Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stability in Dynamic Water

This weekend Jeff and I taught Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Sea Kayak Rock Gardening Class.  We built our students skills as individuals and as a team as we guided them through the rock gardens and sea caves of the Mendocino Coast.  Our students had many key learning moments.  One particular skill that worked for them this weekend was this pry that helps with looking behind when paddling in dynamic water.

360 degree awareness is key when kayaking in dynamic ocean waters.  One needs to be aware of waves, the environment, wildlife, and paddling teammates.  When the water gets bouncy, paddlers tend to have difficulty turning and looking over their shoulders.  Dynamic water is one of the most critical times to be able to effectively look over ones shoulder but one of the most difficult.

I have found this pry technique to work.  I call it the owl pry.

Sitting in your kayak, take your left paddle blade and place it next to your right foot.  Anchor your blade against your kayak and use this to gain stability to rotate your torso to look behind you.  The stretch feels good, improves stability, and allows you to increase your range of torso rotation and safely look over your shoulder.
The "Owl Pry"
Start practicing it in flat water on both sides, then give it a try in dynamic water and let me know if it works for you.

So why do I call it the owl pry?  Might have to take a class with me to find out - it will definitely be a hoot.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Highs and Lows of the Spring of 2016

My blog has been a bit quiet lately but life certainly hasn't.  March wrapped up with a 5 day whitewater kayak self support trip on the Eel.  We had lots of water, the flow was high, and the trip was spectacular.
About to go over the drop of Kekawaka Falls on the Eel River at over 10,000 cfs.
We returned home from the Eel and packed our sea kayaking kit for a trip to the Oregon Coast for a photo and video shoot for the new Dagger Stratos.  I was beyond excited as one of the shooting venues was in the Ecola Beach area where Goonies was filmed.  
Jeff Laxier paddling the Dagger Stratos on the Oregon Coast.  Photo Dagger Kayaks
Just before we got on the plane to Portland, my sister called from Pennsylvania - dad was missing.  He was hiking in the local mountains with his dog and didn't come home the previous evening.  The Pennsylvania State Troopers were searching but couldn't find him or the dog.  She, my brother and neighbors were going out to look for them.  

At the airport in Portland, I sent Jeff on to the photo shoot and booked a flight to Pennsylvania.  During my travels, my mom called to say that they found him and he was dead.  Eight miles into his hike, he sat down on a log to have a snack and his heart stopped.  The neighbor that found him said that he had a peaceful look on his face.

My family dairy farms in a rural area of Central Pennsylvania.  When word was out that dad was missing, the local hunters, farmers, neighbors, and friends rallied to go find him.  The love and support of the community was amazing.  I was thankful to be there with my family and our friends to process our loss.  It was a difficult but special time for us - reminiscing on dad's quirky sayings and wry sense of humor, sharing memories, and receiving visits from neighbors, family friends, dad's colleagues, and hunting buddies.  Dad will be missed by many, but we all are thankful that he didn't suffer and spent his last day hiking in a place that he loved.

After some time in Pennsylvania helping out with matters (including helping get the family vegetable garden going), Jeff and I returned home to California.  We were 2 weeks off of our preseason work schedule and supposed to be leaving in a week for our annual Spring Run-Off Trip.  We vowed to gut it out, work hard, and go on our trip.  Then we had several major computer issues.  We were both feeling really stressed and depressed about our workload and the likelihood of not getting to do our Spring Run-Off.  Huge kudos to our friend and computer tech Lin for getting our computer back up and running.  We buckled down and got some work done, decided the rest could wait, and decided to pack up our Jackson Karma RG's and run-off and chase the snowmelt as it runs off - down a river.
Whistling Bird on the Lower Owyhee River
Off to the Owyhee River we went.  "Oh Where eee?" might be a better name for it.  It is in the southeastern corner of Oregon about a hour and a half from Boise, Idaho.  We were prepared for a low water run but were pleasantly surprised by a last minute storm that stalled out in the mountains and gave us a nice flow.  It was a spectacular trip with fun whitewater, hiking, and camping on geologically fascinating river.
Camping below Lambert Rock on the Owyhee River
We are home now with lots of work but lots of great memories and a promising summer tour season.  I am looking forward to sharing photos and tales from the Eel and the Owyhee and some fun tidbits on self support whitewater kayak trips.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Take Me to the River

Since the first of the year, my life has been a bit too busy.  I've had my head down with a remodel project in our home and been working on the nuts n bolts business end of Liquid Fusion Kayaking.  Things are coming together, and I am starting to see the light.  Now it is time for my sweetie to take me to the river.
My first multi day kayak trip - 169 miles self support on the Eel.
Many women dream of trips to Hawaii, Mexico, or Europe.  My vacation fantasies are mostly about multi day kayak trips in the wilderness.  I enjoy the simplicity of boat, camp, be.  No telephone, no Internet, no lights, no driving - just being.
Camping in the Grand Canyon
In particular I like river trips.  On the river, the weather and the logistics tend to be simpler than trips on the coast.  Freshwater is present for drinking, cooking, and bathing, and the weather tends to be less temperamental.  It is nice to not have to be prepared for coastal paddling's weather what if's - what if the fog socks in, what if the swell picks up, what if the tide/currents are different than our calculations, what if there is no fresh water.  On the river, we go with the flow.
Packing the provisions and the necessities
Going with the flow depends upon the river and the paddling group.  Some river trips are relatively calm, flat water trips while others involve whitewater.  I tend to like a little bit of both.  I love the challenge of running rapids.  However, one of my favorite parts of river kayaking trips is lazily drifting in the current - floating, spinning, day dreaming, and being a part of the river.
Spectacular River Scenery
Eventually one finds a paddling partner or group that has similar go with the flow interests.  Some paddlers like to do it all and see it all and rack up the miles.  Others tend toward more leisurely trips.  Jeff and I are definitely of this mentality.  Let's do the fewest miles in the most days possible.  We love leisurely mornings and lay over days.  Lay over days are days where you don't break camp and stay in the same spot.  They give you the opportunity to explore an area more by foot, rest and relax, fish and forage, soak in a spring, or play on a surf wave.
Camping on the Eel River
I'm ready  . . . Take Me to the River!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Paddling with the BOYZ

Earlier this month, Jeff and I coached at Paddle Golden Gate.  It was a gorgeous weekend in the San Francisco Bay area with lots of excited and eager students.  I enjoyed teaching rock garden classes and getting to hang out with other paddlers.  However, I have to admit that the post symposium shenanigans is what I enjoyed the most.
Whitewater of the Sea - Rock Gardening Class Out the Golden Gate Bridge
One of my favorite things about kayak symposiums is getting together with other coaches.  It is a time for us to share ideas and experiences.  There is sense of family among us, and we relish the opportunity to get together and catch up - and do some boating.  It has become a tradition for many of the Pacific Northwest Coaches to stop by Liquid Fusion Kayaking's playground on the Mendocino Coast on their way home from events in the bay area.  This year we had a full house including the Ninkasi beer wagon.

I feel like the luckiest girl alive when I get to share my paddling playground with some of the most inspiring paddlers in the profession.  Often conditions are quite sporty for the coaches' paddle, and it is refreshing to be out there with a competent team.  All though we only paddle together several times a year, we work well as a team.  The team trusts one another to make good decisions but are also there if things don't work out. It is a great environment for pushing the limits.
Me getting in a little rock garden play in Noyo Bay.
This year's Mendo Coaches Paddle was no exception.  Conditions were sporty with a sizable long period swell and a 6.6 foot high tide.  We headed out to the Noyo Bay which offers a little bit of everything - rock gardening, surfing, sea caves, and lots of dynamic water.  The rock gardening was of course just a warm-up as surfing was what was on everyone's mind.  Chicken Point was calling, and the boyz were answering.
Don Cheyette of Salish Strokes drops in at Chicken Point
Today, Chicken Point was showing her multiple personalities.  Knowing Chicken Point well, I recognized her split personality toying with us and decided that I wasn't willing to pay to play.  I positioned myself on the inside to photograph the boyz as they negotiated their rides with her.  She was exerting her all today and even challenged my presence with cleanup sets that barreled through the usual safe zone.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff Laxier surfs along at Chicken Point in the Dagger Stratos
She teased with low angle waves that required a good running start to catch but rewarded with long glassy rides.
Jamie Klein surfs the P&H Hammer at Chicken Point
Then she flexed her might with exhilarating steep drops and bombing lefts that had the surfers constantly looking over their shoulder to see what she was unleashing.  Sometimes it was her thundering and exploding over the rocks and into the cliff.  Sometimes it was her boil lines pitching into roaring foam piles.
Paul Kuthe watching  the wave over his shoulder
Paddlers who were willing to drop in deep were treated to steep drops and spectacular rides but also punished as the ocean let us know that she is the boss and spectacular rides have a price.

Jaime Sharp pulls off a deep drop.
From behind the lens, my emotions ran the spectrum of wonder and excitement to thrill and terror.  The boyz were flying today at supersonic speed.  Bows planned above the surface of the wave on one ride and buried on the next.  I watched with wonder and amazement as seemingly unrecoverable drops were made and disaster thwarted.
Paul Kuthe recovers nicely from this steep drop at Chicken Point.
Wave selection and positioning were key.  Reference points and indicators were challenging with the varied swell.  Chicken Point lured the paddlers inside the boil line with lower energy swells and then switched on the juice and slammed them with meaty long period energy.  Jeff and I know this dance well.  It was fun to see him relaxed and in perfect position and time with her energy - flying with her.
Jeff Laxier styling and smiling at Chicken Point
This year, we added a couple new members to the Chicken Point Swim Club.  It is a distinguished list with tales for another day.  As I write this, I can hear Chicken Point churning out waves and thundering into the cliffs.  She is calling . . . is anyone home?