Friday, April 29, 2016

THE SECOND BEST

I bought my second kayak and after that my third one and so on. With each new kayak I learned new skills and pushed my boundaries.--Gnarlydog News

 

 It was a great boat. It really it was. My 12-foot Perception Prodigy 12.0  with a large and roomy cockpit, open bow and stern bulkhead. The roto-molded polyethylene kayak streamlined by design, it tracked straight and true upstream on the Otter Tail River. At the time, I didn't really know anything about kayaks except I wanted one and it had to be a sit inside.

I had kayaked a a few summers before on Lake Michigan and always like canoeing on school trips and with the Boy Scouts. I have always been summoned by the call of water, its raging rivers and quiet lakes. Canadian Canoe Museum founder Kirk Wipper said that the canoe and kayak have become a medium to experience peace, beauty, freedom and adventure. "To travel the paths in natural places," he said, "Makes all the differences and in this the canoe and kayak are essential partners."

For someone who has never paddled a lot before my Perception Prodigy 12.0  was very easy to maneuver. It tracked straight, and I found that with a slight lean could easily adjust course.  In that first summer kayaking, I took it everywhere I could find a place to paddle. Countless trips on the Red River and into Minnesota lake country. I really loved that boat. It got me into kayaking. It got me into the game. However, it wasn't long before I can say, I outgrew it. The kayak, just wasn't enough boat for me for to do the things I wanted to do. My skill levels had advanced past the boat specs. If I was going to become a better kayaker, I had to upgrade my kayak. I'm was not alone.

"I have seen so many people buy their first boat and have their mind filled delusions of grandeur," wrote Paddler Magazine's Scott Edwards, in article Buy Your Second Kayak First, posted in December of 2015. "Only to have them dashed because the boat of their dreams has in short order become inadequate to match their rapidly growing skill set." Edwards states that getting the ‘right’ kayak is going to cost you more, but, much less than buying the ‘wrong’ kayak, only to get the ‘right’ one a year or so later.

"The biggest reason we see people experiencing this is because they didn't get a boat specific to the activities they wanted to do," said a representative from Austin Kayak, "They just went out there and got the first thing that looked good and that wasn't too expensive. For example, if you're a fly fishermen, something like a Diablo kayak is a fantastic fit because of it's open deck and stability so you can stand and cast from pretty much anywhere. You're not likely to appreciate and notice these details until you've done it from another boat that isn't as well suited for fly fishing."

Edwards agrees, in his article he warns new kayakers to avoid "big box stores" in their kayak purchase,  unless they just plan on floating around the lake. "The first things you have to decide is what kind of kayaking you are going to do the most." recommended  Edwards, "If you are going to try your hand at white water kayaking, your needs are going to be different than someone going sea kayaking. It is very hard to have one kayak do everything well, which is why kayakers who paddle diverse types of water have more than one kayak."

They both suggest a test drive to make sure you and the kayak are a good fit. Many paddle shops like Austin Kayak hold demo days for paddlers searching for the right boat. "People have the opportunity to try before they buy which makes a huge difference in finding the right fit," said a spokesman from Austin Kayak, "It'll either help confirm the boat you've been lusting for is the right choice or introduce you to something new you didn't realize was an option. Renting a boat from a local outfitter is another great way to get your feet wet before committing."

AUSTIN KAYAK'S DEMO DAYS
Experts suggest at demo day, you explore all the aspects of the kayak's fit and feel, along with having a specialist assist you in making sure the kayak is set up for you. There are many kayaks that have myriad adjustments for comfort. Is it equipped with thigh braces? Do you make contact with them in the correct spots and are they adjustable? What are your preference? A seat back or back band and how do the foot braces feel? These questions can be answered just by sitting in the boat.

"My first boat was a yellow Prijon sea kayak," said Sacramento paddler Mike Rumsey, "I paddle a Prijon a couple time on Folsom Lake, when I first started kayaking. I paddled it in Paddle to the Sea 2012  when we paddled from Chili Bar to the Golden Gate. It was my first time under the Gate. I'm sure the bridge was spectacular sight, but  I didn't see it. I was in survival mode.  Now I can't stand paddle it.  So I replaced it with two boats."

My path on the water was much the same. The next year I purchased a Wilderness Systems Tsunami. I liked it so much I got another a year later and after that never paddled my Prodigy 12.0 much more ever again. I only took it out when I needed an extra boat to take family and friends kayaking. When I moved to California, I only had room for five boats and sold several others including the Prodigy 12.0. Looking back, initial expense played a part in my decision to buy the Prodigy. Over the year I quickly outgrew my kayak and the second purchase added to be substantially more than if I made that investment in the first place.


Edwards finished his article offering this great advice "I have encountered far too many who gave up on kayaking because they quickly became frustrated by the limitations of their equipment. It bears repeating, if you just want to float around the lake at your summer home (or things of that nature), well, you’re probably not even reading this. However, if you want to grow in your kayaking and explore the wonders and beauty that are only accessible by kayak, do your homework. Talk to people, pick a real paddle shop and take their advice. It will be money and time well spent!"

Friday, April 22, 2016

WATERCOLORS


Kayaking is my intimate relationship with water. I feel vulnerable and at the water's mercy. Sitting in a boat, only millimeters of carbon and fiberglass keeping me dry and protected, I am connected to the forces at play. I feel every ripple, every current and the slightest breezes. I am exposed to all elements and my inferiority is constantly being thrown at me. Whether I am paddling the fjords, exploring the surf, following the river, or just riding the ocean swells, I am nothing but a tiny speck riding on the back of a giant. A giant that can’t be conquered. A giant that forces me to adapt and prepare for the unexpected. A giant that reminds me of the control I don't posses. For me, kayaking is a meditation of humility...Daniel Fox

I introduced myself at the Bayside Adventure Sports paddle and SUP outing last weekend. How much did you paddle last year, one asked. "Ninety-one days last year," I said, "Not as much as I did the year before. I did 131 paddling days that year. But, every year I make a goal to paddle one hundred days during the year."

I have thought about that a lot this week. That equals a few hundred times of loading, unloading an loading my kayak. Millions upon millions of paddling strokes, and mostly, rushing home from my jobs to get on to the water. We all know the cycle... Sleep, work paddle. I pulled it off this past week, getting five days of paddling in the last ten days with plans of going again tomorrow.

"I go to sleep thinking about this river and I wake up excited to paddle it," posted on Facebook whitewater kayaker and filmmaker Rush Sturges, "People ask me if I ever get bored and I never do at these levels."

I feel the same way, like many of us do. I spend my time trying to balance work and paddling. I like to work but I can't wait to go paddle again and again. It's where I want to be,  seeing the light and the water reflecting an image of my Nirvana. To spend time with my friends and family in amazing places and seeing those places from a perspective that you wouldn't get to otherwise.

Paddling philosopher Sigurd Olson once said, "Water reflects not only clouds and trees and cliffs, but all the infinite variations of mind and spirit we bring to it."

Friday, April 15, 2016

Don’t Ever Allow Yourself to Think That Your Adventures Are Not “Real”


                           “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” - Amelia Earhart

By Pete Delosa

I recently posted an article that was a re post of something a good friend of mine had written about why we seek out challenges on the river and what it means to manage our fear on the water. If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen that I posted a link to an article about just the opposite a few days ago. It talks about how we get caught up in the hype from our sport and how that can cause us to feel inadequate if we are just having a mellow day on an easy river. (There is a link to this article at the end of this post. It is well worth a read.) It is this idea I want to expand upon in today’s post.
Pyranha 9R South Fork American RiverIf you know me or are familiar with my writing, then you know that I am a native of the South Fork of the American River (SFA) in California. This river is the state’s quintessential class II – III play run. It is home to two kayaking schools and about 50 rafting companies. The river offers three sections. The upper class III, the middle class II (C to G), and the lower class III.
</>Your’s truly enjoying a run on the SFA. During the heart of the season here I'm at The River Store at some point almost everyday and at the CCK outpost a couple times a week. I run into other paddlers at these stores as well as at the access points along the river and at the restaurants and other hang outs. One of the things I love about this sport is meeting other paddlers and sharing our stories and experiences. I love to chat with other boaters, and an easy opener for a conversation is to ask someone, “where are you (or were you) paddling today?” Nearly all of the time people answer me with “just C to G” or “just the gorge.” Why the “just?”

When answering this question do people feel like they are inadequate? Do they think that they are being judged or looked down upon because they didn’t run the hardest run in California today? Am I causing them to feel this way? I hope not. If I’m asking you the question of where you went boating today at a hang out near the SFA, odds are I was “just” on the South Fork too. I very well may have “just” paddled c to g. Only I didn’t “just” paddle it. I paddled the shit out of it. No matter what stretch I was on or which boat I was in, you can rest assured that I enjoyed my day on the river. I had exactly the kind of river day that I was looking for today, and I hope you did too.

From here on let’s agree to drop the “just.” Let’s be proud that we packed up our gear, and we got out there today and that we had exactly the type of day we were looking for. Let’s celebrate that we had our own adventure, or that we had our own mellow day with our friends. If you went on the water and had fun then you won today and that is worth celebrating. Other people might have been looking for a different kind of day today than we were and that is OK. I hope they found what they were after, but that doesn’t take anything away from our success. Enjoying an early summer day on the river with my friends.

The bottom line is, get out there and have fun and stop comparing your day to other people’s. Stop thinking that you have to do the most epic thing ever to have a day worth sharing with others. Don’t ever let anyone, including yourself, make you think that your adventures are any less real than anyone else’s.

Read the article from Rapid Media here:

http://www.rapidmedia.com/rapid/categories/departments/5380-why-going-bigger-makes-our-world-smaller.html

Pete Delosa is a California professional kayaker with Team Pyranha and offers great insight into the world of whitewater kayaking for Outside Adventure to the Max. You can catch up with Pete on his blog River-Bum.com and his videos on You-Tube
Outside Adventure to the Max is always looking for guest bloggers. Contact us at Nickayak@gmail.com

Friday, April 8, 2016

SLOUGH MAGIC


We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. – Henry David Thoreau

"Stay back," she whispered, "I want to take a picture." My wife Debbie likes all creatures great and small. It's like being married to a fairy tale princess the way all animals are drawn to her and her to them. Often while kayaking, she used her quiet voice reassuring the ducks, geese and deer that they are safe and they need not be afraid while she passes by, while at the time warning me to give them a little more space as I draw near in my boat. 

She paddles quietly ahead through the narrow section of water, while I stay back quietly watching. She inches forward, barley using her paddle and hoping not to scare off the duck sitting transfixed on a log coming out of the water. It doesn't move.


"You're alright.'' she says assures the waterfowl as she brings her camera phone to her eyes, "You're alright." It is the same for me. Everything is perfect.

"The shore is an ancient world, for as long as there has been an earth and sea there has been this place of the meeting of land and water," wrote Rachel Carson environmental activist who alerted the world to the impact of fertilizers and pesticides in the environment, best know for her book the Silent Spring, it is easy to picture her out gathering water samples in the old wooden canoe as she illustrates her passion for waterways when she said, "Yet it is a world that keeps alive the sense of continuing creation and of the relentless drive of life. Each time that I enter it, I gain some new awareness of its beauty and its deeper meanings, sensing that intricate fabric of life by which one creature is linked with another, and each with its surroundings."

Like for Carson, these waters are my sanctuary. I don't get much time to reflect, except out here.  These are quiet waters of tranquility that have been filtered through my life. On a fast moving river or the ocean, I'm looking for eddy lines, currents and tides, but in the calm of the backwater, I do some of my best thinking out there as I float along. These are the places that inspired Thoreau, Emerson and Muir. Sometimes, I conjure up deep thoughts about God and the universe but mostly inner thoughts are simple ones as I paddle around the marsh. How are my children doing? Could I have handled that better at work? Should I buy another kayak?

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature," observed, Carson,  "The assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea, and sky and their amazing life."

I lose track of the time, I lose track of Debbie. She has gone out of sight into another cove. The water on Lake Natoma's depth is always fluctuating. Today, we caught it at a high level offering a more slough coves to explore. The water imbibes a feeling of magic. It takes on an art form of textured richness that no photograph could convey.  The sky and pond flow in a collusion of reflection. Time seems to slow and stand as still as the glassy water surface. In the sunlight, turtles lounge on rotting tree branches, while fish make sudden boils below my bow and the waterfowl stand like statues. Across the bow comes the fragrance spring flowers intertwined with the earthly scent of the lake's aquatic garden. Before long I find Debbie again in the watery maze. Our bows break the stillness of the water sending small ripples carrying dancing flecks of light back toward the shore and ahead of us the lake glistens. 


"When I would recreate myself, " penned writer Henry David Thoreau "I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and the most interminable, and to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter the swamp as a sacred place–a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow of nature."

Friday, April 1, 2016

WATERFALL FALLOUT

CUMBERLAND FALLS

 When all the dangerous cliffs are fenced off, all the trees that might fall on people are cut down,all of the insects that bite are poisoned… and all of the grizzlies are dead because they are occasionally dangerous, the wilderness will not be made safe. Rather, the safety will have destroyed the wilderness.    R. Yorke Edwards

I listened to the reaction of the morning area television anchors watching the video that went viral last month of two professional kayakers plunging over 65-foot Cumberland Falls. As they broadcasted it to their viewers they used the words foolish, stupid and crazy to the describe the trip over the frigid falls in Kentucky. They ended the clip by telling their viewers that the two cited and fined a couple of hundred dollars for trespassing and that the two won't be attempting this stunt again anytime soon. Just the thought of going over any waterfall seemed inconceivable and little bit crazy to them. But, on social media, where we seem to look for amazing and wild exploits on a daily basis the video received more than a million views, and more than 22,000 shares.


"We did not expect it to get thousands of views or for people to be there watching," Nick Troutman, told WKYT-TV, "We were super intrigued by the falls. It was more just a personal goal we set. "
Brothers-in-laws and world champion freestyle kayakers, Dane Jackson and Troutman have years of experience on even rougher waters and have been down much bigger waterfalls. "We scouted the area and got our safety plan together," explained Troutman. Unfortunately, they missed that going over the falls was illegal.
"There are signs there saying no swimming, wading, or boating in that area," said Kentucky's State Parks Captain Dallas Luttrell to WKYT-TV, "It is extremely dangerous not only for those participating but also for the first responders who would have to go out there. For the main reason of safety, it is simply not allowed,."


The park ranger say those rules are in place for a reason and what is seen in the videos is strongly discouraged. "I would not encourage just anybody to go out and try it." agreed Troutman, "It does not work like that."


Extreme athlete and kayaker Tyler Bradt isn't just anybody. In 2010, his insane 189-foot free fall over Palouse Falls in Washington state shattered the world record for the tallest waterfall ever paddled. He told Men's Fitness how he survived his death-defying plunge. “When you hop in your boat at the top—that’s the scariest moment, up there on flat water getting ready to drop over a very big horizon." said Bradt, "Once you’re in the kayak and approaching the falls, keep one blade in the water to control the angle of your approach. When you’re paddling toward the lip of the waterfall, the key is to take a couple of strokes to get going just a little faster than the water around you before you drop.”

"You’re thinking, ‘Am I making the right decision? Is this a good idea? Bradt, continued, "The enormity of your situation is overwhelming, but it’s also the moment you need to react. That’s when I move into my tuck so I won’t land flat on my back or go upside down. When you land you want to be fully forward on the front of your deck with your paddle off to the side so it doesn’t come back and hit you.”
"It's a great adrenaline rush," blogged former member of the Canadian Freestyle Whitewater Kayak Team and Bronze medalist, Anna Levesque, she has paddled in some of the biggest water around the world and leads whitewater clinics in Central America. "The feeling of dropping off the edge can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Stay focused on your paddling not on your nerves."

The moment of glory comes when the kayaker sticks the landing. “The goal is to land with your boat vertical. You want to land feet down so that you’re penetrating the water surface with the least amount of impact." said Bradt, "My paddle snapped. It really dazed me. It’s an impact that I’ve never felt before—like a car crash."
Compare to that, Troutman's and Jackson's made their plunges look almost easy,  "I hit the line exactly how I had planned and couldn’t of been happier." Troutman later posted on Facebook.

 

After fulfilling their wild ride,  the two extreme athletes both agreed it's something they like to attempt again, only legally next time. "We did end up getting a fine from the park ranger, though he was good-mannered about the situation." posted Troutman,  "Hopefully we can apply for a permit or something because it truly is a really beautiful waterfall and we were honored to ride it." Dane Jackson agreed in his Facebook post, "Pretty stoked to have sent Cumberland Falls! Bummed that it ended in getting charged with trespassing, but it’s still an epic waterfall and one of my new favorites!”