Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We Need A Go Pro!

Last Sunday we were invited to join BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers) on a down river paddle.  We have done a good share of ocean kayaking and A LOT of lake paddling, but this was the first time that we have had an opportunity to get out onto a moving river.  Most of the paddle was a lazy float with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, that is when not navigating through the maze of rafters and avoiding (or trying to get a direct hit, whichever the case may be) from their water cannons, but the best parts of this stretch of river were the two sections of Class II rapids that we got to ride through.

In all actuality, these rapids were no more challenging than the times that we have run Yellow Bluff on the San Francisco Bay, but the river was new to us and these were RIVER rapids. At least that is what our minds were telling us anyway. As the only camera we have right now is a point and shoot waterproof camera and I have yet to set up some kind of tripod system for videos and  I was too hesitant to release my grip on my paddle, we don't have any good pictures of these sections of water so you will have to use your imagination.

Soo picture this...

You are paddling down the river with twenty-four or so other paddlers.  You know rapids are coming up and this will be your first time experiencing them. Your nerves are building. With each little stretch of bumpy water you ask yourself, "Was that it?", but no, the group confirms that the rapids are still ahead. 

Finally, there in the distance you see the white water rising. You slow your stroke to let a few paddlers get ahead of you and watch as they approach the rapids.  They seem confident and in control as they paddle and brace through the white chop and hey, they are still upright, so you follow their line and make your approach. Just as you commit, you see a boat in front of you flip. Instinctively, you reach for the release strap on your spray skirt, just to make sure it is not obstructed and to give yourself one last mental reminder of where to reach... just in case.  There is no turning back now.  You find that you are no longer following the line of 5 confident paddlers, all your mind focuses on now is that one overturned boat being swept along. The current is sweeping you swiftly into the rapids and all you can do now is keep your hips loose, hope that you apply each brace correctly and pray that you don't make the same mistake that the poor wet paddler in front of you did. Another boat capsizes. You don't want to look, but you can't look away. The water is crashing over your kayak, spraying you in the face, splashing over your sprayskirt from the sides. The current and waves are trying to turn you sideways, you apply a stern rudder to quickly correct your direction and keep your kayak pointed straight ahead. A wave hits you from the side and you feel yourself tipping to the right, you brace. Another hits you from the other side and you start tipping to your left, you brace again.  A series of quick braces with a few stern rudder strokes thrown in and before you know it, you have come out the other side.

You scan the T-rescue attempts taking place to make sure your assistance is not needed.  You spot a piece of foam padding floating slowly down river, so you paddle over to retrieve it and return it to it's soggy owner. Then you make your way over to join the group waiting in the eddy by the beach.  Finally you breathe and a huge smile crosses over your face.  You went in a novice and you came out the other side, upright, relatively dry and with more experience and confidence than when you set out!

The only problem?  There is only one more set of rapids left to go through before the day is over!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

1st Annual Lake Tahoe Sharkfest

Last weekend we had the opportunity to volunteer as kayak swim support for the first annual Lake Tahoe Sharkfest put on by Envirosports. It was a perfect day for this event, the sun was out, the weather was hot, the water was warm, and  there was no wind. It could not have been a more beautiful day or location.

We felt very lucky to be a part of this event. We love supporting the athletes, cheering them on, giving them encouragement and helping them out when needed and the athletes always show so much appreciation for our being there. It feels good to watch the last swimmer cross the finish line, especially when it was someone who had been struggling, you can feel their determination and their sense of accomplishment and it is hard not to cheer your loudest for them.

This was the fourth event that we have volunteered for with Envirosports. Some races go so smoothly that you feel as if you are just a front row spectator at the event. Other races may have your addrenaline pumping.  We have had races where not a single swimmer needed assistance and others where I have had up to 3 swimmers hanging on to the bow of my boat at one time and it seemed that once a swimmer either got picked up by the jet ski or decided to continue, I had a new one coming to hang on. A few times I have had to paddle to pick up a swimmer with swimmers already hanging on to my bow. You never know what is going to happen, you just need to be ready for anything.

The swimmers gathered behind the lead kayaker,
waiting for the Coast Guard boat to blow it's horn, signaling the start of the race

And they're off!

The pack is starting to thin out. We took sweep to make sure that there were no swimmers left behind.  The beginning of the race is where a lot of swimmers either drop out or need a minute to hang on while you give them a pep talk and once they regroup they are ready to continue.  This race was an easy one.  All of the swimmers were well prepared for open water.  There were no swimmers needing rests and no drop outs, each and every swimmer made it to the finish line on their own power!

The final swimmer crossing the finish line among much cheering from the crowd and the swim support crew! Total time: 1:07:52
A great day!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spreading Our Addiction

Over the Fourth of July holiday we had the chance to go back to KK2's hometown of Ithaca, New York to visit family and friends.  While we were there we decided it would be fun to spread our addiction onto his family, and his sister and her boyfriend were more than willing participants.

We headed out the main inlet to Cayuga Lake and then into Stewart Park and the inlet leading to Ithaca Falls.  Along the way we saw lots of wildlife..

The water was really shallow and rocky and the current was running from the falls.  I managed to pull myself along by grabbing onto rocks and pulling myself forward.  At times I would get stuck on a rock and when I would finally free myself the current would push me back making me lose all the ground I had gained, but with a bit of determination, I finally made it up to the falls.

We explored more of the inlets on the way back.  It was fun to see the town of Ithaca from the waterline and a first for KK2 after 40 years of living there.

Thanks to the guys at Puddle Docker's for making such a memorable trip possible!  We have two more kayakers in the family.  They did 7 miles with us their first time out.  I am eagerly awaiting another trip with them.  Now it's their turn to come out to California and get on the ocean in some real kayaks!  :D

I think she's hooked.  Mission accomplished!