Sunday, February 9, 2014

Strictly Business

When you do what you love for a living it's important... no, crucial to 'check in'.  Checking in with sponsors, media outlets, students, coaches and event organizers is all part of the game, but sometimes when you are out on the road, you gotta make the stops that keep you moving forward...

Fellow team paddler Matt Nelson and I took the long way home from The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium again this year in the P&H Custom Sea Kayaks rig.  We made our usual stop in Mendo to visit our friends Bryant Burkhardt, Lindsay Grossman, and of course Jeff and Cate of Liquid Fusion Kayaking.  They live in a magical place.  After spending the weekend on the job, it felt good to cut loose and pull hard just for the FUN of it.  We had two days, 650 miles, and countless waves to ride before getting back to the grind at Alder Creek. 

I could see it from the parking lot.  The locals know it well.  Waves were rolling in from the open sea, welling up and then pouring over a large ridge of rocky exposed reef just up the way from the launch at Caspar.  Once all were safely afloat and beyond the shore break, I went for it.  Warm from the paddle out, and eager from a weekend spent scouting waves for students, I went right to "work".

Paddler: Paul Kuthe         Photo By: Cate Hawthorne
You can tell when someone is in there element.  Few people I know seem so at home on the sea.  Jeff Laxier makes his backyard seem like Disney Land.  I tend to hang close to this guy to find all the best goods (and to stay out of trouble when the big sets roll in ;).

I love paddling out and setting up a circuit on a big pour-over on a rising tide with a solid team.  What starts innocently enough as an exercise in timing to make it over the low point in the rocks becomes a rowdy game of good natured one upmanship taking all our boating up a notch.  "Woot!  Woot! Outside!!"  As a big set moves in you get one last chance to check your position, and run the plan through your head.  Your mind goes clear and sharp as the floor drops out from under you.  The wave sucks you back as it gathers power then thrusts you up and over as it explodes against the rocks.  Everything else fades away into the sizzling whiteness and becomes unimportant.  All that matters is the now.  Too few are these pure moments in everyday life.

We move between the rocks along the coast searching for more goods.  We hopped like bull frogs from lilly pad to lilly pad; from treacherous frothy waters to the relative safety of deep dark pools and vertical rock walls.  Taking risks, but never rolling the dice; we gathered at every arch, cave, sot, and impact zone constantly taking stock, balancing risk and reward as we push ourselves further into the writhing and unsettled paradise before us.  There are endless lines to run.  The hardest part is picking which way to go for more.  Turning around and around, everywhere I look there is another corridor to experience and explore.  

As the afternoon winds picked up, we made our way into the beach and ventured up a small winding trail on foot.  It led through a large grassy meadow to an old, all but forgotten cemetery.  This peaceful resting place in the woods served as a welcomed reminder of the brevity of life.  While the "enter at your own risk" warning gave us pause we were sure to enjoy and take the time to check in with the local residence to see how they were doing.  It may be short, but we all have time to stop and appreciate all who came before us.    

The trail led to a wind swept ridge at the edge of the sea.  We all took in one last look at our playground for the day.  It would be back to the road and on to Trinidad for Matt and I the following morning.  We stood silently as we leaned into the cool crisp wind and stared at the sea.  We could all feel it.  We were parting ways and bidding the day farewell, silently but intently.  We won't be all together again until The Lumpy Waters Symposium this October in Oregon.  I'm going to miss my California crew and hope to paddle with some of them again sooner rather than later.

Matt and I rose early the following morning and headed out on "the 1" north to Eureka where we meet Jason Self from Pacific Outfitters to deliver P&H boats to the newest dealer on the west coast.  The line between work and play are often blurred in this business but this task fell squarely into the work category.  We soon found ourselves hucking plastic in a whole other way but made short work of things allowing plenty of time to really get down to business!  

Launching into beautiful light.  Photo by Jason Self

Matt Nelson and Paul Kuthe paddling out past Camel Rock       Photo by: Jason Self

Matt Nelson cutting right and threading the needle through the rocks   Photo by: Jason Self
Paul crankin to catch the outside break...     Photo By: Jason Self

Paul breaking out after a long ride in      Photo By: Jason Self

After pushin through the rocks all weekend it felt REALLY good to catch some green faces to wrap up our day.  Photo by: Jason Self

Thanks again to P&H/Pyranha for making it possible for Matt and I to travel south for the event.  Thanks also to Werner Paddles, Kokatat, Keen Footwear, Snap Dragon Skirts, Hilleberg Tents, and Outdoor Research for all your support and for understanding it can't all be...strictly business.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

P&H Aries 150 Review: Oregon Tested Boater Approved

The NEW Aries 150 has ARRIVED!  P&H is stepping up the short sea boat game and is helping to redefine the word "sea kayak" as a whole.  Some of the Alder Creek crew and I hit up the Oregon coast the other day for some boat testing and surf scouting at one of our favorite park and play spots.  
Photos by Andrew Romanelli     Paddlers: Paul Kuthe, Malcolm Kelly, Rene Emch
We headed out with the tide, gliding along on a perfect  conveyer belt that stretched from the parking lot straight out to the the rocky headlands and cliffs of Cascade Head and the open ocean beyond.    Small swell (about 4 foot) and a low low tide height allowed us entry into ALL the caves, tunnels, arches, and pocket coves; some of which rewarded us with some particularly sweet deep water reef breaks.  Pour-over rocks could be found around every corner.  Outside, there was wind and long period swell providing the perfect testing ground for this versatile coastal machine. 

There was enough energy in the sea to make things interesting without pushing anyone beyond their limits.  There were a few big rides and the occasional head rudder on one of the bigger breaks tucked inside one of the West facing coves.  When we had our fill, we pulled up on one of the rocky cliffed out beaches to stretch our legs and lay in the sun for awhile.  The late afternoon northwest winds picked up gusting to force 4 (about 16 knots) and would help carry us all the way back home to the Salmon River mouth just as soon as we were ready to let it.  

I kept things light but still managed to pack the essentials into the much needed day hatch that was added by popular demand for this season!  (It's nice to see companies respond to their coaches and athletes in the field).  The Aries has 4 round hatches capped off with Kayak Sport hatch covers that seem to be super dry.  At 165 lbs, 5ft 10in, plus about 20 lbs of kit I fit perfectly and floated at a great level in the water.  The super handy fore day hatch aka "whiskey hatch" is cavernous.  It in combination with the full size day hatch has me set up for coaching, surfing, or even the occasional "surfpedition"!  

The boat was faster than expected pushing into the headwind on the way up the coast and was begging to surf on the way back down wind at the end of the day.  The pick up and initial acceleration for dropping onto waves or sending over pour-overs was obvious.  For a 15 foot boat, it really moves.  I opted for a heavy lay-up so I was pleasantly surprised to feel how nimble and 'light' the boat felt on the water.  I pearled the bow a few times on some of the more critical take-offs, but managed to carve out once committed to one edge or the other.  The cockpit was set to the stern end of the boat to help prevent some of the issue and helped with tracking on the way back down wind at the end of the day.  

The Aries has a plum stern line creating a long water line and unique look on the water.  It was difficult to keep from broaching on the back surf, but overall, I'd say this boat is most at home in the surf.  For the well timed rock hopper the Aries is just fine, but being a composite boat, I'd watch it on the thinner moves.  (I DO look forward to The Hammer if you couldn't tell) 

On the wave, it felt buttery smooth and greasy with plenty of holding power to drive the line, but still nimble enough to push around a little.  The outfitting is super adjustable and made me feel right at home  as it's basically the same set up as my Pyranha whitewater boats.  The finish quality is top notch, and I gotta say I am LOVING the color choice.  Check out a few photos from our day below.  Be sure to stop by your local retailer soon for a demo this one.  I know I can't wait to get it on a big tidal feature.  Be patient though, I hear I have the only one on the West Coast of the U.S. for now.  More on the way though!!  More photos and footage available of this beauty soon.  
Over the top...
Photo By Andrew Romanelli       Paddler: Paul Kuthe

...Clean as can be!
Photo By: Andrew Romanelli      Paddler: Paul Kuthe

Photo By: Andrew Romanelli     Paddler: Paul Kuthe

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Northwest Creeking Competition is a grass-roots volunteer run event.  This year's race was no exception.  Community groups and paddlers teamed up with local retailers, vendors, and other organizations to put on a whitewater family reunion like none other.  Yes, we all hope for fast lines and that feeling of glory when you crush through the last big hole between you and the finish on your way to victory, but we all really show up for the family reunion.  With 131 racers and a record 14 women racing in the event the Northwest Creeking Competition is growing fast!  Way to represent ladies!  It was awesome to see so many women stepping up to the challenge and crushing many of the men's times.

The course was at a great water level this year producing fast times and major carnage on occasion.  The on water safety team was AMAZING!  It was great to have such dedicated and professional support crew on the course.  Everyone was back at the party by Saturday night (some just had a few more stitches than others). Overall folks did really well with the pushy water level.  

Like many sports whitewater has a culture all it's own.  The Northwest Creeking Competition brings together many of the best boaters in the West for a celebration of that culture and the places we call home...the river!  Enjoy a few photos of this year's event followed by a short list of a few results.  Full results will be out soon.  Be sure to visit for all the details and other blog posts on the event.

Un-Official Results:
East Fork Lewis (Saturday)
 Long Boat
1) Darren Albright
2) Louis Geltman
3) Mike Gotleib

Men's PRO
1) Evan Garcia
2) Louis Geltman
3) Andrew Mcewan

Women's Pro:
1)Kim Becker
2) Katrina Van Wijk
3) Nicole Mansfield

Raft (R-2)
Winners:  Tim Brink & Jamie Weaver

Canyon Creek (Sunday)

Men's K-1:
1)Louis Geltman
2) Gerd Serrasolses
3) Dan Rubado

Women's K-1 Overal All Champion was Kim Becker winning Canyon Creek and EFL!!!  Nice Work Kim!

Oregon Rafting Team members dropping in!  

Local Sponsors of the event.  Not shown here was Andy & Bax, Kayak Shed, the Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club, and more vendors than we can list here.  Thanks so much for EVERYONE's support to make this event a success!!

R-2 team pulling HARD.  Jeffrey Steehler and Greg Babikoff 

Louis Geltman boofing to victory as Ross Henry looks on in the Long Boat race.

Carnage happened even ABOVE the course this year.  Everyone was ok though.  Nice one Matt.  That is NOT a warranty issue!

Sunset Falls Start Line drop

Paddlers line up at the start lookin ready in the eddy!

Topo Duo BOOF!

Hope to see ya'll back next year!!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tequila and Rock and Roll! The 1st Annual Baja Kayak Fest in La Bufadora Mexico was a great success!

Yet another top notch sea kayaking event has hit the scene rounding out the trifecta!  A recent surge in demand for high quality rough water instruction on the wild West Coast of America is being answered by some of the best coaches and organizers around.  The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium in San Francisco and The Lumpy Waters Symposium in Pacific City Oregon raised the bar 5 years ago and are now joined by The Baja Kayak Fest this year down in La Bufadora Mexico!

 Photo by: Kate Ross
Students young and old are making the tour and taking their paddling to new heights, making friends, and partying along the way.  Hitting up all three events may not be possible for everyone, but I would seriously consider joining the fun and excitement experienced when you dedicate an entire weekend to rock, tidal rapid, or surf break skills at a full-immersion-style event that brings together students and coaches from all over the world.

Paddler: Paul Kuthe         Photo By Rob Avery

Each event is known for it's own specialty, but there is plenty of all the sea disciplines at each of these different events.  Short boat surfing, rock gardening, surfing tide and swell, advanced rescues and more. 

Baja has it all just like California and Oregon, but THIS event was mostly about rocking out.  Paddling in the rocks by day and rocking and rolling around the campfire by night.  Good friends, good tequila, and good tunes came together for an amazing weekend South of the border.

Photo by Mike Connell
Victor Leon of Baja Aquatics  opened his home, his community and his heart to our crew and showed us an amazing time.  Thanks goes out to Jen Kleck of Aqua Adventures in San Diego for organizing the 1st of many Annual Baja Kayak Fests to come! (we all hope so anyway)

For the rest of the photos and more info on the goings on at the event check out the slide show.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

This Is The Sea V filming with Justine!

TITS V is out!  This Is The Sea V is the latest from Justine and Cackle TV Productions.  Copies went on sale at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe last month.  I'm honored to have a small segment.  Enjoy a few seconds one of my days of filming with Justine over in Wales after The UK Storm Gathering.  Be sure to visit the sites and pick up a DVD to see the rest!