The Radical Play Machine was first released in 1996 when rodeo kayaking exploded in popularity – at the time it was considered too radical. We have been making RPMs ever since. The secret to its continued appeal ...
Two weeks ago, 56 women came together for a single mission: to have a great day on the Green River! It was the second annual Green River Takeover, an event created to bring together the female kayaking community for a day of inspiration, camaraderie, and most importantly, fun! I don't feel like I do the best job at putting into words what this day is all about, so I'll mostly let the pictures do the talking.
Registration started bright and early, but that didn't seem to slow anyone down. Thanks to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Astral, the French Broad River Academy and Girls at Play, we were lucky enough to have enough shuttle vehicles to carry us all to the put in. Also thanks to some of the local men of the kayaking community, we also had our own personal shuttle bunnies!
Once at the put-in, we did a quick safety talk before splitting into smaller groups and making our way downstream. It was amazing to watch woman after woman make her way through the namesake rapids of the Class 2-3 Upper Green with cheers of support echoing through the river valley. On the Upper that day we had a huge mix of ladies, ranging from women running the section for their second time to women who run the Class 5 Narrows on a regular basis. We also had a 50 years age span, from a middle school student in her teens to a mother in her 60s (who's daughter was also on the river that day)!
After arriving at the takeout to the Upper Green, the group of ladies not continuing into the Narrows began their hike out. While I was not there to experience it, I hear the group made the most of the uphill hike and managed to squeeze some fun into a typically painful experience.
From there, 27 women paddled on into the Class 5 Narrows section of the Green. It was so amazing to see that steep and narrow river literally filled with women. Support and laughter were in no short supply as we boofed and slid our way through the rapids. We eventually arrived at the last rapid, Hammer Factor, and reunited with the ladies who had hiked out. They were there swimming, jumping and cheering as we all came through.
At the takeout we cracked open some refreshments, ate snacks and spent time enjoying each other's company. Phone numbers were exchanged and plans for future paddling trips were made. We wrapped up the day with a raffle to raise money for the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund, a fund to support women in paddle sports. We had some awesome prizes to raffle off, including a Seals Sprayskirt, Astral Designs Shoes, Adventure Technology Paddle and much more! In the end, we raised over $800 for the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund!
The energy felt during this day on the river is empowering, but silly at the same time. It's confidence building through laughter and friendship. It's female kayakers of all ages and experience levels coming together to strengthen the community and build bonds that can last a lifetime. It's awesome!
The event was made possible with the support of Dagger Kayaks and AT Paddles, along with a number of other local sponsors including Astral Designs, The French Broad River Academy, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Girls at Play, Seals Sprayskirts, Mountain Khakis, Mountain River Tap and Growlers, and of course our amazing shuttle bunnies. Thanks to all the ladies who came out! I cannot wait to come together on the river again at the 2016 Green River Takeover!
Poutine, Plugging and Porcupines: A Canadian Roadtrip
Posted: 09.09.2015 by
Soon after moving to Washington DC, I found myself in a bar with Erin Savage and Margaret Williams getting fired up about the idea of a Magpie River Expedition. Having just accepted my first desk job, the thought of having a multi-day wilderness trip on the books was something I couldn't turn up! Quickly the idea turned into a serious plan and bug nets were purchased, meal plans created and float plane reservations made. In the week leading up to the trip, we were all fully prepared for the adventure.
Unfortunately, just days before departure, the water level, which was already high, kept rising. When we asked for advice from notoriously hard-core kayaker Adam Herzog, who paddled the Magpie years previously, he informed us that we while we "would probably survive, it's not recommended." For perspective, Adam is well known for many feats, including but not limited to, doing three laps on Linville in a single day. When Adam does not recommend you put on a multi-day river in the middle of no-where Canada at high water, you listen. So it was time for plan B.
The good news is that plan B was still an awesome plan! Instead of doing one river for 8 days, we would spend the time road tripping around Quebec in search of lots of different classic rivers. Since none of us had spent much time kayaking in Quebec before, we were all stoked for the new plan. Margaret and I left DC after work on Friday and began our drive North. Erin and Toby MacDermott were already in Canada and picking up Steve Augustine from the airport. We all rendezvoused the next morning at the takeout of our first river.
The first river on our hit list was the Rouge. It was a bit further south and a short run, so a perfect option for coming off a long drive.The Rouge is a commonly rafted run, with fun class 3 rapids at the top. Moving further downstream, it enters the seven sisters section, named for the steep rapids it contains. The water was on the high side of good, and the rapids were big! Without any local beta to go off of, our group found ourselves not wanting to take a bite out of very many of the drops. After portaging the first couple rapids, we finally came to one that looked reasonable. The team scouted and debated how to approach it. Boof or plug? Boof or plug? Toby says plug. We all listen to Toby.
After our afternoon on the Rouge, we woke up the next morning and headed to the Tewkesbury section of the Jacques-Cartier. We met up with some local boaters and enjoyed following them down through all of the creeky lines on this classic class 3-4 run. With water levels in the area dropping out, we were stoked to finish up our run with dark skies and rainstorms.
The Malbaie is not easy to get to. The shuttle is not short and roads are not paved. But if you take the time to go out there, you won't be disappointed. Our plan was to drive there, run the shuttle and put on the river and do both the A and B sections. Sounds easy enough right? Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as simple as we'd hoped. A combination of poor road conditions and a longer than expected travel time led to us putting on the river later in the day then we would have liked.
Erin runs a fun ledge boof rapid
Margaret in one of the many fun Malbaie rapids
Even with our late start, we were still hopeful we might make it through the B section with day light. That was until we got to the 30 footer. After all that plugging practice on the Rouge, I decided to go for the plug instead of the boof. Turns out, that was the wrong choice this time. I plugged the drop and popped up right in the hole at the bottom of the waterfall. After spending a short time in the hydraulic, I quickly decided I wasn't going to get out in my boat and pulled my skirt. After one or two quick recircs, I found myself suddenly in a calm place. It was dark, but not violent. I was deep in the river with absolutely no sense of up or down. I curled up, stayed patient and calm, and just hoped that I was where I thought I was. All of my previous experiences told me I was in the down flow of the hole, being sent deep but that I would eventually resurface downstream of the falls, in a safe place. After approximately 20 seconds (based on what those watching saw), I saw light. I gained a sense of what was up, and started to swim to it. As happy as I was when I resurfaced and took that first deep breath of air, I think my friends watching from the shore were probably even more relieved. While I at least had a sense of what was happening to me, they had no option but to assume the worst. I gave a few I'm ok taps on my helmet and watched the rest of the team stomp big boofs off the falls!
Steven Augustine pulls a big boof stroke at the 30 footer
After finishing up the end of the Section A rapids, we got to the half-way bridge as dusk was settling in. It was an easy decision to take off there and call it a day. After dealing with our shuttle logistics (we didn't have a car at the bridge), we found a great camp spot in the dirt and posted up for the night to be ready to rally down both sections the next day.
Looking upstream from the bridge of the A Section of the Malbaie after taking off at dusk
So as not to repeat our mistakes from the day before, we woke up and got started early on running the shuttle. Thankfully we had two time Silverback Champion Erin Savage with us, and savage is more than just her last name. She drove the takeout vehicle as far as it would go down the old overgrown road, jogged to the river to mark our takeout, then made her way back up, past the car all the way to the main road where the other shuttle vehicle was able to make it to pick her up. By 9:30am, Erin already had 8 miles under her belt. With that taken care of, the team made our way to the put in of Section A. We bombed down the rapids and arrived at the bridge in no time. Moving into Section B we found fun non stop boulder gardens for the first few miles and then a number of really sweet distinct rapids to finish off the day.
Margaret runs the final drop on Section B
We took off the river at a decent time, but from there we still had a 3 mile hike to get back to the car. The "trail" was overgrown. Branches smacked us in the face on every step. Mosquitos attacked our ears. But hey, at least it was mostly flat. Can't say I enjoyed it at the time, but in retrospect it was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. I'm a sucker for that Type 2 fun.
Porcupine sighting at the Malbaie
After taking off the Malpaie, we decided to head back into Quebec City to reassess levels and accept an invite to take showers and crash under a roof at Quebec Connection's Emrick Blanchette's house. Some significant rain had fallen and the rivers that were too low just days before were on the rise. For the next two days, the classics were too high for us, so we opted for a couple of local runs that need a lot of rain to go. The first day we put on, then hiked off, the Sault à la Puce (SAP) because there simply wasn't enough water. But we did get a decent flow and paddled with a fun crew of Quebec locals on the Talayarde the next day. After enjoying a couple days in the city, we were ready to head back into the woods and made our way to the Neilson.
If you ask anyone their favorite Quebec classics, there is no doubt in my mind that the Neilson will one of the first rivers mentioned. Located in a beautiful valley with a distinct rock face jutting out from above, the Neilson contains endless miles of continuous class 4-5 rapids. After arriving at the river we hopped on the A Section at a water level I would call the high side of good. The rapids just kept coming and the juicy flow coupled with us not knowing the river made even the smaller rapids feel game on. After recognizing just how high quality and fun the run was, we decided to post up at the Neilson for a few days and lap the A Section while waiting for the water to drop a bit before continuing onto the slightly harder B Section.
Margaret enters the Island Drop on our first day on the Neilson
Toby makes his way through the bottom of one of the larger rapids on Section A
Toby MacDermott is more than just a kayaker
On the third day, Toby ran the class five right line of the Island Drop
After letting the water level drop a bit, we all decided to continue onto the B Section of the Neilson on our third day at the river. Toby and Steve ran it the day before so we were able to make our way downstream with minimal scouting. While considered harder than the A Section by most, the B Section was much more pool drop and did contain a few rapids larger than anything found on the A stretch. Personally, I found it less intimidating overall, but you should probably go there and decide for yourself. Regardless, both sections contained the kind of whitewater worth traveling for and I could have run that rivers for weeks.
Me coming through the Big Eyes rapid
Steve catches air at the bottom of the Double Drop rapid
Camping at the Neilson doesn't suck either
Unfortunately, after knocking out our third lap on the Neilson, my trip was coming to an end. After a team farewell dinner at the local Poutine shack, Steve and I decided to cap off our trip to Canada with a little culture in Quebec City.
While I am not much of a city person, I do enjoy experiencing the culture of the places I travel to and sometimes sleeping in the dirt next to a river doesn't give you that (though sometimes it gives you more culture than you ever bargained for). For this reason, Steve and I chose to grab a hotel room in the city and spend the morning before our flights seeing the sights. We ate, we drank, we walked along the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico and most importantly, we visited the Maple Syrup museum and sampled Canada's best syrups. It was the perfect way to end our Quebec vacation.
The Maple Syrup Museum
Who knew Canada was so awesome?! The people, the culture, the rivers and the scenery all more than lived up to my expectations. Knowing what I do now, there is no doubt that I'll be back sooner than later!
A few weeks ago I experienced what was one of my most fun weeks of the year, and surprisingly enough it involved me being in DC working 8 hours a day! It was the week leading up to the Great Falls Race and started off with my first time running the Fish Ladder section of the Falls followed by an evening watching fireworks from my kayak with friends in from out of town.
Fireworks over our Nation's capitol
Steve, Erin and Toby (all good friends from NC) were working from home from my house for the week so that we could all get evening practice laps on the falls. Everyday the team would pick me up from work loaded down with kayaks and a cooler of beer and snacks to head out to the river. Getting to paddle Class 5 rapids after working a full day was pretty awesome! It really highlighted just how special having a place like Great Falls in your backyard is and how fun it is to have friends in town!
Paddling into the takeout at Angler's after an evening lap on the falls
After a week of good times with good friends, it was finally time for the race! We loaded up one final time on Steve's truck and headed to the park. The parking lot was filled to the brim with kayaks on roofs and scroungy kayakers walking around getting geared up.
The parking lot loaded with kayakers!
We all met for a short safety meeting and were told about the race logistics. The Men's longboat would go first followed by the Women's Open Class then the Short boat and Slalom competitions. There were over 60 competitors total with After the meeting, everyone headed out to squeeze in a practice lap or two before the race started.
Fellow Dagger Team member Brad McMillan seal launching in after his practice lap
My practice lap went great, nice and smooth. I was feeling strong at the starting line when it was my turn to go fast. My lines through the first and second slides and the back canyon went well, and I cleaned up some of the moves I had been struggling with. I was feeling good coming into the fifth slide which had been a line I was styling all week. During the race however, I got pushed a little right and ended up in the river right eddy, which was only a problem because the finish line was on river left! Having to work my way up the eddy then ferry across the river to make my way to the finish cost me too much time to be competitive in the race, but it was still one of the most fun races I have been part of. Check out all the lines below!
A racer makes his way from the first slide to the second slide
Race Champion Geoff Calhoun enters the back canyon
A racer about to enter the meat of the back canyon
A racer moving fast towards the 5th slide
A racer moving towards the finish line in the 5th slide
I ended up placing third behind Moriah Heaney and Erin Savage, but one of the best parts of the race was getting to compete was these awesome ladies! I am already can't wait for next year's Great Falls Race. Put it on your calendar!
Last month as part of my new job with National Geographic, I went to Hungary and Slovenia to check out one of Nat Geo's newest Adventure Trip, and even better, my mom got to join me! As a kayaker, anytime I go to a new country, I am always looking for what new rivers I can paddle. I had always heard about the beautiful emerald green waters of the Soca river in Slovenia and knew that I had to stay a couple extra days to check it out.
On the NG tour, we crossed over the Soca just in time to see some kayakers paddling by
After finishing up with the group tour, my mom and I rented a car and drove to Bovec, Slovenia where we based for the following days to kayak the Soca. Our first stop in town was to go by Alpin Action, the local kayak shop, to pick up our rented kayaks. If you are ever in Slovenia looking to kayak, this is the place to get in touch with. They have a huge variety of kayaks for rent, all in great shape and will even provide you with an inflatable roof rack which works perfectly if you just have a rental car without racks. And even better, they were a great source of beta for us and even worked to hook me up with some local boaters to paddle with on the sections too difficult for my mom to join me. I highly recommend them!
The rental car loaded down with boats on the inflatable racks!
The night we arrived in Bovec, it had been pouring down rain the entire day and I was beginning to worry the water was going to be too high for either of us to kayak. The emerald-green waters of the Soca had turned brown. Thankfully though, we woke the next morning to a beautiful blue bird sky and were hopeful the water levels would drop enough to find some good sections to paddle.
My mom enjoying the blue bird skies of Bovec from our hotel balcony
First thing in the morning I snuck out with some local boaters, Tony and Deborah along with an old Chilean friend Momo (who I was happily surprised to learn was living in Bovec at the time) to check out the water levels and paddle the Bunkerji section of the Soca down to the Prijon shop (the online map I'm using seems to suggest that also included the Kršovec, Zmuklica, and Sotočja sections). It was mostly class 3 with a harder rapid or two thrown in the mix. All super fun.
Waiting on shuttle at the Take-Out
I then quickly headed back to the hotel to pick up my mom to head out for her to get on the water. We started off going down from the Prijon shop through the Čezsoča and Boka sections, all class 1-2 but absolutely beautiful and a great warm up.
Mom and I putting on the Soca
After class 1-2 stretch, my mom said "that was it?" so I decided we needed to step it up a notch and headed back upstream to a part of the stretch I had done that morning. I promised my mom we would be putting on below the hardest rapid (which was true), but I had forgotten about one of the other hard rapids which we happened to put on just above. A little nervous, my mom put on and styled the rapid in question, ferrying across the river and away from the big ominous looking rock. The section was continuous class 2/3 and my mom did great. She was smiling from ear to ear when we took off, but I think it was a 50/50 split between smiling cause she had fun and smiling because she was happy to have made it to the takeout safely.
Soca River Selfie
After giving my mom her fill for the day, I headed back out again to check the Srpenica 1, Srpenica 2 and the slalom sections of the Soca with Deborah. The water level was still on the high side, but these class 3/4 sections were tons of fun with big waves all over.
The next morning, the water level had dropped a bit and my mom and I decided to start off on the Čezsoča and Boka sections again, as the upper stretch was a bit low. The water was beginning to turn back into its beautiful green color, and it was another blue sky day making it the perfect time on the water. We practiced a few moves, caught some eddies and generally just enjoyed being out there. The beauty of the Soca lies in more than its water color, and I was very impressed by how scenic it was being surrounded by the Slovenian Alps.
My Mom on the Soca
That afternoon, my mom offered to run shuttle so that I could paddle the Cataracs, the hardest (by far) stretch of the Soca. Labeled unrunnable in many guide books (more so to keep people away than it actually being unrunnable), the stretch is filled with class 5 moves and enough sieves to keep you on your toes, making it for experts only. The water had dropped down just enough that Tony and Momo felt the section would be good for us so off we went. It was that perfect mix of scary and fun, and I couldn't have asked for better guides.
After the Cataracs, we paddled out on the super fun and friendly class 3/4 Otona section down to where my mom was meeting us. After taking off the river, it was time to drop off the boats and say goodbye to the Soca, Bovec and all our new friends, as my mom and I headed back to Ljubljana (the capitol city of Slovenia), to catch our flights home the next morning.
Momo and Tony arriving at the takeout after our Cataracs/ Otona paddle
While my entire experience in Slovenia was amazing, and especially getting to paddle the Soca, the best part was being able to get on the river with my mom. My mom has been paddling whitewater for a few years now, and we've had lots of good days on the water together, but there was something extra special about doing it in an international destination that neither of us had been to before. I felt like I was able to give her a little insight into what I've been doing on all my kayaking trips over the past 10 years, and why I love traveling to kayak so much. It was obvious by how much fun she had both on and off the river that that won't be our last international kayaking trip together!
Last fall, 52 women came together to paddle down the Upper Green River and 24 of those women continued on into the Narrows of the Green for the inaugural Green River Takeover event. The idea was to get as many awesome women as we could on the river at once and help grow and bring together the female kayaking community. It was an amazing day!
After the success of the Green River Takeover and at the request of Earl from CKS, I decided to expand the Takeover series by adding a new location! With the immense support from both Dagger Kayaks and AT Paddles, this past Memorial Day weekend over 20 women came together at CKS Paddlefest to paddle down the Arkansas for the Women in Charge: Arkansas River Takeover! We had 21 women on the Numbers section and another 2 more women joined us further downstream on the Fractions section.
Dagger Team Member Haley Mills loads the boats on the trailer
We started out at the CKS store on Main Street Buena Vista, CO for a quick meeting and loading of the boats before heading to the Numbers put in. The local River Runners rafting company helped us out by providing us a bus and trailer to get us to the river.
Elizabeth Austin, VP of the Colorado Whitewater Association gets ready to go!
After a fun ride to the put in (with the bonus of not losing any boats off the trailer along the way), we all got geared up and posed for a group picture. The sun was shining and the stoke was high! We were all excited to head down to the river and get on the water.
The ladies on the Numbers!
The ladies putting on! Photo by Jeff Turner
The day was filled with tons of smiles, high fives and boofs! While I enjoy being on the river with anyone, there really is something special about being out with a huge group of women all laughing and encouraging and supporting each other along the way.
So much fun!
Colorado sure is beautiful
The ladies charging downstream! Photo by Jeff Turner
High Fives! Photo by Jeff Turner
After getting off the river, we all met at the Dagger kayaks tent to enjoy snacks, cold drinks and quality time to hang out and get to know each other better. This is also where we did the event raffle to raise money for the Shannon Christy Fund, an organization that supports women in paddle sports. We ended up raising $400 for the fund and lots of people went home with great prizes! Thanks to Dagger Kayaks, AT Paddles, Seals Sprayskirts, Mountain Khakis and Astral for supporting this event! See more footage and info from the event at the Women in Charge:Takeover Series FB page and mark your calendars for second annual Green River Takeover happening on August 29, 2015!
To learn even more, check out this great local newspaper article about the event!
For those that don't already know, I about three months ago I moved to Washington, D.C. to start a new job with National Geographic as the Program Manger of the Active Travel Trips. It was a big and scary change for me- I went from traveling the world guiding trips and living in the small mountain town of Bryson City, NC to working in an office and living in the big city. I am happy to report that the move has been great so far! My job is great and I have found pockets of small town living even in the city, and have especially loved getting to explore new rivers in the area!
Almost immediately after moving I was introduced to Margaret Williams, a local female class 5 kayaker, and she quickly updated me on all the rivers I needed to paddle, festivals I needed to attend and races I needed to compete in.
First up was the Top Yough Race which took place the first weekend in April. Since I had never paddled any section of the Yough before, we headed out early on Friday to get a few practice laps in. Mutual friend Erin Savage rallied up from NC to join Margaret and I for the weekend which made for even more fun. I had heard so much another Upper Yough, but never much about the Top. I was pleasantly surprised as to what a classic the Top Yough was. Short but sweet, it reminded me a lot of the Tobin section of the Feather out in California. The water level had been really low, but rain on Friday afternoon and evening started to get it bumped up. I think we all went to sleep that night a little worried about what kind of level we would find in the morning.
The ladies! (Margaret, Me, and Erin)
We had totally planned to get up early and get another practice lap in to see the current water level before racing it, but when it started snowing, motivation was hard to come by. Ultimately we traded a practice lap for coffee and a delicious breakfast in a warm cafe and hoped for the best. Thankfully, while the river had risen, it wasn't significant and if anything made the section easier to race because you didn't have to worry as much about getting hung up on rocks.
The race as a lot of fun. The Top Yough is a perfect Green Boat race, with fun lines and relatively easy moves to make, but with enough action to keep you on your toes. I told myself (as I do before most races with class 4-5 moves) to just keep it smooth and in control. I'll take a safe and clean, but slightly slower run, over the possibility of a fast but loose one any day. In the end, I was very pleased with my race lap and made it through without any flips, or spinouts, or pins and it didn't feel too slow either!
Me racing through one of the rapids on the Top Yough Race (Photo Credit: Michael Maloney)
I got down to the bottom in time to see Margaret come through the finish line. Erin and I were already on the rocks cheering her on.
Margaret pulling herself through to the finish
The finish line
This race was also my dog Karl's first kayak race! Thanks to Stacey Magda for offering to hike him in. It was so fun to get to the finish line to see him waiting. He seemed to love the experience and enjoyed hanging out with all of the kayakers and other dogs.
Karl meets me at the finish line!
The most handsome pup in the world
After the race, it was time for celebrating with beers and the award ceremony. In the men's category, Geoff Calhoun and Jason Beaks took the wins for the short and long boat class and for the women's, I won the long boat class just ahead of Erin and Margaret took the win for the short boat class.
Geoff and Jason after hearing the results
Margaret accepting her first place certificate
The dogs celebrated too!
Next on my list for new river and races was the Cheat River Festival, which took place the first weekend in May. Unfortunately, Margaret had to work over the weekend, but so I headed up solo on Friday afternoon of the festival, just in time for the race. There were over 100 people at the starting line with a wide assortment of water crafts. Some people were definitely there to go fast, but it was obvious everyone was there for a good time.
The starting line of the Cheat Race
The race was long with lots of flat water! It was my very first run down the Cheat, so it was very interesting trying to pace myself without having any idea how far into the river I was. Fortunately, there were plenty of nice people around me who didn't seem too bothered when I asked them "are we there yet?!" After an hour and 20 minutes of pushing myself, I was tired!
Me racing through one of the rapids on the Cheat
I finished second in the race behind Ashley Knee who not only beat me by a large margin, but placed competitively amongst the males as well. I am new to the area so I don't know all the locals yet, but I hear Ashley is a local slalom racer and she's fast!
The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the river and the festival with good friends. We paddled the Top and I had my first lap down the super classic Upper Yough section on Saturday. Sunday I enjoyed a much slower float down the Cheat with good friend. The festival itself was super fun and one I highly recommend everyone checking out!
River friends are the best friends!
Next up on the racing list for me is the Great Falls race on the Potomac July 11. Stay tuned for more on that!
If you've ever been to Ecuador on a kayaking trip or had it on your paddling bucket list then you've heard of the Jondachi River. The Upper Jondachi is considered Ecuador's most classic steep creek. It's 6 miles of class 4-5 creeking through a lush jungle gorge. In addition to the Upper, there are Middle and Lower sections of the Jondachi with equally, if not more beautiful, scenery and slightly easier class 3-4 rapids.
Emily Shanblatt lines up for the Money Boof of the Upper Jondachi
Unfortunately, a few years ago the government-owned thermal electric generating company proposed the building of a dam on the Jondachi River which would de-water part of or all of the river. Not only is this sad from a recreational standpoint, it would also be very detrimental to the amazingly biodiverse environment. In an effort to try and bring awareness to the cause, the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute hosted the inaugural "Jondachi Fest" this past January. Due to my love for both the country of Ecuador and the Jondachi River, I decided to take another trip down to the equator this year to support this great event. The festival included nightly festivities in Tena, a race down the Upper Jondachi and a group paddle and overnight on the Lower Jondachi/ Hollin section.
The Jondachi Fest tent in Tena
After having been in Ecuador for a couple weeks, it was finally time for the Fest! There were tons of international boater in town for one reason- to help save the Jondachi River (and of course to run some of the best whitewater in the world)!
The First big event for the festival was the Upper Jondachi race. In order to prepare for the race, we tried to squeeze a few laps down the Upper leading up to the festival. Because the race section was to be determined based on the day of water level, we had to try and remember the entire run as best we could.
Clay Warren stomps a boof on the first drop of the Urcusiqui, the tributary used to paddle in to the Jondachi
Emily Shanblatt also gets her boof on on the Urcusiqui
Clay Warren drops into Tres Juevos on the upper Jondachi
Em Shan paddles to the takeout of the Upper Jondachi
There was a race meeting on Thursday night at a pizza shop in Tena, then Friday morning everyone was awake early and ready to paddle fast! We all met at the put in of the Urcusiqui to get race bibs and a few more logistical details. We were told to paddle down to the confluence of the Jondachi and wait there for more info. In my previous years of traveling to Ecuador I made some good friends in the tourist town of Banos, which consequently has a kayaking club sponsored by the local fire department. I loved seeing my Banos buddies at the race. It was also fun riding around in the fire truck ;)
The Banos Fire Department Truck
Once at the confluence, we were told the approximate start times of the race, the exact ending point as well as given a safety talk. The race would run from just below the confluence to walking bridge over the Jondachi. It was a mostly class 3 race, but did have a few rapids (especially the last one) that you had to be paying attention to.
Emily and I pre-race after walking down to the end of the course
Getting prepared at the start line!
3...2...1... Go! That's me putting my first race stroke in! (Photographer West Howland)
The last rapid of the race
Coming in hot into the finish line
After the race, there was still a lot of paddling to do as the finish line was pretty much at what most people consider the start of the Upper Jondachi. In an effort to avoid the crowds, Emily and I snuck downstream on our own and ended up having the river to ourselves.
Emily enjoying the sunshine during our lunch break
Lucho boofs into Typhoid with storm clouds in the backgrounf
One of my very favorite Ecuadorian buddies, Andres, enjoys an overhanging cave on the Jondachi
Me getting interviewed by a local News Station at the takeout (Photographer Emily Shanblatt)
The evening after the race there was a super fun part and awards ceremony at a local restaurant in Tena. It was a great night to celebrate a successful race and kick off to the festival. Congrats to Hannah Kertesz for taking first place amongst the women. I was a few seconds behind her securing second place.
The next morning we had to wake up early to prepare for a long day (19miles) on the Middle and Lower Jondachi as well as a portion of the Hollin. As much fun as the Upper is, I think quite possibly the most beautiful sections of the Jondachi lie downstream. Steep jungle walls line much of the many miles of river. As part of the festival, there was a large group putting on a the lower in both kayaks and rafts and paddling down to an eco-lodge perched on the side of the river. I volunteered to lead a group of kayakers down the lesser done Middle section. We all then regrouped at the beautiful lodge for a camp fire, cold beers and an overnight jungle retreat.
Getting ready to put on the Middle Jondachi
Typical Jondachi Scenery
A serene moment on the Hollin
The reward for a long day of kayaking!
The scene at the riverside lodge
The lodge where we spent the night was a 5min paddle from the bridge where our taxi driver was picking us up. We paddled out first thing in the morning and it was bittersweet for me. On one hand, I knew it was my last day in Ecuador for a while, as I would be heading home to the States that evening. On the other hand, I felt a sense of joy that with the success of the festival, there was the slightest hope that the Jondachi might be around for many more years to come. If you want to support the cause, please consider donating to the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute (http://ecuadorianrivers.org/donate/), the non-profit that hosted the festival and is on the front line of fighting for Ecuador's rivers.
A view of Volcan Antisana on my way to the airport
For more coverage of the Jondachi and the festival, check out this digital piece by Canoe and Kayak:
So it may not be a summer filled with lots of water here in California, but that doesn't mean you can't still get out and have a good time. Living here as taught me the importance of being able to enjoy lots of different sports, so when the weather is not good for one (say creek boating), you always have a backup activity to get outside and enjoy.
A couple weekends ago I did just that by spending my time climbing rocks, riding bikes and getting in a playboat for the first time in a long time. And I was especially excited to get out and use some gear I had recently acquired; A new climbing rope, playboat and mountain bike!
I am still very much a beginner climber, but I have learned to appreciate the skills and strength involved in this anti-gravity sport. Each move is a problem to be solved, and the more efficiently you do so, the more energy you'll have for the next move. That morning we headed up to Donner Summit and enjoyed some beautiful California granite just 15 min. outside of Truckee. I was excited to utilize my new 9.9mm Pulse rope, thanks to Blue Water Ropes, which turned out to be every bit as awesome as I expected. The bright color helped make sure it was seen by all!
From Donner Summit I drove down the hill to Coloma, CA with my brand new Dagger Jitsu in the back of my truck. I have never been, and will never be, known as a playboater in the kayaking world. It's just not something I have ever spent a lot of time doing, but I will say that every time I hop on a wave, no matter how small it is, I always end up having a great time. I seem to find myself laughing and smiling a lot while playboating, which usually is because of my ridiculous ability to get window shaded, but its still fun anyways! The Jitsu lived up to all my expectations. I hadn't been in a newer playboat in years, and now I see what I've been missing. Excited to work out the kinks with some more days at barking dog of the SF American.
The next morning I woke up ready to get my butt kicked on a mountain bike ride on the Forest Hill Loop in Auburn, CA. Working abroad all summer as a tour guide, I get very little time to exercise, so it's always rough jumping on the bike for the first time in a while. I had only been on my new Specialized Stump Jumper a handful of times before, and I was excited to take it out again. It was a great morning and a great ride, definitely a butt kicker as expected, but thats always great motivation to get back into riding shape. I finished up the day by heading back down to barking dog for an afternoon surf session in the California sun.
If you've never experienced a good "surf and turf" weekend before, I highly recommend trying it out and learning a new sport if thats what it takes. In my opinion, diversity is the key to staying happy and healthy outside!
The snow has officially started to melt out here in California and its not going to last long so get it while you can! Last weekend I took to the water and kicked off my Spring kayaking season on two local classics- South Silver and Golden Gate.
I had not been on South Silver since my inaugural California season back in 2009, so it was great to get a chance to get back out there. While it may be short, South Silver is filled with one fun drop after the next and set in such a beautiful location, its the perfect way to spend a warm spring day.
After a great day on South Silver, we decided to stay in the American drainage and spent the following day enjoying the wonderful rapids of Golden Gate. Golden Gate is another run I had not been on in a few years and was excited to revisit. My previous runs on Golden Gate had gone well with the exception of one rapid- AFU (I'll leave it to you to figure out what that stands for). The first time I ran it I got, well, AFU and that memory left me taking the dry line around the rapid on my subsequent visits. Last weekend I decided it was time to face my fears and give the rapid another go. I am happy to report it went great this time around. It felt so good to replace that bad memory with a good one!
What a great weekend with great friends to start off my California melt season. Time to start watching dreamflows and chasing that melt!
Now, let me be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with paddling a short boat, but if you haven't taken the time to paddle the Dagger Green Boat yet, you really are missing out!
While this past winter has been a fairly dry one out here in California, I have still managed to get out on the water a decent bit and when possible and appropriate, took my green boat out with me.
A lot of people have the preconceived notion that paddling the Green Boat is going to be more difficult than their standard creek boat, but in most situations, I tend to disagree. I have actually come to feel more comfortable in the green boat on many of my local runs due to the speed and hole punching ability it provides me. It's true that you don't want to it sideways in a hole, but as long as you keep her straight she'll take you through almost anything! Remember, the Green Boat isn't just any long boat, its a long boat thats been specifically designed to be more comfortable, easier to paddle and paddle more like a creekboat than the long boats of the past.
It's hard to explain exactly why I think paddling the Green Boat is so much fun, but there is something about cruising through rapids with that little bit of extra speed that makes me addicted to the feeling. And don't think that that extra length will keep you from hitting those boofs, the Green Boat loves to boof!
So next time you're at your local kayak shop trying to decide which boat to take out for a demo, don't look past the Green Boat. I promise you won't regret it!