Thursday, May 25, 2017

Eel River Whitewater Class

Its always a treat to get to run the Eel River in May.  With a wet winter and spring, we expected that it would be running still in May and scheduled a whitewater river kayaking class.
Whitewater kayaking class on the Eel River.
We gave first dibs on the class to several of our regular customers and then through word of mouth it filled up and we had a waiting list.

The weekend was spectacular.  We had nice weather and a fun, friendly flow for learning.

Our students built confidence and skills over the 2 day class.
Whitewater kayaking fun on the Eel River.
Several joined us for an optional day 3 of running the river.  This was a great experience for them to practice their skills from the weekend and enjoy another beautiful day on the Eel.
Tunnel 2 rapid on the Eel River.
Jeff and I got to tune up our whitewater river coaching skills.
Jeff Laxier coaching whitewater river kayaking on the Eel River..
A wildlife highlight of the weekend was getting to see lamprey's in the water - both alive and dead.  Pacific lamprey are not technically an eel but are the namesake for the Eel River.
Pacific lamprey die after spawning.
Sadly our season on the Eel is over until next year.  We are planning a variety of whitewater classes for next spring.  Our whitewater fix is not of the salty variety - whitewater of the sea!!!
Whitewater ocean kayaking on the Mendocino Coast

Friday, May 5, 2017

Spring Run Off 2017

We are back from our Spring Run Off 2017 Trip.  This year we journeyed 118 miles down Oregon's John Day River.
Jeff and Cate kayak the John Day River. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
In 2011, Jeff and I started the tradition of a Spring Run Off Trip.  In 2011, we did a Mountains to Sea Whitewater River Kayak Trip on the Eel River.  On this trip, we discovered that we both love multi-day river kayak camping trips.  Since 2011, we have scheduled a couple of weeks in April to go with the flow - down river.  Our spring run off trips have included the Eel River, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, the McCloud River, the Upper Sacramento, the Smith River, the South Fork Eel River, the Colorado through Black Canyon, the Owyhee River, and most recently the John Day River.
Jeff enjoying the scenery and geology of the John Day River. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Boom - we are home now and getting ready for our busy season with our first Whitewater of the Sea Adventures and a Sea Kayak Rock Garden Class.  Next week, it is setting up our Noyo River location for our summer tour season on the Mendocino Coast.  Before we get too busy with our summer season, we look forward to sharing photos and tales of this year's spring run off trip on the John Day and will start dreaming of our next trip.  Please let us know if you have any suggestions.
A Bighorn Sheep on watches us float by on the John Day River.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Get the Scoop

Did you know that Liquid Fusion Kayaking has a new email newsletter?  
Mendocino Kayak Instructor and Guides
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Instructors Jeff Laxier and Cate Hawthorne. Photo by June Ruckman Albright
Our new newsletter has photos, information on upcoming classes and events on the Mendocino Coast and beyond, and a monthly coaching tip.  Subscribers will get first dibs on our specials and early registration on our special events.

LFK's classes and events include sea, whitewater, surf kayaking, and ecotours.  New for 2017 are our multiday Lost Coast and Eel River kayak camping trips.  Subscribe to get more info and first chance to sign up

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Liquid Fusion Kayaking News
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    Monday, January 9, 2017

    2017 Mendocino Kayaking Classes and Trips

    Grab your calendars and plan to play with us in 2017.  We have lots of fun adventures planned in Sea, Whitewater, Surf (and the pool).  We are especially excited about our 3 day Lost Coast Sea Kayak Camping Trip and our 4 day Eel River Kayak Camping Trip.
    Whitewater kayaking and camping on Mendocino's Eel River.
    Sea Kayaking - In 2017, we will be expanding our Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Programs to include 5 day Intermediate/Advanced Adventures.  We will be continuing our monthly 2 day Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Series May - August and offering our advanced beginner/intermediate 5 day Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Course over Labor Day Weekend.  BCU 3 Star Sea trainings and assessments and private lessons/custom tours will round out our sea kayak instructional program.
    Sea Kayaking in sea caves and rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast

    Whitewater - LFK's 2017 river kayaking program features LFK's Whitewater River Kayaking Class.  This class is designed for sea kayakers and other paddlers who have a solid foundation of paddling skills and are looking to learn to run whitewater rivers.  LFK's systematic approach will build upon your current skills to give you the skills for running whitewater rivers.  The next class in our progression is Precision River Running.  Precision River Running is for experienced whitewater kayakers looking to improve and expand their river running skills.  LFK is also offering guided whitewater river runs.  These are scheduled on the Monday after our weekend classes for our students to apply their skills and enjoy a day of river running with us.
    Whitewater river kayaking on Mendocino's Eel River

    Surf Kayaking -  We have been excited about our students' success in our 2 day surf classes so we are offering more of these in 2017.  Whether you are learning the surfzone for the first timelearning to surf, or working on making moves on the wave; our 2 day surf classes are paced for maximum success.  With 2 days, you get different surf zone opportunities and a skill progression that builds on the previous day.  For those looking for specific skills, we have private surf lessons and safaris.
    Surf Kayak Classes and Lessons on the Mendocino Coast

    Rolling - We have a beautiful community pool and a flexible schedule.  If you want to learn to roll or need a rolling tune-up, we can help.
    Rolling in Mendocino Recreation and Park District Pool
    Wilderness First Aid - Know how to help others in the wilderness.  LFK and the Mendocino Woodlands are hosting Bobbie Foster to teach a 16 hour course that includes a 3 year Wilderness First Aid Certification.

    Mendo Your Way - We are running our private lesson and custom tour special November 2016-March 2017.  Come see us to dial in your skills and play and explore the beautiful Mendocino Coast.
    Sea kayak surfing on the Mendocino Coast
    Family Friendly Kayaking Adventures - We are currently creating our 2017 Summer Tour Schedule for our family friendly Noyo Meander, Sunset Bird Paddle, Whitewater of the Sea and Ocean Adventure Tours.

    Family kayaking fun on Fort Bragg's Noyo River
    Whitewater Ocean Kayaking aka Rock Gardening on the Mendocino Coast

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017

    The Mendocino Kayaking Trifecta

    We did it!  

    Last weekend, Liquid Fusion Kayaking rang out 2016 and rocked into 2017 with their annual New Year Whitewater n Surf Safari.  Our goal for this surfari is to score 3 days of whitewater kayaking in 3 disciplines - whitewater of the sea (rock gardening), whitewater river running, and surf kayaking.  Requirements for the trip are that paddlers must have a reliable roll, class III whitewater kayaking skills, and experience surf kayaking in the ocean.  This year our 4 paddlers rocked it!!!
    Liquid Fusion Kayaking and crew rocking New Years on the Mendocino Coast.
    This is Liquid Fusion Kayaking's signature event.  LFK's home waters in Mendocino County are one of the few places where one can score all 3, and LFK's Jeff and I are among the few kayak instructors that teach guide all three disciplines.
    LFK's Jeff Laxier setting up to smack the lip in his hp surf kayak.
    Day One of our Surfari was Whitewater River Kayaking on the Eel River.  The day started out chilly with the freezing fog.  Till we got to the river, it was a gorgeous sunny day with a fun flow.
    Boat scouting the tunnel rapid on the Eel River.
    We played our way down a 7 mile stretch of the Eel - carving in and out of eddies, jet ferrying, surfing waves, and making fun attainments.
    Peter gets his river surf on!
    With all the play potential of the Eel at this flow, it took us 2 hours to go the first 2 miles.
    Lunch break at a small surf wave gave the opportunity for even more play.
    Jennifer finds the sweet spot on the lunchtime wave.
    After lunch, we continued eddy hopping and playing but got down to business of running the river.  Jeff and I shared fun lines and challenged our students to boof into eddies and catch waves on the fly.
    Greg working his way down The Wall on the Eel River.
    Our cheeks were sore as we finished the run from smiles.
    Willy making the take out drop.
    Day Two was Surf Day and the search began.  We scouted a couple of breaks looking for that beautiful peeling wave.  With the tide and swell it wasn't happening, but we saw lots of potential for fun at Chase-a-peak Bay.  On a high tide, Chase-a-peak often has lots of fun reflective and zipper waves.   It is a good way to challenge your water reading skills and ability to improvise.  The waves we were surfing were not big but often offered long rides if one could link them up.
    Peter Jive'n.
    We moved to a different break for the afternoon session.  This session offered fun steep drops and a few down the line runs.
    Greg finds a shoulder to surf.
    The glassy waves enticed several to surf their high performance surf kayaks.
    Jennifer surfing down the line.
    Willy gets a nice drop.
    Day Three was Whitewater of the Sea aka rock gardening.  Confused seas, high tide, and winds from an approaching weather front made for challenging conditions.  We dug into our bag of tricks and found some rock garden play to complete our trifecta.  Our rock garden play started with warming up on a small pour-over that we call Dog Rock.  It was a good warm up for the bodies as well as for timing.
    Jennifer styling the warm up at dog rock.
    We moved onto a couple of other spots that were more challenging and involved surfing off the rocks.
    Willy speeds along past first rock.
    Greg drops in on 8.
    A final pour-over of the morning session involved a left to right move.  A couple of our students tried the left to left move and discovered that it wasn't the cleanest line. They survived and everyone else enjoyed the entertainment.

    Many of our students were anxious to get going home and departed at lunch time.  With one remaining student, Jeff and I ventured back out in search of more rock garden play.  We found it.
    Peter gets a nice pour-over ride!
    The afternoon session offered us a bit of everything - in terms of weather, waves, and rock garden play.  Squalls from a weather front swirled all around us.  One minute it was sunny and calm, and the next we were pelted with hail.  Despite the weather, a couple of our favorite pour-over spots were working.
    Jeff Laxier prepares to boof the hole.
    We are stoked to have ended 2016 and rocked in 2017 with our Whitewater Surfari.  Join us next year - December 30, 2017 through January 1, 2018!
    May your 2017 be full of sunshine, smiles, surf, and rainbows. 
    PS  You might ask - did I do more than smile and take photos?  Yep.  Check out my next Woman on Water blog post.