Sunday, February 9, 2014

Strictly Business

When you do what you love for a living it's important... no, crucial to 'check in'.  Checking in with sponsors, media outlets, students, coaches and event organizers is all part of the game, but sometimes when you are out on the road, you gotta make the stops that keep you moving forward...

Fellow team paddler Matt Nelson and I took the long way home from The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium again this year in the P&H Custom Sea Kayaks rig.  We made our usual stop in Mendo to visit our friends Bryant Burkhardt, Lindsay Grossman, and of course Jeff and Cate of Liquid Fusion Kayaking.  They live in a magical place.  After spending the weekend on the job, it felt good to cut loose and pull hard just for the FUN of it.  We had two days, 650 miles, and countless waves to ride before getting back to the grind at Alder Creek. 

I could see it from the parking lot.  The locals know it well.  Waves were rolling in from the open sea, welling up and then pouring over a large ridge of rocky exposed reef just up the way from the launch at Caspar.  Once all were safely afloat and beyond the shore break, I went for it.  Warm from the paddle out, and eager from a weekend spent scouting waves for students, I went right to "work".

Paddler: Paul Kuthe         Photo By: Cate Hawthorne
You can tell when someone is in there element.  Few people I know seem so at home on the sea.  Jeff Laxier makes his backyard seem like Disney Land.  I tend to hang close to this guy to find all the best goods (and to stay out of trouble when the big sets roll in ;).

I love paddling out and setting up a circuit on a big pour-over on a rising tide with a solid team.  What starts innocently enough as an exercise in timing to make it over the low point in the rocks becomes a rowdy game of good natured one upmanship taking all our boating up a notch.  "Woot!  Woot! Outside!!"  As a big set moves in you get one last chance to check your position, and run the plan through your head.  Your mind goes clear and sharp as the floor drops out from under you.  The wave sucks you back as it gathers power then thrusts you up and over as it explodes against the rocks.  Everything else fades away into the sizzling whiteness and becomes unimportant.  All that matters is the now.  Too few are these pure moments in everyday life.

We move between the rocks along the coast searching for more goods.  We hopped like bull frogs from lilly pad to lilly pad; from treacherous frothy waters to the relative safety of deep dark pools and vertical rock walls.  Taking risks, but never rolling the dice; we gathered at every arch, cave, sot, and impact zone constantly taking stock, balancing risk and reward as we push ourselves further into the writhing and unsettled paradise before us.  There are endless lines to run.  The hardest part is picking which way to go for more.  Turning around and around, everywhere I look there is another corridor to experience and explore.  

As the afternoon winds picked up, we made our way into the beach and ventured up a small winding trail on foot.  It led through a large grassy meadow to an old, all but forgotten cemetery.  This peaceful resting place in the woods served as a welcomed reminder of the brevity of life.  While the "enter at your own risk" warning gave us pause we were sure to enjoy and take the time to check in with the local residence to see how they were doing.  It may be short, but we all have time to stop and appreciate all who came before us.    

The trail led to a wind swept ridge at the edge of the sea.  We all took in one last look at our playground for the day.  It would be back to the road and on to Trinidad for Matt and I the following morning.  We stood silently as we leaned into the cool crisp wind and stared at the sea.  We could all feel it.  We were parting ways and bidding the day farewell, silently but intently.  We won't be all together again until The Lumpy Waters Symposium this October in Oregon.  I'm going to miss my California crew and hope to paddle with some of them again sooner rather than later.

Matt and I rose early the following morning and headed out on "the 1" north to Eureka where we meet Jason Self from Pacific Outfitters to deliver P&H boats to the newest dealer on the west coast.  The line between work and play are often blurred in this business but this task fell squarely into the work category.  We soon found ourselves hucking plastic in a whole other way but made short work of things allowing plenty of time to really get down to business!  

Launching into beautiful light.  Photo by Jason Self

Matt Nelson and Paul Kuthe paddling out past Camel Rock       Photo by: Jason Self

Matt Nelson cutting right and threading the needle through the rocks   Photo by: Jason Self
Paul crankin to catch the outside break...     Photo By: Jason Self

Paul breaking out after a long ride in      Photo By: Jason Self

After pushin through the rocks all weekend it felt REALLY good to catch some green faces to wrap up our day.  Photo by: Jason Self

Thanks again to P&H/Pyranha for making it possible for Matt and I to travel south for the event.  Thanks also to Werner Paddles, Kokatat, Keen Footwear, Snap Dragon Skirts, Hilleberg Tents, and Outdoor Research for all your support and for understanding it can't all be...strictly business.  


Matt said...

Excellent writing, Paul. It was great to share the journey with you.

Miss Yeah Man said...

I dig it and rock on.

Unknown said...

Thanks to both of you! Thanks for reading.

Jay said...

Paul, I continue to enjoy your writing. You've inspired me to get up to Trinidad and paddle with Jason. Thanks again for your coaching at GGSKS!