Archive for the 'woman on water' Category

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.

No responses yet

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.

 

No responses yet

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.

No responses yet

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.

No responses yet

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








No responses yet

Mar 20 2013

Dreamtime

Have you ever experienced one of those moments when you have to pinch yourself because it doesn’t seem real?

This morning,  Jeff and I are standing on the headlands scouting a break for surf – the sun is shining, there isn’t a breath of wind, the fog bank is sitting off-shore, and 4 foot glassy waves are spilling across the break.  We lapse further into our fantasy world, when we see a huge pod of Risso’s dolphins feasting and frolicing just outside the break. There are well over 100 dolphins launching into the air, somersaulting and belly flopping into the water.

Our existence feels surreal as we head down to the beach in anticipation of sunshine, surf, and the enchanting magic of dolphins.  Then, the fog rolls in erasing the sun and veiling the glassy faced waves that moments ago we were surfing in our minds.  It socks in so thick you can barely see across the beach, and the glassy green faces morph quickly into dumpy, wrinkled grey masses with madly frothing tresses.

As my fantasy of sunshine and surf dissipates, I tell myself “It’s training.  Get out there and get some waves.”  Slowly, I launch and start to traverse the surf zone heading north where I saw Jeff disappear into the fog.  Foam piles tumble at me as spewing lips threaten to chomp down on me.  Currents push, pull, and grab at my kayak as I work to keep her on course.

Finally, I find the rip current and catch a free ride out of the chaotic soup zone.  The rip feeds me into a quiet place in the break behind a reef where I can chill out and start reading the water.

Jeff is out in the middle – probing and hunting for green faces and spilling shoulders.  I watch and wait.  This is a tricky beach break that we only surf on small days.  The waves are variable and constantly shifting making good rides elusive.  Chances are good that if you venture out into the middle of the break to surf a wave, you will find yourself in too deep, take one on the head, or get tossed.

I am sitting in my eddy at the edge of all the chaos and confusion.  Trying to read the jumbled and bumpy water, I feel like a dyslexic student hiding in the back of the class praying that the teacher doesn’t call on me to read aloud.  I hide in the eddy trying to avoid embarrassment and punishment while the star pupil is showing off.

The sun breaks through and Jeff catches some nice long rides.  I am no longer content to sit in my eddy.  I want to be launching onto those green faces and carving up and down.  I cautiously nose out of my eddy.  A steep face rears up and I turn tail and scoot back into my eddy.  This ticks me off.  Determination sets in and out I go to accept what ever the sea has in store for me.

A wall of water starts to build and I carefully position myself to where it is walling up the steepest.  Two strokes later, I am hurling down a 6 foot wall of water and carving into a bottom turn.  I see a cone of water forming down the line as I carve up the face of the wave.  All of a sudden time seems suspended, and I feel like I am in a freeze-frame photo sequence.  At the crest, I drop back down and set my shore side rudder to subtly climb and drop, climb and drop, climb and drop across the face of the spilling wave.  The wave steepens so I race up the face then drop down to reset my angle and continue my diagonal run until the wave crumbles into a foam pile at the southern end of the beach.

I am elated as I traverse back across the surf zone thinking to myself,  “I ripped the shit out of that wave.”  Jeff is pumping both of his fists in the air.  That magical -  life is a dream – feeling has returned.

We both head back out to try our luck with the next set.  As the morning progresses,  some rides are marvelously long, others are fun steep one drop wonders that end in deep water, while others pitch and hurl us down the line and remind us of the reality that we are not in control here.  This is not a dream.

No responses yet

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.

 

No responses yet

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.

No responses yet

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?”

No responses yet

Feb 29 2012

Tearing It Up!

I missed the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium again this year but was stoked to host several coaches and friends afterward for some rock gardening and surfing on the Mendocino Coast.
Playing chicken with the rocks at Chicken Point.
After event paddles are a great way for coaches to unwind and play. Bryant Burkhardt writes in his Paddle California Blog – “After a couple of days of teaching that were fun but hard work, it was great to get out on the water just for fun. On Monday Cate took us to Noyo Habor, a two minute drive from her house (where she kindly put us all up). We didn’t launch until noon and we didn’t paddle more than half a mile. It was a mellow and relaxing afternoon (that still cracked two boats and ripped a drysuit).” Here’s a link to Bryant’s Video.

Yep, I put the holes in my drytop and some nice gouges in my hand as a bigger wave than expected reared up, threw me down, and raked me over a pour-over.
Photo by Bryant Burkhardt http://www.paddlecalifornia.blogspot.com
Photo by Bryant Burkhardt http://www.paddlecalifornia.blogspot.com
Richard didn’t get as big a wave as expected and ended up repairing the bow of his boat.

A submerged rock claimed some of Paul’s shiny red gel coat.

After a few repairs, we were all good to go and off to surf Chicken Point.

Chicken Point is a tricky break made trickier by the consequences of rocks. To catch the waves, one had to be among the rocks or drop in toward them. (This is spot for expert paddlers only). After studying the break and a few runs, the guys started tearing it up!!!

Nick Scoville and Richard Davis with NDK Explorers and their Saltwood Paddles (Jeff just got one and I can’t wait to paddle with it).


Paul Kuthe of Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak ripped it up in his TideRace Xtreme.
Paul Kuthe tearing it up at Chicken Point.

In my whitewater kayak, I was only going to catch one if I was in deep and it was one of the bigger, steeper waves. I watched and photographed for a while but of course, I couldn’t let the guys have all the fun and dropped in on a couple. Bryant caught me on video back surfing one of the waves.

It was an awesome day – having all the kids over to play in my playground.

(It was a little bit of a bummer that Jeff wasn’t here – guess we will have to have to call up the kids and make a play date to do it again.)

No responses yet

Next »

Bad Behavior has blocked 38 access attempts in the last 7 days.