Welcome BACK to Rock Island!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

River: Caney Fork (Rock Island State Park)
Level: 3550 cfs
Paddlers: Me, Stephen, EJ, Dane, Brad, Jase

I arrived in Tennessee yesterday, and the dam at Rock Island was spilling, so we decided to run the section from the dam down to the boat ramp take-out. This was my first time back in a boat since the knee surgery so I was a bit aprehensive, but I was eager to get back on the water (especially where the water was warmer).
I had some trouble getting down to the water, but I took my time, made sure I was outfitted great and paddled out into the current.

At the top of the run there are three waves in a row. I caught the top wave shortly, then scrambled over to the eddy to have a go at the third wave, which was the best of the three. I got it twice for a short ride before I went on down to the hole. The Rock Island hole is where the third World Cup event was held. I first paddled it around December last year. When the dam releases 3600+, the hole is fun, but can beat you down at the same time. The locals call it a "Welcome to Rock Island Ride" where it seems that the hole knows anytime someone new is surfing it!
I did really well in the hole, especially for my first day back on the water, but my last ride before we continued downstream was a "Welcome BACK to Rock Island Ride". Great fun to watch, I'm sure!

We paddled on down to Brave Wave, where I got one awesome surf in. I managed to spin, front surf, back surf and roll back up ON the wave before I flushed off. I didn't stick around because the eddy had a cave and undercut that I wanted to avoid.
We continued on down the river, through a fun wave train and to a small wave at the boat ramp. I surfed it once and decided that it was enough for my first day back on the water. The guys enjoyed it for another 15 minutes or so and then we called it a day.

All-in-all, it was a great first day back on the river! I was afraid that I would have to start over, but it really IS like riding a bike. The only thing I noticed was that 2 months loses your muscle memory big time! Some moves seemed like a lot of work, but that's what comes with sitting on a couch for 2 months...

Getting Skunked turns into a great day on the water!

Saturday, October 7, 2006

River: Ottawa
Level: 5.5
Paddlers: Me, Deuce, Jamie

I got up super early this morning and went to pick up Deuce for an early morning Waikiki session. He had to work at 9am, so we motored to the Lorne, put in above and paddled down. On the way down, we checked to see if ‘Gnar’burator was in, but it wasn’t. Waikiki wasn’t that great either, and the wave train below it was more boily and swirly than I had ever felt it!
We ended up getting skunked. I dropped Deuce off at Sharky’s, and went home for some breakfast.

Around 11ish, I met up with Jamie Heard at the McCoy’s put in and after running shuttle, we decided it would be a good day to run the Middle Channel. As he had never paddled with me before, I told him that I was fine on every section of the Ottawa, but still got nervous whenever running McCoy’s. Even though I have run McCoy’s alone, and never swam there, it still makes me nervous for some reason.

I decided to punch Satler’s that day and we went through and down to horseshoe. After looking at left-side for a minute, I suggested that it might be fun to surf. We tried a couple of times and couldn’t catch it, but then discovered if we approached it sideways instead of facing upstream, we could get on! We stayed there for a while, the surfer’s left side was friendly and we were spinning away, having a grand old time.

After a while we decided to head on down. Jamie had guided rafts for Owl and knew the river like the back of his hand. He led me down ‘Little Trickle’ even though the water was low, and it was a fun little shortcut around Iron Ring. I didn’t even go down the loser’s channel! We stopped at Angel’s Kiss, which was super-low and not that much fun. I hand surfed it once, and then we moved on. We checked out Butterfly, waved hello at the SRT course going on the shore and headed to Garvins.

Today we decided to run the far left chute (WT Chute?). It was shallow and rocky, but definitely doable. We stopped at the upper No Name wave and hiked back up to surf a few times, and then made our way down through Lower No Name. At Black Velvet we had a competition to see who could last the longest running the rapid with our eyes closed and paddle on our head. First person to hit a paddle blade to the water was the loser!
Well we passed the rapid and were in flat water, but neither of us were giving up! I even put my paddle through my PFD and started hand-paddling because we were going nowhere fast!

In the end, Jamie broke down and slapped his paddle on the water, which ended a perfect day on the river!

Me showing off my bowstall skills (kinda like ninja skills)
Photo: Jamie Heard

The Beginning

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Actually, the beginning should have began a long time ago. I was so overwhelmed by this whole kayaking thing, that I never wrote my thoughts down, or reported any trips.

Now that I am at the point where I'm good enough to actually keep a camera in my boat and not worrying about it swimming downstream as I frantically splash toward the bank of the river, I figured that I can post reports WITH photos. This I think would be way more interesting for you, the reader!

I am not a girly kind of girl, and you will never see me in a pink kayak (unless it's a Liquid Logic Hot Pink), but I'm going to use the pinky background for my blog entries.
Well because I can! That's why!

So now I will be posting my trip reports and all kayaking related posts here on this wildly interactive and fun site.

Thanks for visiting!
First trip report will be in 2 weeks when I get to Tennessee, unless I start back-posting.


The Upper Gauley Virgin no more!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

River: Upper Gauley, WV
Level: 2800 cfs (recreational release)
Paddlers: Me, Stephen, Kristin, James
Today was my first day on the Upper Gauley River. I joked that I was an Upper Gauley virgin.

Stephen and I met up with James at the take-out, and set up shuttle. We met Kristin at the put-in (Summersville Dam) and got our gear sorted out before getting on the river. Last year, I paddled a little portion of the Upper at the put-in up to “Initiation” rapid, where I thought it looked too scary, got hung up in a tree branch and convinced Stephen to hike out and call it a day. On Wavesport Open day, I ran shuttle, and hiked a mile up to Sweets Falls and ran the falls to the take-out. I had only been paddling about 4 months and Stephen thought that the river would be too much for me.

Today, I wasn’t sure that I was ready yet, as I had no idea what to expect downriver, but Stephen put me in a new Jackson Fun (which is a size too big for me) and was convinced that I would do fine.

I was really nervous, and after ferrying at the top of the river and feeling very tippy and out-of-control, I was very nervous, and upset and didn’t want to continue on. Stephen convinced me to run the first rapid, and then I could hike out if I wanted. Well the first rapid went fine, Initiation went fine, Pillow Rock went fine, Iron Ring went fine, Lost Paddle went fine (in fact I had a perfect line through the top part of this rapid), Sweets Falls went fine. I managed to paddle the whole 5 miles without mishap.

Just above the take-out, there was a little boof-slot that Stephen went over first, plugged and did a loop. I thought that it would be cool if I tried to do the same thing, and plugged over the lip and flopped over. I then was sucked back into the pourover and proceeded to get worked for about a minute. I kept trying to roll up only to get sucked back in. Stephen managed to get close enough to me at one point and was holding my boat up so only my nose and mouth were out of the water, but I couldn’t get out of the pourover. After swallowing a bunch of water and finding the water too powerful to get my paddle up to the surface in order to roll, I finally pulled-pole and swam out of my boat. HUGE mistake. I couldn’t swim out of the pourover. It kept pushing me way under and as soon as I would resurface, I would get pushed under again! Stephen came close and told me to grab his boat, but the pourover had me and I was pulling him into the pourover with me. He told me to let go and I kept getting recirculated. It was really scary, I started kicking really hard, and then Stephen grabbed me before the arms of death reached back out to snag me. He took me over to a calm spot in an undercut rock and we watched two guys in a raft spend another 20 seconds trying to get my boat out of the pourover. The managed to get the boat out, and pulled me onto the raft and took me to a safe place. It was so scary that I couldn’t help but have a huge grin on my face afterwards, simply because I was still alive! The raft-guys couldn’t believe that I held on for as long as I did and were really impressed. I was so glad that Stephen and those guys were there to rescue me.

The Panther Creek Trail was just as horrible as everyone has said it was, and I really shouldn’t have hiked it because of my knee. I had to stop a bunch of times. It was really as terrible as Clay had written about last year this time. Luckily, James parked his car along the road and it saved us an extra 30 feet or so of vertical climbing. Yeah!

I was so excited that (other than the slot pourover incident) my first day on the Upper Gauley went so well. I really had no reason to be so nervous.

A Short Summary of 'Jen Against West Virginia'

Friday, September 22, 2006

Those of you who know, West Virginia and I have had a "love/hate relationship" since I began paddling. Last fall for the Gauleyfest weekend, the Lower Gauley decided to show me who was boss when I had a fluke accident and flipped over above the last rapid, knocking myself out.
Later on, this past spring, I had a horrible run of Big Sandy Creek, a creek that was probably just above my skill level. I got beat down, swam twice, gashed open my knuckles and declared that I was "done" half-way down a gorge creek run (that I clearly couldn't hike out of).

This year, I was determined to change things, starting with a re-run of the Lower Gauley.

Lower G Trip Report:
This year I was determined to come back and run the river again, this time without an episode through PSH. My weapon of choice this year was my Jackson Star and we got up early, ran shuttle and got on the river. The lower Gauley was just as I remembered it. I had no problems down any of the rapids, had some fun surfs and enjoyed great company along the way. I did keep asking questions along the way about PSH and said I wanted to get out and scout it this year. When we came up to the rapid, Clay Wright gave the briefing about where to go and what to look out for, and we started on through the rapid. Stephen Wright, Emily Jackson and I were going to catch a river-right eddy at the top of the rapid so we could get a better look at what I was going to paddle through. The spot where I hit my head was above PSH 'proper', and I passed through the wave train without problems. I was really nervous though and felt very tippy and vulnerable as I went down. I was told later by Devon Barker that I tensed up and wasn't paddling very hard. She reminded me that when I get nervous is the best time to lean forward and dig in to get to where you want to be. I caught the eddy and experienced an emotional overload of tears for about 10 seconds before I peeled back out into the current after Stephen with Emily close behind. After running the rapid without even tipping over, I just want to let everyone know that PSH is not the scary rapid that people make it out to be. Yes it has a sieve to the river-right, a munchy pourover above the rapid, and a big scary hole at the bottom of the river. However, the lines through this rapid are wide and easy if you can stay upright - which is what I managed to do this year!

Upper G Trip Report
Then Stephen told me that he thought I would have fun on the Upper Gauley if I paddled it in a bigger boat. He put me in a new 2007 Fun and we paddled the class IV-V river on Saturday and then again on Sunday. I was REALLY nervous the first time I got on the river and didn't start having fun until after running the first couple of smaller rapids. Well, I practically aced every line on the river, and didn't run into any problems! That is, until we had passed the last major rapid and found a little slot boof right before the take-out. I had boofed it last year (walked in and paddled the last rapid) without any problems. This time Stephen went ahead first, plugged over the edge and did a loop. I don't know what I was thinking, but I went after him, plugged and tried to loop also (a move that I already know that I can't do) the pourover at the boof was not very big, and I didn't even imagine that there would be consequences to it. Anyway, I ended up getting destroyed in the pourover for about a minute, with me trying to paddle out, Stephen trying to pull me out, and I eventually had swallowed enough river water that I pulled my skirt and swam. I spent another 20 seconds getting recirculated in the pourover; every time I would come up, the pourover would pull me back in and push me under again. Finally I kicked my way out and waited in an eddy with Stephen while 2 guys on a raft went in after my boat. I watched my boat pinned up against the pourover for another 10 seconds or so before the rafters were able to get it out. It was a really scary experience. The worst part of it was that I got beat down on the easiest section of the river, in a relatively insignificant spot. (I found out later, that a lot of people have gotten beat down there)

Sunday's Upper Gauley run went well, I ran a few rapids better than before, and another few upside down due to fatigue I imagine, but I was psyched that I made it down the river twice! The best part about Sunday's run is that I got to paddle with Lauren Burress, who has got to be the most amazing 10 year old kayaker I have ever seen. She barely batted an eye on the whole run.

Learning to Squirt

River: New River Gorge, WV
Level: 2400 cfs (-0.5 ft)
Paddlers: Me, Stephen, Jeremy, Steve

Today the Jackson crew were arriving and going to paddle the New River Gorge. At the end of the summer Stephen bought a used squirt boat and wanted to play with it at Halls of Karma and then run the rest of the river with the Jacksons.

We met up with a famous local squirter, Steve O’Keefe and spent a couple of hours goofing around in the whirlpools. I was in my Star and managed to get vertical a few times, and even submerged once. It was lots of fun! One of my favourite spots on the Ottawa River is the whirlpools below Butcher’s Knife because you can just play there all day and have a great time. I enjoy it more than park n play at a hole or wave because it doesn’t matter what level paddler you are, everyone can have a good time (and you don’t have to know how to do McNastys!).

I eventually got into Stephen’s squirt boat and as awkward as it was, I actually enjoyed it. I flopped over in the whirlpools a bunch of times before I decided that I wanted to get a squirt boat of my own! The Jackson clan came through and we had been playing for so long that we decided to skip the rest of the river run.

The worst part of the day was that I was FREEZING! For some reason I decided to wear just a paddle top and rashguard instead of a drytop like I did yesterday and I paid the consequences….

All-in-all it was a fun day on the river!

New River Gorge, low water

Thursday, September 21, 2006

River: New River Gorge, WV
Level: 2800 cfs (0.5 ft)
Paddlers: Me, Stephen, Jeremy

The local favourite for boaters in Fayetteville is a place called the Cathedral CafĂ©, which aside from having amazing breakfasts, also has free wireless internet connections for use. We love to go there, have breakfast and as Stephen would call it: “internetify”.

Today we arrived and saw at least three tables of boaters that we knew. Some from Fayetteville, and others from back home on the Ottawa River. Stephen, Jeremy and I had a great breakfast and made plans to paddle the New River Gorge later that day. After discussing shuttle options with some others and searching for neck gaskets, we ran shuttle and got ourselves on the river. The put in has a really steep stairway from the parking area down to the river, and Stephen declared how much fun it was to slide down the staircase in your boat. I was hesitant, but after watching him do it once and head back up for a second ride, I decided to give it a go. It was fast and fun!! I flew down the stairs and across a concrete part before hitting the water. Tomorrow I will do it again, but with video.

Today I paddled my brand-spanking new green Jackson Star, and we practiced drills that would help me conquer the Lower Gauley. Stephen had me practicing moving between rocks, leaning into rocks and paddling on edge. Jeremy decided to paddle his open boat, which we were excited about the possibility of a swim or some similar carnage. The river-run went very well. We took easy rapids, and made them harder by manoeuvring between rocks and catching eddies. Stephen would occasionally point at undercut rocks halfway down a specific rapid and freak me out. The worst, however was when he went halfway down a rapid to a horizon line, then turn around and look at me and shake his head vigorously. I interpreted it to mean that I wasn’t supposed to go that way, but it was too late for me to change my course. It turned out that he was shaking his head to tell me not to try a wave-wheel, and not because the rapid was scary. I told him never to freak me out like that again.

We didn’t see a single other person on the river, played in the whirlpools at Halls of Karma, and chatted with some locals standing on a bridge and aside from the cool air and wet clothes at the take out, was an overall good day on the river for me. Jeremy has this awesome Airstream van, and cooked us up some hot chocolate when we got off the river. The day ended with dinner at the local favourite for dinner in Fayetteville called “Pies n Pints”. We went there in the spring when we were here, and enjoyed Tuesday nights all you can eat Pizza. I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever had better pizza (except maybe that awesome place in Vail, CO). I didn’t have pizza though as my stomach’s been bothering me, and ordered a horribly boring salad instead.

Spinning in Right Side Horseshoe

Friday, August 4, 2006

Live from the Ottawa River! The level was prime at 3.5 ish (my favourite spot on the river forms now), and I spent a whole day at Right Side Horseshoe.

This was where I first learned to surf, and now I am getting a lot better at spinning! Check it out!

Paddling a New River (No, not the New; the GATINEAU!)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

River: Gatineau, PQ
Level: 16 ft
Paddlers: Me, Stephen, Nick
Although I haven't been feeling 100% lately, the Gatineau River was running at an optimum level, and I just couldn't say no to Stephen's puppy-dog face. OK, he really didn't need to beg at all! Nick, Stephen and I drove to the Gatineau River to experience epic +16 ft levels and have some fun on a wave called "High Tension".

I took Stephen's demo All-Star, so we became the "All-Star Crew" for the day.

I was extremely nervous, as I usually get when I am on a river for my first time. I don't like that I don't know what to expect around each corner. I could run the Ottawa with my eyes closed, but this... this was different. The Gatineau seemed to be a lot like the main or middle channels of the Ottawa River. It was wide, and deep. The geography was a little bit different though. There were a lot more rocks on the shores, and clearly marked Portage trails.
The first rapid was uneventful, some class 2 thingie-ma-bob. We paddled up to an eddy to scout the next rapid, which was frighteningly named "Lucifers". As we were walking up the trail to take a look, Stephen asked if anyone brought a throw-bag, and Nick asked if we knew CPR. I was freaking out inside!

Lucifers had a fun wave to surf at the top, followed by a second wave just left of the first one. Below those two waves was a hole called Lefties, and a HUGE munchy hole on the river right side called Lucifers Anus. (Or, the "bum-hole of Satan" as Nick was helpful enough to explain). It looked like somewhere I did NOT want to go!

They told me I could surf the upper two waves and then drop into Lefties if I wanted. Nick went first, and after he flushed downstream, I went. I was afraid of accidently flipping above and being pushed into Lucifer's Anus, so at the last minute decided not to surf anything and just paddle through. A curler flipped me closer to the bottom and I got dragged a little in the shallow part, but it wasn't that bad.

Another rapid later on was a river-wide scary hole except for a sneak on the river left side. We basically had to hug the rock wall and paddle down a little chute. I was terrified that I would get sucked into the hole, but made it out safely.

Stephen and Nick Tensing Up!

We arrived at High Tension. This was a STEEP wave with very little to worry about below. I surfed it three times and had a lot of fun, but wasn't feeling great so spent the majority of the time on shore taking still photos. Once I would catch the wave, it felt like a 10 foot drop from the top of the foam pile down into the trough. What fun!

Nick Showing his Stuff on High Tension

I'm all giggles.. wheee!

The next rapid was called the wall, where there was a river-wide wall of water that we had to punch through. Nick described it like this: "I saw Stephen come over the wall and then saw the bow of your boat go up in the air and back down. I didn't see you after that and thought 'uh, oh, Jen's surfing'". Yeah I was! But I held on and was fine.

All in all it was a great day, the weather was warm, the river was fun (and nearly empty). I would really like to go back and run it again sometime soon now that I know what to expect I think I would have a better time!

Here is a link to Stephen's Trip Report: http://www.jacksonkayak.com/jkarticles05/article.cfm?article=200607241

Big Cojones Rodeo - An Article I Wrote on my first Competition

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Ottawa River is not whitewater in the US; however enough people visit it from the states each year that it deserves honourable mention. People from all over North America eagerly keep an eye on the gauges and regularly call their friends who live in the Ottawa Valley to find out when certain water levels come in. One of the most popular levels in the spring that causes people to drop what they are doing and dash for the border is when the river peaks and an epic wave comes in called Bus Eater, or “Bussy” as the locals call it. At the right level, this feature becomes one of the tallest, fastest waves you’ll ever surf. At lower levels, it becomes the nastiest, trashiest hole you have ever wanted to avoid!

Because the Ottawa is fed by many tributaries, it is nearly impossible to predict the level at any given day, and people usually have to rely on word of mouth to find out what is running. The best thing about the Rocher Fendu section of the Ottawa River, located near Beachburg Ontario is that at ANY level, there is a different playspot to enjoy. Or, the river run changes so it’s like running a different river at each level.

Last year, due to a knee injury, I was introduced to the world of whitewater kayaking. This was something I could us to replace the sports that I used to do on a regular basis. I spent all of last summer paddling this river at different levels between -2 and +4. It was a dry summer.
This spring, I broke down and bought a house in Beachburg. I had such a great time last summer and made so many new friends that I simply had to become a ‘582” local! I have no regrets. I ran the Ottawa recently at a level I have never even imagined: +9. Basically the river was completely different. Rapids that used to make me sweat were washed out into a harmless wave train, while rapids that I didn’t know existed reared their ugly heads, mocking me and eagerly anticipating my inevitable beatdown.

It was the crowd on the Ottawa River that finally encouraged me at the last minute to overcome my fears and face Big Kahuna, a Bussy-sized wave that sat in the Coliseum rapid, waiting for every single kayaker to blow their line. Once they did, Kahuna would crash down on them, enveloping their tiny plastic boat and suck them into a big water mess downstream. If a person survived this beatdown, then Kahuna would throw them into a swirly, seemingly inescapable eddy.

I wanted to do something big for my one-year kayaking anniversary, and this was going to be it. Big Kahuna was going to meet its match! The Big Cojones Rodeo is put on by Wilderness Tours and occurred on the May long weekend. It is usually scheduled to be held on the Bus eater wave however, this year, the Rodeo was 2 weeks too late, and the event was moved to Big Kahuna. People came from all over to compete in this event which gave cash prizes for Biggest Trick in each category and cash to the person who got the best thrashing. I spent the whole week prior to the event saying to myself “yes I’ll enter”, then “no I’m not going near that”.

Finally on the day of the event, I ferried across above Coliseum, and went up to the registration box. What did I have to lose? As I looked around me, I noticed every competitor was a seasoned veteran with sponsorships or at least many years experience. What was I getting myself into? I sucked it up, paid my $20 and registered my name. Worse that could happen was a swim with a rescue from a zodiac waiting downstream.

I found out I was in the first heat (no backing out now), and got back into my boat upstream of the monster. My heart was pounding and my chest was tight, I could barely get a breath in as I looked downstream. I wanted to do it, but at the same time, I wanted to paddle the other way and get back on shore! Tanya Shuman was in the upper eddy with me. She gave me some advice that I will never forget: “Jen, just think of it as if you are having a fun day kayaking. Don’t tense up, kayaking is all about staying loose.” That advice, tied in with words from Jeremy Laucks that the rapids can smell fear (or at least the big trashy holes) is something I mentally told my self to remember every time I’m on the water.

Easier said than done! It’s really hard to consciously stay relaxed! I finally gathered the courage to peel out into the flow, and came down to the wave. Kahuna at that level was big, but unpredictable. The wave would green out, and then surge and crash on your head. My boat flushed right through the wave and then I flipped over. The huge waves behind Kahuna were throwing my boat every which way. I set up for a roll, held my breath and waited. Once I felt the calm, I rolled up and paddled toward the shore. I portaged back up to the upper-eddy and got back in line (it was a round-robin sort of competition).

The eddy beside Kahuna is the scariest thing I have ever been in. I actually got stuck in it a few days prior and stayed there for about 5 minutes before I gathered the courage to try what I thought was the only line available. The eddy worked me this day in front of all the spectators on the rock. I could hear EJ announcing and telling me to get through that eddy. So I did the only thing I could think of. I put on my mad face, and I plowed through the seam like there was no tomorrow. I charged up that eddy, over the curler and surfed out onto the wave.
It was amazing!!! I side-surfed across the wave and then back again. Then I managed to turn into a front surf and plowed my way into the trough. I couldn’t believe how long my ride was and how in control I felt. I just gave all that I had, it was incredible. I haven’t met anyone yet who has been paddling for less than a year who would try to surf that wave, and not only did I do it, I entered my first competition!

I learned a lot that weekend. I gained skills that I didn’t have before, I learned that the Beachburg locals are the best kind of people, always willing to help out and kayak with you, no matter your skill level. I learned what level of energy I need to put forth in order to prevent the river from taking over my paddling days, and most importantly, I learned that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I was walking back up through the woods behind Tanya Shuman and she told me how proud she was of me. What an inspiration, to have arguably one of the best female freestyle kayakers in the world tell me how proud she is of what I was able to achieve!! I was glowing and on top of the world all night! From this day forward I call that my 1-year Anniversary Ride. Now I wonder what will mark my anniversary next year… Skookumchuck anyone?

Here's a link to the video of my ride. Not much to look at, but it made me feel extremely good that I pulled that off!


Going Kayaking on January 13th

Saturday, January 14, 2006

But I did it. By the way, worst ice-cream headache... EVER!!! I was surfing the wave and caught an edge, and POW! I rolled back up, and opened my eyes, but I couldn't see! I think it was +6 degrees today. I met up with Phil, who brought a pickaxe to chop the ice out of the eddy.
We went to the Deschenes wave which was in the middle of some ruins in the city section of the Ottawa River. The sun was out, the weather was warm, but the water wasn't!
I tried a few surfs and then decided I was done after the first roll. Ouch, I can still feel the icy brainfreeze!