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24
Jul

2017 Colorado Tour

For many years I have wanted to go and do the kayaking circuit in Colorado and this year I got the chance to. I started off going to Buena Vista, Colorado for the CKS Paddlefest. When I got there I went straight to the comp hole. This feature is a little flat, so it’s harder to throw big tricks like the loop and space godzilla. Though because of how flat it was, it was easy to throw McNastys in. This hole wasn’t very sticky either, therefore it was easy to flush on. I started training there for the BV Rodeo, which was a week later. The cool thing about this feature is if you can figure out how to slam your bow on the rock and jump off, you’ll go massive.

Then the day came to compete, I was very nervous but also very excited I felt very confident that I could make the podium.  There were four girls in the Junior Division, though we are all the same skill level, therefore no one had a clue on who was going to win. On my first ride, I went in and just keep flushing and started getting very aggravated which messed me up on my second ride. On my second ride the same thing happened, so I went to my friend who has been coaching me and she said I was thinking way too much, I just needed to go in and just start off when spins. Once I did that, I was on a roll. I threw huge loops and space godzillas. Then I threw a McNasty. I was so happy with my ride. I scored 300 points which is really good for me. Because of that ride, I was able to slide from 4th place straight to 1st. I couldn’t have been any happier. After the rodeo was over they announced the winner, the announcer said Cat Hardman has won the freestyle competition. I was so excited to win, I was most proud of how many points I scored.

Then my next competition was the USA Freestyle Kayaking Team. I was so excited for this competition because I trained hard for a few years for this. Team Trials was in BV, but at the top hole here. The hole was pretty steep, but you could go huge there. I was getting dry head clean loops, it was amazing. I was doing so good. Then the day came for team trials. My first ride was really good, I scored 220 points. Therefore I was in third place, so I could make the team and go to worlds. Then my next two rides did not beat my first one. Then the last girl went, she did amazing and because of her ride, she slid right into to second place. Therefore I got bumped into to fourth place. I was crushed that I didn’t make the team. Though I am taking this as a learning experience, I made not of made the team, but this makes me want to work even harder to make the team again in 2019. I realized that I don’t have to make the team every time because I am only 15 I have many years to still compete.

Next, I was off to Animas River Days in Durango. I have wanted to for to Durango for a while and I just couldn’t wait to get there. It’s a four-hour drive from BV to Durango. Once we got to Durango my friend and I ran to get geared up and jump in the water.  Once I got there I started training on the wave we compete on. It’s a super fun wave, but hard to get a pass on but once you get a pass you can fly! That night the junior completed and I had a great time. Going into finals I was in first place. The next morning I competed in the Pro Women’s Boatercross. Going into the competition I didn’t expect to make it to finals but I paddled hard and did. After my finals race, I ended coming in 4rth place. I was super stoked about that. Later in the day, I competed in the freestyle, now all the athletes were thrown for a loop. We were told to go compete on a completely different wave than what we trained on. The new wave was weird and hard to get a pass on but once you did you would go so huge. I struggled a little on the wave but I was stoked on being able to pull off the win in the Junior Women’s Division.

After Durango, I was off to Lyons, Colorado for a few days. I didn’t complete there but I trained with a good friend of mine. The cool thing about this feature here is that it is literally behind my friend house so it was super easy to walk down to the hole and do a few sessions a day. The feature here is super weird because the level changes all the time. Also, it can be super shallow in some places but if you hit right you can hit pretty big tricks. The hole here though is super good to work on cartwheels and McNastys, it’s also perfect to learn how to carve back and forth to get set- up for tricks.

After a week in Lyons, I headed to Vail, CO for the GoPro Mountain Games. This is definitely one of my favorite events in Colorado. This year was my second year and I competed in the Coors Light Pro Freestyle and the down river sprint. The first event was the freestyle, I was super stoked on this event because I knew I could do good because I know the feature and I know how it works. Though I let my nervousness get the best of me and I didn’t as well as planned. Though I had to remember that I have many more GoPro Games to go to and do good. Then I competed in the down river sprint. I was hoping to get between 20 and 25 minutes, but I surprised myself and got around 18 minutes.

This trip has been amazing and I have made so many memories competing. I  have also made so many new friends and I can’t wait to go back next year.

Have fun have fun paddling,

Cat H.

18
Jul

Megatron | The rowdiest river of my life!

This river is one of the main reasons I came back to Norway this summer. I ran just one of the rapids on it last year, an enormous slide called Megatron that Finn Burrows and Nick Horwood found and claimed the first descent on in 2010. Last year I was able to get just a small glimpse of the white water above the slide but it was enough to convince me that it was worth trying to link it all up.

We where blocked by ice bridges on an attempt earlier this spring and when we came back we found the river low and far from the ideal range to try and drop all of it. My crew (intelligently) backed out but I was too emotionally invested in it and on Wednesday, despite a lot of concern for my safety we hiked up the mountain once again to try and get the first complete descent on this river.

We hiked for around two hours in miserable conditions to get to the river. Two of my crew members Halvor Heggem and Rowan James had never seen the section before and seeing Rowan’s reaction was both priceless and unnerving – “For f*cks sake Bren”.

Somehow the river had come up just a little bit since the last scouting mission, whether from the recent thunderstorm or an act of kindness from the river gods, I don’t know. It did however confirm my belief that I am in-fact the *jammiest git in the world. That little bit of extra could make all the difference between a successful descent and erm, well, let’s not think about the alternative.


I put on the river at the very top just below the snow field and ran the first waterfall, I hit a submerged rock right at the lip and almost flipped – “Brilliant, off to a great f@*$ing start here”. I managed to stay upright and finish the drop upright. I brushed off the unease that this mistake had brought me and blasted down the entry rapids to the gorge and towards possibly the rowdiest slide on the section. This thing was huge and mean with really sharp rocks, savage reconnects and a wonderful undercut boulder in the landing zone waiting to eat me. I knew if I could get down this one I could link up all of the section and despite having to do some serious ninja-ing mid air after hitting a kicker I was able to run this slide okay.


The next part of the section involved two slides that pushed hard into some brutal undercuts and on the left and had really tight exits. I was really scared of the first undercut and pushed too hard right, got stopped in an eddy and had to spin around on the lip of the second half of it – “Oooo scary!”. The second slide went great and all of a sudden I was rolling into the infamous “megatron slide”. I was smiling at this point, despite being the biggest slide on the section it is also the friendliest (by friendly, I mean it’s rocks are slightly less jagged and it wasn’t trying to break me quite as bad as the rest of the rapids) I had also ran it before and new that I could get down it. The lower levels meant that the undercut on the left was fully exposed at the lip and had to force myself not to look at it and focus on the entry drop. The entry into Megatron is a 15fter that lands directly onto the rocky slide below, you have to set your angle perfectly so that you don’t reconnect too hard and risk breaking your back or ribs or even worse bounce on the landing and flip at the top of the slide :0

Due to lower water levels the slide was not as padded out as last year and I had to fight really hard not to be kicked onto my head at several spots. The hole about 2/3s of the way down was much more powerful and I almost ran the last and most dangerous part of the slide on my head. Fortunately I managed to save it before things went really bad. I skipped through the last hole of the slide and into the eddy, more stoked and relieved than I have ever been in my life. I was fully prepared to break myself in my attempt to run the whole of this section and to be able to kayak down into the lake and walk off the mountain with no *injuries and with my friends was simply priceless.

A huge thanks to my crew for supporting me throughout this descent even though they thought it was dumb / not possible. My sponsors for all of the awesome equipment and to Nick Horwood and Lee Royle for all of the navigational help!

See you on the water,
Bren

*Jammy, means lucky in English. Proper lucky.
*Upon waking up the day after it feels like I may have been hit by a bus or been in several car crashes. Should be fine in a few days though!

17
Jul

Quebec Whitewater Series

I’ve been in Canada just over 2 months now and have been on the river pretty much every day. Despite a slightly rocky start not feeling particularly confident, the kayaking has been awesome and I’ve met some great people. Some of the highlights have been racing in the first 3 events of the Quebec Whitewater Series events – the Neilson race, the Rouge Challenge and the Kipawa Head 2 Head. Each one has been super fun and challenging in its own way.

Great fun racing with Gen at the Rouge Challenge

The Neilson race started the series off with a bang! The river is 6 or 7mins of hard, unforgiving whitewater, finishing with the most challenging rapid. You race with a partner, which I find quite stressful as I am constantly worried about letting them down! The race nerves got to me and I ran the entire of the first rapid (Gros Yeux) on my face, which scratched my hands and my new paddles and left me a bit out of breath for the rest of the race. Despite this, it was still a lot of fun and Gen and I took the win in the women’s category.

Excitement at surviving the Neilson race and ready for the party!

The next race was the Rouge Challenge. The Rouge is my local river for the summer so I had paddled it a lot, at varying water levels. It’s a different challenge to try to break the river down and look for the fastest lines, rather than the lines that are the most fun. Similar to the Neilson race, the race was in pairs so again I felt the pressure of not letting Gen down. Thankfully my 9R arrived a couple of days before the race so I had time to get it outfitted, remember how to paddle it and start to feel confident.

Super happy to be racing in my 9R

After a couple of warm up laps in the morning and a nice chilled lunch by the river, we were ready to start. The race nerves got to us on the first run; we both flipped and finished feeling a bit disappointed. After a break watching the other racers and a bit of a pep talk we were ready for the 2nd lap. I don’t think I could be happier with our performance. It wasn’t perfect and there’s definitely things I can improve on but we had good lines and kept paddling hard the whole time. We finished with a time of 2.15mins, 5s ahead of the 2nd place women and equalling the time of the 6th place men’s team.

The final for the race was a boater x, the only aim of which was to beat your partner to determine who would be ahead on the points table for the series. It’s not the best feeling to race with someone for the whole day and then against them at the end! Boater x is also not my favourite event but I managed to get ahead of the group and keep my lead for the whole race. The day was finished with an awesome party at New World Rafting, to make sure we were all in tip top condition for the freestyle competition on the Sunday.

Best way to kill the hangover!

A couple of weeks ago was the Hollywood Head 2 Head on the Kipawa river. Having done no real research into the river or the event, I was very pleasantly surprised by the fun rapids and beautiful campsite (only slightly ruined by allllllllll of the bugs – I have been eaten alive). The race was Saturday afternoon, giving us time for a lap on the river and some practice race runs beforehand.

Similar to boater x, head 2 head is not a race format that I favour. I prefer to be competing only against the clock rather than against other people. However, when offered to race in the men’s category as well as the women’s to make up numbers, I jumped at the opportunity. The men’s and women’s races were alternated, so I had to race 4 times back-to-back which was super tiring! I was gutted that Gen, my partner from the last 2 races and main competition, hit herself in the face with her paddle in her last practice lap and was unable to compete.

The women’s final was a close one between Alex Maggs and myself – I got caught on the eddy line trying to charge to the finish banner and she almost got past me, but I just about managed to hold onto my lead. In the 2nd round of the men’s I was drawn against Fred Gendron, last year’s series winner. Knowing I couldn’t beat him on the main line, I decided to attempt the risky right-hand line which goes between two big holes. I’d tried it once in practice and just about managed to drag myself through. Unfortunately, it did not go so smoothly in the race and I ended up getting massively backlooped – at least I made the crowd happy!

Winning swag at the Hollywood Head 2 Head

I am having a great time racing in Quebec. The series is a great idea and really well organised. It would be awesome to have something similar in the UK. I’m very excited for the final 2 events in August – Montreal Eau Vive and the 7 Sisters Slalom. Watch this space for a write up.

13
Jul

Ekstremsports Veko 2017

The Ekstemsportveko takes place annually in Voss, Norway. From humble beginnings, the festival has grown into the largest action sports event in the world and draws people from around the world and from almost every adventure sport you can imagine. The festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and promised to be the biggest and best Veko yet!

The event runs for a full week long but the kayaking events didn’t start until later in the week which meant that for the first few days, we were free to go off adventuring in the day and come back and hang out with some amazing people in the evenings.  In the first few days, we managed to run and film most of the classic big waterfalls around Voss and we had some amazing joy laps out on the easier sections with a huge crew.

Due to low water levels, the race was moved from the standard Brandseth race course to the entry rapid on the Lower Myrkdal. The race course had some really technical rapids on it and a long flat water sprint in between the first waterfall and the middle of the course. I made a few small mistakes on my first run and found myself sitting in 7th place as I waited to take my second run. With both laps being combined to decide your final time and placing I knew my second lap would have to be something special to make it onto the podium. I gave it everything I had and was well on my way to having a flawless run until I cut into the final move just a little bit too early and hit a rock, costing me those precious couple of seconds I desperately needed. I was pretty disappointed with my racing that day but happy to finish in 4th place against a stacked field of international racers.

The top 50 percent of racers were invited to compete in a slalom competition on the “Holy diver” rapid in memory of the late Benjamin Hjort. The slalom course was amazing and featured some really challenging gates, the hardest move on the entire course was the waterfall near the end. It was impossible to stay on top of the water down this behemoth which meant that there was a certain degree of randomness and luck as to how you resurfaced. We saw most possibilities taken throughout the day with competitors resurfacing upside down, backwards, sideways and occasionally, all of the above. There was an unfortunate timing issue with my first and fastest run and I had a bad line out of the bottom of the waterfall on my second. Regardless, it was an absolutely awesome day racing and I am really happy that the organisers decided to step up and hold a race on a rapid of this nature.

Photo by Andreas Roksvaag // http://www.andreasroksvaag.com // Insta: @andreasroksvaag

With the two main kayaking events over and the weekend’s concerts about to begin, we were let loose to enjoy some great times with awesome people and even got to see Grand Master Flash play!

Thanks to everyone that make the Ekstemsportsveko what it is. I thoroughly look forward to coming back next year and putting down some faster race times!

Bren

12
Jun

2017 GoPro Mountain Games – Steep Creek Challenge (Homestake Creek Class V)

Pyranha Team Paddler - Henry Hyde

Pyranha Team Paddler – Henry Hyde

Well, I finally got my butt in gear and confronted a run that while I have ran most of it in the past, I finally raced it in my new Machno. You can see a small indentation in the bow. That happened on my second run, I had a piton on “Leap of Faith”. It should be easy enough to knock out with some hot water and a closet dowel.

Pre-race lecture

Pre-race lecture

No, I don’t have a headache. I was trying to replay in my mind a mistake on the drop into Birdbath. I missed my boof stroke and gave everyone a good scare 🙂

Safety Meeting ARGH!

Safety Meeting ARGH!

My goal for competing in this race was to A) Not get killed B) Run clean lines and C) Not get killed (that would be awkward). Really though, just to be able to do this race is pretty amazing. This isn’t like paddling Shoshone or any other milk run. This is serious stuff and after last year, when people got hurt and lost boats and other assorted gear, you really have to be on your “A” Game.

I thought I was the only Pyranha Team member racing, but Gerd Serrasolses was there too. I couldn’t talk Rowan Stuart into it, so I still had to represent and at least finish it.

The start of the upper mank

The start of the upper mank

The upper mank section is always a little bit weird, depending upon the level. I’m still not sure if I like it lower or higher. Either way, you’re going to leave some plastic on the rocks to appease the River Gods. The trick to this section is to study it well beforehand and know where the green water is. Even then, you’re likely to run afoul on a rock somewhere along the way. The middle of the upper mank is where you need to establish your line to the right and start to set up for coming into the top of Goal Posts. At the level we raced at, a mistake anywhere in Goal Posts will cost you either time, or your elbows, or a nasty pin that could have epic consequences. Safety set up is marginal at best as there aren’t really any good spots for assists.

Goal Post Section

Goal Post Section

Slightly below Goal Posts

Slightly below Goal Posts

Coming out of the Goal Post Section

Coming out of the Goal Post Section

Coming out of the Goal Posts section leads you into the the drop into Bird Bath. Nothing super tricky here, but you need to watch your line and where your bow is pointing. A good boof stroke here with your bow pointing slightly left is going to help you keep your speed up for when you hit the slow water in Bird Bath. From there you need to drive hard across it.

Leap of Faith

Top down on Leap of Faith

Leap of faith pretty much sums it up. At the level we raced at, there is a nasty rock at the bottom. I happened to get a bit off my line and pitoned it. The dent like I said before isn’t too bad and I can fix it pretty easily. Coming off of Leap of Faith, you need to have a few hard driving strokes. You don’t need a ton of them, just precise and clean strokes. I took a couple of Duffek strokes in here and it helped immensely.

I’m sure I will be racing it again next year, likely in my 9R Medium. It’s a bit faster than the Machno, though I love paddling both of them.

SYOTR

Henry

31
May

Help Save Our Rivers!

Kayaking has given me so much. From friendships cemented with epics in far-flung places, to a way out of inner city London as a youngster to experience a different way and pace of life in the French Alps. It’s provided me with a sport I am good at (I definitely didn’t excel at football at school!) a passion for the great outdoors and a love for being in new and exciting places, as well as a career sharing all this with the next generation of paddlers.

pic by Tim Burne

First Ledge on the Wnion, a North Wales classic run. Pic by Tim Burne.

I currently live and work in North Wales, in one of the most accessible National Parks in the United Kingdom. In the area we have some of the most famous whitewater rivers in the UK. Boaters cut their teeth paddling the Llugwy and Glaslyn, develop on the Upper Conwy and Wnion and test themselves on the Ogwen, Mawddach and Fairy Glen. There is a river for everyone to enjoy, and this is one of the things I love about the area.

Like most paddlers I mainly spend my life ignoring politics, and campaigns, but my eyes were opened a couple of years ago when a multinational corporation tried to dam one of the most iconic British Rivers, dig through two kilometres of ancient woodland and build a small scale hydro scheme that breached several environmental guidelines and would have caused unknown damage to an exceptionally fragile ecosystem. This was stopped by people power alone, and being involved in this opened my eyes to how we can all make a difference.

The Afon Cynfal. A rite of Passage!? Pic by Tim Burne

It is these experiences that have caused me to stop and write a passionate plea to all of you. I believe in our collective power, and want to help to protect these places that have given me so much so I can share them with generations to come.

The Welsh Government are about to debate adopting a new report detailing how all the National Parks in Wales are to be managed in the future. The Future Landscapes Wales (FLW) report was leaked in draft form in March, the week before assembly members were due to debate adopting it (Note – prior to having even seen the report, Assembly Members were due to adopt the report – that should set alarm bells ringing…), and a huge public outcry was raised by saveourrivers and other conservation bodies, including the British Mountaineering Council and the Snowdonia Society. Cue backtracking by the Welsh Government, postponement of the debate and assurances that the report was only in draft form.

There was such an outcry over the initial draft as it failed to mention the Sandford Principle, a key conservation safeguard, enshrined in law as one of the defining characteristics of a National Park. The final version, despite assurances to the contrary, also fails to mention this key principle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the already murky history of the FLW, the Welsh Assembly has timetabled the debate to adopt the report on the 6th of June, two days before the General Election, whilst attention is elsewhere.

Pic from Save Our Rivers / Patagonia

If the Future Landscapes Wales proposals go forward unchallenged, we will be heading not only for the destruction of the purpose of National Parks, as we have known them for over 60 years, but also leave the Welsh Parks without any legal protection from unadvised development.  Without a clear restatement of the Sandford Principle, and without a clear commitment to the conservation of landscape, natural beauty, and wildlife, the National Parks in Wales will be relegated to a lower tier of Protected Landscapes as defined internationally by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Welsh National Parks could become “hub” areas for the development of intensive tourism, renewable energy, and economic development, at the cost of protected landscapes and the promotion of quiet enjoyment that the national parks were established for.

Multiple hydro schemes in all of our rivers anyone? Canalisation of rivers, as in the Alps? Even more limited access to the rivers, as commercial interests close out responsible independent adventure tourists? We can’t let this happen. Our National Parks surely mean more than a badge, a marketing brand, and a commercial asset to be exploited by faceless multinationals.

Pic from Save Our Rivers / Patagonia

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING TO HELP!

Action is needed before 6 June!

 Actions if you live in Wales:

Write to your five Assembly Members (that’s your constituency Member and all four of your regional Members) and ask them to help.

Click on this map to get the email addresses of your Assembly Members.

 Tell them:

  • Why you love the National Parks of Wales – Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast and how you benefit from their existence
  • That you hope they will be seen to stand up for National Parks in the debate on 6 June, which will be broadcast live on senedd.tv

Ask them to:

  • Stand up for proper protection, management, and resources for National Parks and AONBs in the debate on 6 June
  • Make landscape, natural beauty, wildlife, quiet enjoyment and cultural heritage central to the debate
  • Insist on a Sandford-type conservation principle so that, when there is an unavoidable conflict of purposes, conservation has the higher priority
  • Insist on full public consultation for any proposed changes to the purposes of National Parks
  • Point out that key conservation and recreation organisations, including the BMC, the Wildlife Trusts, Alliance for National Parks (Cymru) and many others are unable to support the FLW report because it excludes the Sandford Principle.

Make your email short and positive. Assembly Members are genuinely extremely busy people and short emails are more likely to be taken notice of.

 Actions if you live outside Wales:

Write to Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs  at Correspondence.Lesley.Griffiths@gov.wales and copy your message to the other party spokespeople for environment – Simon Thomas (Plaid Cymru) Simon.Thomas@assembly.wales and  David Melding (Conservative) David.Melding@assembly.wales.

Tell her: How much and why National Parks in Wales matter to you.

Ask her: To show that she understands the importance of protecting, conserving and managing our last big areas of unspoilt countryside. Ask her to move beyond the narrow and old-fashioned view that getting more benefits from National Parks means ‘freeing them up’ to more development and more concrete.

Thank you so much for doing your bit to protect our National Parks.

You can read more about the campaign to save our rivers here.

16
May

Learning the Little White

The Pacific North West has earned itself a reputation as one of the best destinations for kayaking in the world. Home to a diverse selection of rivers, slides and waterfalls, the area is a geographical paradise for all level of kayakers but especially those looking to pursue the art of free fall. The waterfalls in this area are among some of the tallest (run-able) waterfalls in the world and several world records have been broken here. There is no limit to how big you can go with waterfalls in the PNW but it is also home to one of the most legendary sections of river in our sport, the Little White Salmon.

I first went down the Little White early on in my river running career, at exceedingly low water levels and thought it was one of the hardest, most continuous and best sections of river I had ever run. Three years later I returned and the river was running at just over five feet on the gauge, over two feet higher than my first lap. On some rivers the difference between a few inches makes little, to no difference, on the Little White however you can feel every single incremental notch up, as the river becomes increasingly powerful. I was not planning on immediately dropping into the river at these flows and was hoping to build up slowly throughout the rivers range. But life rarely goes to plan, and when I was given the opportunity to follow one of my kayaking heroes (Ben Marr) down the river, I took it.

That first lap blew by in a series of breathlessness, lactic forearms, occasional glimpses of Benny’s kayak in the distance and several moments where I was concerned about involuntarily ‘decorating’ the inside of my Fuse suit. Whilst I made it down the river that day, I was absolutely on the limits of what I am capable of and it was in no way a stylish lap. We committed to running the Little White every day after this and I slowly grew slightly more comfortable with the river at high water, learn’t the lines and pushed my river running further than I ever had before.

Almost all of our laps where around the five foot mark, except for one notable morning lap where the river was at 5.5 feet. To my knowledge this is the highest descent of this river, though I am more than happy to be proved wrong. The river that day was a whole other animal and I felt genuinely relieved when myself and my crew made it to the bottom.

I will forever be grateful for my time on the Little White this spring. There has never been a river push me in the way that this river has at high water, there is simply no other section I have come across that requires you to be as skilled in a kayak, in shape and mentally prepared.

Whilst the Little White was our go to for daily jedi training we also ran the Truss at huge levels almost everyday and went out on several missions to the local waterfalls. Sadly I got hurt (subluxed shoulder) before I could run some of my dream waterfalls but we still managed to run several classics in the area.

Money drop. A sixty footer with an intimating lip and the potential for huge impacts at the bottom. Photo Dane Jackson

Punchbowl and Metlako. Two of the sickest waterfalls in the world, Punchbowl is a dynamic thirty footer with a curler move off the lip and Metlako is possibly the gentlest eighty footer in the world. Photo Austin Jackson

Outlet falls. An awesome seventy footer with a cool lead in rapid. Photo Tyler Roemer

I cannot wait to come back to the PNW next spring for more Jedi training on the Little White and to run more of the waterfalls in this area. Hope you all had a great spring!
See you on the water, Bren

27
Apr

2017 Brush Creek Race

The first time I raced at Brush creek was probably five or six years ago and there hasn’t been a race there since until this past weekend. The southern end of the Sierras were hit hard by the California drought, and there hasn’t been enough water to make this amazing creek run. Maybe that’s why there was such a great energy in the air at Brush Creek last weekend. Not only did it have runnable flows for the first time in a long time, but it had high flows, making it super fun and a little more challenging.

brush creek (1 of 18)
This year, the race was of particular interest to me. I mean sure it is a really fun creek with drops and steep slides. Yeah, I did get to paddle it with some friends that I haven’t seen since last year. That was like the icing on the cake, but for me, this year, the best part of this event was getting to take “the kid” (his new nickname) that I have been paddling with the past year. For him it was his first time running this style of continuous drops and big slides. I’m beyond stoked to report that he killed it. By his third or fourth run down the creek he was leading others. This trip really highlighted how much he has grown as a paddler in the past year. When we first paddled together he’d be out of his boat before his head got wet if things didn’t go to plan, but not any more. On the occasions where he got himself stuck in a recirculating eddy, or flipped over in three inches of water with only one hand on his paddle, he kept his calm and sorted himself out without needing any assistance from anyone else. For him maybe more than for me, another highlight may have been him beating me in the race. I always knew it would happen but I really thought I had more time. Maybe if I hadn’t taken a beating and swam in practice the morning of race day I might have done better, but more on that story in a minute.

brush creek (11 of 18)

Ethan Howard falling in love with the Machno

If you know me as a paddler, you know that I prefer kayaking where the water is deep enough to put paddle strokes in and drive my boat. If you say the word rock in your explanation of what it means to boof, I will disagree. I go to great lengths to keep my boat from making contact with solid objects in the river. Maybe that’s because I started out in composite boats. Whatever the reason, I’m especially picky about not beating up my 9R. My 9R is hands down my favorite boat to paddle, and let’s face it, if you had a Ferrari would you rely on the guard rail to steer you around the corner? Not wanting to abuse my Ferrari on the steep low volume creek, I rode the new Machno for the trip and I couldn’t be more stoked with how well it rides. It’s not quite as fast and dynamic as the 9R but it isn’t supposed to be. It is very predictable, stable, and forgiving. It’s easy to boof and runs over everything you put in front of it. This boat just became my go to for multi day and or steep low volume runs.

brush creek (16 of 18)Ok I guess you’ve waited long enough. You’ve probably seen the pictures and video already. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this much media coverage on the internet for anything I’ve ever done, but sure enough I take a swim and suddenly I’m famous. So, for those wondering here’s how it went down. Dave drove into town Friday evening having never paddled Brush creek before but planning to race the next day. It was already too late to go up that night so we got started early the next morning. I had already done six or eight practice laps the previous couple days so I went up to show Dave what I thought were the fastest lines for the race course. We’re coming into a rapid called triple drop, which oddly enough is a series of three ledges. There aren’t many eddies so I look over my shoulder on the way in and say “justrun the all down the right.” Upon looking back downstream I note I’m a little late getting right. No problem. I can use that small eddy to help me get there. I made a slight miscalculation and suddenly found myself spun out in the eddy and drifting out the back of it. I took a quick look at the approaching ledge and decided there wasn’t enough time to spin back around. “I definitely don’t want to drop in sideways,” I thought to myself, “I’ll have to run it backwards.” I took my best attempt at a switch boof stroke, but alas it wasn’t good enough. Perhaps that majestic California Boof Stork was lurking somewhere near by. I fell into the hole and was immediately locked into a side surf struggling to keep upright. Dave and Ethan both landed on me and I didn’t budge. I tried going forward and backward but was unable to move an inch in either direction. I tried flipping over but to no avail. With noting working at all I new I had only one option left. Swim. Reluctantly and all too aware that my padawan learner was just down stream I pulled the yellow tab of surrender and was quickly removed from my kayak. I was lucky in that I came right up to the surface and was able to swim into a micro eddy and a small hold on the icy granite before swimming the following ledges. It would have been four years in June, but I guess we all must swim sometimes. At least I got a free beer out of it.

 

23
Apr

Hidden Idaho Gems – Jarbridge and Bruneau Canyons

 

The Jarbridge is a low volume, fast moving river that flows through stunning vocanic canyons from Jarbridge Mountains on the Idaho-Nevada border. The Jarbridge flows into the Bruneau River near Indian Hot Springs where the canyon opens into Idaho sage brush planes before descending again into the red-walled canyons of the Bruneau. The flows on the Jarbridge are highly variable and difficult to predict, but if you get the opportunity to do this run from Murphy Hot Springs to Bruneau you should jump on it.

The entire run is 70 miles, 30 on the Jarbridge and 40 on the Bruneau. The shuttle is not too bad (the road has been fixed!) if you camp near Bruneau the night before and use Ed Geiger’s Bruneau Shuttle Service right out of Bruneau, ID. The weather can be harsh (typical spring in Idaho), but also lovely down in the canyons.

We spent one night on the Jarbridge and two nights on the Bruneau. There’s plenty of whitewater on both sections. The Jarbridge is more technical and has three of the most difficult rapids. We portaged two of the rapids because they are relatively new slides with sieves and wood, but we ran Wally’s Wallow. It’s technical class four and probably would have been a little easier with more water.

After the confluence with the Bruneau, the river substantially increases in volume. There’s a great read and run continuous class four section the last day on the Brunuea. It’s about five miles and really fun. Even with a loaded 9R, I had a blast hitting little boofs and eddies down that section. The whitewater is a bonus, the scenery is really the main attraction. It’s amazing. The canyon walls come straight down to the river in many places with hoodoos towering above. The canyons are remote and there’s lots wildlife sign, such as elk, cougar, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn on the sage plateaus above.

We had time for a few hikes up the side canyons, and the views were as spectacular as those you would find in the Grand Canyon. Go with a good group who all love wilderness rivers, whitewater, camping, multi-days out of their kayaks, and a good time! You can always squeeze in extra beers in a creek boat! These canyons are truly and Idaho hidden gem.

13
Apr

2017 Northwest Creek Comp

Last weekend was the annual Northwest Creeking Competition put on by Next Adventure and Alder Creek kayak shops. The NWCC is held at the Sunset Falls Campground in Washington about an hour north of Portland. It consists of two races. Saturday kayakers race down the East Fork Lewis. The race starts with a short sprint to a 10 foot waterfall. After the initial drop there is a lot of calm water with class III rapids spread throughout. The section of river is really pretty and makes for a fun trip when you aren’t trying to see how fast you can get through it.

Dave Fusilli on the initial drop of the EFL in the Machno

Saturday Top Finishers

Men:

  1. Dane Jackson
  2. Brenden Wells
  3. Colin Hunt
  4. Dave Fusilli
  5. Kyle Anderson

Women:

  1. Nicole Mansfield
  2. Beth Morgan
  3. Tracy Tate
  4. Anna Wagner
  5. Jordan Slaughter

Demshitz lifestyle

Demshitz followed up their domination in the race by indisputably  winning the party Saturday night. It might have been freezing cold and raining but that didn’t stop us from building a fire, turning up the music and raging into the night.  It was a great time to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while. There was a definite excitement in the air about the upcoming runoff both for Washington and California. The past few years have been less than ideal for both regions as far as snow pack is concerned, so we’re all super stoked for this year’s melt. A lot of plans were made for the upcoming Cali season over perhaps a few too many beers. Unfortunately I can’t really remember the details all that well the next day.

Sunday morning everyone is off to a slow start for the hangover race on Canyon Creek. This course is really fun and a bit more challenging than the EFL. I had only paddled this course twice prior to the race so I was pretty happy to only get lost once and take just one hole ride. Not conducive to going fast but fun none the less. The highlight of this race for me was landing a smooth line off the 20 foot waterfall in the middle of the race course. I’d like to learn the course better and be more competitive in the future but for now I’m stoked on the small victories and having a great time going fast against my friends.

Sunday’s top finishers:

Men:

  1. Isaac Levinson
  2. Rush Sturges
  3. Dane Jackson
  4. Greg Lee
  5. Sam Swanson

Women:

  1. Nicole Mansfield
  2. Anna Wagner
  3. Tracy Tate
  4. Beth Morgan
  5. Jordan Slaughter

 

The girls showing off all the bling they earned this weekend

What do you do when you have driven 12 hours to get there and the race is over and you’re in the Columbia River Gorge? You go kayaking, of course. We’ve had some time to hang out and enjoy the goods of the area post race. We’ve gotten Farmlands, Upper Wind, Middle White Salmon, Ohanapecosh, surf session on the Deschutes, and we have a couple more days to go.

Anna Wagner sending Lava Falls in her 9R

Beth Morgan in the Machno on the same

We’re off to have more fun. I hope to see yinz at the Kern River Fest next weekend. Cheers!

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