Wednesday, June 25, 2008

10 Mile 1 Mile & Opening of Frisco Playpark

The opening of the Frisco playpark and the 10 Mile 1 Mile revival proved to be an exceptional event with a great turnout, fun times, and quality media coverage. The water level was really good for the new playhole, and the support of friends was wonderful.

Pre-competition sessions at the new play spot were spiced up with sneak peaks into the organization of the first annual Frisco Rodeo and revival of the 10 Mile 1 Mile. In preparation for the rodeo, I was shown some old newspapers of the 10 Mile 1 Mile and, much to my surprise, saw some old friends! EJ, of course, was on the front page of one of the newspapers, and on the inside was Ali Gober, former coach for the FIBArk Youth Paddling Team, who had set a record time in the race. Jono Stevens, wavesport sales rep, and old man Mark Poindexter, the U.S. Team member for water polo were also in the old newspapers. These friendly faces reminded me of the spirit of the sport. It was the rekindling of kayakers from event to event that brought me to fall in love with the gypsy family I’d originally connected with at FIBArk. The Summit Daily this year mentioned that Frisco kayakers would like to see the event be comparable to the Teva Mountain Games, yet in the newspapers from the original 10 Mile 1 Mile, it was FIBArk they strove to be like.

The event got started as the community gathered, and the ribbon was cut marking the opening of the playpark. Watching from the river, I was ready to take off so I could man my post in time for the race. RSN-X, the local adventure sports network, was across the river filming the opening of the play park. As the ribbon was cut, I took strong strokes into the current and punched the hole, on my way to safety boat downstream for the race. I was thrilled to be in the water as the competitors paddled by… pumping them up by cheering them on! Though earlier this summer, I did have to rescue a swimmer from the play hole on this stretch, the 10 Mile 1 mile was carnage free, even with the head to head struggle for placement, Todd Toledo taking first, Hobie second, and Kyle Hagadorn (fellow SQUAD member) in third, with first in women’s going to Jessica Marson. The experience and expertise of these kayakers, as well as the roll they play within the sport makes them exactly who I would want to see at the top of the standings.

The real fun began on the way back from the Marina where the familiar faces of the competitors came to life, sharing in the adventure and entertainment. I was amped to connect with Kyle Hagadorn, considering options for a SQUAD video, and finally met Todd Toledo, former member of the U.S. Raft Team. This winter when the whistful national champion in me saw an RSN-X rooted show on him, I’d gotten his email address. Dreamily wanting to connect with another accomplished kayaker, I’d been emailing him ever since. It was also good to see the guys I’d gone up to the Pole Pedal Paddle (3P) in Salida, CO with in the shuttle ride back from the Marina. We have such an amazing paddling community, here in Frisco and spanning throughout the state, nation, and world. When Hobie began telling us about the exceptional level of the Eagle right now, I considered how he “took the wheel”, wondering, what would it be like to be on a kayaking road trip with Hobie as navigator? Ahhh, memories of FYPT and HUGE from back in the day…

As soon as we arrived back at the 10 Mile play hole, I got geared up. “Don’t expect anything… I’ve barely competed in 4 years!” I told Hobie. Then, as I walked to the river, one of the Wavesport reps. grabbed me… “Wanna demo the FUSE for a bit?” Steve asked! I was thrilled… paddle in something other than the prototype EZG for once, even if it was a river runner/ play boat? I’d love to!

The warm-up for the rodeo was sweet as suddenly, there were tons of us in the river! We got to see the potential of the hole, hidden by skeptically flushy perspectives. It was GREAT to be in a competition again, as some distant part of me connected with the present, a memory of the past in harmony with the moment we shared. The last 10 Mile 1 Mile had been the same year I went to the World Championships, 5 years ago. To think that the Arkansas River Trust had revived the 3P the same year that the 10 Mile 1 Mile was revived brings back to life a spirit of the outdoor sports community that, like a mystery in a squirt boat, had disappeared for years.

The turnout was great, and coworkers from A-Basin were there to cheer me on, as well as friends from the skate park! Oh, how good it was to feel the support and encouragement of a kayaking competition again, knowing that each competitor was similarly woven into our community in the competition and festivities of the event.

Following the competition, I won my choice of a spray skirt. I got a new Bomber Gear one, with waves all over it… quite a prize after the IR pass me down Mike Harvey had given me had become tattered after years of boating in it.

We received awards at the Frisco Marina where children of all ages danced and socialized, soaking up the vibes of the kayaking community and the evening concert at sunset. I won my division, with Jeremiah, from 10 Mile Creek Kayaks, placing 3rd, with 2nd going out to a guy named Bob, and Pete Gallup of RSN-X won. When in the eddy, right as the competition was starting, Gallup had let two guys enter half price, one who placed 2nd. RSN-X did interviews for a 30 minute ROOTED show they’ll soon be having, and it was wonderful to see old friends and new ones from within the kayaking and Summit County communities. The generosity in prizes as well as the time and energy put into organizing such an incredible event was appreciated by all who joined in, as was the presence of every individual who took part in the first annual Frisco Rodeo and revival of the 10 Mile 1 Mile.

Photos taken by Ken Hardin...

Here's a picture of him making

the best of a kayak in the winter

with some STEAZIE style!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chilean Patagonia update from Raul Buenaventura

This quick update comes to you from our dear friend, ex CKS employee and Squad member Raul Buenaventura. He is a great guy full of information for anyone that wishes to travel to South America for any reason.

Chilean Patagonia

I had just arrived to the FU (Futaleufu) that day, paddled the bridge to bridge section, got a great ride on Pistola and was as happy as a man can be. But it was one of those days where we had a surprise and we where all into some adventure, we drove for 17 hours, made a decision over Sierra Morena (Rum) and Coke the night before and we arrived to the Baker. The most amazing river you’ve ever seen. The turquoise color just astonishes you and you can feel that a long time ago the Patagones (Large feet) lived in this area.
The days couldn’t be better; we camped next to the river and kayaked all day. We crossed that bridge and there we where in this 3 meter wave, which you had to ferry all across the river to catch!
It was Sergio Vidal, Nicolas Buenaventura, Jose Romero and Raul Buenaventura, Chilean kayakers, just throwing down in the beautiful Baker.
All my best, if you need any information about Chile, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Here are some photos of this beautiful area.

Creekin in Crested Butte

Now that it has finally stopped snowing in Crested Butte (atleast for the moment), it's a good time to head out there to enjoy the sunshine, mosquitos, and classic CB creeks you can now hike to without trudging through snow up to your knees.

Here are some pics from our last trip.

Laura "the Jorgisaurus" Jorgenson boofing the 2nd Fat Chick

Source of the Eagle (I guess on the way to CB)

Mike "DBag" Holliday Manking Homestake
(getting closer to CB)

DBag on Oh-Be's Big One

Scott "Meathead" Andrews stomping Oh-Be-Joyful

Taking out of the Upper East

Mr. David Strauss cleaning up Daisy Creek

Strauss flying off Big Woody Falls

I'm trying to avoid Ripping my Head Off on Daisy Creek

Mike stomping Rip Yer Head Off

Mr. Strauss paddling the Slate River

Good times were had by all, but if you are looking to save money by not spending absurd amounts of your paycheck on overpriced gas here are a couple of words of wisdom:
-Don't try driving to the Punchbowls in a 2-wheel drive sedan... you're not going to make it... not even to the Double Drop..don't try
-The big piece of wood in the Middle Fork of the Ruby the guide book warns about IS still there.. and a couple more (to say the least) have accompanied doesn't run

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fibark Down River Race

by Mike Harvey

Coming into the 2008 season I needed a new whitewater paddling challenge. Being a Dad has suppressed my desire to run scary creeks and I was feeling a little uninspired to master the newest playboating moves. So I set my sights on training for and competing in the FIBArk Downriver race.

The FIBArk DR race is the granddaddy of all whitewater paddling competitions in the US. The race started in 1949 when some traveling European kayakers decided to have a race from Salida to Parkdale. Word got around town and townsfolk in Salida decided to have a parade. The FIBArk event was born. There was a great article on one of early pioneers of the race, Clyde Jones, in a recent edition of the Denver Post.

As competitors had trouble making it all the way to Parkdale the race was shortened to Cotopaxi (26 miles downstream of Salida) and the FIBArk DR race has been run for 60 years straight. I figured that I could not call myself a true Salida local boater if I never suffered through a FIBArk DR race. I was blissfully ignorant of what I was signing up for. I was confident of my ability to paddle hard, through class III, despite the fact that I could shuttle most of my paddling over the last few years with a pair of flip flops, walking back up to my office on the Salida Whitewater Park.
My boss and mentor, Gary Lacy is a 6 time FIBArk DR race winner and was going to be honored by the FIBArk Board at this year’s event as the official Commodore. Gary has started every FIBArk DR race since I have been alive, starting in the summer of 1974, one month before my Mom gave birth to me. All of that history and personal connection, combined with the highest flows on the Ark in a decade, gave me all the motivation I needed to get serious about racing.
On March 28th I put my Prijon 89 Wildwater boat in the Arkansas and committed to getting as fit as possible and learning to steer this unwieldy composite Kevlar kayak through whitewater. A wildwater race kayak is a strange looking craft which is made to do one thing really well….go fast down a moving river. All of the other things that are required in whitewater paddling: turning, spinning, coming in and out of eddies, bracing, rolling, running holes, boofing, etc.; are on the list of things a Wildwater boat does not do well. Basically the boat is really tippy, turns really slowly and makes Class III feel every bit as hard as Class V feels in a plastic boat. The boats are about 14feet long and steer by leaning opposite of the direction you want to travel. Wildwater racers use a wing paddle, which has a blade shaped like a big serving spoon. These paddles grab a lot of water but, once again, are basically worthless doing anything other than cranking straight downstream.

A playboat this is not….

All of this amounted to the most humbling spring of paddling in my 15 year whitewater career. On any given day training on the Arkansas I pitoned rocks, flipped on eddy lines and generally veered off line for no apparent reason; yet somehow as the week before FIBArk approached I found myself hooked. I was laying in bed at night, with my new case of elbow tendinitis throbbing, and visualizing the perfect forward stroke or making a dicey move in Bear Creek Rapid.
Coming into the last week of training before the race I was feeling pretty good. I had paddled 250miles in my wildwater boat since the end of March and was starting to feel more comfortable paddling the boat through big water. Despite this confidence, one small detail still kept me tossing and turning in the wee hours of the night….Cottonwood Rapid. For those of you that have never paddled through Cottonwood my friend and former US Wildwater Team member Joe Winters described it to me this way, “If you want to make Cottonwood a difficult rapid, paddle as hard as you can down to it…from Salida…in a Wildwater boat.”
Cottonwood rapid sits a few miles above Cotopaxi just as the Arkansas reenters the canyon after Howard and Coaldale. For a paddler in a plastic boat, with a bomber roll, this Class III/IV rapid presents no major obstacles. A good drop with tall haystacks, two big holes and swirly eddies on both shores; a line straight down the middle would be a reasonable choice for a recreational kayaker. The line choices for a Wildwater racer are less obvious. You are coming to the rapid near the end of the race with heavy arms. Neither the holes or the eddies are good options in a glass race boat and hundreds of people drive down the canyon to witness the carnage. Most years they get what they are waiting for, backwards runs, unintentional eddy turns, flips in the big holes and swims are the norm on race day.

My last week of training I was going to test out the line choices in Cottonwood and with three runs in two days I had limited success. I cracked my boat on my first attempt at the right side line, flipped over and took 5 attempts to roll on the left side line and finally broke the blade off my wing paddle and swam (first time in 13 years) on my last attempt at running the rapid clean. As I was putting back a bootie beer on Wednesday evening at the Boathouse Cantina, I resigned myself to the hope that I had gotten the yard sale out of my system and things would go better on race day.

On Sunday morning I was feeling nervous but as ready as I could be given that I had managed to hold down a job, keep up the face time with my wife and kids and paddle 2-3 days a week through April, May and the first two weeks of June.
The start is basically Le Mans style with the fast boats jockeying for position above the Upper Playhole in Salida. I picked a slightly different starting spot, on river left, above the start line so I could make a running start. As it turned out it was a good start and I was in first place as I hit the upper hole….which would be the last time I was in first place. I hit the bottom of the river left eddy, opened up the backdoor and was promptly passed by about six boats.

My daughter wishing me luck in Salida

Scene at the starting line in Salida.

The first 10 miles were not great. I was fighting nerves and felt like I was working too hard to stay in touch with the fastest racers. I battled with two racers in Bear Creek (the first major class III drop) but my training paid off as I passed both boats in the crux move. I was basically time trialing the rest of the way, just out of touch with the head of the race and in front of the peloton.

Coming into Bear Creek Rapid.

Badger Creek, Tin Cup, Red Rocks and all of the other class III rapids went well. I had to really consider how much I had in the tank as I got below Howard. I could almost hear Cottonwood waiting for me, with my wife, kids and father all sitting there waiting to cheer (or cringe). The hardest part of this race was without a doubt mental; am I going too fast, not fast enough, when am I going to bonk, if I bonk am I going to be able to move this boat around in whitewater…it is hard to shut your brain up and just paddle.

My kids waiting for Daddy at Cottonwood.

As I approached Cottonwood I could see people lining the banks. I quickly refocused on the task at hand. I had decided to run it right even with all of my mishaps that week. I decided that hitting a hole was better than accidently eddying out and the right line seemed to have a little more room. As I dropped in I could not hear anything other than the roaring Arkansas. The top went well, as I was right where I wanted to be passing the largest hole on the right. I cranked my hips hard and tried to scramble back to the middle of the river before the bottom hole (the same hole that had cracked my boat earlier in the week). There was no way; with 3000cfs flying downhill and a torso made of concrete, I could not get there. I ran the bottom hole and immediately flipped. I instinctively threw a back deck roll like I was playing in the Salida hole. Maybe not the best technique in a DR race boat but as it turned out I rolled very quickly and was still pointing straight. I heard the crowd cheer and I knew I was going to finish now.
Slightly off line in Cottonwood.

…and recovering.

The next couple of miles hurt….badly. This portion of the race felt longer than the 24miles I had just finished. I passed one of the racers who was ahead of me chasing his boat, victim of a broken stern and swim in Cottonwood. I just kept yelling at myself to “dig”. I knew there was no reason to save any strength now and I just concentrated on keeping my forward stroke as powerful as possible.
As the Cotopaxi bridge came into focus and I saw the big banner reading “finish” I was surprised at how emotional I was. There was spittle coming down my chin and I was still yelling at myself to keep digging. I passed under the Cotopaxi bridge immediately spun out in an eddy and pitoned the shore….I was done. Too tired to really do much I just started to clutch at willows and trees to try to get into the bank. I came to a stop in a little eddy and looked up and saw Confluence Sales Manager and Salida local Joel McBride yelling “Good Show Harvey!” I now realize how great it is to have someone cheering for you at the end of a hard race because hearing Joel’s words of encouragement really brought it home for me… that was the hardest thing I had ever done in a kayak.

just above the bridge in Cotopaxi ….suffering.

My family was there to greet me in Cotopaxi and I spent a 20 minutes or so milling around with my fellow racers. I have to say I felt proud to be part of this slice of whitewater paddling history. I finished the race in 2hrs 15minutes and 33seconds, 7th overall. I was the 3rd fastest in my age group so I got a medal to show for the suffering, which was also nice.

No beer sales on Sunday never hurt me more.

I am definitely going to do more Downriver Racing. The feeling of flying through pools and launching off the backside of wave trains is really cool. Ultimately I believe the river can offer a new challenge to anyone who seeks it. That is why I fell in love with paddling to begin with and why I know I will always be a whitewater boater. You don’t have to run Class 5 or throw aerial blunts to get deep satisfaction from our sport…you just have to go out and seek adventure in whatever form feels good to you.

At the end of the day I did not have a great race result, but I can look at myself in the mirror with the effort. I took on a new challenge in paddling and was humbled by it.
P.S. For anyone that wants to try Wildwater Paddling but does not have access to a composite race boat I would recommend checking out the Pryanha Speeder. The Speeder is a plastic boat, a more forgiving version of a wildwater race boat with some cool features for overnighters or longer self support runs.

Mike Harvey

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Right in Wigston's Backyard


Upper South Boulder : Right in Wigston's Backyard

Words: Evan Stafford
Photography: Leif Embertson

JJ Hannah lofting on RIWBY

The put-in for Upper South Boulder Creek is about ten minutes from Nick Wigston's doorstep. The take-out is even closer. We gear up in the warmth of the Wigston's sun room. Nicole and Zoe Wigston will run our shuttle. We laugh about how only Wigston could have quite possibly the Front Range's gnarliest stretch as his backyard run. We wonder what the flow will be, but whatever it is we're glad that it has dropped from the high 600's the night before. 350 - 450 cfs is optimal and it looks to be within that range. We drop in for the goods starting with Trainspotting.

ES Focused

Wigston greasing it

After Trainspotting the juices are flowing but the action let's up to class III and you're best to take in some deep breathes of the high mountain air. The gnar known as Gash comes next and we've all already planned on walking. Respect. A deadly rapid and for Leif and JJ this is a new run. No need to fire up the sketch before you've seen the entire run and shown the river what it deserves. Lumberyard is next. Wigston has cleared all the lumber from his backyard and there are no wood portages this day... however that could have all changed with the recent high flows.

Wigglestix stomping in Lumberyard

S-Turn is the goods but has a must make eddy where we station a catcher. You don't want to miss this one. The lead-in to the 40 foot cascade of exploding chaos looms large directly below S-turn. Stick it and maintain control. After the portage we joke about how "maybe at 700 cfs it's just a slide." Maybe it's a slide at that flow but it ain't JUST a slide. It's huge and the action below called Grand Piton Park at 700 would be very, very exciting. RIP Beavers and DeLavergne. Much respect due. At this flow it is just excellent read-and-run class V creeking.

Leif getting buried at the turn

Nick below the turn and in control.

Below Grand Piton we ease our way towards RIMBY. Right in My Backyard. This applies to Nick, but not the rest of us, so from now on I'm calling it RIWBY. Right in Wigston's Backyard. Since it is his backyard, we take some time to clean up the wood situation.

Leif takes the photos while we do the man's work

Then we get our boofs on. Fist of Boof Dojo represent.

ES with some nice seperation

Wigston looking good on his home court

ES about to get handed but still looking good

Not many people are lucky enough to live within minutes of the river, much less of a run this good. Wigston is doin it right, so for the youngsters out there, get out the pen and the pad and take some notes. Next time you visit the RIWBY boof remember whose backyard it is and who keeps it clean. Safety Nick keeping us safe from his porch to the put-in to the take-out meeting.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Teva Mountain Games

This weekend the Teva Mountain Games went off in Vail. It is a 5 day festival of outdoor sports, art, and music. The venue included kayaking, biking, running, dog comps, and the IFSC Bouldering World Cup. It was fun to watch the best in the world compete in their respected sports as well as compete in front of big crowd.

The freestyle competition was the best that Vail has held due to the changes to the feature. Vail installed a bladder system so that the hole can be changed using a touch screen. On friday in prelims 37 men paddled to make the cut to 15 for the semifinals. I had poor rides and just made the cut in 14th place with 126 points combined.

On Saturday due to the reverse order I was the second person in the first heat. I had good rides and my high score was 98 points. As the finals went on other paddlers had great rides and I slowly moved down in the standings. When it was all said and done I was in 8th place. I wanted to make the cut to finals, but I am happy with my performance and that is all that matters.

The finals was exciting to watch. There was high scoring rides and it came down the last rides when EJ had the chance to retake the lead away from Dustin Urban.

Here are the freestyle results. Check out Teva Mountain Games, World Kayak, or Jackson Kayak for more coverage on the event.

1. Dustin Urban
2. Eric Jackson
3. Nick Troutman
4. Stephen Wright
5. Jason Craig
6. Bryan Kirk
7. Andrew Holcomb
8. Greg Parker
9. Jon Meyers
10. Kelsey Thompson
11. Dane Jackson
12. Jonathan Shales
13. Ben Guska
14. Jud Kaiser
15. Tino Specht

1. Emily Jackson
2. Tanya Faux
3. Ruth Gordon

Entry Move

Right Airwheel

Left Airwheel

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Tribune to Greatness....

For me 2007 was a fantastic year.  I was blessed with lots of the most amazing gnar that the Rockies has to offer - SSV, Inner Crystal Gorge, Embudo, Escalante, Lake Creek, N.F. Crystal, and NSV all dropped the most amazing memories into my life.  I even got several laps including my first no portage descent on the Big South, which we all must revere as the best run in Colorado.  However, two magical days last summer I spent in grand-fulfillment of my creek boating dreams.  

As a newbie cutting my teeth over the years, I spent nights conjuring up a creek with the most amazing alpine scenery.  It was accessorized with romantic camping and asked that a hike be paid as the price of acceptance.  She had crisp crystal clear water flowing smoothly over perfect boofs.  There were waterfalls and clean lines to grease, but as a true test to the soul of each creeker she had rapids where I had to just huck in and play the dealt cards.  Of course, as any huckster will tell you, the dream was encapsulated from the outside world in slick vertical rock walls.  The walls kept things simplest between just the sliding water, cool sunshine, smiles on my bros faces, and rhythmic movement of air in my lungs.  Little could I have known that a weekend last June would be the one to bring fruit to all the years of hard knocks.  The mile long stretch of perfection leaving the Weminuche Wilderness area known as Vallecito Creek is truly the mythical creek of dreams.  

Absolutely, there may be places with easier access or bigger vistas or longer whitewater, but there's just something about her.  And so through the last winter even after finding amazing runs in Washington, Ecuador, and New Mexico, all I could thing about was Vallecito like a happy yearning for the women I've loved through the years.  As such, I have a few pictures of memories to share with y'all.  

Dan Steeves dropped Entrance to start it off and let everyone know how it's done.

Here is the clean part of the Trashcan as you can tell with Joel's smooth line.  The dirty part is just upstream and makes you check your ego at the Entrance pool before proceeding around this blind corner...

It may look like boofing into a pile of rocks, but when done right she's sensuous despite her name.

When the man who's very soul may be intertwined with Vallecito offers beta, the lads will gather around to listen.  If you ever need a guide down Valle, I highly recommend the esteemed Dr. Brad.

The sheer intimacy of the place is mind shattering.

Frontrange posse routin' through.  The 303 is coming to your neighborhood.

Thanks to the Durango boys who have kept her beautifully unclogged over times present and past.  

This season, I have a take-out toast for everyone from me which is, "Here's to all you paddlers finding the flows you dream of at night."