Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dreaming of Whitewater: Issue Two... If you haven't already, check it out!

If you haven't checked out Issue Two of Dreaming of Whitewater yet, make sure you take some time to read it - it's free. We are currently working hard on Issue Three which will be out in August.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Sweet Bearsuit Elbow Guards

If you haven’t had the chance to check out the new Sweet Protection Mountain Biking line, then you should take a look. I was very excited about the new range of mountain biking gear, but not for the reason you would think. I biked a bunch in the past but always managed to hit trees or break stuff, which was never good for me and meant that I needed to fix my bike a lot. I was excited because Sweet has started making elbow guards that I can use for paddling.

The new Bearsuit Elbow Guards are a simple, pull-over-the-arm model, with a strap that holds it in place. The fabric on forearm is thin, kind of like neoprene, but it has a slightly sticky side that keeps it in place. It fits well over a dry top. The actual protection comes from a foam layer that is soft to touch but super hard when hit. The foam layer is know as EVA, and it is flexible, shock proof and waterproof.

I have used them on a number of occasions and they look awesome and feel great. They have protected my elbows a couple of times already. They require less adjusting than the forearm-elbow guards from SixSixOne, and they are less bulky than the Shred Ready elbow guards. The Sweet design allows for a great range of motion in a pretty low profile fit, while still giving great protection.

Myself on Little Niagara, Hospital Rock on the Kaweah River, CA  
Photo//Josh Neilson 

I would recommend getting a size bigger than your regular fit if you are going to wear them over top of your dry top.

These elbow guards are a great addition to my kayaking kit and to the Sweet line up. Look out for them in stores, on riders and on the water. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Good Kind of Devil... Devil's Canyon, Middle Feather

Typically in California, you finish one mission and are immediately planning the next. The South Merced was no different - as soon as the team was off the river and waiting for the shuttle, the wheels began rolling for the next mission. From Yosemite, we did a mad dash north in the night to be at the Middle Feather by morning for a two day trip through Devil's Canyon. The team: Tyler Fox, Jim Bob, Daan and myself.

Devil's Canyon is usually done as a three day trip as the area is amazing and the camping very good. Not for us though... We had two days to paddle, a flow of 2500 cfs and an airport commitment the day after. Fortunately there is a shuttle driver up the Feather so logically we called him to help out.

Not so logical was the conversation that ensued. After first declaring that he was not the "shuttle guy", he proceeded to lecture me about the perils of trying to paddle the river in two days without someone who had done it before. There was a lot of banter before we finally compromised on leaving his place at 8.30am.

We rolled in with five minutes to spare and realised (quite quickly) that we weren't going anywhere fast - welcome to Feather time. A bit of last minute packing and squishing freed up the front passenger seat for our shuttle guy. Taking his seat he then removed his hat and unfurled the longest (and roughest) mullet I have ever seen, about a foot from my face. 

Our shuttle passed by wonderfully. We were in constant fits of laughter and I had tears rolling down my face within the first ten minutes and it didn't stop until we waved this guy goodbye from the river. 

Once on the river we settled in for a decent day on the river. Things started out gently and soon fell into a rhythm of rapids and pools. One of the many great things about Devil's Canyon is that there are no long stretches of flatwater. The gradient keeps things moving consistently and along with our 2500 cfs of water, we were flying. 

Myself on an early rapid... It keeps getting better and better!
Photo//Tyler Fox

Although sunny, it wasn't a particularly warm day so we didn't stop too much. By the looks of the camping available in the first part of the run, it was no wonder to us that people choose to do this trip over three days. We were through the first canyon before we really knew it and quickly getting deeper into the run. There were a few quick scouts but mostly super fun read and run grade 4+. 

A rare stop: Daan enjoying his breakfast some six hours later.
You may note the half gallon of milk.
Photo//Tyler Fox

Feather goodness... Drinking from a side creek
Photo//Daan Jimmink

Mr Fox in an unexpectedly-steep rapid
Photo//Daan Jimmink 

We paddled the second canyon which passes under the Pacific Crest Trail. The rapids kept coming which kept big smiles on our faces. As our afternoon wore on we were starting to get cold so were on the hunt for a good spot to pull up for the night. Jim Bob had actually done this run before but for the life of him could not remember much about it. To his credit, he did vaguely remember camping below the second canyon. Soon enough, we found a beach with our names on it (well, not really but you know what I mean). Steak, honey whiskey, gummi bears and M and M's... Yes, please.

What was left of the afternoon sun!
Photo//Daan Jimmink

Daan and Tyler warming up while talking business
Photo//Jess Matheson

For what seemed like a pretty mellow campsite, it turned out to be more eventful than the river was. There was a bald eagle and some salamanders. I also intercepted a rattle snake on the beeline for my sleeping mat, and found shortly after an angry scorpion that I had been sitting on. 

He was just leaving.
Photo//Daan Jimmink

This was only part of our evening entertainment. The wind picked up to epic proportions. Nothing like a sandy beach in the wind for a good sleep.

Big is good. Boat size for windbreaking...
Tyler's invention.
Photo//Tyler Fox

Windier than it looks!
Photo//Daan Jimmink

After a reasonably disrupted sleep, we were up and off again. Not sure where we were, how far we had gone, or how much we had left to paddle - we got on the water early (by Kiwi standards). We paddled about half an hour and came across a pair of paddlers camped up on a sweet beach eating breakfast. They said it was about three or four hours to the take out so we would have heaps of time to get there in time to meet our shuttle driver at 6pm. 

We got into some beautiful granite rapids in some amazing little gorges which was really fun paddling. We had a sweet couple of hours of paddling and had enough time to take a few pictures!

Daan somewhere in yet another rapid
Photo//Tyler Fox

Jim Bob figuring out the line for the second time
Photo//Tyler Fox

Endless, good volume boulder gardens
Photo//Tyler Fox

Tyler living the Cali life.
Photo//Daan Jimmink

This looked kind of meaty... Daan amongst it
Photo//Jim Bob

The Devil was happy this day!
Photo//Tyler Fox

The only must-run of the trip - Helicopter - cause you would need one to get around it.
Photo//Tyler Fox

The two paddlers we saw earlier blitzed past us a little later. We had no chance of keeping their pace (locals who know all the lines) so settled back into our rhythm. Jim Bob did remember where the portage was which was helpful. We hopped out and climbed around, and as we were coming back down to river level met the paddlers again - Cody and Morgan - who showed us down the rest of the run. In river awesomeness, they also took us back up to our vehicle (at the shuttle guy's place) as we were well early after all.

Devil's Canyon is an incredible trip and possibly quite underrated. In terms of consistent gradient, heaps of rapids, wicked camping, not much flatwater, sweet scenery and overall good, multiday grade 4 - 4+ (at 2500 cfs) this trip is well recommended. We all agreed that we would go back for sure.

Cheers to Jim Bob, Tyler, Daan, Morgan, Cody and Steve for a sweet trip.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The South Merced

Since arriving in Cali, the flows have been awesome and are holding out well. We went straight from the Yuba to Upper Middle Cosumnes. The UMC is a great run - small volume (500 cfs) and steep. Tyler and Taylor both knew the lines so showed Jess and I down it. Lots of very fun rapids and a great warm up.

From the UMC we decided to go to the South Merced. It was flowing at 800 cfs and not fluctuating too much.  Jim Bob, Chris Madden and Mark Shackleton joined our team of Jess, Tyler, Taylor and myself. 

We tried to leave Coloma nice and early. Tyler, Jess and I packed one vehicle and drove to Taylor's place to pick him up but he hadn't quite started to pack yet. After a long drive we finally made it to Yosemite National Park - the South Merced begins at Wawona and finishes outside of the Park. This meant the last part of the drive was stunning.

We were at the put-in at 3pm and ready to put on the water by 4pm. It was definitely a later start then I was keen for. 

At the put-in, gear everywhere!
Wawona, Yosemite National Park 
(Photo//Tyler Fox)

From the put-in, we made good time down to where we camped. We didn't hop out of our boats much so photo taking wasn't a priority. It was also cold which motivated us to stay in our boats and keep moving.

Our campsite, river in the background.
 (Photo//Daan Jimmink)

We had a great campsite with lots of wood around. Taylor made everyone very jealous when he pulled out steaks from the back of his kayak. We passed round some honey whiskey and told stories till it was dark.

In the morning we were greeted by another team. They had paddled the river a week ago, and were back for the one-day mission. We tried to keep up with them for a couple of minutes before deciding that paddling in a group of 11 wasn't a good idea. 

On day two the rapids kept coming, lots of awesome slides and clean drops. 

Super Slide 
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

 Taylor Cavin on the entrance to Super Slide
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

 Mark at the bottom of Super Slide
(Photo//Tyler Fox)

Taylor Cavin pointing the Green Boat where it needs to go 
(Photo//Tyler Fox)

 Chris Madden on the entrance to Super Slide
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Taylor on his forth attempt to leave the eddy 
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

 Mark on a clean slide
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Tyler on the same clean drop
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Mark on line in a manky rapid 
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

The run took a lot longer that I thought, but this was mostly to do with the size of our group and the fact that only Taylor had done it before. Taylor had done the run once about four years ago but his memory had faded. We got to the take out at 5pm. We still needed to do our shuttle which took an extra two hours. This was the last thing that I wanted to be doing at the time. I think the 800 cfs was a great flow in the South Merced and meant that everything had good coverage while still having a bit of push. 

Thanks to everyone for a great trip.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back to Cali! South Yuba: 49 to Bridgeport

It has been a while since our last update. March was busy writing the second issue of the Dreaming of Whitewater magazine, and April was a random month of bits and pieces - mostly catching up with family and getting ready to fly out to the States.

We flew with Air New Zealand this year and had a very smooth flight from Wellington to Auckland, then direct from Auckland to San Francisco. Once we arrived in the States it took a couple of days to get things together. Getting the truck ready (which by the way, started up first try) and finding a kayak for Jess to paddle while we waited for our new ones to arrive. Once we got all the pieces together, it was time to go boating.

We teamed up with Taylor Cavin and Tyler Fox for a (slightly juicy) warm-up run on the 49 to Bridgeport section of the South Yuba. 1,800 cfs and a few weeks out of our boats made for a fun trip. This section has some really cool rapids and it was a great way to kick off the Cali season.

Tyler Fox on Corner Pocket 
Photo//Daan Jimmink

More updates coming soon... Been busy paddling!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Issue Two of Dreaming of Whitewater is ready.

Over the last four months Jess and I have been working hard to bring you Issue Two. The Dreaming of Whitewater magazine is a free digital magazine, you can view it online or download to read later.

We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Daan Jimmink and Jess Matheson

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Mighty Waitaha

With a bit of time off and a bit of money in our pocket it was time to head to the West Coast. With Dando out of the air this year it has meant more time flying with Danny Reedy. The downside to flying with Reedy is that he parks his helicopter in Hokitika which adds to the both the flight time and cost of flying. Dando parks his helicopter 20 kms closer to the mountains thus closer to a bunch of kayaking runs. To keep costs down we have been joining with other groups to share the cost of flying - and then doing our own thing once on the river.

The weather looked good and the Waitaha was a run that I hadn't done before. In my team was Pete Lodge, Toni George and Mike Verberne. I also managed to find a team of five who were keen to share the chopper to the put in.

The Waitaha started off with lots of awesome boofs and picking lines through boulder gardens. As a team we were able to stay in our boats most of the time and boat scout most of the rapids.

Pete Lodge riding the wall
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Toni giving it some style
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

 Toni letting her hair down
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Me on a clean sliding boof
(Photo//Toni George)

After about half an hour of paddling we got the "Big Drop" or "Nikki Kelly's Drop". This rapid seems to have changed a lot, which I wasn't complaining about. It was a very nice ramp to a clean boof, a very fun rapid.

Scouting the Big Drop. Toni thinking about how much Si would have loved this run
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Pete Lodge showing us how it's done
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Toni showing me the line
(Photo//Pete lodge)

Halfway down the slide
(Photo//Toni George)

 Getting into the clean rapids and leading up to the Cave Drop
(Photo//Pete Lodge)

Lining up the hole before the Cave
(Photo//Toni George)

Entering the Cave
(Photo//Pete Lodge)

Toni have a casual surf in the hole after the Cave
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

Mike clearing the hole
(Photo//Daan Jimmink)

A nice slot rapid
(Photo//Pete Lodge)

More classy drops
(Photo//Toni George)

Coming up to the second portage of the day
(Photo//Toni George)

From the put in we made great time to Morgan's Gorge. At the entrance to the Gorge we spent a while looking in to see if we could find a way through. With the our team not wanting to commit and not having any information on what the Gorge currently has in store, we decided to walk around it. The guide book says it should take an hour to walk around but it took our team closer to two hours. We liked the look of the last rapid of Morgan's George so seal launched into the river for the last part.

The last rapid of Morgan's Gorge
(Photo//Pete Lodge)

I probed the first hole with a below-average line and ended up geting a solid beating which was close to a minute. I was stable a couple of times but it wasn't letting me out. After about 30 rolls I put my knee through my skirt, went deep and flushed downstream. Swimming/falling off the next three ledges got me to the flat pool at the bottom. My boat stayed in the hole for another five minutes before flushing down to me and my rescue team. Probing means you go first, which is all good until it isn't. In this case the only way to have been rescued from the hole would have been from downstream side, but everyone else was still upstream - it's not usually a good idea to paddle something while someone is getting thrashed in there.

From the bottom of Morgan's Gorge there was still an number of awesome rapids down to the take out.

Me doing what needed to be done... The whisky went down well
(Photo//Jess Matheson)

Later that night we started getting phone calls from friends of the other team that flew up the Waitaha after us. They weren't back yet (well past darkness) and people were getting worried. It turns out that they got lost on the portage around Morgan's Gorge and ended up spending an impromptu night out. They paddled out safely the next day.

The Waitaha is an awesome day out and next time I will be asking what Morgan's Gorge holds in store.

Cheers to the Rotorua crew for turning left at Taihape and ending up on the Coast!