Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year 2014!!!

As 2014 comes to a close, I am a little bit remiss about not keeping my blog regularly updated.  The primary reason is that I have been spending more time outside and less time on the computer.  The result has been many fine adventures and misadventures and a very happy me.
Tahoe Lounge Chair
Surf kayaking and mountain biking continue to feed my soul.  Of course life is even better with friends to share it with including 2 of my favorite guys - 
Tom Cat
Jeff and I camping in the Redwoods along the Eel River.
3 new dancing partners (boats) came into my life this year - It has been challenging and fun learning the nuances of each.  Of course my favorite place to dance is in the surf.
Jackson Kayak Karma RG
Jackson Kayak Star  Photo by David C. Smith
Surf Kayak
Most days, I am content at home on the Mendocino Coast - redwood forests, rock gardens and surfzones and my garden.
Nothing beats fresh veggies from the garden!
On occasion it is fun to take a jaunt off the coast and play elsewhere.  Trips this year included our Spring Run Off Trip to the RedwoodsFall on the Lost Coast, Mountain Biking in Tahoe, and a Wintery White Thanksgiving with my family in Pennsylvania
The Abominable Snowman
Lumpy Waters Symposium in Pacific City, Oregon Photo by Jason Self
Of course, I am stoked to be back home and hoping to spend most of the winter on the Mendocino Coast - surfing, mt biking, and mushroom hunting.  Yes, we are having a bountiful mushroom season.
Feast from the Forest - Hedgehogs, Black Trumpets, Yellow Feet, and Golden Chanterelles
This is only a snapshot of the adventures of 2014.  Thanks to all of my family, friends, and students that have shared the adventures with me in 2014.  I am looking forward to many more in 2015.  I enjoy writing and sharing my experiences and promise to make an effort to get my blog on in 2015.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Shake IT!!!

For those who regularly follow my blog and have been wondering where my posts have been . . . they have been in my head.  I have some great material and am hoping for a rainy winter in Northern California for me to do a bit of writing (and whitewater boating).

Until then you might enjoy reading my latest post for Jackson Kayak about our trip to the Lost Coast using our Karma RG's.

And of course check out the video that I just finished editing of our whitewater of the sea ocean kayak rock gardening adventures on the Mendocino Coast (yes, that's me in the green/blue Karma RG getting worked at Nick's Nightmare and getting a nice wave as the credits roll).

Now Shake It and do your rain dance for Northern California!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


"Sometimes you get to watch the entertainment . . . and sometimes you are the entertainment."

Sometimes it is both - especially when someone videos it.  This week I had an evening free and went through some of our ocean kayaking video footage.  I compiled a video of some play sessions that we have had over the past year - mostly rock gardening and surfing in our old school Necky Jive's.

Here's the video

Hope you are entertained.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Nick's Nightmare

"You've got a big boat - you gotta go for the big wave!"

I've been getting my new Jackson Kayak Karma RG out to play in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast.  A lot of my time is teaching and coaching so I get to work on dialing in my skills on small waves as I demonstrate techniques for paddling ocean rock gardens.  Small waves are fun and a great place to build skills and learn the nuances of a new boat but don't usually make for exciting stories and dramatic photos.
Styling it in the Karma RG
This weekend, we got a little play time in.  As I continued to work on style and finesse in the RG, Jeff kept urging me on - "You've got a big boat - you gotta go for a big wave!"  I found it at Nick's Nightmare.  Nick's is a dramatic pour-over.  In the ocean, a pour-over is a feature that involves a wave washing over a rock.  A simple way to think about it is riding a wave over a rock and then surfing or sliding down the other side.  SUPER FUN!!!
Jeff running Nick's Nightmare in his Jackson Zen 65.
Nick's Nightmare is a tricky spot with a lot of hydraulic activity on both sides .  The approach is straight at a rock with lots of swirling hydraulic currents in front of the rock.  Your instinct says that there is no way that you want to paddle straight at that.  Timing, positioning, and wave selection are critical.  Get it right and you get a spectacular ride.  But even with the best made plans, Nick's can be a nightmare.

Most nightmarish is the giant hydraulic at the bottom.  When you ride a sizable wave over Nick's, you feel on top of the world . . . that moment of bliss ends when you look down.  The water slides down deep into a gaping hole and reverses into a wall of whitewater.  Try as you might and no matter how big the boat - Nick's Nightmare swallows you up . . .  It does spit you out.  Sometimes you are lucky and the buoyancy of your boat rockets you out of the depths.
Sea kayak going subsurface at Nick's
Other times, the nightmare continues as Nick's sucks you back into the throngs of chaos and confusion and back over the other side.  I guess you could say you get double your money when you get to ride Nick's both ways on one wave.

We had some spectacular rides at Nick's this weekend including this one where I got double my money.
That moment of bliss on top of the wave . . .
Plunging in deep . . .
Subsurface in a 12' boat
Nick's spitting me out  . . .
Rolling up as I go back over the pour-over.
Jeff says, "Sometimes you get to watch the entertainment and sometimes you are the entertainment."  I know he was entertained . . . I hope you are too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Goldilocks Outfits Her Jackson Kayak

I love the simplicity of Jackson Kayak's outfitting - especially since it doesn't involve ratchets (which corrode and break) and has a bulkhead that can be adjusted on the fly (no more wrestling matches on shore getting a bulk head into place).  The one thing that I don't like about Jackson Kayak's outfitting is where the backband sits.  Being a smaller paddler, the backbands feel like they are too high.  After some experimenting over the winter with my Zen 55, I found a fix that I liked.
Outfitting changes to my Jackson Kayak Zen 55.
When I got my Karma RG, re-routing the backband was the first thing that I did.  Jeff ended up liking it to so we made a video as I re-routed his.  Here's a link to the video.

If you try my backband fix, please let me know if you like it and/or if you have any other suggestions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Symphony of the Noyo

Happiness is a butterfly, 
which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

We all have those days when things don't go as planned.  Sometimes being open to possibilities or just being present or willing to embrace a moment is all that it takes to transform a derailed to-do list into a moment of bliss and happiness.

This week, I have ended up spending a good part of my days on our deck over the Noyo River priming boards for our shed remodel.  This wasn't on my extensive to-do list and I've had a moment or two of panic about the things that I wasn't getting to.  As I rolled primer onto the plywood and the sun shone on my back, the tension in my neck and shoulders started to ease as I tuned into the Symphony of the Noyo.

Over the years, the slow pace of kayaking on the quiet waters of the Noyo has expanded my curiosity about the creatures and plants that I see everyday.  This curiosity has blossomed into a fascination and love of birds.  Many birders love the challenge of identification and seeing many species.  My fascination is more about their behaviors and natural adaptations.  Part of their behavior that I enjoy is their songs of spring.  (Birds sing in the spring to attract a mate and/or to defend their territory.)

As I paint, I tune into the Symphony of the Noyo - the birds are painting the air with their colorful songs.  Here are some of the star performers - 
The swainson's thrush carries the main melody.  His spiraling song lifts ones' spirits.  

Song Sparrows chime in with their song.

The wilson's warbler contributes his "lazer tag" chorus.

The black-headed grosbeak stars.  His chortling adds some pizzaz to the movement.  

A western wood peewee adds dissonance with his off key - Rrreeeeeks!  

The osprey flies overhead.  When the female sees him, her pleading adds drama to the movement.

Chestnut backed Chickadees - add the "dee, dee, dee's.".

The rattling of the belted kingfisher adds "cha-cha-cha-cha-cha's

The occasional quoak, quoak, quoak of the great blue heron flying up river inspires commotion and percussion in the heron rookery.

The common ravens have a nest over the river and are like the peanut gallery. 
The ravens don't contribute much to the symphony's movement but are a vocal presence.

And a mute swan silently glides across the water - drifting to the Symphony of the Noyo.

Some day I hope to piece together a sound recording of the birds of the Noyo.  Until then, come enjoy the Symphony of the Noyo with me on the water.
Cate guiding Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Sunset Bird Paddle on the Noyo River

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ya Never Know

One of my favorite things about teaching and guiding kayak adventures is "Ya Never Know" what you might see or encounter.

Last week I was guiding a family from the bay area on a Noyo Meander Kayak Tour.  The trip was fun with a positive energetic group.

We encountered some of the usual characters - harbor seals

But then we came around the corner and encountered a man playing guitar on the bank of the Noyo River.
He was quite good and strumming a tune about evolution - "Ya Never Know" what you might encounter.

The Noyo River is definitely a "Ya Never Know" spot.  Earlier this month, we had a couple of mute swan sightings.
And now, this mute swan seems to have decided to hang out - perhaps for the summer but "Ya Never Know".

On the wilder side of things, "Ya Never Know" who is going to be the star on a Whitewater of the Sea Adventure.  It is not uncommon for the ladies to show up the guys.  However on one of our trips this spring; we had a first time kayaker get the ride of the day.

Stay tuned for more adventures - "Ya Never Know"  . . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Action Jackson

Jeff and I are excited to have been invited to join Jackson Kayak's Exploration Team.  Last fall, we pulled the trigger on some brand new Jackson Kayak Zen's to use for Liquid Fusion Kayaking's rock gardening and whitewater kayaking classes.  Of course we had to paddle them to get a feel for them.

We were really stoked with the boats and Jackson Kayak Company.  We like that Jackson makes kayaks for all ages, sizes, and kayaking abilities.  Their line of boats is constantly evolving and continuing to meet the needs of competition creeking and playboating but also the needs of a recreational kayaker who wants a comfortable and quality boat.  For school boats, we love Jackson's outfitting that can quickly and easily be adjusted to fit different paddlers - and is even adjustable while on the water.  Our students rave about the customer service as well as the quality of the boats which are made in the USA and using all materials made in the USA.  We were honored to be asked to join the Jackson Kayak Exploration Team and are looking forward to paddling Jackson Kayaks for our whitewater river and whitewater of the sea (rock gardening) classes and adventures.  We will be sharing our adventures and doing some educational videos and blogs for the Jackson Kayak Community.

Our first project was helping with the filming of the new Karma RG promo video.

Here is my first blog post for Jackson Kayak - Karma and Zen in the Redwoods.  My next project for JK is a going to be a video on outfitting a Jackson Kayak for a smaller paddler.  I will be continuing to write here on my woman on water blog as well.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rumors of a New Rock Garden Kayak

The rumors that Jackson Kayak has a new rock garden kayak are true.  Last week, we got to take the first ones out for a 3 day demo and video shoot on the waters of Mendocino County.  The boat is called the Karma Unlimited RG.  We ended up calling it RG for short.  RG stands for Rock Garden and River Guide.  It is based on the design of Jackson's Karma whitewater creek race boat.
Jackson Karma Unlimited RG on Mendocino's Eel River photo by Sean Morley
Here's a video about the creek boat version.

Basically the RG has all the features of the Unlimited and also has a rear bulkhead and hatch, decklines, and a drop down skeg to make for a versatile ocean play boat or whitewater river expedition boat.  More details and a promo video about the RG will be coming out soon.
The Karma RG has all the features necessary on an ocean rock garden play boat.
We got to paddle the RG in the rock gardens and surf of the Mendocino Coast and on a class III whitewater stretch of the Eel River.  I was prepared to put my game face on and just paddle the boat for the promo video; however, I fell in love with the boat and am excited about its possibilities for both rock gardening and ocean play as well as multi-day river trips.
The Karma RG is a blast on the river!!! Photo by Sean Morley
Stay tuned for more videos, photos and a full review.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Working at Play and Playing at Work

"Working at Play and Playing at Work" was the title of my presentation last week at Fort Bragg and Mendocino High Schools' career day.  The lines of work are often blurred in the kayaking business.
Riding a fat pour-over.  Photo by Matt Nelson
Our friend Paul Kuthe describes it well in his blog post "Strictly Business."  I highly encourage you to read Paul's post - it tells the tale of our adventures after the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium.

I have to admit though that this week the kayaking business feels like work as I get all of our accounting together for taxes and work on catching up on office work from when I was out "Playing at Work."  I definitely need to schedule some time to PLAY!
The quiver is ready to PLAY!!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of teaching and paddling and all of the energy and logistics that go into teaching and paddling.  I have to admit that my mind and body are a bit tired but my spirit is soaring.
Cate Hawthorne diagrams the surf zone.
My 2 week whirlwind began with hosting Ocean Camp Northern California.  This was a 6 day sea kayak training camp taught by the team of Ryan Rushton of Geneva Kayak Center and Jeff Laxier and I of Liquid Fusion Kayaking.  We rented a vacation home in Fort Bragg, planned meals and instruction, and rallied 8 students to come improve their sea kayaking skills on the Mendocino Coast.
Peter and MaryAnn applying their strokes in rough conditions.
It was an AWESOME week!!!  We had sunshine, whales, surf zones, dynamic ocean conditions, and 8 eager students.  Many skills were developed, limits were pushed, FUN was had, and lifelong friendships made.  The primary physical complaint of the week was abdominal muscles being sore.  It is debatable whether this was from paddling or laughing.
Kat and Keri (aka Sunshine and Zippy) working together as a team.
Following Ocean Camp, we journeyed to San Francisco for the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium (GGSKS).   I have to admit that traveling to a symposium is a bit of a stretch for me.  Teaching in unfamiliar venues with different instructors and being surrounded by lots of people challenges my quiet nature.  However, this year I was excited for the symposium.  I felt honored to be selected as a lead coach and excited be reunited with paddling friends and colleagues.
Practicing sea kayak rescue skills outside the Golden Gate Bridge.
This year's GGSKS was exciting as there were many new faces in the crowd and some new courses.  I was super stoked to be teaching Whitewater of the Sea (rock gardening in whitewater kayaks) with Jeff Laxier and Surf Kayaking (in short boats) with Kate Hives of The Hurricane Riders.  

The rock garden class went well.  We had a group of skilled whitewater boaters who were keen to learn the nuances of whitewater paddling in the ocean.  They were quick learners and we had a fantastic day of exploration and play - complete with a close encounter with a gray whale (sorry no photos of the whale).
Leah with great timing in the GGSKS whitewater kayak rock gardening class.
A storm came through on Sunday making surf conditions poor so the decision was made to cancel the surf kayak class.  Coaches Kate Hives, Mathew Hoff, and myself put our heads together and offered the students the option of switching to another class or doing a classroom/dryland session with us.  We were excited to have 6 students join us for a day of in depth instruction on surf zone topics including etiquette, waveology, and skills for performance surf kayaking.  Lots of "ah-ha" learning moments occurred and everyone left the class excited to try some new techniques in their next surf session.
Kate Hives and Matthew Hoff start a self-assessment exercise at GGSKS.
Decompressing from an active 10 days of teaching, began on Monday with our annual post GGSKS coaches paddle.  Matt Nelson, Paul Kuthe, Bryant Burkhardt, Jeff Laxier and I enjoyed a 2 hour play session on the Mendocino Coast.  Our rock garden session included riding some fun pour-overs, shooting through slots, and threading the needle through some dynamic and technical rock garden passages.
Matt Nelson styling a pour over.
We all appreciated a post paddle hike in the forest and along the coast - stretching out our paddling muscles, enjoying each others company and marveling at the beauty of the trees and waters of the Mendocino Coast. 
Coaches appreciating the beauty of the Mendocino Coast.
The speed of the whirlwind has abated but I still find myself in motion as I catch up on correspondence, upload photos, blog, catch-up on homework in my fern and wildflower class, prepare for Friday's presentation at the local high school's career fair, and do the final organization for Sunday's Valentine Tea (a fundraiser for Books for Babies/Kits for Kindergarten).

But you know the saying - a rolling stone gathers no moss . . .