All about Franlkin Point - Big Bites, Video & Information

                                                           That's a Big Bite
                                                                              By Bill Vonnegut

The Franklin Point rock gardens stretch for only about 1 mile off the coast. But in this one mile, you can find a full day of challenging yourself while making your way through the maze of rocks and coves.
Still fresh in my memory, even though it was years ago, is the day I met some friends, Lucy O'Brien, Tony Johnson and Dave Etheridge, down there for what was Roger Schumann's first Rock Garden Rescue class. This class was sparked by an incident we has a few months earlier. Wanting to get more training, we  contacted Roger, and he agreed to create a class (for a detailed description and pictures of this class, by Tony Johnson see below) for us that was not offered yet. We were told there was going to be a lot of "swimming" involved in this class. That was all I needed to do something I wanted to do for a long while, buy a dry suit. So I ended up wandering into California Canoe and Kayak and purchased my shiny new suit.

The day of the class after gearing up in lots of warm fleece under my new suit, we proceeded to do the hike down the trail to the beach. It's a hard-packed trail, so any wheels will work just fine. After stashing our wheels in the bushes, we proceeded down the steps to the beach. We had just set our boats down, when we turned to see something on the beach. Oh, its just a seal carcass we thought. Until we looked closer and saw where a shark had taken a very large bite out of the carcass. We have paddled here before and knew this was a sharky area. But seeing this just before we were to spend the day in and out of our boats and swimming throughout this area gave us a little more than we wanted to think about. Of course once we got on the water and Roger asked who wanted to volunteer to be a victim and go for a swim. I could not wait to try out my new dry suit and jump in. We all ended up swimming that day, I guess the love we have for rock gardening outweighs the fear of sharks.
                                                               About Franklin Point:
Franklin Point is located between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz Ca, just south of Pigeon Point Lighthouse.  Franklin Point is a wonderful place for rock gardening, only one mile from point to point, however, you can spend the whole day playing on many of the features in this area.
Franklin Point Rock Garden Map

The put in at Franklin Point is a sandy beach protected from most of the NORTH swell by a series of rocky reefs. In fact, this whole stretch of rock gardens is protected from most of the North swell by the Point.  Franklin Point is a place where more fun can be had on a smaller day. (say under 6-7 ft @ 13 just for an apx. reference) the more northerly the swell, the more protection.  After launching, you can head south to the reef, its a short distance from the put in, there you may find some rocky surf breaks to catch a few rides.
Allen Shaw at the pour over on the Point
Or, north into the rock gardens, here it's possible to weave your way through the inside passage and be sheltered from some of the ocean swell.  After working your way up to the north end of this area you'll find a big pour over on the point. This area is much more exposed to the ocean swell, conditions will be bigger as you round the point. If getting around is possible the reward of a decent surf break will be looming just around the corner. The day we filmed this video it was about 5-6@13sec.
  There are a couple of protected coves in this stretch just north of the put in where conditions will be smaller for some low key play or an easy lunch stop.
Parking is in the turnout across HWY 1 from Whitehouse Canyon Rd.  There is a trail leading down to the put in, this is a few hundred yards long so wheels are a good idea. I normally stash them in the bushes for the day.
Also use caution as this area is just north of Ano Nuevo a place that is know to be a very sharky area. On a couple of occasions we have seen dead seals on the beach with large bites out of them:
Since the 1970s scientists have known that great white sharks congregate at seal rookeries around the Farallon Islands, Ano Nuevo Island and various points off Central California from August to February.

                                                          More On The Class
                                                                        by Tony Johnson
                                                                                 with pictures

 The class included hazard assessment, group leadership, cultivating a reputation for safety, safety gear, swimming, seal landing/launching, self rescue, short tows, throw ropes, maneuvering boats w/o ropes, and many different rescue scenarios. One area we spent time in was a rock outcropping pocket, open to the ocean, and in front were several features.  To the right was a slot with different dynamics.  We did lots of scenarios in this area, such as, going in with boat, (stern first/ bow first) rescuing swimmer as he/she hangs on to your boat. We did this same rescue with a swimmer on the back deck and practiced getting the swimmer out with their boat and gear. On several occasions we divided the rescue by calling out to the group what parts of the rescue they were willing to do.

We also used throw ropes in this same area, as a LAST RESORT. After lunch we all tossed throw ropes to one another, than got into our boats and did more tossing.  It's difficult to throw from your boat, even more so when ropes are wet. The lighter ones worked best, I was able to throw much further than my heavy bag.  Throw bags did work, but most definitely should be a floating bag and line.  On one rescue, my line landed in-between two crustacean covered rocks however, the line stayed on top and washed over.  Throw bags can be a hazard, and when used they are difficult to put away in rough conditions.

I really liked it when Roger, without the rest of the group knowing, set up a swimmer condition inside.  We also played out a dislocated shoulder situation (I had to use my quick release on this one) as a group and as a two party.  The two party scenarios required climbing out and looking for help.  I also enjoyed dumping and climbing on a rock, hauling our boats up with us.  While on this rock we had a short talk then Lucy and Roger did a seal launch!

"Thanks Bill for initiating, this was a great class with good people!
Hope to paddle with you folks again soon."

A little on how we push our limit

Our group loves a good challenge. We try to improve ourselves by making experienced decisions and pushing our own limits to improve our skills. Sometimes it may look like boat bashing and sometimes it may look easy. But there is a little more substance behind our group that you don't see in the videos. Here is a great example of someone pushing the limit. This is a difficult run on the outskirts of Noyo Bay in Mendocino. Lucy did not make it the first time and got worked, th
en came back using what she learned on the first run and made it look easy.
What makes this run so tricky? A lot of amplitude is needed to clear the rock, plus it was Lucy's first time using a WW boat in Rock Garden paddling, So she didn't take Into account that the boat was slower than the 14.5ft Looksha Sport she was used to.
After the first run Lucy talked with us about how to improve her timing and her takeoff angle. The second run she accelerated sooner to beat the crest of the wave, and she also switched to a different approach to get more help from the current of the wave washing over the rock. The result:
A clean run over the rock and a huge air drop over the other side, FUN!!

Take a class to be a safer paddler - by Bill Vonnegut

 A few years ago I was kayaking in the north end of Lake Natoma, a small lake in Sacramento. Folsom dam releases water a couple of miles up from the put-in that flows through a canyon with some very steep walled sections. Since they release water from the bottom of Folsom Lake,it is very cold in this canyon. It was warm and sunny when I launched and headed up the canyon. A large release from the dam was causing
strong currents.

 As I made my way up I came across a group of 4 paddlers in recreational boats. Like me, they were eddy hopping up through the canyon. I said “hi” as I passed by, they looked like they were having fun but were coming into an area where the current increased. As I went around the next corner I found a nice rock with a surfable wave on it and stopped to play around for a while. Then I realized that the group of 4 hadn’t arrived yet and decided to take a peek back around the corner. What I saw was a boat with no one in it floating down the middle of the river about a 100 yards away. The boater of a second kayak was paddling around it without saying a word. I decided to paddle back and see what was going on. As I rounded the corner I saw two of the boaters sitting in an eddy, I asked if everything was all right and they replied “yes, everything is fine.” Not believing them I continued back down river where, around the next corner, I found the missing kayaker holding himself pinned up against a sheer rock wall almost chest deep and no place for him to exit the water. He was shivering in his shorts and t-shirt. I had him climb onto my back deck and paddled him down river where I was able to get him back into his boat. This could have turned out pretty bad if he was in the water for much longer.
A basic class would cover all of this and make everyone much safer on the water–likely preventing this from getting as far as it did. It would have taught them how to get their friend back into the boat on the water, how to tow the boat over to their friend instead of just watching it drift down the river, how to signal someone for help, and a little bit about hypothermia and what will happen if they just leave there friend sitting in very cold water. It may have even taught them the paddling skills to prevent the wet exit in the first place… 

 The Foundation,
 When you build a tall building, if you just set it on the ground it will still stand. But when a storm kicks up, you will want one that was built with a strong foundation. So, in construction we have professional architects and engineers that design a solid building from the ground up. Sure, you and your buddy can fumble through it and build the building on your own. But it will probably take longer and wobble a little more than if you had paid a professional who has been doing it for years and knows the best way to proceed from the ground up.  
Which brings us to kayaking. When I started paddling, I started with a basic day-long sea kayak class at California Canoe & Kayak (where I now teach) and then went out and practiced on my own. Then, I took the next level class, which reviewed the prior taught skills and built upon them. For example, in the second class I learned what edging was, the how, and why we use it (and I still to this day use these skills). I benefited from the time the school spent over the years determining the best way to teach the skills progression. My buddy could have showed me this, but it would not have provided me the foundation and progression to let me really learn it.
The type of class you want varies by the type of paddling you will be doing. For flat water kayaking, the initial focus is on basic strokes and rescues. For white water, rolling is considered an essential skill, and thus is taught relatively early on.
 Never Stop Learning,
 There are classes for all levels of paddlers. Just because you paddle well doesn’t mean you know it all. I am a certified instructor who is comfortable paddling in all sorts of conditions in the bay and on the open coast, but there is still much for me to learn.
 One day on a coastal paddle I initiated for our club, we had an incident where someone came out of his boat in a very nasty spot in the rocks. After about 20 minutes of solid efforts from the group, the paddler was rescued. Afterwards, I felt I needed to be more prepared if something like this happened again, so, together with a few other solid paddlers, we contacted Roger Schumann who developed and taught a white water rock garden rescue class for us. He set it up and we spent a whole day on the coast doing actual rescues in conditions that were challenging just to paddle in. Many of the local shops have advanced classes for all types of kayaking. Some are regularly scheduled, and some are special classes where the school brings in a renowned expert from outside our area to teach. And there are also symposiums, such as the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium or Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium where high-level instructors are brought in for a few days of intensive classes.
Also, as classes progress so does the safety instruction. Every class should have a safety component to it.
Whether it’s a river rescue class or a surf zone class, getting instruction on how to be safe is important.

Don’t Forget the Fun,
 After writing this I realized I missed an important issue: FUN. I had sent a draft to Gregg Berman, a kayaking instructor, guide, and author of articles in kayaking magazines who summed it up well: “Your enjoyment can be greater with an increased skill level, whether you want to surf or rock garden or fish or watch birds. Learning to control your boat can make you more efficient so you have more energy while paddling. And wherever you go, instead of worrying over conditions or distance from shore (though some level of awareness is certainly prudent) or whether you’ll capsize, you can play. People always remark to me how much fun it looks like I’m having on the water, because my skills give me the confidence to goof off and have fun, regardless of where I’m paddling or what I’m doing”.

So instead of sitting on the sidelines, wishing you had the skills to paddle in all except the nicest of conditions, get out and take a class and become a better paddler.
 Bill Vonnegut

Trapped Inside at Devils Slide - by Bill vonnegut

 “Myself and a few friends got together for a paddle down the coast last December. The plan was to start a Linda Mar beach in Pacifica and head down the coast to Grey Whale cove while exploring the rocky features on the way. The forecast swell for that day was about 4-5 ft with a larger 9ft swell coming in late that night. We discussed before launching that we may get some bigger than average waves rolling in ahead of the upcoming surge. However we were not expecting the extreme change in conditions that occurred while we were working our way down the coast. Going back to the Half Moon Bay buoy history for that day this is what we found: According to the HMB buoy:
                       Wv-Ht     DPd    APd
        1:50pm    4.6           12      8.1
        2:50pm    5.2           21      9.1
 Note the 21sec period waves mixed in. These readings came a short while after our incident occurred, but we were there for the preview. Since the longer the period swell travels faster than the short they will arrive first and since the height of the swell was almost the same as the short period swell these would be hard to see coming also break in deeper water so that would explain how that first set seem to have come out of nowhere on the outside of our position. We paddled down the coast that day exploring many coves and features along the way. It was a normal day with very consistent sets of waves some bigger than the others but nothing more than an average day. As we neared Grey Whale cove our destination for the day we had paddled into the bay just north of it. This is an interesting area where you find constant waves reflecting off the wall of the cove and colliding with the on coming swell creating a zipper effect.
We have been in this area before under what seemed to be at the time larger conditions and found it a very exciting area. Everyone who went close in to this area had a solid roll. We had been in that cove for a while that day and had seen where the biggest sets would break and were staying outside of that area. I was caught totally off guard to what happened next. A wave up from what seemed to be out of nowhere appeared just behind me and caught me totally off guard. It knocked me over and picked Mark up and dragged him quite a ways into shore. Since that wave was much further out than all the waves that day and I had seen nothing break in that spot, I made the mistake of watching Mark rather than looking outside like I should have. Then I turned around and saw a monster wall up on the outside. If you notice the shot in the video where Cass is backing his 17ft boat over this wave and narrowly escaping, the face of the wave is at least a few feet longer than his boat. There was not enough time to turn into the wave so I ended up getting broadsided and sent screaming toward the rocky shore. All I could do was lay the boat on its side with the boat between myself and shore and side surf awaiting the collision with the rocks that I was sure to come. To my great relief the wave pushed me into a small cove and let go of me. At that point I had no idea if the next wave would come crashing over me or not. So I decided to jump out of the boat and scramble up the rocks and asses the situation. At that point I saw Tony paddling up, note that Tony’s hatch cover got blown off and he made it to the beach paddling a boat full of water. Mark got washed into the same cove after he had lost his boat to a large wave that had blown his spray skirt just outside the rocks.” Myself and Mark ended up getting trapped inside what was luckily for us the only spot in the large cove that did not have sheer cliffs. So we decided to climb our boats up about 800 ft to HWY 1 rather than risk getting stuck in another spot where we could not get out.

 Sergey was also hit by the same wave but was out of my camera range. He ended up loosing his spray skirt to that wave and we have been impressed how he has done a great job building his skill level in the short time he has been paddling.
Bill Vonnegut

 This is Sergey Yechikov's account of what happened and I would like to share it: “As for the incident I believe that boat full of water worked as a sea anchor that prevented me to be washed ashore at the same spot as you guys. I did rolled back after a first set of huge waves but realized that I am flooded and can not make over breaking stuff due to instability. I tried to swim away from impact zone and empty the boat enough to scramble in. I almost did that but was knocked over by the second set. Then I kept swimming to the right side of the cove seemed to be more safe and eventually trying to empty the boat. I had 2 possible options in the mind in the case of failure – abandon the boat and swim toward Cass and Peter or let the wave wash me and the boat onto the same spot as you. But at that moment from what I saw I was not sure that we can hike out of the spot. Luckily I did not have to make such a decision since I put my foot onto some solid surface. Probably that was rather a top of the rock than a sea floor because later I was not able to reach it. It was enough to partially empty the boat and do re-entry and roll. Then I punched through another set of breaking waves and paddle out to safety in submarine mode. Peter tried to reach me but I sent him away as we were still in breaking zone. Then we left the zone we did T-rescue to dump all water out.” Best, Sergey. “This is a good reason why you should use a high quality white water skirt and have float bags in the hatches when paddling on the coast. I will leave it here as I have a video below that explains the whole incident very well”