Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paddling with New Friends

One of the things I appreciate most about boating is the wonderful people I end up meeting and sharing on-water time with.

Alec and Sharon Boyd-Peshkin are a couple who live, coach,  and paddle in the Great Lakes area.  Their region sounds very interesting and beautiful--indeed, I'm looking forward to experiencing it myself sometime.  Check out their blog "have kayaks, will travel".  These two are also the epitome of health and vitality (as well as thoughtful and intelligent coaches) and I found being in their presence very inspiring...

I was fortunate enough to share a couple of my favorite spots with these two while they were on Orcas, visiting and coaching--a sort of "working vacation".

I had been keeping tabs on the weather in the E. Straits of Juan De Fuca, and the westerly wind coupled with an evening flood promised some good, fun conditions and evening light.  When we arrived at our put-in, we had the added bonus of connecting with good friend, Colin Doherty, who lives on Lopez Is.  We had a great time catching some very surfable waves, then took the long way back to our put-in, paddling coastline  brought to life by the crashing waves and slanting rays of the setting sun.  It was a treat to have everything (and everyone) line up to create a great 4 hours of kayaking.

The zone.  Photo by Alec Boyd.

"Anatomy" of the overfalls.  Photo by Alec.
Sharon ferry's over to the best waves.  Photo by Alec.

"Free your ends, and your mind will follow!"  Photo by Alec.

Privileged moment...

Our other excursion was about as far in the opposite direction as you can get in the San Juan's.  We went on a "lunch paddle" out to Patos Is., visited the lighthouse, ate a great picnic, and continued on along the steep and shaded north shore of Sucia, riding the gentle ebb back to North beach.

Goodbye, Alec and Sharon...safe travels to you both!

This whole side of the island was the upstream "cushion" on the ebb.
Some texture off of Alden Pt.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Djuna in Yoga Journal

Djuna in her element. Tofino.

Yes!  That's right, Djuna is in Yoga Journal magazine this month.   I'm so full of admiration for her and the hard work, dedication, and passion that has led to another great opportunity for her.

I recently did the sequence myself on a warm ferry-ride to the mainland.  It feels really good, warms up a lot of the muscles we use in paddle sports, and will increase flexibility and strength,  reducing the likelihood of injury.

Try it for yourself!  Watersports yoga sequence  And look for her on the cover in September's issue!

Djuna at Skookumchuck.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Edge, Trim, Angle...

As Ryan and I untie the boats and load up what we need for the day, I feel like a little kid at the fishing hole--trying to tie on my fly with excited hands.  But really, there's no rush--I'm just eager; the wind is cranking, and predicted to build all day, and we're ready to catch some waves!

Ready to launch!

Yesterday, the outlook was for westerlies to blow up to 30 knots.  We both doubted that it would get that strong, but knew it would blow hard enough to create some significant wind waves to interact with some of the the strongest currents for the season.

As I boarded the ferry for San Juan Island, I noted how all of the boats anchored had shifted their angle to point to the southwest--a good sign.  I could also see some clearing skies and cumulous clouds indicative of a cold front passing through our area--another good sign.  As the ferry made its way south to more open water, whitecaps began to appear, and I smiled thinking of the conditions we would likely meet today.

Now, we launch off of San Juan island and begin an easy ferry glide to the west, surfing small wind waves, and checking transits as the angle of the current changes.  Fifteen minutes earlier, we could see Shawna and Leon of BodyBoatBlade working with some students as the current continues to build.  It was them that first introduced me to paddling in water like this and I smile thinking back to their encouragement and feedback which was instrumental in my development as a paddler.  But alas, we've got further to go, so we continue our crossing for another few miles to reach our destination.

Once we've crossed, it's sort of a "park-and-play" situation.  Ryan and I feel confident we'll be able to return to our landing, so we stash much of our gear on the beach under a tarp weighted with rocks.  Having a boat which is relatively unladen makes things easier on our bodies for initiating quick changes of direction, and a little less dangerous in the event of a collision.  What we do carry, though, are essential safety items:  Tow belts, VHF radios, storm cag, accessible water and snacks, first aid kit, and inflated float-bags in bow and stern compartments of our kayaks.

Ryan drops in.  The waves are almost twice as big as they look, because you can't see the troughs!

Our biggest assets for avoiding a serious incident are our skills, and our awareness of the risks we are taking by being here.  Since performing a rescue in today's conditions is downright dangerous, a reliable roll on both sides is mandatory; because it would be very difficult to maintain contact with a boat if one of us swims, we're dressed to endure a long period in the water.

Ryan pivots on the crest and catches the next wave.

Risk Assessment:  Conditions are getting big, and there are two of us.  Greatest hazards are 1)  collision with each other and, 2)  Shoulder injury when getting dropped off the steep waves.

To mitigate #1, We give each other ample room, knowing that the "radius of influence" we can be moved by the breaking water, and the speeds generated by catching these waves require lots of space.  We constantly monitor each other's position, predicting the trajectory of our boats, and are ready to initiate a lot of edge, some powerful reverse strokes, or a capsize should we need to slow down or change direction.  We also try to stay in different zones of the overfalls, separated by a tongue of faster moving water.  Of course, we're wearing helmets, our boats carry inflated float-bags in the hatches (in the event of a lost hatch cover or hole from collision), and we wear whitewater PFD's which offer better spinal and rib protection against impact.  Most of all, we avoid catching waves if there is any chance of collision.

Thanks P&H!  Surfing the Airies

For #2,  We pay very close attention to keeping elbows in, tucking low when being hit by heavy sections of the breaking wave, and transferring from a low brace to a protected high brace as soon as the active elbow begins to rise towards the shoulder.  Sometimes I shift my grip a bit to reduce the shaft length (lever arm) on the active blade side of my paddle, which just reduces the forces on my body as I get tossed by a wave--a nice advantage to a straight shaft.  We also are mindful of tucking forward if we get pitchpoled to protect the head and spine--the back deck is not the place to be when getting thrown around.  We've warmed up on the paddle over, and try to use the forces of the water to our advantage, rather than muscle against it.

Ryan's head gives scale

Additionally, we take frequent breaks in an eddy to rest, snack (blood sugar) and hydrate.  This ensures that we are in our best form when the inevitable capsize and roll (or rolls!) occur.  Should one of usbecome injured or swim, we need to have the reserves to help with a rescue, a contact tow, or to move a swimmer, without their boat,  to safety .

We have a blast watching each other in this aerated water.  I get a great pop-out, and Ryan styles a brilliant recovery from a sudden backsurf/drop off a huge peak.

I'm ultra-present in this incredible moment and zone, loving by body's ability to do what it knows how to do, while the more technical side of my brain breaks it down into pieces:  I'm moving fast diagonally to my right, looking at the wave forming, projecting myself into the exact position that will put the forward half of my boat into the foam pile.  OK, now I'm there, and my body instantly makes the choice between edging and low bracing into the wave trimmed forward, or rotating and looking down-wave, planting my down-wave blade, with only a slight edge towards the trough, and trimming aft to free my bow to be pushed by broken water.  My body chooses the latter, and makes subtle adjustments to edge, trim, and blade pressure to rocket down the wave face, while I scan my field of vision for the whereabouts of Ryan.

Plunging into the trough

We wisely reserve ample energy to get back against the wind and enjoy the chaos of an impressive convergent zone which is creating 4-foot "witches hats"--the tops getting blown off by the strong wind.

We land feeling completely alive, well-worked, yet beaming from the energy of all that moving water; we high-five on the beach, fortunate to have been able to participate in another of nature's rare offerings.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Multi-day in the P&H Airies

I needed to get out for an overnight.  The physical distance between myself and Djuna, with each of us questioning our game-plan for the next year (and more), had left us both feeling the heaviness of missing each other's love and support.  I wanted to clear my head, and access the perspective which often comes with being surrounded by space and beauty, as well as travel on the water;  lighten up a little, I suppose.

I decided to load up my P&H Airies with the gear I'd need for a couple of days, and head to Patos Island.

I wanted to use the Airies because I foresee myself and others using the boat to get to surfing destinations which may be days away from a launch spot.  Once there, we unload the boat, set up base-camp, then enjoy the attributes of a surfable "play boat",  instead of a larger expedition-style sea kayak.  I was curious to experience paddling the boat loaded for a few days to see how it behaved and moved through the water.

Loading everything I needed wasn't a problem, and there was room for a couple more cubic feet of food and clothing as would be needed on a longer adventure.  I paddled out and set up for a 5-mile crossing with the current, but against the wind and chop.  Of course, the boat behaved differently being so laden, and the conditions would have been slow for any boat due to the steep, pitching seas.  That said, I made decent time and paddled the 7 miles in about 1 hour, 45 minutes.  Average of 4 knots, and that included a small play at an overfalls created by West Bank.

All the stuff for a couple of days...

West Bank is one of my favorite features in the area--it's a submerged reef which is a cool navigational exercise to find because it isn't visible from the surface.  At the intersection of two "lines of position" (in this case, a line connecting pt. Doughty and Little Patos crosses another line between Skipjack Is. and
Little Sucia) lies the shallowest part of the reef, which is like an underwater Sucia Is. in shape.  Kelp vibrates and flows with the current, sea birds abound, and harbor seals capitalize on the abundance of food which the reef attracts.

After a brief play, I continued my slight ferry angle to Patos, setting up camp at the most quiet site available.  I was famished, so after a good meal and delicious beer, I went for a walk to take in the sunset and test out a new camera I recently purchased.

It's a Canon Powershot D-20,  with HD Video, and 12.1 megapixels.  Of course, it's waterproof (to 33ft!) enough to take on shallow dives, shockproof, and there is virtually no lag time between pressing the shutter button and capturing the image--a huge asset for capturing action.  I had heard good things from other boaters about its predecessor, and am loving this high-quality next-generation.

I happened to find a sweet little nook on the north side of the island and, after getting comfortable, witnessed one of the most spectacular cloud-morphs while the setting sun painted the whole scene a vibrant, glowing red.  There came from the cloud an "otherworldy" shape which looked to me like a cross between a small mushroom cloud, and some sort of sentient being.  It's shape shifted and changed by the second, adding to my entertainment.

You never know what you'll see when you're on the water...

Focusing on the bizarre and beautiful...
I loved the wave-forms on the leading edge...

The more time we spend out in nature, really living closer to it, the more likely we are to witness these rare and beautiful moments.  It might be a striking sunset, it could be that one moment when an eagle swoops down out of a tree to snatch a mink swimming for shore (and the mink's narrow escape from death) or any other number of short-lived yet unforgettable events which become highlighted memories inspiring gratitude for where we are.

The next morning I rose early as I had a class to teach.  I decided to employ the ebb-superhighway for the paddle back, which utilizes the strong currents which exist along a bathymetric line north of these three islands.  Though this route increases the distance travelled, the stronger currents reduce the paddling time significantly, and it's an enjoyable strategy.  Via this route I travelled the almost 8.5 miles in 1.5 hours paddling at a motivated pace but not racing.  That's averaging almost 5.8 knots.

Overall, my conclusions about using the Airies for a basecamp-style short expedition is that it is entirely do-able.  Though not the fastest boat while loaded (due to rocker and short length), one would be thankful to paddle it back out to the rock gardens and point breaks often found in out-of-the-way places, play for a day, to return to a camp shared with like-minded friends.  This point has been proven by Sean Morely, using a Delphin 155, on a 4-day expedition around the Lost Coast last summer.  Read about it here:  Lost Coast 2011

Sean Morley surfing the Delphin 155 while transiting the Lost Coast, CA

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Changing Latitude...

Ryan gets tossed in the Delphin Surf 150
Yes, it feels good to be back in the Pacific Northwest after an interesting winter spent coaching in the Bay Area, exploring new spots to boat, hike, and watch sunsets with my sweet wife, and lots of water-time in the surf and open coast.

As I drove north over the course of three days, I was able to spend a bit of time with the crew of www.saltwoodpaddles.com/ in Portland, and hang out with good friends Mathew and Bridgette in Seattle.  I was really impressed with the smell and feel of spring as I passed into Oregon--a unique pungency brought on by all the new leaves, the humidity, made more beautiful by the many birds celebrating a new season on light and warmth.

I happened to return during some big tidal exchanges, so it was only natural to check in with my friend Ryan, and hit up the favorite spot.

Preventing evaporative cooling during a break!

Things got pretty decent as the current increased and the predicted wind from the southwest built, and within two hours after slack there were some nice 5-6 footers.

Over the falls?  Overfalls.

We had launched from a different area this day, so had an exciting paddle back with a huge ferry glide, and another violent overfalls all against the 20-knot wind.  After playing all day, it was a push to get back.  We both acknowledged that we tapped our "limit of adequate reserves"--something that has, and will, get paddlers into trouble.  As a coach, I scolded myself for not practicing what I preach, and acknowledged that if we break our own rules, an incident will inevitably occur.  

In this case, we only suffered some sore core muscles....