Lumpy Waters Symposium 2010 Sunday – Three Arch Rocks

25 10 2010

OK Sunday morning at Lumpy Waters Symposium I was feeling the effects of three days on the Oregon coast. Definitely a bit worn out.

Badge of honor-dry suit rash from NRS and Kokatat...1 per day

And showing the effects of a tight fitting neck gasket! Gotta do something about that.

I was scheduled to do a Three Arch Rocks tour, and I knew several paddlers had to be rescued there Saturday and one guy threw up seasick. On the other hand the weather had calmed somewhat. But I just had to be there because two of the instructors would be Leon Somme and Shawna Franklin of Body Boat Blade! They are two of the best instructors in the country and I couldn’t miss a chance at experiencing instruction with them! And Mark Whittaker of Columbia River Kayak School was also teaching. In fact, Rob Avery of Valley Sea Kayaks and Karl Cohagen of Kokatat were paddling.

Coaches Leon, Shawna, Rob and John

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is a really special place. It’s an Oregon landmark. Home to cormorants and gulls, it’s also a nesting site for tufted puffins, storm petrels, common murres, and pigeon guillemot.

It’s also a pupping site for the 2,000 lb stellar sea lion. It’s rare to get close to the rocks, because Federal regulations prohibit watercraft from coming within 500 ft of the rocks from May 1st to September 15th – the time when it’s calmest!

It was spectacular weather! As dawn broke frost covered grass and windshields. But the day was to warm to near 70 degrees! At breakfast everyone was talking about how crazy incredible the weekend’s weather was turning out! THREE days in a row of clear, pleasant weather in OCTOBER on the Oregon Coast? And, no fog whatsoever! WOW. It’s so unlikely especially as those of us who were trying to practice the weeks before the event kept finding the coastal conditions big – swells often over 10 ft and smOur destination comes into view!all craft warnings. We couldn’t get over our good fortune!

We headed to Oceanside, about 30 minute drive north. The route winding along the coast revealed vista after vista of fabulous headlands and gentle seas! Here’s what I saw as I neared the town.

The Three Arch Rocks tour had 24 students signed up. So it was split into three classes, and I got Shawna and Mark Whittaker! I was so excited not only to watch Shawna paddle, but to experience how she teaches.

Yeah, I knew the dry suit was open. I just threw the PFD on while carrying stuff to the beach!

Since there were so many students and coaches it took a while to get organized, but it was such a lovely morning. Everyone was in great spirits. They put some rocks on the beach and drew some lines representing Three Arch Rocks and the wave energy surrounding. Sunday’s swell was 5-6 feet max, and there was calm wind when we started. There would be some reflected waves on the north side.

Launching was pretty basic, except that once a little beyond the beach the surf was breaking in two directions, meaning you’d punch through one and then there would be another coming right at a 45 degree angle – so you’d need to quickly turn the kayak into it. Once beyond the small breakers it was nice!

Like Saturday it took me a few minutes to settle in. One problem was the paddle. I figured since it was a “tour,” and calmer I’d use the low-angle Werner Kalliste paddle. But right away, getting out through the surf zone and into the moderate swell, it didn’t feel right. Right then Shawna was talking with another student about using high angle for dynamic conditions and with that, I switched to my high angle Werner Cyprus. I should have loosened my thigh braces out a click, though!

It was 3/4 mile to the rocks. Very pleasant paddle, and as the rocks drew closer we saw there were some caves and smaller outcroppings. Plus, various birds and some small sea lions about. The sea lions, probably pups, watched us closely and once we got too close they jumped in the water and made their escape! I witnessed a brutal struggle amongst sea birds. A cormorant came up out of the water and swallowed a fish – then flew up 30 feet onto a steep ledge. Almost immediately two gulls began harassing the cormorant, until it eventually regurgitated its hard fought catch – and one gull immediately wolfed it down. So, even a swallowed fish is still in play! Not fair!

Here’s a video by Chris Lockyer, one of my Saturday instructors, of what it is like paddling in the area! Kind of hard to watch.

Watch the video by clicking on this text.

Shawna and Mark Whittaker were my coaches. Watching Shawna paddle, and experiencing her coaching was like watching a symphony performance. No matter the rocks or water surging around – every stroke/rudder movement was smooth, and all the while smiling, remembering the students’ names and giving everyone personal attention. She’s very re-assuring, calming nerves, telling students to breath deeply. We made some moves in and around the rocks near one of the big arches.

We found a small sea cave too!

Then we moved out to the weather side of the arch. There, the conditions were different as the swells reflected off the arches. But it wasn’t as unsettling as off Cape Kiwanda Saturday. Shawna suggested we paddle the surge in between two of the arches. That was fun and exciting! The swell surges in between, squeezing through the arches, and you kind of get “pushed” along as on either side of you it crashes along the rocks.

The group paddled through the arches. Randy tried to do a re-enter and roll in the swirly conditions in between the arches, but after several attempts gave up and got an assisted rescue from Mark Whittaker. Laura, back behind the arches did a nice cowboy self rescue! I didn’t feel like it because I already did that the day before. But now I regret not doing a roll out there just for kicks.

We played around the rocks for another 45 minutes, and then heard one of the other groups needed to head back because they had a sea sick paddler. We eventually decided to head back to the Oceanside beach, too.

I was one of the first to try the landing, and I picked up a little surf and rode it in, only to capsize and get thrashed in knee deep water. No matter. I forgot my Feelfree Kayak Snap Pack was hung around my neck with my non-waterproof camera inside! I dreaded opening it but was excited to find my camera 100% dry inside!

Well, the day was done. I was really stoked to have Mark and Shauna as my coaches, and maybe I’ll just have to take a session with Body Boat Blade. What a great weekend of ocean paddling!

Here is a 14 minute video of some of Lumpy Waters 2010!

Lumpy Waters 2010 Saturday

23 10 2010

Another day of Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe’s Lumpy Waters Symposium!

Saturday broke beautiful and blue bird clear! My class for the day was Cape Lookout Tour. It was to be an all-day class and I was really looking forward to it. In 2009 I did only half day classes, which are good, but I wanted to experience a full day on a major landmark on the Oregon Coast.

My cabin-mates Stuart, Gary and Dave all got along well. Friday night everyone was crashed out early to re-energize by getting a good night’s sleep. At six a.m. I motivated to grab an early shower and get refreshed. Once done I headed to the “kitchen shed” where All Star Rafting’s staff put together a spread of breakfast goodies for the hungry paddlers. Everybody was in a terrific mood looking forward to an epic day on the water!

Classes gathered at 8:30 for a meet and greet and to set out the day’s plan. My instructors were John, Chris and Ron. Unfortunately they told us we couldn’t do a Cape Lookout tour because the swells were north->south, meaning very rough conditions on the north side of west-pointing Cape Lookout. Friday evening Neil Schulman told me a story of a time when he had a group launching on the north side of the cape and most wound up swimming. Later, Mark Whittaker told me he and Ginni Callahan had paddled down from the north one time to scout the put-in on the north side and described the conditions as “catastrophic.” Although there is a way to put in on the south side of Cape Lookout, it’s a complicated logistical problem with property rights/access issues.

The upshot was John proposed an alternative of rock gardening by Cape Kiwanda, then heading out beyond the cape to see what the north swell was like, then heading south to check out the haystack rock and maybe paddle to the mouth of the Nestucca River and up back towards Pacific City. That’d be a very long day but at that time we were up for it.

We launched and headed out into the swell coming into the beach at Pacific City. Weather report said it was a seven foot swell. Not all the waves incoming were that big.

Wind had dropped from Friday. Anyway we were given instruction on rock gardening in and around the rocks near Cape Kiwanda. It takes time to get used to the wave action but it’s manageable. You can surf down an incoming wave in between rocks.

We practiced along the rocks...

We did a bunch of laps. Then they asked us to try it backwards. Like surfing, rock gardening requires patience. You do OK if you pick the right surge to take in between the rocks. Everything isn’t as hard as it looks.

Then John said let’s go out into the ocean, beyond Cape Kiwanda. There’s a buoy off the cape, a good meeting spot. The swells were coming around the end of the cape and bending into the beach. The plan was to paddle beyond the cape, in between it and the haystack rock, and head north to check things out.

The swells entering the beach at Pacific City were all reduced swells – meaning despite their size, they didn’t have their full energy since they were wrapping around the cape. Also none of them were reflected. But once we rounded the cape we experienced their full energy, plus reflection off the cape. My kayak was going uphill on the incoming swells and downhill on the reflected waves.

North (left) side of Cape Kiwanda was much worse Saturday

Then there were “lumpy” waves, wind waves in between the swells. For me, even looking at the cape was unsettling. The swells were crashing against it. I had to look out to sea. I was not feeling sea sick, but I was feeling a sense of adrenaline making my body stiffen up. What was bothering me was that I knew I should be loose – my lower body should be able to be loose from the upper but I kept transmitting too much of the wave action from the boat to my upper body. Usually this feeling goes away in 10-15 minutes. Making things worse was I think my foot braces were a click too close, meaning too much body English /wave energy was being transmitted from the boat to my body, making it seem more unsteady. Out there, reaching under the deck to my feet to adjust the braces seemed unthinkable.

All smiles, besides pitch poling twice!

I was the only one feeling that way Saturday afternoon. Everyone else was comfortable. Either way, John decided to ask us to meet at the buoy, which was much further out to sea away from the reflected waves. One thing all the instructors told us was to keep moving if possible. They said think of it like a bicycle – it’s hard to stay upright if stopped, easy when moving. Same in a kayak.

Once we neared the buoy, I felt much better. Out there it was mostly incoming swells, less reflected. We headed down and planned to gather past the haystack on the south side. From where we started it looked to me like the swells were breaking way out on the seaward side of the stack. But John assured me it was just foam moving out to sea. That turned out to be the case, though it sure looked from afar like breaking waves!

So we spent some time messing around the rocks on the back side of the haystack. We all did some rescues back there. No problem. At least I can say I did my first deep ocean rescue! It seemed not much different than anyplace else I’d done it. Just the fact that the water was moving up and down 7 feet. It reminded me of rolling a kayak. It is all about nerves. If you calm yourself down, all the points are the same, just a different environment. If you do the same steps, so what if you are out in the ocean? You just remain calm and go through the steps. So I need to do a roll out there. It would be the same thing, just settle your brain down and do it. In fact they often say doing the roll calms your whole body down. Like getting wet – once you are wet it is all over and you are used to it.

Then it was decision time. Choices? Either head back to the beach for more rock gardening/surf session, or a long kayak to the Nestucca River mouth and another 7 miles up the river. We chose to head back to the beach area to practice.

Window shading!

Testing out the surf!

When done, I hung out on the beach watching the “Fear to fun in the Surf” class.  Here’s a video with lots of kayaks going back and forth, some succeeding, most not! And then…a paddler makes her way in and someone else doesn’t make it!

Here’s a 2009 video of Lumpy (conditions were more difficult) but there is one shot of me in the orange/black Pyranha burn heading out…

I even saw a woman pitch pole (rolling stern over bow) twice!

Later in the evening we had another happy hour and pizza! Then Karl Cohagen of Kokatat put on a fun trivia contest. Lots of schwag for prizes, all about kayak trivia! The unruly crowd was hard to control! One of the trivia questions concerned a pair of instructors from the Pacific NW…

During the trivia contest Karl did a shout out to all the instructors who came to Lumpy Waters!

Here’s Carl’s shout out for all the instructors!

Lower Columbia Roundup 2010 with Ginni Callahan

23 08 2010

Ready for wind & waves class!

About the third weekend each August a very special sea kayaking event takes place on Puget Island in Cathlamet, Washington. It’s Ginni Callahan‘s Loco Roundup! LoCo means “Lower Columbia,” and Loco Roundup draws paddlers from all over planet Earth.

Students and instructors gather at the Slow Boat Farm for a five day sea kayaking love fest. The setting, which is the lower Columbia, offers unlimited opportunities for paddling. Novices can explore back sloughs, nature lovers can cross the Columbia and venture through the many islands of the Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge on the Oregon side. Those seeking waves and wind can find it on the open river just west of Skamokawa – where summer afternoon breezes reliably pick up to over 15 knots coming in from the Pacific.

Last minute decision to tote along the step ladder pays dividends!

And the most advanced can head an hour to Ilwaco on the Pacific and test their mettle in the surf and rock gardens.

Home away from home

Everyone camps in a field…it’s a farmer’s field which is mowed for us. A

last minute grab from my garage is the step ladder. Instant kitchen shelves! Friday dawns clear and bright! My task this day is to guide an easy day paddle through the sloughs of Skamokawa-Cathlamet, but since it’s forecast to be mild, I intend to cross the shipping channel to check out the islands beyond.

At seven o’clock I participate in a great way to open up to a new day – it’s Cheri Perry’s yoga session. Stretching and opening one’s chest, lengthening the torso – it’s so key to kayaking!

Once done, round about eight o’clock, breakfast gets going in the kitchen…it’s the place to fuel up for the day’s activities. I chose the catered meal option – no messing around cooking. Boxed lunches were good.

Next to the kitchen is the mess tent and massage tent. Maybe I should have done the massage, I dunno. But it definitely was busy! Yeah, I should have. The complete day is begun with yoga and ended with massage, right?

We feasted on salmon Friday night – yummy!

Then, about 9:00 students and instructors gather to discuss the day’s plan. Charts are handed out. Some head to the sloughs to practice rolling, some to the open river for wind & waves and others all the way to the coast. We’re all excited!

The quality of instruction is the best in the world, this year’s event drew paddlers from Australia, New York, Maine, Brazil, Mexico, and California. This tends to attract serious paddlers: Many working on British Canoe Union (BCU) star awards and a lot who are into the more obscure “Eskimo” styles of paddling. But this has placed the “business end” of LoCo in a quirky spot. Some of the classes were three days long. The high powered classes and focus on Greenland paddling also turns many “Average Joe” paddlers away. Back in July I spent some time with Ginni and Mark Whittaker, and they were frustrated at lack of registration from novice and intermediate paddlers, despite some courses targeted at those people. I believe in what they’re doing and offered to help. I suggested they offer some shorter Euro paddle classes and see what happens. I also put LoCo on my own PaddleNW Meetup site to spread the word.

The good news was that two of these classes got plenty of registrants! Saturday was Euro “Wind and Waves,” and Sunday a “Guided Dynamic Water” paddle. These classes drew students! I believe I helped bring in some revenue. I also quizzed the students and they all agreed that they’d take more classes if there were options for intermediate level Euro classes that were one day length or shorter.

Saturday’s Wind & Waves class turned out perfect. For the purposes of teaching, hair raising conditions are not desirable.

Readying to head for some wind & waves

Ideally, some conditions are what you want – something for the students to figure it out without panicking. You want students to get the idea, to focus on the boat and paddle control and not focused on “staying alive,” so to speak. We got exactly that. We paddled around the sloughs and islands in the Julia Butler Hanson Wildlife Refuge, warming up our muscles and waiting for the wind to build.

Our class was taught by Henry Romer, a seasoned paddler renowned in the Pacific Northwest.

We crossed the shipping channel to a cove I knew would be a good lunch spot. This cove has walls on each side preventing views up and down the river – and the shipping channel is right in front. So, we had three huge ships just show up unannounced! This one was full, so it was riding low in the water.

During lunch, Henry explained how fore/aft weight distribution affects how a kayak behaves in the wind. Too much weight up front, and the boat will pivot on the bow end and weather cock. Too much weight in the stern, and it’ll lee cock. Ideally weight should be just a bit more up front so it can be completely balanced by the skeg.

The afternoon wind built during lunch so that we got some 2-foot waves and whitecaps, with the occasional 3-footer. This was perfect for our lesson! Our cove was a great teaching spot, too. We assembled at one end and then tried out what we learned by one by one putting our boats out into the waves and wind. We’d do circles with Henry watching. What he showed us is that when paddling upwind and you want to go downwind, use quarter stern sweeps to nudge the bow off the wind. Then, the wind helps push the bow downwind. When you think about it, that makes total sense! Then, once you run downwind and want to turn into the wind, use quarter bow sweeps. That will bring the bow around, and put the stern into the wind, so the wind can assist in pushing the stern around.

These simple techniques help a lot! The rest of the lesson, we paddled in the waves with the wind at our backs to Skamokawa. Henry also encouraged us to play with our edges, experiment and see what happens when going down the front of the waves. I sprinted a lot, trying to catch as many waves as I could.

I can’t wait to practice in wind and waves again!