Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

First off, Merry Christmas to all. I hope everyone out there is having a great time with friends and loved ones, and that Santa is leaving plenty of paddling gear to be used in the new year. I love this time of year for many reasons, but since this is a paddling blog I'll stick the things relevant to kayaking.

I hate winter. I hate being cold. I don't like the rain (paddling in it is fine, but changing out of paddling gear in a muddy parking lot is no fun). Most of all, I don't like the short days and early darkness. I don't let is stop me from kayaking, but it makes it harder to enjoy all the things I like. I like to be outside, to be able to work and walk without getting soaked. I like to sit around a river after a paddle, enjoying a warm evening and beautiful sunset. To cruise on cool water as the sun scorches down. I enjoy summer.

December is the start of winter - so why do I like this time of year? The solstice has just passed. That means the days are getting longer. I know that winter has plenty left. January and February are the coldest, March the rainiest. But just knowing that sunset will arrive later and later makes me happy. Makes me hopeful that spring will arrive soon and summer will follow. And much paddling will ensue.

Monday, December 17, 2012

of the class II variety

It's interesting how many of us paddlers will travel far and wide to explore new waters. We'll drive hours to get on a new river or explore a new piece of coast. We'll plan vacations to go to remote places, using days of precious vacation time just to get someplace that isn't all that different from our backyard. It's so easy to overlook what we have around us.

Confluence Put-In
I live right by the American River, downstream a short ways from where the North, Middle, and South forks come together into Folsom lake. I don't paddle Folsom lake often - too many powerboats in the summer, more 'interesting' places to go in the winter - and I mostly just paddle the South Fork when teaching. I've never paddled on the Middle Fork, and haven't done anything on the North Fork in the past couple years.

This past weekend I got on two new stretches of the North Fork. They were both class II so the paddling wasn't the real attraction. I got to take a new boater down - one who lives in the area and wanted to experience the beauty of her local river. I got to enjoy something new and different a half hour from my house. And I got to enjoy that beauty as well.

Shirttail Put-In
The confluence run starts where the Middle and North forks meet and continues to Folsom Lake. It covers the location of the no-longer-planned Auburn dam and has some class II-III rapids and nice scenery. The next day we did the Shirttail run which ends at Lake Clementine (just above the confluence). I'd done the top part of it before but never paddled all the way to the lake. The scenery is even better here, the same look and feel as the class IV Chamberlain Falls run right above it.

While I doubt I'll be doing either run very frequently, I feel better knowing my backyard a little better and appreciating what it has to offer. I'll continue to travel to find new and interesting places to paddle, but I'll try to remember that I have it pretty good right where I am, and the lack of time or money to travel around the globe is no excuse not to get out there and enjoy yourself.

Sorry for the lack of photos and video - it was cold and rainy and very short days.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The joy of knowledge and skill

I went for a nice little paddle on San Francisco Bay the other day. Launched from Horseshoe Cove, went out to Angel Island, circumnavigated, then back to the start. Very pleasant paddle with nice weather and nice views. Thing is, the tides/currents were completely unfavorable.

We launched as the ebb was staring. That means Angel Island is directly upstream. Most people plan their trips trying to use the tidal currents to their advantage. That's a good idea and I use it often. But sometimes I have a free day and want to take a friend to the island and the moon and stars (literally) don't align. I don't like letting such pesky things like heavenly bodies limit my fun, so I do what I want anyway.

If you don't want to be at the mercy of the elements you have to understand how things work and have the skill to work around them. We couldn't paddle direct to Angel Island, but instead we ducked into Richardson Bay where the current is minimal and worked our way up to Belvedere Pt. Then we ferried across Racoon Strait. This takes some harder paddling to overcome the current, and the water can get rough because of the shelf the water flows over, but we had the speed and skill to handle the conditions. We worked our way around the island by hugging the shore as tight as possible, often get a boost from the eddy current as the main current flowed past us just a few feet away. We even went in the worst direction which meant we had to fight the current longer (but arrived at the desired lunch spot right on time).

The point is, if you don't really understand how currents work, if you don't understand eddies and ferry angles, if you can't handle rough water or paddle hard for short distances, then your options are limited. If you stay within those limits you can have a great time. That's great. If you expand your knowledge and work on your skills, your limits will grow with you. Don't we all like more options? I know I do.

And yes, the rumor is true, I used a Greenland stick for part of the paddle. Wasn't the first time and won't be the last.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cross Sport Pollination?

When I started sea kayaking fifteen years ago I loved the ocean. When I found the river a decade ago I loved it, too. From then on I split my time between the two, with the occasionally dalliance with kayak polo taking me away from both. But I've found relatively few people who participate in both aspects of kayaking on a serious level.

Paul Kuthe - multidiscipline boater
Sure, most sea kayakers have tried the river, maybe in a whitewater boat. but the learning curve in whitewater is harder than on flat, so many folks bail out after that first attempt, or they just don't want to go all in for new boats and equipment that are necessary for a different sport (and they are very different sports).

Occasionally you can get a hardcore river boat to try to ocean, but most think it's just flat water and they have no interest. If you do get them out in the rocks and waves they're normally a little overwhelmed by the randomness of it all and retreat back to familiar ground.

Jeff Laxier - multidiscipline boater
Lately, though, I'm starting to see more folks who are taking both sports seriously. Mostly its been skilled sea kayakers who are learning that the river helps develop their skills and is a lot of fun in its own right. As more sea kayakers get into rock gardening I hope the changed perception of what ocean paddling can be will also attract the whitewater set who want to challenge themselves.

I've never been one to preach what others should do, but I like to think I've been a pretty good example of what benefits come from opening yourself to variety and pursuing each course to its fullest. So whichever side of the equation you're coming from, I encourage you to try the other side. Don't just sample, dive all the way in. It's the only way to experience the water.

When I paddle for fun and want to push myself I still need to choose between my whitewater friends and my ocean friends. They're each a great group, but I look forward to being able to enjoy all my paddling with the same great folks.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Once more, with feeling

My own GP
I can't believe that I have to do this, but here goes. Every piece of kayak equipment, like every other piece of equipment of any kind, has its advantages and disadvantages. Some things are more suited for one type of paddling or one type of paddler than another. There is no holy grail or universal item that is always best.

So Greenland paddles are not perfect. They are not the best for every single situation. If you want to argue that they are better you need to specify specific circumstances. How long they've been used is irrelevant. That So-and-So uses it for doing such-and-such is irrelevant. Get over it already.

Let me repeat that. Euro paddles are not perfect. They are not the best for every single situation. If you want to argue that they are better you need to specify specific circumstances. How long they've been used is irrelevant. That So-and-So uses it for doing such-and-such is irrelevant. Get over it already.
A variety of Euro blades for different purposes

Greenland paddles are great for long distance touring. They work well in high winds. They really help with balance braces and butterfly rolls. That's great. But they don't have the acceleration of a Euro blade. They don't make sudden corrections as well. They just don't. Choose your tool for your purpose.

Can you rock garden with a Greenland paddle? Sure. You can also rock garden in a nineteen foot ruddered sea  kayak. Can you surf with a Greenland paddle? Sure. You can also surf with a round-bottom, low-rocker kayak. But it will be harder, which for most people means not as fun. I'd rather play in a short boat with a planing hull and lots of rocker. But if you want to challenge yourself then go for it. Just don't try to say that it's just as good. It's not. That's OK, you can use whatever you want, I wouldn't dream of trying to stop you. But I won't accept a logical fallacy.

So if you want to say that a Greenland paddle is better for touring, I'll admit it is (depending on exactly what your definition of touring is). Is it better in a headwind? You bet. And there's probably several more situations where a Greenland paddle is better, and even more where it's equal to a Euro blade. No one is saying that Greenland paddles are bad. We're just saying that every piece of equipment has its advantages and disadvantages and not admitting that is dogma.

Sorry about the rant, maybe election season is rubbing off on me. I don't want that kind of blind adherence to irrational positions mucking up the kayaking world. Especially for new paddlers who lack the experience to know better. Look at the facts, accept the evidence, make your choice based on your own desires (not someone else's commandment), and let others decide for themselves (after they are properly educated). It's how everything should work.

Can't we all just get along

And while we're at it, any roll that finishes with you lying on the back deck of your kayak is not as good as one that ends with you upright and ready to paddle. Logic, people.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My other life

I discovered kayaking almost fifteen years ago. It was about twelve years ago that I decided to try to make kayaking into my career. I became an instructor. I ran a kayak program (or two). I got a real job to pay off my debt. I worked retail. I kept teaching and working 'in the industry'. While I have enjoyed the sport immensely, it hasn't given me all I want on the job front. So I'm moving on - sort of.

Those who know me know I quit my full time job at California Canoe & Kayak several months ago. I continue to teach kayaking and I have no plans to ever stop doing that. But I've decided to take a year off from full time work of any kind to write. Not kayak stuff. Mainstream stuff. I've finished several novellas, one novel, a complete draft of a second and am about to write a third in the month of November (it's National Novel Writing Month). I have a lot more planned. Hopefully I can turn this passion into a career the way I did with paddling.

So if you enjoy this blog, if you find my words are appealing, then maybe you'd like to check out my other self. I write under a pen name (Blair B. Burke) and I have a website and a blog. I also have self-published a series of novellas that are available as eBooks - the first in the series is free and available at Smashwords. Most of my stuff is fantasy/scifi but some of it is just contemporary normalness.

If you're only here for kayaking, that's fine too. I'll still be paddling; I'll still be posting. I've actually been enjoying kayaking more than ever. It seems like a lot of new people have been stopping by here lately and it's nice to know that people enjoying reading this stuff. Writing is fun, but when others enjoy it, it becomes rewarding. That's what a career should be.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lumpy Waters

Just back from the Lumpy Waters Symposium put on by Alder Creek up in Oregon. Each year it's the highlight of my fall and each year it keeps getting better.

In the past we've lucked out with nice weather, but this year the forecast was miserable. It wasn't as bad as expected, but that just meant not as much rain or wind. We did see snow on the ground one morning. In spite of that, everything seemed to go smoothly, changing venues and switching up classes to make everything work. The participants also seemed to take it in stride, charging into challenging surf or doing some rock gardening inside of the harbor. Everyone just wanted to learn and have a good time and that's what we did.

photo by Christine Tabor-Burris
As always, my class assignment got changed at the last minute, but this time I was more than happy about it. I got to teach a class with Leon Somme of Body Boat Blade. I've been seeing him at these things for years but we've never had the chance to teach together. Not only is Leon a great instructor, but I knew our personalities would just work well as a team. The students weren't the only ones disappointed that we had to end class to get back in time for dinner.

These events are always a great chance to meet up with old friends, both instructors and students. It was great to see Matt and Nick who were up at Okisollo with Sean and I, it was great to see Kim who's recovering from a shoulder dislocation but out paddling again, Bob, Rob and Alex working the event, Paul running around trying to organize of all us, Dave and Suzi overseeing it all (well, Suzi handling the details and Dave doing whatever she says). It's really like a family reunion but with lots of fun paddling.

Of course, the funnest paddling is saved for the day after the event. That's when a dozen of the coaches hang around for some serious play. We headed out to Three Arch Rocks off Oceanside yet again. This year the swell was smaller than last (pictures here), but larger than the first. It was a little too big to get into everything (I watched a fifteen foot face slide inches past my face as I was testing the rocks), but not large enough to create the massive surf we caught last year. It was still fun playing in the arches, bouncing off each other, and watching some acrobatic rides into the beach. Mostly it was just fun to be with such good people.

With the busy schedule, the rain and wind, a poorly functioning GoPro unit, and no waterproof case for my Nex-5, I didn't get a lot of pictures or video. But here's a little something from our play day:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I'm a professional kayak instructor. That means I get paid to teach people how to kayak. I like to teach. I also like getting paid. It allows me to do things like eat and pay rent. So it seems like a good combination, right? But there's a problem.

You see, for me, kayaking is about exploration. It's about self sufficiency. It's about taking your skills and putting them to use. Testing yourself. Learning about yourself and doing what you want to do. Being the one in control. It can be greatly social or it can be quite isolated. It's not about following.

At the beginning, it helps greatly to have someone show you the basics. You could figure things out on your own, but it's much faster, safer, and better to learn from someone who knows what they're doing. Once you have those basic tools, I think the joy in the sport comes from using them (the most important of which is judgment). Classes should be used to learn specific things that will allow you to go do something new. They're not a substitute for practice and reflection, they don't replace critical thinking and studying. Ultimately, you have to be able to do it on your own.

Here's where the conflict comes in. In order to keep getting paid to teach kayaking, it's in my best interest to get students to keep taking classes. Not just me, this is true for all instructors and instructional programs. On the books, we love perpetual students. The ones who take every course on the schedule and come back for more, maybe set up some private lessons, maybe ask for classes on specific things. They keep pumping money into the system.

It's not that I don' like money. And I understand that some people feel more comfortable learning from watching others than exploring on their own. But I just can't get myself to teach to that mentality. Maybe if you have the money to spend it's no big deal, but most people don't. And it isn't necessary. Kayaking, like most things in life, is built upon fundamental principles applied to various situations. Learn the principles and then apply them in ever more challenging environments. If you know how to do rescues on flat water (properly), then you know how to do rescues in rough water - you just need to practice. If you can paddle class III well, you can paddle class V - once you have the experience.

I mostly teach beginners. I think that's where the best instruction is needed. I definitely have the skills and credentials to teach advanced courses (I'm doing that at the Lumpy Waters Symposium this weekend). Those classes are fun, and they can definitely be worthwhile, but I always worry the students are expecting that the class will make them a better paddler. It won't. Paddling makes you a better paddler. Classes just teach you what you need to do when you go paddling.

Maybe it's just me. I certainly have lots of friends who teach advanced stuff and work with the same students repeatedly. I know quite a few paddlers who have done many different classes and seem to enjoy the experience. Maybe I'm just shooting myself in the foot by not getting my students to depend upon me. Maybe I'm old and cranky and set in my ways. But if you end up in my class, I will do everything I can to make sure you don't need to take another one. I do love seeing my students again, but hopefully it's when I run into them out paddling on their own.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Okisollo, the fun tidal wave

The Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland is filled with many island and narrow channels between them. When the tide floods in, these constrictions can create fast currents. Fast currents can create standing waves. Waves can be surfed.

View Quadra Island in a larger map

Discovery Island Lodge
The Okisollo Channel is on the north and east side of Quadra Island. The island can be reached by a ten minute ferry ride from the town of Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Once on the island it's a thirty minute drive to the end of Surge Narrows Road. This will lead you to both a public dock (with a ridiculously steep final 50 feet), or to the Discovery Island Lodge. The Lodge is a kayer's hostel right on the water, with plenty of dock space for visiting kayaks and delightful accommodations for your time of the water. It's the perfect place for a base of operations.

While Surge Narrows has plenty of fun action in its own right, the larger, cleaner wave at Okisollo is what really gets people's attention. So here are some more details for those looking to catch the wave.

The Okisollo wave forms just off Cooper Pt. It's about a six mile paddle north from Discovery Lodge. Leave two hours before slack and catch a little of the ebb going through Surge. This will put you at Cooper Pt. around slack (start earlier and you'll get a bigger push but have longer to wait).

Sean and Nick sharing the front wave
The wave forms on flood currents above 7 knots. Use 'Hole in the Wall' on the current charts as your guide. For sea kayaks, currents between 7 and 9 knots are the best - you can surf the wave the entire cycle. Above 9 knots the wave is steep and surging and better for whitewater boats. At those faster speeds you'll still be able to use a sea kayak as the flood diminishes - but it will be a much shorter window.

Within half and hour of flood starting you will see the waves forming. At first it's just a bunch of turbulence, but it soon becomes clear where the front wave is. That's the wave that you'll be surfing. It starts out fairly shallow and will get bigger and deeper as the cycle progresses. We had max currents around 8.5 knots and that gave us a three to four hour window of surfable wave.

Waiting for the wave
There is a nice waiting eddy and rocky landing to get out and watch. The eddy has rocks below that make accessing it once the flood gets going more difficult. Early in the cycle you can paddle up with proper timing and hard work. Later on you have to get out on the back side of the rocks (it's perfectly calm) and portage over the rocks for about ten feet. Not hard, but kind of annoying. As the tide fills in the portage becomes shorter and easier, almost covering the rocks completely.

The wave itself is steepest on surfer's right. The middle is where it gets less stable and where boils or surges could flush you off. It's also where the wave starts collapsing when it gets big. As you surf you will be down in a pit - head below the horizon in front of you. It makes it hard to see what's coming and we saw a number of large logs floating through - having a lookout on shore or in the eddy is not a bad idea.

You can just sit on the wave all day long. People where doing paddle twirls, pulling out cameras for pictures, and just generally resting. But the real fun is cutting back and forth - a good twenty feet of width to play on. The wave is very forgiving and once you find the rhythm it's quite relaxing. It's what's behind that intimidates.

Nick on the second wave as it collapses
The second wave is actually surfable at lower speeds but it's irregular, and it just gets worse as thing speed up. If you flush off the first wave try to surf the second to one side or the other. If you surf to the outside you'll be in clear water but have a longer paddle back to the eddy. If you surf to the middle it's not too bad but expect some crashing waves. As you approach the eddy line be aware of randomly forming whirlpools. Nothing crazy, but enough to flip a boat and suck a swimmer down for a few seconds. But there is plenty of space after the turbulence to pick up the pieces if necessary.

Finally, you may want to start your paddle back before the wave is completely gone. If you wait too long, you will hurt Surge Narrows at ebb and have to fight your way upstream to get home. You can do it, but it won't be fun after paddling twelve miles and playing for three hours on a beautiful wave. The other option is to just camp at Okisollo and save yourself the distance for tomorrow's session.

Quadra Island tidal racing

Just back from five days of paddling in BC. Six of us spent the time hanging out at the Discovery Islands Lodge on the east side of Quadra Island. We spent our days playing in the tidal races nearby and the evenings relaxing in the sauna on the dock. It was a nice change to do a trip based out of a beautiful B&B instead of camping and making miles each day. Incredibly fun to play on tidal currents over 8 knots - great surfing and plenty of whirlpool action.

Quadra Island - Okisollo Channel
 The trip started with a ten hour drive to Portland for three of us Californians to meet up with the rest of the crew. After a night sleeping on a sailboat, the six of us (in two vehicles now) headed across the border, caught the ferry to Vancouver Island, and continued northward. The third day found us in Campbell River and a short ferry hop onto Quadra Island brought us to our destination. We set up base camp at the lodge and set out to paddle while the flood tide was still flooding.

The area is part of the inside passage, a protected waterway formed by hundreds of islands stretching along the BC coast up to Alaska. It provides protection from the weather and the swells of the open ocean. But it also creates restrictions that lead to fast currents during tidal exchanges. You can avoid the currents if you want, but we came specifically to play in them.

Our first day was spent at Surge Narrows, a stone's throw from the lodge. The flood was just over 8 knots - that's a very fast river - and with several small islands and rocks it created overflows, standing waves, solid eddy lines, and some impressive whirlpools. It was a fun playground with some challenging features, even though the size of the waves were generally what you'd find on a smaller river - around two feet in height. Some could be surfed in sea kayaks but mostly it was just a fun place to feel current, ferry and attain, and play on a giant 'river' in a long boat.

The second day we got an earlier start and paddled up the Channel several miles during the ebb. It pushed us north through Surge Narrows (there's fast water but not much action during an ebb). We paddled up to Cooper Pt. where we arrived at slack to see a point of land that wasn't anything special. We kept looking around to see something interesting and as soon as the current started flooding we found it. A little outcropping of rock points into the channel and soon small waves started forming. As the current kept increasing (it topped out at 8.4 kts that day) the waves got larger and more organized. It wasn't long before a solid three foot green wave appeared at the top of the rapid and we started surfing. This was the Okisollo Wave.

As the current increased the 'pit' of the wave got deeper and deeper. The wave stayed green (it starts foaming around 9 kts) and we were able to ride it an hour and a half on either side of the max. That's three hours of non stop surfing. I'll be writing up a separate description of the wave for full details, but suffice it to say that it was standing wave nirvana for sea kayakers. (the Okisollo post is HERE) We could fit up to three people on the wave at once. Rides could easily last ten minutes until the waiting line got impatient and the surfer would step off. I've never been to Skookumchuk, but it's hard to imagine anything better than this for long boats.

After the long surf session we had a return paddle of six miles that exhausted us. We weren't sure of repeating the long day, but we were saved by Albert who works at the lodge. The next day he joined us for a session and took us up there in the powerboat. Not having to save any energy we surfed all the harder.

Looking for a little variety, we went back to Surge the following day, again finding hours of surfing/playing goodness. While the waves were smaller, their speed wasn't any slower. And with more features it meant less waiting and another full day left us tired but happy.

For our final day on the water, we were thinking of doing a little cruising to change things up and see some more scenery. But we couldn't resist one last chance to take advantage of the current and play at Okisollo. We paddled up in time for some play on the increasing flood before heading out at max flood to catch a ride through Hole in the Wall and around Maurelle Island. Hole in the wall is known as a dangerous corridor, with giant whirlpools that have been known to take down fishing trawlers. Our current wasn't that high but we still entered with caution and in full combat mode. We carefully picked out route, avoiding or fighting through the small whirlpools that popped up randomly. Luckily our sharp-eyed leaders spotted the one giant whirlpool the size of a football field and we passed safely to the side. After that it was just a gorgeous paddle through the beautiful islands of British Columbia.

Satiated with our paddling, we left before first light the next morning and drove straight back to Cali - twenty-three hours of road time. It's nice to be back to the heat and sun but I will definitely miss the stunning waters of the inside passage. And the perfect wave.

More pictures are on my Picasa Page. Here's the video:

Monday, October 1, 2012

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Friday, September 28, 2012

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Feather Fest

A quick note before I get into the meat: I'm heading out to BC tomorrow for some sea kayaking in the tidal races around Vancouver Island. I'll try to update my location through my SPOT while I'm up there and hopefully will have some great pics, vids, and stories when I get back.

But first, this weekend was the Feather River Festival, held on the North Fork of the Feather River. It's a great festival put on by American Whitewater and the Chico Paddleheads. It's the first time I've made it to the festival, and the first time I've paddled the river (I normally busy teaching this time of year). The paddling was fun - I only did the class IV-V Tobin section, but there's also a class IV and a class III section as well. And the party Saturday night was pretty good, too.

The real great thing about any festival, though, is the people. My normal paddling buddies couldn't make it (they had to work this year) so I headed up just assuming I'd find folks to paddle with. Thirty seconds after arriving at the put in I had my first invite to join a group. Ten minutes later a dozen of my friends were there. I got in a couple laps but also took some time to shoot a few pictures before setting safety for the race.

While I expected to see friends up there (it's practically the only river running in the state right now), I was surprised by how many random people showed up who I did not expect at all. Plenty of former students, some sea kayakers I know who are just getting into whitewater, people from SoCal who made the long drive, people who flew out from the east coast. It made the weekend a blur of whitewater and conversation. Hopefully it won't be another year before I get to see all those great folks again.

Not much time to edit photos, but here's a few from the Tobin section:
120922 Feather Fest

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back at it on BRG

It's good to be paddling again. And on something of consequence this time. I headed north to get on the only class V river still running in California: the Burnt Ranch Gorge on the Trinity River. It's not exactly the hardest of class V runs (it may be the easiest, in fact), but it's still a solid run at a decent flow. Twice the flow of the only other time I've done the run five years ago.

A picture of me for a change
Considering my lack of paddling in general, my recent experience on class V runs (a paddle to my face on a portage, a hike out after a friend breaking his boat, not to mention the Rubicon epic of last year), and that there were only two of us, this definitely had the potential for disaster. But I'm happy to say that this day (almost) everything went smoothly.

I drove up in the morning and we put on by 1pm. After a mellow warm up section we hit the first significant rapid. We snuck it last time at low flows but this time we took the heart of it. I got flipped in the hole at the bottom but quickly flushed and rolled up. Sometimes the best thing that can happen is an early flip - it settles you down, you remember your roll works fine, and it's not so bad getting your face wet.

The finish of #1, vertical log and all
The heart of the run are Burnt Ranch Falls numbers 1, 2, and 3. None are actually falls, but each is a multi-step class V rapid. We scouted #1 and it went fine. We scouted #2 and it went fine. We scouted #3 and decided to walk. The bottom hole looked a little sticky and the lead in was a little junky. But the portage is on steeply sloped granite and our only injury of the day was when I fell and landed hard on my butt. So I decided it was safer to run the rapid and it went fine.

After that I was more relaxed. It felt at home being on a river again, leading down rapids I barely remembered, enjoying some lovely scenery, watching the salmon jump, the eagles fly, and the otters play. Now if only there were some more rivers running...

The next day we drove out to the coast just checking out the area. I got in a little photography practice (still loving my Nex-5n) and then had dinner with friends in Arcata before heading home. It's good to be back.

And here's a quick edit of the video:

Monday, September 3, 2012

River folk

I really haven't missed the paddling that I haven't been doing this summer. But I just spent a weekend up on the river doing some teaching and paddling with friends and I realized that I have missed the people. Paddling is a small sport, and as such creates a special community. We recognize each other (or at least each other's boats) just from seeing the same people in the same place. We may have absolutely nothing else in common besides paddling, but that's enough.

I paddled class II whitewater all weekend. First with my friend and his fiancee. She was warming up for a couple of days of class III and wanted to work on her roll. She hit every single one - even the three I made her do at the end of the day. Then we had some pizza a beer before crashing in the back yard of a local friend. Doesn't get an simpler and any better.

The next two days I was teaching a beginner class. One student was the son of a former student; one was the wife of a former student. On the river I ran into another half dozen former students and more paddlers I know, from fellow teachers to folks just out enjoying a holiday weekend. Everywhere you turned it was warm smiles and friendly hellos. In the evening we had a farewell dinner with a British girl off to Africa for the season, talking about grad school, wedding plans, and beat downs.

It's really the time off the river that makes whitewater kayaking so special. It's getting away from everything else and spending a few days immersed in a different culture, a friendlier, better culture. It's just the joy of being one of the river folk.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Taking it easy

Well, my back's still not 100%. But after a whole week of doing absolutely nothing I was getting a little stir crazy. So when a friend asked if I wanted to paddle the South Fork (class III) I jumped at the chance. Something nice and easy, a little float down the river with old friends and new. I think my back could handle that.

And the other thing that became apparent over the weekend is how great the river community is. Since I haven't been paddling much, I really haven't been out on the river. I didn't even realize how many people I just wasn't connecting with. I managed to run into friends from all over - one up from L.A. for the weekend, a Brit living in the Bay I hadn't seen in months, a river local who never makes it down to the city. And most of the regular assortment of friends who live up there.

So I don't have any exciting videos to share. Not even pictures thanks to the film that has developed on the lens of my waterproof camera. And I don't have any tales or insight into paddling from this trip. But I had a really good time, and that's what taking it easy is for.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back in action

I know it's been a while. I haven't been paddling for reasons I won't go into. But I'm back now and hopefully will be getting on the water again (and updating this blog when I do).

So it's been super hot here in Sacramento - over 100F for the past ten days. A trip down to the ocean sounded like the perfect day to cool off. Some of the locals had the same idea and where planning to paddling out the Golden Gate on Sunday. I decided to head down a day early and meet up with a Bay Area local for a paddle out of Dillon's Beach. When I arrived it was 55F and foggy, with a little breeze already flowing. Nice relief.

Dillon sits at the mouth of Tomales Bay. We launched and headed the other direction: towards Bodega Bay. We didn't plan on going far, but instead stayed close to shore to explore among the rocks. The swell was small and it allowed for a peaceful and interesting inspection of barnacles and seaweed. It's been several months since I've been on the ocean, so it was nice to just feel the swells and run a few slots.

We passed the mouth of Estero San Antonio, heading up it about twenty feet before deciding it was just too shallow to keep going. Even our coast is dry and barely flowing at the end of this hot summer in California. we stopped at a beach just up from the estero that normally has a small waterfall but the trickle of water barely made the stone wet. Still, it was a nice spot and as we set we watched the fog come and go - it kept hinting that it would break up and leave us a blue sky but it never did.

When we returned to Dillon Beach, not only was the sand more crowded with beachgoers, but we met a few kayakers just outside the surf zone. They were some folks practicing for the upcoming skills clinic from BASK - Bay Area Sea Kaykers - the local paddling club. We followed them in and after cleaning up hung around to talk paddling for a while. A very nice return to paddling.

Unfortunately, the combination of carrying my boat down the long beach, cool temps, and sitting for hours seemed to have strained my back. After the paddle it kept getting tighter and tighter so I decided to skip the second day of paddling and headed home to rest. Apparently I've got to ease myself back into this paddling thing...

Here are some more pictures from the day:

120818 Dillon Beach

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beauty is where you find it

I'm in Wyoming at the moment for reasons that have nothing to do with kayaking. But I brought my sea kayak along because I knew I was going to need to get out and do a little paddling while I'm here. Paddling always helps one keeps one's sanity. I didn't know what I was going to find for water, but knew that it would be easier to get out alone in my sea kayak than to find folks to paddle whitewater with. And most places have flat water around, while good whitewater can be far afield.

Entrance to Fremont Canyon
So in looking for water I found some info on Fremont Canyon here in southern Wyoming. It was a whitewater report that said the canyon had some great paddling but was normally low. Very low. Didn't sound like something for my situation. But then I ran into a rock climber who said the canyon was the best climbing around. And below the power plant in the canyon it was all flat. So I took a closer look and discovered that the Alcova reservoir is at the mouth of the canyon. And you can basically paddle up half way on flat water when the incoming water is low (like it is now).

So I got out for a little paddling. In one of the most beautiful canyons you could ever ask to paddle up. Shades of Lake Powell. So enjoy the photos and go out and find your own beauty.

End of the Flat Water Paddling
Middle of the Canyon
Rock Formations near Shore

Looking out at the Alcova Reservoir