Noyo Bay, Sept 25th, 2009.

The first day of Mendo Madness I drove to Noyo Harbor for a paddle. A group of us were hoping to meet Jeff Laxier and Cate Hawthorne of Liquid Fusion Kayaking. They had given a talk at a recent BASK meeting and invited us to join them to get a tour of all the local play spots. We were early to meet Jeff and went for a short paddle north into the rock gardens. It was a bit rough there and we could only go a few miles behind the rocks before the coast opened up to the northwest swell and we turned back.

We got back to Noyo Harbor Jeff was showing some other BASKers the only play spot he recommended on this day. “No Name Rock” was a shallow rock that the biggest waves broke over. Jeff showed us how to scoot around the right corner of the rock with a wave and get surfed into a “toilet bowl” of swirling water. Cate showed us how to ride the waves over the top and wash down into the deep water behind it. In an indestructible plastic Prijon Yukon kayak I tried both of these things. I even got stuck high and dry on top of the rock once.

A couple BASKers got into trouble, getting washed unexpectedly over the rock and out of their boats. I was interested to see Jeff back off and let us rescue our own. I expected a kayak outfitter to insist on taking charge and telling us what to do. But Jeff was willing to let us take care of ourselves.

When everyone was tired of No Name Rock, we headed back to camp. Jonathan Percel, Dennis Holton and I were scheduled to go abalone diving at oh-dark-hundred hours the next morning. We talked about it and decided to do it NOW while we were still in our wetsuits and not have to get up so early the next day. We launched From Van Damme Beach near our campgrounds and headed north.

We went to a cove I knew that would be calm in the rising swell conditions we were seeing. I wanted to land on a beach and swim out but Dennis convinced us all to land on an offshore rock. We landed in a shallow gap in the middle of this rock but every once in a while a big wave came through the gap. So we ended up pushing our kayaks higher and higher up on the rock. Mine was the first kayak pushed up this particular crack, so it eventually ended up twenty feet above the ground!

Jonathan had forgotten his mask and lost his flippers when one of the larger waves came by and washed them off the rock. So after I caught one abalone and got tired of looking for more, I gave Jonathan my gear for a while. Dennis quickly caught three abalone. Jonathan came up with one and offered to give me my mask and flippers back to catch more. But by then it was 6:00 in the evening and I suggested we start back.

Right about then a big set came blasting through the gap in our rock and we could not launch the kayaks for a while. We considered tossing them down into the calm behind the rock and practicing our re-entries. But the waves calmed down enough to get going. Even so, it was after 7:00 and starting to get dark before we made it back to Van Damme Beach. It was after 9:00 before Dennis and I finished putting our gear away and had time to drive into Mendocino for dinner.

All text and images Copyright © 2009 by Mike Higgins / contact