Thursday, December 20, 2018


The holiday season is upon us.  A habit that I have made each holiday season is giving to the planet.

There are many great environmental nonprofits that are working hard to protect and preserve our waters and lands.  If you are not a member of an environmental nonprofit, I encourage you to seek out one (or two).  Become a member and make a donation. 

Donations are always appreciated but membership is where you can be an asset to an organization.  Membership is important because it gives the organization a bigger voice when working for a cause.  Being a member also puts you on the organization's mailing list so that you stay informed about what is going on and how you can help.  Support isn't always financial but can be in the form of signing petitions, contacting your representatives, attending meetings, and/or volunteering at events.
Volunteering for river and beach cleanups.
I recommend seeking out the nonprofit(s) that speak to your interests and passions.  When I seek out organizations to support,  I look to balance my time and money between large nationwide organizations and small local grassroots organizations.  Personally and through Liquid Fusion Kayaking, Jeff and I donate time and money to numerous nonprofit organizations.  Here are 3 of the organizations that I am currently most passionate about. 

American WhitewaterFounded in 1954, American Whitewater is a national non-profit organization with a mission “to conserve and restore America's whitewater resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.”  AW is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States, and connects the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data to achieve the goals within its mission.  AW works nationwide and in our backyards.  AW has gotten a place at the table for the relicensing of the dams on the Eel River.  Jeff, several other local whitewater boaters, and I attended a meeting in October to give input.

Surfrider Foundation - Not just for surfers - Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of world's ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. 

Check out your local chapter or consider supporting The Mendocino County Chapter .  The Mendocino County Chapter was founded in 2002 and is rallying to increase membership.  We are having bimonthly meetings and working on campaigns for Ocean Friendly Restaurants and Help the Kelp, organizing beach cleanups, and supporting water testing efforts. 

Noyo Center for Marine Science - Prior to 2002, Fort Bragg was a somewhat traditional a blue collar lumber and fishing town on the north coast of California.  Situated on 3 miles of Fort Bragg's Coastline, the Georgia Pacific Lumber Mill comprised about 1/3 of the town.  In 2002, Georgia Pacific Lumber Company shut down the lumber mill in Fort Bragg.  This was a turning point for our little coastal town.  Members of the community met to strategize how to prevent economic disaster and reinvent Fort Bragg.  Many great ideas came from the ashes of the mill including the vision to create a marine science center for research and education.  This was the birth of the Noyo Center for Marine Science.  

Take a few minutes and check out the Noyo Center website which you will find educational, interesting, and informative.  Of course, we like the Crow's Nest Live Video (take a look - you might see us kayaking out there).  Help the Kelp is a research and restoration project that the Noyo Center has spearheaded to address the ecological crisis in our kelp forests.  We have seen first hand the devastation of our kelp forest and are passionate about this project.  It is impressive how much the Noyo Center has done and we are excited about the future for them and our little coastal town. 

As 2018 comes to a close and we look toward the future, I encourage you to consider how you can help make a difference locally and globally.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tip - Re-take a Class

Jeff and I observe that paddlers who take a class learn a few skills on the subject.  Paddlers who re-take a class are better on their way to mastering the subject.  
Sea Kayak Surf Lesson
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne teaching the speed n spear paddle out technique.
Think about a class that you took where some of the skill or skill concepts were new or tricky - like CLAP, swooshing, eddy turns, bunny hopping, water reading, or timing.  Imagine taking the class now with a better concept of the skill.  The second time around, you have a basic understanding of the skill and are now ready to refine and master the skill.  
whitewater river kayak class
Miki driving across the eddyline before carving his turn.

Re-taking a class is also helpful if you are going to be teaching or leading others.

As you are making your paddling plans for the new year, consider re-taking a class -  especially if it is a fun one :)

Monday, August 27, 2018

New Mendocino Sea Kayaking Video

My blog has been quiet all summer for a variety of reasons.  The primary reason is that I have been spending lots of time out on the water and not on the computer.  I definitely recommend - more outside time and less computer time.

Part of my busy summer on the water has been Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Series.  This is a series of classes designed for intermediate sea kayakers to build their coastal paddling skills.  Rather than having generic rock gardening classes, we designed specific classes so that paddlers could join us for what they are interested in or do the whole series for a comprehensive training.  We see exponential skill growth in paddlers who have joined us for the whole series and who repeat courses in the series.
Susan building her skills and confidence in Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Classes.
Our final course in the summer Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Series is Magical Mendocino Sea Caves.  We had a great group of paddlers and an awesome course.  I could tell you more about it but how about if I show you?  Check out this video

Our next Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Adventure is a comprehensive 5 day September 24-29, 2018.  Contact us for more information and to apply.

Friday, June 29, 2018

June 2018

My blog has been a bit quiet this month - you probably realize that the reason for this is that life is anything but quiet at the moment.

Liquid Fusion Kayaking is in full swing with our summer tours.  Each day I consider it an honor to be able to share the outdoor world with others.  From beginning kayakers (many who don't even know how to swim) to seasoned paddlers looking to improve their skills, I feel very fortunate to be able to share the wonders of the Mendocino Coast.  
Locals enjoying a kayak birding tour on the Noyo River.
The Noyo River is so beautiful and alive!!!  A highlight of our Noyo River Tours this summer has been acorn woodpeckers nesting in the alder snag by our shop.  Everyone is fascinated by them and I am observing and learning more about their life history and complex social structure.  Kate Marianchild describes it well in her book Secrets of Oak Woodlands: Plants and Animals Among California's Oaks.
Acorn Woodpecker prepares to enter its nest in the alder tree by LFK Headquarters.
On the ocean, I have been co-teaching with Jeff Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino series and Whitewater of the Sea Adventures.  After this month's sea kayak surfzone class, I see the need for simple instructional information on the surf zone - specifically for sea kayaks in the surf.  Stay tuned for my blog posts on sea kayak surf zone skills.
Combining surfzone and rock gardening skills to traverse through a rocky surfzone on the Mendocino Coast.
Whitewater of the Sea continues to be a blast!  I highly recommend it for anyone who is adventuresome, physically fit, and comfortable in the water and especially if you are interested in ocean whitewater kayaking aka rock gardening or rock hopping.  Our funnest trips are groups of friends or family who come out together.  Last week, we had a family of 7 including 5 teenagers.  Everyone rocked!!!  It was especially seeing the teenagers watching in awe as their Mom got some of the best rides of the day.
A Mom showing her teenagers how it's done on a Whitewater of the Sea Adventure.
Jeff and I continue to take Tuesdays off.  The idea is that it is a day of rest and rejuvenation.  We definitely get both.  I have a blog drafted to share more about our Tuesday adventures which include whitewater river kayaking, kayak fishing, surfing, and mountain biking.
Catch of the Day - Vermillion Rock Cod aka Red Snapper
As of June 2018, Liquid Fusion Kayaking has been officially running kayak tours and classes on the Mendocino Coast of California.  I have been reflecting on the evolution of our business and am excited to see what the next 10 years will bring.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rock Garden Buffer Zones

Buffer - to lessen or moderate the impact of something.

When kayaking among ocean rock gardens, it is helpful to know where safe zones are.  Knowing and using these safe zones will allow one to paddle in close to the rocks and to access more areas and play spots.
Deep water (where waves aren't breaking) are obvious safe zones.  There are also areas in rock gardens where we can find safety from breaking waves.  We can hide behind a rock when the wave comes and let the rock take the impact of the wave and lessen or buffer it's energy.

Have you ever gone out into the driveway when your significant other is washing the car?  Perhaps, they are feeling a bit ornery and try to spray you with the hose.  By ducking behind the car, you can avoid the full blast of the hose.  This is the same with using rocks as buffers in the ocean.  We refer to these areas as buffer zones.
Jean sitting in a buffer zone behind a rock during a Liquid Fusion Kayaking Rock Garden Class.  Photo by Jeff Laxier.

To use a buffer zone -
1. Determine the direction of the waves.
2. Look for a sizable rock that will block the incoming wave (watching a couple of sets roll through the area will give you an idea if the rock is large enough)
3. Hold position as close behind the rock as possible when the wave hits.
4. Stay loose in the hips and potentially ready to brace as the water may surge under or around you.

When the set has passed, journey to the next buffer zone.  Whitewater river runners can compare this concept to eddying out and eddy hopping.

Not all buffer zones are created equal just as all waves are not the same size and direction.  It takes time to develop the water reading skills to recognize buffer zones and how to use them.  On your next rock garden journey, start looking for buffer zones and find small friendly ones to play with.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Redwoods and Rapids

Spring Run Off 2018
Each spring, Jeff and I dedicate 2 weeks to whitewater river kayaking.  Sometimes we offer classes during this time through Liquid Fusion Kayaking, but typically LFK is closed as we run off to chase the spring run off and use the time to rev up for our busy spring and summer season. Spring run off trips often include traveling to destinations to do whitewater runs and almost always include a multiday river trip.  This year, we loaded up the whitewater kayaks, camping gear, and mountain bikes and headed north to the Smith River.

Day one of our trip, we ran the North Fork of the Smith River.  The North Fork of the Smith is among my favorite whitewater rivers.  The waters are crystal clear.  The scenery and plant life are unique and the rapids are fun.
Eddied out for lunch on the North Fork of the Smith River.
The 14 mile wilderness stretch feels other-worldly.  The water is so crystal clear that one could get dizzy staring at the rocks when zipping down the rapids. 
Cate loving the crystal clear waters of the Smith River.
Between stretches of whitewater, one can float along and ponder the geology of the arid hillsides and be enchanted by the song of the canyon wren.  Springs of crystal clear water cascade down the hillsides and along their gulches and crevasses grow gigantic carnivorous plants.
Gigantic carnivorous plants growing along the Smith River.
The whitewater rapids on the North Fork of the Smith are fun.  There are lots of class III rapids with about 6-8 class IV rapids keep things fun and interesting.

A huge thank you to groups like the Smith River Alliance and American Whitewater for their continued efforts to protect these waters from environmental threats like mining and advocating for access to river runners.
Jeff and Paul enjoying a lunch break on the North Fork.
 After running the North Fork, we eddied out at our campsite on the Smith for about a week.  We enjoyed whitewater kayak runs on both the Middle and South Forks, mountain biking, camping, and hiking in the giant redwoods.
Jeff enjoying his Dagger Phantom on the Patrick Creek section of the Middle Fork.
The diversity of ecosystems of the Smith River Watershed is amazing.  One of our mountain bike rides took us through 3 distinctly different types of forest - old growth redwood forest, cedar and mixed conifer forest, and Jeffrey Pine Forest. 
Jeff mountain biking through Jeffrey Pines on a ridge above the Smith River.
And the redwoods in the Smith River area are some of the tallest in the world.

After a week on the Smith, we debated staying a bit longer.  We could have easily spent another week boating, playing, relaxing, and exploring the area but felt the need to totally disconnect and do a multiday self support trip.  We headed home to reset and gear up for a 70 mile Eel River whitewater kayak self support trip.
Dehydrating spaghetti sauce for kayak camping.
Our Eel River Trip was fantastic!!!  Stay tuned for a blog post on our Eel River Trip - Paddling the Emerald Triangle.
Cooking over the campfire and enjoying a tasty beverage on the Eel River. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Gaining Courage

“Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear” 
                                                                          – Martin Luther King

The following post has tips to empower the body and mind to overcome fear - co-written by Jeff Laxier and myself (Cate Hawthorne).  It is written about whitewater river kayaking, but one can apply these skills to many different situations on and off the water.
Make hard moves on water you are comfy with. photo: Jeff Laxier

Bobbing in a surging eddy, I bounce above an elevation drop.  Time slows, and the river holds me in its trance. My heart pumps loudly above the roar of the river as I second guess my ability to negotiate the rapid.  My inner voice screams “STOP,” and I start to work through my fear.

There are many ways to overcome fear. Here are 3 strategies that work for us:
Mathew Nelson reads the water with perfection. photo by Jeff Laxier

1.    Warrior Cry – Reach deep down into your core and belt out a primal roar.  This activates inner strength, positive attitude, and clears the head of “what ifs?”  By clearing the mind, it readies the body for action.  Don’t worry – no one else will hear you above the roar of the rapid.  If they do, they will blow off the stress to by laughing at you or emitting their own warrior cry.
Cate Hawthorne demonstrating a Warrior Cry. photo by Jeff Laxier

2.    Train Hard – Show up at the rapid with the skills necessary to style it.  In your training, build general and specific skills that you can apply to the rapid.  Examples of general skills include look where you want to go, generate speed, keep strokes forward.  Examples of specific skills include precise eddy turns, ferries, and boof strokes.  These skills don’t come by just running the river every weekend but are earned with focused practice and training.
It does not need to be hard or scary to learn, train hard. photo by Cate Hawthorne

3.    Visualization – Review the moves that need to be made and rehearse them in your mind.  Visualize them and talk yourself through them.  Emphasize the positive.
Cate Hawthorne in the flow of the Eel River. photo by Jeff Laxier

Often our minds get in the way of what our bodies know to do.  We allow ourselves to doubt our training and skills and focus too much on the hazards rather than the correct line.  In your training, focus on building your skills and using positive visualization and self-talk.  When you get to the tricky rapid, pour-over, or scary wave, use these tools to squelch fear and style the line.

Do you have strategies that help with managing fear?  If so, please share them in the comments.
Rivers, Arteries to Life! photo by Cate Hawthorne

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sea Cave Kayaking Video

Check out this sea cave kayaking video.  This video was made by a new whitewater paddler who had his first taste of whitewater of the sea and kayaking in sea caves with us this winter on our New Years Whitewater n Surf Safari.  
Kayaking in sea caves on the Mendocino Coast with Liquid Fusion Kayaking.
He found some caves and whitewater of the sea in his backyard and made this video.  Check it out and if you like it - give it a thumbs up and share it.  Here's a link.

We are stoked to see Cordell out there exploring and playing in the whitewater of the sea and look forward seeing more of his adventures. 
Whitewater Kayak Rock gardening on the Mendocino Coast


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sea Kayaking Mendocino Video

My favorite part of the Paddle Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium is that it gets paddlers to Northern California and some take the time to come paddle in Mendocino with Jeff and I.  This year, we had a whitewater crew the first day for the Stoutside Ball.
Jeff Laxier getting a nice pour over ride in our Stoutside Ball Session. #stoutside
Then we had several East Coast paddlers join us for 3 days of sea kayaking (and a sunset and moonrise surf session).
Sunset - super moonrise surf session. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Day one was a coastal exploration with some rock gardening.  Day two was coastal exploration in sporty conditions with some sea kayak surfing.  Day three was sea kayak surfing.  Paddlers in the video are Snowy Robertson - Dagger Kayaks, Matt Kane - Prime Paddlesports, Chris Audet - Committed 2 the Core, Luke Rovner - Kayak Hipster, and of course Jeff Laxier and Cate Hawthorne of Liquid Fusion Kayaking.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne reviews the forecast. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Luke Rovner - aka The Kayak Hipster - made a video sharing these 3 days of sea kayaking.  Here's the video - If it doesn't show up in the blog post, here is a link to it on YouTube.  The sea kayaks that were used in the video were the Dagger Stratos - our go-to for rock garden and coastal play.  Snowy and I paddled whitewater kayaks for our sunset and moonrise surf session including the Dagger Axiom

I hope you enjoy it.  If it gets you interested in sea kayaking on the Mendocino Coast, check out Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Art of Sea Kayaking Mendocino Series and 3-5 Day Adventures.
Sea kayaking and rock gardening on California's Mendocino Coast

Friday, March 16, 2018

Drying Out

Even water people need to dry out from time to time.  Jeff and I had a few days free and decided to meet up with some friends in the Sonoran Desert for some mountain biking and camping.

On our journey to the Sonoran Desert, we stopped in the Mojave Desert.  I am always fascinated by the desert landscape and geology.  Someday, I am going to delve back into studying geology - especially geomorphology. 

We stopped at a place called Hole in the Wall.  The holes in the wall are formed by air pockets in volcanic ash.  When the ash cooled, these holes were left in the rocks.

The area where we were camping and mountain biking had lots of interesting geology and scenery.  It also had interesting plant and wildlife and fun mountain biking. 

We camped among the gigantic Saguaro cactus.  In one of the cactus, we found a great horned owl nest.

A place called Jackass Junction we met an interesting fellow. 

Jackass Junction is not an oasis but a shady spot for good times.

I am continuing to shop for a new mountain bike.  I of course was eyeing what everyone else was riding and stopped in a couple of shops on our journey.  Some of the bike shops were helpful and some were not.  I would like to give a shout-out to McDowell Mountain Cycles in Fountain Hills, Arizona.  Jeff stopped in to buy brake pads.  The owner was extremely helpful.  We stopped in a second time with some friends who wanted to check out the shop.  The woman who answered our questions was very knowledgeable and helpful.  She is a shorter rider and her insight into what might be a good bike for me was invaluable.

We are now back home, and it is raining.  We are going to have great flows for our Precision River Running Class this weekend.  Next week's forecast looks wet too so it is time to hang up the mountain bike and get wet!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Coming Up Short

This blog post is a bit of a rant about being short.  If you would like some perspective on the challenges that those of us under 5'5" have, please read on.  If you are a smaller person and have thoughts and advice, please post in the comments.  I especially would love to hear about companies that are offering quality outdoor gear for people of all sizes.

I realize that everyone at some point falls in between sizes - something is just a little too big or just a little too small or along those lines.  However, I feel that those of us on the shorter end or taller end experience these challenges more often especially when it comes to finding performance oriented outdoor gear.

I am 5'4".  A google search tells me that 5'4" is average for American women.  So really, I'm not that short.  I wish this would be the case when I am shopping for outdoor gear.  I have ranted about whitewater kayak companies not making kayaks for smaller paddlers (a huge shout out to Jackson Kayak who continues to produce top designs for smaller paddlers).  I understand that they don't believe that the market is there.  I think the market is there and believe that if you build it, it will come.

I have been simmering on this topic for a bit but 2 recent slights have brought about this not so short blog post about being short.

I am shopping for a new mountain bike.  Understandably selection is limited in my small community.  My local shops are willing to order a bike for me.  Given the price of modern day mountain bikes, I am not willing to order a bike without trying it - or at least throwing a leg over it and taking it for a spin around a parking lot.

Last week, we journeyed to the bay area to visit Jeff's family and do some bike shopping.  Of 17 bike shops that I visited or called, only 4 had a size small full suspension 29er mountain bike in stock.  (About 50% of these shops had small 27.5 bikes which I am finding out are more popular among shorter riders - or are they just more available).  These were not small shops and most of these shops had a significant inventory.

One of the shops told me to come to their demo day.  They would have a trailer load of bikes available to demo.  At this point, I was frustrated about not finding anything and was willing to drive 2 hours one way to demo a bike.  I arrived at the demo, and they didn't have any bikes in size small.  FRUSTRATING!

My other beef is one that continues to resurface. It is frustrating when well meaning, big, strong individuals make kayak or gear recommendations to petite women.  Size does matter.  What works for a 6'2 200 pound man is not necessarily going to work for a 5'2 115 pound woman.  Too often, women show up for our classes with paddles that are too big or long, kayaks that aren't appropriate, and quoting techniques taught by stronger paddlers that work if you have lots of strength and mass.  Ladies - reach out to industry professionals that are in your size range for recommendations.  There are quite a few of us out here.  We are an email or phone call away.

Instructors and outdoor professionals, please be sensitive to size issues when making recommendations.  When in doubt, it is ok to say that you don't know or refer questions to other instructors.  Whitewater instructors - Mary and Phil Deriemer are excellent at accommodating and instructing paddlers of all sizes.  Jeff Laxier of Liquid Fusion Kayaking also works well with paddlers of all sizes in sea, whitewater, and surf kayaking (I admit to a bit of bias but ask anyone who has worked with him).  I am sure that there are others out there but have worked with these 3 and highly recommend them!

I am still shopping for a full suspension 29er trail bike.  If you have any recommendations, PLEASE share them.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Long and The Short

The Long and The Short - how paddling a longer kayak and a shorter kayak has improved my over all kayaking skills.

In the spring of 2014, I was in a slump in my whitewater paddling.  I had become too comfortable on the river.  I always admired whitewater kayakers who made river running look easy by using the current and minimum paddling effort to make moves and run down rapids.  In my quest to work with the water, take the fewest amount of strokes, and use minimal effort, I became a lazy river kayaker.

When we paddled the Jackson Karma RG's on the Eel River for the promo video, I realized my slacker ways.  The Karma RG is a 12 foot whitewater kayak.  My usual river running kayaks are in the 8 foot range.  The RG is FAST and bullies down river.  When I paddled the RG with my minimalist effort technique, I flew down the river but missed the eddies that I was trying to catch.  It took about half the run for me to realize that I needed to plan my moves much sooner and paddle more aggressively.  When I did this, I was whipping into eddies and making my lines.
Paddling the long boat on the Smith River. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Fast forward to my next run in my regular river runner.  I transferred these skills - planning my moves sooner and paddling more aggressively.  BAM! My river running skills progressed.  Jeff had been telling me that I needed to paddle more aggressively, but it took feeling it and learning it in the longer boat to get me to do it.
Becoming more proactive and aggressive in making my moves on the river.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
On the short end of the spectrum, many of you know that a whitewater kayak is my favorite boat for rock gardening.  To me rock gardening is like going to a playground or skate park with a variety of features.  I find a 8-9 foot whitewater kayak to give me the best options for maneuverability, play, and surfing.  A fun rock garden move that Jeff and I do in a whitewater kayak is to ride a pour-over then do a 180 and ride back over the pour-over using the water from the same wave (and sometimes then catching the next wave back over and repeating).  This move is all about timing and being able to efficiently spin the boat 180 degrees in time to ride the water back over the pour-over.  I learned this move in my whitewater kayak and last week did it for the first time in my 14.5 foot Dagger Stratos.  It was a slower, lower angle pour-over but the skill of reading the water, timing, and maneuvering with the water was the same.  It was pretty cool and fun how the shorter boat taught me a trick to try in the longer one.  Here Jeff demonstrates the 180 to get a  triple pour-over ride in his Dagger Katana.

On the very short end of the spectrum, I have been playing in a whitewater freestyle kayak (about 5 1/2 feet long) on the river and in the surf.  I thought I might learn some playboating moves but am not there yet and am having a blast learning to use the little boat to catch micro eddies on the river and bouncing around in the surf.  I love that the freestyle kayak is so small and light and easily fits in the back of the car.  It is great for a quick surf session and is fun in even the smallest of waves.  It is has been good for technique because it doesn't fly down a wave unless you have it in perfect position.  I have learned how to maximize my position on the wave to push it down the line for a diagonal run.  The slower speed gives my time to work on strokes like the precision of my stern rudder.  I also am having fun doing flat spin 360's.
Cate using the wave's energy for a diagonal run during a sunset surf session on the Mendocino Coast.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
I share this with you so that you think a little bit out of the box and try something new.  There is a good chance that it will challenge you, you will build your skills, or find another way to play on your local waters.  Your local kayak shop may have a demo program where you can try out different boats, or maybe you can organize a boat demo day or boat swap with your local paddling club.

For paddlers that aspire to surf sea kayaks, I can't encourage you enough to get out and build your surfing skills in a whitewater kayak.  This is a post for another time.