Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Paddle at Cosumnes River Preserve.

After what feels like weeks of being cooped up in the house and shop I finally got some time to get out and explore one of my favorite local paddling spots. I used this trip as an excuse to test out the North Shore Atlantic that we just got in. Ron and I got to the Preserve at around 1:00PM and got on the water shortly after.

 Although it was cool outside the wind was flat calm and the paddling conditions were perfect.
Strait away from the launch we headed right under Franklin Blvd bridge. This leads you into some very skinny waters refereed to by kayakers as "The Back Door".  It's called that because it's a sneaky back way to get into Lost Slough without having to paddle miles to get there. Thats not to say that we didn't earn our paddle on this day. I had no idea what the tides were, and on this day nether of us cared because it was all about the adventure. Adventure it was. It was the lowest tides I have ever seen going through this area. Here is a pic of Ron hopping out of his kayak at the first portage. 

We stopped for a minute to scout out the area and enjoy the dense riparian forest. It was alive with the sounds of birds and critters all around. 
This is where we had to go next. 

Dispite what it looks like, the portage is all sandstone rock and not mud. 

 Here is a closer look at what we were about to paddle through.
After a few minutes we were back in our kayaks and moving on through tight skinny waters. The nice this is that enough kayakers use this passage every year that the black berries and low hanging branches are not really an issue.

Here I am seal launching into the next pool. 

 It wasn't to far until we got to the next low spot. 90% of the times I have been through here I have been able to just paddle right over this low section, but due to the super low tides that day we had to portage. Thankfully the ground is hard and flat which makes for and easy carry.

 Before to long at all Ron and I were back on the water. The slough opens up little by little as it winds through the surrounding wetlands. If you look real hard from I-5 you can actually see the slough we are paddling on. It goes right under the freeway.

An old boat that has been abandon for as long as I can remember. 

 After you go for about a 1/4 mile or so you go under I-5 and the slough continues to get bigger. You see signs of farming, and even the footings of an old bridge. After about 1/2 mile or so you get to a break in the dike. This is a great time to have a chart if you are unfamiliar with the area. You can go many directions here and its all beautiful paddling, but you want to make sure you know how to get back. There are a couple of loops you can make to get back to the preserve, but on this day we decided to keep right and explore a couple of back waters.
Here is the view from my cockpit as we paddled around Lost Slough. 

The water was mirror flat. 

After an hour or so of exploring we decided to head back to the launch and go grab lunch. The water had continued to ebb the whole time we paddled which made for an Epic Portage back to the Cosumnes.
The North Shore Atlantic is a dream to paddle. It's got the best cockpit fit out of any poly sea kayak I have been in. 

 Instead of hopping in and out of my kayak I decided to wade my kayak in the shallow water. Thank God for Kokatat Drysuits. This was my favorite parts of the day.
Full speed ahead. This is one of the areas we had to walk our boats through. Looks worse in the picture than I remember. 

Some very cool rock formations. 

I'm sure thankful for a friend like Ron, who is always up to join me on a paddling mission. 

I think Ron was happy to see the end of that Portage.  
 At the end of the portage, we headed back up to Franklin Blvd, seen above. I noticed a couple of old cars that had been exposed by the low tide. I have been here 100 times and I have never noticed these. It's always cool to see what kind of stuff is lurking under the delta waters.

 As we headed back to the ramp we spotted a bunch of birds up to the Cosumnes River so we decided to paddle a little bit longer in hopes to see some more wild life. I'm so glad we did. As we parked our kayaks in the tules we spotted a river otter who was diving and picking up clams. He just swam up river and we fallowed a few hundred feet back. It was a really cool site.
 A short while after this we decided to call it a day and head for lunch. We had packed a lot into a 2 and a half hour paddle. Before we left the preserve Ron wanted to show me this cool boardwalk that he goes to all the time to watch the Sand Hill Cranes fly in. It was so beautiful. You walk along the wetlands surrounded by thousands of birds of all different types. Huge flocks of cranes and geese flying over in formation. I'm so thankful to have a resource like the Cosumnes River Preserve so close to home for paddling and hiking.

 All and all we had a stellar day. It's hard to believe I was almost going to blow off going paddling to sit around the house and nap. It just goes to show that when you choose to be active and explore God's creation, there is always a reward. I hope this will encourage you to get out and explore. Here is California we are so spoiled to have great weather year around and we should take advantage of it. If you don't have a drysuit or a wetsuit for cooler days, buy one! You will never regret that decision. The very first time you have a day like this you will feel like it paid for itself.

Last stop Hunan House for all you can eat Mongolian BBQ! 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Eddyline Raven Review

The Eddyline Raven is the latest sea kayak design from the renowned boat builder from Burlington, Washington. (

A couple of months ago, I got a call from the Headwaters Shop in Lodi, CA,( asking if I'd be interested in testing the latest Sea kayak from Eddyline, the Raven. The objective was to put the boat through its paces and give my honest feedback. Of course I jumped on the opportunity.  

"Sweet", I thought to myself, as I loaded the boat onto my car. I noticed right away, that it is very comfortable for a solo carry, thanks to Eddyline’s Carbonlite material. The kayak is extremely tough, yet light enough to handle by myself.

The build quality of the boat is top notch, but that is no surprise since Eddyline has been building first class kayaks for decades. Even though I do prefer function to looks, I had to admit that the Eddyline Raven is a very good looking boat, my wife called it outright 'sexy'. I hope she meant me, but I think she referred to the kayak.
 The cockpit fit was perfect for my 6ft1, 190 lbs frame without any extra outfitting. The generous keyhole was easy to get in and out of without hitting my shins. The cockpit combing appeared a little flimsy to me however after probably 100+ self reentries in various conditions, balancing exercise, sitting on the back deck etc. it was never an issue.

The seat was very comfortable, with multiple adjustment options to accommodate a variety of paddlers. I liked the placement of the thigh braces, and the back band was excellent, giving good lower back support and never got in the way during self-reentries. Legroom was great, plenty of space. I liked Seadog Foot braces, large enough to be comfortable and very easy to adjust while sitting in the kayak.

I couldn't wait to get the boat in the water.

After about 25 days of paddling in various conditions from calm to rough water, flat to 30 knot winds, paddling in tide races, strong currents, reflective waves, wind waves up to 3 feet, rock gardens and open water here's my impression of the boat:

The boat is extremely well balanced, very responsive and was a pure joy to paddle. I love the precision with which the boat can be maneuvered. It carves beautifully, both on flat water or on a wave. It very fast and accelerates well making It was easy to catch waves. The Raven tracks very well, AND turns very well. This kayak loves the rough stuff.

As an ACA Coastal Kayak Instructor I do focus a lot on paddling technique, and I was very impressed how easy even more complex technical moves could be accomplished. The Raven felt very intuitive, and lots of times I just had to look where I wanted to go, and it went there.

While the initial stability might feel a little tender for a novice, the secondary was excellent. Putting the boat on edge was a blast, very stable and reassuring. It is very responsive to hip/ knee movement, and was easy to turn even in fast currents and confused tide races. Aaaah, and it LOVES to surf. It was at times a little squirrely on take off, however even if you blew your angle a bit it would still come around. Its effortless to catch waves and just pure fun to surf. A very playful touring boat.

On a long bay paddle I noticed good tracking, good speed and very comfortable cockpit ergonomics. I could sit longer in this boat than in other ones without experiencing any discomfort.

The Raven paddled very well in any conditions encountered. It is certainly at home in bigger water. During the test period I paddled in winds up to 30 knots. With proper technique it was very predictable and easy to control, even on local lakes with strong winds but small waves. It was easy to hold a course abeam to the wind, and I never felt the need to drop the skeg. The Raven is simply the most balanced sea kayak I have ever paddled in windy conditions.

The little hatch on the front deck is very handy. I also liked the multiple recessed deck fittings. They allowed an easy customized outfitting of deck lines and bungees. A built in compass recess would have been nice (oh well I'm just used to my Brit boats..). Spare paddles can be carried forwards or aft, the day hatch was a little hard to close, but with a squirt of 303 it worked well. Front and back hatch had between a cup to a quart of water in it, after intensive rolling and recovery sessions. The other hatches were dry.

The Raven rolls effortless, and the low back deck makes climbing onboard easy. Great for self reentry techniques like the cowboy scramble, and reentry and roll, however I repeatedly managed to open the foot brace lever accidently, and lost contact with the foot braces. (good refinement exercise for perfecting your roll, not so good in a combat situation), a piece of duct tape to secure the lever took care of the problem.

Last but not least, storage space is pretty good for such a sporty boat. I'd say there's enough storage for trips up to one week. I do like the fairly spacious day hatch. I paddled the Raven with around 30lbs load and did not notice much change in performance vs. empty.

All in all the Eddyline Raven is a playful, highly responsive touring boat that gets from A to B fast and if you are into playing and exploring the coastline along the way, even better. If you like wind, waves, rough water and conditions too, you might as well stop looking, because the Raven is one sea kayak that does it all.

Thomas Schuebel
ACA Coastal Kayak Instructor

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A glimpse of Tahoe 2011

A couple of weeks ago we held our annual Tahoe Road Trip. Every year at the end of summer we round up as many paddlers as we can find and head to south Lake Tahoe for 4 days of high sierra paddling. Every year is a similar agenda, yet every year seems to take on a totally different feel. This year was suppose to be all about the after parties. We had plan for pot lucks, live music, kayak demos, and lots of good times around the campfire. WRONG! Due to poor timing and a crack down on parking at our campsite, the first day was a train wreck of events. Locked keys in the car, missing sales reps, angry park attendances, and parking were just a few of the speed bumps we hit along the way. Despite the rocky start to the trip everyone was in good spirits and fired up for day two, a 7 mile paddle from Baldwin Beach to Emerald Bay. The morning of day two we had around 55 kayaks that showed up on the beach. Boats of all shapes, colors, and sizes lines the beach, and everyone was happy to lend a hand carrying gear down to the water. The paddle was a slow paced cruise along the shore line until we hit the mouth of Emerald Bay. At this point a few of us noticed the Tahoe Queen pulling into the bay and set our sites on the wave train that follows the old fashion stern wheeler. I was first to get on steep glassy wave. I was able to ride its wake about a mile from the mouth of the bay, all the way to the little island near Vikingsholm. What a ride! We stopped at the castle had lunch, took photos and then made our way back to Baldwin.

That night we were met with a little thunder showers. The rain only lasted about an hour and was just enough to keep the dust down. Everyone met up at my Mom and Dads campsite for another amazing potluck and to swap lies around the fire.

Day Three was a shorter paddle from Zeyphr Cove to Cave Rock on the Nevada side of the lake. This section is always a treat because the crystal clear water and giant granite boulders that line the shore. The weather was ideal to start without a single wave in the water which made the water seem all the more transparent. Due to an injury I had been dealing with I decided to take the baby for the day and let me wife paddle, but my son Ethan wasn't content to just hang with dad. While everyone was getting ready to go paddle I stuck my 18 month old son Ethan into the cockpit of Reg Lakes kayak, and his eyes lit up. We spend 20 minutes pushing him around the lake and letting him try his hand at paddling. (See video) This was by far the highlight of the trip for me.

After a lazy paddle on the east shore everyone made their way back to camp where some of the crew loaded up and headed for home while other headed for to state line for pizza and beer. Day 4 was quiet for most of us. There was a group of 5 or 6 that hit Sand Harbor for a paddle, but most of us decided to take our time getting packed up and headed back to reality. All and all it was another wildly successful Road Trip, and we can't wait for next year. We have already made reservations at Meeks Bay for the third week in Sept 2012. So mark your calendars and I hope to see you all there! Until then enjoy a couple of videos Reg Lake put together from Lake Tahoe 2011 with The Headwaters!

Here is a link to the Facebook Photo Album:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Finding the adventure in our own backyard.

Well, spring is finally here and things have been ramping up here at the Headwaters shop. With my busy work and family life my kayaking excursions lately are not what they once were. No big open ocean play time, no rock gardens, no river surfing, but that doesn't mean my kayak has been collecting dust. Due to the location of my home and store I'm not able to get to moving/ rough water without making a whole day of it, so lately I have been making the most of what is all around me, Fish! One cool thing about living in Lodi is that you are surrounded by water. You have the delta within 15 minutes, the Mokleumne River within 2 minutes, and a bunch of little foot hill lakes and ponds that are all within 45 mins away. The best part is everywhere has good fishing. So thats what I have been doing in my free time, getting out when I can and fishing from my kayak and stand up board. Weather it be for a couple hours before work, or couple in the evening after the shop closes. Having these mini adventures, keep my stoke tank full and happy. It also bring me back to my youth and reminds me of the simple joy of catching and releasing fish.

Last night during our Wednesday Evening Club paddle I decided to bring my pole and just hang out in Lodi Lake and fish the tules. I drifted along with the wind and cast my line right along the edge of the tule berm. To my surprise I immediately got a hit. I set the hook and reeled in hard. It was a nice 3lb large mouth bass. It was a good time. Everyone had fun watching me bring it into my kayak, and they joked that they may have lost their tour guide. 

I'm all about finding adventure in life no matter where you are. I think for Lodi kayaks and stand up paddle boards are the perfect answer to get people outside and into nature. With great fishing all around, and the beautiful Mokelumne River in our back yard, I can't help but feel like I have some good job security. If anyone wants to explore the area, please give me a call at the store and we can arrange a time to go paddle/ fish Lodi Lake and the Mokelumne River. The Lodi Paddle Club paddles every Wednesday night at 5:30pm. Its 100% free if you have your own kayak, and $20 to have me bring one out for you. Call and make your reservation today! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Innovation in Action

With new developments on every front, I'm proud so say that I am paired with some of the most innovative kayak manufactures in the world. Today two very interesting little kayaks showed up on my doorstep. Two all white Samba XD's with a insignia on the back that says "Innovation in Action." As a huge supporter of Thermoform technology, I am very excited to be the first one besides the factory to see the new layup. I can't wait to get one out and put it through its paces. The overall look of the kayak has not changed, but the overall stiffness is incredible. These two kayaks are going to have a very rough life. Tony, who is a expert rock garden paddler and long time Eddyline paddle will be one of the test pilots. His mission is see just how much this new layup can take. The other one will be used by myself and our west coast Eddyline rep. We will be sure to keep people up to date with videos and photos as we get them. So check back often and see how the new Samba XD handles the abuse! 

Here is the Mission statement put out by Eddyline owner and founder Tom Derrer:

"During our many years of building composite boats we constantly experimented with different laminates and technologies to achieve a level of performance that suited those paddlers with extraordinary needs.  Things are no different today.  The Samba XD (Extra Duty) is an experimental construction using thermoform technology to help us determine just what some of the real needs of the advanced kayaker are and how to satisfy them.  By advanced paddler I mean those kayakers who are pushing the envelope and advancing their skills while developing a deeper knowledge of the forces of the sea.
The Samba XD is more innovation in action at Eddyline Kayaks!"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Product Review. Swift Skookum!

First off thank Swift for the opportunity to test their new Skookum Paddle. I'm always excited to work with people on new and progressive products like this. First thing I will say about the paddle is its beautiful. I love the color (Lime Green). I'm glad they decided to release that color because a lot of us younger paddlers have been asking for a green paddle for a while. The over all fit and finish is good, but not perfect. I would love for the front and back side of the blade to be green instead of the milk white color. I see that the paddle with the sparkles uses green epoxy, making the front and the back sides the same color. I liked the way that looked better. Other than that I think the finish of the paddle looks beautiful. The joint where the paddle meets the shaft looks thick and strong, the black covering over the joint is very clean, and the carbon on the shaft is flawless. The decal also looks very sharp on the blade.

I really enjoy the feel of the shaft in my hand. Having the texture from the carbon makes the paddle feel less slippery in my hands as oppose to other paddles that I use. The thing I am most excited about on the new Skookum is the the blade shape. Bravo Swift for seeing the need for a high performance, high angle paddle that excels not only in rock garden, and surfing situations, but also on an all day tour. The short squatty blade gives paddles like myself the ability to take short hard stokes to get up to speed when catching a wave, or shooting a slot. Three hard stokes and my boat is up to speed. Being shorter, it also allows me to slice it through the water when linking stokes and bracing. The power and grab is incredible when pulling out of an eddy and getting speed to catch a wave. You can lay hard on a low brace, and with the flick of the wrist you can spin the paddle around and grab a hard draw stoked to pull yourself across current. Once on a wave, the slight curvature of the blade shaft to tip gives you a nice feel in the water. During a stern rudder, you can easily angle the paddle to ether pry the stern away or draw the stern back towards the paddle. It is a very rewarding paddle for those learning boat control and advanced stokes, like draws and rudders. Although the Skookum excels in these dynamic environments, what really surprised me was how it felt on a long all day flat water paddle. The paddle is so light that you barly notice you are holding anything at all. It pulls effortlessly though the water, and does not pick up much water on the exit. Even with my paddle being a 205cm I didn't notice any issue with hitting my boat during my forward stoke. The paddle catch is solid and gives you nice purchase throughout the stoke. The dihedral on the paddle seems to really keep the paddle square in the water without the tendency to wander. I also like the overall size of the blade for touring. Although it is a shorter blade it is not overly large, in fact it has even less surface area then the Sea Swift. This allows me to paddle all day and not feel tired. It is not like some other high angle touring paddles that feel like a light weight version of a white water paddle. Swift did an excellent job combining the most important elements of a high angle paddle. Control, power, and efficiency. I feel like they are setting the bar high for other paddle companies to shoot for. 

Even though I love the paddle and am excited about what it means for the future of sea kayaking, there is still a few things I would change. First thing would be to use a colored epoxy to make the whole paddle one color. Secondly, the Skookum that I have has a nice reenforced tip on it, that runs about 3 inches up from the tip of the paddle blade, however I would love to see that reenforcement wrap around the bottom of the paddle a bit more because that is where you will be hitting the most rocks. The third and most important thing is to clean up the back side of the paddle blade. Swift does a great job of reenforcing their blades by using a stiff ridge that runs along the back side of their blades. This makes the paddles stiff and grabby when you plant them in the water, however it also creates drag and unwanted bubbles while surfing and while slicing the paddle though the water. Example would be, if you where surfing though a slot and you needed to slice the paddle forward through the water to a bow draw, having the ridge takes away your feel in the water and slows the paddle down. Most all paddle companies have this problem, and some address it better than others. I would love to see Swift come up with a solution to this, and then they would have, in my opinion, the ultimate high angle paddle!

Dan Arbuckle 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium

Better late than never right? It has been almost a month since the Symposium and I'm just not getting a chance to sit and write about this incredible event. Shows what kind of month I have been having. The store has been rockin and for that I am most thankful. Even though it has been a month since the symposium the images and feelings from the event will not soon be forgotten. This event seems to get better every year, and this year was no exception. The weather was moody, the water was finicky, but the people were incredible!

On the Thursday night before the Symposium started I met Sterling (owner of Sterlings Kayaks) and Rowan Gloag (Hurricane Rider and Facebook pal) here at the shop do deliver kayaks. They had just drove 18 hours straight through from Bellingham WA. They had to chain up along the way at each pass they came to. Dispite the long adventure they showed up fresh and enthusiatic about the weekend to come. Rowan and I loaded up my trailer of demo boats and we headed over to the Marin Headlands Youth hostel, our home base for the weekend. Though we were all exhausted from travel we stayed up for a few hours drinking beers and swapping stories with some of the biggest and best names in Sea Kayaking. After a short hard sleep we awoke to rain. Everyone slogged their way to Horse Shoe Cove to start the festivities. It was so encourgaing to see all the people geared up ready to go with big smiles on their faces.

Day 1 I was asigned to help teach the intro to Riding the Tides Class with Mark Tozer and Duane Stosaker. We crossed over to Angel Island and practiced edge turns in the eddyline created by the Ebb tide. Everyone had a great time. The highlight of my day was teaching some students with Greenland paddles, how to rip in and out of eddies with a stick. After our time at Angel we made our way back to Yellow Bluff where we played in the tidal race. Everyone got to practice surfing and bracing.

After a long day in cold conditions we blew off some steam by eating pizza and listening to live music at the Symposium Headquarters, Horse Shoe Cove.

Day 2 the weather was even colder and more rainy. This day I was assigned as a safety boater to Riding the Tides intermediate with Ben Lawry and Chris Mitchell. After a long warm up on the dock we hit the water. We practiced ferrying against the flood tide under the Golden Gate bridge. The conditions were pretty big this day. After that session we made our way with the flood tide back into Richardson Bay where we had lunch. After a debrief session on the beach we got back into our boats to catch the Ebb tide back to Yellow Bluff for day 2 of playing in the tide rips.

Thankfully this day I was paired up with my buddy Rowan, and we got to enjoy hours of surfing and playing in the rip. It was so cool to surf with so many people in the rip. Everyone was excited to be there, dressed for the swim and ready to push themselves. Thankfully no one in our class swam, and Rowan and I had an easy day on the water. The class seemed wore out fast so we let them go back to the harbor while we stayed and played.

That night there was slide show presentations at the Hostel. There were 3 all together but the one that got me excited was Eric Sores, one of the original Tsunami Rangers was giving a talk about the past 25 years of  boating. ( To hear his level of enthuiasm for the sport and to hear is mind set about rough water ocean paddling got me stoked! I could not wait to get out the next day and go rip in some rock gardens. The line that I took from his talk was, "Paddle where it looks bad and feels good, not where it looks good and feels bad." So the next day when Matt P told us that he didn't need us to safety boat and we were free to go play, thats exactly what we did!

Rowan and I paddled our way out the Golden gate and rock hopped our way all the way to Point Bonita. The water was rough but manageable, and so we hit every slot and overfall we could on the way out.

Rowan was adamant about leaving his mark in the bay area and that he did. All the green gel coat you see from Horse Shoe Cove to the Point Bonita Light House was from the bottom of Rowan's Reflection. haha. That is not completely true, however he did loose his fair share on this little trick move.

Once we got to the point we were greeted by the full on Pacific swell. We took our time to scout out the Rock Garden and decided that if we got in close enough to this rock that the wave would break and we could catch a nice surf ride out of it. Well that was the idea but sometimes things are easier said than done. We both got worked by a huge whirlpool before we ever got any cool rides.

In the Video you will see more footage of me getting worked by the water. All and all it was a great time. It looked bad but felt sooo good. After a good hour session we decided to head back to Horse Shoe Cove, have lunch and get back onto the water to catch the Tide Race again and Yellow Bluff. On our way back we passed a few classes in process. We saw Eric and some of the Tsunami Rangers teaching with up and comers like Paul Kuthe and Matt Nelson. Their classes where charged up and going for it. Watching these guys shooting slots and riding overfall brought a smile to my face. I can't help but feel like there is a bright future ahead in our sport. Over the corse of the whole weekend I believe there was over 100 people who ventured out to the rocky coast outside the Golden Gate, and that is what makes GGSKS such a magical experience. Its the only place I have been where that many incredible coaches are paired up with that many gun ho students, and everyone is there to push themselves and learn. The energy around this event is electric, and for those who are on the fence about going, do yourself a favor and sign up. Even if its just for one day, SIGN UP! You will not regret it. I look forward to many trips out the bay this year, and I have my calendar marked for GGSKS 2012.

Check out Rowans Video from GGSKS