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.
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.
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.
But wait! As you approach this cave, check out the left tip of the entrance to find a fun warm up slot.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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.