and sneaking in the occasional surf.
Jeff and Fred finding room to share a wave. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Day three, we headed inland to share a whitewater river kayaking experience with our team from Minnesota.  Of course our destination was the Eel River.
whitewater kayaking Eel River
Whitewater kayaking on Mendocino's Eel River. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
It was another sunny day but snow on the mountains reminded us it is still winter.  We used a favorite 2 mile stretch to coach the team on river running skills.

whitewater kayak eel river
Snowy hillsides remind us that it is January. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
A highlight was scouting and running Hearst Falls.  At this water level, Hearst Falls is a full class II rapid with multiple routes.  Jeff coaches the team on scouting technique and helps them pick out their lines.
Jeff introduces scouting technique on the Eel River. Photo by Cate Hawthorne.
There were many successful runs of Hearst Falls.  Jeff snapped this shot of the river right route from an eddy mid way down.
Midway down Hearst Falls on Mendocino's Eel River. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Day four was back to the surf.  This was one of the best days as we saw everyone's skills coming together as they got some really fun rides.  
Peggy catches on quickly to short boat kayak surfing. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
We are looking forward to helping our new friends from Minnesota get a mid winter break.  Don't let them have all the fun - rally your paddling posse and contact us about a special kayaking vacation.
Kayak surfing in the winter on the Mendocino Coast. Photo by Cate Hawthorne