Thursday, July 30, 2015


As I approached the lake, the first thing that hit me is the size of the gaping gully a hundred or so yards below the boat ramp. We had already carried our kayaks down the long boat ramp and through the sand, grass and weeds in search of the lake access. Earlier this year, when the lake was full and showing signs of a hopeful summer, water lapped against the boat dock at the end of the ramp. Now looking parched and exposed, the route to the lake at Rattlesnake Bar is through a dusty and eroding narrow crack in the earth.

For many, the boating season is over. California State Parks have imposed a speed limit of 5 miles per hour (mph) at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area since mid-July. Water levels are low enough in many places to make for hazardous boating. The lake is being drawn down to record lows as part of a plan to rescue the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon along with providing water to the 200,000 people who rely on it daily.
"Visitors are welcome to come out and enjoy Folsom Lake,” said Superintendent Richard Preston of California State Parks. “We want to make sure our visitors are aware of the increase in underwater hazards as a result of the low water levels. We urge people to exercise extreme caution while boating on the lake, both for their safety and to prevent damage to their watercraft.”

The speed restriction is necessary because the low water level has brought rocks on the lake bed closer to the surface, placing boats in danger in the more shallow areas. It is critical for boaters to exercise caution and to keep a proper lookout for hazards. Its bad news for speed boaters, but it's an opportunity for kayaks, canoes and SUPs to explore areas of the lake that are usually underwater without heavy boat traffic. However, as we found out, it's a long way to the water's edge.

It's my paddling partner Carly Mariani's first time up the North Fork of the American River. I'm sure she expected a simple cruise around Lake Natoma instead of what I have in mind. Before the end of the day she will invent a new term "Hikayaking," a combination of hiking with your kayak.

We paddled along under a dazzling brilliant blue sky. From our kayak viewpoint, the lake forms into three layers. There is the blue of the water. The shoreline is a desolate layer with rocks and boulders arising from the depths and inhaling the sun for the first time. Overhead, a thin black bathtub ring lines the upper portions of the rust-colored canyon walls and stones revealing the former water mark. Above that lies the green and brown thirsty timberline and undergrowth.
The lakeshore now reminds me of the surface of the moon. Down towards the Granite Bay access, folks drive down to the water's edge across the baked and dehydrated lake bed devoid of any trees or vegetation. It is a winding trail through ruts, dips and boulders to get to the lakefront. For now, at least, there is some water.

In the fourth year of the California drought, some lakes and river areas are a gurgle of their former selves. The dwindling Kern and Truckee rivers have ended the boating and tubing seasons before the summer ever began. The Kern River Festival, which draws hundreds of professional and recreational paddlers each year, was canceled this spring for the first time in 51 years, while the Reno River Festival's signature kayaking competitions also were dropped.
"It's the worst drought we've seen in the 30 years we've been here," Tom Moore of Sierra South Paddle Sports told the LA Times, "We've sunk to new lows. "
Drydocks, barren landscapes with landlocked boats and boat ramps in puddles are some of the sights seen in the California Department of Water Resources' new aerial video shot above lakes Oroville, Shasta and Folsom reservoir. Their only hopes for more water cling to the expectation of this winter's El Niño forecast.

We ascended the North Fork much like climbing up an assemblage of steps. In places, the river is a trickle strangled through small rapids between placid pools. At each rapid we approach, we were forced to get out and wade through the rushing water. Footing was uneven and slippery. When the lake was higher, earlier in the spring, it was a relaxing upstream paddle. Now it's a shallow rocky fast-moving stream between pools. I reminded Carly over and over that the portages are a fun and exciting way to view the river as we will be well rewarded with a fun bouncy ride back on the return trip.

As we wondered about the next rapid on the horizon, weather forecasters are pondering El Niño. For months, climate scientists have said El Niño is likely to bring more rain to California this winter, The biggest question is, how much moisture and where will it fall?
“It’s still a bit premature to know if we’re going to have strong El Niño conditions during our wet season this winter, but the probabilities are increasing toward 80 percent or something,” told Marty Ralph, a climatologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to NBC 7 San Diego.
After studying California weather for 25 years, he says this summer resembles the lead up to the strong El Niño of 1997-1998 when storms battered Golden State. Still, he believes it’s premature to say we’re in store for another winter like that one. “Wishcasting doesn’t mean it won’t happen."

Near the bone-dry Pilot Creek about 3 miles from Rattlesnake Bar, we found a nice-sized pool below a wave train of newly uncovered Class I rapids. Here a large rock with turtle-shaped head peers over the deep and blue water. This is where the river turns toward the east, and where our trip upriver stops.

In the springtime when the lake was high, I paddled further, but now we had to settle here.
After a snack and swim we will enjoy a quick jaunt back down river. The Class I and II flows, despite the drought, made for a fun exciting ride back to the lake.
To learn about all the actions California has taken to manage the water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.Gov.

Friday, July 24, 2015


 The beach is busy and the lake is dotted with what seems like a 100 stand up paddle boarders cruising along the shoreline. The boards are colorful, the paddles are long and sleek and the paddlers ever so graceful. It is a common scene this summer as the stand up paddling craze sweeps the US and Canada. An upright view of the water offers a refreshing escape from the summer heat. The only thing you need to join the stand up paddling revolution is a board, paddle and depending on your swimming ability a PFD to get started.

  "Where are you going to paddle? For most paddle board shops, that would and should be the first question they ask you." explains Bayside Adventure Sports paddling coordinator, Brian Hughes.  "Lake paddling is considered "flat-water" paddling which covers about half the boards in the marketplace.  You would not want a board suited for surfing on waves."

While paddle boards come in different lengths, widths, thicknesses, and construction, they are all designed for either flat water or surf and sometimes a little of both.  Here is an idea of the type five basic boards at the paddle shop.

  • Surf specific boards
  • All-around/Touring boards
  • Racing Boards
  • Yoga Boards
  • Inflatable stand up paddle boards

Surfing boards are narrower, shorter, lighter, and have a tapered nose and tail. They are designed for quick turns, high performance, and are used primarily in the ocean. They are also less stable than larger multipurpose boards that are wider, longer, have a greater volume. Their size and volume make them much more stable than wave boards.

 "As a general guideline," says Hughes, "Wider boards are more stable. Narrower boards are what we call "tippy," meaning that while paddling, you feel like you could fall off at any second. Flat-water boards do not have as much rocker as ocean boards. The rocker is the slight curve that follows the bottom of the board.  A board with a lot of rocker will have somewhat of a "banana" appearance, and when you set that board on flat ground, the nose and tail will both be lifted off the ground.  Flat-water boards don't need as much rocker."

The all-around touring boards are ideal for beginners trying out SUP boarding for the first time.  A board with a wide tail is usually more stable. Beware of boards that have a roundness to the side to side contour of the bottom of the board. "Any roundness added to the bottom," says Hughes, "makes the board more tippy." 

 Racing boards designed for intense training are longer, narrower and have an extremely pointy nose and a very long fin. These boards are very unstable unless moving forward at a fast speed.  Yoga boards are wider and longer than surfing boards. They have a soft top and places to hook up various exercise tools like resistance bands and safety equipment. It is also good to have an anchor so they don’t drift away during a mid-lake workout.

If storage and transportation is a problem, consider inflatables paddle boards which are lighter and easier to transport in the trunk of any car.  However, making wave riding a challenge, they are not as stiff as a regular board. "They work,"says Hughes, "but can feel "bouncy" if not inflated properly, and they don't make a high performance inflatable board."

Newer paddlers should first choose a board with more volume until they get used to the sport. The more volume a board has the more stable it will be out on the water. A paddler's height and weight
are important dynamics in paddling the board. "It is a function of the weight of rider as contrasted with size of the board, "said Hughes,  "A 250 lb. person is not going to be able to ride a nine foot long board.  They need a twelve foot board, or longer.  By the same token, a 110 lb. person is going to have a hard time riding a twelve foot board, and will be much better off on a nine to ten foot board."

 Below is a chart of Eastern Mountain Sports recommended weight ranges.

Beginner                                   Advanced
Weight: 120-150 lb.
Length: 10 ft. 6 in.-11 ft.
Width: 28-30 in.
                                Weight: 120-150 lb.
                                 Length: 9 ft.-10 ft. 6 in
                                Width: 26-26.5 in.
Weight: 160-190 lb..
Length: 11 ft.
Width: 29-32 in.
                                Weight: 160-190 lb.
                                Length: 9 ft. 6 in.-10 ft. 6 in.
                                Width: 27-28 in.
Weight: 200-230 lb.
Length: 11 ft.-11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 29-32 in.
                                Weight: 200-230 lb.
                                 Length: 10 ft.-11 ft.
                                Width: 28-28.5 in.
Weight: 240-270 lb.
Length: 11 ft. 6 in.-12 ft.        
Width: 32-33 in.
                                Weight: 240-270 lb.
                                Length: 11 ft.-11 ft. 6 in.
                               Width: 29.5-31.5 in.
Weight: 280+ lb.
Length: 12 ft.
Width: 33 in.
                               Weight: 280+ lb.
                               Length: 12 ft.
                               Width: 32 in.

 The SUPs come with one, two, or three fins and sometimes even four or five. The fins keep the board going straight. On flat water a single fin works well. Fins are made of either fiberglass or nylon. The more fins a board has, the more specialized it is.  Fiberglass fins provide the best performance, but they’re stiff and sharp, and can be a danger if not careful. It’s also common to snap a fiberglass fin in very shallow water or on the rocks.

Experience in a canoe or kayak will help when learning to stand up paddle board. With the right board, stand up paddling is fairly simple.  Experience will help in picking out a board. Hughes suggests renting the board a few times before taking the plunge.

"Let the person who rents the board be your guide," said Hughes, "The first time out, you are not looking for performance characteristics. You are looking to have a sufficient board underneath to have a pleasant experience. Once you have paddled a few times, and are thinking of purchasing a board, the best strategy is to go to a "demo day" and try a bunch of boards." 

Stand up paddle boarding is an easy way to enjoy the great outdoors, get some exercise, and have fun. It’s also great way to give your body a full workout. Whether the ocean or the serenity of a quiet lake, the board will offer a great time on the water.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eppies Paddle Training

Eppie’s Great Race known as “The World’s Oldest Triathlon” is the one of the largest paddling event in the United States. Founded in 1974, the race features a 5.82-mile run, a 12.5-mile bike and a 6.35-mile paddle held along the scenic American River Parkway in Rancho Cordova and Sacramento.
That 6.35 miles down the American River with all its ripples and one rapid requiring whitewater skills presents the most challenging and exciting component of the annual race. Participants are expected to transfer from bicycle to boat at the Jim Jones Bridge for the final leg of the race. While most of them come with running and biking skills many of them have never paddled the river.

"When you go through bridge bays," instructs Dan Crandall of Current Adventures,  "You'll want to drop over into that deep faster current along on that right shore."

Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips has conducted intensive kayak workouts with racers for the past several weeks building up to this weekend's race. The sessions have provided instruction on paddling technique and have turned troublesome San Juan Rapids into a speed bump for the participants.

"Are you ready to paddle tonight?" yells out Crandall from his kayak like a general addressing his troops in formation, as he paddles back and forth in front of a line of kayakers. 
 "We gotta about a week left. I want hear something out of you otherwise were just going to give up...Go home. Watch TV.  Eat popcorn. Peppermint Patties.  Drink milkshakes. All that good stuff you want to do, that you can do the day after the race."

Some paddlers have use these sessions to update their skills and get down a practice run for the event, while others are kayaking for the first time. The Current Adventure instructors in stride help each paddler with paddling fundamentals, boat handling abilities, and reading the river for the day of the race.

"Start being very aware on the lines on the river." said Crandall  "Use landmarks look ahead. Every time you come around a corner, set a new course to the next corner, don't just be staring at the bow or the deck of your boat. You'll get lost. People will pass you. You'll end up in eddys going the wrong direction. The trolls will find you! So keep your chin up.  It helps you breath. It helps you get more torso rotation and helps you keep looking ahead.  Looking ahead is what makes you faster and keeps you on better lines."

At the end of course at Riverbend Park tired paddlers pull their kayaks across the finish lines with an understanding of the river and what is hand for this weekend's great race.

Current Adventure Kayak School ant Trips
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS:Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
owner Dan Crandall

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Is It Time to Update Your PFD?

 I have had my Personal Flotation Device or PFD since I got my first kayak. It's old and dependable and fits like a glove. My front zip Extrasport Eddy with quad-hinged front foam and retracted shoulder adjustments has made almost every kayaking trip I have taken since I bought it in 2010.  It's once bright yellow and black fabric is now sweat-stained and faded in the sun by countless trips to the river and lake. Made to last, its zippers and adjustable belts show little signs of wear tear with over five years of use. It could last another 10 years before its retired and exhibited at the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum. You don't just throw away a piece of canoe and kayak history.
Regardless of my sentiments, the PFD is hardly the vest I bought new. Experts say PFD’s are made up of a variety of materials which over time can be damaged by the environment where they are utilized.
"The foam inside the PFD loses floatation a variety of different ways from ultraviolet light damage to off-gassing just sitting on the shelf, " says River Store whitewater safety instructor Gigi McBee, "The floatation comes from the bubbles in the foam maintaining their shape. As the PFD is exposed to UV,  it loses some of the bubble structure and will compress."

 McBee gives 3 tips to tell if your PFD is starting to lose its floatation.
  • Does color looked damaged by the sun, including looking at shoulder straps and stitching in critical areas that are pulled on in an emergency.  If there is color damage your PFD is not as strong.
  •  Squeeze the foam between thumb and index finger, release, does the foam bounce back instantly or does it gradually come back out.  If it gradually does the foam no longer is holding air in many places and has lost floatation.
  • Go out and test it.  Get out in deeper water, if you feel like the vest is floating you well great, keep in mind whitewater is aerated and does not hold you up as well as nonaerated water.  Saltwater will give you more buoyancy. 
  • UV damage can cause stitching to fail, and fabric to tear,  Check the fade of the PFD.

 "Was it red once and now pink? Is the elastic stretched out, neoprene faded," said Mcbee, "If you are depending on your PFD to stay on you especially if someone has to haul on the straps to pull you up into a raft or out of a sieve you really need that stitching and cloth to hold up."
There isn't set number of days or seasons says Mcbee for the life of a PFD.  Most folks can get away with buying a new PFD every 3-6 years depending on its use, storage, exposure to UV rays. Heat can damage the foam on the inside of the jacket and some oils will be reactive with the foam in such a way that the air pockets in the foam will soften and lose air content resorting in less floatation. 

"There are some ways you can do to extend the life," said Mcbee, "Store it somewhere cool, Use something like 303 to spray on the fabric of the PFD to protect it from the sun and don't leave your PFD in the car where it can get over 100 degrees." 

  • Air dry in a cool out of the sun area when not using your PFD, keeping it free from molds, oil and salt residue.  NEVER dry with an external heat source like heater, dryer, or in the hot sun. as this will damage the foam floatation.
  •  Clean PFD with a mild soap periodically to help maintain exterior fabric.   Do not use the PFD as a seat cushion it will damage the foam floatation.  
  •   Check buckles, zips to make sure they are in working order. 
The great thing about PFD’s is that they float… well, at least they should, that is why Mcbee recommends a simple float test before that big river outing. 
"See if you are positive or negative on the buoyancy." said McBee,  "Most PFD’s used in the paddling industry are type III or type V these hold 15.5 to 22 lbs of floatation. If you are negative a little loss of flotation is a big deal.  If the vest is not for you, but for friends to use, you may want to go with a high float PFD that way even if it loses some floatation it will have more then the average jacket."
Looking at my PFD now, it might be time for an upgrade. The final decision was voiced by my wife.
 "It's ugly and stinky and I don't want it in the house."
Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum let me know when the exhibit is ready. Until then my PFD and its history will be on the display in my garage.

    Saturday, July 4, 2015

    Over the Bow: The Lower American River

     “As humans, water makes up seventy percent of our bodies.  Water is who we are at our most elemental level.  We must learn to respect water, as it is us. “ – J. Michael Read
     San Juan Rapids is constant Class II rapid on the Lower American River downstream from the Sunrise Access in Fair Oaks, California. It's clay ledge stretching out more than halfway across the river and fast water creates a long and vibrant wave train and chaotic churning eddy that wreak havoc and fun for area paddlers. The American River has picked up speed since making the sharp right turn to the north at Suicide Bend. A chute of waves gives paddlers an idea of what is coming up as they approach the rapid. Soon a roar fills the air and the sight of the rapids appear below.
     There are three ways to pass through San Juan Rapids.  Being off to the right provides the best waves, in the middle for a fun drop and extended bubble wave or stay to the far left and avoid the rapid only to feel it's powerful eddy effect. Underneath the rapid, the river flows back together smashing into the cliff creating a circular boil,  before slowing down to gentle speed.
    The rapids are the last hurdle in the popular of the Eppie’s Great Race course. The popular running, biking and paddling race in Sacramento in its 42nd year.  Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips has offered intensive training at San Juan Rapid for competitor training for Eppie’s Great Race. These are sessions providing instruction in paddling and learning how to treat San Juan Rapid like a speed bump on race day. Practicing racers were encouraged to run the rapid a couple of times to familiarize themselves with its nature.
    Learning to how to paddle the rapid is fun and exciting, but with any fast flowing turbulent water safety advised along with the use of a personal flotation device or PFD.  A 64-year-old man has died last week after emergency crews flew him from the San Juan Rapids to Mercy San Juan hospital. The Sacramento Metro fire department received a call about an unconscious man at the rapids. Bystanders and boat rescuers gave the man CPR before he was flown to the hospital by Metro Fire’s helicopter crew. The victim was not wearing a PFD.

    Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, submit it to us at