Monday, December 14, 2020

The Perfect Knife

There are a ton of different uses for knives when kayaking.  I consider a knife to be an essential piece of safety gear for sea kayaking, whitewater kayaking, and kayak fishing.   I always have one easily (one handed) accessible in my life jacket.  My partner Jeff Laxier is a knife connoisseur.  Here are his thoughts and tips about using and choosing a knife for kayaking.[

The Perfect Knife

Guest post from Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Jeff Laxier

That perfect knife is your perfect knife. That’s right the best knife for you to carry while kayaking is the one that works best for you and the environment you work and play in.  I like a knife that can be accessed by either hand, opened one handed with easy access while under pressure (this must be tested by user!!!) I’m happy to set this up for you and your paddling mates.

Important to be able to access and grab your knife with one hand.

Here are three (of many) active uses for a knife:
1. On the Sea - Cutting braided fishing line out of a rock garden feature. The line looked like a spider web tangled in kelp and was a hazard for both humans and marine creatures.
2. Whitewater River - Just before a rapid there was an abandoned line that stretched across the river.
3. Lunch - Cutting apples and cheese

Using a knife to for boat repair

When shopping for a knife, I look for these key components:
1. Folding with locking blade
2. Serrated blade with blunt tip
3. Belt clip and lanyard hole.
4.  Easy to handle

A variety of knives in my collection. 
I definitely prefer folding and serrated knives with a blunt tip.

Here are a few of my favorite knives:
1. West Marine Stainless Steel Serrated Rigging Knife. Small set up and single hand must be perfected. This is in my PFD.  
Cost $25
2. Byrd Rescue 2. Every day pocket knife and back-up to my WM Rigging Knife. Cost $46
3. Spyderco Atlantic Salt. Cost $142

My two favorite knives -
The Byrd Rescue Knife (orange handle)
West Marine Stainless Steel Riggers Knife (black handle).

If you have a knife that has worked well for you or a knife in use story, please post in the comments.  Definitely hit us up if you have questions about knives and their importance in your kayaking safety kit.  The best way to contact us is through Liquid Fusion Kayaking.

Cate and Jeff

Creating and Sharing Joy

I've had some office time in the past couple of weeks and have created a few new videos to share.

Although, I would rather be out on the water teaching and guiding kayaking adventures, one has to make do and I am enjoying the challenge of creating videos.

My first new video is called The Fourth Dimension.  If you have kayaked on the Mendocino Coast, you know that it has its own unique magic - hence the name The Fourth Dimension.

In this video I share a whitewater of the sea kayaking adventure that Jeff and I had with our friend Pete DeLosa.  Jeff and Pete are paddling the Pyranha 12R which is a 12 foot whitewater kayak designed for racing on steep whitewater creeks.  I am paddling my new favorite boat the Pyranha Ripper (aka the RipSnake).  Time and time again when it comes to rock gardening play sessions, Jeff and I are choosing the maneuverability of whitewater kayaks.  Jeff tends to like some volume and the 12R is a good fit for him.  I tend to like something sportier and surfable.  The Ripper is a good fit for me.

I have a couple of other new videos in the works.  Don't miss out - subscribe to Liquid Fusion Kayaking's YouTube Channel.

Until we meet again - I hope that you enjoy The Fourth Dimension.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Roller Coaster Ride of 2020

    Red sky at night - sailor’s delight,

Red sky in the morning - sailor’s take warning,

Red sky in the day - we need to put differences aside and work together to solve some big problems

The Roller Coaster Ride of 2020

We were riding high going into 2020.  Jeff taught at Paddle Golden Gate and several sea kayak incident management classes in the Bay Area.  Cate was teaching surf and whitewater lessons at home.  We were super excited about our upcoming spring whitewater classes and LFK's Mendocino Sea Kayak Club.   Then the Covid-19 Pandemic derailed our high flying year (as it did everyone else).

We spent the spring months sheltering at home and feeling very thankful that we were safe and well.   We had just remodeled our home office and expanded our vegetable garden so home was (is) a happy place for us.  A challenge was that we were extremely limited on where we could go to exercise and recreate since all of our local beaches and trails were closed.  We channeled our stir crazy energy into running, strength and flexibility training, breath training, making firewood, fishing, foraging, and a few creative shelter in place excursions (within 5 miles of home) - Shelter in Place Triathlon.

During the lockdown, we connected with other instructors and outdoor  professionals and redesigned our summer programs to minimize the risk of spreading Covid-19.  We developed a stringent cleaning process for our equipment and streamlined our tours and operation to allow for social distancing and contactless transactions.  We switched our group classes to private lessons for individuals or people living in the same household.  We decreased the risk level of our beginner tours and offered them as private tours and very small group tours.  We developed a rental program which involved purchasing new kayaks. life jackets, and paddles.

Memorial Day Weekend, we were allowed to open to local customers. It was our slowest Memorial Day Weekend ever.  Fortunately business picked up in Mid-June when California allowed travel to resume.  Since then, we have been quite busy.

The biggest joy of the summer was the smiling faces that we saw on the water. (We wear and require that our customers wear masks when interacting with us on land and on the launch ramp but not on the water).  Seeing the stress melt away and the healing power of water, nature, and fresh air rejuvenate our customers was a great feeling.  We had many first time kayakers and families and individuals who enjoyed the experience so much that they declared "kayaking is going to be our new activity."   In such stressful times, it felt really good to be infecting people with joy. 

The summer was very busy.  We worked longer and harder hours than we have ever worked before.  Schlepping kayaks, orienting paddlers, guiding tours, teaching private lessons, maintaining equipment, managing reservations, and scrubbing and washing and scrubbing and washing kayaks and scrubbing and washing kayaks, life jackets, and paddles.  Our hearts filled with the joy of sharing kayaking and nature with others but also were breaking as the unrest and travesties of our world were manifesting in extreme civil discord and environmental devastation.

We are closing for the month of October to recharge our batteries.  

We have learned a lot from this year.  One lesson is the importance of being flexible and being able to adapt.  Another is that life is uncertain.  We are seizing the day (the month) and taking some time to ourselves.  We are dreaming of sleeping under the stars by the sea, surfing and rock gardening, immersing in nature, and disconnecting for a bit from the craziness of the world.

Expect us to be a bit out of touch in October.  We will be back the first week of November ready to deal with what ever 2020 throws at us and starting to plan for 2021 and beyond.

Be Well Our Friends.  Stay Safe and Be Kind,
Cate and Jeff

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Coconut Baked Rockfish

 The sea is a playground and a work place for me.  It is also a grocery store.  Fishing, crabbing, and foraging from the kayak puts food on the table.  We often fish for rockfish from our kayaks which include black cod, lingcod, blue cod, red snappers (vermillion), and cabezon.  There are many ways to cook rockfish.  Baking it is one of the easiest ways to cook rockfish.

Pulling in a blue lingcod while kayak fishing on the Mendocino Coast of California.

My go-to recipe for dinner is Coconut Baked Rockfish.

To prepare it, I crack an egg and soak and coat the fillet in the egg.

Some lingcods are blue and have blue meat like this one. The meat turns white when you cook it.

I then toss the egg coated fillet in a lightly oiled or greased baking dish.  I dump the remaining egg over the fish and into the dish.

Lingcod in baking pan coated with egg.

Then I coat the fish liberally with coconut flakes and season with sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Sometimes I add some cayenne for a little kick.

Coat with coconut flakes, sea salt, pepper, and other desired spices.

Bake it at 350 for 20 minutes (cooking time can vary based on the thickness of the fillet).

Baked Coconut Rockfish

YUM! Our regular weekday meal will include the fish and some stir fried vegetables from the garden.  The meal is simple and delicious - also keto friendly.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Landing this nice lingcod while kayak fishing on the Mendocino Coast.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Pivoting has become a common term in the business community. 

Due to the Corona Virus Pandemic, it is no longer business as usual.  Businesses are having to make changes or face going out of business.  Jeff and I have been making changes to Liquid Fusion Kayaking and are committed to staying in business.

Jeff and I feel very fortunate that Liquid Fusion Kayaking is an outdoor business.  For months of shut down, we were consulting with others in the outdoor and kayak industry about the challenges of the global health pandemic and how to minimize risk when we were allowed to reopen.    In addition to the health and safety of our participants, we feel the responsibility to consider the health and safety of our community and our county/state/country.  On the Mendocino Coast, we have a very small rural hospital with limited beds and only 2 ventilators.  Many residents of our community are over the age of 65 and many have health issues and compromised immune systems.

We feel very fortunate that we were able to reopen, but it is definitely not business as usual.  Kayaking in the great outdoors is very low risk in the whole scheme of what we know about how the Corona Virus is transmitted.  However, we are erring on the upmost of caution.

For the summer of 2020, we have pivoted Liquid Fusion Kayaking's operation to include kayak rentals for the Noyo River.  We have an ideal location for all age and abilities to get out on the water.  Rentals enable people to kayak with people from their own household, go at the pace they want, and go when they want to go rather than being restricted to our tour schedule.  We have implemented a contactless system for reservations, payment, and waivers.

We expanded our kayak fleet to include sit on top kayaks that are easy to use and fun for folks who want to swim and play in the water in addition to kayaking.  A huge thank you to Dan and Josh at The Headwaters for their recommendations and helping us purchase a small fleet of Feel Free sit on top kayaks.  I personally am loving the wheel in the back because it makes people smile and makes moving the kayaks much easier.  It is a bit ironic that the model of our Feel Free tandems is Corona.

We also bought 40 new life jackets and paddles so that we could rotate them into service while used ones were being washed and drying.  We are running our Noyo Meander and Noyo Sea Kayak Tours primarily as private tours or small groups.  These tours are a great way for us to share the magic of our backyard waters with first time kayakers in a low risk way. 

We shifted our kayak instruction focus from sea kayaking classes to private lessons.  We designed a series of learn to kayak lessons for locals and visitors and have also implemented a fun and efficient 15 minute kayak skills tune up into our rental program.  We are a little disappointed to tone down our ocean rock gardening adventures.  We are running Whitewater of the Sea Adventures and rock gardening lessons as private lessons for individuals who can reliably self-rescue.  Social distancing is not possible during face to face rescue situations.  We feel the responsibility to avoid this unnecessary risk at this time.

We are having fun with our new programs and having fun in our own kayaking endeavors in our backyard.  We both miss paddling whitewater rivers but have been having fun playing in the surf and rock gardens with our new Pyranha Rippers.
Having fun rock gardening and surfing the Pyranha Ripper aka the RipSnake.
Our vegetable garden is producing well and we have been getting out in our kayaks to catch fish for dinner.  We are happy and healthy and feel very fortunate. 
Fish Tacos! Jeff showing off a black cod that he caught while kayak fishing on the Mendocino Coast.

We are determined to keep Liquid Fusion Kayaking a float and are developing some new ideas and programs for the future.  Subscribe to Liquid Fusion Kayaking's monthly newsletter to get the scoop.

Be well, be kind, and stay healthy!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Online Kayak Coaching Sessions

Wednesday May 6, 2020 - Whitewater of the Sea Webinar 

Join me for a fun overview and question and answer session about whitewater kayaking in the ocean aka rock gardening. 
Whitewater ocean kayaking is also called rock gardening and is a form of extreme sea kayaking done in whitewater kayaks.  The Mendocino Coast of California has some of the best rock gardens and ocean kayaking in the world.
Cate Hawthorne riding a Stout during a whitewater of the sea session on the Mendocino Coast of California.

The California Women's Watersports Collective is hosting this webinar as part of their online coaching series.  Definitely check out the other sessions being offered as well.  This is a great opportunity to learn from top women kayak instructors.  Sessions are open to all genders and are available for all skill levels.  The topics whitewater techniques, sea kayaking, yoga, expedition planning, managing fear, and more. I am honored to be included in this line-up and sharing my passion and knowledge of whitewater kayaking on the sea on May 6.  

On June 6, you can join me for The Surfzone - a kayak surf skill building session.   This session will have skills applicable to a variety of kayaks - sea kayaks, whitewater kayaks, surf kayaks, and fishing kayaks.

HP surf kayaking on the Mendocino Coast of California with kayak instructor Cate Hawthorne
In my happy place - on a wave!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Shelter in Place Videos

These are crazy, uncertain times.  I feel very fortunate to have a comfortable home, agreeable partner for sheltering in place, lots of projects, and lots of good books to read.  What has been difficult for me is the economic uncertainty and not being able to play outside (hike, bike, kayak, camp).

If I wear a mask can I go surfing? Please, pretty please!!!
Sea Kayak Surfing Mendocino
Who is that masked woman?
Cate surfing the Dagger Stratos 14.5 sea kayak on the Mendocino Coast of California

All beaches, trails, and parks are closed in Mendocino County, and Mendocino County's SIP orders state that you cannot drive to exercise.  As an avid mountain biker, trail runner, hiker, surfer, and kayaker this is extremely challenging especially in stressful times.  One positive is that I have gotten back into doing weight and flexibility training.  

With extra time at home, I have been working on some new videos.  My current video goal is to tell a story.  I have a couple of instructional and how to videos planned as well.  My story telling videos will have 2 versions.  The Hot Lap version will be 1 minute videos designed for those without a lot of time or attention span.  The second version will be the full edit and is likely to be between 2.5 and 5 minutes.  My videos will all be posted on Liquid Fusion Kayaking's YouTube Channel.  

Please subscribe to Liquid Fusion Kayaking's YouTube Channel.  This way you can be notified of new videos.  It also helps me stay motivated to produce more content.  To subscribe, here is a link.  Click on the subscribe button.

My latest videos are from a little shelter in place adventure that Jeff and I had last week.  It is called the Shelter in Place Triathlon.  We walk/hiked from our house, swam across the Noyo River, and sea kayaked out into the ocean.  There are 2 versions of the video - a fast and fun 1 minute and a fun commentary filled 5 minute video.  

Please watch and comment on the videos.  I'd also love to hear any feedback or suggestions that you have for my videos.  In particular, do you like the one minute edits or longer edits or both?

Be well and be kind,

PS If you haven't heard - The California Watersport Collective is offering a series of online coaching webinars with an all star cast of kayak instructors and a huge range of topics.  I will be presenting Whitewater of the Sea on May 6.   Check out the line up of webinars - CWWC Online Coaching

Monday, March 30, 2020

Vitamin Sea Video

Crazy - uncertain times.  Need a break from the news and a dose of Vitamin Sea?
Sea kayak rock gardening on the Mendocino Coast of California
Here is a one minute Vitamin Sea Video that features some of our Mendocino sea kayaking and rock gardening highlights from 2019.  The video below might not show up well in your browser - if so, use this link to watch on YouTube.

I am working on some more videos.  
Be sure to subscribe to Liquid Fusion Kayaking's YouTube Channel to be the first to see them.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sea Kayaking Camping Trip

My favorite way to getaway is on a kayak camping trip.  Whether on the river or the sea, I enjoy loading up my kayak and disconnecting from the world for a few days (as many as possible).
whitewater kayak self support
Loading up my whitewater kayak on a self support kayak trip on the Eel River.
A kayak is a great vehicle to carry all the necessities into the wilderness.  And you can often carry a few non essential items.  My favorite non essential items are my ukulele and a book (or kindle which offers me many books).
Self support whitewater kayak
Playing the ukulele by the campfire on Mendocino's Eel River during a self support whitewater kayak trip.
At the  moment, I am tasking away on my winter projects and dreaming of my next kayak camping adventure.  I am planning several self support whitewater river kayak trips for the spring and sea kayak camping trips for this fall.
sea kayak camping on the Mendocino Coast of California
Sea kayak camping on the Mendocino Coast of California
I took a bit of video on last year's sea kayak camping trip into the Akwa Triangle and am in the process of putting together a couple of videos.  Where is the Akwa Triangle?  It is a favorite remote stretch on the Mendocino Coast.
sea kayak rock gardening Mendocino
Sea Kayak rock gardening in the Akwa Triangle on the Mendocino Coast of California

Here is video from day one.  Please use the link if it doesn't play well in the blog.

I hope you enjoy the video.  A second video sharing our rock gardening and sea cave exploration from the trip is in the works.  Stay tuned.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Nature Therapy

I recently heard the statistic that the average American only spends 15 minutes per day outside.  Research studies are showing the beneficial effects on mind and body of being out in nature.  Schedule it into your day and get out there!  Ideally around trees and/or water but at a minimum getting outside is beneficial.
Mendocino, hiking, redwoods, fern canyon
Enjoying a hike in the Redwood Forest in Mendocino County, California.
Need some inspiration - here is a 1 minute video that I created from some nature, wildlife and kayaking clips from Fort Bragg's Noyo River.  Take a moment and enjoy . . .

To share our love of nature, Jeff and I are offering a nature therapy aka forest bathing experience.  Check out Liquid Fusion Kayaking's  Forest Immersion Tour.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Crabby Kayakers

Winter is probably my favorite season on the Mendocino Coast.  I love the excitement of winter storms - big waves, dramatic skies, and rain.  It is fun to watch the weather forecasts and to go out on storm watching missions.  Often our storm watching missions evolve into wave watching missions both on and off the water.
Hail or High Water! The USCG training our of Noyo Harbor in stormy conditions that included hail, high winds, and huge surf.
Playing in big seas in our whitewater kayaks on the Mendocino Coast of California.

Winter is also Dungeness Crab season. This weekend kicks off Mendocino County's Crab Feast.
Kayak Fishing for Dungeness Crab - aka crabbing.
Last week, ABC 7 Bay Area Life aired a special feature on Crab Feast Mendocino.  They interviewed Jeff and I and shared a little bit about Liquid Fusion Kayaking in the feature.

This weekend's weather forecast is looking pretty wet.  Grab your rain coat and do some storm watching and then feast on Dungeness Crab.
Storm watching from Fort Bragg's Noyo Headlands Park.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Gearing up for Winter Kayaking

It's a new year!  Are you excited to get out on the water but concerned about chilly air and cold water temperatures. Here are some tips that I have found helpful for staying warm when kayaking in the winter months.
Sea kayaking on a chilly day on the North Coast of California. Photo by Pelle Hammarstrom

First  - what is cold water?  

The National Institute for Cold Water Safety says we should treat any water temperature below 70F with caution.  

What are the dangers of cold water? 

Cold shock, drowning, heart failure, stroke, and hypothermia are the dangers.  For more information, check out Why Cold Water is Dangerous.

Tips for Winter Kayaking Warmth

Thermal Protection -
 My number one choice for paddling in the winter months is a drysuit - specifically one that includes feet.  I make sure that my drysuit is roomy so that if it is really chilly or I am going to be in the water a lot I will still be warm.  Read my blog post on drysuits.
Drysuits are a super comfy option for cold water and cold weather paddling. LFK instructors Jeff Laxier and Cate Hawthorne showing off their colorful and functional Immersion Research Drysuits.
My layers under the drysuit vary depending on air and water temperatures, how hard I am going to be paddling, and how much time I plan to be in the water.  My go-to base layer is my Immersion Research Women's Union Suit.  I have found the Immersion Research (IR) women’s onesie to be the best fitting and functional of the union suits available.  The 2 features that I really appreciate are the relief flap in the crotch and no zippers.  Depending upon water and activity level, I may layer over my union suit (both top and bottom).  I also carry an extra fleece top in a dry bag in case I get chilled and want another base layer under my dry top.
Immersion Research makes a super comfy zipperless onesie with a convenient relief flap.
If a drysuit is not an option, then a wetsuit and drytop combination is my second choice.  Here are 2 combinations that I have found to work
1.      5/4 surf suit and a dry top
2.      3mm Farmer Jane with a union suit and additional fleece top.

Keep Your Feet Warm
I often wear a pair of wool socks (sometimes 2) and a pair of neoprene boots in my paddling shoes.  When its cold, I find neoprene paddling shoes/booties to be warmer than my regular paddling shoes.

Keep Your Hands Warm
Pogies are my first choice for keeping my hands warm.  On very cold days, I will wear gloves and pogies.  My favorite paddling gloves are Patagonia’s neoprene fly fishing gloves.  Their XS fits my small hands perfectly. 
Pogie are mittens for kayaking.  They velcro over the shaft of the paddle and work quite well.
Keep Your Ears Warm
Keep your ears warm.  I prefer ear plugs because they keep out cold water and wind, work with my helmet, and protect my ears.  Some people prefer to wear neoprene hoods or skull caps.  If I am doing a lot of rolling or swimming in cold water, I wear both ear plugs and a hood.
Ear plugs are an essential item for kayakers to protect their ears from the wind and cold water.
Protect Your Eyes from the Wind
Try wearing sunglasses or glasses with clear lenses. You might be surprised how much they cut down on the wind and help keep you warm.
Another excuse to wear my Maui Jim's.

Keep Well Fueled
Make sure you stay well hydrated and fueled.  I usually bring a small thermos with hot tea and honey or hot chocolate.  On a cold day, I find the warmth and sweetness are more appealing than plain water.  At lunch time, I find that fatty foods like cheese and/or a nut or seed butters work well.

Other Comforts
Poncho – I often carry an inexpensive easily packable poncho to pull on at lunchtime and when we are off the water but not getting out of our paddling kit right away.  This provides a wind break and keeps heat in.

Dry Gloves and Hat – for off water breaks, I keep a dedicated pair of warm gloves, and a warm, dry, knit or neoprene hat to pull on during lunchtime and off water breaks.
Sunglasses and knit wool hats are part of my cold weather kit.  Thanks mom for the cool hats.
After paddling, I change out of all of my paddling clothes (including base layers) and into dry, warm clothes.  For changing out of my paddling base layers, I use my fleece changing station for warmth and modesty.  Usually I have another warm knit hat stowed with my extra dry clothes to be extra toasty (thanks mom for all the warm wool knit hats).

Please share in the comments below if you have other tips for staying warm when kayaking in the winter or if you have found any of these tips to be helpful.