Sunday, December 4, 2016


Communication is a key skill in paddling (and all aspects of life).  There are many means and needs for communication on and off the water.  One is to check in with someone.  Sometimes, a paddler has taken a spill, is swimming, or is just a little bit spaced-out.  A common way to see if that person is okay is to use signals.

When using the okay signal on the water it is a question and answer.  One gives the okay sign and if the others are okay, they give the okay sign back.  Close up, we use the universal hand signal for okay.

This tells us a couple of things.  First being that the person is okay.  Second that maybe they really are or aren't okay.   If the person is slow to respond or doesn't make a clear okay sign, we need to investigate a little bit further.  When someone doesn't make a clear okay sign, they could be a little bit shaken or could possibly have issue that they are unaware of.  For example, one of the signs of hypothermia is a decrease in fine motor skills.  If they aren't making their index finger touch their thumb, hypothermia could be a concern.

From further away, we use one tap or a fist on the head.  Again, we make sure that we close off the "O."  The fist on the head forming an "O" is a universal sign for okay among the US Coast Guard and other Search and Rescue teams.

From larger distances or when view may be obstructed by swells or waves, we make a big "O" over the head with both arms meeting above the head.

Many paddlers use a tapping motion on their head to signal that they are okay.  This is often understood in the boating community but is not universally recognized.  It also can look like a signal for help.  We encourage paddlers not to use the head tap but to make closed "O" with a fist on the head, a hand signal, or arms overhead.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Early Whitewater Season

Significant rainfall in October kicked off whitewater season on California's North Coast.  Jeff and I were pining to get up to the Smith, work commitments kept us close to home.  No complaints from us.  We had warm, sunny days, and lots of water and runs to chose from.
Kayaking on a scenic stretch of the South Fork Eel River.
We opted for a scenic run on the South Fork of the Eel River.  The scenic run did not disappoint.  The big leaf maples were in full color.
A colorful day with the vibrant maples and my stylish Immersion Research Shawty Drysuit. Photo by Jeff Laxier.
And the waterfall at Grizzly Creek was going off!!!
Grizzly Creek cascading into the South Fork Eel River. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Day two, we rallied with a couple of the usual foul weather gang to run our local favorite the Eel.  Warm sunny weather and a perfect flow had us poking our way down the river - soaking in the sights, surfing waves, and relishing the day.
Jerry starting down "split rock" rapid on the Eel. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
It was the first run of the season so we had to attend to some of the debris left by summer picnickers and swimmers.
Jeff helps Jerry retrieve some pool noodles from the river.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Jerry reels in a toy raft that was tied off in the river.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne.
We definitely scored on the fall colors and the flow.
Jeff and Paul "shitalking" about the what line to take at "The Wall."
Many of our favorite surf waves and play spots were working.
Jeff testing out the speed and surfability of the Dagger Katana. Photo by Cate Hawthorne.
An eagle soaring overhead reminded us that it is salmon and steelhead season.  We didn't see any fish on our trip but have heard reports that they are making their way up stream to spawn.
Adult bald eagle soaring above the Eel River.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne.
And while somethings are the same on the river.  There is always something new.  There is now graffiti artwork decorating "The Wall."  We may have to paddle the river at a lower flow to see what the rest of the message contains.
Artwork on "The Wall." Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Ahhh and what does the rest of the fall hold for us.  Hopefully more rain so that we can get back on the river.
Cate enjoying whitewater kayaking on Mendocino County's Eel River. Photo by Jeff Laxier.
Here is a link to some more of our photos from our glorious fall day whitewater kayaking on the Eel River.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lumpy Waters 2016

The beginning of October rolled around, and we closed Liquid Fusion Kayaking for the week and journeyed to Pacific City, Oregon to coach at Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak's annual Lumpy Waters Symposium.  If you haven't been to Lumpy, mark your calendars for October 6-8, 2017 and make it happen.  Lumpy has classes and fun for all skill levels.  Registration is open now and you can save $$$ by registering by the end of the month.

This was my sixth year coaching at Lumpy Waters.  Lumpy is my favorite sea kayak symposium.  It is an extremely well organized event that permeates with excitement and enthusiasm.  I think that this is a trickle down effect from the event organizers - Suzi Elle, Dave Slover, and Paul Kuthe.  Suzi, Dave, and Paul are fun loving folks who teem with energy and enthusiasm.  To compliment their enthusiasm, they rally a stellar crew of kayak coaches, support staff, sponsors, and students.
Sea Kayak Surf Zone Class at Lumpy Waters. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
My favorite element of Lumpy is the stoke.  Whether working or participating in the event, everyone is there to have FUN!  And to share the fun with others.  Students come to class ready to learn and to participate in the coaches creative games.  At times the games and drills appear silly; however, powerful learning is occurring.  Lumpy always gets my creative juices flowing.  Each year, the spontaneity of teaching eager students in a fun environment inspires me to try out new games and drills.  Students and coaches alike laugh and play and learn.
Cate Hawthorne leading the surf zone congo at Lumpy Waters. Photo by Kim Granfield
A huge thanks to Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak for inviting me to coach and rallying quality folks to the event.  Each year, I enjoy the reunion of paddlers that come together for Lumpy.  I have made many friends at the event that I look forward to seeing at least once a year at Lumpy and potentially at other sea kayak symposiums or at home on the Mendocino Coast.  We share tales of adventure, tales of life, recipes, and trip ideas.  I always leave Lumpy with new friends and inspired to paddle new places.
Lumpy students practicing their Wave Warrior cries! Photo by Cate Hawthorne
The venue of Cape Kiwanda RV Resort facilitates much of this camaraderie.  Most participants and coaches are staying on site or within walking distance. We share meals, happy hour, and evenings around the fire together.  A huge thanks this year to Ninkasi Brewing Company for joining on as sponsors and providing plenty of excellent beer to help us unwind after a day on the water and to fuel stories around the campfire.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff and Cate just off the water and getting their Happy Hour Brews from Ninkasi. Photo by Andrew Romanelli
A huge thanks to event sponsors who help to make Lumpy happen.  This year Maui Jim Sunglasses stepped up with a couple of pairs of sunglasses and some swag for the event raffle. Thule, Werner, and Ninkasi sponsored happy hours.  Other sponsors included Sterling Kayaks, Jackson Kayak, Current Designs, Kokatat, NRS, Airstream, American Canoe Association, and Paddlesports North America.

Lumpy 2017 is October 6-8, 2017.  Be sure to mark your calendar and register early to secure your spot (register this month and save $$$ too).

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hoppy Beerday to Me!

I don't often share my birthday details.  Only my close friends and family know my birthday.  I figure that to others if I don't have a birthday, I don't age.  I bet some of my former hockey teammates still think that I am 29.  Well I am.  Growing up is not on my life bucket list.

Over the past 10 years, some of my birthdays have been spent with the love of my life - Jeff.  Others have been flying solo.  This was a solo year as Jeff was coaching a BCU 3 Star Sea Training at Fort Stevens, Oregon for Alder Creek Canoe/Kayak/Raft/SUP 's annual BCU week.

Of course I would have loved to share the day with him, but he wasn't here.  I had a great day and I know that he is a bit envious that he missed out on what the universe had in store for my birthday this year.

A joy of bach'ing it and self employment is being able to be on ones own schedule.  My birthday entailed some housework - something that often gets neglected in our life.  It was a rainy day and perfect for me to get our house in order.  The fall rain was beautiful - warm and refreshing.  Everything smelled so fresh and clean.  It was a perfect day to get the house clean and in order too (well somewhat).

A random glance at Instagram revealed that this year's barrel aged Old Rasputin batch XIX was just released.  You know that you live in the right place when your favorite beer is brewed in your hometown.  Even better, when a release of their special barrel aged version happens on your birthday.  Of course, I had to venture down to North Coast Brewing Company to pick up a bottle.  Hoppy Beerday to Me!

I slipped out during an afternoon break in the rain to pick up my special beer and to go for a run on one of my favorite trails.  I enjoyed the fresh, clean sent of the forest after a rain but had to watch my footing on wet roots and the presence of rough-skinned newts on the trail.
Rough-skinned newts enjoying the fall rain Photo from California Herps.
Of course fall rain is exciting - October rains bring November flowers (mushrooms).
Last year's score of Boletus edulis - King Boletes!
As I drove home from running, the ocean was glassy, gray and flat - possibly perfect surf conditions for a solo surf at my favorite local break.  One doesn't usually think of flat, small seas for good surf - that 's ok - it keeps the crowds away.  My favorite spot was working.

The waves were glassy smooth - 3-4 feet and spilling with the occasional 5-6 footers.  It drizzled off and on and the breeze was slight and off shore.  It was perfect for a mellow, contemplative, solo surf session.

I wasn't totally alone . . . a Common loon hovered just outside the surf break.  I heard his loony haunting call but didn't seen any other loons out there.  Must just be the two of us.  I thanked mother ocean for the blessing of beautiful seas on my birthday.  My birthday surf was fulfilled with gliding, carving, and dancing with the sea.

At home a tasty barrel aged Old Rasputin awaited.
Hoppy Beerday to Me!