Archive for the 'whitewater 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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Mar 04 2014

Whitewater n Surf Kayak Safari

Whitewater and Surf Kayak Safari’s on the Mendocino Coast are one of our favorite events to host in the winter and spring.  Our goal is to hit the triffecta of a kayak surf session, a whitewater river run, and ocean rock garden play.  This weekend we nailed it!!!

Kayak Surfing on the Mendocino Coast
Whitewater Kayaking on Mendocino’s Eel River
Whitewater Kayaking Ocean Rock Gardens

Winter and spring are the only seasons that it is possible for us to attain our triffecta of surf kayaking, whitewater river kayaking and ocean rock garden play in Mendocino County because our whitewater river runs are rain fed.  Winter and spring are the seasons when we have significant rainfall that will make the rivers flow.  These winter and spring storms can make for perfect surfing conditions but also quite challenging ones.  Winter and spring storms often generate longer period swells that can be great for surfing, but winds from the storms can make for challenging conditions and stormy surf.

This weekend we had 2 skilled boaters from Southern California journey north for some Mendocino Whitewater and Surfing Fun, and the storm systems aligned for surf kayaking, rock gardening, and whitewater river running.

We started with a bit of a warm-up in the Noyo Bay.

Our journey there had us surfing in rock gardens, dancing over pour-overs, threading our way through technical passages, and of course surfing and chickening out at Chicken Point.

A rainy, stormy surf day didn’t dampen our spirits but made us giddy with excitement for whitewater boating on Mendocino County’s Eel River.

And a perfect sunny day we had on the Eel – catching ever eddy, surfing every wave, and boofing our way down the river.

 

 

Day Four we had tons of options – another river run, more surfing, rock gardening – we returned again to Noyo Bay.

Chicken Point was calling.

And we were answering.

 

Here’s a link to a photo gallery from last week’s Advanced Whitewater n Kayak Surf Safari.

The rivers are primed, more rain in the forecast, surf is up, and there is always rock garden play in the ocean – let’s go boating!!!

 

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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 21 2014

Jackson Zen 55 – A Small Paddler’s River Runner

Goldilocks has found the whitewater river runner kayak that is “Just Right” – the Jackson Zen 55.

Followers of my blog and paddling career know that I have had the Goldilocks syndrome with boats – you’ve heard my stories and read my reviews – this boat is too slow, this boat is too heavy, this boat is too wide, yada yada yada.  For those that are interested, I am working on an overview of the small whitewater river runners on the market from the perspective of a petite woman paddler (5’4″ and 120#).  Until I get it written, here’s my whitewater kayak of choice -

 

Review of Jackson Kayak’s Zen 55

First impressions - 

On the website

The promo video showed a fun, capable river runner, but I wasn’t excited until I saw the specs (I am a bit of a numbers person). The Zen 55 is listed as 7’11″ long and 24″ wide, 60 gallons, and weighing 36 pounds.  The specs would lead one to think – a fast, lean boat.  I could get excited about this but was a little skeptical that it might be too narrow for my hips like many of the kids’ whitewater boats.

On the showroom floor

The Zen 55 looked like the right size.  True this is a very subjective statement but having paddled many different river runners over the years and looking at others, they always look too big.  My fear that the Zen 55 was a kids’ boat was alleviated when I sat in it and fit.  It fits like my favorite pair of jeans.

On the water

River Running – The Zen 55 danced on the water for me as we boated the Chili Bar Run of the South Fork of the American River.  The boat continued to feel like my favorite pair of jeans and moved with me – where and when I wanted to.  The planning hull carved into and out of eddies and glided nicely on waves. The hull was sporty and playful yet stable.  I liked the way the boat rode through the wave trains.  The volume felt well balanced and the handling was very predictable.

Rolling -The Zen 55 was easy and effortless to roll.  This may have been one of the easiest boats that I have ever rolled.

Ocean Rock Gardening – A day rock gardening and surfing in the ocean on the Mendocino Coast reaffirmed my thoughts that this is a great river runner.  For this type of paddling my craft of choice has been a Necky Jive because it is fast and surfs well.  In the Zen 55, I continued to have that solid body boat connection and was able to maneuver the boat and make directional changes when riding pour-overs.

I also really appreciated the Zen’s volume for predictable resurfacing from holes.

I’m not sure about the Zen 55 on an ocean wave yet.  As expected the Zen 55 was slower than the Jive, and  the stern volume was a bit contentious when caught by the foam pile.  More work and testing on this to come.

Outfitting – The outfitting is easily adjusted and comfortable.  Obviously Jackson Kayaks have put a lot of thought into outfitting.  Here’s a link to all the features of their outfitting.  I appreciate that there are no ratchets to corrode and bulkhead adjustments are simple and even possible to adjust on the fly with Jackson Kayak’s corded system (no more crawling in kayaks and wrestling with the adjustment brackets on bulkheads).

Footrest/bulkhead adjustable from the seat of the kayak with one pull on a rope.

The smaller cockpit size of the Zen 55 is really nice compared to other river runners.  It makes for a more comfortable body/boat connection.  The shorter cockpit length makes it so that smaller paddlers can use drier, more implosion resistant spray decks without having a wrestling match to get them on.

The original position of the backband is way to high for my liking so I re-routed the adjustment cords so that it would sit lower.

The foot room is ok in the boat for me in my booties but too tight in my Keen Gorge Boots.  This is not an uncommon problem and one that I will solve by carving out notches for my heels in the center pillar.

Other Sizes – I have not seen other paddlers in the Zen 55; however, quite a few of our students have been paddling the Zen 65 and 75 on the river and in our Whitewater of the Sea Adventures (ocean rock gardening).  Both Jeff and I have been amazed at the beginner friendliness of the Zen – stable, maneuverable, fast, and easy to roll.

Jeff has become a huge fan of the Zen too.  Here he makes the Zen 75 sing on an ocean wave.

Bottomline:

Would I recommend the Jackson Zen 55?  YES!!!  My favorite thing about the Zen 55 is that it is fast and responsive.  The design and outfitting are well thought out and work for a smaller paddler.  For me, it handles like a performance sports car instead of the ho-hum Toyota Camry feel of the other river runners that I have paddled.  Even though it is sporty, the Zen is quite stable and confidence inspiring.  The Zen’s edges will carve into an eddy or on a wave but aren’t grabby in chaotic water.  It is predictable and fast for making moves and super easy to roll.

For those looking for an easy to roll, beginner friendly boat for learning to whitewater kayak, the Zen is it. The Zen is stable, maneuverable, fast, and easy to roll.  The Jackson Zen is the first whitewater kayak that comes to mind when students ask for recommendations for a river runner or ocean rock garden kayak.  The Jackson Zen is also a very capable performance craft for river running up to class IV and playing in ocean rock gardens.

I am at the top of the weight/size recommendations for the Zen 55 which is probably why is it such a sporty kayak for me.  If you are taller than 5’4 and/or over 120 pounds, you might want to try the Zen 65.  I have sat in our 65.  It feels too big but will paddle it and share my thoughts – if I can tear myself out of the 55.

These are my overall impressions of the Zen.  Fortunately the Zen 55 seems to fit the hard to fit smaller paddler but also there is the 65 and 75 to accommodate a wide range of paddlers.  If you are in the market for a river runner, definitely check out the Zen.

If you have experience with the Zen 55, please share them with me in the comments below or send me an email.

 

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Jul 26 2013

Whitewater of the Sea

Whitewater Rock Garden Kayak Tours on the Mendocino Coast:

A story of creation and evolution-

We love kayaking and playing in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast in our whitewater kayaks.  As Liquid Fusion Kayaking evolved to teaching paddlers of all skill levels, we tossed around the idea of introducing novice paddlers to rock gardening.

kayak rock garden mendocino
Jeff boof’s a pour-over in the ocean.
Our vision was to be able to share the fun of kayaking in ocean rock gardens with those who wanted an adventure in the rock gardens and sea caves of the Mendocino Coast regardless of their kayaking skills and experience.  We wanted to create a trip that could get our students riding pour-overs and playing in the whitewater features of the ocean in a 3 hour trip.

whitewater kayak rock gardening
Cate styling it in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast.

We experimented with some friends to see if this would be feasible (it is great having friends that love to play and are always up for an adventure).  While we liked the comfort and performance of our “old school” decked whitewater kayaks, we recognized that our athletic and water savvy non-paddling pals needed a kayak that was more user-friendly.  Inspired by the “wash deck” kayaks of the Tsunami Rangers and our own love of the maneuverability of whitewater kayaks, we decided upon the Dagger Torrent – a sit on top whitewater kayak formerly called a Perception Torrent.

Dagger Torrent Sit on Top Whitewater Kayaks

BINGO!!!  We had a winner!!!  Stable, maneuverable, easy to adjust and fitting a wide range of sizes, the Dagger Torrent gave us a user friendly craft to for introducing students to rock gardens.

whitewater kayak ocean rock gardens mendocino
Novice Paddler Rock Gardening

In 2009, Liquid Fusion Kayaking started offering ocean rock gardening adventures for paddlers of all skill levels.  We called it “Mendocino Kayaking ROCKS!!!”  We coined it as our “Wet and Wild Adventure” to contrast with our “Dry and Mild” kayak tours.

family kayak wildlife watching tour
Dry and Mild Wildlife Watching Kayak Tours on the Noyo River

In 2010, we continued the theme of Wet and Wild but changed the name to Whitewater of the Sea to convey that this is an ADVENTURE in the ocean – kayaking and playing in the waves and whitewater of the sea.  Participants usually swim at least once in the trip – unintentionally or intentionally.

Thrills and Spills!!!

We are in our 5th year of running Whitewater of the Sea Adventures.  This year, we have evolved the trip to involve more swimming.  Last week we had a blast swimming through a sea cave.

sea cave mendocino swimming
Swimming through a Sea Cave on the Mendocino Coast

The first hour of the adventure is “training” which includes instruction in maneuvering and safety skills.  Participants quickly recognize that this isn’t your average kayak tour but a fun learning adventure.  One of our students wrote about it on YELP - “One of the best classes that I have taken on any subject ever.”

instruction class whitewater kayak rock garden
Instruction and drills in rock gardening

Students leave the adventure with a better understanding of the ocean as an ecosystem and as a playground as well as tales of thrills and spills.  Each tour is different as we cater to each group (usually 4 or less participants) and the conditions.  Wildlife moments are enjoyed as they happen from checking out gull chicks to marine mammal encounters.  Humpback and gray whales have made appearances during our tours this summer as well as harbor seals, sea lions, and river otters.  This week, we watched a Peregrine Falcon stooping (diving) some Western Gulls.

Western Gull Chicks Checking us Out!

Whitewater of the Sea is an adventure and is not intended to be a substitute for kayak instruction and training.  Novice and experienced paddlers on LFK’s Whitewater of the Sea Adventure recognize the quality of instruction that is occurring.  Jeff has masterfully taken the key skills for rock garden safety and fun and condensed them into a 3 hour course that allows students to be guided in dynamic ocean waters, to run pour-overs, and to play in the whitewater.  His teaching progression builds individual and group skills.

Jeff coaching

Of course, the more skilled and able the group – the more that the group gets to do.  A special dynamic of rock gardening with a masterful leader allows skilled boaters to share a rock gardening experience with a novice paddling friend.  It is possible to have Class II and IV on the same feature and the ability for the guide to choose the challenge level for you.

Choose your adventure level!

We have had paddlers repeat our Whitewater of the Sea Adventure to learn and experience more as well as bring friends along to introduce them to the fun of paddling and playing in ocean rock gardens.  For those that really want more – our Waves n Caves Weekends are 3 days of Whitewater of the Sea.

3 Days of Whitewater Ocean Rock Gardening!!!

Of course the bottom line is that our Whitewater of the Sea Adventure is a reflection of our love for the ocean – our passion for playing in her waves and whitewater, our admiration and appreciation of the wildlife that call her home, and the privilege of getting to share it with others.

Sharing the magic of the Mendocino Coast

Are you adventuresome?  Willing to Play Hard and Get WET?  Then here’s your official invitation to come play with us in our playground.

 

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Jun 08 2013

Dawn Patrol

An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. An object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by a force.” Newton’s First Law of Motion

It’s 4:45am.  The alarm clock hasn’t gone off yet but my internal clock has activated.  My body continues at rest nestled in the covers and sandwiched between Jeff and Tom Cat.  I could happily remain in bed but a force stirs within and sets my body in motion . . . 

Dawn Patrol

As I emerge from the house, it is dark, but I can hear the surf – a constant roar.  The air is still and cool.

This morning, I don’t have to search but know exactly where to go.  I have a mission – to get wet and catch one wave.  I’ve been guiding kayak tours a lot and need some “me” time.  Time for me to enjoy the ocean and her power and beauty without the responsibility of others.

I know exactly where to go.  I don’t expect huge waves, barrels, or even long clean rides – just faces to slide upon and frothy salt water in the face.

Arriving at the beach, no one else is there.  Jeff has decided not to surf this morning but tags along to enjoy dawn on the beach.  It is light but the sun is not up yet. I watch the waves for just a couple of minutes – not really caring about their shape or form but just longing to be out there in them.

The stillness of the morning is interrupted by the screaming calls of black oystercatchers as they patrol the beach for breakfast.  I hop in my kayak and paddle out.  As I paddle up and over foam piles, my hands get the first cold water wake-up of the morning.  As I move further out into the surf zone and paddle through a wave, the cold water smacks me in the face knocking the cobwebs out.  I feel so ALIVE!!!

The surf is small and confused.  I see a bump of water on the horizon and continue to work my way to the outside.  As the bump travels toward me, I continue to warm-up – focusing on my forward stroke technique – a vertical shaft, good anchor, legs and torso powering the stroke.


The bump continues to roll toward the beach.  It wells up into a mound and then into a steep slope of water. I launch onto its 4 foot glassy face, and the sun crests the trees erasing the gray of dawn – sparkling off the whitewater and illuminating the glassy, green face of my wave.  


The ride wasn’t anything spectacular but the moment was magical   This was the moment that my soul was craving.

kayak surfing mendocino coast
Kayak Surfing on the Mendocino Coast of California








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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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Jul 12 2012

Upset

A tale from our kayak adventure this spring in the Grand Canyon. 

At mile 150, we encountered Upset Rapid.  We stopped to scout it because the oarsmen were concerned about a large hydraulic in the middle of the rapid that is known to upset rafts.  Jeff and I enjoyed these moments to scout so that we could pick what would be the funnest line rather than reading and running and wishing that we had taken another line. 

As we scouted, sure enough the middle of the rapid contained some good sized waves that fed into a large wave hole with recirculating water behind it.   To the right was a sneaker route.  One could hug the right bank and miss out on the surging wave hole in the middle.  The left line along the river wall looked like a fun wave train with lots of lateral wave action and a chance to skirt the large wave hole in the middle.

Jeff had selected the left route, but I was jonezing for some action.  Like everyone, I had Lava Falls (mile 179) on my mind and wanted to test my skills before hitting it.  So “Hey-Diddle-Diddle-Down the Middle” was my line selection.  Our rafts had mostly decided to skirt down the right side to avoid an upset but hung out to watch our run.

As usual, Jeff went first and carved among the waves and launched off the tops of them.  He had quite a fun line and a clean run as he skirted the big hole in the middle.  I was determined though to blast down the middle and see what the hole had in store for me.

Cate in Upset Rapid in the Grand Canyon.  Photo by Tricia Melosh

Photo by Tricia Melosh.

Hey diddle – I put myself on course to run down the middle.  I glided down the middle of the rapid.  As I got ½ way to the hole, I saw a small seam in the hole and drove for it.  As the current surged the seam disappeared and the wave hole reared up and curled back on itself.

I powered in to hit the seam and drive through the whitewater but the wave hole reared up and threw me backwards literally flipping me end over end in what play boaters call a loop.  The wave barrel-rolled me and imploded my spray skirt. 

My boat was flooded with water, but I went on autopilot and rolled up.  I still had some waves and squirrelly current to negotiate in my flooded boat but didn’t mind it as the excitement of the loop and barrel roll surged through my system.  I  worked my way to an eddy at the end of the rapid to got out and drain my boat.  My spirits were soaring high as Jeff and the rafters congratulated me on a gutsy and entertaining run.  One of the boatmen on our trip was inspired to take my line.  Here are the photos of The Great Sandeeno’s run -
The Great Sandeeno takes the middle route on Upset Rapid.

The Great Sandeeno hits the first wave hole of Upset.
Sandeen's 18 foot raft and passengers disappear into the meat of Upset.
Yes, Sandeen’s whole 18 foot raft disappeared into the wave hole (all you see is him in this photo).  Yes, he and his crew came through wet but upright.

This was great training for Lava I thought, but was it?  I had an equipment failure (the spray deck imploding).  I dealt with it in the moment but a little nagging thought crept into my mind – “What if it implodes in Lava?”

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