Skip to content

Todd Wells's blog

header image



Welcome to the Longboat Revolution: Greenboat on Site Zed

Posted: 01.14.2015 by Todd Wells

Wizards Eye

Welcome to the #LongBoatRevolution! Since kayaking's origin millennia ago what we now consider "longboats" were the norm.

Initially utilized by the Inuit, Yup'ik and Aleut people, kayaks were utilized for hunting and fishing. These long kayaks constructed of wood, bone and/or animal skin were a revolutionary invention that transformed the way of life for the North American Natives. A longer kayak meant speed and efficiency, which was necessary for the long distances to be covered in short periods of time.

With a drastic transformation in boat design over the last few decades, especially within the whitewater world, kayaks have grown shorter and shorter. This metamorphasis has brought upon revolutionary changes that have opened previously unfathomable avenues for innovation. Today we can surf our 5-6ft. "playboats" on monstrous river waves and hydraulic features, or send our 7-9ft. "creekboats" off 100+ ft waterfalls, into tight narrow creeks, and through the world's biggest rapids.

But now, as we have become accustom to these shorter kayaks there has grown a desire to once again move faster across the river currents, paddle for longer distances and pack more gear for multi-day trips. This yearning for change sparked a recent rebirth of longboats in the whitewater community. Now a number of whitewater kayak manufacturers have come out with their own re-designed version of longboat. 

I personally remained completely content in my shorter creekboats (a Mamba 8.6 or Nomad 8.5) for years, until last spring when my brother offered me the opportunity to borrow his Greenboat for the weekend. I was nervous, scared, but excited as well. I left my creekboats at home and threw the narrow 11'9" boat atop my car for our weekend outing to Leavenworth, Washington. There, on Tumwater Canyon of the Wenatchee River, I immediately fell in love with the speed, agility and power of such a long yet seemingly nimble kayak. I felt like I had been unleashed from chains that had held me back for years and right then an entirely new sense of confidence in my paddling and connection with the hydraulics of the river swept over me. After a weekend of portage-less laps down Tumwater Canyon at high flows I felt as though I had been reborn. For the rest of the season, in Washington, Alaska and British Columbia I grew more and more comfortable in my longboat and frankly less interested in paddling my creekboat. Paddling a longboat gave me a new challenge and a fresh perspective on whitewater kayaking. 

Towards the end of the summer season, and with sufficient experience in my longboat I was ready for the next big challenge: The Grand Canyon of the Stikine. Since my first time down the Stikine in 2010 to my prior trip in 2013 I had never imagined that I would one day take a longboat down the ferocious section of whitewater, but there I was in August floating towards Entry Falls in almost a 12ft kayak, just as Rob Lesser and his team had done during their first descent of the canyon almost 30 years before. 

I had an absolute blast, and when I finally approached the most famous and seldom-run rapid of the river, Site Zed, I decided I was ready. I had looked at the rapid numerous times in year past, but never with as much confidence as I did when my long boat was slung over my shoulder. I conversed with my team mates, and without any pre-existing plans to run the rapid I stopped portaging, and hauled my boat back upstream to put-in above Site Zed. Following my brother Brendan, whitewater ninja Jules Domine, and Site Zed's first female paddler Nouria Newman I peeled out into the steep and powerful rapid. With one flip in the main hole, but otherwise a fulfilling and thrilling ride, I made it to the bottom of the rapid with an overwhelming sense of happiness and fulfillment. For the rest of the river we continued downstream at a brisk pace, portaging none of the remaining class V rapids. We were confident in ourselves and confident with our boats. 

My experience in my Greenboat over the course of 2014 and on the Stikine was amazing. I felt like a I had made a revolution in my paddling, when really I was simply taking a step back in time. I know my next season will be full of more days in a longboat than ever before and I cannot wait to see what else may possible in such a magnificent and elegant craft.

Different kayaks can provide each of us with fresh perspective on whitewater, and if you are looking for a new experience on the river, I encourage you to consider a day a long boat. Maybe you be reborn as well!!

This is the #LongBoatRevolution

For a video from our Stikine Trip this summer, check out Mountain Mind Collective's most recent feature episode below:

Part Two: Journey to the Stikine and the Sacred Headwaters from Mountain Mind Collective on Vimeo.

header image



Team Dagger athletes launch Mountain Mind Collective web video series

Posted: 10.10.2013 by Todd Wells

Wells brothers

For years my brother Brendan and I have been passionate about pushing our kayaking abilities and exploring rivers around the world. It wasn't until recently, though, that we both discovered a similar passion for cinematography and film. This year we decided to combine these passions and launch our own video production company.

Mountain Mind Collective is a collaboration of our work with contributions from other talented paddlers and videographers. Join us on this epic adventure, starting from our home here in Washington state and continuing around the world...

Mountain Mind Collective episode #1:

Follow our adventures through our vimeo page

header image



The Joy of Air

Posted: 02.19.2013 by Todd Wells

The JOy of Air

Here's a beautiful piece by Bryan Smith that offers some fresh perspective. Enjoy.


The Joy of Air from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.

Leave the ground beneath your feet,
Rise up, your inner legend greet.
A body in motion –
Twisting, turning, churning, yearning –
Apex found, heaven bound.

But remember, what goes up must come down.

Director Bryan Smith of Reel Water Productions explores the concept of catching air across a variety of sports. Words by Fitz Cahall.

header image



Kicking off the Whitewater Grand Prix

Posted: 12.02.2012 by Todd Wells

Being asked to compete in the Whitewater Grand Prix this year was an incredible privilege. I figured out that I had been invited just a few weeks before the event, but I was set on making it happen.

I had to finish my classes two weeks early, figure a way around work responsibilities and raise enough money to finance the trip. It was a lot of work, but now that I'm here in Chile things could not be any better. Before I dive into this blog post I would really like to thank everyone that has helped to make this trip possible. To Dagger, my friends and my family: I would not be here now if it were not for your generous support. If you feel like making a contribution towards my trip visit my online fundraiser here. Thanks once again.

Traveling to Chile took a long while, but I met some cool people along the way. From my campsite in the Seattle Airport to the ten hour bus ride from Santiago to Pucon I saw some cool sites along the way.

My bivy at SeaTac

A South American sunrise from 30,000 ft.

Flying over the Andes

As soon as I got off the bus in Pucon I saw a truck full of kayaks parked in front of a hostel, so I went on in to see who I could find. Inside some paddlers from Wales, the U.K. and Austria were eating dinner and planning the next leg of their trip. They decided that they would be heading down to the Fuy for the next two days and said they had room for one more, so I said I would come along with them.

We had an awesome time at the Fuy. Good flows, beautiful warm weather and crystal clear water kept smiles on our faces and provided me with a good couple days of training.

Chilling around the campfire on the Fuy

Joe Thurgate sailing off the 30 ft waterfall on the Upper Fuy

Jo Taylor doing the same

Jo on the boof just below the 30 footer

Looking up at a ledge on the Fuy

After a couple days and a night on the Fuy we headed back to Pucon where I met up with some of the other Grand Prix competitors. Ben Marr, Mike Dawson, Dane Jackson... the crew was forming.

While in Pucon I was able to get some practice laps on the Marimon rapid on the Rio Trancura where the slalom competition will be hosted, and some laps on the Rio Palguin where, water levels permitting, we will have another race.

On the Palguin there was a massive group of paddlers making their way downstream, all of whom were extremely talented and respected paddlers. When we got to Middle Palguin, the iconic 70 ft waterfall no one held back. In fact the lead-in rapid, Stout Ten, which is rather gnarly and rarely run was not portaged by anyone in the group. It's been incredible to be around so many legendary paddlers, who are all at the cutting edge of the sport.

Daniel Rondón, a Peruvian competitor styling Stout Ten

Nouria Abou-Newman on Stout Ten

After spending some time on low water runs around Pucon I was ready to move elsewhere. From Pucon I piled into a van with about a dozen people to head South to the Rio Gol Gol. The Gol Gol is where we will be having our first competition, and I wanted to get some practice laps on it before the race.

The put in on a small tributary right before the Argentinian border

Galen Volckhausen and Daniel on Novios, the first waterfall of the Gol Gol (we won't be racing this drop, but regardless it's a fun move)

Lorenzo Andrade Astorga on one of the Gol Gol's many boofs

Lorenzo getting ready to boof La Princessa (this 20-30 ft waterfall is the last drop of the race)

Kyle Hull navigating another rapid on the Gol Gol

Galen about to fall off 50 ft Salto del Indio (this waterfall will not be raced as well, but is a powerful drop that pulls paddlers deep beneath the surface)

Lorenzo chucking away his paddle on Salto del Indio

Today was our last day of practice out here on the Gol Gol, and tomorrow the racing begins. I feel pretty well prepared for the race, but the course is still intimidating. It is likely one of the most extreme sections of river that has ever been raced, and up against the stacked group of competitors I have my work cut out for me. Keep your eyes on the Whitewater Grand Prix website and facebook page for updates from this first event and the others still to come.

I hope your as stoked as I am!


header image



Red Epic Footage of Team Dagger in Southern British Columbia

Posted: 10.15.2012 by Todd Wells

Here is a preview of the project Steve Rogers and Tim Loubier have been working on over the past few weeks.

All of this film was shot on a Red Epic in high resolutions and at high frame rates. Can't wait to see what the Reel Water Productions crew comes up with next!!!

Water - A Whitewater Kayaking Short from tim loubier on Vimeo.

Subscribe to RSS - Todd Wells's blog