Sunday, February 18, 2007

2007 Rocker Review

(unwrapping my new Rocker in Costa Rica. photo by Brad Sutton)

Several Weeks ago I picked up my new 2007 Rocker and drove it back to Memphis just in time to fly with it to Costa Rica! Meeting up with team members Ben Stookesberry, Brad Sutton, and Mario Vargas I got to put the Rocker through some serious testing in a lot of different situations. Here's what I've found:

My Stats:
height: 5'8"
weight: 150 lbs
feet: size 8.5
waist: 29"
inseam: 30"

When I hopped into the first 07 production Rocker, I found fitting in instantly easier than years before. This is something I didn't think would be possible. The new elastic cord holds the footbraces in place great! so cutting down the footbraces is no longer a science. It's quick and easy and the foam won't fall out. This made the footbrace outfitting super easy to setup. In the 2006 Rocker I used 10 shims to even feel like I had hip pads... this made keeping the shims together, even when glued, a bit of a problem. So for 2007 the hip pads come with a pocket for holding shims. I was a bit skeptical about them because I didn't think I would be able to fit enough shims into each pocket to fit. I was wrong. The shims fit in great, I only needed 6, and the hip pads felt a lot more stable. The newly redesigned backband feels a bit more comfortable... I was particularly impressed with the use of the O- rings instead of small biners. The O- rings allow a lot more force to be safety applied to the backband... not to mention, WAY more wear & tear resistant.
(putting the 2007 Rocker through some serious testing. photo by Brad Sutton)

River Running Performance:
My first day in Costa Rica using the Rocker was in the upper gorge of the Pozo Azul. I immediately noticed that the new Rocker floats WAY higher and will go over just about anything. It boofs like a charm but is easy to control... not an easy combination. The first couple of rapids were pretty technical boulder gardens and the Rocker worked like a charm. The first waterfall we came to posed an interesting challenge. It was high enough that boofing may have hurt a bit, but a shallow rock blocked the lip. Two rock shelves converged onto the line and defined where we had to make it off the lip. So We decided to drive fast over the shallow rock for a boof and drop over the lip into a soft vertical landing. Normally, I would have been concerned about making it over the rock at the lip... I think most boats would have bottomed out on it, but the rocker floated over it so well that I didn't loose any speed going off the lip... I didn't even notice that rock shelf! Trying to compensate for my extra speed, I pitched a bit off the lip... but found the Rocker super easy to correct in mid-freefall. I simply tucked a little faster, bring the bow back up and tucked with a perfect pencil. The entry was smooth and the transition was smoother. I scooped out nicely underwater into forward speed and a GREAT, upright resurface. The resurfacing capabilities of the Rocker are AMAZING! All that just to say: The waterfalls capabilties of the Rocker have definitely improved! This boat is a waterfall machine! Hole punching was a breeze. When the Rio Patria juiced up with an extra 2 feet of water from overnight rains, the holes beefed up to say the least. A few times I found myself wondering if I could make the gap across the hole, but I found that the new Rocker just keeps going...straight through. It went over and under holes with ease, fully loaded down with 3 nights of expediiton gear. and when all else failed or all hell broke loose, it punched through HUGE holes and boils and seams without being thrown off line.

Big Water Performance:
Typically, a full on creeker isn't what you want in a big water environment. Playboats and other lower volume boats are nice for slicing under holes that are too big to boof over or punch through... going deep is many times a good thing. At first thought, the high volume Rocker wouldn't seem to handle stout flows very well. But after heavy rains on the Rio Patria brought the river up an extra 2 feet I got to put the Rocker through it's paces again, fully loaded with expedition gear and camra stuff, in a tight, technical, FULL-on environment where the moves really mattered and the water was really BIG. Amazingly enough, the Rocker handled it great, staying on line through huge holes and tremendous boils while floating right over everything that would normally throw a boat off line. Occasionally I found myself with momentum in the wrong direction where fast correction was needed to avoid a bad boulder choke or huge sieve. With the stakes set high in a must make environment, the Rocker adjusted pretty quickly with it's own momentum and I had no problems changing or correcting my line. When the already high volume of the Rio Patria finally met with the big flowin' Rio Sucio, the tight big water creeking gave way to BIG waves and munchy holes, just high volume, wide open big water. The Rocker handled the waves and holes great, punching through hole after hole with little notice... But the downstream speed of the Rocker didn't prevent it from being maneuverable, it still handled with ease. At times, HUGE boulders were just too close together or large holes were just too stacked and melting a steep, turbulent seam was the only way through the chaotic, chundering water. The Rocker stayed incredibly stable in those seams, maintaining it's forward speed like it didn't even notice. This was a very pleasant suprise. A few times for sure I thought I was about to get worked like you wouldn't believe, but instead I barely took a stroke and didn't get my head wet, and this was with a fully loaded boat!

Expedition Performance:
The backband drops down with ease and no matter how tired I was from the day, getting out my gear was never a problem! I simply popped down the backband and pulled whatever I needed out of the stern. Loading my stern was just as easy! The bow is super accessible now, with the hinged footbraces allowing easy reach for your sandles or other gear. The Rocker is actually very light for a creeker so when it was loaded down with my overnight gear, rescue kit, and camra, it was very managable on hikes and portages... except when I couldn't even carry myself, but that wasn't the Rocker's fault ;-) When fully loaded, the Rocker floated me high and paddled just as well as it did without the gear. It tracked well with great forward momentum, but turned just as well for fast corrections in tricky spots where timing and details mattered. On my trip to Costa Rica, I was on two multi-day trips in a row, 3 days each with only one night inbetween....all class V and better. Those two trips lead me through tight, bouldery rapids similar to Upper Big Creek in NC, a locked in canyon with class V and V+ rapids stacked one after the other with little escape, through the shallow manky section of the upper part of the Rio Patria, and through the BIG water brawl of the post-rain lower Patria and Sucio. What I found was that no matter what environment I was in, the Rocker pulled me through and outperformed any boat I have ever paddled, even while fully loaded. It was nice to focus on the rapids and adventure without having to worry about the boat.

The Rio Patria gave me the opportunity to fully test the piton system. With rock flakes hidden behind waves and holes, sudden impacts were almost impossible to avoid. The good news is that my body never had to deal with the blow. The footbracing is the best I've tried at absorbing shock, preventing the ankle injuries common to kayakers. The outfitting is solid so you never have to worry about it failing at a bad time. The cockpit is large and the Rocker is stable so exiting with one or no hands free was never a problem. Most importantly, the Rocker is super easy to roll even in crazy boils and big water while fully loaded down with expedition gear.

I absolutely love this boat and stand behind it 300% as a high quality full on Creeker. I knew the new Rocker would be good throughout the design process, but it took this trip to show me how good it really is. I think Jackson Kayak has finally come through on a FULL-on HIGH quality creeker for the mid-sized paddler. Jackson Kayak has truly gone above and beyond on this one. This boat is going to rock the season!

Boyd :-)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

As a kayaker I am always seeking the newest thrill and I hate being bored. This past season has been so busy with so much going on, it has been really hard keeping track of all my adventures. But I do my best to fill you in. As of the end of the 2005 season I am now paddling and working as a Sales rep for Pyrahna, IR, WRSI, and Astral. Working with all of these companies to help promote them in the rocky mt. has been interesting to say the least. Leaving Crested Butte last April for the first road trip of the year Brent Toepper and I made our way north towards our first stop of Jackson Hole Wyoming. Arriving there with 6” of new snow on the snake river we prepared for a cold water play. Learning this day that The IR getto booties were a life saver! Not only were the warm they had a extra layer you could add for better grip and warmth.
After returning Home to Crested Butte after a month or so of paddling up north we arrived just in time to break trail to OH-BE-JOY FULL creek. The summer was shaping to be one of the best yet. But little did I know it was only to get better. Meeting up with Pat Keller at paddlefest who was bringing me a new burn, i hung out with pat, billy jones, and scott harky for the next two weeks before Pat headed off to Cali. We made plans to meet in Cali later that summer. After working Three grueling weeks for my dad doing construction I saved enough money to finally take off to Jackson to meet Austin Rathman for a ride to Cali. Chilling in Jackson Austin received a phone call from a buddy who told us his plans for a 1st decent of the Teton creek, which was the head water for the Teton river in ID. After explain there was 7th mile hike in, Austin and I questioned weather or not we felt up to it the hike then the long drive to Cali the next day. After little debate we deiced that we should just hike in and run the shit! Teton creeks turned out to be not a good a we had hoped but it sure was sweet training for cali. After a gurgling 7 mile hike, tons of portaging, and a long day on the river there was nothing but cali on my mind.
Finally in Cali Austin and I met with Christi and Laura, who are traveling around with us. Spending the first three days Running South Sliver, which is a classic cali granite run.
Leaving there to head to the Fordyce which was a sweet run just outside of Truckee cali. Spending two days in Truckee, we were still on a mission to make it north to hood river to pick up Anna and meet Boomer. Stopping for a few days in Etna to paddle the forks of the salmon and hang with Rush. After arriving in Hood river and staying there for 4 days which we paddled the little white, the green truss section of white, and the little wind. Laura was then off to South America while Christi was back in the Dagger car with Anna. Austin, Boomer, and I were off to Boomer home town of McCall ID to paddle the Northfork of the Payette. Staying in the area for 3 days Austin and I finally said bye to Boomer and departed for Colorado were Austin dropped me off and then headed home to Jackson. Now back to work to save money for the planed trip to India, which was put together during the cali and hood river trip, we all wait to meet again at OR.
Finding that the logistics to travel to india and kayak being to daughting Austin proposed a trip to Mexico to beat the cold. All of us having agreed to this new plan we again went separate ways! It wasn't until I was traveling out east to go to Gauly fest I received a call from Jared who was also in Cali with us for a bit about Austin's plans to travel to Puerto Rico to paddle to start off the trip to mexico. Jared and I discussed it and decided it cant be that bad. So the plans were put into motion to travel there and get some 1st decent. But back to the east coast trip! After a super long drive out there in a tiny single cab truck Justin and I were ready to paddle, paddling the Gauly one one day before we headed north to the yough river in maryland. Which was a fun class 4 run, we stayed there until the day before the gauly fest started. Which was also when the rain started, It rained for around three day with spots of dryness during the night. But when the night of the festival came it had rained for two day and camping in the Summerville football field the grass had turned to mud. After a long Night of mud wrestling and paitballing Justin and I got word that the Green river in Asheville was running so we packed up our things went to a laundry mat after cleaning some things We started a short 5 hour drive to North Carolina, Arriving there just to find the green not running and no rain in site. We spent our days Mt. biking with Pat and Scott. Then finally the turned the Green on and I got to do some kayaking! Staying in Asheville for about a week Justin and I headed west towards home and work to save for the fall!
Coming home to the beautiful Colorado fall, it had been raining for days in the southern part of colorado and I figured I would try to get some late season kayaking in, I only found flooded river and and more rain on the way, so once again we got shut down.
Returning home to work to save money for mexico, the date I left for Puerto Rico came closer and closer. Austin who had expressed his interest in the island told us that we would need about 600 dollars for the two weeks we were gonna be there. And after arriving and being reunited with my team, Austin lost his wallet! Which seemed just coincidence because I had just lost mine and was traveling with just cash. Waking to blue skies and a long day in the car to travel into the rain forest on the east side of the island, The team was excited to see what we could find.
After driving for a little under 2 hours we found the Rio Blanco which was promising all we needed was rain! So Marking that river we headed back to beach for Some Rum and a place to stay. So after one day of being on a kayak trip and not kayaking all of us were ready to get in our kayaks so we drove right to a know run on the island, only to find there was no water. So once again we head towards the beach of the southern part of island. Not only did we continue to drive around for 5 more days finding the same thing NO WATER. We did spend one day in our kayaks surfing in Ricon which is were we should have stayed. Running out of money and patience fast the team started to fall apart, fighting and bickering almost all the time. And and the days went by we found our self's drinking more and more, which im sure did not help the situation. Now After 7 days of not kayaking I was broke and ready to leave. As was Jared and Gram. Austin and Christi how ever were not. Causing some conflict but they still agreed to drive us to the airport. Which they did and then left! Leave Us three no choice to fly home, which for Jared and Gram proved to be very costly to leave the island early. This Trip being the WORST kayaking trip I have ever been on. But there are good trips and bad trips I would travel to Puerto Rico again but only under monsoon conditions, which would provide sweet kayaking! Learning many things about group dynamics on this trip. It has opened my eyes for only being 20 and hopefully i will learn from this. And that was my Summer in a nut shell!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hotel Charley: River of Doubt Chapter 3 Teaser

Our Costa Rica trip is officially chapter 3 in the upcoming video from Clear H2O Films, Hotel Charely Vol. 2: River of Doubt coming out in Spring of 2007!

Check out the teaser from our Costa Rica trip here:
Featuring myself, Ben Stookesberry, Brad Sutton, and Lizzie English... special thanks to JK team member Mario Vargas and his girlfriend Cory for haulin' us around and driving around looking for us while we were stuck in a gorge 2 days more than expected. ;-) for some sweet guide service check him out!

Pura Vida!

Boyd :-)