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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


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.



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.


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


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


  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:


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


  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!


2017 Goshen Race: “Kicking a$$ in Goshen Pass”

It’s been a riduculously dry spring in Virginia, but the rains on April Fool’s Day were no joke. Rivers and creeks reached levels we have barely seen since last year. The rain opened the door for the 10th annual Goshen Race on the Maury River near Lexington, VA. The mass-start on this scenic class III-IV is always a spectacle as 20 to 50 paddlers fight for the head of the pack before dropping into the depths of the Pass. This year’s race landed on a gorgeous day – sunny and warm – with a great water level for racing. Veteran paddler and Goshen-racer, Tate Huffman of Charlottesville, VA snatched the 1st place trophy by a strong margin. Last year’s champ, Adam Freeman, took home a slightly smaller trophy this year, with 2nd place. Ciaran Brown, from nearby Buena Vista, rounded out the podium in 3rd place. It was a kick-a$$ day in Goshen Pass!

Above: Ciaran Brown, Tate Huffman, and Adam Freeman on the podium

Above: Andrew Epperly rocks the “Carnage Panty” (on his helmet) – the least coveted of Goshen “trophies.”

Every single racer and volunteer left the awards ceremony with a prize and a smile thanks in large part to the generous support of Pyranha Kayaks. Thank you Pyranha! 

For full results, boof on over to Appomattox River Company’s page .


5 Must Dos for Kayakers in New Zealand

New Zealand has been on my radar as an epic paddling destination for years; 15 months ago, I was stoked to arrive for a year and a half of work and play. The country has totally lived up to my expectations with amazing scenery, great people and awesome rivers. Here are my 5 must dos for the white water hungry:

Enjoying Kaituna laps in the sun. Photo – Amy Kinkaid

1: Paddle a Multi-Day
Although the South Island is famous for its amazing multi-day rivers, the North has gems to be explored too; draining the east of the North Island, the Motu River combines wilderness, wildlife and whitewater in a stunning 3 day, Class 3/4 trip, ideal for kayaks, rafts, and lots of goon bags (bag o’ wine).

Rafts, kayaks, and topo-duos all enjoying life on the Motu.

2: Enter a Race
Kiwis are a pretty speedy bunch, so they’re always psyched for a race! A particularly notable race to get involved in is the Okere Falls Enduro; this 6 hour event is held on the must-do Kaituna River (Class 3/4), and combines paddling laps and running in a 3-person relay. Expect an awesome atmosphere, range of abilities, and top folk giving it a crack.

Aiming for smooth, fast lines at the Okere Falls Enduro in the 9R. Photo – Alan Ofsoski

Go-fast leggings helping me through the run. Photo – Alan Ofsoski

3: Attend a Festival
If there is one thing that kayakers are good at, it’s partying, and Buller Fest has plenty of that! Based in Murchison, this 3-day event has slalom, boatercross, and rafting competitions, but for most, it is a chance to have a few beers, catch up with folk, and enjoy some sunny whitewater.

When in Rome… Paddling the iconic Maruia Falls during Buller Fest. Photo – Amy Dunis

4: Go Heli-Kayaking!
In the remote Southern Alps, helicopter is an awesome option for accessing some of the amazing rivers that drain these steep peaks; for $150pp (£80), we flew into the Kokatahi River, which has 16km of awesome, unrelenting Class 4/5 whitewater set in stunning scenery. NZ is one of the cheapest countries to heli-kayak, and with a huge range of rivers on the West Coast, there is something for every paddler.

Receiving the boats at the top of the Kokatahi, Hokitika.

5: Paddle a Classic
Unless you’ve been hibernating in a cave, you’ve seen iconic images of Huka Falls, Nevis Bluff, and Maruia Falls; these visually stunning pieces of whitewater put a fire in my belly. After missing levels for Huka Falls, it was awesome to paddle Maruia Falls during Buller Fest, and the Nevis Bluff rapids. Don’t be put off by the Nevis Buff’s volume; at low flows, there is time to make the lines, and the holes become a lot less intimidating.

I was blown away by my time in New Zealand; kayaking took me off the busy tourist trail, allowing me to see the real country, make good friends, and have some brilliant adventures; I would totally recommend a trip out here, whether it’s a 2 week ‘smash and grab’, or a 2 year working-holiday visa-odyssey; get involved!

Friends enjoying stories and laughs round the fire deep in the NZ wilderness.

Thanks to Pyranha for their much appreciated support, and to Long Cloud Kayaks in Christchurch for shipping my 9R out!



Albert Kerr Wins Gold at the 1977 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, Spittal

In July, it will be 40 years since Albert Kerr from Carlisle Canoe Club, won the World Slalom Championships in Spittal Austria, using a Pyranha Elite Equipe.

Albert’s super-human performance was a surprise to many, though not to those of us who knew him; the local paper the next day was headlined, ‘Mr. Nobody Wins the World Championships’, but Albert was far from that, proven by his 11 second winning margin.

Only once before, in 1959, had a Brit won a Worlds when Paul Farrant won in Geneva, and since then we had some great paddlers with Dave Mitchell gaining a Silver, but German manufacturers had a stranglehold on design, with the British Team often only getting last year’s models from Klepper, then Prijon and Lettman.

I had been to the annual Easter slalom at Grandtully with my early slalom designs in 1974, and said to a friend, Tony Young, that I would make a world competitive Slalom Kayak, and set about a development programme with annual design evolution (an approach which has remained central to Pyranha to this day).

In 1975, we had developed a new design, the Elite, which we cut down for the Elite SS, and I supported Nicky Wain, Alan Edge, and Peggy Nutt (later Mitchell) with Nicky and Alan coming a great 7th and 8th in the Skopje (Yugoslavia as it was then) Worlds.

For 1977, the design evolved to the Elite Equipe, and to try to ensure it was right, Nicky Wain, Alan Edge, Albert Kerr, and I drove the Pyranha van out to Spittal to recce the Worlds course.

The boys were on form, and we thought we had the design right, though Albert, the strongest, and occasionally the most inconsistent, wanted a bit more volume, so we added an inch (25mm) in the gunwales for his race boat. Made of Kevlar and Vinylester Resin, they weighed 17 lbs (7.7kgs) with their red glitter decks.

On race day, Albert went very early on as he was not one of the favourites; his speed and clean run was a shock to many, and one by one they tried to beat him. Albert made one break out in particular which nobody else could make, setting a very high bar for the others.

The spectators lining the road along the course and in the grandstand roared encouragement to their local heroes.

The British Team supporters ran down the road following their athletes cheering them on, ‘UP! UP! UP!’, trying to make up for the lack of noise and encouragement from the other spectators.

When a gate was hit, the spectators would fall silent; when the time wasn’t fast enough, they would fall silent, and cheer again when the next hero started. One by one they failed; Dieter Forstl, Germany’s great hope failed, and then the super local hero, Austria’s great Norbert Sattler, Olympic Silver medallist at Munich 5 years previous, started his run; the crowd roared louder than before, willing him on. His time was close to Albert’s, gate after gate was clean until close to the end, he hit a pole; the crowd went silent, for a split second you could hear a pin drop, and then the British supporters went berserk.

Albert had won, and the Slalom world shifted on its axis.

I remember looking up at a blue, cloudless sky, and thanking God; I was totally drained. Countless people and manufacturing competitors congratulating me; our design was good, but it was Albert’s day, and I will always be grateful to have helped.

After Mike Jones and his team’s Descent of Everest’s Dudh Kosi the year before, Albert’s win was massive for Pyranha, but it was also massive for Slalom in Britain; it gave others confidence to achieve the same, and this then led to Richard Fox’s domination, and many other paddlers becoming World Team Champions alongside Albert and then Richard.

Pyranha went on to see our Kayaks and Canoes win at the Worlds for the next decade, until we retired to focus on polyethylene production and river running designs.

I have witnessed the feats of some great athletes since then, worked with great people, made great friends and many great memories, but that day at Spittal is still “The Day”!


NSR and Galway Fest

This year, for the first time since I can remember, the National Student Rodeo and Galway Fest were organised to be on different weekends, which meant I had no excuse to not attend both!

Galway Fest’s reputation precedes itself, with a rumour of one year someone, *cough* Bren Orton *cough*, getting so wasted they drank a candle! I have my own reputation at NSR for winning the party, and last year I ended the weekend with my arm in a sling. I was a bit scared for these two weekends to be back-to-back, especially so close to my next adventure, so set myself a solid aim of no hospital visits, which I very thankfully managed to keep!

Mud glorious mud! – Tom Clare

A few heavy storms in the run up to NSR meant that the water level of the Trent was too high for the course to be running; although this was a real blow to the competition side of things, the organisers did a fantastic job of sorting flat water events and the party was as epic as ever. The Pyranha stand was packed out for the whole weekend with people demoing boats and vying for a chance at the Pyranha prize – bringing us food and potted plants to aid in our fight against the zombies. Portsmouth University Kayak Club were the very worthy winners, after filling the van with flowers, wearing Pyranha stickers on their faces, and keeping us entertained both on and off the water.

What an awesome collection of flowers and even a gnome for the Pyranha garden – P.Y. Photographic

During the film competition, I helped present a cheque for £5000 to Kingfisher Canoe Club on behalf of River Legacy. The money will be used towards a new clubhouse for KCC, who have been evicted from their current premises; it’s awesome to see the bar proceeds from NSR and other events going towards such a good cause! You can read more about the donation, here:

Donation of £5000 from River Legacy to Kingfisher Canoe Club

After a couple of days of rest and recuperation, I was on a plane to Dublin for round two, Galway Fest!

We were blessed all weekend with glorious sunshine, which I understand is a rare occurrence on the west coast of Ireland. The event ran impressively smoothly given that there were 200 competitors, 6 events, and the added time pressure of the incoming tide. On the Friday night we watched Callum and James talk about their trip to Afghanistan, which sounded like a fascinating cultural experience with the added bonus of fun whitewater; it definitely sparked my desire to explore more of the world.

The first event on the Saturday was the time trial down a grade 2/3 section of the Boluisce river; we just about sneaked a practice run in before the race briefing, so I at least had some idea of where to go! My run felt smooth and fast, and I was delighted to put down a time of 5.58 minutes, firmly placing as top female and 15th overall. The team race had the added amusement of a running start and finish, but by far the highlight of the weekend for me was the no-decks boater cross on Saturday afternoon. I ended up completely sunk, heading backwards down the final (and hardest) rapid, giggling all the way.

Final push through the last rapid in the time trial – Paul Bradley

After a fun night out on Saturday and a slightly sore head, we headed to the Corrib River in the centre of Galway for the Freestyle, Mass Slalom and Boatercross competitions. The slalom involved racing down a tedious, flat-sided channel before reaching the main river, collecting pegs from two eddies, and sprinting to the finish line; I volunteered to hand out the pegs for the men’s expert race which was fairly hectic!

Happy and tired faces from the racing ladies – Paul Bradley

Over the weekend there were 19 women racing in the expert category, and also a solid turn out for the intermediates; it was awesome to see so many ladies on the water not only competing, but also encouraging each other and having a great time. I was very chuffed to come 2nd overall in such a strong ladies category, and it was also pretty cool to be racing through the middle of Galway, increasing the exposure to the general public who were intrigued by the whole thing. Overall, I loved being involved in the event and definitely will be back at some point (after a couple of years over the other side of the pond).

Good work and thanks to the organisers of both NSR and Galway Fest for putting on such successful events.

Here’s my highlights video from Galway Fest:




The Octane 175- Pyranha’s New Surfski

When Pyranha came out with their new Surfski, the Octane 175, I was excited to try it out and now after 10 weeks it just keeps getting better.  This ski is perfect for beginning to intermediate paddlers: those who want to learn, play in the surf or try their hand at racing.  I wanted a ski for fitness training during the winter and eventually out in the surf when the weather warms up.  Paddling a ski will give you a full workout- you are rotating with every stroke, pushing/pulling with your legs and using all of your core muscles.  For me, it also allows me to keep my legs straight and reduce the amount of torque on my knees and ankles.


I had been trying out other surfskis for several months prior but I had not found one that fit me best.  My  main focus was stability, especially since I was using it for solo workouts on the lake or the bay.  The primary stability of the Octane is hard to beat, until you feel the secondary stability kick in.  Performance is always a key feature- with over 17′ of waterline, the Octane will generate plenty of speed while the rocker allows you to make sharp turns on flatwater and quick turns between waves.  My third focus was durability, it is incredible to have a boat under 30 lbs, but after trying to carry a 20′ long boat without hitting an end, having it launch off your shoulder with a sudden wind burst or simply dealing with shallow water and rocks, the composite idea faded away.  Plus, while others were repairing their skis on the weekend, I was still out there paddling.  Overall, all of the features of the Pyranha Octane make it an impressive surfski.

The variance in paddler size is very generous-  although the Octane 175 was designed for medium to large paddlers, I have found that it also suits smaller paddlers as well.  At both ends of the spectrum, there is still room for more/less- I tested this ski with a paddler who was 6’5 and 210 lbs and found the ski to fit him comfortably while allowing for 4 more inches of leg room.  On the other side of the spectrum, at 5’6, I still had 8 inches of room to move the foot pegs towards me.  Adjusting the foot pegs is quick, a simple turn of a screw allows you to slide the pegs into place and then lock them in a slot.  The boat is so stable that you could even do this while on the water.

The paddle entry point cutaway allows you to make clean catches and adds to the ergonomics of this ski.  The narrowness allows you to plant the blade alongside the ski and then naturally widens back out.  It has significantly helped me improve my forward stroke, especially when using a wing paddle.

One of the best and simplest details of this ski is the self bailer- this may seem insignificant but for those who have paddled a ski know how easy it is to knock out a plug.  To open the self bailer, you simply pull it back with your heel and close it by pushing it forward.


The CoreLite construction creates a highly durable, incredibly stiff and lighter weight ski in comparison to other polyethylene skis.  I was worried about the weight of the boat, it was projected at 57 lbs (52 lbs with an understern udder) but mine weighs under 48 lbs, even with the overstern rudder. The large side handles make it easy to carry, I can easily lift it on/off the car and down to the water.

On the water, the performance of the Octane is dynamic.  With a waterline of almost 18′ and a narrow beam of 20″, this ski can pick up speed fast.  It is an incredibly stable ski as well, the primary stability alone is impressive but the secondary stability is outstanding.  You will find that the semi-hard chines that start at the midpoint and end at the stern allow you to carve and surf while maintaining stability. The Octane has a ton of rocker, which you will love when you are riding a swell or making quick turns in between waves.  If you are using the over stern rudder, you definitely need to have it down at all times but you will be amazed at how well it tracks- I only find myself using the rudder on tight turns, otherwise the ski follows your line of vision.  The Octane turns on a dime- it is amazing how fast the ski turns with the rudder alone, then add an outside edge to tighten up the turn even more.   You can choose to have an overstern rudder or the understern rudder, or both.  They are easy to change out and you can carry the other one in the hatch.  I prefer the overstern, it is one less thing to worry about plus in the winter you can drive the ski all the way in and keep your feet dry.  The overstern can quickly be raised if you find yourself in shallow or rocky water and it drops back down with a simple pull of the cord.

After 10 weeks of paddling the Octane, I simply love it.  It continues to allow me to keep pushing my skills, explore new waterways and more.  If you have ever been intrigued by a surfski or wanted to learn, this is the ski for you.  The stability of the boat will make you feel comfortable while learning, then you can keep adding to your skills when you decide to take it out on a river or in the surf.


Summer Dreaming

It’s March and the weather can’t decide if it is still winter or if it’s spring here in the mid-Atlantic USA. Either way, this time of year we can’t help but think, “What rivers will we get on this summer?” As I day-dream about summer adventures I think back to last year’s summer safari. So here’s some Rocky Mountain paddle-porn to help you through the late-winter blues:

SWIFTCURRENT CREEK EXPLORATORY: I can’t believe how much “unknown” whitewater there is in northern Montana. McDonald Creek in Glacier promises to be an awesome class IV-V river roadside experience at June flows. I was gearing up to put-on it’s glacier-silted waters when we found out  the creek is closed until late summer due to waterfowl nesting. Shutdown by baby ducks! Not to be denied, we headed over the divide on the Going-To-The-Sun road and found ourselves beside Swiftcurrent Creek as it drains scenic Swiftcurrent Lake. This creek offers a short section of super-steep, scenic goodness. As I hiked back I got to watch a cinnamon bear graze past at 50 yards. The first of several bears I’d encounter that day.

YOUR National Park: class-V federal hucking!

MIDDLE FORK FLATHEAD OVERNIGHT: Before dipping into Glacier,  I managed to squeeze in a  solo wilderness overnight self-support on the M. Fk. Flathead River. This river flows through the Great Bear Wilderness – a remote wilderness set aside in part to protect world-class Grizzly Bear habitat. If spending a few travelling through a wild mountain forest filled with large, dangerous omnivores sounds fun, this is your ticket. This one is hard to access and most folks pay for a small plane ride to a grass airstrip at the put-in. I opted to hike my Burn III to the river on an 8-mile forest service trail. Sounded like a good plan… in theory. Things went as well as a hike with a 100-lb boat-pack can go until I came across a forest service crew clearing the trail with handsaws and axes. They politely informed me that I was “screwed.” Turns out the routewas blocked by blow-downs across the trail about every 25 yards – for the next 5 miles. So for the next few hours I dragged myself and my boat/gear through fallen pine tree “hells” on my way to the river. Finally I found a spot to lower my boat down to a tributary creek and (barely) paddle my way the last mile or so. All those years of low-water east coast knuckle-dragging payed off! The next two days were well worth it: good scenery, decent whitewater, great fishing, solitude, and fun camping. A few days after I got off the river a park ranger was killed by a grizzly along the same river, so if you go take the appropriate precautions (carry bear spray and make noise when hiking).

Earn your turns.” A little hike in the woods, with “boat-pack.” And grizzly bears!

Some A+ camping on the Middle Fork Flathead.

Welcome back to ColoRADo! 

Tent-life. Waking up beside the river.

COLORADO PLAYBOATING: After another week of exploring Montana we headed south to see some friends in Colorado. I’ve paddled just about everything I can find in Colorado but have never gotten on the Yampa River. Our route put us right there, so we detoured in there and I snagged a sunset solo run through Split-Mountain Gorge in the Loki. Found a few good waves in there, but mostly I was just happily surprised at the magnitude of this cool little canyon. Check it out if you’re in the area!


 We love some deep canyons!

Now it’s time to plan for Summer 2017. This will be a primo year for the Rockies and California. Who’s in?

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