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!!!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lumpy Waters 2017

Lumpy Waters 2017 was great fun!!!

As I write this post, I can't believe that this was my 7th year coaching at Lumpy.  Time flies when you are having fun!
Preparing the team for rock garden safety and rescues.
Lumpy Waters is a 3 day sea kayak symposium held annually on the Oregon Coast.  It is hosted by Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe.  If you haven't been to Lumpy, definitely mark your calendar for October 12-14, 2018 and get there! 

Why do I say that Lumpy is a don't miss event?

FUN - FUN - FUN.  Of course sea kayaking is supposed to be fun.  Lumpy Waters takes it to the next level of fun both on and off the water.  Each day starts with a chant and students sharing fun moments from the day before.  Classes are designed to be fun and instructional.  Instructors are encouraged to incorporate games, play, and even out-right silliness into their classes.  Lots of laughing and learning occurs.
Rock Garden Safety and Rescue class at Cascade Head.
After a day of paddling, everyone reconvenes at the Lumpy Headquarters at Cape Kiwanda RV Park.   Most participants and coaches stay on-site in cabins, rv's, tents, or nearby houses which are within walking distance of the event.  Evening activities begin with Happy Hour followed by dinner, short programs, and hanging out around the fire pit - which is conveniently located next to the Ninkasi beer tent.   

At the end of the evening, we walk home (or possibly to the pub - the Pelican Brewery is right across the street).  Rest up and do it all again the next day!
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff and Cate team-teaching rock garden safety and rescue at Cascade Head.
I keep coming back to Lumpy because I enjoy the camaraderie of the Northwest Paddling Community and I enjoy working with Team Alder Creek.  I look forward to reconnecting with students, coaches, and industry reps each year.  And each year the tribe grows.  Around the fire pit, we share stories of our personal and professional adventures.  Lots of laughter ensues.  

In addition to catching up with friends and making new friends, coaching was a lot of fun.  I got to teach my favorite subjects in the environments that I love the most.  Friday teaching in the surf zone, Saturday teaming with Jeff to teach rock garden safety and rescue and Sunday teaching a new class - Wet n Wildlife.
Day 3 Wet n Wildlife Tour on the glassy waters of Sand Lake.
For the Wet n Wildlife session, we went to Sand Lake.  It is a really cool estuary where we got to do a little bit of everything - reading the water, surfzone review, planning, tides and currents, wildlife watching, and identifying trees and plants.
Landing on the sandspit at Sand Lake for a little surf zone training.

The class was quite varied and I think that everyone enjoyed it for many different reasons.  A huge shout-out to the students for being open to the randomness of the class and my awesome assistants Kate Govaars and Kathy Mitchell for their coaching skills!!!
Checking out Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons on Sand Lake.
A huge thanks to the Team at Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak for putting on this fun event - especially Paul Kuthe, Suzi Elle, and Dave Slover.  Also a huge thanks to event sponsors -  Immersion Research, Maui Jim, Thule, NRS, Kokatat, Jackson Kayak, Sterling Kayak, Current Design, Sweet Protection, Astral, Werner, Ninkasi, Paddlesports North America, and the American Canoe Association.
Warm and dry on the Oregon Coast in my Immersion Research Shawty Drysuit.
I have marked my calendar for Lumpy Waters October 12-14, 2018.  Have you?
Expect to see this guy coaching at Lumpy next year!