Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The elite race the following day was one of the most incredible races I have witnessed. Some of the best paddlers in the world were missing gates and swimming down huge class five rapids. The turnout for the event was amazing and I look forward to coming back next year! Check out a sweet recap of the event- https://vimeo.com/44336493
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
On top of dealing with all the hard work and fun (or rather fun with some hard work) of college, our group of young paddlers representing Bellingham, Washington have managed to break away from the overwhelming scene of lecture halls, libraries and house parties and get back to our roots. Almost every weekend we have ventured on a mission to the hot spots for paddling in the Pacific Northwest- Skookumchuck Narrows, Dipper Creek, the Nooksack and Stillaguamish River drainages and of course back home to the Columbia River Gorge.
An unexpected call from friends in British Columbia led to a quick decision to blow off a couple of days of school and head North. With such short notice, Todd Wells, Fred Norquist, Olin Wimberg, Eric Parker and I drove through the night and made it to a campsite near the put in of Dipper Creek, BC by 4:00a.m. Waking up early to magnificent glaciers, frozen ground and a fresh coat of snow we drank a cup of coffee, ate a quick breakfast and began our trek into the steep and deep canyon of Dipper Creek. We were treated to a near perfect water level, if only a couple inches on the low side. The lower section of Dipper Creek was one of the most mind-blowing places I’ve been. On either side of the narrow canyon rose sheer cliff walls for hundreds of feet with no route out. Low volume tea-cup drops and countless sweet boofs characterize this rarely run river. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Thanks to Todd Wells for sharing these beautiful photos!
Weeks later another unexpected call came that immediately sparked a rush of adrenaline through my body when I heard that the Salem area, just south of Portland, Oregon was flooding and Abiqua Falls, the notorious beast that shattered Tyler Bradt’s back and punctured Jessie Coombs’ lung, was at prime flows. For years now I have stared at photos and imagined myself paddling over the lip of this nearly 100 foot tall waterfall. Finally, the opportunity was put in my lap and I had a chance to reach a goal that I have been dreaming about for years. Todd, Olin, Parker and I drove through the night, arriving to our destination at 5:00a.m. After a couple hour power nap we woke up and drove to Silver Falls State Park just outside of Salem, OR. Our team’s hopes of running Upper North Falls was shattered by at least four logs at the lip and bottom of the water fall. But our excitement was still high as the creek was at full-on flood stage. Next on the list, we drove straight to Abiqua Falls. The second I saw the drop I knew that my long-awaited goal of running it was going to be full-filled. Todd and I geared up and lowered our boats to the lip as Rush Sturges, Matt Baker and Jed Weingarten set up for photos and video, and Ben Marr, Erik Johnson and Eric Parker headed to the bottom to set safety.
The next thing I know, I’m peeling out of the eddy above the falls, looking at the biggest horizon line I’ve ever seen and falling, falling, falling until my body takes one of the biggest hits of my life. Skirt and body intact, I hand rolled up and paddled to the shore to take in the peace and beauty of the moment and enjoy the massive rush of adrenaline flooding my veins.
A few minutes later my brother Todd rolled over the lip with what appeared to be a near perfect line until he began to rotate “over the bars,” landing on his head. After a whole twenty seconds of down time, he finally popped up about forty feet from the bottom of the falls. After regaining his breath and overcoming a bit of shock, we sat down and embraced one of the most powerful moments two brothers could ever share.
Check out my edit of Abiqua Falls and other shenanigans in the Gorge--
Here’s Rush’s epic video of the day--
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Before I knew it I was driving through British Columbia on my way to the Skookumchuck Narrows, or more commonly known as “Skook.” Skook forms the entrance of the Sechelt Inlet on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast in Canada. As the tide changes, billions of gallons of water flow out of the inlet and are forced through the narrows creating the Sechelt Rapids. At peak flows these giant rapids create the infamous Skookumchuck wave. The wave fluctuates from a small rolling wave into a giant ten foot standing wave with a huge foam pile in just a matter of minutes; a dream come true for freestyle kayakers. The crew of five young Bellingham boaters consisting of Todd Wells, Eric Parker, Olin Wimberg, Ben Dann and myself motivated like I’ve never seen before. As the sun was setting we arrived at the campground next to Skook and recognized the familiar vans of the World Class Academy (WCA); a traveling high school focused on character, academics, and kayaking. All five of us attended the school at one time or another and it was great to see some of my former teachers and classmates continuing to live the dream. After a good night sleep we were all awoken in classic WCA fashion with cowboy coffee, cereal and leftovers. We were on the road by seven a.m. to catch the peak flows as the wave only forms for a few hours a day. The sunrise over Skook was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in months. The fog and low lying clouds rose and a brilliant blue sky appeared just as the wave began to shape into full form. It was obvious that the WCA students and teachers had been shredding Skook for over a week as I got to witness some of the biggest tricks I’ve ever seen in person. Even if it was just for a day, we had one of the best WCA reunions ever.
Unfortunately school and other obligations forced us to leave after just one morning of amazing surfing. It was great to finally get back on a big wave after not surfing anything comparable since I was in Uganda with World Class last year. I can’t wait to uncover more of British Columbia’s whitewater gems and keep checking in for an update on our next mission North!
Here's a few pictures from our weekend at Skookumchuck. Thanks to Eric Parker and Todd Wells for the photos!
For more photos from our trip, check out my online slideshow here- http://www.flickr.com/photos/64223949@N02/show/with/6231879994
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The summer of 2011 has treated both coasts to epic storms and unheard of amounts of water. The Pacific Northwest hasn’t experienced any dramatic flooding, but any local paddler knows that it has been a great year for boating. My favorite local runs including the White Salmon, Cispus, and Lewis River have all kept stable flows late into the summer and still have healthy amounts of water.
The highlight of my summer has undoubtedly been the significant amount of time I’ve been able to spend in the Lewis River drainage, just forty-five minutes from my home town of Trout Lake, Washington. The Lewis River has three notable drops known as Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. Upper and Lower Falls are both very technical and consequential, and of course extremely fun. Upper Falls consists of a low volume thirty foot waterfall that lands perpendicular to the main flow of the river, which immediately drops another 25-30 feet into a large, boily pool. In order to have a successful ride on this intensely fun set of waterfalls, you must nail a perfectly timed and precisely placed stroke off of the first waterfall, landing either straight with hopes of not hitting the large rock wall directly after the landing zone, or turning ninety degrees in mid air and upon impact, be ready to take another well placed and timed stroke off of the next waterfall.
Over the course of the summer, I’ve had two successful attempts out of three. My first run of the year ended with me swimming into the undercut cave on the left side of the falls and holding on to a slippery rock wall until my brother Todd Wells paddled under the curtain of the adjacent sixty foot waterfall to pull me out. My first attempt wasn’t a huge confidence booster, but it made sticking it the next two times that much better. A short paddle down stream is Middle Falls, a simple but fun fifty foot slide that is easily runnable in a kayak, inner tube, on your butt, or in any other craft you can think of.
Just around the corner lies the popular Lower Falls. Lower Falls is a fun forty foot drop with a three foot lead in ledge. Lower Falls is much less consequential that Upper Falls, but has a cave on the left side that is not a friendly place to be. With a little practice running waterfalls this size, it is relatively easy take a powerful stroke at the top of the drop and launch yourself and your kayak away from the notorious cave and land softly in the boils below. If you’re ever in the area and need a cool place to camp, hike, bike, swim, cliff jump, pick huckle berries and mushrooms and hang out in the beautiful old growth forests, I highly recommend you stop at the Lewis River, even if you don’t feel like running any of the falls!
Well enough said in writing, now check out this video that my brother Todd and I made of our adventures on the Lewis River this summer. Enjoy!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
After two days of hanging out at Jollyboys camp, the second half of the group arrived, and it was time for our first run down the Zambezi River.
Looking down at rapid #2 and #3
The section of river that we would be paddling consists of twenty five rapids located just below the famous Mosi-oa-Tunya or Victoria Falls. The first day the group paddled rapids 1-10, a section containing lots of fun waves, a big boof and the notorious rapid #9 that got lots of looks but left everyone walking around.
The epic daily hike in and out of the gorge
The next day we found our way down rapids 7-14 enjoying around 20,000cfs of water pumping through the gorge and a beautiful wave at rapid number twelve that we would spend the majority of our time on.
The drive to the put-in
The next few days we studied and paddled various sections of the Zambezi River getting accustomed with the huge volume and powerful river. With water levels a few inches lower than the beginning of our trip, a line slowly started to appear through rapid number nine. For days the massive drop got lots of looks until my Spanish teacher, Orion Chapman finally decided to give ‘er. After watching Orion and Jason Craig both style their way through the two part drop, I hopped in my Agent and gave it a go. Finding my line down the narrow tongue through the first hole on river right, I sprinted to the left shore to avoid the man eating whole in the center and stay away from the body breaking rocks on the right side.
Looking into the depths of the Zambezi
As water levels slowly lowered, rapid twelve B turned into a beautiful river wide wave/hole. The left shoulder, if you can get there, is adynamic wave that constantly changes shape. The wave will flatten out for a few seconds, putting you on the very top of the pile, then crashes down giving you huge boost of speed and a couple huge bounces setting you up to throw massive air screws, pan-ams and huge blunts.
Jason Craig, doing what he does best on twelve B.
Hiking down to paddle rapids 1-10, the group decided to take a detour and check out the minus rapids. The minus rapids are literally right at the bottom of the magnificent Mosi-oa-Tunya or Victoria Falls.
A taste of the notorious minus rapids
After twenty minutes of scouting the two "minus rapids" my Spanish teacher Orion Chapman decided to fire them up. Making his way down the lead in rapid, he got pushed a little farther right than he was hoping and ended up going super deep in the massive river right pour-over.
Orion, finding his way down minus one
No one is exactly sure what happened from here but we think that he hit his head somewhere on the bottom of the river. Dazed and confused, Orion bobbed down the second rapid, flipped in one of the massive holes and sub-consciously pulled his skirt and swam the rest of the second rapid. Safety boaters picked up him and his boat and brought him to shore. With blood gushing down his face and obviously concussed, we carried him back out of the gorge and off to a hospital. The doctors at the local hospital checked him out and he was OK, with only a minor concussion and a black eye.
Looking up at the gorge that forms Mosi-oa-Tunya or Victoria Falls
After our little wake up call to safety, the Zambezi kept the rest of the group safe for our last two weeks in Zambia and everyone enjoyed our daily surf sessions on twelve B. As our stay in Zambia came to an end, everyone was anxious to paddle the massive waves and drops of the White Nile River. Before we knew it we were on our way to the Lusaka airport, soon to depart to our next adventure in Uganda.
The group hanging out in a local village
Eating lunch at a local village
A Baboon and her baby