Monday, May 23, 2011

Early Spring In California

Nate Klema, first strokes of the season: Chuck Kern's Slide, Kaweah.

This March we (Nate, Ben, Matt and Cody) made a quick eight day trip to California during spring break. After an all night drive from Durango, we arrived to low flows on the Hospital rock section of the Kaweah. Despite slighly lower then optimum flows it was still good to finally get on the water for the first time that spring, and out of the van. The weather out look was good, so we set up camp and sure enough it started raining that evening.

Ben Luck on Chuck Kern's Slide, Kaweah

Another angle

Matt Klema, Kaweah

The next day the flows were up and we got few laps on Hospital rock section getting our figurative paddling legs back under us.

Ben Luck somewhere on the Hospital Rock section of the Kaweah

Cody on Hospital Rock, Kaweah

Ben, Cody & Nate in 4-20 Gorge, Kaweah

After another night of rain, the flows were high enough to tackle the East Fork of the Kaweah. This is one great run. It rained hard throughout the day. Enough to make the portages pretty scary, keep the cameras in the dry bags and the water levels rising.

We then headed to the Tuolumne. The Cherry creek section was running at just under three-thousand, which made for a great pushy big water day of paddling. The normal takeout road to Lumsden Falls was closed due to a landslide on one end and snow on the other so we paddled the sixteen mile lower section to the lake. It was good to get a long day in. The "T" was fun, and at 3K there were some pretty big holes lurking down there as well.

Matt Klema somewhere on the Cherry Creek section of the Tuolumne

Ben Luck

Nate Klema

Ben Luck, Lumsden Falls

...a little lower down.

Nate Klema, Lumsden Falls

Lunch with Lumsden in the backround. Bottles of wine increase punching power.

From there we headed north, to the South Fork of the Yuba for our last few days. Flows were optimum and the Cali boys showed us a good time as we ran laps and more laps on Purdons and 49-to-Bidgeport.

PLooking down on the 49 to Brideport section of the South Fork of the Yuba

A great warm up and start to the 2011 season....

Nathan & Matthew Klema

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Surf's up in Utah!

Surfing the Riverdale Wave was one of high lights of our spring trip. We paddled the wave on
the way to Idaho and on the return. The levels were from 2300 to 3000 on our visits. The wave was fast and bouncy, so much fun! Some of the locals claim their favorite levels are 2000-2300, because it is easier to set up for moves.

The local paddlers were friendly and super fun to paddle with. They are all so psyched to have so much run off this year. A few creeks and river runs in that area are flowing high. I see other CKS paddlers have been there recently, our timing to paddle together was off... next time. See you all at Paddlefest in BV soon.

local paddler: Amanda Kays
Me at Kelly's White Water Park
In Cascade Idaho.Serenna, hangin' on the Salmon.
She is a good traveler..
and happy camper.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Riverdale Surf Session

Freestyle Circuit Update

The freestyle tour is in full force! Were all geared up in our RV's and following the circuit. A couple of weekends ago was the Reno River Fest, with warm weather the river came up high. In years past Reno was known for being really great but shallow hole, not this year the featureturned into a deep wave hole.

The freestyle event was difficult because you had to be on your game to land a trick with out flushing. The women's comp was a close race between Ruth and Emily and Erin and I had a close race for 3rd by just 5 points. In the ladies 1st Ruth Gordon 2nd Emily Jackson 3rd Erin Clancy 4th Haley Mills and 5th Devon Barker. The newest member to the CKS family Hannah Kertesz represented and won the juniors division which was mixed with guys and girls! The me
ns finals consisted of 1st Steven Wright 2nd Eric Jackson 3rd Dustin Urban 4th Clay Wright and 5th Craig Kleckner.

Next Event was slalom through 22 gates on the south channel of the river. I decided to try out my skills in a 1960's slalom boat. The course was pushy because of the high water and a couple of tough moves. I am still working on my sick slalom skills.

On the last day of the event Mike Tavares competed in the 3mile down river SUP sprint and he dominated the race coming in 3rd on a 10foot inflatable C4 board and close behind 1st and 2nd place that were paddling race boards.

Now on to boater-cross which was a awesome event full of carnage and suprisingly no injuries. It was a short mass start sprint but the hard move you had to make a gate which lead to broken paddles, swimmers, and great entertainment.

After Reno in route to Green River,
WY we stopped and caught Riverdale wave at awesome flow of about 3,600 cfs! The locals said they have never paddled this wave a such a high flow. The wave was big bouncy and a welcome change from paddling so many holes. Check out the video of Mike Tavares, Elaine Campbell, and I shredding.

Now I am in Green River, WY practicing for this weekends competiton. Next stop Buena Vista for Paddle Fest, I can't wait to see all the folks and CKS!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Three Loops of a Throw Rope

Photo Leif Embertson

I fancy my boof pretty solid. Leif says my boof is weak. Maybe it’s somewhere in between. Maybe I was comin off the couch. Maybe I was comin off not just the proverbial “couch,” but the, not sleepin with the wife cause I’m on baby duty half the night real deal, “couch in my living room.” So maybe my boof could’ve been stronger, but it was not weak. At least not as weak as Leif’s…

Anyway, where were we, and how does the story begin? It begins with a certain pal by the name of Todd. TG for short. Sometime ago he began making regular pilgrimages across the Juan de Fuca Strait to a place we’ve come to refer to affectionately as Vantasy Isle. Recently he’s been wearing a shirt that reads “kayaking is gay.” Probably cause he busted his wing (again) running a waterfall of the large variety with what appeared to be perfect form. When you get as old as his graying ass, surfing just seems more soulful. Maybe it has more soul. Or maybe it’s just laid back soul, like Al Green or Cee Lo, and kayaking soul is like Jimi Hendrix or Jack White. That can of course be reversed if you’re board surfing at Mavericks and kayak surfing at Pipeline on the Lochsa.

Since he broke his wing, and really even before that, kayak exploration had been taking a backseat to the art of the cutback in a 5mm wetsuit. But with the allure of the Island and the good times that seem to emanate from a TG led visit to the Northwest, he was in. As long as we made it a multisport sojourn and took over some of the logistics. No problem. Let’s do this.

Packed for a Vantasy

Port Renfrew was the destination, the weather was looking more than favorable and after a detour through the heart of Bellingham, we were riding the ferry and sneaking Kokanees (Canadian for beer) onto the deck and gathering beta from our contacts on the island. Lens Creek would be in, Todd had run it before and it sounded classic. We landed at Schwartz Bay, drove out to the west coast and found ourselves in some very fine digs. We rented a condo that would have been pretty pimp in a Colorado ski town, much less in a small fishing village on Vancouver Island, a Vantasy indeed.

Our digs

We awoke to bluebird skies and Fred needing to fix his boat. We scrambled up a killer breakfast using TG’s little ladies eggs (read backyard hens) and took in the views of the bay where there were some nice looking knee high waves rolling in. When Fred finally got his shit together, we loaded up and headed a few miles up the San Juan River drainage to the take-out for Lens Creek. Port Renfrew is strategically located along on a beautiful bay where two large, very kayakable drainages confluence and then empty into the bay right there. There’s river mouth surfing and kayaking on both drainages and many of their tributaries.

TG's hens make a damn good scramble

Level looked good at the bridge and we headed upstream to meet a new friend from up island, David Prothero. Some late night texting as we drove across the island the night before led to a rendezvous at the put-in for Lens. David had run the creek one year earlier and this made everyone feel a little less anxious. Tales of a must run real deal rapid and a dicey waterfall portage should’ve been weighing heavily on the crew, but bright sunshine and crystal green water at the put-in bridge brought huge smiles and back flips instead.

Woody droppin a flip off the bridge - photo ES

Gnarquist mustache riding - photo Austin Woody

1st Gorge beauty - photo AW

As we paddled into the first gorge the water level seemed perfect. Bobbing and weaving through fun, non-threatening rapids signaled that the second gorge would also be a go. Too much water and the first gorge becomes pushy and threatening and running the second gorge becomes non-recommended. Todd and crew had run the second gorge at high water and reported good conditions, however the second gorge would be much more locked in and that was four years prior. Changes to the riverbed or wood situation could certainly create problems and being the first group to run the creek after this winter’s storms, it seemed prudent to be in there at “exploratory” flow levels, i.e. not super high.

Stompin - photo LE

David in the 1st Gorge's Triple Drop

TG in some 1st Gorge goods - photo LE

We encountered some really fun drops and made short work of the first gorge. It almost seemed too easy and, this seems to happen frequently, but I started to think about how fast we were going to blast the creek and how it’s always easier than people make it out to be when they try to scare you. We paddled a few more quality drops and then we got to Stairway to Hell. It looked big and steep as I stepped out of my boat, and I could tell it went into a walled in section about two thirds of the way through the rapid. The entrance looked awesome, with a couple of ten footish drops back to back along the right wall. I think that was the stairway, cause all hell broke loose downstream as the water cascaded into a huge boulder on the left shore and bounced back into a stout hole that fed diagonally into a sieved out rock pile on the left. The clean route was through the hole and down the right side of the sieve pile through about ten more feet of gradient that looked at best, “bouncy.”

Todd looked at it and immediately knew it had changed. I guess on his first trip you had to run the top section but the huge boulder causing the uncomfortable looking middle part of the drop wasn’t there and, though it still dropped a ton of gradient, there was a straightforward line. The rock now caused the rapid to be more challenging and potentially dangerous, but also opened up a portage route down the left, which we all decided to take advantage of. You still had to seal launch in and run the last third of the rapid under a huge old growth trunk and through a large hole into the unknown. This seemed like a good place for lunch.

Lunch - photo AW

Lunch was pretty easy going and we were all smiles making good time and generally just feeling the stoke of being on the island. David fired off first and did a huge stern squirt through the hole then went upside down and around the corner. “Hmmm. I guess I’ll go next,” I volunteered.

Ready to seal launch - photo LE

I paddled hard into the hole, squirted but managed to stay upright and landed in the eddy with a grin next to David. We were in beautiful chasm, totally walled in looking back upstream at a fairy book scene. Pure beauty. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the next rapid looked pretty walled in and must run as well, but we had an amazing corridor of flat water between it, and us, so I just turned back to watch the rest of the crew fire through the hole.

Bout to drop into the stout - photo AW

The eddy started to get tight after the next couple paddlers came through so David peeled out to check out the next drop. Leif and Todd followed suit and got out in a micro eddy at the lip on the right. Fred caught an eddy lower down in the flat-water corridor and Austin and I stayed in the eddy high up just below the Stairway. We could plainly see all three of them out on a rock hemming and hawing, leaning forward for a closer look and then leaning back for long moments of contemplation, the entire time never once looking back at the three of us treading water in the chasm.


David finally got in his boat, button hooked out of the eddy and disappeared into the drop. “OK, so I guess it goes…”

Fred dropped down to the eddy, got the beta without scouting and peeled out. Leif went next and I moved down to the eddy at the lip. Todd had a concerned look on his face. “Leif just got handed, I’m freakin out, it’s just straight down the guts and then down the left wall but you got to get out so I can go next.”

“Alright, he’s geekin out here, I’ll just let him go then give Austin the beta,” I thought to myself.

TG peeled out stroking for his life, boofed the shit out of the top drop but landed slightly off balance on a funky curling boil hole seam thing and started to hold onto a brace for dear life. He subbed through another curling hole, came air squirting out of it mostly upside down, bounced off the left cliff, fell into a slot upside down and disappeared into what looked to be a shallow and steep run-out.

Deep breath. Austin pulled into the micro-eddy. I shook my head. “You don’t want to look.” From the eddy you could see enough and I told him just to punch the first hole down the middle with right angle and hold on down the left. He grappled a bit but made it through upright, which gave me a bit more confidence. Left alone, walled in, I paused to look back upstream at the enchanting chasm and I remembered why we came into this imposing place in the first place. The challenge, the beauty, the teamwork and the feeling of making it out the other side are unmistakable. Now all I had to do was make it out the other side.

A wave of relief washed over me as I cleared the first curler and began to hang on through the rest of the drop. In the guts is the only way I can describe that drop and maybe that should be its name form here on out. I guess it had changed some since TG’s last visit as well.

Running down to the waterfall portage - photo LE

Deep in the gorge - photo LE

In the heart of the gorge time seemed to slow way down. We ran a couple clean ledges then portaged the top of another sieve laden rock pile with a much more dubious line than Stairway and put back in for the must run bottom portion. Turned out to be an o.k. drop and the next major horizon we snuck down the left with a low volume curling ten foot glory boof.

Fred browning the sneak line - photo LE

Immediately another horizon followed and I stayed in my boat while a couple of the bros hopped out for a look. Scouting was proving difficult and portaging looked once again like it was not really an option. Apparently the view of the preferred channel was obstructed so Leif swam out to a rock in the middle of the creek. He signaled that there was wood but it was a perfect boof. One large trunk lying vertically in the top drop on the left and then a “stick” in the right part of the second drop. “O.K. O.K. already. So it goes? Get me out of this gorge already!”

I went first, sailed off the first ledge and landed moving left. As I looked up at the second drop I noticed that the stick was more of a rootball forming a sieve and that it was blocking a solid half at least of the second ledge. Not much to do at that point but charge the hole on the left. It worked and everybody else made it through safely. “Well that was kind of gnarly, what’s next?”

TG boofing into the woods - photo AW

Turns out the dicey waterfall portage was directly below. The waterfall was maybe 40 feet and was on a big elbow, turning 90 degrees to the left and dropping into another walled in gorge. The waterfall dropped left but a good portion of the water dropped right into a terrible looking sieve that was essentially part of the right cliff wall. With a stout class V lead-in and a ten-footer right above the lip, it was a pretty easy choice to opt for the sketchy climb to throw’n’go, the only other option. We took turns lowering the boats and then climbing around a small spire down to a ledge only about 25 feet off the deck. Unfortunately the deck consisted of the boxed in hole at the base of the waterfall with a pretty tight, maybe ten-foot wide landing zone into the meat of the boil.

Ropin the boats to the eddy - photo AW

David jumped first and came up stroking hard into an eddy on the left. We proceeded to rope all of the gear down to him using a two-rope system. He had one rope, we had the other, the gear rode in the middle. This is a great system for lowering gear, especially when there is some horizontal distance involved. Todd was set to jump next. He got hooked into the same system, despite my unfortunately somewhat meager protests and went for it. He came up stroking for the eddy but something was very wrong. We just let go of the rope on our end and as he came into the eddy he began peeling loops of rope from around his neck. Not one, not two, but count them, three loops came off from around his neck! Jesus.

TG jumping in with the ropes - not recommended - photo AW

Needless to say nobody else jumped with ropes attached and though everyone got into the eddy eventually, there were definitely some sketchy resurfacing moments, especially for Austin who came up way too close for comfort to the right wall. The reward for the portage – a four-tiered string of five to ten-foot boofs down the left side of the last rapid in the gorge – the most classic rapid on the entire run. The walls opened up and we preceded into a most spectacular paddle-out through an amazing stand of old growth rainforest.

With our adrenaline glands maxed out on day one, but with still some daylight remaining, we made plans for an exploratory 3rd or 4th or some other low number descent of the San Juan River the next day. Well, we had good intentions but after driving around for a few hours we couldn’t even find the river and we decided to bail on our rendezvous and just go run a short but classic section of Harris Creek and then head to the beach for some surf.

Sweet rainforest hike to the beach

Sombrio Beach - 4 different breaks, nice, very nice

The Lens was definitely the highlight of the kayak portion of the trip but Austin and I both got on five personal first descents over a six-day trip and got to explore the ocean and beaches on the island as well. TG went surfing for the rest of the trip after the Lens and can you blame him. The next time I’ve got three loops of rope around my neck coming out of jumping into the walled in base of waterfall in an inescapable gorge I may take some time off to go surfing too – he’ll be back though, he’ll be back.

Bros at the beach - photo AW

David Schmitt Memorial Tribute

David and I had paddled together on quite a few rivers. I'll never forget his kindness and inspiration. On May 7th, 2011 our beloved friend, David Schmitt, passed away. When I met David his ability was way beyond mine, but despite the gap we became great friends right off the bat. Upon hearing the news of his death many friends and family began clearing their schedules and heading for Casper, Wyoming in order to pay their respects at his funeral on Thursday, May 12th. When I showed up late Wednesday night I met our friend Jason Baker and headed over to David's house to visit with the family. I was blown away at how packed his house was with friends and family.

David loved the river and anything to do with kayaking. The first thing his mother, Susie, said to me was, "If it was up to David we would be doing this on some river in the middle of nowhere."

David on Kootenai falls MT
Photo: Leif Anderson

After spending time with David's family, Jason Baker, Mike Perry, and I decide to go meet Leif Anderson, Natalie Kramer, Nathan Werner and Spencer Mauk for a midnight play session in memory of David. All of us were a little shaken up by this whole situation, but surfing a few waves really gave us some peace and brought us a little closer to David.

The next morning we all gathered for David's funeral which was beautiful. The church was huge and every pew was packed full. Some people even had to stand outside the church listening over a speaker. Robert Grant put together a wonderful speech about David and his kayaking.

After the Funeral we went to David's house to visit. Mike Perry put together a great video of David.

After we all ate and talked about David we went to Casper White Water Park. David spent many hours here, and we all thought it was appropriate to do a tribute play session for him. Over 2 dozen kayakers showed up in honor of David. Even the local news station showed up to report about David. K2 News

Photos by John Mathiott

That night Mike, Jason, and I decided that we weren't done. Deer Creek was running and David would have put down everything to run it if he was there. Before I talk about this run, if you're trying to plan a trip to run Deer Creek don't go until you talk to a local. The accesses is extremely sensitive! Jason and I left to go meet Mike who's wife Britney drove us to the putin and who's dad picked us up at the take out. This run is has the pool drop character of Box Elder, the continuace creeking of the Embudo, and the drops of Big South. Needless to say it was a great day, and a perfect way to pay our respects.

We're all going to miss David. Jason Baker said it best, "David was a Awesome guy, for all the years that I knew David he was the nicest guy to everyone, and he always had a huge smile no matter what happened. The best memories I have of David are the times we paddled together. He was like a big brother to me and showed me everything there is about kayaking, and also showed me how to do new tricks all the time. I know he will be with me at the put in every time and Love you Schmitty!!!!!!!"

Here's a video on Deer Creek by Mike Perry: