Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sea Cave Making

Mendocino's sea caves are world famous.  The whole coastline is like swiss cheese with notches, caves, holes, arches, and tunnels.
Sea kayaking in Mendocino Sea Caves
Sea kayaking through arches and into sea caves on the Mendocino Coast of California.  
When walking on the coastal headlands, one can see the alluring arches, tunnels and dark cave entrances.  On calm days, kayakers get the opportunity to paddle into the caves.  And of course some of us push the limits a little - surfing through arches and playing in rowdy sea caves.

Have you ever wondered "How are sea caves formed?"  This winter, we have had lots of cave making days.  This inspired me  to share a little bit about how sea caves are formed and some photos and videos from our wet and wild winter of 2018-2019.
Winter storm surf crashing into the Noyo!

How are sea caves formed?

The simplest answer is that sea caves are formed by erosion.  Coastal erosion is also referred to as coastal process.  Check out this website for more information on coastal processes including wavelogy.  

To specifically see how sea caves, arches, and sea stacks (stumps) are formed check out this video.

In the winter, winter storms often generate large swells that roll into the Mendocino Coast.  Usually we have one large swell event per winter (25 feet plus waves).  This winter, we seem to be having these events every other week.
Awesome winter storm surf on crashing into the Mendocino Coast.
It is very exciting.  We can hear the surf and feel its energy from our house - which is about a mile from the ocean.  When you get close to the ocean, the power of the large surf is AWESOME!  While watching waves roll through the bays and hearing and feeling them crash onto the headlands, one feels the energy permeate through your soul.

As sea level is rising and we are having higher tide, the effects of large surf in the winter months during our king tides is significant.  One could speculate that it is increasing the rate of coastal erosion.  We often comment that it is another cave making day.

 Then we see the effects - logs and jetsam are chucked up on the headlands.  At the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, one of their informational signs was annihilated.  

Landslides and rock falls are happening.  We have not seen any arches collapse., but it is a possibility.  To the south of us in Point Arena, a huge sinkhole with a cave leading to the ocean has opened up.

In Noyo Bay, the Sinkhole Cave is one of our favorite paddling spots.
sea kayaking mendocino sea caves
Sea Cave Kayaking on the Mendocino Coast.
Last week, we were walking on the coastal headlands and saw muddy water flowing out to sea.  Moments later, we discovered a large landslide occurred on the back wall of the Sinkhole Cave.
Landslide into the back side of the sinkhole cave on the North Side of Noyo Bay.
Today, I was walking and saw that it has slid more.  The ground around it is cracked and looks to be ready to slide further.  This week, we are forecasted to get over 5 inches of rain.  The weekend the swell predictors are in the 30 plus foot range.  I'd say that it is likely to slide more.

Coastal erosion on the Mendocino Coast of California.
These are exciting times.  The next time that you kayak on the Mendocino Coast, things could be quite different.  Sea caves could have more head room and potentially there maybe more rocky rubble in passages that are clear.  We of course have a couple of spots in mind that we would like to see some moving and shaking.

Probably best not to do any sea cave kayaking for a while.  This summer when things have dried out and the swells have mellowed out, we will be back in Mendocino's sea caves and let you know what we find.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Vertical Forward Stroke


Improve your sea kayak rock garden and whitewater kayak skills by perfecting your vertical paddle stroke.

A well timed vertical paddle stroke will boof you over hydraulics/holes on both the river and the sea.  Boofing is super fun and helps prevent you from getting sucked back over pour-overs and getting trashed in a hydraulic.  It is kind of like bunny hopping over an obstacle on a bicycle.  One of the main components of an effective sea boof is a vertical paddle stroke.
Mendocino Sea Kayak Rock Gardening
Cate Hawthorne using a vertical forward stroke to sea boof a rock garden feature on the Mendocino Coast of California.
Photo by Deb Volturno

A vertical paddle stroke will also help propel you along through tight narrow spaces like slots and sea caves.
Mendocino sea cave kayaking
Sea kayaking through a narrow slot into a Mendocino sea cave.
Flat water is the best place to practice and perfect your vertical paddle stroke.  One of my favorite tips for getting the paddle vertical is to focus on stacking my hands.  Pretend that you are using a single bladed paddle (canoe or SUP paddle).   Align your top hand over your bottom hand so that your hands are stacked and your paddle shaft is vertical.
sea kayak forward stroke instruction
For a vertical forward stroke, practice stacking your hands.
Another common tip that instructors will use is "helmet hand."  While doing your forward stroke, pretend that the back of your top hand is glued to your helmet (or forehead).

Practice vertical paddle strokes as much as possible so that they become automatic in your muscle memory.  Once you have a powerful vertical paddle stroke, you can work on the blade placement and timing for sea boofs.

Sea kayak rock gardening Mendocino
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff Laxier is the sea boof master.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Hold on to Your Kayak

Capsize happens!

When your kayak capsizes, do you know what to do?
Kayak flipping over
Kayaks capsize in all conditions. Do you know what to do if your kayak flips over?
Most expert kayakers will roll their kayak upright after a capsize.  It only takes a few seconds and is the safest and fastest way to recover from a capsize.  BUT do not despair if you do not know how to roll your kayak or if you are not being successful at rolling.  There are other capsize recovery techniques that are easy and effective. 
cowboy cowgirl sea kayak scramble
The cowboy (cowgirl) scramble is one of several techniques to o get back into a sea kayak after a capsize.
The number one thing that you need to do is to HOLD ON TO YOUR KAYAK.  This is especially important if you are in the surf or in water where there is wind and/or current.  Kayaks can be swept away quickly in these situations.  If your kayak gets away from you, it can be difficult to retrieve.  You have heard the saying up the creek without a paddle.  Imagine being out in the middle of a lake, ocean, or bay without a kayak, swimming on the river as your kayak rushes down river away from you, or being in the surf as your kayak becomes a projectile rushing toward waders (often kids) on shore.  Lesson learned - HOLD ON TO YOUR KAYAK!
Sea kayak capsize recovery in rock gardens
Hold on to your kayak to make for a faster recovery and so that it doesn't get blown or washed away.
Kayak Coach Christopher Lockyer of Committed 2 the Core Sea Kayak Coaching is doing a series of videos called Lessons Learned.  Video number one is HOLD ON TO YOUR KAYAK.  Check it out here and stay tuned for more videos in the series.

So you have held onto your kayak and hopefully your paddle too.  Now we can work on strategies for capsize recovery - getting back in the seat and on with your day.

Check back for videos and photos of capsize recovery techniques for a variety of kayaks - sit on top, sea kayaks, fishing kayaks, whitewater kayaks, and sit inside recreational kayaks.  If you have seen any good instructional posts or videos online, please post them below in the comments.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Happy New Year 2019!

Happy New Year!  I hope that your year is off to a great start!!!  Yesterday, I heard on the radio that most New Year's Resolutions are broken in the first week of January.

"The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan." Carl von Clausewitz

Often our quest for perfection gets in the way of us just doing it.  Take a moment - think about it.

I find this definitely pertains to surfing.  Surfers dream of surf sessions with perfect waves.  We often go on the search and scout several breaks looking for that perfect wave.  If we don't see it, we move on to another spot and/or decide to come back later to see if the tide, wind, or swell changed and improved conditions.  One thing leads to another, and we don't get in the water that day.
surf kayak
Dreaming of perfect waves.
The reality is that we should quit being Goldilocks looking for the perfect conditions and get out surfing (unless conditions are too big or potentially dangerous).  When I leave the house to go surfing, I load my hp surf kayak, boogie board and swim fins, and whitewater playboat.  If the surf is not great, I have the playboat or boogie board to mess around with.  I feel great because I got out in the water and usually I catch a few fun waves too!
Surf Quiver
Quiver of Surf Toys - hp surf kayak, playboat, boogie board and fins.
If you are struggling with goals and New Year's Resolutions - don't give up!  Keep dreaming of the perfect plan (and perfect waves) but most importantly execute the good plan.
Bouncing and doing 360 spins on a wave is great fun!