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02
Nov

12 Steps to Get Long Hair and Not Care

It’s that time of year again, at least if you live on the west coast, and if you are like us you are officially in the off season. There are no big boofs or giant holes within a 2 days drive and the urge to quit work/school, buy a sprinter van, and default on your mortgage to chase after the whitewater season is growing every day. Fortunately for you, we have come up with a 12 step training program to get you through those dark, dry days. 

  1. Throw away your scissors. You won’t be needing them where we are going.
  2. Get a ripper, it will make you way better at kayaking than sitting on the couch watching all those videos of Aniol cobra flipping. 
  3. Buy the Lizzo album Cuz I Love You—make sure it has the bonus tracks, especially Boys. Learn every word to the aforementioned album and practice your singing voice in the car. 
  4. Get a gym membership and watch Robert Frank’s Passion of the Gainz. Happy Gainzvember.
  5. Instead of waiting around for the Little White to come in (or insert any other world class run that’s close to you), take your new slicer to the class 3 run and rip it up. Practice your splats and stern squirts, flip over a bunch and maybe carp a few rolls. Try things you aren’t already good at, maybe even that cobra flip…
  6. When you get back out on a challenging run in your creek boat just remember that you aren’t in that super squirrely small Ripper anymore and be grateful. 
  7. Start subjecting your kayaking squad to Lizzo and your ability to sing along to every word in the car.
  8. When your friend looks at you in the eddy above a big rapid with terror in their eyes, just bust out a bar of your fav Lizzo banger and peel the fuck out.
  9. Get out at the bottom and hold a rope for your friend who was hopefully inspired by your confidence and lack of taking yourself too seriously. 
  10. Buy a brush and some conditioner, by this time your hair is gonna need it.
  11. If you haven’t already, name your kayaks. See previous post.
  12. Reflect back on how far you have come in getting long hair and not caring. Note how much stronger you are going into the rainy season and how much more fun you had staying swole during the dry season. 
Gettin squirreled on the South Yuba

23
Oct

The Young Rippers of Balto Kayak Club

Having a teen in the family creates a different dynamic, so what do I do in my spare time? Well, quite often I decide to surround myself with teens and young adults 😊 Luckily, we have a shared passion for paddling.

Balto Kayak Club, based in Wicklow, Ireland has been running now for 9 years, and we have a solid bunch of paddlers pushing their way onto more challenging rivers.

We use a simple tool with the guys at the start of trips – they simply rate how they are feeling on a nervousness level with ‘one’ being cool as a cucumber and ‘ten’ being a cat on a hot tin roof. We check in regularly as we go down the river. It’s a simple way of everyone sharing how they are feeling, the goal is to make sure it’s a safe environment to share and aim to either keep the low numbers low or bring the high numbers down through the day. My daughter, as you can see below, started this day as a ‘one’ 😊

We had two combat rolls, 1 small swim, and a few unexpected rock-spins, but a great day was had by all and the guys were buzzing. We finished with a quick chat, where everyone agreed that the drills we practised on flat water during the summer really paid off.

I think it’s important to take time on the river for yourself (a lesson only learnt this past year). I rarely get to paddle with my peers and take the 9R out, but I’m happy to keep leading and guiding the club as I have my Ripper; the volume at the front makes sure I get through everything, the boat speed is incredible, and the slicey stern allows me to have a play and mix it up on familiar stretches. My daughter has had an “extended loan” of a small Ripper from the awesome team at I-Canoe in Dublin, and she loved it so much we have just put an order in for one in custom colours – can’t wait to see it!

Thank you Pyranha – your boats are making a huge difference to our club and in our own personal paddling lives. Keep designing awesome boats!

Chris

18
Oct

Summer Fun

2019 has been the best year in my short kayaking experience. I’m 14 and this year has been the one where I finally started to push myself to try new disciplines and develop my white water skills.

First off was the National Boater X series. Boater X is summed up by British Canoeing as “Fast-paced and full of energy, Boater X racing pits the best white water kayakers in a tough, head-to-head format. Nothing is certain as competitors charge down a white water course, negotiating obstacles such as gates, buoys, or even a kayak roll zone – all the while fighting other racers for position.”

📷: British Canoeing

Before the National Boater X Series, I’d never done Boater X before. I’d barely started slalom and only seen videos of carnage from Galway Fest and other events, so I was sure I was going to have some fun and only entered for a laugh and because I was at Cardiff International White Water (CIWW) Paddle Fest anyway.

I ended up winning the first event at Cardiff, which was really surprising, and won a free year of park-and-play at CIWW (the first cash-saver for my parents!). Unfortunately, I was away for the Lee Valley event and missed it, but managed to make the last event of the series at Paddle in the Park at HPP (Nottingham).

I was a little nervous about the HPP event as I was competing against a friend, and placed fourth due to a massive mistake (I tried paddling up the eddy to the obstacle we had to touch and was smashed out of the way by everyone else – but that’s Boater X for you!) We all learn from mistakes, and having entered two of the series, I ended up placing first in the youth male rankings and won the national series.

If that wasn’t lucky enough, every entrant from throughout the competition was put into a prize draw and amazingly I won a Pyranha Ripper. This was the boat I’d wanted for over a year so I was ecstatic and I got to choose custom colours – even better!

In August I travelled to the one and only Pyranha factory in Runcorn where I picked up the Ripper. I was shown around the factory and learnt all about the design and manufacturing process of a kayak which was really cool. I was most impressed by the number of quality checks every kayak goes through and the measures taken to try to reduce the environmental impact of the process. Pyranha have an industry-leading position on recycling with almost all their foam waste being re-purposed, and even some waste from other industries being brought in for re-purposing by Pyranha in fish sponges and shipping protection.

The Ripper is the best boat I’ve ever owned. Just a week after picking it up from Runcorn, I was off to Scotland with the CIWW Kids Academy. It was the best 5 days of kayaking I’ve had with the chance to tackle rivers such as the Etive, Morriston, Gary, and Orchy with wild camping on the shores. The coaches Eddy Mead and Lyndon Williams taught us loads, whilst the Ripper made pushing my limits a lot easier. I did my first Grade 4s and 5s with runs on classics like the Cheesegrater, Crack of Doom, and Right Angle Falls, and was still able to muck around surfing and throwing tailees.

📷: EaglesNest Photography

I can’t wait for river levels to rise and have the thrill of pushing myself on winter flows this season.

Check out the CIWW Kids Academy Scotland Trip video below:

04
Oct

High Water

As we transition from summer flows into the winter storm season our river options (here in the UK at least) widen. There have been a few posts on social media, both of boats and kit lost on high water runs, as well as questions from folk looking for alternatives to their usual runs, as they reach high flows.

Ian Salvat on a high water run in Tomalino, Spain. Photo: Jan Larrue

The level of skill to visualise and stick the line with high consequence is built up over many years of experience, and with a deep understanding of the river environment.

This is NOT a ‘do not go floodwater boating’ public safety announcement, rather some ideas for paddlers looking to have safe days out on the water, based extensively on my failings when I was younger. If you see me on the river feel free to ask about the time 8 of us got on a river, and after 500m there were 6 swimmers… we were still collecting boats from the estuary as darkness fell!

Some terminology first…

High – The river is above its normal paddledable level.

Bank full – The river has filled its normal channel, and there is no gap between the water and the bankside.

Flood – The river out of its banks and flowing through the trees on the edges of the river.

Tim Burne, somewhere in Indonesia. Photo: Chris Eastabrook

Tim and Chris had camped on the river during a multi-day expedition, and experience an overnight storm. The river rose 4ft overnight, and lead to some ‘type 2’ fun during their descent.

All of these levels provide excellent sport for us as kayakers, provided the team and environment that we choose to go into are in balance. Here’s some tips for ensuring this balance…

1. Check the forecast

Check the weather forecast (sounds obvious right!) and know what has happened the few days before in the local area.

If the river is already high when you go to get on, and there is more rain in the forecast, we can assume that the river will continue to rise. This is due to the headwaters (catchment) being already saturated, and so any rise can become exponential – water has nowhere to soak into, and so runs straight into the river.

Flow chart from the RIver Lledr, North Wales.

The rainfall of the days previous meant that the catchment was saturated, and so when the next band of rain came across there was an immediate and severe effect on the river flow.

2. Head up the valley

So, we’ve got to our planned river, and it is running high. We are not lemmings – we can make rational decisions! One option is to head further up the valley, lessening the impact of the rain on our drainages. A classic example of this is the River Findhorn in Scotland – the lower gorge goes most of the time, but the upper section of river only becomes paddleable in high water.

3. Turn the grade down

As the rivers are so much more forceful, and things happen much faster on high rivers, then lessening the grade we are paddling increases our margins for safety. I have had some of my favourite days paddling down big wave trains on grade 2 rivers, surfing waves that don’t normally form (and dodging trees as they float down!). A great example of this is the Dee, in North Wales. Last weekend it was huge, but the section below the normal ‘classic’ run would have been incredible fun.

Jonny Hawkins on a high volume descent of the Alaknandar, India. Photo: Rory Woods

Knowing that they were faced with a very high water season in the Himalaya, the team were seeking out lesser paddled runs and making the most of their paddling days!

4. Change drainages

In the UK we are often blessed with being close to a multitude of runs, with rivers in one valley being off the scale, yet two valleys over there being a normal flow (or no water!) in the rivers. I’ve been on a very high Mawddach, and yet when we’ve passed the Eden confluence there has been little more than a trickle coming down!

5. Drink coffee

Our gut instinct is a very powerful thing. If we’ve spent a couple of hours trying everything above, and still haven’t found anything we feel like we want to paddle then go and drink coffee or mess about in the park. It rains a lot in the UK, so the rivers will be up again soon…

Dan Wilkinson, first descent of the playpark, Callander, Scotland. Photo Luke Kemp

It had been raining continuously for 10 days in the Highlands of Scotland and everything was in flood. In search of more appropriate activites we ended up mucking about in the park at the get on of the Teith, before a very high water run down a classic grade 2!

If you want to read more about the background to these ideas of good decision making then my good friend Tom Parker has written this about Heuristics for paddlers here: Link to Heuristics for paddlers article

01
Oct

Keldua | A Journey Down an Icelandic Gem

All kayakers are driven to find the perfect river, and in my own pursuit I sometimes wonder if it’s a fantasy i’ve built up or if that quintessential river really exists. From what I gathered about the Keldua, it was a great candidate. Only successfully paddled by one team, the Keldua held a reputation for top tier waterfalls and rapids. I couldn’t get it off my mind, and it was the main thing that drew me to Iceland.

Photo — Dylan McKinney

Our team consisted of Johnny Chase, Evan Moore, Carson Lindsey, Taylor Cofer, and me, and we began our journey by bushwhacking toward the river beneath the endless Icelandic sun. After a time, we reached a dream-like glaciated landscape that seemed to be at the top of the world. Unsure of what to expect, I peered over the canyon rim and took in a waterfall paradise.

It took five long, slow miles of stumbling down the loose and muddy hillsides to arrive at the river banks. Greeted by endless horizon lines falling off into oblivion, we knew our effort would be well-rewarded. These were the rapids we had dreamt of. The back to back 20’, 25’, 40’ and 50’ waterfalls that awaited us would require the utmost composure and focus. 

Photo — Carson Lindsey

Exhausted, we carefully made our way down the dreamy stairstep section. Beginning with Carson and Johnny, they both demonstrated how it was done with inspirational lines down the drops. Evan, Taylor and I followed, the apogee of both this river and our journey to Iceland. As we paddled out of the canyon with the piercing wind whipping at our backs, it felt surreal to have completed the crux section of the river. Evening was fast approaching, so we decided to hike back to camp, rest and complete the rest of the river the next day. 

Photo — Johnny Chase

We awoke to a tempest. Facing 60 mph winds, we bunkered down inside our tents to sit out the storm. The next day, still battling relentless wind and water levels that continued to drop, we made our way out of the canyon and completed the Keldua. The low water forced us to portage a few world class drops, but we’ll just have to wait until the next descent. The Keldua is truly one of a kind, and we finished our incredible journey with the assurance that even the most far-fetched dreams can come true.

See you on the water,
Dylan.

The Keldua staircase section | Dylan McKinney

20
Sep

A Season in the USA: Part One

After spending the Winter in Sort doing some slalom and a few river-runs whenever they released some water, I was looking forward to paddling on some good whitewater in the US.

Even though the Gorge had had a fairly dry Winter without much rain or snowfall, rivers were still running, and it was great to get on some of my favourite sections once again. After paddling for a bit around the Gorge, an amazing surprise showed up, the new 9R II fresh out of the oven. Without having paddled the prototype myself, I didn’t really know what to expect before paddling it… it looked great at first sight, but maybe a tad big for me? Was it going to be better/faster/slower/easier than the original 9R? So many questions came up, only one way to find out!

Once in the water, the boat felt extremely good from the beginning; fast and easy to control, and the driest ride I’ve ever felt. The 9R II quickly became my day-to-day boat, no matter the river; racing, creeking, big water… Although different in many ways to its predecessor, the 9R II is without a doubt an amazing boat on its own!

Little White Salmon Race

The LW race is one of the most important events in the US and especially the PNW. Without a doubt, it’s one of my favourite festivals and racecourses out there; 15 minutes of continuous, crystal clear, class 4-5 whitewater through some of the thickest and most beautiful coastal forest I’ve seen. Having received the 9R II the same week of the race, and with only a few laps with the new boat, I wasn’t sure which one to choose for the race. After some thought, I decided to go with the 9R II and see how I did. I managed to have a great run pushing hard and styling the lines with the 9R II. The boat felt really fast and so dry flying over features thanks to its amazing rocker profile. I ended up taking the win with a good lead, so that reassured me this boat liked to go fast.

Big Fork Whitewater Festival, Montana

As is tradition, the last weekend of May is Big Fork time. Now on its 44th edition, it’s one of the oldest whitewater festivals in the US!

The location is amazing; just under Glacier National Park, Big Fork is located on the shores of Flathead Lake where the Swan River empties after a mile of continuous class, fun big water.

Due to the low snowfall this Winter, the river was running at some of the lowest flows I had seen it, however, the Wild Mile is still pretty fun no matter the flow, and the organizers did a great job setting up a nice and challenging course for the slalom. The event overall title is based on the upper Slalom (20 gates standard slalom with some pretty hard moves in plastic boats), a Downriver Time Trial down the Wild Mile, around 7 minutes of big water class III-IV, and a Giant Slalom down the same section with some must-make moves and gates. Overall, it’s a really fun weekend filled with many, many laps down the Wild Mile, and good times with the local community. I was happy to take my 4th title at the event, and once again the 9R II proved to be the perfect watercraft for the job.

GoPro Mountain Games Vail, Colorado

The GoPro Games Steep Creek Race is held on Homestake Creek, a low volume (manky) creek with a  few technical drops. It’s actually a very precise race since the lines are tight in between rocks and it’s held at 2600m above sea level, so you definitely feel the lack of oxygen at some point while sprinting through the course. Besides the creek race, the festival has many other events and disciplines all going on around the Vail village. Freestyle kayaking, slackline, dog competitions, bouldering World Cup, SUP races, rafting, biking, running… you name it! Overall, it’s a great multidiscipline event with great organization and infrastructure and something for everyone.

North Fork Championship, Idado

The NFC is without a doubt the biggest event of the season, now in its eighth year, the festival just keeps on getting bigger and better. This year, it was the World Championship, so everyone was even more fired up. With a great snowpack, flows were prime for the event. Right after Colorado, we rallied back to Banks to do a few laps before the event started with the Kokatat Qualifier down S-Turn rapid on Thursday, where the top 40 men would advance to the semifinals on Friday. Semifinals cut the field down to 20 for the Giant Slalom Final down Jake’s on Saturday. I was happy I made it into the final and was ready to try and do my best down Jakes. I had a sweet first run down Jakes, making all the gates with pretty smooth lines, but I lost quite a few seconds getting slowed down by the left curler at Taffy Puller and a few smaller holes down the Golf Course. In the end, I just missed the podium, placing 4th… I will have to pay more attention to the smaller features next time!

All in all, it’s been a great season in the US; paddling a lot, having fun, and feeling good in my boat, which is the most important. The 9R II has given a new touch to my paddling, and I’m really looking forward to continuing to push this boat and seeing how it does in other places and rivers. Let’s keep it rolling!

Thanks to Pyranha for their continued support, and for making boats that actually work and paddle well; you guys rock!

16
Sep

Lulu Love Tour Lowdown

Now in its third year running, the Lulu Love Tour stopped in Sort, Spain to promote women’s participation in whitewater kayaking.

The Lulu Love Tour is more than just another kayaking event. The LLT is a collective project designed to spread “The Lulu Love” by connecting individuals with the amazing community that surrounds the sport of whitewater kayaking. 

The objective is to bring people together by organizing non-profit events that are geared towards increasing participation in kayaking and outdoor life while reflecting the same love for the sport that Louise Emma Jull (aka Lulu) had.

CLINICS FOR ALL!

One of the main purposes of the Lulu Love Tour is to give and to open the event to the whitewater community. By organizing clinics, the LLT gives the opportunity to learn, practice, and improve personal whitewater skills and kayaking techniques at the same time as promoting the spirit of getting out there and enjoying every moment.

In this edition, the LLT offered three different clinics specifically designed for the event and run by professional instructors.

The Introduction to Kayaking clinic was aimed at those girls who had only done a little bit of kayaking or none at all. We split the big group of newbies in two so every paddler could learn in a safe and comfortable environment. Júlia Cuchí, Jus Erguin, Ginesta Serrasolses, Carla Solé, and Alícia Casas were the leaders of the clinic, making sure every participant learned and had fun on the water. ­

The Freestyle clinic was run by Nuria Fontané (Jr. Freestyle European Champion and multiple Spanish Champion), Cristian Lamiel (Kayak Coach and instructor) and Oriol Colomé (Spanish Team Freestyle Kayak Coach). The girls attending this clinic learnt and practised basic freestyle moves in different features and had a blast on the different play spots available.

Marc Parra (professional kayaker and vertical works certified instructor) was in charge of the Rescue and Rope Skills clinic, in which the girls had the chance to learn and practice several Mechanical Advantage Systems to potentially use in different whitewater rescue scenarios.

DOWNRIVER MASS START – NOGUERA PALLARESA WOMEN’S RACE

The Tour continued on Saturday morning as participants checked in and got their welcome packs, before turning into race mode for the first race of the day, a gruelling 6km race down some of the most classic rapids on the Noguera Pallaresa.

The competitors left their boats on the riverbank, aligned themselves at the start line and impatiently waited for the whistle to blow. It finally did, and everyone sprinted to jump into their boats and paddled downstream as hard as they could for the next 20 minutes.

After an epic head to head battle to the finish, slalom paddler, Júlia Cuchí managed to take the win, followed very closely behind by young and talented extreme kayaker, Sofia Reinoso from Mexico. Local paddler Núria Fontané witnessed their multiple passes from very close to finishing third.

Paddlers waited until the last competitor crossed the finish line before the stoke float started all the way down to Sort.

PYRANHA KAYAK TEST

A Pyranha Kayaks Test centre offered participants the chance to try and paddle all of Pyranha’s latest designs down the slalom course. Everyone had a blast with the boats, especially the newly arrived 9R II and Ripper, as well as others such as the Jed, Machno, and 12R.

Thank you Pyranha Kayaks for your support in this years LLT!

OPEN MULTISPORT RACE

Beloved and missed Lulu is the main engine behind this whole project. She was passionate about kayaking and turned outdoors into her lifestyle. Under her mantra “always winning never not” she was always down to do anything that involved kayaking, racing, or hanging out with friends and used to encourage people to get out there and join her in enjoying life to the fullest.

By keeping the Tour rolling, we try somehow to bring back Lou’s positive energy and keep her spirit alive. This year’s Open Multisport Race is inspired by one of the most popular races in Okere Falls, NZ, called “Champions Race”. This race was actually one of Lou’s favourite races of the season so it was just another way to honour her and keep spreading her energy and love for the sport in the way she loved the most… A race with friends!

The race involved running, swimming, and kayaking, and despite the struggle to finish it, everyone gave it all and fought side by side until the end!

The young, local twins, Noa and Urko Cot took gold in the female and male junior categories whereas once again Júlia Cuchí and Gerd Serrasolses took the win on the senior category.  

AWARDS AND MORE!

Once again, managers of Sort’s Kayak School (Escola de Piragüisme), Aleix  & Mònica shared their beautiful property to celebrate the Awards Ceremony.

The awards started, and the top three paddlers of the two different races were announced to come onto the podium to get their medals and prizes. Stoke was high and competitors and spectators cheered and congratulated the 9 winners.

Meanwhile, two of the best paella cooks in town, Hugo & Natalia were cooking dinner to feed over 100 people in two massive traditional rice paellas.

In the middle of the Awards Ceremony, heavy rain turned up, but it was not enough to make people down. Everyone in the crowd was way too excited for the “grand moment” and hoping to get lucky to win a very special prize at this year’s raffle; a Lulu custom Ripper courtesy of Pyranha Kayaks! The lucky winner was none other than Lulu Love Tour former champion and ambassador Júlia Cuchí. Now she just has to do what she promised right before the raffle… give up slalom and go shred on the Futa!! Hahaha!

Finally, and after two full days of whitewater, racing, learning new skills, and sharing the stoke, the Lulu Love Tour – Sort ’19 arrived at its end. Happiness was visible in everyone’s faces as they seemed to have enjoyed every single minute of the event to the fullest. The Lulu Love Tour – Sort ’19 had achieved its most important goal…

#AlwaysWinningNeverNot

28
Aug

Kayaking in Tibet

My head was filled with dreams of kayaking in far-flung destinations as a kid. The Whitewater Warriors made Norway look amazing, YGP sold me on Eastern Canada at flood stage, and Steve Fisher made the Zambezi look incredible.

I have been lucky enough to travel to almost all of my childhood dream kayaking destinations, but there has been one country at the top of the list for a long time. Starring as the location a team of kayakers travelled to explore in the first kayaking film I ever watched, nestled in between the highest mountain ranges in the world and shrouded in culture and mystery, Tibet is simply a place like no other. Sixteen years after first watching “Into the Tsangpo Gorge” I would finally get the opportunity to kayak in this country.

Every country’s travel logistics and visa requirements are different. Gaining entry into Tibet is a little long-winded. In order to get our Visas granted, we had to fly to Nepal first, book a guide (travelling in Tibet without a licensed guide is illegal), fill out a lot of paperwork, take it to the Tibet tourism station in Kathmandu, wait three days, and then finally we could set off for Tibet. We could have flown, but the airline would not have been able to take our kayaks, and there is no way that I want to be in any kayak other than the 9R II on hard whitewater.

After five days of driving and preparing, we finally made it out onto the water. The first river we paddled was described as a creek, and I suspect at other times of the year it is, in monsoon season it was most decidedly a juicy, powerful river. Think Wellebrucke at good flows. There were not too many noticeable rapids on this river, but it had 30km of class 3/4 and a couple of bigger, more powerful rapids as well. The river was fantastically fun and a good warmup, but I was left wanting more. I had travelled to the biggest mountain range in the world in the monsoon season, and I was honestly hoping to find some insanely big, powerful whitewater.

I wouldn’t have to wait long. Driving east, the rivers met at a confluence into each other and picked up tributaries frequently, producing some enormous rapids. The first rapid we dropped into on the Eigong River (spelling?) was phenomenal. It is so rare for whitewater to stay this big and powerful for so long. I went first and had a good line, Nouria went second and crushed it. Adrian had a bit of a battle after he knocked through the wave he had planned to surf across the river to avoid a series of holes, but he is a ninja and styled the centre line. Thilo went last and unfortunately did not have a good time in there. With a rapid as stacked as this, every move counts, and you have to nail the first move to set you up for the second, which then sets you up for the third and so on. Thilo got pushed off his line at the start, took a roll, battled to make the next move, but didn’t make the one after and fell into a series of huge holes. I was honestly impressed with how long he held on for, we were at almost 4000 metres and you would gas out just walking down the rapid to scout. Eventually, he ended up swimming, which was really scary, but the safety team did a great job and got him to the side. Thilo was knackered, breathless, and bleeding. Fortunately, his injuries turned out to be minor and he was able to continue with the trip.

The next couple of km of this river looked world-class. Unfortunately, we were chased out of the valley by the local police and could only gaze longingly at it. The river squeezed itself into a gorge just below and formed some of the most insane whitewater I have ever seen. With some training, lower water levels, and some new safety devices, I think it could be possible to send it.

The river came to a confluence downstream and became the Po Tsangpo; we found around 20km of some of the best big water rapids in the world and had a great couple of days dropping into these enormous wave trains.

We thought the river was about to mellow out downstream, but instead, it formed the second biggest rapid I have ever seen, only this time there was a line down it!

I rarely get scared before a rapid these days. Sounds cocky to say, but it’s the truth. I honestly think it’s because, by the time I decide to commit to running a rapid, I have pictured the line in my head enough times that there is very little doubt in my mind that things will go well. This rapid, however, scared me. Big water like this surges and crashes like the ocean, and a line that was open a few seconds ago can close up and block you. With Thilo’s swim fresh in my mind, I was definitely nervous when peeling out of the top eddy.

Fortunately, I had the line of my life down this thing! Nouria and Adrian had more of a battle in there than I did, but they still crushed it!

It was a bittersweet trip for me, I achieved my goal of dropping into a new level of big water, but we also had to miss out on so many more beautiful rapids because of the police struggle… the dreaming continues, and I hope to return someday and send those rapids.

See you on the water,
Bren

Photos by myself, Jochen Lettman, and Olaf Obsommer

27
Aug

How To Name Your Kayak

A vastly underrated skill in the world of whitewater kayaking is christening your boat.

It’s critical to develop a bond with your kayak so that you are as connected as possible when you hit the river. Naming your kayak can be a fun, group-bonding exercise; it sets the tone for the time you and your kayak are going to spend together, and makes you more likely to take good care of it and always use grab loops when you tie it to your car (I mean, really, it’s hard to feel bad if ‘no-name hunk of plastic’ falls off the roof, but if beautiful, sleek, stylish, ‘Bianca’ falls off!?!? – oh no, not gonna happen, waaaay too tragic!)

Naming your kayak is also goofy and fun, so just do it!

Step 1: Assess the Qualities of Your Boat

Consider several characteristics of your kayak so that you can find a name fitting for your whip’s personality. Shape and color are paramount.

For example, you have a shiny new Orange Soda Ripper straight off the mould – dayummmn – that b!tch needs a fiery, sassy name to keep up with all the slicing and dicing that you and her are about to get up to.

Or maybe we’re talking about a Pink Fizz (probably the best color scheme ever used) Machno. Something joyful and fun might compliment all the treats and boofs that regal stunner is going to lay out.

Your boat may have some other quirks to consider when brainstorming name choices (where did it come from, have you already had an epic in it, is there someone/something it reminds you of, does it have fun grab handles, etc.) so make sure you keep all that in mind as you move forward in the naming process.

Momma T taking Mercedes out for a rip

Step 2: Brainstorm Some Names and Find Something That Fits (bonus points if it goes with a song)

With the personality of your kayak in mind, think through some names. This can be a soul-searching, solo endeavor, or an around-the-campfire-with-your-gurl-squad* activity.

If you’re struggling for inspiration, I highly recommend music; there is nothing like grooving to your ‘boat song’ above a rapid to get you pumped!

“What is a ‘boat song’?”, you may ask; well, upon receiving my Orange Crush Machno, I followed the steps above, and dubbed that baby “Roxanne”, or “Roxy” for short. Roxy is definitely a bad b!tch – humiliating the terrain and helping me skip out of even the most tumultuous of features – but sometimes when her stout rocker and confidence-inspiring hull isn’t enough to get me pumped for a stout, I like to belt out a couple of lines of her ‘boat song’, ‘Roxanne’ by The Police.

J Bohn humiliating the terrain in Roxy on Fantasy Falls

You might have an epiphany and just know that you’ve found a name that perfectly captures the temperament and tangible traits of your boat – crushed it. If this process is challenging for you, and you’re not quite sure if you can commit yourself to a name, proceed to Step 3.

*note – gurl squad is not a term used exclusively for women; it is inclusive of anyone who is down to have a sh!t-ton of fun, hike in s’mores to upper cherry (or wherever), sing Ariana Grande/TSwift/Yonce/Lizzo in the eddies above rapids, and not take themselves too seriously.

Step 3: Trial Period/Consult Your Friends

Test out your name(s). You’ll know if your boat is vibing with its new name if you’re out there styling lines, grinning, fist-bumping, high-fiving, and shrigging your pals.

Now get out there and have fun paddling your awesome new whip!

24
Aug

Dark Canyon, Utah

If someone called you and asked if you wanted to go on a kayak trip to Hite, Utah you’d most likely have no idea where this town falls on a map. After a quick google search of the location and upon seeing the satellite imagery displaying a completely red and orange moonscape, any sane paddler would most certainly turn down the strange offer. Fortunately for me, I have a few friends that love the mission just as much as the kayaking. After a few phone calls I was able to convince my good friend Phil to drive 15 hours from California into the heart of the southwest. To maybe go kayaking.

Dark Canyon cuts an impressive gorge through Bears Ears National Monument and empties into the Colorado River as it slows to a halt in the stagnant reservoir Powell. The canyon, which rivals the nearby Grand Canyon in size and scale is so remote and difficult to access that few people aside from some avid backpackers and hikers even know of its existence.

This canyon originally sparked my interest after passing the Abajo Mountains countless times driving out to the desert from Durango, Colorado for weekend trips. Knowing that the creek had a headwaters of around 8000 feet, I figured it had to run from snow melt in big snow years. The only problem is that there is no gauge and the canyon is so infrequently visited because of its remote location it would take tremendous effort to go get a visual of the flow. It was a complete guessing game as to when this stream would run or if it would run at all.

After a dry and dusty winter in 2018, the winter of 2019 provided much needed snow and rain to the parched and sunbaked southwest. Southeastern Utah had a snowpack of just under 200% going into March. Suddenly, the Dark Canyon idea was reignited and I began scheming. Unfortunately, midwinter I had left southern Colorado and was now living 16 hours from Dark Canyon. It was early April and temperatures in Hite had made a quick shift from cool to hot. With a small window of time I started the long drive to a little known canyon in southern Utah.

After a midnight rendezvous with Phil and our friend Josh who was visiting from the UK we loaded up and headed out into the red rock landscape to get a flow check. Using a telephoto lens on my camera I zoomed in down towards the river which flowed a few thousand feet below us. There was water!

With a tight time frame we quickly canned our original plan of accessing the canyon above the top gorge which would have taken at least a day or more to get to the river. We quickly crafted a new plan and began our hike into the canyon on the only known route into the lower portion of Dark Canyon. 

Making the final push into the canyon just before sundown. Photo: Josh Burke

We awoke at the bottom of the canyon and were happy to see the water had only risen since the night before. Parting ways with Josh, Phil and I pushed off and started making downstream progress.

Amazing canyon. Photo: Phillip Schoenhoff

After only a few bends, we began scouting and running bedrock slides and rapids. A short portage around a waterfall with a dangerous cave put us above a very tight section with overhanging walls and significant drops. An extended scout revealed the gorge was good to go and we dropped in.

Hard to see whats down there! Photo: Phillip Schoenhoff
Phil locked in. Dark Side of the Moon Gorge. Photo: PR

We had already run more great rapids than expected and moving around at river level was turning out to be easier than we initially thought. Making good progress, we arrived at the best section of whitewater in the whole canyon. The river pinched to a width of 10 ft for over a quarter mile creating a trough of fun and unique features.

One of the most unique sections of whitewater. So good we walked up for a second lap.
Photo: Phillip Schoenhoff
Phil probing. Photo: PR
Nearing the confluence with the Colorado. Photo: PR

The river kept dishing out great sections of whitewater paired with calm pools, giving us a chance to soak in the canyon walls towering over us. Happy that we had been able to descend through such an incredible canyon, we hit the confluence of the Colorado and began the flat water paddle out.

Chasing desert rivers can have its highs and lows. The possibilities of getting skunked are high and the possibilities of marginal whitewater is even higher. But, when the stars align and you are able to catch a brief moment of flow propelling you through a canyon usually absent of the sound of water. The experience is nothing short of magical.

Paul Ramseth

Fight For Bears Ears

It should be noted that Bears Ears National Monument has seen a great reduction in size since the Trump administration drastically reduced the land previously protected by the Obama administration. With these new boundaries, Dark Canyon and the surrounding lands are no longer protected and could be subject to a variety of threats. For more information about the current state of Bears Ears visit: https://bearsearscoalition.org/in-the-news/

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