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

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