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.