Friday, January 6, 2017

Kayaking danger rises with storm-fed rivers

Floodwater rescue drill from Glenn Brank on Vimeo.

When it rains it pours, and when it pours, kayakers should think....

...long and hard before launching into storm-fed water. A few days before Christmas, a couple of Folsom paddlers launched their 10-foot recreational kayaks on Lake Natoma, just above the bridges and in the narrows that channel water releases from Folsom Lake.

The current was running close to 20,000 cubic feet per second – approximately the speed and power of your average freight train.

One of the paddlers wore his smartphone in a waterproof case around his neck. Its video recorded the next 18 minutes, later posted on a Facebook page (but unavailable for public viewing, unfortunately). The kayak capsized almost instantly. Most of the

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Practical New Year resolutions for a kayaker

2016 draws to a close on the water
They tell us that the most successful New Year’s resolutions involve a small number of attainable goals – so here’s my kayaking resolution list, as simple as one-two-three:

1. Play it safe. Remember that every mistake can be a learning experience except for the final one, because that one is fatal by definition. Think about safety before a trip begins, checking weather, currents and tides; as well as tying the kayak atop a vehicle, and then launching with the appropriate gear and clothing.

2. Take out the garbage. Take a few seconds to remove a can or bottle floating nearby, or pick up a piece of garbage someone left at the shoreline.

3. Support the cause. Join or renew membership in local kayak clubs and non-profit groups that defend clean water and our rights to enjoy it. Now, more than ever, kayakers need to help protect our environment.

Happy New Year from NorCal Yak.          

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

High times coming soon for coastal kayakers

The ultimate high-water experience on Tomales Bay (click on photo to enlarge) 

It’s the perfect season to go paddling and get high…..

…referring to tides along Northern California’s coast, of course. SFGate reports that Marin County is bracing for flooding Dec. 10-16 and Jan. 8-14 during the extreme high tides known as “King Tides,” when the gravitational pull of moon and sun coincide to raise the ante, waterline-wise. This generally occurs during early winter months.

It’s also a time when big storms frequently wash over the coast. Such conditions can make for an interesting kayaking trip, providing paddlers are well-prepared for water from all directions. Last January, I convinced several fools – I mean friends – to join me on Tomales Bay during a King Tide. The forecast called for "scattered showers" that turned into full-blown squalls. Following is a brief video....

Monday, December 5, 2016

Last-minute holiday gift ideas for the kayaker

Holidays are a great time to kick back with a good book

Someone on your holiday gift list is a fanatical paddler…

 …and you haven't been able to figure out what to get for them. One of those $400 carbon fiber paddles would be nice, but they’re so hard to wrap, plus you had no idea they come in different lengths and blade styles. So consider something that's easy to order at the last minute and very practical, not to mention a lot less expensive – a kayak book.

In my opinion, there are two books that any Northern California kayaker should have on hand, for entirely different reasons – one a "where-to-how-to" and the other a "how-not-to". There’s a third text with few words and no narrative but it could help your fave paddler on big water. Here goes:   

Wonderfully reliable source of info 
The second edition of “Paddling Northern California” by Charlie Pike (Falcon Guides) is a 325-page guide that includes maps, photos and precise distances and directions to some of the best paddling water from sea to Sierra. It's a wonderfully reliable source of info. Several years ago, I paddled a stretch of the Delta with Charlie as he was researching this latest edition, and his maps and calculations were spot on. If your kayaker doesn’t have this guide, buy it. It’s easy to gift wrap, too.

My second choice is an entirely different type of book, recommended for its not-so-subtle message: Please avoid doing something stupid on the water, because it might kill you.