Archive for the 'Sea Kayaking' Category

Aug 12 2014

Jive’n

“Sometimes you get to watch the entertainment . . . and sometimes you are the entertainment.”

Sometimes it is both – especially when someone videos it.  This week I had an evening free and went through some of our ocean kayaking video footage.  I compiled a video of some play sessions that we have had over the past year – mostly rock gardening and surfing in our old school Necky Jive’s.

Here’s the video

Hope you are entertained.

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Mar 17 2014

Rumors of a New Rock Garden Kayak

The rumors that Jackson Kayak has a new rock garden kayak are true.  Last week, we got to take the first ones out for a 3 day demo and video shoot on the waters of Mendocino County.  The boat is called the Karma Unlimited RG.  We ended up calling it RG for short.  RG stands for Rock Garden and River Guide.  It is based on the design of Jackson’s Karma whitewater creek race boat.

Jackson Karma Unlimited RG on Mendocino’s Eel River photo by Sean Morley

 

Here’s a video about the creek boat version.

Basically the RG has all the features of the Unlimited and also has a rear bulkhead and hatch, decklines, and a drop down skeg to make for a versatile ocean play boat or whitewater river expedition boat.  More details and a promo video about the RG will be coming out soon.

The Karma RG has all the features necessary on an ocean rock garden play boat.

 

We got to paddle the RG in the rock gardens and surf of the Mendocino Coast and on a class III whitewater stretch of the Eel River.  I was prepared to put my game face on and just paddle the boat for the promo video; however, I fell in love with the boat and am excited about its possibilities for both rock gardening and ocean play as well as multi-day river trips.

The Karma RG is a blast on the river!!! Photo by Sean Morley

 

Stay tuned for more videos, photos and a full review.

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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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Nov 05 2013

Precision

The swell rolls in toward the bay.  As it hits the northern point, it encounters obstacles – ROCKS!!!  From 100 yards away, I see the wall of water rolling toward the rocks.  Giddy with anticipation, my eyes track the water and my mind envisions the ride.

Wah-boom!!!  The swell hits the rocks and washes over them ending in a chaotic washing machine of churning whitewater.  I envision myself in my sea kayak riding with the wave over the rock and into the melee of whitewater.

We paddle closer to take a look.  The tide is low and mixed swells are washing over the rock.  Most of the swells are not quite big enough for one to cleanly run a 15′ sea kayak over the rock.  Jeff hops on one of the bigger waves and bombs over the rock in an 11′ whitewater kayak.

I move into position and watch and wait.  And watch and wait. And watch and wait.  It is work to stay in position.  The swells aren’t big enough to cleanly ride over the rock but are strong enough to create surges as the water rushes around the rock and rebound into and out of the nearby sea cave.  Draw stroke, draw stroke, draw stroke, reverse paddle, reverse paddle, draw stroke, reverse paddle, reverse paddle . . . still watching and waiting.

As I work to maintain position, I am reading the water – trying to gage its direction, size, and pulse.  The sizes of the waves are mostly the same, but some have a longer interval and more water.  It is one of these thick waves that I need for a clean ride.  In a plastic sea kayak, many kayakers would enjoy a wave that bounced and bumped them over the rock.  I am striving for precision and honing my water reading, timing, and paddling skills.  I want a clean ride.

As I maintain position, I angle my boat so that I can see out to sea but also so that I can counteract the surging of the water around the rock when I go for my ride.

The swells are mostly wrapping around from the North West or are coming straight in from the West.  However as I wait and watch, a wall of water rolls in from the South.  It is the perfect size and I am tempted, but I know that my angle of approach is incorrect.  That wave would definitely stuff me into the higher part of the rock.  I refuse to visualize the consequences beyond that and watch the southern swell explode over the rock.

It is work, and I am becoming impatient.  The urge to just try one of the smaller waves is strong and the work maintain position is constant.  Smaller waves continue to roll through with the occasional one that possibly could put me over the top smoothly.  Knowledge of the consequences of a mistimed wave stays my position and shores-up my patience.  This feature is called Nick’s Nightmare and has been a nightmare for many besides Nick.  Today, Nick is quietly sitting on the outside watching.

Bryant and Jeff are patiently waiting as well.  I feel bad that everyone is waiting on me.  However, these guys are my paddling posse.  We get as excited about each others rides as we do our own, and I know that they want me to get “The Wave of the Day” (or at least my wave of the day).  Both Jeff and Bryant had amazing rides at Chicken Point and now it is my turn.

And now, my readers are patiently reading my blog waiting for me to catch my wave.

A bump comes along.  It doesn’t look much larger than the others but is drawing more water.  I am working  harder now to maintain my position and see that my elevation has changed.  I am looking at a wall of rock in front of me rather than the top of it.  I know that this is my wave and paddle straight at the rock.  Just moments before my bow hits the rock, the swell rises beneath me and I am hurling over the rock and down the other side.

sea kayak rock gardening mendocino
Rocking the Valley Gemini SP. Photo by Bryant Burkhardt

My heart is in my throat for a moment as my boat plunges into the gaping hole that has opened up at the bottom of the rock.

Plunging into Nick’s Nightmare.  Photo by Jeff Laxier

I keep my weight forward to continue my forward momentum.  This feature preys upon fear and will suck tentative paddlers back over its falls.  My 15′ sea kayak submerges but continues its forward momentum to escape the jaws of Nick’s Nightmare.

Escaping the Grasp of Nick’s Nightmare. Photo by Jeff Laxier

Mission accomplished.

No boats, marine life, rocks, or paddlers were injured in this sequence of events.

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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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Feb 04 2013

Valley Gemini SP

Last year when Valley Sea Kayaks announced the Gemini SP, I was very interested.  I really like shorter sea kayaks (14 foot range) for rock gardening and surf zone play.  Shorter boats are usually lighter weight and more maneuverable.  I have been paddling my16 foot Valley Avocet RM for 3 years and have been looking to upgrade to a lighter-weight more responsive sea kayak for teaching, guiding, and playing on the Mendocino Coast.

In the past week, I have paddled the Gemini twice.  First was at the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. Then she came home with us to the Mendocino Coast for some rock gardening and surfing. (Jeff shows her off quite well).

First impressions: Lightweight, comfortable, nimble.

Lightweight: I am used to hefting around my Avocet RM and numerous other boats.  This felt like a feather compared to most (both on and off the water).

Comfortable:  The front deck is higher than my Avocet RM.  I liked being able to have my knees up higher like in a whitewater kayak.  The key hole cockpit gives lots of leg room for getting in and out but also has good contour for engaging the legs into the thigh braces.

Photo by Bryant Burkhardt

Stability:  The Gemini seems to have a lot of primary stability.  It definitely has secondary stability but it is a much smaller area than that of the Avocets.  It will be a bit of a learning curve for those of us that perhaps over edge our boats.

On the water: The Gemini was responsive and nimble on the water.  I didn’t expect her to be a fast boat but was please with how quickly she accelerated.  This is important in catching waves and timing rides over pour-overs and through surge channels when rock gardening.

On a wave, the Gemini responded quickly to steering strokes.  I have never been a big fan of sea kayak surf sessions as I am partial to short boats (whitewater or surf) with planning hulls for surfing; however, I am looking forward to a couple of surf sessions with the Gemini SP to learn the boat better and dial in my maneuvering and edge control for rock garden play.  On my first few waves with her last week, the Gemini felt nimble and responsive.  The stern didn’t lock onto the wave like many sea kayaks but was loose and receptive to steering and edges.

Cate surfs the Gemini.

Rolling:  I rolled the Gemini twice – once in a foam pile after
catching an edge and the other time in deep water after capsizing to
bail off a ride.  No thoughts or complaints, she rolled easily with my
standard Sweep to C roll.

Other thoughts: I miss having a day hatch and will have to get used to the pod on the front deck.  At 5’4″ and 120 pounds, I am probably at the low end of who this boat will fit without doing much outfitting (good for me but not for smaller paddlers). 

Rumor has it that there is a plastic version coming out this spring.  Of course we will be watching this closely.

Conclusion:  After only 2 days in Gemini, I can’t wait to get out and paddle her again.  This is saying something as my personal boating time is usually spent in a whitewater or surf kayak.  Lightweight is a huge factor especially for us smaller paddlers.  I look forward to doing more testing with her in the surf and rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast as well as seeing how she handles in a variety of conditions.

I think that Valley definitely has a winner in the playful sea kayak category.  Both Jeff and I will be paddling the Gemini SP more and reporting on our thoughts on her over time.

Ocean Paddler did a review on the Gemini SP and Gemini ST versions in the fall of 2012 (issue #33).  Here’s a video that they did with an overview and review of the Gemini SP.

PS  Yes, the Gemini that we are paddling is the “Black Pearl” Gemini that went down the Grand Canyon at Christmas time.

 

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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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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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Jun 13 2012

A Rock’n Sunday Paddle

Typical windy spring time conditions are here on the Mendocino Coast.  High pressure systems make for sunny warm days but also tighten the pressure gradient and kick up winds off-shore.  Predictions of gale force conditions have been hit or miss, and this Sunday looked like another miss.  On Saturday morning, Sunday’s swell prediction of 2 feet had us giddy about the possibility of some serious sea cave exploration.  As the winds kicked up on Saturday, we knew that our paddle the next day wasn’t going to be a lily-dip sea cave exploration.
Captain Jeff

We started our Second Sunday Paddle with a little warm up in the bay and admired a handsome horned grebe (which isn’t common on the Mendocino Coast this time of the year).

As we went to exit the protected bay, seas steepened and the wind conspired to blow us off course as we tried to thread the needle through the rocky reefs guarding another protected bay.  Back into the Gulch we went.  To the delight of everyone, Sunday’s exploration became a rock garden play session.

Heather knocked the rust off and showed good form and lots of smiles.
Heck Yea!!!  Great ride Heather!!!

Dick tested his combat rolling skills.

I got a nice saltwater facial.
Cate gets a salt water facial.

Of course, Jeff styled it in his Valley Avocet who after 10 months now has a name – “The Red Scorpion”

Just another Mendo Sunday with LFK.

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