Monday, April 29, 2019

Mendocino Kayak Videos

If a picture says a thousand words, what does a video say?

Shooting Mendocino Kayaking Videos

Evolution of Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Mendocino Kayak Videos

Last month, I created 2 new videos for Liquid Fusion Kayaking to showcase our Mendocino Kayaking Adventures.  When I uploaded them to YouTube, I spiffed up LFK's YouTube Channel and revised some of our playlists.  Doing so was a bit of a stroll down memory lane.  It is hard to believe that 10 years ago, I created our first video - Rock Gardening on the Mendocino Coast.  I learned a lot from the process and the feedback that I received from viewers.

In 2009, I created our Mendocino Coast Sea Kayaking video.  This is still one of my favorite videos.  I hope someday to recreate it with better quality video.

Fast forward 10 years to 2019

It was fun this week to share and reveal our new videos and to reminisce over our oldies.  I have published over 30 videos for Liquid Fusion Kayaking's YouTube Channel and created several playlists.  It is amazing how far video quality and technology have come - even for us amateurs using hand held point and shoot cameras and simple editing programs.  I think the biggest game changer was when we could shoot and edit HD video without sophisticated equipment and software.  The continual battle with shooting kayaking videos is water spots, lighting and moving water and subjects.  Jive'n is one of my favorite Mendocino Coast kayaking videos.  The good old Necky boats like the Jive are still fun boats for rock gardening and kayak surfing.

This year, I have created and posted 2 quickie - 1 minute videos.  I like the challenge of editing for quality not quantity and the challenge of a 1 minute video that entertains and tells a story.  My first challenge was a 1 minute video to use as a "trailer" or promo video to showcase LFK as an owner/instructor multi-discipline kayak company.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

My second project this year was to portray our Whitewater of the Sea - rock gardening lesson/tour.  We get lots of interest and questions about this trip.  My goal was to create a video that gave an authentic teaser of our Whitewater of the Sea Adventure.  The challenge was to portray it as fun, exciting, challenging, but not scary.  Take a look and let me know how I did.

I hope that you enjoyed the videos and the little stroll down memory land.  I have a couple of future video projects in mind.  If you know anyone who would like to collaborate with us on some fun, inspirational, or instructional videos, we are open to suggestions.  To be the first to see our new videos -

Please subscribe to Liquid Fusion Kayaking's YouTube Channel

Monday, April 22, 2019

Paddling the Emerald Triangle

Kayaking the Eel River in Northern California

Whitewater kayak self-support kayak trip on the emerald green waters of the Eel River.
I first ran the Eel River in 2009.  10 years later, I am still entranced by its magic and feel privileged to have it as my backyard run.  Of course, I wish the flow was more consistent and predictable.  But the uncertainty is what keeps the crowds away and keeps things interesting.  The Eel River has different options for day trips and multi-day trips and both flat and whitewater.  My favorite are the wilderness stretches of the Eel and when we have the luxury of a self-support kayak camping trip.
Kayak Camping on the Eel River.
Dos Rios to Alderpoint is a sweet 46 mile Class III whitewater stretch.  We have enjoyed several high water, whitewater kayak trips from Dos Rios to Alderpoint.  Usually this is just after a significant rainfall and the water is fast and loaded with sediment (The Eel River Watershed has the highest erosion rate in the United States).
Whitewater kayaking down the silt laden Eel River at high water.
Last spring the stars aligned for Jeff and I to paddle the Eel River at lower water and experience its emerald green waters.  Our journey took us down 70 miles of the Eel River from Dos Rios to Dyerville.  This stretch of the Eel River runs through Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt Counties.  The tri-county region is often referred to as the Emerald Triangle for a variety of reasons.  Naming our trip - Paddling the Emerald Triangle was inspired by the beautiful emerald green color of the water as we paddled through the tri-county area.
Late spring run on the emerald green waters of the Eel River.
The 46 miles from Dos Rios to Alderpoint is the Eel's traditional multi-day whitewater run.  At high flow, things are fast and furious.  At low flow things are a bit more relaxed.  At high water (10,000 cfs and higher) the river moves fast.  The rapids have big waves and powerful hydraulics that most would say puts it above its usual Class III rating.
Paddling pal Jerry Albright with a clean high water line through Kekawaka Falls.
At lower water 2,000-4,500 cfs, there are a few Class III pool drop rapids interspersed with Class II and flat stretches.
Playing my way down a pool drop class II rapid on the Eel River below Dos Rios.
The remarkable thing about running the Eel at a lower flow is getting to see many of the fascinating rock formations that are under water on higher water runs.  The rocks of the Eel River are quite varied and interesting.  At lower water, you get to see more of them.
This red capped rocks is one of my favorite rocks on the Eel River.  At high flows creates a scary recirculating eddy into a cave.
One surprise was the huge boulder field on the river right bank of Island Mountain below Island Mountain Falls.
Boulder bank on river right at Island Mountain that you only see at low water.
I also find fascinating all the remnants of the now defunct Eel River Railroad.  At low water, we got to see the infamous car in the river that creates a rapid.
Rail car in the middle of the Eel River.
Since our last trip, the Great Redwood Trail Act was passed.  The state is still working out the logistics but the plan is to create a rails to trails that would go from Marin to Eureka.  Much of this would go through the Eel River Canyon.
Eel River Railroad bridge to Island Mountain.
This is an exciting and awesome project but literally has many obstacles to overcome before hikers and bikers can enjoy a trail through the Eel River Canyon.  Dreams do come true and we are crossing our fingers for this one.
Landslides have made much of the rail line along the Eel River impassable.
The 30 miles from Alderpoint to Dyerville is essentially Class I.  This is where a bit faster current might be nice.  There are some spectacular waterfalls along this stretch as well as a flat water gorge that is the definition of tranquility.  
Waterfalls enhance the scenery of the Eel River Canyon.
One of my favorite parts of this section is going for a hike in the Avenue of the Giants.  These are some of the largest redwood trees in the world.
Hiking through Avenue of the Giants during our Eel River Trip.
After a hike, we are just around the corner from our take-out on the gravel bar at Dyerville.  This is the confluence of the South and Main Forks of the Eel and in the heart of Avenue of the Giants.  Last year we were a bit overwhelmed with hordes of cars and people on the gravel bank.  They were there for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon.  It was quite a shock to go from just the 2 of us for 7 days on the river to seeing hundreds of people.
Cars for Avenue of the Giants Marathon parked at the Dyerville Confluence.
Fortunately the marathoners and fans cleared out by early afternoon as our friends were stopping by to pick us up.  It is always nice to celebrate the conclusion of a great trip with a cold beer.  Our friends styled us with Eel River Brewing Company's Emerald Triangle Pale Ale.
Enjoying fermented Eel River water at the take-out - Eel River Brewing Company 's Emerald Triangle Pale Ale.

Monday, April 15, 2019

What Ever Floats Your Boat

Last weekend we had the privilege of sharing a wilderness whitewater run on the Eel River with several of our mountain biking friends.  It was their first river run.  It was very special for them to experience the Eel River and for us to share it.

Our paddling pal rigged up his raft to make this possible.  Our friends had a great time riding on the raft and even giving the oars a try.
Gail giving the oars a try.
These days, there are many different options for people to get out on the water.  If you are getting out on the water for the first time or wanting to get friends or family out on to the water for the first time, take your time and figure out what's the right experience for them.  This includes where, what boat, when, and with who.  Maybe you prefer a performance craft but be considerate of what will be best starting point for you and/or your friends.
Tandem recreational kayaks are stable and an easy way to make kayaking fun and accessible for all ages and abilities.
The water world is a fun place to play but not all craft and waters are ideal for all folks.  When in doubt, consult a reputable instructor or guide in the area where you want to go.  Whether it is sharing a trip on the water with friends or customers, my goal is for everyone to enjoy the experience so much that they are want to go again.
Whitewater sit on top kayaks are a great way to hook folks on ocean kayaking and rock gardening.
I am stoked that my friends had a great time and look forward to going again.  We made a lot of great memories on the trip and have many stories to share.  My mission was accomplished - they had so much fun that they are looking forward to the next trip!
Fun sharing how we like to play on the river with friends - its also fun to have a peanut gallery when surfing waves.  
The peanut gallery pulled over to cheer and jeer Jeff and I as we surf this wave.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Forward Lean

The number one mistake that I see kayakers make when paddling in dynamic water is leaning back.

It is a natural reaction to lean back when you are dropping in on a wave or hitting whitewater.  Leaning forward seems counter intuitive but training your body to do it will improve your paddling skills in dynamic water - rock gardens, surf, whitewater, and tide races.

Leaning is the simplest way to explain it but technically we are hinging at the hips to keep our core muscles and legs engaged - similar to the "ready position" in other sports.  Look at the body position of Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff Laxier on this rock garden feature on the Mendocino Coast.
Mendocino whitewater ocean kayaking
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff Laxier shows good posture riding this rock garden feature on the Mendocino Coast.  He is in a position of power to boof over the hydraulic on the backside of this pour-over. Leaning back here would land him in the hydraulic and potentially expose him to injury.

Leaning forward is an effective way to 
  • maintain stability
  • be ready for the next hit, drop, or stroke
  • prevent injuries

There are times when the force of the water or the verticality of the drop tries to push you back.  Watch top paddlers - they anticipate those forces and lean forward.
Dave Fusilli takes his whitewater skills to the sea.  Here he uses good posture and timing to get a sea boof on this pour-over.

Check out this Posture and Trim Video from Christopher Lockyer of Committed to the Core

Lessons Learend - Trim and posture from Christopher Lockyer on Vimeo.

Here are Christopher's Keys to Posture -

• Try and sit up tall when performing forward paddling 
• When in bumpy water - try and change your posture to a slight forward lean
• Work on bracing and recovery stokes in your forward posture
• When working on rolling - practice your forward finishing roll
• Posture is key to overall body health. Back fatigue can be a result of weakness in your core


  • Be mindful of your posture in your everyday paddling.  Have a coach or friend video your paddling.  In particular when reverse paddling, stopping, or riding a drop.  

  • When paddling in dynamic water - whitewater, surf, rock gardens, tide races - be especially mindful that you are leaning forward and not allowing the water or your fear to put you in the back seat (leaning back).

  • My simple trick is to focus on contracting abdominal muscles when dropping in on a wave, riding a pour-over, or boofing a hole on the river..  Check out these tips for reverse paddling.

  • Perfect practice makes perfect.

Mendocino Sea Kayak Rock Gardening
Especially when running large drops, hinge at the hips to keep your weight forward or centered.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne keeps her weight centered to ride this rock garden drop on the Mendocino Coast
Photo by Jeff Laxier
Note:  I try to keep my tips and tricks as simple as possible.  I can support my instruction with more of the why (technical details about bio-mechanics and physics) but find it is more effective for students and instructors to keep it as simple as possible.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Shred Ready Zeta

Review of the Shred Ready Zeta Helmet

I have a small head and have a difficult time finding kayak helmets that fit.  Most are just too big!  To make them work, I have to add tons of paddling.  Then they look and feel huge on my head.  For years, I found the WRSI Current helmet to work.  2 years ago, they changed the padding on the helmet.  It was definitely more comfortable, but I had a hard time getting it to fit securely like my old one did.  So - I have been playing Goldilocks and trying out new helmets.  Last fall, a paddling pal had a demo of Shred Ready's Zeta kayaking helmet.  I tried it on and without much adjustment it fit.  I ordered one.

My small Shred Ready Zeta arrived a couple of weeks ago.  With Shred Ready's fit kit, it didn't take long to get it outfitted and adjusted.  
Stylish Zeta helmet from Shred Ready.
I have been wearing it and am amazed at how comfortable it is.  The fit is secure.
Finally a small helmet for a small head - Shred Ready Zeta.
I have always been a ball cap wearer and I really like a brimmed hat on sunny days.  The brim on the Zeta is great and definitely helps with cutting out glare and shading my face.
The brim provides glare and sun protection while on the water.
The Zeta has become my go to helmet for sea kayaking, easy whitewater, and small surf.  I am a bit skeptical about the brim in larger and harder whitewater and surf.  Stay tuned for what I figure out here.
Whitewater kayaking on the Eel River.