Tips On Back Surfing A Sea Kayak

by  tOM Humphries

Most waves this day were not big enough outside to carry to the break & impact zone, so we stayed inside the soup or in this case settled for catching short rides between the build & dumpy break, which can get tricky. Successful take-off, starting to plane-off in front of the building wave. Time to establish direction, starting with the outside edge carve while I go for a rudder to the inside.
All Photos by Mark Boyd

Planed-off with enough speed to have some quick fun in front of the building break wave. Looks like I'm just starting to come off from cranking a quick little turn to the looker's left. Ruddering on the inside of the turn and trying to carve with the outside edge,; this takes less speed from the boat and allows me to accelerate down the modest wave face. My left foot is pushing hard, right foot is light while I try to anchor with my right cheek,(no, not my face). Foot pressures ect. would be reversed if surfing forward.

Already time to set-up for the bail-out before the break in the impact zone. Starting a hard bottom wave cut-back to looker's right. Having built enough speed to start outrunning the wave, I can crank up that inside edge a touch along with my inside rudder, it feels a lot like banking or balancing a bike through a turn.

I still have good speed here and am just waiting for the right moment to crank into the wave to avoid either a pitch pole or window shade. You can see there are two waves converging just to my right; the wave on my right will be the foam pile I want to brace into. I'm just a little early here, so I'm coasting; I don't want to work back up the wave when it's about to dump and get worked in a windowshade. If I were in deeper water I might be able to cut-back hard to the left & run out the wave face but not here where it'll dump.

Making the exit move! If I don't get to a side surf here, my bow will get lifted causing my stern to auger in & prolly pitch me over. You can clearly see the speed I'm holding here, I want to crank it over hard to scrub some of that and to get sideways to the foam pile. Things are happening fast now and I want my paddle at the ready, hips are cranked as far as I can, left knee is up, right foot pushing hard.

Safe! Cranked hard into the wave first with a high brace, flicking my hips & boat toward shore then pulling my boat back under me & transitioning to a low brace as the foam pile catches up,(remember to keep elbows down & in when high bracing no matter what your hips are doing). Short, exciting & fun. Be ready to pay for moves like this one with plenty of failures. All the best, tOM & all The Neptune's Rangers.

How to repair scratches and gouges in plastic kayaks using ordinary poly tarp

I would have to say this process developed by Tony Johnson about 2 years ago is without a doubt the best way to repair scratches and gouges in plastic kayaks.  

Some time ago, Tony and I were trying to figure out a way to extend the life of our kayaks. Because of the countless hours we spend playing in the rock gardens along our coast. Even some incidental contact with the sharp rocks in our area can add up to gouges shortening the life of our boats. 
Tony and I had been exchanging emails on some of the products we had been trying (most testing done by Tony). We had tried everything from over the counter products like G Flex to just about everything Tony could find in his garage, including rope, plastic bottles and anything else that came to mind. Then one day Tony told me he had found something that worked very well, Poly Tarp. He explained the process and I also gave it a try on my boat......NOW after countless hours of testing I can safely say that there is no better way to make permanent repairs to scratches in your plastic kayak. This stuff is more abrasive resistant than the parent product and will not peel off. 
Bill Vonnegut

Tarp repair by Tony Johnson
Using the poly tarp color of your choice and a heated putty knife is all that's necessary to do these repairs. Just heating the putty knife enough to melt the tarp into the hull (on a molecular level) will be a very strong
permanent repair for filling gouges. The tarp can also be used to armor areas that are prone to making contact with rocks. This process only heats the putty knife and when done properly with not deform the hull, there is no need to back up the repair area.

I use a torch, any torch will work as long as it can heat a putty knife red hot. Cut the poly tarp into two inch strips. You can fold the two inch strip, making a one inch strip two layers thick for deeper gouges. Place the tarp on the repair area and melt the tarp into the scratch/gouge using the hot putty knife. Work the tarp as the knife starts to cool, being careful not to heat the hull to the point it starts to deform. If you have two gouges work back a forth between the two, giving time for one gouge to cool as you work on the other. Tarp comes in many different colors and can be used to do designs also on your plastic boat. There is also the option of using a butane soldering iron/torch with an attachment similar to a putty knife, however any wind at all seems to cool this product and make it unusable.

Tarp repairs

Tarp used as armor on the keel.

Liquid Logic Stinger - Rock Garden Review

by Allen Shah

Recently I and Tom Humphries, had the opportunity to test a boat that is being newly marketed as an ocean rock garden competitor. The Stinger, already established as a river whitewater boat is now entering a new niche, and we are told that we are the first to take this boat into our playground, the great pacific of northern California.

The conditions for this test were mild, with swells averaging 2-3ft, in a rock garden environment including pour overs, slots and caves. There was no significant surf to speak of, so considering the limited conditions in which we tested the boat, here are some of our impressions.
Mark Boyd
We have paddled a number of boats through rock gardens, including Delphins, Alchemies, Fusions, Hammers, and assorted other whitewater boats, but we both found that the Stinger is closest in characteristics to the Green Boat, which we are impressed with overall, and for that reason I will be doing some comparisons to that boat in this review.
Please refer to a previous review on this blog for an extensive evaluation of the Green Boat, along with some others.

The boat we demoed was not the XP version outfitted with the skeg or hatch, which will be on the boat for purchase. However I do not tend to deploy a skeg while rock gardening, and the boat with a hatch will not have a bulkhead, so weight will likely not be affected.

The boat is 12.5 ft, with a 24.25 width, and is listed as being 55lbs.
The stinger has a comparable bow in size and shape to the Green Boat, but the stern is elongated and more tapered, with more rocker. The chines on the Stinger are softer than those of the Green Boat, but extend much further, to the bow in front, and aft, where it melds into the seam, which is flush along most of the boat, but becomes sharp and pronounced as it extends to the tip of the narrow stern.
The Stinger has a relatively elevated foredeck, and is lower behind the cockpit, and the keel is flattened into a planing hull, compared to the Green Boat. With the lower aft deck I found this boat easy to roll.

The outfitting is good, considering there was not the stock foam in this demo available, and both I (5’11” and 165lb) and Tom (5’10” and 150) were able to find a good fit.
The seat can be moved front to back, and elevation can be changed, as well, depending on the confidence of the paddler with stability vs aggressiveness. For our demonstration the seat was in it’s lowest position, and moved forward to the maximum.

Without speed I found the Stinger reasonably stable, but not quite as stable as the Green Boat, possibly owing to harder chines extending to the stern, which tends to ride low in the water, while Tom felt no adverse instability, stating, “there is no sharp edge or carving rail to the outside of the flat section to be overly grabby when (in) chaotic waters.”
Allen Shah
At slow speed, I found the Stinger to track fair, and in my opinion will greatly benefit from having the skeg deployed. Both myself and Tom felt it did not respond quite as well to paddle strokes as the Green Boat did at slow speed.
Tom points out that the Stinger performed flat spins quicker, which I also agree with, due to the planing hull, which also allows this boat to bounce over incoming waves it is facing with ease.

We were both pleased with the acceleration of the Stinger onto a wave, and found this similar to the Green Boat.

Where the the Stinger separates itself is in acceleration after catching a wave, and as Tom comments, “ I think everyone that test paddled this boat had a surprise moment, getting caught off guard with the speed. Shooting through features requires anticipation, almost pre-emptive timing.”
After my initial surprise with this unexpected acceleration I was able to try it again, employing an early and aggressive edge, and the elongated stern with the seam/hard chine seemed to lock in with remarkable stability. With the speed, momentum and higher volume in the bow, it pretty much carved through everything in front of me, and in this test, on occasion, to nearly 180 degrees without using a paddle stroke.
Tom comments, “with speed it holds a line and carves like it’s on a rail.” and I found that with the sharp and controlled arc of its carve, it can fit through tighter spaces than significantly shorter boats.

We both concluded that the Stinger really shines at speed, in a dynamic environment, and richly rewards aggressive edging and body english, and the speed can either surprise the paddler, or be harnessed to great advantage with proper skill and execution.

Tom concludes, “I would place the Stinger between the Green Boat and the P & H Hammer, though more toward the Green Boat. That the Stinger is most easily compared to two of the best current playboats says a lot in a positive way IMHO.”
Tom Humphries
I conclude that I would not recommend this boat as an entry level rock garden boat, as I think there are more stable platforms with which to develop basic skills, but for those with the desire to raise their game in dynamic rock garden environments, as well as the skills they employ there, I think this would be an excellent choice.

A little extra by Bill Vonnegut

As Allen was finishing this spot on  review, Gregg Berman and myself were able to take my Hammer and the Stinger out for a little comparison. We were able to get the boats into some larger conditions and found the biggest thing we liked about the Stinger was exactly what Allen and Tom described about the boat accelerating out of pour overs. Whereas the Hammer would seem to power through them. The dynamic stability running features seemed about the same.  Though the primary stability of the Hammer was more solid, however that same stability seemed to make the Hammer get pushed around more in swirling water.
When getting hit by a wave from different directions the Hammer seemed to hold its own, where the Stinger got pushed around more. I do prefer the lower cockpit of the Stinger over the Hammer, but all in all there are no WOW! differences between these boats and a decision should be made by paddling them both and deciding what you like in a boat.

Complacency can get you into trouble

 Over time as our skills get better we may notice getting flipped surprised or into trouble in places that normally would not have been a problem when our skills were in the process of being pushed to a level higher than what they were presently at. We have mostly noticed this while paddling on the river, as we progress into more challenging conditions and gain experience in this fairly new venue for us. Though we have still noticed it in the ocean rock gardens even after paddling in them for many years.

Both oceans and rivers can have dangerous consequences if you let your guard down. These environments have eddy lines and holes that will grab your boat and flip you over very quickly. The ocean has waves that can sneak up and ponce on you if you are not paying attention.

Let's start with the inspiration for this post. It began with an email by Gregg Berman that lead to Bill Vonnegut's response. We are both primarily ocean paddlers that have been paddling the river a lot more over the last year.

Gregg Berman on the south fork
Here's Gregg's initial email:
Just leaving ER with a broken left thumb obtained while teaching on the river today. We'll see how long it holds me up. I was sweep for a group of 5 students as we headed through Old Scary on the C-G stretch. I was watching my students and encouraging them to paddle. I saw the hole coming but was unconcerned about me and just wanted to be sure they paddled through. All 5 students did with nary a capsize save for me. As often happens and Bill recently related, we often get spanked when we become too complacent. I floated through the small hole in the rapid but was surprised when thinking I was beyond it, it sucked my back end under, the nose went skyward in a beautiful stern pirouette and I was then upside down. My left thumb hit a rock hard forcing me to let go of the paddle with that hand. Then my right hand scraped rock. I only suffered some missing skin on the right hand and I wasn't gonna let go with both hands anyway. I soon regained the paddle with my left hand and rolled up. By the time we landed for lunch 20-30 minutes later I was unable to get my left thumb around the paddle and could not use it for things like opening a ziplock bag nor anything else. Fortunately I often practice paddling that way so was still able to teach the rest of the day but at lunch told Andy my co instructor just so he would know but we didn't share that info with the students. I taught all day and then at days end as I knew I would, I figured I should have it checked out. I know from working in ER's that when such injuries are not checked out, bone chips can migrate into the joint space and cause an impingement syndrome that causes temporary and sometimes permanent reduction of joint function. Well wouldn't you know, lucky me, that is just the sort of injury I have. A chip off the end, right at the joint where the thumb bends. Likely I won't have to do much but splint it but will follow up with an orthopedist I've been referred to, just to make sure it heals correctly.

Someone else recently mentioned the "deer in the headlights" phenomenon and I wondered about that for myself. I mean there was no adrenaline going or anything as this is a rapid I'm very familiar with and have played in a lot. For me though I know there was a thought of "Huh, what do you know, I didn't expect this," which I'm not sure but may have delayed both my strokes and my own leaning forward just enough to make them useless once my contemplative state subsided enough for me to take action. I think being unfamiliar too in the boat added to that. I find it unlikely the Jackson Zen would have reacted the same way because of its higher volume, more rounded stern profile. The Wavesport Diesel I was in "PADDLES"more like a play boat which they even discuss in the 5 boat review video Bill and I watched. For me that's a good thing but I just need to get used to how to paddle it after being in so many boats for so long which had been getting frustrating having to learn the differing handling characteristics of a new boat each and every time I got on the water. Still in the end I chalk it all up to user error on my part. I should have both focused on my students and still paddled while I kept cognizant of my own boat and where it was instead of doing one at the expense of the other as I obviously did. I'm fully capable of and perform both well when teaching sea kayaking and rock gardening. So I'll take this as a valuable lesson to myself not to be complacent. I've had that lesson in the sea enough times. Too bad I didn't transfer that knowledge to the low salt content water. I guess I'm just a sucker for a good lesson.

Gregg Berman

And Bill's response:
I hope your thumb gets better soon. I agree with what you mentioned about getting complacent. Most of the recent times I have found myself upside down, especially on the river have been because I have backed off my game. As I feel more and more comfortable on the river and also in rock gardens, things look smaller and less scary so I paddle through things not prepared to brace if needed, or less aggressively than I used to, which leads to needing to brace in the first place.

When I recently got flipped and wedged upside down while rock gardening at Goat Rock. I was running a slot that I had been through many times, even a few times that day. Because of this I felt very relaxed and not really thinking about the possibility of going over. As a consequence I let myself get into a vulnerable position. I was looking to my left watching Sergey and had my paddle in the water on the right as we ran a slot together. The position I was in looked just like someone that had pulled their head while trying to roll and went right back in, which I ended up doing when the swirling current caught my edge.
Bill getting complacent and flipped
When I got flipped in the situation that I just described. I could not find the surface to roll up. I set up on the right and waited, nothing, the boat was not moving. So I moved to the left and still could not find the surface, moved back to the right and as I was running out of air I just went through the roll motion. While sweeping my paddle I felt it hit a rock at about a 90 degree angle, not because my paddle was diving, but because of the angle of the boat, I ended up completing the roll using the rock for support. Later Sergey told me my bow and stern were pinned between two rocks.

Bill Vonnegut

These are just a couple examples of what can happen when paddling in dynamic conditions becomes routine. The point here is that we tend to be very "on guard" and "on our game" when we are pushing at the edges of our comfort zone. But as that zone of comfort gets bigger and bigger, the consequences for not staying on our game also become bigger and bigger. So go ahead and push that envelope but keep in mind the need to stay on our toes even while in a situation that has become more common place for us than it once was. Otherwise the result may be a lesson learned in a manner we would have rather avoided.

In fact that is the whole point of this post. So we can learn lessons from each other and be reminded of the ones we've already learned without having to endure each one ourselves or at least to not repeat them over and over. We can probably continue on with more stories like this, but then this post would run on for quite some time. So instead we are going to add a page to this blog dedicated to stories incidents like this. We would also be interested in hearing your stories trials and travails that in retrospect you find will enhance your own and possibly others paddling careers. We'll compile them and add the ones that would fit onto this new page we'll call "Lessons Learned".

Feel free to comment on this or other future posts on this subject. And be on the look out at your local retailer for another tale of personal "lessons learned" written and experienced by several of our own team which will be included in the new book in print soon   Sea Kayaker's More Deep Trouble
If you have a great story with pictures, send it to and we may post it.

Rock Garden Playboat Review + Video

Recently several of us (Tony Johnson, Bill Vonnegut, Allen Shah, Sergey Yechikov, Tom Humphries) did an ocean WW boat comparison at our favorite stretch of coast, Goat Rock. We compared the Fusion, Greenboat, and Hammer in a ocean whitewater environment. These three boats seem to be the choice for serious rock garden play in our area.

Pyranha Fusion
Small: Length 9' 8", Width 25"
Medium: Length 10' 3", Width 26"
Weight 51 lbs
Price $999

The Fusion is a crossover kayak. It's the jack of all trades in the group. It's the slowest kayak in the bunch when traveling between play areas. The connect 30 outfitting in the Fusion is the same outfitting found on
Pyranha's WW boats. This kayak also has built in deck features, bungees and a rod holder if you decided to take up fishing. The Fusion has one rear bulkhead with a round or oval hatch cover depending on the size of the boat. Our testers were able to use both the sm. and med. size. You will need to add perimeter deck lines and front flotation on this boat to make it seaworthy for rough-water rescues.

Dagger Greenboat
Length 11' 9"
Width 24.25"
Weight 53.5 lbs
Price $1,149

The Greenboat is all business with structural supports from bow to stern. It is a medal winning WW long boat. At the Greenriver creek boat race it took four out of five top spots one year. This is the only boat in the test that does not have a skeg. This can be a REAL problem if winds kick up. It is also the only kayak lacking bulkheads, so you must add flotation not only in the bow like the Fusion but also in the stern. As with the Fusion you will need to add deck lines on this boat.

P&H Hammer
Length 13' 8"
Width 24.5,
Weight 63 lbs
Price $1,799

The Hammer is a new play boat from P&H. The Hammer has multiple bulkheads, four hatch covers and seaworthy deck rigging. It weighs the most in this group. It also has the highest price tag, almost twice as much as the Fusion. If this was a surfing comparison the hammer would win hands down. This is the only boat in this group to really surf, not just ride on a big waves. The Hammer has less-than-stellar surf abilities for small waves.

We traded off boats on a beach that faces a rockgardening play area. The area in which these boats were tested has a collection of exposed rocks. Swells and breaking waves entered from more than one direction, creating a dynamic and complicated environment complete with surfable waves, pourovers, holes/hydraulics, and narrow passages requiring tightly controlled maneuvering.

In the parking lot before paddling we went over the list of features that we felt were important for ocean WW play. We decided regardless if we owned more than one of the boats or paddled it a 100 times we would all trade and paddle each other's kayaks for this comparison. We all tried to keep an open mind during this comparison while we did numerous trial runs in each boat.

The features we compared in the boats are:
* well does it maneuver in excited water.
* quickly does it accelerate and respond to your strokes.
* Assurance/Confidence...does this kayak make you feel like this is the boat I want to be in when shit      happens? 
* Overall Fun/playfulness...which boat makes you smile more in a rock garden environment?

Each of the five testers would give each kayak a five point rating on the above features. After testing the boats we discussed the rating and all information was collected on the beach immediately after our comparison.
We decided to rate the kayaks against each other, rather than a general good to bad. Here are the results from the five point ratings from all testers combined.

                                                           Fusion    Greenboat     Hammer
Overall fun/playful .......................21............24..................19

*Total score
  Fusion          84
  Greenboat  87
  Hammer     66

General commentary and call-outs:
* The Greenboat and Hammer were clearly better in resurfacing.

* Outfitting and Comfort, this is an area that's really personal. We all thought the outfitting on all three kayaks were very good.

* Rollability, all tester agreed the Greenboat was the easiest to roll, with the Hammer second and the Fusion last.

* We also tested the plastic on each boat. Sharp ocean barnacled covered rocks really take a toll on the plastic. We used a sharp pointed scraper with a four pound weight on top and dragged it across the hull without adding any additional force on the blade. The winner was the Greenboat, it had the smallest shaving and groove.
Link to The plastic test

Comments from the testers:

Tony Johnson
The Fusion is a do it all play boat that came very close to the Greenboat in total scores. It's the only kayak to have a perfect score in one area, maneuverability. This little boat inspires confidence. I would like the Fusion to have a little more volume in the stern area. I think this would improve the overall performance of the kayak.

The Hammer is confusing to me. I really wanted to like this kayak, however, it is full of compromises. It has too many bulkheads, hatch covers, combine this with its length makes it the heavy weight in this group. One can really feel the difference in weight on the water when comparing it to the others. When I got out of the Greenboat and paddled the Hammer it felt like I took off my running shoes and put on a pair of work boots. However, due to its design the Hammer can still run with the rest of the group. Its longer than the rest and this made it difficult for one tester in a tight area. I heard one tester say several times while in the Hammer that the hard chines felt grabby on a run. However, those same hard chines were praised by another tester who found himself on a big wave.

Recently while rockgardening in Mendocino CA I had the opportunity to try a friend's Greenboat, Tom Humphries. Tom cut the skeg box out of my old Dagger Alchemy and plastic welded it to his Greenboat. The Greenboat felt like a souped up Fusion, faster, more responsive. Unlike the Fusion the Greenboat
likes staying on top of the water during drops. Within a couple weeks I bought myself a used Greenboat. I don't have plans on adding a skeg, as of now I don't seem to need one. The Greenboat is my pick in this comparison. It's a serious ocean whitewater play boat.

Bill Vonnegut
Being a diehard Hammer and Fusion fan it took some persuasion on Tony's part to get me to try the Greenboat. I have seen this boat blown sideways across the water on a windy day with no tracking, it did not look like something I would want to bother paddling (with exception to Tom's modified skeg version). Then after arriving at our testing area it was my turn to try this boat. I paddled the short distance to our dedicated test area and it seemed to track fine for a short distance with no wind. When I arrived at our test
spot there was a large set rolling through. I drove into the piles of whitewater and the large hole and immediately found this boat to be very stable and responsive. I had a big wave roll in behind me and the boat was able to accelerate and punch my way over the wave backwards. In the same situation the Hammer would have not been able to accelerate fast enough to get over the wave because of its weight. But at the same time it would have held its own and not gotten pushed around as much because of the same reason, weight. The Fusion in the same situation is short enough that I could have whipped it around and at least meet the wave bow first. So my thoughts on these boats are, The Greenboat wins for big water and holes, the Fusion for tight rock gardens and shelf play, the Hammer as my coastal play boat that will hold its own in any conditions.
Guess I just need one of each!!

Sergey Yechikov
This is my personal take on these boats. No one is an absolute boat. I like my small Fusion for the responsiveness, I believe that the volume of the boat just right to my 170 lb. I feel united with the boat and she works as extension of my body. Other two are too bulky. It surfs with the skeg down on steep waves if you lean slightly back (a little bit better than the Greenboat, way worse than the Hammer). The Fusion tends to pitch pole in a hole because of the low stern volume, leaning forward helps a lot. It is slow. Does not carry momentum, you need to ride the surge. It is cheap, I do not mind go into the rocks on the boat. Greenboat I found it superior for going out of the holes, however due to longer hull and big volume I found it is hard to steer the boat in confused water. I feel it could be a safer boat for the big water than the Fusion, but overall less playful. Hammer is good in terms of outfitting out of the box. It performs decently in rock gardens and superior for surfing. If I wanted one and only one all around play boat I would probably pick Hammer because of versatility. Regardless of heavy weight and higher price. Frankly, the size of hatch covers used by P&H does not have any sense to me. They are too small for coast exploration boat (you need to load tent and other long stuff). Day play boat does not require 4!!! small hatches of different size.

Allen Shah
The Fusion is a crossover boat that requires some additional outfitting to the decks for open coast
use. Interior outfitting is adequate, but most of us, including myself, have made changes there. The boat shines in tight, whitewater environments, with solid stability and the ability to turn on a dime to meet challenges quickly, but may benefit from some greater stern volume and possibly just a bit more length, 
as it may catch in holes. Acceleration, responsiveness are good, but with speed maxing out 
quickly. The Hammer is a handful in comparison owing to its greater weight, with limited acceleration and maneuverability for me, but once going keeps momentum and holds course through bigger water, while allowing good at speed maneuvering with its impressive chines. Outfitting of the Hammer is good, but a bit excessive for white water play. The Greenboat is a lighter boat than the Hammer, and predictably responded
better, and seems to have the length/weight/volume combination to perform well in all circumstances; adequate in tight quarters, good control at speed, and able to punch through bigger water than the Fusion. Outfitting with deck lines would be needed for ocean play, skeg would help. I like the Fusion for tight and narrow environments, giving me the most confidence, but overall I prefer the Greenboat, as it performs best for me in the gamut of features and conditions that I typically paddle in, and allows more room for growth with regard to paddling skills.

Tom Humphries
The Fusion reminds me of my high school buddy's Austin Healey bug eyed Sprite, fun, quick, nimble, spirited and surefooted in it's element. Its capable of big water in the hands of an expert, I've seen it firsthand. It 
can also be a bit unforgiving and get overmatched, particularly when pushed into large dynamic features and it takes determined sustained effort to get anywhere in it. Be prepared to augment the deck rigging.

When I first demoed the Greenboat, I hated it in everything but the rough water. It surfed like a football and on flat water with a cross wind it tracked like one too. In the surge around the rocks though, there was 
something special about it and I couldn't seem to forget it. I got one, added a skeg and deck rigging to it and could not be much happier with it for a purposed coastal rock gardening boat. It's built like a tank and begs 
you to push the limit. It has a relatively good cruising speed without sucking the life or fun out of you, plenty of volume and stability, allows attainments, reverse runs, excels at stern first moves, boofs and bombs over 
holes that a shorter boat could stick in. Without a skeg or some form of feel-line modification it is limited and it'd be best to not get caught out with a long paddle in worsening weather, so be prepared to do some work.

The Hammer is the most like a sea kayak, but it's not limited like one. I was prepared to not care for it, but just couldn't help but like it (a lot). It requires a bit more forethought and patience with set-ups and runs and it doesn't accelerate as quick, but once it has some hull speed it really comes alive and outperforms expectations. It feels much more nimble than it looks, but beware of the length, it is what it is. I like that it comes equipped, even if a bit overdone.

Olga Balashova
We tried to get Olga to participate in this review, but she had already made up her mind to wait for a LV Hammer. She loves the way the Hammer surfs, but the boat is just too big for her.

Armored protection for composite kayaks

by Tony Johnson

Several NRs and friends recently got together with the EXPLORE NORTH COAST club in Trinidad. I used my composite kayak, a carbon Necky Chatham 16 for rock gardening, leaving the plastic at home. The Chatham took damage in several areas, mostly the keel at the stern and bow. The damage was from sharp blows making contact with barnacle covered rocks when the stern just didn't make it over in time. The bow also was damaged when I decided to pull back off my run a couple times because the timing was not right.

I enjoy rock gardening and would like to use my composite boat from time to time. So I had a goal  to provide protection with the thinness material available, as I did not want to straighten out the tracking but keep the boat loose.
Stainless steel water bottles. I chose to use only the Klean 
Kanteen brand as it's a better stainless steel
I did tests with aluminum, stainless steel, and different composites, roughly a 25 lbs force with a dull chisel. I also tested 5 different epoxies on the aluminum and stainless and how much force it took to remove it from a composite form. Nothing came close to the stainless for abrasion and sharp blows. Weight was close to a thick composite layup and the aluminum. I used stainless water bottles to make this armor.
Stainless steel bottles cut
 I did find out that not all stainless bottles a created equal. There are over 100 different types of stainless steel. Some are more prone to corrosion than others. The best bottle I found was made by Klean Kanteen. There bottles are made from pure 18/8, food grade stainless that will not rust. The adhesive I chose is called Flex Set. Its an amazing adhesive that can also be used on polyethylene. I'm very encouraged with this armor.
Here I initially wanted to use aluminum (on right) but decided stainless (left)
steel would be more durable.

Here you can see the difference in thickness comparing the aluminum
to the stainless steel

                                    Here is the completed keel, armored with stainless steel

I will be putting this armor to the test, posting an update on how this stainless armor works out. I've already cut and shaped stainless steel for the bow. If my tests are any indication of its durability I will also install the stainless on the bow.

I think barnacles have met their match! Huzza!!

Just swimming with paddles + video

By Bill Vonnegut

Ever since the rescue in Monterey last month. I have been thinking that I wanted to get some swimming practice. This is something we talk about from time to time on our paddles, but end up not getting around too. So Last weekend we decided to schedule it into a paddle plan.

The plan for the day was to head to Snivelers Row in Moss Beach, shown in the background of this photo. And spend the morning rock gardening, then the afternoon doing rescue practice. We started the day at a difficult put in to make things interesting, a steep cliff with a rocky path down to a surf launch.
Pre paddle safety talk just below the cliff
(Photo by Mark Berger)
 The conditions were a little bigger than we hoped for that day, and after some exploration, we decided to head south to Flat Rock. An offshore rock that has a nice wrap around surf wave that collides with the ocean swell coming in from the other side. When the waves collide it creates a zipper effect that can launch you into the air if you can position yourself in the right spot.

We had spent quite some time catching waves and playing in the zipper. When some of us decided it was time to get in some swimming practice. There is a large slot in Flat Rock where the ocean swell comes shooting through and pushes into a breaking wave on the outside. We thought this would be a good place to safely get some action.
The slot
 Even though we knew it would not be bad once in the water, watching the waves crash through the slot while standing on the rock was a little intimidating. But we managed to take the leap after a short hesitation. After jumping in we tried different style swimming to see what worked best. Some with the paddle out front, some feet first and I also tried swimming backwards using a reverse stroke, this worked ok, but both the forward strokes worked better. 
Sergey Yechikov in the water and Anders Landin on the way in
Photo by Mark Berger
Swimming with your paddle is a good thing to practice before you need it. A few of the things we discussed later that day, were what worked better feet front or feet back. We determined they move you about the same, but the main argument was face first vs feet first when swimming towards a rock, some did not want to get their face bashed and some did not think it was a problem.

Allen Shah coming in for a landing
Photo by Mark Berger
  Also I should add that catching up to your boat is hard to do, I chased mine for a while just out of arm's reach. Once catching up, I practiced swimming it a ways then scrambled back in just outside this area between waves....well at least I was back in when one came and filled my cockpit. 
Bill Vonnegut trying to catch his boat
Photo by Allen Shah
One thing we did find, was trying to climb back on a flat rock was more difficult than other seal landings we have done on steeper rocks. The flat rock was very slippery and the surge flowing over it tried to push you back off repeatedly. I found the best way to get back up was to get on all fours and grab at the kelp or whatever you could find when the surge hit.
Anders Landin exiting the water.
Photo by Mark Berger
One of the things that we noticed helped allot, is to relax and go with the flow (current) and save a little in reserve for when you need to climb back on the rock, re enter and roll or scramble (my favorite) back into your boat.

I really think this is an exercise that every paddler should try. It's not a difficult skill to learn and will keep you prepared for some day when you may unexpectedly need it. It will also make things seem not so bad when you come out of your boat.

Here is a little video of the swim practice:

15 min. Rock Garden Rescue & Communication lessons learned

By Bill Vonnegut, Peter Donohue, Roger Schumann, Tony Johnson

Communication by Bill Vonnegut & Peter Donohue 

Communication can play a major factor when things go wrong. We had a capsize and swim on a recent trip to Cypress Point in Monterey CA, where it broke down and almost caused not only significant more time in the water for a swimmer, but very nearly more danger for the rescuer by making them think they had no choice but to make the run through some very big rocky surf to get the swimmer to safety. 

As with all of our paddles, we paddle as a team, but there is not an official leader. Generally we have good group dynamics. As Roger Schumann said during our post mortem review “this was really the one time [during the paddle] where we got a little sloppy, and the ocean took the opportunity we gave it to give us something to think about. “ A paddler swam, a successful rescue was performed, and we then took some time to review our actions to see what we can do better next time (with the benefit of having a couple of video cameras on during the process). We are posting this in the hopes that it will help others prepare for rock garden rescues and would love to hear comments. We realize, and ask that you also keep in mind, that in all incidences quick decisions need to be made using info available, and these quick decisions are not always the best decisions in hindsight. That is one of the challenges of these rescues.

Background from Bill 

The five of us, Allen Shah, Peter Donohue, Roger Schumann, Tony Johnson and Bill Vonnegut arrived at Carmel Beach, and after our normal greetings managed to get ourselves on the water. Four of us have been paddling together very regularly for years, and we have also paddled with Roger on many occasions. We had a few radios and the normal safety gear, but as we have paddled together so much that we can almost read each other’s minds, we did not discuss any safety procedures prior to the launch. 

Conditions were very big that day and we had been out for a couple hours trying to find some features to play on. But except for a few areas it seemed to be an all or nothing kind of day. Most of the near shore areas were ether closed out or so protected that conditions were too small to fine a significant amount of challenging fun.

All it took was a couple waves for things to break down.

We were messing around in a protected cove and at the same time planning our run around the very exposed point full of very large boomers. We were a little scattered throughout this well protected cove when I saw Allen scouting a sheltered slot in the rocks that ran around the point, it looked to me like Tony and Roger followed by Peter were starting to head around the outside. So I turned to Peter and told him I was going to head through the slot. I was hanging out in the exit with Allen, checking out the line between the boomers we need to clear the to make our way outside the point when Roger showed up behind me. Figuring the rest of the group was close behind we decided to clear the small staging area and make the run to deep water and wait for the others. Tony came right after us followed by Peter, who got a surprise when a very large set hit and closed out the channel to deep water.
The video shows clearly the challenges of communicating in rock gardens. I was trying to tell Tony that I would tow the boat around, and he should have Roger start moving Peter in that direction. Tony heard that he should have Roger bring Peter into the rocks to the boat. If the timing didn't work out such that I got the boat out before they got too far in, this could have seriously delayed getting Peter back into his boat.

This whole break down of communication could have been averted, had I simply signaled Roger by holding up my paddle in the hold position and waited for his response, when I had the line of site in this photo.

What was going through my mind while I was on the rocks.

For starters, please remember this was not a planned exercise where we set up a scenario and have time ahead to think what we are going to do. At the time I headed in, I had no idea where the boat even was or how I was going to get it back out. And the longer I sat and thought about it, the longer it would take to get the boat back to Peter. 

I has visual contact with Roger, who was out beyond the breakers. At the time I knew that I needed to let him know what I was doing. I had started to make hand gestures indicating we would go around and was waiting for a response to see if he knew what I was doing, in my mind my next step was going to be to hold up my radio.  As I was doing this, Tony paddled up below and asked what he could do to help. I told him to tell Roger that I was going to bring the boat around because I did not to run the slot towing a boat. Somehow over the wind and waves, Tony heard that Roger needed to bring the boat into me. At this time in my mind I had given Roger the message and continued with my quest to get the boat back to Peter as fast as possible. I did not account for the "delay" or the possibility of miscommunication in getting the message to Roger. 

The whole story including a debrief can be seen in this video:

The account by Peter Donohue

My State of Mind and What Went Through My Mind

Here is some background of my state of mind leading up to the swim, and what went through my mind when I swam:

Before the paddle started, I was perhaps a little tired. Have been trying to work myself back into paddling condition by paddling a lot. This week I had upped my miles. 9 miles plus some surfing on Tuesday, 10.5 miles and an overnight camp (loaded boat) on Thursday, 16 miles back home on Friday. Then an early wake up for this paddle on Saturday, and we were probably 5 miles into it our paddle that day when this happened. I didn't feel tired, but this may have had some impact in this.

I was having two gear issues. Neither of these played any direct part in this incident, but they were making me somewhat less confident.

The first gear issue was that I was wearing a wet suit for the first time in years (my dry suit neck gasket blew out earlier that week, and I hadn't had a chance to fix it yet). Last year, my roll lost its bombproofness, so I have spent a lot of time this winter (in the ocean and bay more than at a pool) working to get it back. Really came to appreciate dry suit and neoprene hoodies. Never liked that rush of cold water as it works through the gaps in a wet suit. But here I was in my wet suit (standard farmer john) with a paddle jacket (velcro neck, so not very water tight). I knew I should practice some rolls, but was being a wimp with the cold water, so I didn't. I did carry in the boat an extra fleece paddle shirt with me, which was well needed for warming up when the swim was over, but if I had worn it, I would have been overheating some prior to the swim, so would have more likely done my roll practice.

The second gear issue showed up at the start. We started with a surf launch, which I got out cleanly (especially when compared to one or two others, who had a bit of a battle). Once I got out, I decided the paddle I was using wasn't feeling right (didn't feel like it was holding its feather), so I swapped it for my spare. The spare is a paddle I've used for many years, but was purchased before I got into more aggressive paddling, so at 230 cm was a bit longer than I'd like (the other paddle was 210, which feels much better for me). A bit later in the trip, I was finding that my spare was finally showing its age and could also be twisted with some force out of its feather. Stuck to that long paddle, but was twiddling with it from time to time.

As the paddle continued, the conditions were a little large for us to get into many play spots. I am usually a pretty conservative paddler, so stayed out and watched as the big boys played on stuff, and only edged into things myself.

Just before the swim, we played on the south side of a point for a little while. Then we looked for a way to get through the point (rather than paddling around). A route was found. It involved timing your way into a channel, where once you were in you were pretty protected. There was an exit to the far side, but I couldn't see it. The others went in, and I was last. When it came to my turn, I had to wait for a set to go through before I could go in to the channel, but I made it without any troubles.

The channel bends left around a rock, and I was now seeing the exit for the first time. By the time I got there, everyone was already outside, so I didn't get the benefit of seeing the route others took, but I am well trained and experienced in this, so should be able to pick my route just fine. Perhaps I was feeling a little rushed, with everyone already outside and waiting for me, so I didn't take the time to watch a few sets as I should have.

The peninsula I just cut through was to my left. About 150-200 feet out from my opening was an outer underwater reef that everyone was outside of already, and waves were breaking over. So I needed to go at least a bit right. The area between me and the reef had a few boomers, lots of aerated water, and a good amount of bounce. In my short inspection (a couple of waves), it looked like staying closer to the rocks on my right was the way to go (I chose basically the same route that Allen points out in the video), so I saw what I thought was a window and headed out.

Things get a little less clear in my memory here, but I think it was the second wave that came in took me down. It didn't break on me, but was unorganized, seeming to throw me both ways at once, and I wasn't able to brace in time. I don't recall it being overly large, but the video showed that it was pretty big.

Over I went. I set up to roll, but blew that roll. I even know what I did wrong (the same issue I have been having the last year - finishing the sweep with my roll-side arm over my lap, rather than the more powerful arm up by my head). Head almost came out of the water, and when I tried to catch a quick breath I got more water than air in my mouth. This is likely where the gear issues and lack of confidence came in (along with the unpleasant mouthful of salt water), as rather than try a second roll, I bailed.

Once I popped out, I saw how close I was to the rock (arm length away), and immediately recognized that this was not a safe place to self-rescue, so abandoned ship and started swimming out to the others. I used my paddle to swim, and this is where I noticed the lack of holding a feather, so it wasn't as efficient as I could have been.

I was wondering if the others saw me, as no one was coming in to get me (turns out I chose a big set to do this all in, and they had to wait for a window).

Learning’s from Peter:

- get my gear back up to snuff, especially paddle and dry suit. If wearing wet suit, overdress so I would want to roll (and be in better shape should I swim). That old "dress for the water" saying really is true.

- practice, practice, practice - get that bombproof roll back.

- If I don't get the benefit of seeing the line others took and the others are already outside waiting for me, let them wait. I need to treat it like I was the first person who was exploring whether it was a good route to take. Watch and see what the area provides and what dangers are there for different sized waves. The fact that the others wouldn’t rush in to help me, and that Bill wouldn't tow the boat out this stretch tells me (20-20 hindsight) that this area needed much more respect than I gave it.

Side note - in looking back at this incident, I don't think my life was at risk. Once I swam away from the rock, it was challenging to swim in that bumpy water, but I wasn't being washed into rocks and could keep my head above water. At any time I could have swum or been carried to a beach not far away, where I could have gotten help from the local golfers or tourists.

Our Group Learnings 

As a group, we have reviewed this incident to see what we could have done better (some of this you can see in the video, plus a lot more reflection after that). We definitely have some areas of improvement in our group and rescue response. Roger summed it up well up well, so we are printing his comments here:

Some thoughts by Roger Schumann 

I’ve been enjoying using the CLAP acronym as a debrief tool, and I think it works well here.


Radios would have been convenient, as mentioned. Even without radios, however, the guy with the boat (in this case Bill) and the one with the swimmer (me) should probably have been looking for each other to communicate with hand/paddle signals when Bill was up on the rocks. Also, as a group we could have done a better job using Allen and Tony as runners to send messages between boat and swimmer rescuers. We don’t need radios to assume that the next step is to get the boat and swimmer reunited. We could have done a better job reading each other’s minds on that one.

Line of Sight:

Could have helped communication between Bill and me, if we’d tried to maintain line of sight as noted above. Also, the group lost line of sight of Allen for several minutes when he went to scout the move in the first place. It turned out to be no problem, but probably not a good habit for the group to get into in such areas. Then we kind of turned our back on Peter during one of the more challenging moves of the day. Most of the day I think we did a great job of this, but kind of let our guard down for a couple minutes there and got a nice little reminder from the sea.


As a group we could have been more aware of the dangers of that particular move and set up better safety.

Position of Max Use: 

In a Class IV rapid, the group would be tuned in to the team effort of running the move, and would probably have set up safety, discussed the order of who should go first/last, etc. It is not about “babysitting” anyone; it is about group members watching out for each other. If it had been a class I was teaching, I’d have felt obliged to set up safety for the move. But just because I was paddling as one of a group of friends doesn’t make me feel like I should turn my safety radar off. We were kind of out of position as a group and I knew it, but did nothing about it. Having someone back in the channel would have given Peter a better option of which direction to swim and made the whole rescue take a lot less time in the water. He also could have climbed up on the rocks and gotten out of the water while Bill retrieved his kayak. But with all of us in deep water at the time, it makes sense that he’d swim toward his teammates.

In lieu of this, another thing I think could have speeded up the eventual boat delivery would have been teamwork with Bill and Tony or Allen for the tow. After dragging the boat across the rocks, Bill was not the team member in the best position to also tow the boat quickly. He was in the best position, atop the rocks, to see the best line for the tow, but the time it took for him to re-launch himself and hook up the tow was extra time Peter spent in the water. A quicker option would have been for him to slide the boat into the water to Tony or Allen who could have quickly clipped and started towing while Bill caught his breath and launched at his leisure.

Also, as Allen noted, we were slow to respond to the hypothermia. I for one was paying a whole lot more attention to my sandwich and my MMs during lunch than to my team mate. It was a good wake up call for me to remain awake to group safety even when I’m not on the clock. 

All in all we got the job done adequately, and although we could definitely have used a little tighter teamwork in a couple places, it was cool to be paddling with such a strong, competent group. I’ve always said that “Rock garden paddling is a team sport.”

My thoughts regarding the rescue on our recent Cypress Point paddle by Tony Johnson

When Peter came out of his boat I paddled to him and yelled many times for
him to go inside. I thought at the time, and still do, this was the best
course of action. The slot just to the north of Peter provided a safe place
to swim, recover, and retrieve his boat. Peter decided to swim to the
group. This was a longer swim in rough conditions. Roger went in to get
Peter and Bill went around the south section of the rocks to retrieve Peters
boat. I took the slot inside that I was referring to above to make contact
with Bill. I asked him how I could help. I had a difficult time hearing
Bill, I think the ear protection attached to my helmet made things worse.
How I miss understood Bill is troubling, watching the video its obvious that
Bill was telling me he was going to tow the boat around to the south. I'm
not sure how I came up with the plan was to get Peter to his boat. Watching the
video and hearing Bill say "I don't want to tow the boat through here" was
surely miss understood. I may have also thought at the time that towing
wasn't a good idea.

I made my way back to Roger and told him the plan. I could see that Roger
was not completely ok with this. He had Peter on his deck for ten or more
minutes in some real bumpy conditions. He was tired, and now I was
giving Roger and Peter some bad info to go inside. I do feel this slot was an option
to get Peter to his boat. I went through the slot twice, there was a safe passage inside.
Just as Roger started taking Peter inside I heard him saying Bill is coming with Peters boat.
If it wasn't for Roger being alert seeing Bill this could have been much more work, Peter
inside, his boat outside.

As soon as I realized my mistake in hearing Bill, telling Roger that going
inside was the plan, I felt terrible! This miss understanding on my part could
have really complicated things. In the future I need to make sure of
instructions given to me.

Roger and Bill did a great job. Roger kept Peter out of the water for some
time, Bill doing lots of work inside, then towing in big water.
Peter, swam through some rough water, he kept his paddle
and used it well to get to us.

I must say that I have become to relaxed with the folks I paddle. Many
things I could have done differently. I should have swept, let Peter go
ahead of me. I should have been aware that Peter once on the beach was
becoming hypothermic.

When I posted this trip, as the date neared I became concerned about the
conditions. I posted to those interested that I was thinking of cancelling
this trip due to the conditions. I was boarder line but thought that this
area may get some protection from the north swell. I haven't had the
opportunity to paddle much and wanted to get on the water so if two or more
folks were interested then I was in.
I learned a lot from this experience.

Pyranha Fusion and Goat Rock

By Bill Vonnegut
For Goat Rock info, just skip to the second half of this post.

The Fusion era:
Small conditions, lot's of smiles, 18 laughing paddlers, 8 with Fusions, buzzing like bees, bouncing like bumper cars and making the long boats look cumbersome. That is what I was thinking when I finished this Goat Rock video and viewed it for the first time. After a wonderful day when many paddling friends showed up for a trip I posted.

A little over two years ago I made the jump to another level of rock gardening by purchasing a Pyranha Fusion. At the time I was using a short sea kayak for this purpose, but was still looking for the perfect rock boat. At the suggestion of Sean Morley I decided to give the Fusion a try. I ended up taking the boat for a spin while on the coast, and all it took was a few minutes of getting up in some big rocky foam piles near shore. I immediately found myself driving deeper and deeper into the piles of ocean whitewater and wanting more, more! So I purchased that boat and never regretted it.

The Fusion has enough speed to keep up with your sea kayak buddies as long as they are just cruising. By dropping the skeg it tracks very nicely and is not bothered by the wind. The high volume makes it nice to punch through ocean waves and it's super stable when getting thrown around in the coastal white water. With the large cockpit and rear bulkhead, it makes it very easy to scramble or do a T rescue. The Pyranha's plastic is hard and stands up to the harsh sharp rocks of our coast line.

While white water boats have been used for years for the purpose of rock gardening, the Fusion was the right fit for me. Partially because our rock gardens tend to be spread out and this boat makes it nice to be able to cover some distance and also get in some rock play. I regularly do 10 mile plus paddles in this boat without any problem. These boats are very forgiving and so much fun they now are becoming the standard rock garden boat for our Bay Area paddling community. I would say the only negative thing I can think of regarding this boat would be surfing, the boat surfs like a pig.

For extra safety and to facilitate rescues I spent 15 minutes adding some deck lines to this boat. Very simply, untie the stock deck bungees and re route them to leave one of the holes open on the 4 way eyes on the deck. Then run some rope through all 4 hold downs and up through the grab handle in front. I also added a toggle handle to aid if I needed to pull a swimmer out of a not so friendly spot. Also a couple extra deck bungees and some foam inside to take up some of the volume and have more contact with the boat.
Tony Johnson has done a beautiful job outfitting his Fusion.

One more note on the Fusion, mine was recently stolen off my car and I have now had the opportunity to paddle the new P&H Hammer. There is a lot I like about both these boats, but being I really like to surf has pushed me over the edge to replace the Fusion with a Hammer.

Goat Rock:
I have to say that I would rate this area number one in the Bay Area for rock gardening play!

The north beach is shown in this shot with the rock gardens off in the distance. The put-in for this paddle is normally the south parking lot and beach directly below this bluff. It is more protected than the north beach and dose not have the dumping shore break. In the past we have been directed to land at the south beach by a lifeguard who was sitting on the north beach concerned for our safety. However, it may be more convenient if paddling a lighter whitewater boat to park in the north lot and do a short hike to the mouth of the Russian river to launch. Conditions tend to be smaller down there and would save a mile of paddling. The area at the mouth of the river tends to be a seal hall out, if seals are present it may be a good idea to just paddle from the south lot.

The south put in is a sandy beach and is protected from some of the ocean swell by Goat Rock. The beach is not as steep as the north side, the surf is more friendly but is typically overhead (sitting in your boat) so anyone heading out of this put in should have surf zone skills. If the tide is very low multiple lines of rocky offshore surf will appear, so take that into concentration when planning a trip Goat Rock, especially getting back in at the end of the day.

After launching there is a one mile paddle north to what I call the "entrance to the rock gardens". This is a double cave with a bonus side tunnel that you pass through to start your day of rock gardening.
The right tunnel is the entrance to the rock gardens and the left is the exit.

But wait! As you approach this cave, check out the left tip of the entrance to find a fun warm up slot.
Allen Shah, Sergey Yechikov and Bill Vonnegut in the warm up slot.
Many of the photos in this article are by Cass Kalinski
Thanks Cass!
After some play in and around this feature there are numerous places to check out over the next 2 miles, at that point it turns into more scattered rocks then beach. But have no fear, there is at least a full day of fun in this short section of coast, being that everything is so close together.

While we generally don't have much of a paddle plan, here is a run down of our typical day and some of the features for this area.

After heading through the first cave we generally play around on the features just to the other side, there is a nice pour over directly in front of this cave, but the tide needs to be fairly high for it to be working.
Allen Shah running the high tide pour over
There are a couple more pour over's directly off shore from this one that can be run at most any time. One being more of a pile of scattered rocks rather than a defined feature.

After some fun in this area there is a very short paddle to a small tunnel that can be paddled through. Be careful in this one, the north side is exposed to the open ocean and is shallow, so the exit can be very rough and breaking waves may be found when exiting, also this cave tends to close out on big days.
Jeff Hastings on a visit from the UK. The next wave closed out the tunnel.

From there are a couple of coves with lots of stuff to do including a couple nice pour over's and a hidden slot to run. Then you will be reaching my two favorite features in this area. The first I call the gauntlet, check out the map below for a look at many of the features in this area.                                                         Goat Rock Rock Garden Map

The Gauntlet is series of features that starts at a slot that runs across a point and ends at the lunch cove.
                                             (The Gauntlet run is from 1:15 to 2.31 in this video)

At the beginning there is a slot that needs to be timed to paddle or sometimes surf through, then ends in a spot with what looks like the waves are going to break across the exit, generally they don't. From here you cross this exposed section and can hide in the deep water behind a very large rock to get ready for the next challenge, a pile of rocks that spread across the path between the rock and shore. You must run this like a pour over then it finishes in another deep water protected spot. Now, what waits ahead is generally large piles of whitewater that look like a waves will be breaking through at any time, but thankfully deep water again. As you run through this section you will see a narrow entrance in the cliff to the right, going in here is a great spot to relax, a well protected hideaway and prepare for the exit through a small tunnel that will be obvious. You have run the gauntlet!
Gregg Berman playing hide and seek at the lunch playground

Now having arrived at the lunch and play cove there is a nice calm beach to stop and rest after wearing yourself out playing in one of my favorite features this area has to offer. Its like a little island of fun in the middle of a nice cove. There is double pour over that can be run straight across, or wait behind the rock and try to time and bank off a hidden wave on the other side. Its also a great spot for those who just want to relax, hang out and watch the show or head in to the beach while others are burning off some energy. There is a lot of footage of this spot in the two videos posted in this article.
Peter Donohue, Sergey Yechikov, Elizabeth Rowell and Tom Humphries at the lunch playground.
Now that everyone is re charged after lunch, there's even more! Continuing north around the next point we normally make a straight shot past the sandy beach cove to the next playground. There are a couple pour over's as you reach the reef just before the point. One on the tip the other a little deeper in. The deeper one is lots of fun, a very long ride. After pouring over the reef you drop into a hole than ride the water across a long flat section.
Tony Johnson and Bill Vonnegut running the long ride

After playing around in this section there is even more up north. As you round the tip of the point there will be a horseshoe shaped feature that is fun to paddle through. Getting in the back where it narrows can be a lot of fun because as the wave recedes you tend to drop very low, only to get an elevator ride back up as the water returns. After continuing on around the point the end of the good rock gardening nears. Following the shore line into the next little cove there will be a nice cave to explorer, the one in the opening of the Fun Side video above.

Now you have reached the end of the official rock gardens there you will find a nice pour over on one of the last off shore rocks. And if the tide is low, just to the inside of this spot the slap wall will be working, the rock in front of it needs to expose to get this feature working. There are some good shots of this wall at 5:24 in the first video near the top of this post.

The distance to this point is approx 3 miles from the put in. However, on a typical day the gps junkies will mention that we clocked 10-11 miles. That just go's to show how much fun this place is!!

Bonus Arch:
There is a big beautiful arch to explore off shore near the put in, if you have any energy left. This arch can be seen from the beach so there is no missing it.

Here is one more action packed Goat Rock video that combines the footage of myself, Tony Johnson and Sregey Yechikov. We gave all the footage to Sergey and he came up with a great video.

                 And if you are interested in even more great shots by Cass then just look here.