Monday, March 18, 2019

Reverse Paddling Tip

When paddling backward (in reverse), are you leaning back?  

Many paddlers lean back when reverse paddling and stopping quickly.  In doing so, they are decreasing their stability, power, and efficiency.

Instead of leaning back, try keeping your torso centered over your hips.  You will find  that your reverse strokes will be more powerful. Your core will be more engaged, and you will be more stable.
Good posture for backward paddling
Keep your torso centered over your hips when reverse paddling to increase power, efficiency, and stability. Photo by Jeff Laxier
For even more power, focus on crunching with your abdominal muscles and pushing with your feet.  When I do this, I envision myself as compact and powerful.  Think about punching - you don't lean back to punch.
Crunching abdominals for a powerful stop
No smiling here.  I am focusing on crunching my abs and being compact and powerful to stop quickly. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Practice, practice, practice good posture when reverse paddling and stopping quickly for it to become muscle memory.  And especially focus on this good posture when in the surf, whitewater, or rock gardens.  You will find yourself more powerful and stable.
A Liquid Fusion Kayaking student crunching to get good power to back paddle over a wave in the surf.
Try it and let me know how it works out for you.

Monday, March 11, 2019

My Story

Woman on Water

In 2008, I led my first sea kayak adventure with a friend and her mom. Both were long time whitewater kayakers.  We had an awesome afternoon paddling my home waters of the Mendocino Coast. It was my first time paddling without my significant other (Jeff), first time leading on the sea, and my first time paddling with a team of women. At the end of the paddle, we celebrated with take out beers. My friend’s mom offered a toast “To Women on Water.”

At this time, I was ready for a change in my life. I was not enjoying my job in the public schools. Jeff (my gypsy kayaker boyfriend) had decided to settle down on the Mendocino Coast. We dared to dream about creating a life that involved teaching and guiding kayaking together. Liquid Fusion Kayak Company evolved into Liquid Fusion Kayaking.

Liquid Fusion Kayaking became a multi-discipline, educational kayak company based on the Mendocino Coast of California. I left my teaching job, took business classes, and focused on building my kayak skills in sea, whitewater, and surf kayaking. After our first season, I wanted to share helpful tips and tell stories about adventures on the water. I decided to start writing a blog.  Because the outdoor industry and kayaking in particular is so male dominated, I wanted to write from a woman's perspective.

When deciding on a title for the blog, I fondly recalled that Women on the Water evening. I decided to call my blog Woman on Water. The name stuck.

Fast forward to 2019 - I am still teaching and guiding sea, whitewater, and surf kayaking and leading kayak eco-tours for Liquid Fusion Kayaking. I am hoping to inspire people to get off the computer and get out on the water and in nature more. 

Thanks for reading my story - now get outside!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Lessons Learned from Whitewater Kayaking

Last week, I posted Why Sea Kayakers Should Learn to Whitewater Kayak.  This was a Liquid Fusion Kayaking post compiled by Jeff Laxier and written by me.  This week, I wanted to share my personal perspective about whitewater kayaking.
Jeff Laxier running Mears Creek Falls on the Upper Sacramento River
When I started dating a gypsy kayak instructor (Jeff Laxier), I was gun-ho to learn how to sea kayak and to surf kayak.  I was not drawn to whitewater kayaking.  I am not inclined toward gravity or adrenaline sports - which was my initial perception of whitewater.  My first whitewater kayaking experiences of course involved swimming.  As a kid, I did a bit of inner tubing on the river behind our family farm .  However; as an adult, I have decided that I really don't like swimming in rivers (I love swimming in the ocean).
Swimming on the river is not one of my favorite things. Photo by Jeff Laxier
So how did I catch the whitewater bug?

Whitewater kayaking is very important to Jeff.  In the winter and spring, it is pretty much all that he thinks about.  So one winter, I asked him to take me on as a private student and teach and train me how to run the river.  He did and I fell in love with whitewater river running.
Starting out in easy current when learning to river kayak is key. Photo by June Ruckman
What did I discover and learn about whitewater?

1.  PLAY and FUN - I discovered how playful and fun whitewater kayaks are.  They are lighter, more playful, and easier to manage in dynamic water than a sea kayak.  A friend lent me a Eskimo Kendo Starlight which is super lightweight.  I can easily carry and load it myself.  It was so easy that instead of loading up my sea kayak, I started throwing the whitewater kayak in the back of the pick up and playing with it at home in the surf and rock gardens.  This of course built my skills for the river and vice versa.
Whitewater kayaks are playful and fun on the river and in the sea. Photo by Jeff Laxier
2.  A PUZZLE - Initially people wanted me to follow them down the river.   Then I discovered that as long as I had a general sense of the line, I liked reading the water and choosing my own lines.  I discovered that the rapids were a maze or puzzle that I had to figure out and find my way through.  As my skills and water reading developed, I was able to take different lines, catch tricky eddies, and ferry across chutes and onto waves.  Now, I love slaloming down the river - ferrying, attaining, and eddy hopping until my cheeks are sore from smiling and my paddling partners are ready for burgers and beers.
Eddy hopping down the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
3.  BEAUTY - River canyons are special places and each has its own unique character.  I have discovered that I loved exploring different rivers.  I especially love camping on the river and overnight river trips.  There is a magic about the 360 degree immersion in a river canyon.  The peacefulness to river running - going with the flow, watching for wildlife, and contemplating the scenery - speaks to my soul.
The Smith River is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  
Skills Learned from Whitewater Kayaking -

Vision - Looking where you want to go is key.  Find a reference point (a tree or rock) and focus your vision on that spot to get where you want to go.  Conversely - avoid looking at hazards or obstacles.
Look where you want to go! Essential skill in all action sports.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Drive - The river has current and momentum but sometimes you have to be aggressive to make your kayak go where you want it to go.  I tend to go with the flow and try to be as efficient as possible.  Whitewater kayaking has taught me that there are times when you need strong powerful strokes to get where you want to go.  For example to build up speed to leave an eddy.
Anchor the blade and drive the boat to where you want it to go! Photo by Jeff Laxier
Fear Management - Things happen fast on the river and you have to learn to be in the moment and let go of fear.  I have found that taking a couple of deep breaths before starting down a rapid helps me to relax.  The more relaxed I am, the better I am able to move and work with the water.
Lava Falls on the Grand Canyon is definitely a lesson in fear management, looking where you want to go, and making it happen.  Photo by June Ruckman
Decision Making - I like to challenge myself but have learned to know when to say when.  Some times it is portaging a rapid and other times it is opting for an easier run or a day off.  Days when a river it above your skill level, the paddling group is questionable, or you are feeling "off" are good days to eddy-out and choose a different adventure.  Always have a Plan B and C.  I always carry in my kit a good book to read, a pair of hiking shoes, and a camera so that I have enjoyable options if I decide not to run the river that day.
When in doubt, scout.  Good decision making will make for a better day for you and everyone else on the river.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Whitewater Technique - Vertical paddle strokes, stern draws, edge control relative to the current, surfing standing waves, and boofing are whitewater specific skills that I have generalized to improve my overall paddling skills - especially when sea kayaking in rock gardens and surf.
Boofing the ledge on Rancheria Creek.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Learning to run whitewater has definitely has made me a better all around sea kayaker.  It has also opened up a world of different paddling options.  As I am writing this post, I am dreaming of our next multi-day self support whitewater river kayak trip.
Kayak camping on the Eel River.
If you haven't given whitewater kayaking a try, I encourage you to find a seasoned and reputable instructor and take a lesson or class.  If you don't know how to roll, sit on top whitewater kayaks and inflatable kayaks can make whitewater kayaking fun accessible. 
Jeff Laxier makes sure that you develop the fundamentals before moving on to harder water.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why Sea Kayakers Should Learn to Whitewater Kayak

My partner Jeff Laxier and I often wonder why don't more sea kayakers paddle whitewater rivers - especially sea paddlers who like to play in rock gardens and surf.  Both Jeff and I see huge improvements in our students' skills when they take up whitewater river kayaking.  We both can attest to how our personal skills in the sea improve the more we run the river.
whitewater kayaking north fork smith river
Whitewater kayaking on the crystal clear waters of the North Fork Smith River
Jeff wrote the following post for Liquid Fusion Kayaking's February newsletter.  If you are interested in finding out more of what we have going on with Liquid Fusion Kayaking, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter.
Whitewater kayaking on the Smith River
Jeff Laxier kayaking on the Smith River.

Do you want to improve your skills to have more fun paddling dynamic waters – rock gardens, tide races, over-falls?

by Jeff Laxier

If so, LEARN to RUN WHITEWATER RIVERS.  Becoming proficient on the river will accelerate your learning and performance on the sea. 

Whitewater kayaking on the Eel River
Jeff Laxier whitewater kayaking on Mendocino County's Eel River

Here are Jeff's top 10 reasons - 

Why Sea Kayakers Should Learn to Whitewater Kayak

1.  It’s Fun 
2.  Rinses off the Salt
3.  Adds river running as a possibility for future paddling adventures
4.  Develops whitewater strokes that apply to sea kayaking in dynamic water
5.  Improves Confidence
6.  Challenging
7.  Increases water reading skills
8.  Tunes up your roll
9.  Focuses on Paddling Posture
10. Builds skills for surfing standing waves and playing in current – tide races, over-falls, and tidal rapids
Students working on peeling out of eddies during a Whitewater River Kayaking Class on the Eel River.
Class II/III Whitewater Rivers are a lot of fun.  With systematic instruction and experienced guidance, the skills to paddle Class II/III rivers is attainable by most.  Once you know how to paddle a whitewater river, you may be tempted to plan multi day sea kayak river trips like on Oregon’s John Day River, Utah’s Colorado and Green Rivers, and even Northern California’s Eel River. 
Multi-day river running trip in sea kayaks on the John Day River.

Part 2 - Lessons Learned from Whitewater Kayaking (my personal journey)