Archive for February, 2013

Winter wonderland, under a clear blue sky

Clear skies have dominated a large part of the winter here in Northern California. And with clear skies, come freezing temperatures. A few days ago while sitting in my car waiting for the window to defrost enough so that I could drive I found myself wondering if I had completely lost my mind. Here I was in my car, frantically rubbing my hands together to keep warm. On the roof was a frozen kayak, and I was about to drive myself to the Lagoon for repeated dunkings in the icy cold water during my Saturday morning rolling practice.

The frozen journey to the Lagoon.

The frozen journey to the Lagoon.

Once at the lagoon I marveled at the water, which even looked cold. An oily appearance lined the surface, which is a clear indication of freezing temperatures. Surrounding the lagoon in the grass and shrubs was a thick layer of textured frost. But I got in my kayak, and went through the rolling list, taking breaks in between rolls to warm my fingers and nose. I was now thinking that everyone else had lost their minds. I was there alone, with the exception of a lone gray egret watching from a post and sharing the serenity. Even the usual river otters had gone into hiding.

A frozen kayak.

A frozen kayak.

The ocean also has plans for the winter months, and recent weeks have brought about some very long swell periods. Long swell periods often create a very peaceful environment offshore, and a paddler can marvel as the huge swells lift and lower then with gentle force. This same swell when it hits the beach or rocks however can create large, powerful waves and challenging rock garden conditions. Recent afternoons have provided steady wind, and some days it’s been easier to go for an afternoon hike in our surrounding redwood forest.

Sunrise at Trinidad.

Sunrise at Trinidad.

The Explore North Coast club preparing for a day on the water.

The Explore North Coast club preparing for a day on the water.

Long swell periods offshore provide a calm environment.

Long swell periods offshore provide a calm environment.

Around the rocks things can be exciting.

Around the rocks things can be a bit more challenging.

For Mark and I, December through February is our “off-season,” and we try to enjoy every minute of it. And even on those days when it seems totally crazy to go out on the water, we’re always glad we did.

Michael experiments with a Euro blade.

Michael takes a break by Pilot Rock.

A great day on the water.

A great day on the water.

Simplifying the Roll: October 3, Anglesey, Wales

Date: October 3

Location: Anglesey, Wales

Description: Topics that can be covered include first rolls, other-side rolls, layback paddle rolls, forward finish paddle rolls, norsaq rolls, hand rolls and beyond. The techniques examined can be used with any type of paddle and any type of kayak.

Contact: For more information, course fees or to register, e-mail

Body Types and the Balance Brace

Question: Do certain body types make the Balance Brace more difficult? Like my overweight midsection? Or a long, tall upper body? What about a boat with a high cockpit rim?
Answer: There are many factors that play into the success of a Balance Brace, and the things that you mentioned are some of them. A Balance Brace is essentially the “sweet spot” where your upper body floats flat on the water, while your lower body keeps the kayak upright. It is crucial to have your shoulders as flat as possible. Think of the position that your upper body is in when you float on your back in a swimming pool. The trick is to get your upper body in this position, while keeping your lower body engaged enough to keep the kayak upright. Flexibility certainly plays a part, more so in fact than body shape. A Balance Brace can be performed in any kayak, although some are more comfortable than others. The height of the coaming is a comfort factor, but so is the shape of the kayak. We’ll be releasing a new DVD in May called Yoga for Outdoor People. It will cover specific asanas to help with specific rolls, with the Balance Brace being one of them. Keep an eye out for it 🙂

Storm Gathering USA: March 3 to 5, Trinidad, California

Dates: March 3 to 5

Location: Trinidad, California

Description: Storm Gathering USA is a sea kayak symposium designed for those wanting to take their skills to the next level. Although designed for intermediate to advanced sea kayakers, the symposium will also have classes suitable for advanced beginners.

For more information: Click HERE.

BCU 4 Star Sea Assessment: May 17 to 18, Anglesey, Wales

Date: May 17 to 18

Location: Anglesey, Wales

Description: This two-day discipline specific assessment is designed to show that a successful candidate has the appropriate level of skill to safely lead competent paddlers on coastal journeys in moderate water conditions. Achieving the award demonstrates that a candidate is competent to judge the conditions and the standard of the group to make appropriate decisions on the water, while showing an understanding of the need to modify plans when required. The assessment will be against criteria set out in the BCU 4 Star Sea syllabus and will cover the following areas:

Personal Paddling Skills

• Lifting, carrying and launching/landing
• Efficient and effective sea paddling skills
• Forward paddling
• Reversing and stopping
• Maintaining direction
• Changing direction
• Moving sideways
• Support strokes
• Rolling
• Practical navigation

Rescue Skills, Safety, Leadership and Group Management

• Boat and shore based safety and rescue skills
• Incident management and first aid in the 4 star environment
• Being an effective team leader and team member in rescues/incidents
• Application of leadership
• Leadership strategies, judgement and decision making
• Safety awareness and risk management
• Group control and management
• Equipment


• Safety (includes coastguard and rescue services)
• Weather
• Hypothermia/first aid
• Access
• Planning
• Group awareness and management
• Navigation
• Etiquette (includes collision regulations and signals)
• General (and historical)
• Leadership responsibilities
• Water features/hazards

Prerequisites: Endorsed LR form; BCU 3 Star Sea; BCU 4 Star Training (or equivalent evidence); BCU Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning (or equivalent course); a recognized first-aid award (minimum 8 hours).

Further Information: For syllabus details, visit the BCU website.

Contact: For more information, course fees or to register, e-mail:

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