Petawawa River Rats

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Date: 13 Sep 08
River:  Ottawa Middle Channel
Level: 0.5
Paddlers: Chris, Jen, Wayne, Dave, Brad, Cody

Playful River Rats!

Last winter, I received an email through my website from a guy in Halifax named Chris who found out he would be moving to the Ottawa Valley in the spring.  He enjoyed surfing out on the east coast, and was researching what types of fun outdoor sports he could get involved in here in Ontario.  

He was very keen, and more or less wanted to know what kind of boat to buy (even though he had never whitewater kayaked before).  I told him to wait until he got here, learn to kayak first, and then purchase a boat that would work best for him.

Unfortunately, as he moved into the area, I ended up moving away to pursue a promotion and new position with my work.  I advised him to go hang out with the Petawawa River Rats on Wednesday nights and they would get him hooked.

14-year-old Cody working on his loop at S-Bend!  Keen!

Last week Chris sent me an email asking me some questions about his progress.  I realized that he might not be as secure in the boat he was trying as he should be, and so I told him I would bring a boat up on Saturday and take him down his first river run!

First rapid for Chris!

The boat was perfect for him, and along with four other River Rats, we had an incredible day on the river.

First surf for Chris!

We have created another keen kayaker to say hello to on the river!  Awesome!

Introducing Others to Whitewater

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Some may argue that there are right ways and wrong ways to introduce people to whitewater. Being Swiftwater Rescue qualified and a whitewater instructor, I evaluate each individual and give them experiences based on what I think they can handle, and most importantly on what the fun to danger ratio is.  My main goal, no matter who it is, is to get them off the river at the end of the session saying "That was so much fun, I want to do it again!"My friend and roommate Crystal is an adventurous, tough chick.  I told her about the free rodeo off Quyon Falls in Quebec that Brendan Ginter was running (He had been running free rodeos al summer from different locations in the Ottawa area).  She asked me if she could come along and watch, so after work we hopped into the car and drove an hour to the Falls.

Quyon Falls is a little 8-10 foot waterfall off Highway 148 in Quebec between Aylmer and Fort Coulombe.  My intention was to run the falls, and then get Crystal in my boat and teach her some rolling and strokes.   After watching a number of beginners gleefully hucking over the lip of the falls and some discussion with Brendan, I asked Crystal if she wanted to try it, telling her that the consequences on this drop at this water level were minimal.  She had never been in a kayak before, and we decided that we would send her over without a skirt on.  The rodeo participants were super helpful and encouraging, and after I assured her that she could do it and that if I thought there were dangers I wouldn't let her go, she said "Yeah!  OK!"

We sent her off the falls three times, with the guys waiting at the bottom to help if needed.  Great thanks to Shawn and Grahame especially, and everyone else for their words of encouragement. 

My friend got to experience not only kayaking, but one of the reasons why I love the sport so much.  The friendship and encouragement that you get from the kayaking community.  It was a great experience for her, and she even won a prize at the end!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Life is all about making priorities and determining what is most important to you.  It is so easy to get caught up in something and forget about everything else in your world that makes you happy.

My journey into whitewater was one of those times when I got caught up in something that made me happy, and avoided/hid from everything else that, if corrected or addressed would make my life so much better.

After I injured my knee, my active life as I knew it had come to a screeching halt.  I couldn't run, I couldn't bike.  My knee ached constantly.  It hurt to stand on the bus when there were no seats available.  Everything that kept me happy and in control was now a distant memory.  That is why when I discovered whitewater kayaking, it brought me back to that fit, strong feeling.  Sitting in a kayak and navigating down a class III or IV river allowed me to forget about that pain in my knee.  It allowed me to temporarily forget other stressors in my life.  

But forgetting them and avoiding them mean that, like it or not, these stressors do not just disappear.  They actually grow and become bigger without you.  Once you remember and turn to address them, they are so much more worse than they were at the beginning when you ran away from them.

After my dad died, I spent money.  I spent thousands of dollars.  I bought kayaks, gear, a motorcycle, went on trips.  I was on the river and driving around the country whenever I could.  And during this time, it was like my old life and my old worries had disappeared.  This new life was carefree and fun; I was athletic again, discovering challenges every day on the water, and I allowed my life behind to delve into more and more disarray.

It wasn't until recently when my eyes were opened to see what my life had become.  It was a lie.  Everything I had used to dream for in my career and my life had become unattainable, and I convinced myself that this was all I deserved.  I put those dreams and goals in a vault, and figured that kayaking was all I had left.

Not true.  

I was in West Virginia last fall when Max Lentz died on the Upper Gauley.  Jeremy and I were paddling down the river.  I had progressed so much over the last couple of weeks, that I was now paddling my playboat down the Upper, and leading through the rapids.  We made a stop at Hungry Mother, and during that play-break there was a major shift.  I began losing it.  I couldn't make basic moves, I was having trouble rolling, missing lines and became an all-and-out spaz on the river.  "Something's wrong," I told Jeremy.  This didn't make any sense.  I've had bad days on the river before, but never in the middle of a good day, started losing my skills.

When we arrived to the spot where Max's boat was pinned, I had no idea that he was still in it.  Even after I rescued his helmet that had somehow come loose, and gave it to a bunch of rafters on the shore, I didn't realize.

The next day I decided to cut my vacation early and drive home.  This wasn't necessarily the turning point, but this was the first time that I had been on the river and stopped living my dream world of invincibility.  I thought a lot the twelve hours back to Beachburg.  There were other things that were so much more important in a life that could end in a second flat with no warning.

I continued to make mistakes.  Huge mistakes.  But things were happening in my life to make me take notice.  These tiny signs were trying to tell me that my dreams and goals may not have seemed attainable to me, but they still were.  I just had to realize that and go after them.

Life is about priorities.  Kayaking is a huge part of my life, but sometimes you have to take a break and address other aspects of your life.  I just made the Canadian Women's Squirt Team for the 2009 World Championships.  I almost didn't even go to Team Trials.  I had taken that break and focused on and fixed many other aspects of my life that had gotten to huge to ignore.  I hadn't trained, and honestly believed that I didn't stand a chance.

I stood a chance, and now that I have realized that balance between family, kayaking, career, relationships, friendships, and Jenny (yes, Jenny is a priority all in itself), I can still enjoy the things I love the most, and be able to handle the little stressors that come along quickly before they spiral out of control.

Canadian Cottage Chick

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cottage life in Canada is a completely different pace, approach, world.

You really have to experience it to truly appreciate it.  Imagine no timings, no contact with the outside world.  All you have is the wilderness, watersports, campfires, beer, steak, family, friends and parcheesi.

Saturday was almost literally the first full day of sunshine we've had up here in Ontario ALL summer, so we spent the entire day on the water.  Tube Wars, Wakeboarding, Swimming, ATVing all day, followed by a feast of steak, shrimp, potatoes, salad, garlic cheese bread, beer and an all night campfire courtesy of our friend's old fence!

I have always wanted to ride my kayak behind the boat, and this weekend was my chance.  I had no experience with this, and no idea what to do to keep me from getting hurt.  I was really nervous as if I was going too fast and took an edge, I could feel some fast-water pain.

First session was fun, but I thought my arms were going to rip out of their sockets.  It wasn't like wakeboarding or waterskiing.  I was carrying the weight of my body, boat and drag from the water.

As we sped up, I started carving on the wake I was creating and getting more and more gutsy.  I was getting some good bounces going and finally twisted, dropped an edge and went vertical!  Woo!  I scared myself so much I let go of the tow rope and crashed.  It was the end of the day, and my hand-roll was finally pooched, so I decided to call it a day.

Next session I will go further; I can't wait!

Girl Power on the River

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Just felt compelled to link to this video of Brenna Kelly, Lauren Watson, Emily Carty and Lisa Scott kickin' it on the river.  It's just a fun video showcasing what a great time girls can have together kayaking and what they're capapble of.

Jenny's Upper Gauley Cheat Sheet

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Disclaimer:  This guide is my personal guide for getting down the Upper Gauley.  I wrote it when I was learning how to lead through instead of following someone else's lines while trying to remember each rapid and how to avoid pain and suffering.   This cheat sheet should not replace personal scouting and decision-making on this river.  In fact, make your own cheat sheet based on your own scouting and friend's directions!

stay left (pin rock is right)

Bud's Boner
rapid goes right then left at riverbank into a drop
stay right or eddy out
big rock and hole in centre of wavetrain that you can't see

hole top third, stay left

Iron Curtain
surf wave at top
big wave hole
eddy of death
left of wavehole
right of eddy @ right angle

enter from centre eddy at top rock pointed left
go up on 2nd rock
follow green highway
hole on right
drive right behind hole pointed toward river right shore (camera guy)
once past pillow rock, straighten out and drive through waves left of VW rock

Lost Paddle (after Meadow confluence - 2 rapids after Hungry Mother)
1st Drop: big wave trains
2nd Drop: Hawaii 5-0, don't flip, it's shallow.  6-pack rock in middle at bottom
3rd Drop: right to left between 2 holes
4th Drop: boof left of rock pointed right (boof line)

Iron Ring
follow wavetrain right until 1st big drop
climb wave at white curler
two more strokes right and miss big hole (Woodstock)

Sweet's Falls
five feet left of left hump
few feet right of rooster tail off dildo rock

Whitewater Rescue Technician Course

Monday, May 19, 2008

This weekend I decided to fork out the money and earn my Whitewater Rescue Technician certification.  I had wanted to do the course for a while, but it was a three-day deal that usually ran during the week, which posed a few problems for those of us with rigid work schedules....

So when I found out Rescue 3 International (through Esprit Rafting)  was running a level 1 WRT certification over the long weekend, I jumped at the opportunity.

The course consisted of three days of ropes, knots, swimming and crossing whitewater, rescuing accident victims from moving water, freeing pinned canoes and kayaks, setting up mechanical advantage systems for freeing water craft, or setting up cross-river zip-lines, on-scene management and other basic rescue skills.

It was an intense weekend with pretty cool and rainy weather.  The water in the river was still cold, however despite the miserable weather, we all had a great time learning and developing our skills, and the course was worth every penny!

If anyone is in a position where they teach whitewater sports, run more technical whitewater or even take less-skilled boaters down rivers, this course is imperative to ensure a safe and successful trip.  I am now confident that I can take any of my friends or students out on the water and react quickly and effectively to any situation.

No pictures - I was too busy learning!

May Mini-Bus

Friday, May 16, 2008

As Ryan Whetung says:  "There's nothing MINI about it!"

I heard that this huge wave was in and made the drive from the city to check it out before my Victoria Day long weekend.  As per my usual routine at Bussy, I paddled over and got out to work the rope.  I like to take my turn on the rope first to watch others getting on and to take a good look at the wave before I try it myself.

Being the rusty paddler I am this spring, I worked the rope for a while and then decided to just take pictures.  I had broken my paddle on this same wave last year, and it was still pretty chilly.  I just didn't want a swim and was getting over a brutal cold.

The wave was as awesome as it always was, and I stayed until almo
st dark before heading to my cozy home in the Burg that I don't get to spend that much time in.

Valleyfield Whitewater Course and Cornwall CReW

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I have held a special place in my heart for the Cornwall Crew for a while now, even though I have never met them. This group of paddlers range all ages, all backgrounds and all skill levels. I have heard nothing but amazing things about them from fellow paddlers who have worked clinics and went on excursions with this group.

Cornwall is a very interesting town. I had the opportunity to live there for three months while on a course at the Navigation Canada Training Facility, and this was when I first finally got to meet Robert Zwanenburg at a local coffee shop (which boasted the best coffee in town!).

I was extremely impressed with Rob's vision of "Family Paddling", and even more impressed that he could organize and maintain a club of this magnitude in a town with no whitewater!! This club includes Rob's wife, son and daughter, along with many other children and adults of different ages and abilities in the Cornwall/Alexandria/Valleyfield area. They travel all over to New York state, the Ottawa River, the Rouge River, Valleyfield, Palmerfest, Champlain Bridge, all while maintaining family cohesion and improving on their skills as a team.

Their club website has all the info you need:

Robert mentioned that the club was meeting at Valleyfield after work today, and even though I was getting over a brutal cold (complete with sore throat and sinusitis), I decided to meet up with them and see what this whitewater course was all about.

After driving through two cities rush hours, I finally made it to the Valleyfield course. It wasn't what I had expected at all! Here, nestled between the loading bay for a Zellers and an old folks home, was a gem of whitewater, slalom gates and play holes! I got to meet Rob's family, other CReW members, and watch some slalom boaters practise their skills.

We spent some time up at the top holes, spinning and looping, before making our way down the course. The course was a great little spot for paddlers of all levels, and I really enjoyed experiencing it and meeting the CReW! What a great after-work session!

Taking a break...

Monday, May 5, 2008

So my job has kept me from travelling and kayaking like I usually do, and will continue to do so until the end of June. It has also kept me from spending time with my friends and family. So although I had originally planned on going to Cheatfest, I owed some time to my friend Geoff and we decided to make a road trip to Jay Peak in Vermont for one last weekend on the slopes. Yes, you heard me correctly. Snowboarding in May!

The decision was also made due to the fact that Jay Vermont was only 3.5 hours away from home, and Cheatfest was 8+ hours (and would involve me driving the whole thing on my own!)

I can ski, but especially after my two knee surgeries really wanted to learn to snowboard. So donning my kayak helmet, a new pair of goggles and boots and borrowed board, bindings and poofy jacket, we were off for some fun on the slopes and some snowboarding lessons!

My first run down the mountain took about an hour, and I spend a lot of time on my butt. Ow! But I soon figured out how to balance, and by the end of the first day was surfing down like a pro! Okay, not a pro, but upright. Which is good for Jen's muscles and tailbone!

So here's a little kayaking intermission of Jen's first time on a snowboard.


High Water Ottawa and Cherry Popping...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kate checking out Garvins at 20

Uh.... yeah.... okay....


I was back home this weekend to pick up boats, attend a farewell for a friend, and to check out the Ottawa River at 20 feet.

Sharky, Anna and Joel getting ready to put-in

Sharky, Anna, Joel and I decided to hit the middle, and it was both Anna and my first 2008 run down the Ottawa. The weather started off great, the water was cool and the water was pumping!

Me running Little Trickle at 20

Photo by Sharky

The highest I had ever run the river was 17, and it was a lot of fun so I was psyched to see the river even higher. We enjoyed catching Satlers on the fly, running Little Trickle and avoiding the HUGE boof/pour-over/recirculation of death, looking and leaving Butterfly alone, surfing the Garvins waves, losing our stomachs on the 11-foot tall wave train on Upper No-Name and wondering where Black Velvet went....

Sharky and Anna

Me playing on the second wave and holding my breath?

Photo by Anna Pirko

What a great day. In fact it was so much fun I went back out the next day with Bryson and Kate. This was Kate's first 2008 day on the river and the earliest in the season she's ever been in her kayak. She styled the river and had a great day! Now I'm sunburnt, tired and about to sit in my hot tub before getting a good night's sleep!

Enjoy the pictures of high-water Ottawa goodness!

Bryson Loves Big Dolly

ASCI Course as you've never seen it before!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I found I was having a difficult time finding friends to paddle with on Easter weekend. Something about spending time with family or something....

I spent Saturday outfitting my boats, and cleaning out my truck, made a stop for dinner with a friend in VA, and continued on in my search for whitewater. I found myself in Friendsville, MD within spitting distance of the Yough, Big Sandy, Cheat and Tygart.

My friend John Mason is hanging his hat here for a few weeks, building sprayskirts and taking care of his business at the Upper Yough takeout. He had never seen the ASCI Course, and I was wondering when they were going to open for the spring.

So we drove up the mountain and took a look-see. It was exciting to see the same course I had navigated last fall without any water. It was very interesting to see how the course was built and what the waveshapers actually looked like.

So here's a refresher of what the ASCI course looks like WITH water: Disneyworld of Kayaking

Now, the behind the scenes look at the whitewater course in the winter/early spring :-)

The first waveshaper

The river

The riverbed

Easter Weekend Rain Chasing

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rich and I had planned a trip south on Easter weekend to get our first spring season paddling in, but Rich's shoulder is still bothering him a lot so he wasn't able to go.

I left Cornwall around noon yesterday solo, planning on meeting up with fellow paddlers in warmer climates.

I met up with Jeremy this morning and we headed on down to Holtwood on the Susquehanna. This section was running high, and we actually had to run shuttle instead of being able to attain back up to the put-in. We paddled with Garret, Sam and Brenton, and were joined later by two other eager paddlers whose names I didn't catch.

Holtwood was just as I remembered it, except with more water. I would describe Holtwood as a whitewater playground. This section of the river is SUPER-wide, and there are fun surf spots that form at different levels in different places. For an idea of its vastness, check out Jeremy's Holtwood Surf Guide here:

Garret surfing Playspot

Sam showing us how it's done

717 crew making their way back up the eddy

Even though I had plenty of gear, somehow when I grabbed my kayaking bag from my house in Beachburg, it didn't have any of my underlayers in it. So I was early spring paddling sans fleece/rashguards. Ken had sent me some neoprene layers, so I wore a thick neo-shirt under my new drydeck! It worked fine, I was warm and only started feeling the chill of the air after being out for a few hours when I was starting to get tired.

We finished the great day on the river (my face is sunburnt bright red by the way) with an awesome steak dinner courtesy of Jeremy's awesome parents, and I enjoyed a toasty night in my old stomping ground, the Airstream Van.

Canadian Cold

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's so cold up here in Canada. I'm stuck here for work on an important course away from home and any whitewater. I can hear the wind blowing against my hotel window. It feels like a vast and barren wasteland. My boogers are freezing my nostrils closed and I have to breathe out of my mouth.

The good news is that there are still fun things to do in the cold, like snowshoeing, watching ice racing, snowmobiling and sitting out on the frozen lake in lawn chairs drinking beer. We've also made some road trips into the big city!

It won't be long now, we're almost a month away from MACKfest (, and then the festivals, events and water will pick up.

Snickers is really excited to get back in the water. No Snickers! You can't paddle today, it's too cold!