Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sturgeon Video

Here's some video from the weekend. Most of it's from the helmet cam, but some's off of my point-n-shoot as well. If I get a chance I'll try to put up some other clips as well, but for now...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sturgeon Falls, eh?

There was a great group of us that headed North for the long weekend to hit the big, deep waves at Sturgeon Falls on the Winnipeg River. The river was higher than I'd seen it, running somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 cfs. That made for some big waves, crazy eddies, and lots of pictures.

Dennis volunteered to ride up with me to pick up the motorboat at my family's cabin. Little did we know that the huge flow rate would make the boat nearly useless as a shuttle and rescue vehicle. But, now we know for next year...

We had beautiful weather, with warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights. Nora, Dennis, and I learned from our cold and wet past experiences there and reserved a Yurt to sleep in. Even though the weather was better this year, I've gotta say the Yurt was worth it.

The paddling was great - Mike M and Scotty were throwing rapid-fire blunts on Surfer's, Alon was gettin' dizzy on Triple S, everybody was getting some quality spins and bounces on the waves. The big eddy behind the island had the twin whirlpools fading in and out, so if you timed it right you got the moving-sidewalk ride back up. Then again, if you timed it wrong, you had a ridiculous and frustrating time trying to paddle up hill through the boils.

The coolest part of the weekend was Sunday evening when the wind died out completely and the water was just like a mirror. You could actually see your reflection while you were on Surfer's. From the island, it looked like people were surfing on folds of mercury. Absolutely awesome.

I also have to give Katie huge props for being able to literally self-rescue after a swim. She can wet exit, grab her gear, drain her boat, and get in and paddle her way back to shore - all completely by herself while floating downstream. It was amazing.

The only problem with going to Sturgeon is that you're never there long enough. For me, it takes about 1 full day to get my brain comfortable in the big water. Unfortunately, by then the body's usually pretty worn out and the two never really get in sync. Next year I think I'll take Friday off to get an extra day, and hopefully do some conditioning as well. Shockingly, it turns out that sitting at a desk 6 days a week doesn't qualify as a training regimen.

All in all, it was a great weekend with some awesome paddlers. We paddled, chilled on the rock, surfed ourselves silly, hung out around bonfires, and told endless paddling stories. Tough to beat that. I'm already looking forward to next time.

Here are some pics from the weekend:
1) The Bomber Gear twins
2) Melissa cruising Triple S
3) Scotty working on blunts
4) Scott bouncing Surfer's
5) Me getting eaten by the foam

6) Alon discovering the silk-surf on Surfer's
7) Mike M setting up for a blunt
8) Mike L in front of Big Mouth
9) Me in a low-altitude blunt
10)Mike L riding the glass
11)Melissa basking in the warm sun

I've got videos as well - hope to get those up tonight, so check back!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Launching Into Canoe U!

From Canoe U

This weekend was the first River weekend of Canoe U! We had over 40 students, about 10 instructors, and a whole bunch of safety boaters. The weather was nice (cold in the evenings, but warm and sunny afternoons) and the level of the Kettle was close to 800 cfs on Sunday.
From Canoe U

I taught the Whitewater Refresher course with Bobzilla. We had a great student-teacher ratio with 2 instructors, 6 students, and 2 safety boaters - Jeremiah and Ben. Jeremiah was with us both days and had some rock-star rescues. Ben joined us the second day when we had very few swims, so both safety boaters were giving tips and assistance to the students instead of chasing gear. It worked great, and I think (and hope) that the students felt that way as well.
From Canoe U

Speaking of the students, we had Lynn, Drew, Dan, Tim, Derek, and Liz. Each student had some paddling experience, but wanted to get some additional technique work in to get the most out of this paddling season.
From Canoe U

We spent both days on the "upper" Kettle, the first day on the flatwater and then Blueberry Slide, and the second day running the whole river. The level was high enough to challenge everyone, and it pushed the learning curve a little steeper. While that led to a couple of swims on Day 1, it also led to noticeable improvements in ferrying, eddy moves, and general comfort in dynamic water by day 2.
From Canoe U

Day one was loaded with drills and stroke work to get a solid foundation of basics. Day two was putting those skills to use and incorporating water reading and river judgment to become more independent as paddlers. By the end of Day 2 students were picking their own lines, punching holes, catching mid-rapid eddy's and more. It was really fun to watch.
From Canoe U

Big thanks to all the students that participated in the class and made it so much fun! Also, huge thanks to Chad, Art, and all of the others who put in so much time and effort with the planning, logistics, cooking, and other behind-the-scenes work that made the weekend flow smoothly. Really looking forward to Graduation Weekend and the Continuum class!

Check out the "My Web Albums" link on the right of this page to see more pics. Thanks to Derek for taking a bunch of the on-water shots!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

ACA Certification!

What do you get when you combine 2400 miles, 7 states, 45 hours of training, and two awesome instructor-trainers? An ACA kayak instructor certification from NOC! The trip was great, and both Nora and I got our level IV certs.

I've always enjoyed introducing people to new experiences and activities, so teaching kayaking has always been one of my favorite things to do. I was an instructor/trip leader with the UW-Madison Hoofers for a couple years, then have been teaching informally in MN ever since. After law school I realized that I missed teaching classes and started looking into how to do it around here. Turns out that it was good timing, because Rapids Riders was looking for instructors. The only catch was that they require certification by the American Canoe Association in order to teach with them. So, I looked around for courses, found a good one at the Natahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina, talked Nora into coming with me, and headed out.

The area around the NOC had been pretty dry for the last few years, but as Nora and I headed South, we managed to bring a monsoon down with us to fix that little problem. It was raining the night we arrived and never really stopped for more than a couple hours. This was great to push the rivers up, but slightly less great for spending the week sleeping in tents.

Speaking of tents, we stayed at the Smokey Mountain Meadows Campground, which I can't recommend highly enough. It's in a beautiful spot, the grounds and shower houses are immaculate, and the owners are about the nicest people you could ever meet. They even let us move our tents under the picnic pavilion so that we could have a couple nights without getting rained on. This was a godsend because we were pretty much spending our days in the river, then our nights in the rain. Not the greatest scenario for drying stuff out, but at least it was warm...

The course itself was packed with a combination of classroom discussion, on-water skills development, rescue training, and teaching real students under the guidance of our instructor-trainers. We had lots of time on and in the chilly water of the Nantahala River. It made for a long week, but I think that both Nora and I learned a lot and had a great time.

Our group consisted of 8 paddlers of a variety of ages and experience levels, all of whom brought something unique to the group. They were wonderful people, and I feel lucky to have spent the week with them. Our instructor-trainers were Rob and Jason, and they were both awesome. They were fun and laid-back, but also demonstrated expertise to an extreme and an intuitive way of teaching that was helpful both as one of their students, and as a model for ways to relate to those I'll be teaching.

Now that we're back in the real world and our stuff is starting to finally dry out, I'm looking forward to getting out this weekend and teaching. It'll be great to meet all the new paddlers and try out some of the new teaching tricks I picked up!

1)The whole crew
2)Jason demonstrating roll instruction
3)Nora teaching real students on Friday
4)Instructor-trainer Jason
5)Instructor-trainer Rob
6)Swift water rescue practice
7)Pretty much explains itself
8)Camping in the pavillion
9)Smokey Mountain traffic jam