Monday, February 25, 2019

Why Sea Kayakers Should Learn to Whitewater Kayak

My partner Jeff Laxier and I often wonder why don't more sea kayakers paddle whitewater rivers - especially sea paddlers who like to play in rock gardens and surf.  Both Jeff and I see huge improvements in our students' skills when they take up whitewater river kayaking.  We both can attest to how our personal skills in the sea improve the more we run the river.
whitewater kayaking north fork smith river
Whitewater kayaking on the crystal clear waters of the North Fork Smith River
Jeff wrote the following post for Liquid Fusion Kayaking's February newsletter.  If you are interested in finding out more of what we have going on with Liquid Fusion Kayaking, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter.
Whitewater kayaking on the Smith River
Jeff Laxier kayaking on the Smith River.

Do you want to improve your skills to have more fun paddling dynamic waters – rock gardens, tide races, over-falls?

by Jeff Laxier

If so, LEARN to RUN WHITEWATER RIVERS.  Becoming proficient on the river will accelerate your learning and performance on the sea. 

Whitewater kayaking on the Eel River
Jeff Laxier whitewater kayaking on Mendocino County's Eel River

Here are Jeff's top 10 reasons - 

Why Sea Kayakers Should Learn to Whitewater Kayak

1.  It’s Fun 
2.  Rinses off the Salt
3.  Adds river running as a possibility for future paddling adventures
4.  Develops whitewater strokes that apply to sea kayaking in dynamic water
5.  Improves Confidence
6.  Challenging
7.  Increases water reading skills
8.  Tunes up your roll
9.  Focuses on Paddling Posture
10. Builds skills for surfing standing waves and playing in current – tide races, over-falls, and tidal rapids
Students working on peeling out of eddies during a Whitewater River Kayaking Class on the Eel River.
Class II/III Whitewater Rivers are a lot of fun.  With systematic instruction and experienced guidance, the skills to paddle Class II/III rivers is attainable by most.  Once you know how to paddle a whitewater river, you may be tempted to plan multi day sea kayak river trips like on Oregon’s John Day River, Utah’s Colorado and Green Rivers, and even Northern California’s Eel River. 
Multi-day river running trip in sea kayaks on the John Day River.

Part 2 - Lessons Learned from Whitewater Kayaking (my personal journey)

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.