Archive for the 'instruction' Category

Feb 21 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.

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Jan 19 2014

Review of Valley Gemini SP – Poly

Both Jeff and I really like the composite version of Valley Sea Kayak’s Gemini SP and were really looking forward to trying out the plastic version.  (Here’s a link to my review of the composite Gemini).  At Lumpy Waters, Jeff got to paddle the plastic version of the Valley Gemini SP  He liked the boat so much that he bought it, and it journeyed home with us to the Mendocino Coast.

Over the past 2 months, I have had her out on sea kayak rock garden play days, coastal exploration tours, kayak crabbing, and BCU 3* Training Sessions.  Here are my thoughts and recommendations.  (I am 5’4″, 120 pounds and a skilled paddler who likes a responsive boat).

Review of the Valley Gemini SP – poly:

Lightweight: The plastic Gemini is light for a plastic boat.  Having hefted around many a plastic sea kayak, I was instantly impressed with the weight of the Gemini.  I guess I was expecting a beast like many of the newer plastic sea kayak play boats but was pleasantly pleased.

Valley Gemini SP at home among the rock gardens and sea caves of the Mendocino Coast.

Comfortable: The Gemini is comfortable and easily adjustable.  I am pleased that I am not on the shortest setting for the foot braces but have 2 more clicks.  The cockpit and deck height seem a little bit snugger/lower than the composite version.  Here is a link to a blog post by Dave Dalby at Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak about outfitting adjustments to make it fit better.

The cockpit is a little bit long to my liking and I find getting my snug fitting spray decks on a bit cumbersome.  For teaching, I have switched to using a larger spray deck that is easier to put on.  When heading out to play in the surf or rock gardens, expect to see my contortion act of getting a snug spraydeck on (or perhaps give me a hand).

The hatches are well configured.  YEAH – it has a day hatch!!! I found the day hatch to be accessible while on the water.

Stability:  Right off the bat, I noticed the primary stability of the Gemini.  Students who have paddled the boat have noticed the same thing – “Its not as tippy” (compared to our Avocets).  After paddling the soft chined poly Valley Avocet for years, I am still getting used to the hard chines of the Gemini.  The Gemini definitely responds to skilled paddling and loves to be edged for turns.

On the Water:  The Gemini is a comfortable, stable craft that feels nimble in dynamic waters.  The bow volume, stability, and looseness of the stern make her quite playful in bouncy waters and really fun for rock gardening.  She feels like she was designed for rock gardening.

sea kayak, rock garden, valley gemini, mendocino coast
Sea Kayak Rock Gardening on the Mendocino Coast photo by Bryant Burkhardt

The Gemini handles like a play boat but paddles like a sea kayak.  (Many of the newer play sea kayaks don’t require an edge to turn efficiently and actually can be a bit difficult for us smaller paddlers to edge to turn).  I enjoy the nuance of edging a sea kayak to carve turns.  The Gemini responds well to edging and handles well when paddling backwards.

The poly Gemini isn’t a speedy boat.  I was surprised by the speed of the composite Gemini and a little disappointed that the plastic version isn’t a little bit faster.  Although, she isn’t any slower than the other plastic sea kayaks made for play (P&H Delphin, P&H Hammer, and Dagger Alchemy).

Edging and speed aren’t the top priority when kayak crabbing.  A flat deck that one can attach crab pots to and a day hatch for transporting dinner are nice features on the Gemini for those of us who use a sea kayak to get dinner.

kayak, crabbing
Crabbing in the Gemini SP sea kayak.  Photo by Bryant Burkhardt

Conclusions and Recommendations:  I definitely think that Valley has a winner in the playful sea kayak category with the Gemini SP.  For those looking for a durable plastic kayak for rock garden play, I would highly recommend the Valley Gemini SP.  I especially think that it is a good option for smaller paddlers who want a lightweight yet capable plastic boat.

The poly Valley Gemini SP has become my go-to sea kayak for rock gardening.  I foresee the Valley Gemini SP joining our fleet as an instructional boat. I like the primary stability for inspiring confidence in beginners yet it is a boat that responds to dynamic and skilled paddling.  It will be a good “school boat” for teaching sea kayak skills like edge control, carving turns, and paddling backwards as well as a great boat for rock gardening classes.

If you are looking for an opportunity to demo Valley Sea Kayak’s Gemini SP, they will be available at the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium.  We will also have a couple in the Liquid Fusion Kayaking fleet for our rock garden and sea kayak classes.

If you have any experiences or questions about the Valley Gemini SP, please post them in the comments below or contact me through Liquid Fusion Kayaking.  I anticipate adding more to this review when we have more experience paddling and having students paddle the Gemini.

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Mar 04 2013

Surf Kayaking Resources

Published by under instruction,Mendocino,surf

On the Mendocino Coast, we literally go with the flow.  It has been a dry winter so our whitewater runs are are a bit boney.  Fortunately there is never a shortage of water in the Pacific Ocean so we’ve been playing in our surf kayaks.  I’ve been working on dialing the fundamentals – bottom and top turns, faded take-offs, diagonal runs, and staying in the critical part of the wave.  Jeff and I have also been exploring some different breaks which have challenged both of us.

We have been teaching surf kayak classes and lessons.  In March, we will be teaching 2 weekends of surf kayak classes before heading to Santa Cruz for the 27th Annual Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival.

I’ve been gathering surf kayak resources for our students and thought that I would share them with my readers.

Etiquette – Gotta follow the rules of the playground (kayakers are notorious for misbehaving in the surf zone).  Surfline’s Bill of Lefts and Rights is a good resource for the rules of surfing.  I like visuals so check out this surf etiquette article by Robert Saunders that includes this diagram.

Here’s a website dedicated to surf kayak skills.

Here’s a surf kayak skills video by expert kayak surfer Dessie McGlinchey.  The footage is awesome.


Many paddlers can catch a wave, but the best way to learn performance surf kayaking is to take a class or lesson. Then get out and surf.  Once you have a little bit of knowledge of surfing, experience is the best teacher.

Do you have any favorite surf kayak tips or resources?  If so, please share them.  I am working on developing a surf kayak resource page.

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Feb 09 2013

Saturday Comes to Mind

I woke up pre-dawn (about 5:00am) excited to be part of another great day.  It is Saturday morning and we are on day two of the 2013  Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. (GGSKS).  The hustle and bustle and excitement was not mine alone but of other coaches and paddlers excited about the day ahead.

Today Paul Kuthe of Alder Creek , Graham Mackereth of P&H Sea Kayaks and I were to coach Advanced Rock Gardening by Sea Kayak.   I was excited to paddle the Valley Sea Kayak “Gemini SP”.  A new high performance sea kayak designed for the oceans rock gardens and surf!

Jeff Laxier   Photo by. Bryant Burkhart

Our plan was to get a quick assessment of our participants, then move out under the Golden Gate Bridge.  We would work the Northern shoreline looking for fun features among the rocks to learn and play on.

Out under the Golden Gate Bridge we went.

Lime Point and the Golden Gate Bridge Photo by Cate Hawthorne

Everyone worked hard to improve and learn new skills around the rocks.  Along our journey, we swooshed up and down the rock walls.  The flow of the class meandered up and down looking like a sea dragon handrailing the cliff for snacks.

We meandered among the rocks and drilled out to Point Diablo where we turned east to go back toward San Francisco Bay.   An unruly student started paddling west for the Farallon Islands (opposite of where the class was headed).  I made a quick dash out to him and gave him a few encouraging words as we turned back toward the rest of the class.  The wind and swell at our backs gave us surfable low angle waves.  My efforts were little and rides were long as the Gemini danced on the waves.

During lunch with a grand view from Kirby Cove, discussion of strategies on getting back inside the Golden Gate Bridge began.  After lunch we had some fun surf ops, and Paul determined the plan for our return under the bridge.

Keeping the L in CLAP along the eddy fence.  Photo by. Bryant Burkhart

At the Golden Gate Bridge, I sat on the eddy fence watching each student cross the fast eddyline and successfully drive into the strong current and the safe eddy beyond Lime Point.  The strong currents tried to rip a paddler off course, but Paul  gave a deflective tap setting the paddler back on target.

I was last to negotiate the eddies and currents and timed it just right.  A few paddle strokes and Whammo! – the Gemini and I caught a nice wave and surfed up to the awaiting class.

After the successful trip back through the gate, we notched the challenge level up again with rolling and swimming self-rescue drills where the waves, cliffs, and currents meet inside of Lime Point.  The students were exhilarated by their day, Paul and I enjoyed getting to coach together and I was really excited about paddling the Gemini SP.

But the day was not over yet.  Evening festivities were held at the Sausalito Yacht Club.  The program includedIkkatsu – The Roadless Coast’ with Ken Campbell and Steve Weileman, The Search for the Perfect Day with Shay, Jason, and Chris, kayak songs by the talented Steve “Hull-Cracker” Wilson”, and a goodie-laden raffle benefiting the Marin Mammal Center.

A big thank you to the event organizers Matt Palmariello and Sean Morley!  The coaches, students, and other participants were well taken care of and a good time was had by all.  Thanks also to Bob Burnett (RWA) and Rob Avery (Valley Sea Kayaks) for getting the Gemini SP to me!  And thanks Cate Hawthorne for the motivation and positive energy.

Cheers,

Jeff Laixer

 

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Oct 31 2012

Coaches at Work

I’m back in sunny California from 2 weeks of  rainy travels in Oregon.  It was a great trip where I got to meet lots of great folks, reconnect with some good friends, and paddle in some neat places.  The reason for the Oregon road trip was Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe‘s BCU Week and Lumpy Waters Symposium.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to work (and play) with other kayak coaches.  It is fun to work with others and see how their style works for students as well as to learn new ideas.

Karl Andersson tosses the tennis ball in a warm-up drill in the 4 Star Sea Leader Training.

Alex Stoeffl coaches a student on bracing in the soup.

Amanda Cantel directs traffic in the surf zone.

Chris Bensch runs his students through dynamic surf turns on the beach.

Cindy Scherrer coaches a student into the surf zone.

Malcolm Kelly demonstrates a bow assist.

Theresa Flodin goes vertical practicing her surf zone skills.

Matt Nelson emphasizes the paddler’s box.

Jeff Laxier takes his class for a swim.

As a coach, my highlight of the week was at the end of Sunday’s Fun & Feedback Class.   After progressing through bracing, launching and landing drills in the soup zone, the students each had their chance to put all the pieces together and launch and land on their own.  They had to launch themselves, paddle out into the soup zone, turn their kayaks around to face shore (not an easy task in lumpy waters), paddle back to shore, and land with their kayak in control.

They did great!!!  I still get warm fuzzing feelings picturing them smiling and landing their kayaks.

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Oct 10 2012

Missed Opportunities

Sometimes things go just right.  Perfect wave, set-up, timing, and execution.

Sometimes you make a mistake and get tossed.

Other times, you are in the perfect position at the right time but just don’t feel it (and chicken out).

Other times, you see that perfect opportunity but aren’t in position and watch it go by.

Other times you try but it eludes you.

Other times, you have the perfect shot and your camera malfunctions.

This is the way things are and why it is so great when everything comes together for that perfect ride and photo/video to go with it.

Cate in Lava.  Photo by June Ruckman

And what keeps us heading out there for more.

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Sep 07 2012

Rock Gardening on the Mendocino Coast

A few quiet days has us catching up on office work.  We carved out a few moments to put together a new video for Liquid Fusion Kayaking.  This is a new kayak rock gardening video.  It is mostly our Labor Day Waves n Caves Weekend students kayaking in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast.

Be sure to watch the last 30 seconds of the video for one of the hazards of being a kayak instructor.

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Jun 26 2012

Discipline

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.”  Jim Rohn

Our students often share with us how much they value our instruction and appreciate our patience. (Jeff is patient.  I am stubborn).

Paddlers come to us to become better paddlers.  We have the easy job – coaching them.

They have the hard part – making it happen.

In our classes and lessons this weekend, we had some seasoned paddlers working on rolling and surf zone skills.  Sometimes the hard part is learning a skill that is counter intuitive to our natural instincts – like keeping our head down on the roll.

Or dropping a stern rudder on the shore side of a wave.

For many adults it is difficult to turn the brain off and let the body do what it needs to do.  We encourage students to use tools like positive self-talk, visualization, kinesthetic cues, and lots of perfect practice to retrain the brain and develop muscle memory.

Even more difficult is finding the self-discipline to go out and practice – especially skills that some find cumbersome like swimming with a sea kayak.

We often want to spend our recreational paddling time touring with friends, wildlife watching, running whitewater, surfing or rock gardening.  For many paddlers there is seemingly no glory in flat water perfection skill sessions or surfing knee high waves, but this is where skills are built and committed to muscle memory so that in rough water they are automatic and effective.

Our recommendation to out students is to get out and paddle!!! Each time you are on the water commit 10 minutes to perfecting one of your skills.  Whether it is the draw stroke or the roll, commit to mindful practice.  Talk yourself through the key components of the skill and practice them.

Even better yet, get your friends to practice too so that you all become more skilled paddlers together.

Please comment and share any strategies that you have found helpful.

“Without self-discipline, success is impossible – period.”  Lou Holtz

 

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Apr 07 2012

Spring into Kayaking

Spring has sprung on the Mendocino Coast.  The Alders and Willows along the banks of the Noyo River are awash in brilliant hues of green and the song birds have started singing their songs of spring.

Doggie Paddle on the Noyo River

For those who don’t paddle year-round, spring is often time to start thinking about getting out on the water.

For some this means paddling locally, planning a vacation(s) that involve kayaking, or taking a class.  Some even start to thinking about purchasing a kayak.

Here are a few tips for those looking to get on the water this spring or summer:

Check out your gear.  Some things to consider are – Your life jacket (pfd) – Are the buckles and zippers working?  Does it fit snugly and stay in place?  Your kayak(s) – make sure that your craft is sea worthy and suitable for where you plan to paddle.  Are there any holes or dings that need to be fixed?  Are the deck lines in good condition or fraying?  Is it comfortable?  Is your paddling attire in good condition and does it fit?  Are your roof racks on your vehicle secure?

Check out your skills.  Maybe it is time for a class to tune-up your skills.  A forward stroke class is extremely valuable as it is the stroke that we use the most and one that even the most skilled paddlers are always working on perfecting.  A class will help refine your skills to paddle new areas – rock gardens, surf zones, or whitewater.  Taking a BCU training or assessment is a good way to determine where your skills are and develop a plan for developing your skills.

Explore your local waterways.  Look around, we bet you can find a place to kayak less than an hour from home.  The days are getting longer and evening paddles are a great way to unwind from the day (and a great time of the day to see wildlife).  Getting in a regular paddling habit is easier when you find a spot that is easily accessible and close to home.  It is also good for the heart and soul and helps you build up seat time for when you want to do longer paddles.

Explore a new area.  If you are planning a vacation around kayaking and don’t have much kayaking experience, contact a local outfitter.  They will help you assess your skills and interests and decide on the best paddling venue for your trip, best time of the day/conditions, and appropriate equipment.  Areas like the Mendocino Coast have estuaries that are best planned around tides and coastal areas that are best planned around ocean conditions and paddler skill levels.

Paddling past the Pt Cabrillo Lighthouse

For those with experience and your own equipment, you might want to connect with a local paddling club.  Often the paddling club’s website will have helpful information for planning your trip or even trips that you could join.  Check out the Bay Area Sea Kayaker’s Planner is a very useful tool.  Sometimes paddling clubs host special events to share their local waters with others.  Our friends at Explore North Coast are hosting a sea kayak social weekend May 3-6.

Also remember that it is fun to explore an area on one’s own, but one will often see more
and get the best experience when going with a local guide who knows the
area like the back of their hand.  Most of us aren’t in the kayaking business to get rich but because we love sharing the waters, wildlife, and wonders of the outdoors with others.

On tour in Trinidad Bay with Hawk Martin of Humboats.

For those looking to purchase a kayak, be sure that you know what you want.  Knowing this involves identifying what your skill level is and where you are going to be paddling.  Two mistakes that people often make are buying a boat because the price is right (even though it is the wrong boat) or buying a boat that they don’t have the skills to use.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY.  Do you buy a car without taking it on a test drive?  You can research all the bells and whistles but until you paddle the boat you don’t really know how it will handle with you paddling it.  We recommend that you determine what type of kayak is suitable (sea kayak, recreational kayak, whitewater kayak, surf kayak, fishing kayak) and then get out and test paddle as many different models within that classification.  Check with your local outfitter for demo days and demo programs.

Regardless of your paddling goals and plans our best paddling advice is

DO IT!!!  Be safe and have FUN!!!

We hope to see you on the water!!!

Ahhhhhh . . .

 

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Mar 15 2012

A Weekend on the North Coast

A huge thank you to the Explore North Coast Club and local ACA instructor Mike Zeppegno for hosting us for a weekend of Humboldt kayaking fun.

On Saturday, we had the pleasure of introducing 8 sea kayakers to Whitewater of the Sea in their home waters off Trinidad. It was fun to see the “ah-ha” moments as they enjoyed the playfulness and maneuverability of the “short boats.”

On Sunday, we taught our Intro to Sea Kayak Rock Gardening Class in Trinidad.

In each class, we had our students working on personal skills, group skills, and rescue skills.

It was a great experience for paddlers who regularly paddle together to train together and for their instructors to shadow us as we shared our progression and techniques for kayak rock gardening.

Paddlers got to sort out their equipment specific to paddling in ocean rock gardens including modifying their towlines and rescue techniques for kayaks without bulkheads.

As we were teaching experienced sea kayakers, it was fun to see Hawk Martin of Humboats Kayak Adventures sharing an ocean kayaking experience with some first timers.

On Monday night, we completed our weekend by entertaining the club club with tales of our 169 Mile Paddle of the Eel River.

We love traveling north to the Humboldt area where there is lots of great paddling and fun folks to paddle with. For more information on paddling in the Humboldt area – be sure to check out Explore North Coast’s new guide book – Sea Kayaking the Redwood Coast or do a kayak adventure with our friends at Humboats, Kayak Zak’s, or Greenland or Bust.

Here’s a link to photos from our Trinidad Whitewater of the Sea Class and a link to our photos from the Intro to Sea Kayak Rock Gardening.

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