Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Winter is coming.  For many kayakers that means drysuit season.  I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of drysuits but find them necessary for winter whitewater kayaking and multi-day sea kayak events in areas with cool water and air temperatures.

Over the years, I have had drysuits from several different manufacturers.  My current drysuit is the best so far - Immersion Research Shawty.  Of course I love the awesome purple color.  Technical and practical features of the Shawty drysuit that I like include a rear/shoulder entry, comfortable fit, and the material.
Loving my Immersion Research Shawty Drysuit!
I like the fabric of my Immersion Research (IR) drysuit.  It is a bit stiffer than goretex but seems to be tougher and doesn't "wet-out" like a gore-tex suit does over time.  I often hear the comment, "But it isn't gore-tex."  I have had gore-tex drysuits and dry tops and don't find them to be as durable or comfortable.  My biggest issue is that the gore-tex fabric wets out after the dwr (durable water repellent) wears off (read the link for more on dwr and environmental related concerns).  When the dwr wears off, the suit feels damp.

Also, the hype over the breathability of gore-tex doesn't make sense to me.  I sweat when I am paddling.  The main areas where I sweat are my core and feet.  Life jackets and sprayskirts pretty much negate the wicking of any drysuit in the core area.

Latex booties provide slim, seamless comfort in paddling shoes.
Did you know that you can get latex booties put in your drysuit?  I was skeptical when I first heard but now I am a convert.  Regardless of the material, fabric drysuit socks are bulky.  They bunch up in your paddling shoes, and often you have to buy a larger pair of shoes for the socks to fit.  Latex socks are a lot slimmer and are seamless.  I find them to be much more comfortable.  They definitely fit in my paddling shoes better.  I usually wear a pair of wool socks under them and then a neoprene booty over them for warmth and protection.  There is usually an added charge to have latex socks put in.  Both Immersion Research and Kokatat will do it.

I am happy to see drysuit companies offering a variety of entry systems.  I am a fan of the rear entry with the shoulder zipper.  I never found the large metal chest zippers of front entry drysuits to be comfortable.  Relief zippers are improving as well, and it is nice that women have the options of front zip or drop seat relief zippers.  I am a fan of the drop seat.  Currently Kokatat and NRS are making women's drysuits with drop seats.  It is rumored that IR is going to have that option available again soon.

If you are shopping for a new drysuit, I encourage you to try some out before buying.  Figure out what type of entry and relief system works for you.  Don't just buy what you see everyone else wearing.  Drysuits are like shoes - one size doesn't fit all and all brands have their advantages and disadvantages.  A good way to try a drysuit out is to rent one.  Immersion Research has a drysuit rental program.  Kokatat drysuits can be rented from Pacific River Supply or Kayak Academy.

Drysuit maintenance and repair - this is a topic for another time, but the good thing to know is that both Kokatat and Immersion Research offer drysuit leak testing and repair.  Both companies also can do alterations to make suits that fit better.

It is good to have options and great to have a drysuit when you are paddling in cool/cold weather.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Excited for 2018!

Writing and compiling the photos for Liquid Fusion Kayaking's monthly newsletter is a labor of love.  It is more of the "invisible work" that goes into running a kayaking business.  This month's newsletter introduces LFK's 2018 Mendocino Kayak Adventures and Classes.  If you do not receive LFK's monthly newsletter, here is a link to sign up for it.

Creating LFK's calendar is a lot of work but it is fun too.  The fun part is dreaming up fun adventures.  When we include a class or adventure, it has to meet several criteria.  The number one criteria is - "Is it fun and something that we would want to do?"

The challenges of our calendar include balancing and scheduling sea kayak, whitewater kayak, and surf kayak classes and adventures, and recreational tours.  There are very few companies like Liquid Fusion Kayaking who teach sea kayaking, whitewater river kayaking, and surf kayaking and also run recreational tours.  Let alone a 2 man/woman show operating in a rural area.

So what do Jeff and I have in store for Liquid Fusion Kayaking in 2018? Grab your 2018 calendar and check out LFK's November News - 2018 Kayak Adventures.

We are both excited about all of our classes and adventures but of course have our favorites.  One new class that I am excited about teaching is Art of Sea Kayaking 101.  This class is a 2 day learn to sea kayak class on the beautiful Mendocino Coast.  On day one, beginner through intermediate kayakers will build a foundation of basic skills.  Then on day two, we will take those skills out into the ocean.
Sea Kayaking out of Noyo Harbor into the Pacific Ocean.
I also am looking forward to our spring whitewater classes and whitewater camping trips on the Eel River.  If you haven't paddled the Eel in the spring, get out your calendar and schedule some time to come paddle it with us.
Whitewater kayaking on the Dos Rios to Alderpoint Wilderness Section of the Eel River.
Whitewater kayak camping trip on the Eel River.
FUN, FUN, FUN - 2018 - Here we come!!!
Whitewater kayaking on Mendocino County's Eel River

Monday, October 30, 2017

Getting Better at Surfing - When You Can't Surf

Of course the best way to enjoy surfing and improve is to go surfing.  However, there are times when you can't get out and surf due to work, family commitments, an injury, or crappy weather/surf conditions.  Getting better at surfing takes surfing but you can also build your skills and keep your surf stoke going at home.

Watch Surf Videos -  Everyone has their own aesthetic to what good surfing is or looks like.  I classify myself as a surf enthusiast that appreciates surfing of almost any kind.  I will watch some Big wave riding videos but mostly gravitate toward watching board surfers who dance with the water.  I mostly look for surf videos on Instagram and Facebook.  Jeff looked at my Facebook newsfeed one day and commented that it was like an ESPN reel of surfing and whitewater kayaking.  Several on Facebook that I follow include Daily Surf VideosThe Inertia, World Surf League, and Leah Dawson.  Of course, I share videos of women surfing that I find inspirational on my Facebook page - Woman on Water.  Here is one -

Big wave riding intrigues, amazes, and terrifies me.  I marvel over the speed of the water rushing up the face of the wave.  I can't even fathom the speed of the surfer screaming down the face and the ton of water that could crash on them at any moment.  Watching big wave surfing also builds my respect for the ocean and what she can dish out.

My favorite videos to watch are those of people dancing on the face of a wave.  I enjoy the pure aesthetic of it but also value the technical skills.  At home, you too can learn more about surf technique by watching videos.  Look at videos of a variety - long board, short board, body board, SUP, kayak, and body surfing.  Watch for the shape of the wave and how the rider works with the shape of the wave.  Watch their positioning, take-off angle, when they initiate bottom turns and top turns and when they run down the line.  Watch for where the rider is on the wave - at the bottom, middle, or top.  Look at their vision (where they are looking).  If SUP or surf kayak, look at how they use the paddle to balance, maintain speed, and change direction.

Envision yourself surfing that wave.  Feel the drop, use your hips and torso to change direction, weight and un-weight your rails, climb and drop, cut back, and run down the line . . . and most of all smile and relax.  Feel yourself in that happy place  - on a wave.

Get Fit - Surfing is more fun when you are fit.  There are lots of surf fitness programs out there.  Most will have you improving your flexibility, mobility, and core strength.  Fitness helps decrease injuries and a good flexibility program will keep you limber.  I have a flexibility and mobility training routine that I do that is adapted from Surf Training Success and Anna Levesque's Yoga for Paddling.  It is not some thing that I enjoy doing but it feels good when I am finished and definitely is helping with my surfing fitness.

Get Out and Paddle - Even if it is flat water, get out and paddle.  Paddling with purpose can help you build your paddling fitness and skills.  Last week, I hopped on my body board for the first time in months.  Despite regular running, mountain biking, and kayaking, I felt totally out of shape.  My legs felt like they were on fire, my shoulders felt like jello, and I was winded on the paddle out.  I don't feel this way in my surf kayak because I am regularly training in it and regularly kayaking.

For surf kayaking fitness, I find that sprints are a good way to get fit for surfing.  Use sprints to simulate situations when you need bursts of speed - like taking off or paddling out.  Also consider incorporating rolling into your sprints.

For skills, fine tune your technique on flat water.  I often wish that my students had perfected their edge control, stern rudders, and backward paddling before coming for surf lessons.  Video yourself and look at your technique with a critical eye.

Dream About Surfing - Surfing is dancing with the sea.  The ocean can be a fickle dance partner - wild and rowdy one day and gently waltzing the next.  Perfect waves are elusive; however, there is one place that I can always find a perfect wave - in my mind.
Of course the perfect surf wave is accompanied by sunshine.
Visualization is a powerful tool for improving your performance in surfing and can also be helpful in many other aspects of life.  Use your surfing experiences and visuals from photos and videos to create that perfect wave in your mind and envision yourself surfing it.  Then take it the next step and feel yourself surfing.  Relax and feel yourself surfing the wave - making the drop, climbing and dropping as you carve down the line.  I use this exercise as a time-out from the world - waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting in the chair at the dentist, lying in bed at night.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne kayak surfing her home waters on the Mendocino Coast.
When you see me with that far-away look, you know I am in my happy place - on a wave.

Now - get out there and surf!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Getting Better at Surfing - Getting Out There

"How do I get better at surfing?" is a regular question that we get.

To get better at surfing you need to learn how to surf -  then surf, surf, and surf some more.
Cate enjoying a birthday surfari on the Oregon Coast.
Taking a class or lesson in the beginning will accelerate your surfing progression regardless of the craft (surfboard, SUP, surf kayak, whitewater kayak, waveski, or sea kayak).  Shop around and find the right coach to make the most of your time and to accelerate your learning.The best instructors are not necessarily those that "rip" the hardest or surf the biggest waves but are those that thoroughly understand the surf zone, surf culture, the fundamental skills, and are effective at teaching all of the above.
Kayak Instructor Ben Lawry teaming up with Liquid Fusion Kayaking for a surf kayak class on the Mendocino Coast.
After taking a surf class or lesson, ask your instructor for "homework." Or take a few notes on the skills from your lesson and make your own surf homework.  Maybe it is working on pop-up's in your living room or working on ruddering strokes in flat water.  Of course part of the surfing homework is getting out and surfing.
Running down the line looking for the cover-up.
Find an appropriate break for your skill level.  Beginning surfers often do best surfing the same break frequently. Look for small, spilling waves at an uncrowded surf zone that does not have a lot of current.  (Longshore currents, rip currents, and river/estuary mouths can be challenging and dangerous).  Check out this link for diagrams and explanations on longshore drift and rip currents.
Even small estuaries and creeks can cause tricky currents in the surf.
When you first arrive at the beach, watch the surf and other surfers.  When scouting the surf, I watch the surf for at least 5 minutes and often will watch for 15-20 minutes before going out.  Notice the shape, size, and consistency of the waves.  Identify rip currents and potential hazards and safe zones.  Look at where other surfers are lining up, paddling out, and taking off.  Decide where you want to surf and determine reference points.  Mind surf some of the waves and visualize your ride.  If you don't see your ride, reassess.  If the waves are not surfable, come up with a plan of skills to work on or move to another beach.  If it is dangerous, don't go out.
Scouting a friendly surf zone from the beach.
If you are going to be surfing with other surfers and around other beach users, be sure to be courteous and follow good surf etiquette.  For more on surf etiquette, check out Surfline's Bill of Lefts and Rights.
Sharing the waves and the surf stoke with others.
Now, get that lesson and get out there.  If you want to learn or brush up on the basics of kayak surfing, join Jeff and I at Liquid Fusion Kayaking for a surf kayaking class or a private surf lesson.  LFK's next surf kayaking class is October 28-29, 2017.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne using a sand diagram to demonstrate surf etiquette.
For more surf kayak skills, check out my blog on Surf Kayak Resources.  Please let me know if you find any good sites for me to add to the list.  Also stay turned for my next blog post on getting better at surfing when you cant' get out and surf.
Learn the basics and then surf, surf, and surf some more!!!