Thursday, February 20, 2014

Water on the Eel

Finally, Northern California got some rain!!!  All the residents of the north coast were excited including the fish, plants, and people.  Our foul weather friends were particularly excited as it meant our first whitewater runs of the season.

Off to the Eel River we went for whitewater kayaking adventures.  Jeff and I were exited to get our new Jackson Kayak Zen's some river time.  We were a little rusty on our river running skills but the Zen's performed brilliantly.

It was nice to be going down river and sharing the fun with others.

And enjoying the wildlife of one of Mendocino County's inland rivers.  The American Dippers are one of our favorite birds but we also enjoyed seeing bald eagles, wood ducks, and hooded mergansers.  We didn't see any bears but lots of fresh bear tracks.  One of our students saw a steelhead.  However with the silty water, the rest of us had to be content with seeing fish carcasses and heads.

We also finally had the flow to do the second half of our Swiftwater Safety Training for Stream Surveyors.  After a classroom day of theory, it was fun to get the local crew out on the Eel to practice their skills.

We practiced swimming in current.

Dealing with flooded waders.
Draining flooded waders.
And swimming over strainers.

Throw bag and rope skills in the current proved a little more challenging than anticipated .

Wading with partners was fun.

But even more fun were the kayaking skills.

And spills.

The flows on the Eel River are slowly dropping, but we are crossing our fingers that next week's forecasted storm keeps us going with the flow.  If you are interested in a guided kayak adventure or class with us on the Eel River, please contact us to be on our "Go with the Flow" email list.

Here's a link for more photos from our February 2014 Eel River Whitewater Adventures.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ocean Camp Northern California

Training camp - athletes of all disciplines do them.  It is an intensive multi-day training session where one session builds upon the next.  Individual skills are elevated and teams are created.  In the midst of it all, we celebrate each others triumphs and uplift each other through struggles.

Jeff and I teamed up with Ryan Rushton of Geneva Kayak Center to create Ocean Camp Northern California.  Ryan runs Ocean Camps in Georgia, Maine, and Alaska so we were excited to share his format with him in our playground of the Mendocino Coast.  We timed the event just prior to the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium so that students would have the opportunity to attend both for 8 intensive days of kayaking instruction (and fun).

Most rough water paddlers will say that sea kayaking is a team sport.  With 5 days of training, we had the opportunity to develop individual as well as team skills.  By darned it worked.  Not only was our group of paddlers operating as a team but everyone had nicknames for each other and the playful banter that occurred on and off the water gave everyone's abdominal muscles quite a work out.  The students' drawings of the coaches was one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the week.

Each day started off with a hearty breakfast and morning brief in the vacation rental home that we had rented for the week.
Cate prepares the Wave Warriors for the Day.
On the water, we started off perfecting strokes on calm water and then progressed into more dynamic water.  We were blessed with some great weather - sunny and warm and were excited to get some rain on the last day of the week.
Precision Stroke Work
Ocean conditions were not optimal for coastal journeying during the week, but we had plenty of opportunities for skill development in rough water.  On day two everyone was excited for an afternoon in the surf but unfortunately swell conditions were larger than predicted making our surf zone a "no-go."  We did find an excellent spot for some body surfing though.  The long period swells had a lot of power, and we were all stoked with nice long rides.  A lot of laughter and fun was had playing about in the soup.

Speaking of soup - of course one of the highlights was having everyone stay in a vacation rental home in Fort Bragg.  The views of the ocean from the house were inspiring.  Everyone enjoyed quiet moments watching the ocean, moments of delight when spotting the spout of a migrating gray whale, and even exciting moments when one of the local surf breaks was going off (some were so thankful we were viewing it from land while others of us were mind surfing as the waves pitched and reeled).  In the vacation home, we had the opportunity to cook nutritious meals for the gang.  Cate's Kale Soup was a big hit.
Cate's Kale Soup (although I had to leave the mushrooms out)
The last day of Ocean Camp Northern California was my favorite.  We had a good surf zone for training on controlled launching and landing techniques.

Followed by the opportunity to paddle in some very dynamic water.  It was awesome to see everyone go from nervous and tense in the large swells and bouncy water to smiling and ouuuuuing and ahhhing as the swells exploded on the rocks and cliffs of the headlands around us.

Paddling in the big conditions was a nice climax to a fun filled week.  The next day, most of us would be journeying south to San Francisco for the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium.

But truth be known, the camaraderie continued into the symposium and beyond.  Smiles and nicknames were hailed as our camp participants passed on another on and off the water - an indicator to us that the skills and friendships developed during Ocean Camp Northern California will last a long time.
Rebellion against Captain Jeff.