Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kayak Review - Necky Jive

Aqua Jive in the foreground, yellow Pyranha Z.One in back
The Necky Jive isn't exactly a new kayak. It's been out of production for several years. In fact, Necky no longer makes whitewater kayaks at all. So why is this boat worth a review? Because it surfs. Really well.

Now that I'm back to living on the coast I plan to get in a lot more surfing. It's one of the things that really hooked me on kayaking when I started - surfing in a whitewater kayak. In fact, that was why I bought my first kayak. A Prijon Fly. It was pretty much the same thing as the Dagger RPM. A great design for its time but really not the best ocean surfing boat. My surfing buddy had a Jive and always was getting more and better rides. Over the years I've had the chance to paddle Jives on the ocean and the river. Recently I was lucky enough to pick up a used Jive in great shape and after one river session and one surf session it has reminded me why it's such a great surf boat. So what makes a good surfing boat, you ask? Let's look at the Jive and find out.

The Jive has good speed. It's fairly long (I paddle the 8'10" version, there's also an 8'3" version). It doesn't have that much rocker - the ends are fairly flat so it has a long water line. It's also noticeably more narrow than most modern whitewater boats. But that stuff matters on flat water, when you're trying to catch the wave. Once you're on a wave and gravity is doing the acceleration the Jive starts to plane. It has a very flat bottom that starts to skip on top of the surface. This allows it to reach speeds much faster than you could by just paddling. All boats can plane, but the wide, flat bottom of a boat like the Jive make it easier. So the Jive has good speed when catching waves and then great speed when it's on the wave. Speed is fun.

But speed isn't everything. You also want control. A nice hard edge allows you to dig into the water and turn on the wave. The Jive has a hard chine that allows it to steer with a little body lean. Performance surf kayaks will have a really shard rail that carves great turns - sometimes when you don't want it to. The Jive has a good balance of edges that dig in when you want but stay loose enough when the boat is flat (in the picture you can see the slight double chine that softens it up a bit). That's more helpful on a river where you get mixed currents, but it gives the Jive a little bit of forgiveness which can also be nice in the surf.

Another important characteristic for kayaks is the volume distribution. You want to have some volume, especially upfront, so that you don't get buried in the water. But not too much, especially in the stern, that you can't slice into the water when you need it. The Jive strikes a nice balance in both areas. Both ends are fairly thin and pointed but there's plenty of volume around your knees that help keep the bow from getting buried. This also helps it work well as a river runner, the volume giving it some stability in bigger/harder water.

Overall the Jive is a bit like a longboard. It's great speed allows you to catch smaller/less steep waves and have fun riding them. Even more, when things get really big and you want to scream down the line and get out of the tube before it collapses - that's when you want a Jive. (OK, you really would prefer a composite surf kayak at that point, but that's not what we're talking about here). On the medium waves it isn't as loose and fun as some of the newer boats - we also have a Pyranha Z.One in the quiver that is great for that - but the Jive still gives you the thrill of speed.

On the river things have evolved. Modern kayaks are designed for doing tricks on waves more than surfing them. Boats have more rocker which is more forgiving and most long boats have a lot of volume to help provide stability. The Jive really doesn't compete with modern river runners or playboats. The general outfitting, the grab handles in particular, really aren't up to today's standards. But that's not why you buy a ten year old plastic boat (the Jives are very heavy 'cause they were made with lots of plastic - a great thing when you want to slide a boat over rocks repeatedly). You buy it for the old school speed, old school surfing. That's what the Jive is and it's hard to find anything better.

Here's a little video of me surfing in a different Jive.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Location, Location, Location - Fort Bragg, CA

I started this blog not long after I moved to Northern California from Southern California. More specifically, I moved from Los Angeles to Folsom. I learned to kayak when I was down in L.A. It's actually a great place to learn how to paddle. I started in the ocean, enjoying the relatively calm and warm waters. I learned to love sea caves out on the Channel Islands - I also learned to love long distance paddling to get out to them. I also got into surf kayaking going regularly to Topanga Canyon. I started kayak polo through my affiliation with UCLA and that also lead to whitewater kayaking on the Kern River. Lots of great places to paddle.

When I moved to Folsom it was for a job running a kayak program for California Canoe & Kayak. The store is in a Sacramento suburb and I taught flat water paddling on Lake Natoma just minutes from my house. Our whitewater program is on the South Fork American River about 20 miles away in Coloma - the center of the whitewater world in California. I was also plugged into the ocean, teaching ACA courses down in Half Moon Bay and often paddling out the Golden Gate or playing in San Francisco Bay. Once again, lots of great places to paddle. But still a little ways away.

I have just recently moved to Fort Bragg. For those who don't know California geography, it's on the coast a few hours north of San Francisco. It's the Mendocino coast. It's sea kayaking heaven. It has the most beautiful coastline with everything you could want. Sea caves, rock gardens, pourovers, protected bays, world class surf, tidal river mouths - it's all here. Right here. Within fifteen minutes here.

I've paddled in the area before and it was always one of my favorite spots to visit. Now that I live here I am looking forward to exploring it on a level that you can only get by spending serious time. I have years of poking my boat into every nook and cranny, finding the best waves and soaking up the beauty of the redwoods. My good friends Jeff and Cate are now my neighbors and I expect that I'll have plenty of folks looking to stop by for a visit (and paddle).

The irony is that in the short term I have lots of pre-made plans on the weekends that are taking me away from my new home in the short term. But now I can go out any day - over lunch, after work, dawn patrol. And I'll keep filming and taking pictures and sharing it on this blog. After all, it's still California and I'm still paddling.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Yoga for Outdoor People with Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer

Click HERE to go right to the ordering info for the DVD

I met Helen Wilson several years ago when we were both teaching at the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. She had been teaching Greenland Rolling classes but had to take off early the last day and couldn't teach a full class. So she sat in on a class I was teaching and was super fun and very helpful. Shortly after that she contacted me about filming a rolling DVD - she had seen my Paddle California DVD and thought that our similar backgrounds might make for a good working collaboration. The result was Simplifying the Roll, a video we shot and edited very quickly with a small budget that turned out great (judging by the sales and happy customers we've racked up).

Helen and I have been friends ever since and Helen often talked about shooting a yoga for paddlers DVD as a follow up. In addition to being a Greenland rolling champion and professional kayak coach, she's also a certified yoga instructor. It was a good idea but the timing never worked out for our schedules. And while I had tried yoga at the time and thought it a good thing, I really didn't know much about the practice.

This past year, again at GGSKS, we were chatting about how I was now practicing yoga regularly and was no longer working full time so my schedule was flexible. Helen again brought up the yoga DVD idea, this time with her husband Mark Tozer on board. Mark is another professional kayak instructor but also teaches rock climbing and practices yoga. We all had some time open in the spring and the plan to film Yoga for Outdoor People was launched.

One hiccup that turned into a blessing was that Mark was in Wales - he's a Brit and all his family is over there. Helen loved the idea of filming the video with the beautiful backdrop that is northern Wales, so an overseas filming trip was planned. We had a great time filming all over the countryside and in spite of some chilly and rainy weather we managed to squeeze in some sunny yoga shoots between paddling and climbing days.

Since then we've been busy editing and tweaking the videos to produce something that will be really helpful to people. The DVD has three different yoga sequences, two full length and one short standing sequence. The full length sequences are great for a regular home practice, giving you some variety and concentrating on moves that will help out with paddling, climbing, hiking - generally moving about. The standing sequence is great in that once you have it down you can use it as a warm up wherever you find yourself getting ready to go - you don't need a mat or anything.

Each of the sequences includes a voice-over by Helen that talks you through the poses as they appear on screen. This helps you get into the proper position and makes it easier to focus on exactly what you need to be doing. Yoga is as mental as it is physical and if you've ever taken a class you know that the instructors words and guidance not only help you achieve the proper pose but also creates a rhythm and flow to the practice that can approach a meditative state. Helen's words are very relaxing and she gives the right balance of instruction and silence to make the routines easy to follow while getting in a good workout.

There's also an Asana Breakdown section on the DVD. Helen and Mark break down the more complicated poses and show some variations that you can do. From my own practice I've learned how important it is to get the small details right and that can be hard to do when you're just watching someone and trying to copy them. This breakdown gives you pointers on technique so you can learn the poses properly and makes the DVD suitable for a complete novice who's never practiced yoga before. At the same time, the advanced variations allow the sequences to still be challenging and rewarding for those who already practice regularly.

I'm so excited that the project is finally done and the DVD's are almost ready to ship out. Helen has started taking pre-orders for shipments starting on September 18th, 2013. Here's the link to Helen's site: And here's a little trailer I put together that gives you an idea of what it all looks like.