Monday, June 29, 2009

Upper Box Geezer Video

What do you have when you get 8 kayakers together and no one is under 40 yrs young? Well, we all affectionately named it the Geezer show. One fine Sunday morning, the 8 of us showed up to run the classic Upper Box in Northern New Mexico. It is a cool feeling to still paddle with folks that you have kayaked with over the last 15-20 years. There was about 150 yrs combined kayaking experience on the river this day. I have fond memories of meeting Chan at Tunnel falls on Gore in 1995, Svenny taking me down the Embudo and Upper Box in 1994, Marcia routing me down the Pueblo in 1996, Brett running the Embudo at 4.6ft in 1996, following William down the Embudo when he still C-1'd and watching him style everything. Kayaking creates friendships that last a lifetime. It was great to get together with this crew and have a fantastic day on the water. Everyone of these boaters has inspired me and shown me some incredible times. On and off the river.
This little video is for all the old schoolers still rocking it and for the newbies coming up. Kayaking for me is all about enjoying the river and the special places it takes you and the friendships generated along the way. Hope we can all do this again in another 20yrs. Cheers, Atom...

Geezer Upper Box Kayaking Show from atom crawford on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Each year when things start slowing down in New Mexico I try to get up to Vallecito creek outside Durango for a few runs. It is one of the most amazing places in Colorado, and is just such a good run with really fun moves whether its high or low. This year we had a few newbies and enjoyed the lower flows to take more photos.

Drive up....hard to top views like this.

Nice mellow flows allowed for lots of photos.

The real R. Kelly boofing entrance falls

16 year old Eddy Honea

Fred Zacherl

At high water, this is plan B. Yet another reason for weight watchers.

Entrance on the second lap (R. Kelly on photo duty)

Feeling the Fuzzy Little Bunny

Peeling out for Paddle B*tch

Last part of Trash Can

Eddie below No way out

R. Kelly....extra credit solo lap to finish the day

The FIBArk Wildwater Race

From Mike Harvey:

As the momentum lifts at the top of Cottonwood rapid you are committed. This is particularly true in a 14’ long composite wildwater race kayak. You are heading downhill in a hurry and if you happen to be racing in the sprint portion of the Wildwater National Championships the goal to stay focused on is clear….don’t eddy out….don’t flip over…don’t stop paddling.

Coming into the 2008 season I needed a new whitewater paddling challenge. Being a Dad had suppressed my desire to run scary creeks and I was feeling a little uninspired to master the newest playboating moves. 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. In june of 2008 I finished my first FIBArk 26 mile race. After I recovered from the race and training in early July I was back at it in my Wildwater boat and the hook was set.

When I learned that Salida would host the Wildwater National Championships in June of 2009 the idea of giving that race a go started to really inspire me. Through the late summer and fall of 2008 paddling Wildwater was starting to feel almost normal to me. In fact jumping in a plastic boat with a regular whitewater paddle was starting to freak me out; “Which way do I lean this thing? Why is this paddle grabbing so little water? Why would I want to eddy out?”

I paddled the Arkansas 4-5 days a week through Thanksgiving; creatively biking, hitching or begging my wife for shuttles. I spent a ton of time stroking downstream all by myself with my waterproof Ipod case keeping me from feeling too lonely. Those months in the fall were all about establishing a base; just putting a lot of miles on my arms, in my wildwater boat.

December hit and winter came with the change in the date. We were finally skiing powder on Monarch Pass, but I had it in my head that I could not afford a layoff this year. So I bought a Paddleone Trainer ( The Paddleone trainer is basically a rowing machine for kayaking and not surprisingly it is not as much fun as actually kayaking.

Gerbil wheel paddling. Not as much fun as real paddling.

With ice on the river and snow on the hills; I kept on paddling. Only now I was sitting in my office, with a t-shirt on visualizing Cottonwood rapid with the constant drone of the wheels on the trainer a poor replacement for the rushing waters of the Arkansas.

As the winter progressed the ice melted and the Banana Belt (Arkansas River Valley) delivered some sunny 50 degree, no wind days. I was on the river for almost every one. My training log showed that my first day back on the river was January 20th. Throughout this time I did a lot of solo days but, I was lucky to be able to train and learn from fellow squad member Evan Ross, former US WIldwater Team paddler Hank Bevington and current US WIldwater Team paddler Jeremy Rodgers.

The National Championships format is based on World Cup Wildwater racing. One day is a Sprint race; typically about 90 second run through whitewater. You complete two runs and your times are combined. Sprinting puts a premium on being able to keep from making mistakes, as a small mistake in a sprint equals a larger relative amount of time. The second race is called a “Classic” and is a race of between 15-20 minutes, roughly 4.5 miles through a mix of flat and whitewater. As the spring progressed I focused a lot of my training on the Classic. Learning to paddle at your max, over 20 minutes is not easy. I started doing intervals; short periods at a very high effort. Then I started linking those intervals so that I would paddle ever longer periods at my max. The whole time I was learning that keeping a Wildwater boat on line at cruising pace and at top speed were two different things all together. There were many humbling moments for sure.

The Nationals Sprint Course would be held in Cottonwood Rapid. Cottonwood is a rapid of some renowned in the Wildwater world. It looms as the final and largest rapid in the 26 mile FIBArk marathon race, the oldest whitewater race in North America. The debate of how to run the rapid is fodder for fairly long and technical (some might even say nerdy) discussions among Wildwater paddlers. For me the Sprint race became an obvious target for a good result. A year into wildwater paddling I was still developing the fitness of other top end paddlers, but after 16 years of paddling, 90+ days a year, I was getting the hang of whitewater in a wildwater boat. I knew that if I could link two good laps in the Sprint I may be able to have a good showing.

Keeping it straight in Cottonwood is the goal during the Sprint Nationals.

As the race approached the Ark came up and down again, constantly changing my approach. Finally I settled on a line in Cottonwood and in the days approaching the Sprint Race I just tried to think positively and visualize a successful race. As it turned out I was able to grease the rapid twice and while neither lap was perfect, I found myself in 1st place in my age group, 19-39, and 4th overall after day one. I could not have been more relived. Very skilled and fit paddlers were catching eddies and spinning out in Cottonwood giving me the only opening I would probably have all FIBArk week.

Friday morning I came into the Classic knowing all I had to do was hang on. Of course I wanted to go as fast as possible, but the Classic course goes from Salida to Bear Creek rapid a course that is made up of 90% easy water and one rapid at the end…a hammer fest. I am still developing the fitness and pain tolerance to hammer 20 minutes without some whitewater to help trip up my competition. I also am learning to keep focused on every “piece” of water which is a requirement of a short race in easy water. The typical internal conversation for me over 20 minutes goes a little something like this: “grab the back of that wave…reach, catch, rotate….what was the name of the one track I heard on Pandora yesterday?...FOCUS!....inside on the next corner…hammer this flat water….man it would be fun to go surfing with Johnny in September…” and so on. I gave a hard effort and finished within 3% of the day’s winner and while I slipped a spot in the overall ranking to 5th, I won my class. I guess I qualified for the US National Team although I am not sure racing in Tasmania in the World Cup is going to happen for this Dad of two with a full time job.

I am not going to feign casual guy, too cool to care, for readers of this blog…I was (and am) stoked! I set a goal and spent a lot of time preparing and thinking about and I am happy to have a result to show for it. Plus I got a belt buckle that says “Champion” on it so I got that going for me the next time I am hanging at the bar with my shirt tucked in.

Bling, Bling.

Sunday’s Marathon was almost an afterthought for me. I put in a lot of miles this year , but I definitely was focused on the shorter distances. I ended up suffering through the race with a better time and better overall effort than my first race in 08. However I lost to Evan Ross by about 40 seconds so I consider the race to be an abject failure (just kidding, I’ll get that young punk next year.).

The 26 mile mass start is one of the coolest experiences I have had paddling a kayak. Total chaos. That is me in the yellow top on the right side of the picture right behind the two guys that are all tangled.

By far the coolest race all FIBArk weekend was my son Miles racing in his first kayak race, the 2 mile novice DR race from Salida to Stockyard Bridge. Miles is 7 years old and has been paddling for three seasons now. We started talking about the race last summer and he was psyched to participate. I just wanted him to have a good experience. I did practice runs and told him all I wanted him to do was paddle the whole way and have fun. Since I was racing in the 26 mile I enlisted my good friend and 3 time Olympic Slalom Paddler Scott Shipley to safety boat with him. On a side note I noticed an interesting generational difference when I told Miles that one of the paddlers I most admired and the best Slalom paddler in our Country’s history would be paddling with him Miles said; “Couldn’t Dane Jackson or Jason Craig paddle with me, Daddy?” Miles gave it a good effort the whole way and wore his medal to school on Monday. I was the typical super proud Dad. It was great to share FIBArk with my son and by far the best moment all weekend was hearing the crowd in Riverside Park cheer for my son as he collected his medal at the awards ceremony.

Miles milking every bit of speed he can out of that Fun 1 in the 2 mile DR race at FIBArk.

Wildwater paddling is without question a somewhat obscure segment of our sport and you can’t log on to and order a Wildwater boat. However, what I have rediscovered through Wildwater, and what you might find if you try it, is the joy of tapping into the speed of a river heading downhill and the fitness that comes with that sort of paddling. Boats like the Pryana Speeder are a good commercial option to try out that feeling of gliding through a pool or rocketing off the back of a wavetrain in a kayak. Who knows? You might get hooked and find yourself waking up and thinking about boil lines in Cottonwood rapid too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Embudo low flow-Junk show & Vertical Pin

Well the Embudo season has come and gone. We got on it a couple more times as the flows were dropping out. As you will see, there is a bad pin spot at the very bottom of the drop called MJ. Far river left on the last drop is a perfect pocket for a vertical pin. We were lucky that the paddler pinned during low flows, high flows would have made the pin very scary. So stay away from the far left wall when running this drop. And as most of you are well aware, always carry a rope when scouting. A rescue vest is also key when creeking. Be safe and aware out there this season. Cheers and enjoy the Junk Show.....

Embudo low flow junkfest and vertical pin from atom crawford on Vimeo.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Drink beer on mondays, support the Buena Vista Whitewater Park with Eddyline Brewery!!!

As many of you know, the town of Buena Vista has started its third phase of the BV River park improvements. This will include 3 incredible rock climbing boulders for public use, a new in stream whitewater feature, new trail signage, additional benches, and more trash receptacles. All work will be done this summer, fall and next winter. So by spring of 2010, our BV River Park will be the better than the best has to offer. If you have not noticed already, this park is getting a tremendous amount of use daily and is bringing and keeping a ton of folks in our town.

Funding for this project is a collaborative effort between the town of BV, local citizen support, and GOCO state lottery funding. We (the public) are committed to fund raise $7,000 this summer to assist in matching grants for the overall scope of the project. We started with Paddle Fest and the P and H Ball to get the funding rolling this spring. Now is the time to unite to raise the additional amounts so we all can enjoy this gigantic and incredible resource in town used by bikers, paddlers, climbers, fishermen, and sight seers’ alike.

How it works. Simple, come to the Eddyline Brewery every Monday from 6 pm to close. Any pints of beer purchased on Monday evenings will include a $1.00 donation to the BV River Park Fund. On top of that, we will show a new movie each Monday in the brewery free of charge at 8 pm. Movies will alternate based on the season. We will start with paddling, biking and climbing movies this summer, then transition into skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling movies this winter. The goal here is to have fun, bring us all together as friends and family, drink a few beers together, and raise some money for one of the best resources our town has to offer.

So see you every Monday at the Eddyline. Please forward this to your friends who may have the same interest you do and thanks for your continued support.


Earl Richmond

ACA Swiftwater Rescue Class with CKS Squad Instructors Chris Menges and Zach Springer

Click the image to get more details, or check it out here:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Durango Creeking

Last week a group of us went to Durango to kayak some creeks and hang out during the Animas River Days.  I had been on creeking missions to Durango in previous seasons and had already paddled a bunch of the rivers, so I was stoked to have the opportunity to paddle 3 creeks I had never been on before.  

Scouting Miller's Falls at the take out of Crystal Gorge
Impressive... But, not necessarily runnable

Isaac Levinson and Jared Seiler at the put-in for Pandora's Box on the Animas River

Entering the 'Plunger'

It's an incredibly beautiful and intimidating section of river.
Fortunately I had some excellent guides who had paddled it numerous times before so I knew the lines for the first 4 drops before even entering the gorge.

A couple of days later we hiked in to the 2nd Gorge of Lime Creek.  
We spent a solid hour and a half hiking in for about 5 drops, but it was definitely worth it.
Check out the video Dave put together.
(No, it is not fun to fall in a creek with your kayak strapped to your back.)

2nd Gorge of Lime Creek from David Fusilli on Vimeo.

Isaac Levinson running 'Deep Throat' with Geoff Calhoun waiting in the eddy above.

Jared Seiler on 'Viagra'

Connor Finney 'Viagra'

Next we paddled the Colorado classic Vallecito 3 times in a row
Entrance Falls

Dave boofing the 'Fuzzy Bunny'

Another impressive gorge

Friday, June 19, 2009

2009 Lyons Outdoor Games

Every year the Lyons Outdoor Games keep getting better.  Non paddling events include bike demos, dog comps, music, and even chainsaw carving.  On the water, there is a freestyle comp, boatercross, and the South St. Vrain offers a steep creek race.

This year I competed in the freestyle event.  The hole was small and flushy, but competitors could do all of the advanced hole tricks.  

In prelims on Friday, a huge cut from 12 to 10 was made in the pro mens class.  I put down two good rides which landed me in 3rd place.  Nick was in 2nd and Stephen hit loop/orbit and split/phoenix links which put him in first.  There wasn’t a cut in the women’s class but they were reseaded for finals.

On Sunday morning Stephen, Nick, and I went to the bike park to do some dirt jumping before finals.  See if you can guess which picture is me.

In semi finals the men were cut from 10 to 5.  I had a great ride of 1060 points which was enough to put me in first.  Nick, Stephen, Bryan Kirk, and Kelsey Thompson also moved on.  In finals Stephen hit his links again and came in with a score of 1190 points in the first round.  Nick came close with a score of 1140 and Bryan had 990 points.  Going last is an advantage, but I think it added some extra pressure.  In three rides I couldn’t quite put my ideal ride together but managed to get 940 points which was enough for 4th.  Now I’ve had the exact same results as last for all 3 events I’ve competed in this year.  6th at BV, 8th at Vail, and 4th at Lyons.  Hopefully I can break this pattern and do better at Fibark!

In the women’s finals Emily and Ruth battled for first.  They were tied until the last ride when Emily improved her score to secure the win.  Elaine Campbell had impressive rides as well which earned her the 3rd place spot.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Upper Death Video

Here is a sick little video from upper death yesterday, the flow was 6,700 it was a really fun day, barrel is one of my favorite rapids ever.

Upper Death from Fred Norquist on Vimeo.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Teva Mountain Games 09

This weekend I placed 8th out of 44 pro men at the Teva Games in Vail. It is now the third year that I have finished 8th in Vail.  I guess it is my lucky number.

I arrived in Vail late Wednesday night after creeking in Crested Butte.  I took advantage of the Homestake Creek Race and paddled Thursday afternoon without a line.  I was paddling well and confident for the competition.  Then EJ got back from the creek race and had a new 2010 Allstar for me!  I didn’t want to switch boats the day before competing, but couldn’t resist at least trying it.  And I’m glad I did!  I will have a complete review coming soon, but simply put, it is amazing.

On Friday I wanted to practice without a line and then be rested for the competition so I put on the icy cold Gore Creek at 6:30am.  That was a mistake.  At 7:30 I was freezing cold and stop to thaw out and eat breakfast.  It turns out that the EJ and Nick showed up at 8 which was still early enough to beat the line.  Anyways, my dedication payed off and I had great rides which put me in 3rd place after prelims.  I hit both phoenix monkeys, a mcnasty, both godzillas, and a loop in both rides which scored 820 and 870 points.  

I was so excited that I made the same mistake again before semifinals on Saturday.  This time I put on by 7:30am though.  Later than 6:30, but still freezing cold and the line never came.  Anyways, I was feeling confident and ready when the semifinals came.  I watched everyone before me and knew that I only needed one ride over 810 points to make the cut to 5.  My first ride started off great with both monkeys and a mcnasty.  I had 45 seconds to do a loop and 2 space godzillas, but somehow I couldn’t put it together.  Second ride, same story.  I could hit my hard tricks, but fell apart on the easy stuff.

Later that day Steven Wright, NIck Troutman, Dustin Urban, Casper Von Kalmthout, and Andrew Holcombe (finishing 1-5 place respectively) put on an impressive show in the finals.  The new Allstar went ridiculously huge and the crowd responded.  It was the most exciting finals that I have witnessed.  Check out video finals highlights at, watch the whole thing at, or check out for prelim and finals results.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Teva Mountain Games/US Team Trials

Well the past couple weeks have been really fun, there are a lot of boaters in CO so it has been good to meet new people, and paddle with new homies. Team Trials were a good time, being so close to my home, and Teva is a really fun event. I compiled a little video from both of these events. Hope you like it.

Teva Mtn. Games/Freestyle Team Trials 09 from Fred Norquist on Vimeo.

See you all at Fibark!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quad Crown: Crested Butte Creeking

After 4 summers in Colorado I finally made it to Crested Butte, Colorado to do some creeking.  I only had 1 day and wanted to get on all 4 creeks so my co-workers (Josh and Liz) from RMOC and I decided to do the quadruple crown.  

When I left Salida at 7am I was wondering why people didn’t do the quad crown very often.  I thought that all the creeks are close together and they are short runs so they shouldn’t take long.  Then it hit me as I started hiking up Oh Be Joyful with my Rocker on my shoulder.  It had been 7 hours since we first put on the Upper East but we only had one creek left so I wasn’t about to back down.  At the take out of Oh Be J I checked my watch and it had taken us a full 10 hours to complete the quad crown.  Four creeks in one day is exhausting, but well worth it.  Not to mention the 2 hour morning drive and the 4 hour drive to Vail I had in front of me.

If you are thinking about the quad crown I would recommend it, but I have some advice.  First, bring a buddy with a truck with high clearance so you can make the river crossings.  Second, bring a shuttle driver is possible because it will speed up the day.  Third, know the lines and wood conditions so you don’t have to scout.  And fourth, don’t plan on driving 6 hours that day.

Photos by Josh Oberleas and Liz Block

On the way to the Upper East

Big Wood Falls

The top of Rip Your Head Off

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The bottom of Avalanche

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