Sunday, October 10, 2010

Little Grand Canyon...Westwater Utah

As fall weather slumbers into the Rocky Mountains, all the usual suspects loaded up the KEENmobile and rolled into Westwater Canyon Utah for a 4 day paddling and mountain biking bonanza. Fresh off of my last trip to Seattle to adventure race with the DART gang, it was great to be back on the mountain bike yet again away from endless time in the kayak.  Heather and I started the weekend by hitting all the classic mountain bike rides (and a few we made up as we went!) in Moab. What is better in life than to wake up in the morning from our camping vista overlooking Slickrock followed by frumpy oatmeal and chocolate milk watching the sun rise in my KEEN flippity flops?

PADDLER'S PERSPECTIVE (Same Stretch Looking Downstream)
SIDE PERSPECTIVE (Same as photo)

Skull Rapid, Left Line vs. Right Line
After some epic mountain biking in Moab, we rolled upstream to Westwater Canyon to meet up with Andy Corra and family along with Nelson Oldham/fam for some big water boat'n on one of every wildwater paddlers' favorite stretches of river. Westwater Canyon, sometimes called Little Grand Canyon,  is rich in outlaw history, caves, and bald eagles. It is even richer in the quality of big volume pool drop rapids. The exitless inner gorge is 40 minutes of world class continuous big water rapids. Each drop leads to a guaranteed chest hit at the bottom of the explosive wave trains leading to the crux rapid in the series known as The Skull. To the right you see a photo from 2 years ago on another Westwater river trip with me taking the left line and The Boz taking his raft on the rowdier right line barely squeezing by the munchy massive hole that gives the rapid its namesake. Hitting the swimming pool sized hole almost guarantees a beat down followed by a story worthy dance with The Rock of Shock and then an unpalatable dessert in The Room of Doom. It's actually not such a Room of Doom for kayakers but it can hold a raft for hours if one unlucky soul gets sucked into the recirculating eddy inside the alcove unless they dump truck or bus stop (same as a dump truck but only the guide stays in the raft:) in the Skull Hole. .

Andy Corra and I prepaddled the same 20 mile run the day before in a brisk sub 2 hours on a training run (aka paddle as hard as you can to not lose Andy) but the run you see here is the family run with his talented paddling wife Janet and son Wiley as well as Nelson Oldham and daughter Kate both in kayaks and a support dory. Not blasting down the river in a paper thin 24 lb carbon kelar boat has its own challenges and you see me several times mis time my dory passes in the rapids resulting in a side hit on my stern and a double look to ensure I'm still sea worthy:)

I try to add a swiftwater racing tip on every blog entry and I think a great paddling tip from today's video is to "reach past every wave apex for your next stroke". Doing so centers your balance perfectly on each mega wave hit and boofs/drives the kayak forward trying to reach the next wave before my bow drops into the trough of the wave set (which would slow my speed like a speed bump). Notice the frequency of my paddle strokes matches the frequency of the swell surges...the slower the surges lift me the slower my stroke frequency.  I hear the advice "paddle like hell when a rapid approaches" which I disagree with from a technical perspective as the paddler flails with poor timing. "Never stop paddling and time each stroke to hit each wave apex" is a better paraphrase of that same advice. Notice my paddle is never out of the water except for a millisecond between strokes. That millisecond is the only instant I could get flipped like you see just before the slo mo in Skull Rapid but a few brace strokes prevented a roll. I may slow down my stroke by extending the stroke beyond my hip waiting for the next wave but my paddle is ALWAYS in the water for leverage.  In the notorious words of my favorite movie of all time: TOP GUN..."Maverick, that was some of the best (paddling) I've seen yet right up to the point you got (flipped) NEVER EVER leave your (paddle in the air:)

Heather got plenty of flat water time on the SUP paddle board and little 8 year old Wiley Corra really impressed me paddling rowdy class 3 wavetrains with a smile on his face. The US paddling scene will recognize this name in about 10 years as he'll surely go on to match his dad's world record paddling acumen.

As with life, the compression of every canyon brings a lot of rowdiness and uncertainly. Peace finally returns and that same rowdiness passes us by on its way to the next tumultuous canyon. In the early hours of morning on the same day as this video filming I saw the most magnificent shooting star go overhead seen from horizon to horizon with a glorious trail of green. Later that evening, I got a voicemail from my long time hometown friend letting me know the mother of my high school class Linda Griffin had passed. Now I know what it meant. 

Next up....nordic and hot chocolate hut season is upon us! Special thanks to the ever creative Heather for the video editing above!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How Not to Take Heather Kayaking...

OK, so only kayakers will appreciate how funny this video truly is. I personally will never take Heather on something she's not comfortable paddling herself but the conversation going on here is just classic among husband and wife/boyfriend girlfriend when paddling a tandem together. Every time we paddle our tandem, we joke with onlookers telling them we're filming a reality tv show called "How to Get Divorced in 2 Weeks or Less".....

This is on a class 6 section of the White Nile in Uganda and I just can't believe a kayaker would take a non kayaker through this without full disclosure but the drama is just priceless...

World's Worst Kayaking Experience