Archive for February, 2011

Feb 28 2011

Following the Pied Piper

I missed the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium (GGSKS) but as the stars aligned I had the fortune of paddling and playing with 5 of the instructors after the symposium.

Like the Pied Piper, Jeff played a sweet tune and lured several of the GGSKS instructors to our house and the magical paddling playground of the Mendocino Coast. Paul Kuthe, Dave White, Matt Nelson, and Bryan Burkhardt couldn’t resist the piper’s tune and came to play.

I was a little skeptical about tagging along knowing that my skill level was no where near their caliber and also not wanting to hold them up if they were looking to get some miles in and see our coast. Ahhhh – but what do these guys do for their paddling fun – ROCK GARDEN and SURF!

Our Pied Piper led us to a bouncy passage to the south of Russian Gulch and the opening of a sea tunnel that traveled under the headlands. Through this sea tunnel, we traveled to a magical playground of surge channels, pour overs, and slots.

After a journey through the milkshake room (aptly named by Bryant) we traveled to a reef break in Agate Cove. Steep 10-12 foot waves had me stepping back and watching but eventually venturing in for a little fun. The Northwest wind kicked up and made getting into and holding position to catch the wave tricky.

The guys carved this baby up and I held on for dear life, keeping my sea kayak from broaching and heading right and into the rocks.

After a lunch break, our pied piper turned out to be a business owner who had to get back for a teleconference with the accountant so we all returned to tell our tales. But being in the kayaking business, we couldn’t resist a few more rides as we traveled back to our magical tunnel. The northwest wind had kicked up significantly so we stayed on the inside using the rocks as buffers from the wind and breaking waves. I surfed every wave and surge possible to help with gaining headway in the wind.

Before traveling through our magic tunnel, we rode one more pour-over. The pour-over was straightforward but holding position in the wind and current was challenging. The guys were much better at holding position than I was but were stoked to see me in there charging it and encouraged me to be patient and wait for the right wave.

Back through our tunnel, we returned to Russian Gulch, extended invitations for more play, and sped away – Matt back to Orcas Island, Dave and Paul to Portland, Bryant to Sacramento, and Jeff and I to our meeting with the accountant.

It was awesome to paddle with these guys and I look forward to paddling with them again – Lumpy Waters maybe?

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Feb 24 2011

Back to the Mendocino Coast

Charts are spread across the kitchen table and photo galleries are zooming across our computer screens as Jeff and I reconnect after our separate paddling adventures over the past week. Of course our best adventure of the week happened when we both returned to the Mendocino Coast for a sweet sea kayak rock garden session with some special guests.

Jeff just returned from the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. He ventured down a few days early last week to take a BCU 4 Star Assessment (yes they were the group that was on the channel 5 news jumping off the sea wall). After the 4 Star Assessment, he was there for the weekend as an instructor in their rock gardening classes.

Jeff had a great time. He passed his BCU 4 Star Assessment, got to coach paddlers in around the rocks, reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones. We are both stoked that Jeff had the winning raffle ticket for a new drysuit of his choice from Kokatat. Thanks for all the suggestions and comments that it should be a women’s size small; however, Kokatat just gave my drysuit some love and I am happy to wear it for another season.

Yes, last week was a drysuitless week for me as my suit was in the shop but not one that didn’t see me on the water. My adventures included focused work on our 2010 books in preparation for tax season (not the funnest adventure), teaching private sea kayak lessons, and playing with the Gold Country Paddlers on the Eel River.

The 2 days on the Eel were fun as significant rainfall during the week had the river running at a moderately high level. On Saturday, we did the Outlet Creek to Dos Rios Run at about 4200 cfs which made for some big waves and big hydraulics. Here’s Jerry the organizer of the weekend doing a little river surfing.

On Sunday, I joined the group for the Hearst Run – a 17 mile wilderness stretch. This is a Class II run with one Class III rapid that is known for good wildlife viewing. We were a chatty group and didn’t see a lot of wildlife but it was a gorgeous paddle at a fun flow.

I was excited to get a photo of one of the wild boars that we saw trekking up the hillside.

I also got a photo of the remains of a Wenonah Canoe on the banks. Geee . . . no roads around. I hope that they didn’t have to hike out.

The highlight of our week though was the unexpected guests that showed up at our house after the symposium. The guys had a great time paddling together and decided to indulge in a play day in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast on their way north. It was AWESOME to share our playground with such a talented group of paddlers. These guys definitely ROCK!!!

Dave White – P&H Team Paddler and Alder Creek Instructor
Matt Nelson – BCU Instructor and P&H Team Paddler
Bryant Burkhardt – Paddle California and instructor for California Canoe and Kayak
Paul Kuthe – Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak in Portland, OR

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Feb 09 2011

Back into the BCU

When Jeff taught for Aqua Adventures in San Diego, he had the good fortune of being introduced to the British Canoe Union (BCU). The BCU has developed a structured progression to guide and measure paddlers in their paddling skill progression. Paddlers can earn star awards in sea, whitewater, surf, and canoe. Star awards range from 1-5 star with 1 being introductory and 4 and 5 being advanced skills including leadership.

Jeff has been working toward keeping his coaching and star award certifications current. Jeff has BCU star awards in Sea, Canoe, and Surf and is a level 3 Sea Coach (one of only 2 in California). This weekend we held our first BCU events on the Mendocino Coast.

On Saturday was a fun 2 Star Assessment that involved basic paddling skills in a variety of craft. We used sea kayaks, whitewater river kayaks, and canoes as well as a variety of paddles.

The canoe portion of the day was the most challenging as most participants did not have much canoe or single paddle experience. It was also probably the most fun. We had an audience at times when we were purposefully flipping the canoes over.

On Sunday, we had a 3 Star Sea Training. From theory of navigation and first aid to strokes and rescue and recoveries, it was a full day of sea kayak training.

Flat water perfection drills had the paddlers fine tuning their edges and torso rotation through a variety of maneuvering skills.

Towing practice gave students the opportunity to try out different tow methods and work the kinks out of their gear.

It was great to have 2 days of focused skill work. All of the paddlers showed significant improvements in their skills and Jeff got to do what he loves – coaching. We are looking forward to offering more BCU training and assessments. Even those who are not interested in BCU star awards, it is a great way to practice and hone your skills.

Our next scheduled BCU event is a 3 Star Assessment on Saturday May 7. Please contact us if you are interested in our future BCU training and assessments.

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Feb 04 2011


Sometimes you surf waves and sometimes you get surfed.

The Mendocino Coast has been having epically gorgeous weather. The warm sunny days with little to no wind have been very inspiring to get out and play in the water. Kayak surfing has been on my mind as I decide if I am going to enter in one of the events at the Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival.

I just re-outfitted my mini-mako surf kayak and was looking for a mellow surf session to test out my new outfitting and get reacquainted with its slicy edges. Tuesday, one of our river kayaking friends meandered over the to the coast and met up with us to look for surf. The swell was relatively small for this time of the year at 5-7 feet but with a 13+ second period meant that there was some power behind it.

My favorite mellow surf beach was barely breaking so we moved on. With limited time, we headed to Hare Creek. Hare Creek is a tricky spot to surf. It is a beach break that changes quickly as the tide height lowers or drops. The outside can be a thumper and the inside can be confused with reflective waves. We have enjoyed some mellow sea kayak surf sessions there as well as some quality sinus clearing surf sessions.

Jeff and Jerry headed out as I watched a couple of sets go through. I am still learning to read the surf and find that it helps to watch it from shore before heading out. Today there were definitely some thumping sets coming through but also some appealing left shoulders on the inside.

I resigned myself to the inevitable sinus clearing of Hare Creek but wanted a couple of those spilling lefts. I settled into my surf kayak and paddled out. The slicey stern, planing hull, and rails on the boat contrast greatly with the bouncy, forgiving feel of my whitewater kayak. The crisp handling of the boat combined with the sunshine and cool splash of ocean water was exhilarating. I was ready to go surf some waves.

Just as I was getting to where that peeling wave was, I saw the next set approaching. It was one of the larger ones. Where my spilling wave was became the impact zone. I paddled hard and tried to punch through the wave but it wanted to remind me that I wasn’t in charge and tossed me like a rag doll. I tucked tight to the deck of my boat as it washed me about and surfed me toward shore. For a moment I thought, “Geeeezz . . . here we go again . . . another beat down session at Hare Creek.”

I erased the thought and rolled up and was faced with the freight train foam pile of the next wave of the set. I dug in and sprinted at it and over it. Alright, the big set had passed it was time to ride that left shoulder.

Or try to.

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