Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Paddle Out Techniques

For this post in my surf kayaking series, I have surf guru Jeff Laxier sharing his tips for Paddling Out.  Jeff has a lifetime of playing in the surf and is a sea, whitewater, and surf kayak instructor for Liquid Fusion Kayaking.
Surf Kayak
Jeff Laxier surfing on the Oregon Coast.

Paddle Out Techniques by Jeff Laxier
There are many ways to get out to the waves and here we will explore the three methods I use most to paddle out:  Bunny Hop, Turtle Dive, Route Finding.
All three methods have four of the same components.
1.       Speed - We need to be moving to get through a wave.
2.       Angle - Boat angle to the incoming wave.
3.       Timing - When to paddle hard, when to hold position, and when to run away.
4.       Awareness - Of route, waves, other users, wildlife, wonder

The Bunny Hop: This is a fun way to blast up and over a foam pile (this can also work on river hydraulics).
1.       Generate speed with 3-5 strokes as you approach the foam pile.
2.       Change the boat angle to angle away from the wave (No more than 45 degrees)
3.       Lift wave side edge (drop shore-side edge)
4.       Forward sweep on shore-side
5.       Once over the foam pile, lunge forward and paddle, repeat when necessary
sea kayak surf
Bunny Hop - Generate Speed.

sea kayak surfing
Bunny Hop - Angle/Edge Boat

Sea kayak surfzone
Bunny Hop - Lunge forward and paddle away.
The Turtle Dive: This is a great way to avoid a dumping wave on your head, getting hit in the gut by a powerful wave or foam pile, and decreases the likelihood of the wave pushing you back to shore.
1.       Speed - Generate as much speed as possible (don’t get winded you will need that air)
2.       Flip - Capsize with precision so your bow will bury into the seam where white and green water meet then push up with your paddle (this brings the bow deeper).
3.       Pause (feel the wave go by)
4.       Roll up and GO! Do not be plankton - Dig in and paddle away!

surf kayak hp
Turtle Dive - Generate speed and capsize so bow buries in the seam.

hp surf kayak
Turtle Dive - Push with paddle to drive bow deeper and wait for wave to pass.

surf kayak technique
Turtle Dive - When wave has passed over you, roll up.

Turtle Dive - Dig in and paddle away!

Route Finding: Look for an easy path out to the line up with the possibility of a dry hair paddle out.
1.       Find a rip that will take you out to the outside.
2.       Establish reference points. These will help you make route changes as well and help you avoid the most severe sections. This can also help in reading your progress.
3.       Find the soft spots - Smaller or less consistent waves breaking (path of least resistance).
4.       Wait for your window of opportunity (wait for a lull).
5.       Be patient and aware.
kayak surfing instruction
Route finding - find a rip and ride it to the outside.
Dagger Stratos Surfing
Route finding - find the soft spot of the wave or where it isn't breaking.
Surfing waves is great fun, and getting out past the breakers is necessary in all types of craft. Whatever your craft (surf kayak, whitewater kayak, sea kayak, surfboard, stand up paddleboard), we have to paddle out.  A seasoned paddler will make this journey out to the lineup easy, effective and efficient and have more energy for surfing. We must plan and prepare both mentally and physically. The more challenging the paddle out the more physical and mental toughness is needed.

Surfing into 2018!

New Year's Day 2018

We were guiding day 3 of Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Whitewater n Surf Safari.  The goal of this 3 day trip is maximum fun in whitewater kayaks and obtaining the Mendocino Whitewater Trifecta - whitewater river running, rock gardening, and surf kayaking.  Unfortunately we had a beautiful warm and sunny December which meant no water for a whitewater run on the Eel River.  As usual, we make do with what mother nature give us and we had 2 days of really fun rock gardening.  Now on day 3 it was time to find some surf.  The swell forecast was very small and our students were skeptical if we would find any waves.  We found some.

Here are some shots from my first wave of 2018 -

Thanks Jeff for capturing the shots and sharing the stoke! We are going to rock n surf in 2018!

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