Monday, December 21, 2015

Keen Gorgeous Boots

I loved Keen's Gorge Boots and was hugely disappointed when they discontinued them.  Mine lasted for over 3 years (probably over 400 days on the water).  Fortunately I managed to buy another pair before they were discontinued.
Keen Gorge Boots showing some wear but still holding up after 3 years of heavy use.
When the 2015 Gorgeous Boots were released, I had to get a pair.  At first glance, one realizes that these are 2 very different boots.  The Gorge Boot is more of a hiking water boot, and the Gorgeous Boot is more of a neoprene booty.
Keen Gorgeous Boots
Review of Keen Gorgeous Boots
The Keen Gorgeous Boots have thick soles for watersport booties and a toe guard that protects the front of the toes. This are important features for those of us who have tender feet and are often climbing around on rocks in the water environment.  The Gorgeous Boots are highly adjustable with a cinching strap system and they appear to be well made (no loose threads or splitting seams).  Traction on the soles seems adequate for walking on wet surfaces - walking on kelp is slick no matter what shoes one is wearing.

Keen makes the Gorgeous Boots in sizes 8-14.  The size 8 is definitely a size too big for me.  I make it work by wearing wool socks and neoprene socks in them.  The adjustable straps accommodate different thicknesses of neoprene socks and when I only wear wool socks in them.

On the Water:
The slimmer profile of the Gorgeous Boots fits in most of my kayaks.  I wish that the heel was slimmer, but I wish this about most boots that I wear in kayaking (except for the Astral Hiyak).  The snug ankle fit keeps sand and gravel out.  They are surprisingly warm for only a 2mm neoprene (couple that with wool socks and neoprene socks and they are down right toasty).  My favorite use for the Gorgeous Boots has become Coasteering and abalone diving.  I like the thick soles for protection from rocks when we are traversing along rocky reefs.  I don't find that they have enough support for teaching days when I am schlepping kayaks or for trips that involve a bit of portaging or hiking.  (perhaps my opinion on this might be different if I had a smaller size).
Coasteering on the Mendocino Coast in the Keen Goregous Boots
We will see.  After 8 months, they have faded a little but otherwise don't show much sign of wear.  I expect these boots to hold up for several seasons like my old Gorge Boots.

I think that these are worthy booties for paddlers who are not doing a lot of hiking and for those with a size 8 foot or larger.  For the price, I am not sure that I would purchase them again especially since they are not available in a size 7.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Astral Hiyak

Our whitewater kayaking friends have been raving about the Astral Brewer.  In particular they have been raving about the sticky/grippy rubber soles and comfortable fit both in the kayak and on land.  Since I launch and land on sandy and gravelly beaches most of the time, low tops like the Brewer don't work out well for me because they are always getting gravel and sand in them.  I was excited when Astral started making  The Hiyak - a hightop kayaking shoe.

Review of Astral Hiyak:

First Impressions:
Geeez these things are lightweight.

Astral makes the Hiyak in men's sizes 7-13.  For me as a women's 8, the size 7's are a bit on the big side.  Fortunately the laces make them extremely adjustable and I can snug them up enough to wear them with socks.  The best fit that I get with them is when I wear a pair of wool socks, a pair of thick neoprene socks and SuperFeet insoles or when I am wearing a drysuit with several pairs of wool socks and SuperFeet.  The soles on the Hiyak are very flexible and intended to be responsive.  My tender feet found them to give a little too much feedback so I added the SuperFeet.

On the Water:
These are the most comfortable shoes that I have ever worn in a kayak!!!  The key I believe is the extremely low profile heel.  Lightweight and quick drying are other features that likely contribute to the Hiyak's comfort.  I love that they actually dry over night - even on the coast.
The low profile Hiyaks are comfortable in the kayak (even little kayaks)
The Hiyaks are not the warmest shoes nor would one expect them to be given their lightweight material.  In our 54 degree water, I find that I need to wear wool socks and thick neoprene socks with them to keep my feet warm.

On the rocks, the soles are definitely sticky.  I have been impressed with their grip in both the river and ocean environments.  The flexibility of the sole also contributes to that grippiness and feeling like one has a good connection to the rocks.
The sticky soles are great for scrambling on slick rocks.
I wore these almost daily for several months this summer.   My summer working environment involves a fair amount of walking on gravel.  The heels of my left foot wore through but I think this is due to some issues that I have with pronation and alignment with my left foot and the particular version of superfeet that I was wearing.  Jeff aquasealed it, and it has been fine since.

I think that Astral Hiyak is the most comfortable kayaking shoe on the market.  At times, I wish that it was a little bit warmer and had a little bit thicker sole; however, the comfort in the boat, lightweight and quick drying material, and sticky soles have made this my favorite everyday kayaking and guiding boot on both the sea and the river.
Sea Kayaking on the Mendocino Coast of California

Friday, December 11, 2015

P&H Hammer

I got my first spin (literally a quick spin) in the prototype  P&H Hammer at the 2013 Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium.  The idea of a 13-14 foot keel-less kayak built for ocean play was very appealing.  After the symposium, the prototype Hammer journeyed with us to the Mendocino Coast and I got to witness Paul Kuthe and Jeff Laxier rock it (granted both Jeff and Paul are phenomenal kayakers that can make any kayak look good but these guys showed off the potential of the Hammer).
Jeff Laxier surfing The Hammer on the Mendocino Coast. Photo by Bryant Burkhardt
In the spring of 2013, the production Hammer came out.  According to the website, it is 13' 4"", 23.25" wide and 61.7 pounds and doesn't give a depth.  I would venture that it is more like 65-68 pounds and the depth is in the 14-15 inch range.  Over the past 2 years, I have seen the Hammer in various venues and in the hands of paddlers of various sizes and skills.  Only this summer did I start paddling one.  My review is going to reflect my paddling experience with the Hammer as well as my observations of others in it.

Review of P&H Hammer

First Impressions:
This is a ridiculously deep and heavy kayak.  When I sat in it, the cockpit combing was about at the bottom of my ribcage.  I initially had no desire to paddle it.  This summer I decided to take it for spin.  I was more than pleasantly surprised by its performance in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast.
P&H Hammer in the Ocean Rock Gardens of the Mendocino Coast
The Hammer is very deep with a long cockpit - my 2 biggest issues as a smaller paddler (I am 5' 4" and 120 pounds).  To paddle it, I put Jackson Sweet Cheeks 200 on top of the stock seat.   This brought my butt up about 2 inches which made a huge difference.  My elbows cleared the side of the kayak and the sprayskirt and cockpit were no longer pushing up on my life jacket.  This also brought my center of gravity up which gives better leverage for strokes.  The problem is that I am sitting way up - high away from the water.  This necessitated that I use a longer paddle so I switched to a 200cm paddle.

The Hammer has a long cockpit.  I end up using an Immersion Research XL sprayskirt or a Seals Sprayskirt 1.7.  I would like to wear a snugger fitting spray skirt; however, my arm length (which is actually on the long size for my height) and strength necessitate that I use a looser fitting skirt.

I was pleased that the stock bulkhead had plenty of adjustment and could be adjusted to fit my short legs without modification.

On the Water:
Most of my trips with the Hammer have been in teaching or guiding situations so I have not had the opportunity to really push its limits in meaty conditions.  I have surfed it in rock gardens but have not had the opportunity to surf it on nice peeling wave.

As soon as we got the Hammer on the water (I say we because this is not a kayak that I can carry on my own), I was amazed at how comfortable it was.  I love the solid feel and support of a bulkhead (versus foot pegs in many sea kayaks).  With the Sweet Cheeks, this was an all day comfortable kayak.  I was also surprised how well the kayak glided on the water given its weight and extreme rocker profile.

Stability - The stability of the Hammer was unreal in all conditions.  It felt super solid as I rode pour-overs, swooshed along rocky walls, and paddled it through washing machine like chaotic water.  I played with it sideways in some suck holes and never felt like I was going to get window-shaded.  I only capsized it when purposefully dropping an edge to get off of a wave.
Rock gardens and  whitewater is where the Hammer excels. Photo by Deb Volturno
Maneuverability - The Hammer is extremely maneuverable.  I love that it is a "sea kayak" that handles like a whitewater kayak.   One of the key skills in whitewater kayaking is learning to utilize the spin momentum of the keel-less hull.  Many sea kayakers are not accustomed to kayaks with spin momentum and tend to use the skeg at all times with it.  I like using the skeg when paddling in open water but found the looseness of the hull to be ideal when playing in rock gardens.   I liked that I could spin the Hammer on a dime to turn and catch a wave but also to make turns on and in features.

Rolling - The Hammer is not an easy kayak for me to roll.  I can and do roll it but due to its depth and my elevated seat position it is not a quick snappy roll.

Multiday - I paddled the Hammer on the Tsunami Ranger's annual retreat on the Mendocino Coast.  We don't pack light for these trips of luxury camping by the sea, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I could fit in the Hammer.  This made it really heavy though, and I was thankful to have the skeg to help with tracking.  It was awesome to have a kayak that could pack a lot of camping niceties yet once unloaded be maneuverable and playful for rock garden play.
P&H Hammer out with the Tsunami Rangers. Photo by Captain Jim Kakuk
The plastic on the Hammer seems very solid.  It doesn't nick at the slightest offense.  The Hammer in our fleet has definitely seen some use and is holding up well.

I really like paddling the Hammer in ocean rock gardens because it performs like a whitewater kayak yet is capable of light touring.  I think that the Hammer is best suited for paddlers who have a whitewater kayaking background and are looking for a kayak that will comfortably paddle 5-10 miles in a day of ocean play and touring.
Paul Kuthe styling a pour-over on the Mendocino Coast in the Hammer.
I see many sea kayakers and beginning paddlers frustrated with the Hammer because of its keel-less hull.  This makes the boat less likely to track straight and more likely to spin.  For sea kayakers who want to paddle the shorter more maneuverable kayaks like the Hammer and Jackson Kayak Karma RG,  I recommend getting whitewater kayaking instruction to build the skill set specific to paddling whitewater kayaks.

I do not recommend the Hammer for smaller paddlers (my size and smaller). It is just too much kayak both on and off the water.  I really wish that P&H would revise the Hammer and/or make a smaller version.  It seems that it could be lightened up by pairing it down to 2 hatches/bulkheads, going with carry toggles or carry handles, simplifying the outfitting, and getting rid of the pod and the extra deck grommets.  I think that a smaller, lighter version will appeal to a wide range of paddlers looking for a playful ocean kayak.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Women Rock!

Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Rock n Surf Safari last weekend was a blast.  Two women joined Jeff and I for some kayak surfing and whitewater of the sea aka ocean rock garden whitewater kayaking.  These women rocked!  We created Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Kayak Surfaris to share the fun of paddling, surfing, and exploring different locations with the same crew of paddlers.  Last weekend we pegged the fun meter again!

Over the 2 and a half days, we surfed 4 different surf breaks and rock gardened on 3 different stretches of the Mendocino Coast.
Preparing to launch an hp surf kayak at a break on the Mendocino Coast
The idea of the weekend is strictly play; however, our students were eager learners, and we are teachers so we shared tips for them to improve their performance.  Specifically, we were working on performance surf kayak skills and whitewater kayak skills that would transfer to whitewater river kayaking.
Whitewater Kayaking in Ocean Rock Gardens on the Mendocino Coast
The beauty of the whitewater kayak is its versatility and maneuverability.  It is not a craft to go fast or far with on the ocean but affords the opportunity for maximum fun.  We have a couple of tricks up our sleeves as well for making the most of whitewater kayaks on the sea.  Every day on the ocean in a short boat puts a smile on my face, and we find that smile to be contagious.  
Running a Pour-over Feature on the Mendocino Coast
Our surfari wasn't all about waves but also embraced the wonder of the sea.  The Pacific gray whales are starting their migration to Mexico.  One cruised in close to the rocks that we were playing on as it made its way south.  A highlight for me was encountering a family of river otters in a sea cave.  I think they were as curious about me as I was about them.  I would say that the wow and wonder factor for everyone over the weekend was the dynamic ocean conditions that we encountered.  Some of them we played on and others we admired from a safe zone.
Kayaking and Playing in Dynamic Water - Sara gets a ride on a zipper wave
The surfari started out with small surf and swell conditions and built through the weekend.  Sunday concluded with a large, long period swell moving into the waters of the Mendocino Coast.

Mendocino Kayak Surfaris are definitely my favorite Liquid Fusion Kayaking events.  I am getting excited for our New Years Whitewater n Surf Safari where we try to hit the Triffecta of Mendocino Whitewater Kayaking Fun - whitewater river kayaking, surf kayaking, and ocean rock gardening.

Whitewater kayaking on Mendocino's Eel River

Monday, November 30, 2015

Performance Surf Kayak Resources

On the Mendocino Coast, we always have surf. Some days are definitely better than others, but we always have something to surf.  We play in the surf as much as possible.  Through Liquid Fusion Kayaking, Jeff Laxier and I share our knowledge and love of the surf to teach basic surf zone classes for sea kayaks, whitewater kayaks, sit on top kayaks, and fishing kayaks.  We also offer private lessons and teach Performance Surf Kayaking Classes.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff Laxier surfing at home on the Mendocino Coast. Photo by Cate Hawthorne
Below is a compilation of surf kayak resources that we share with our students. Check them out and please let us know of any other helpful surf kayak resources that we can share.

Basics - Check out Keith Wikle's Go Kayak Now blog post - Surf Kayaking Basics.  This has information on what is surf kayaking and the type of kayaks used.

Etiquette - Gotta follow the rules of the playground (kayakers are notorious for misbehaving in the surf zone).  Surfline's Bill of Lefts and Rights is a good resource for the rules of surfing.   I like visuals so check out this diagram by Robert Saunders.
For an explanation of this diagram, click here.
The Tsunami Rangers have some good points to consider when surf kayaking.  Here is the Tsunami Ranger post on Surf Kayaking Etiquette.

Surf Kayak Skills - Many paddlers learn to surf kayak via the school of hard knocks.  Learning to surf takes hundreds of hours in the surf.  A little education and skills instruction will speed along your learning.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne surfing her hp surf kayak on the Mendocino Coast.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
Here's a website dedicated to surf kayak skills.

Here's a surf kayak skills video by expert kayak surfer Dessie McGlinchey.  The footage is awesome.

A good reference book for Surf Kayaking is Surf Kayaking: The Essential Guide by Simon Hammond.

Many paddlers can catch a wave, but the best way to learn performance surf kayaking is to take a surf kayak class or lesson, then get out and surf.  Another resource to help you with getting out there is the US West Surf Kayak Website.  It has surf spots, classes, and lots of other information on kayak surfing.
Cate Hawthorne surfing her freestyle whitewater kayak on the Mendocino Coast.  Photo by Jeff Laxier.
For those that don't live near the surf or get to surf enough, you too can improve your surfing skills.  One way is to watch surf videos - board surfing as well as waveskiing and surf kayaking.  From time to time, I post inspirational surf videos on my Facebook Page.

Do you have any favorite surf kayak tips or resources?  If so, please share them so that I can add them to this page.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dagger Stratos

This week I got to paddle the Dagger Stratos 14.5.  Dagger touts the Stratos as "A playful, sporty touring boat that makes open water, rock gardening, and ocean surf fun and exciting.  The Stratos has been available in the UK for a little over a year and is scheduled to be available in the United States in 2016.  It is 14.5 feet long and is available in 2 sizes - small and large.  It has 2 bulkheads, 2 hatches, perimeter lines, and a drop down skeg.
Dagger Stratos 14.5L in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast of California
I think that Dagger may have found the missing link in the kayak industry.  As ocean rock garden play has been gaining in popularity so has interest in shorter more maneuverable sea worthy kayaks.  There have been a few other shorter sea kayaks on the market, but they miss the mark in different ways.  As a result, sea kayakers have been looking toward the newer longer whitewater kayaks for ocean rock garden play.  The industry has responded by putting bulkheads, hatches, and skegs in their long creek racing kayaks (11-12 foot range).  Many of us have enjoyed the stability and forgiving nature of these kayaks but found them to be lacking in performance.  The Dagger Stratos is designed to be a playful sea kayak.  After my test paddle, I think that Dagger has the playful sea kayak that many of us have been looking for.
Jeff Laxier rock gardening in the Dagger Stratos on the Mendocino Coast of California

Review of Dagger Stratos
I got to paddle the small Stratos for an afternoon in the rock gardens and surf on the Mendocino Coast.  I also got to see both the small and large sizes perform side by side in the capable hands of Jeff Laxier and Ben Lawry.
Ben Lawry having fun in the Dagger Stratos
First Impression
Two words describe my impression of the Dagger Stratos - Nimble and Responsive.

The Stratos maneuvered like a whitewater kayak but with better tracking.  For those that like carving edged turns, it carves nicely on both inside and outside edges.  The kayak is nimble yet quite stable in chaotic water. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it accelerated to catch waves, ride surges, and punch out through waves.  Here's a short clip of Jeff surfing the small sized Stratos.

The small Stratos fit without any custom outfitting.  The Stratos is equipped with adjustable sliding plastic foot braces and adjustable thigh hooks.  I adjusted these and hopped in and paddled it comfortably.  I am 5'4" and think that the small Stratos could easily be adjusted to fit smaller paddlers.  My only complaint is the long cockpit which seems to be a trend these days.  For a small paddler, this creates a dilemma - Do I wear a looser fitting spraydeck that I can easily get on myself or do I struggle and sometimes require help from a teammate to get a properly snug spraydeck on?  At 5"11, Jeff enjoyed the performance of the small but preferred the roomier fit of the large.
Dagger Stratos 14.5S surfing on the Mendocino Coast of California
Paddlers who are looking for a playful plastic sea kayak for ocean rock garden and surfzone play should definitely put the Dagger Stratos on their radar.  Look for opportunities to demo them as they come out in 2016.  Size choice is likely to be a personal preference as opposed to manufacturer recommendations so demoing them is going to be key.

I am ordering mine this week and plan to be teaching rock gardening classes in it at Paddle Golden Gate.  Stay tuned for more . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Surf Like A Woman

“My biggest compliment is not that I surf like a man, but that I surf like a woman.  If someone watches me ride a wave, I want them at the end of it to know that I’m in love with the ocean.”  Leah Dawson

I recently came across this quote by Leah Dawson in an article Leah Dawson Might Save Women's Surfing.  I clicked on it because I didn't know that women's surfing was in danger (and I am not sure that it is).  The article shared with me a new surf heroine and rekindled my fire for playing in the ocean and sharing that passion with others.  Here's the video about Leah Dawson.

Both Jeff and I are looking to rekindle other's passion for playing in the surf and coaching them on how to kayak surf with style and finesse.  Check out Liquid Fusion Kayaking's November News - Gone Surfing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fall on the Mendocino Coast

Fall is my favorite time of the year - especially at home on the Mendocino Coast.  Summer is super busy and our early fall seems to have become a bit of a whirlwind too; however, when November hits, things slow down.  The longer days are a welcome break for those of us who like an excuse to got to bed early with a book or snuggle under the covers a little bit longer in the morning.  The day to day operations of Liquid Fusion Kayaking shifts from a constantly ringing phone, continuous email correspondence, and teaching and guiding to gear maintenance and repair, book keeping, website work, and planning.  It is a nice change of pace.
November Sunset on the Mendocino Coast
Getting out in the surf regularly is a nice change of pace as well.  This summer, I managed to get out on my mountain bike regularly but didn't not manage my weekly goal of at least once a week in the surf.  My hp surf boat and I are rekindling our flame and stay tuned for reports on a new surf toy in our quiver.
My new hp surf kayak
Pace is a bit of an issue these days on mountain bike rides.  We are working on finding the balance between riding for exercise and riding as a means of transportation to our mushroom spots.  California is still dry so mushroom season has been off to a painfully slow start.  We have been longingly checking our spots and settling for buttons and seeking out less common (yet delicious) species.
Beefsteak!  One of our favorite mushrooms on the Mendocino Coast.
Speaking of delicious . . . fall is a time of harvest on both sea and land.  Dungeness crab season has been delayed, but we still have the month of November to get abalone.  A kayak is a great way to get abalone; however, so is coasteering.  Sometimes it is nice to travel light and not deal with the effort of loading and unloading kayaks and the associated gear.  With the proper equipment (where we live a warm wetsuit and hood), swimming in the ocean is a blast.
Coasteering and Abalone Diving
This year, I got a new wetsuit.  It is warm and comfortable and has gotten me into the water more.  As fall progresses, I plan to catch up on some gear reviews and definitely will be raving about my new wetsuit.  I have a notion that I am going to do a series of gear reviews and am thinking up a theme for them.  I am thinking of The 12 Days of Gear Reviews and posting a new review each day.  Let me know if you have any ideas.  Boots are definitely a hot topic on my list this year.

Having time to explore ideas is one of my favorite parts about fall.  Those that know me well, know that the wheels are always turning in my head and often have a creative spin.  I am hoping to get some of those creative ideas onto my blog this fall and winter and into Liquid Fusion Kayaking's adventures for 2016 and beyond.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Waves Wildlife and Wonder of Mendocino County Video

Jeff and I are just back from an awesome trip to Oregon.  Here's a little recap of our adventures at the Lumpy Waters Symposium in Pacific City, Oregon.  One of the reasons that we love going to Lumpy Waters is because it is predominately kayakers from Oregon and Washington.  Being among a different community of paddlers, we get to hear about different places in the Pacific Northwest..  When we share that we are from Northern California, we get either the "ouuuu - we want to come see you" or a blank look and then an acknowledgement of being near San Francisco.

This year, we stepped up to the plate and volunteered to do a presentation at the symposium on Mendocino County, California.  Neither of us like to talk in front of big groups so we opted to go the video route.  A video is a labor of love.  Countless hours go into brainstorming, collecting footage, editing, and finding the right music.  This video is a little bit longer than I like, but I think it is my best video so far.

Carve out 11 minutes of your day and let me share the Waves, Wildlife, and Wonder of Mendocino County, California with you (please turn the sound on your speakers or put your headphones on).

I hope that you enjoy the video.  If you do, please share it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Liquid Fusion Kayaking Videos!

Unfortunately part of being successful in the kayak industry these days is self promotion.  Some are of course better at it than others - that subtle dance of showing off knowledge and skills while being modest.  In our electronic world, videos have become a means of showing off one's stuff as well as sharing one's adventures.  I am a little bit camera shy, but enjoy taking photos and shooting video.  The problem is that I need a deadline to get my butt out of my surf boat or off my mountain bike and onto the computer to create and publish a video.

Last week, Jeff and I were invited to teach and present at The Headwaters Kayak Shop and Headwaters Adventure Company's Albion Bash.  We decided to do a presentation on our adventures in the Lost Coast.  Instead of talking about it, we chose to show who we are and what our adventures have entailed.

Here's a little promotional video for Liquid Fusion Kayaking (which is Jeff and I).

Presenting on the Lost Coast was challenging because it is an area that is quite remote, exposed, and subject to extreme conditions.  Our goal with the video was to share the beauty and wonder of the area, our adventures there both by land and by sea, the challenges of paddling the area, and give an idea of the skills necessary.  Also sharing the fact that there are many days when the Lost Coast is not paddleable.  Take a look at our video and let me know what you think.

Liquid Fusion Kayaking Presents:  The Lost Coast - Adventures by Land and By Sea.

A huge thanks to our friends who have shared these adventures with us.  May there be many more!!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer of Sunshine and Smiles

As summer starts to wrap-up, I am starting to think about getting caught up on my blogging and bookkeeping.

This has been Liquid Fusion Kayaking's busiest summer so far.  It has been a summer of sunshine and smiles.  As Jeff and I review photos from our trips, we love seeing all the happy faces.  From first timers to seasoned paddlers, we have been sharing the magic of the Mendocino Coast with folks from all walks of life.

I did a rough calculation and figure that I have guided over 500 people on the water over the past 3 months.

On our dry and mild tours on the Noyo River, I know that I have done my job when 1/2 way through the tour folks start talking about when and where they can go kayaking next.  Last month I ran into a family launching kayaks onto the Noyo River.  The father pointed at the kayaks and said to me that this was all my fault.  His family fell in love with kayaking on a trip with me last summer and now they own 4 kayaks and are paddling as a family almost every weekend.

Our early September is looking busy with teaching our Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Series and teaching rock gardening at the Headwaters Albion Bash.

I am looking forward to writing some reviews this fall on some kayaks and equipment that I have gotten to use this summer.  But most importantly - what is on my mind for when I get to go kayaking next?  Kayak surfing and whitewater!  This week, I knocked the dust off my surf kayak.  It definitely put a smile on my face.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Creatures in the Sea

This week the fishing was a bit slow.  My goal was a Mendocino Kayak Fishing Trifecta - abalone, dungeness crabs, and rock cod.  The bite was really slow and I didn't catch any fish this week.  I was successful in getting 3 abalone (on Tuesday before the season closed for the month of July) and getting dungeness crabs.  But this week's catch wasn't so much about the food as it was the beauty and wonder of the sea.

On Friday, my friend and I were fishing in our kayaks along the coast on the outside of a large rocky reef.  The mulitlayered sky was breathtakingly beautiful and the early morning water was like glass.  We jigged in awe and wonder as the glassy swells rolled beneath our boats and the sunshine streamed through the layers of clouds.  Several large flocks of brown pelicans skimmed by us.  The bite was slow, but we contently fished and immersed ourselves in the beauty around us.

The fog began to roll in and then there was a large but gentle whooooosh . . . about 40 feet from us a cloud of water vapor spouted up from the water followed by a dark arching back.  As gracefully as it appeared, it slipped beneath the water again.  Moments later, whooosh it it spouted and appeared again right in front of us and then again as it made its way along the rocks heading north.  It made our morning seem even more divine.

Then our morning got more interesting.  The bite continued to be slow and my friend landed a nice lingcod but my stringer was empty.  We decided to call it a day and pull the crab pots and head in.  One the crab pots held a surprise.

We had some dungeness crabs but also the gnarliest looking crab we had ever seen.
Pudget Sound King Crab?
So far my research indicates that it is a type of box crab known as a Puget Sound King Crab.  They are not common and extremely uncommon to get in a crab pot.  What a treat to get to see.  We took some photos and returned it to the sea.
Gail poses with our interesting catch.
What a cool day to be out on the sea - Maybe not the best for feeding the body but definitely lots of food for the soul.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


My least favorite activity of being a kayak instructor and guide is schlepping kayaks.  This time of the year, I am schlepping boats most days.  When I have time to play, the last thing that I want to do is shlepp around a heavy kayak.  Sometimes it is fun to simplify and step away from the boat and just go have fun in the ocean - Coasteering!

Wetsuit, boots, gloves and off we go to play in the ocean.  We hike to a spot on the headlands and jump in.  We swim to off shore rocks or to the next headland, seal land ourselves, and repeat.  It is sh!ts n giggles fun!

Sometimes our route has us swimming through arches and into caves.  

Our last 2 adventures have actually been missions.  One mission was planting a Geochache for the Bay Area Sea Kayaker's 30th Anniversary Challenge.  Yes, Jeff and I coasteered into the location and would challenge other BASK'ers to do it too. 

Our other mission was a trash collection mission.  We are so thankful to be able to fish and gather food from the ocean.  We strive to tread lightly and have minimum impact on the environment but unfortunately have those moments where we snag and lose our line and tackle.  We have added lightweight packs to our coasteering missions for packing out trash - specifically fishing line that is snagged on the rocks that we are traversing.  Bringing a small pack allows me to pack my abalone gear and bring home dinner too.  

Swimming and playing in the ocean's rock gardens feels quite natural to me.I have to admit that jumping is a bit challenging for me.  I am working on my courage and technique.  Yes, I still hold my nose when I jump.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Grocery Shopping in the Sea

Last year, I got my first taste of kayak fishing and have to admit that I am hooked (hopefully not literally).
My first black cod caught on a handline.
Now is the season for almost everything - dungeness crabs, abalone, salmon, rock fish, and sea vegetables.  Slowly but surely, I am acquiring the necessary tackle and skills for getting dinner at sea.  Every day this week, I have caught or gathered food from the ocean.  
My first lingcod - 28 inches.
7 years ago, I got my first abalone.  Jeff came home from work and was treated to pan friend abalone.  Since then, he has become quite the abalone diver, and we have expanded our repertoire of cooking methods and recipes.  I haven't dove the past several years because we both don't need to and Jeff is all about the "hot lap" (timed trip from the house to the ocean and back with abs).  I am all about !@#$'s n giggles diving.  I like to take my time and swim around and sight see.

An advantage of spending so much time kayaking in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast is that I have lots of opportunity to scope out my fishing, diving, and harvesting spots.  Over the past month, I have been seeing a ton of abalone and did my first solo abalone hunt this week.  It has been fun to fish and dive with friends, but I enjoyed the independence of my solo mission.  Jeff was pretty stoked when I came home with 3 nice sized abalone and a couple of dungeness crabs.
Kayaking to a favorite abalone spot.
On our plate this week has been fish.  We have caught greenling, black cod, and ling cod.  I understand how people become enthralled with fishing.  Fish are fascinating.  I love how they move in the water and am learning to identify the different types and what each type eats.  Fishing is definitely a challenge - figuring out the right place to be but also what type of bait or lures to use and how to effectively use the lures/bait.  A homemade handline has been my primary fishing tool.  I like the simplicity of it both for use and for transport.
Using a handline to fish for bottom fish.
I get so exited when I feel the tug on my line (have to admit I was a bit nervous when I hooked my first lingcod - it was a large fiesty fish with big teeth).  Reeling it in is like opening a present.  Even though you might have an idea of what is on the line, you don't know until you pull it in.  This week, Jeff caught a black cod and as he pulled it in a ling cod grabbed on to it and he landed both.  Yesterday, I pulled in 2 black cod on the same cast.
Jeff with a fish-on!
Pulling crab pots can be exciting too.  Not just in the excitement of seeing what is in the pot but the excitement of pulling up a heavy pot from a kayak in choppy ocean conditions.  Of course one could go crabbing on calm days or in calm bays or estuaries, but Jeff likes to simulate the television show deadliest catch.  This week we were surprised with an abalone in our crab pot (of course neither one of us had our abalone card and tags with us).
You never know what you might find in your crab pot.
With lots of fish in the fridge and freezer, today's mission was to get some sea vegetables.  One of my favorite gathering spots can also be a good surf spot.  I have been enjoying my Jackson Kayak Karma RG for fishing and rock gardening, but it was really nice to be in my super light, responsive surf kayak.  A session of tasty waves was followed by gathering some salty green goodness.
Gathering kelp in my hp surf kayak.

I also have to admit that we will be having beef for dinner tonight but will have some tasty sea cheetos and abalone ceviche as orderbs.  
Abalone Ceviche!!!