Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Highlights and Lowlights

2011 has been a great year for me.  It started off cold, frozen, and swimming on the Middle Fork of the Tygart River in West Virginia in early January.  February was still cold, but I started to get my act together and began a love affair with Big Sandy drainage with many enjoyable runs down the Lower Big Sandy, and small tributary Fike Run higher up in the drainage (as well as Meadow Run on the other side of the ridge).  March and April kicked it into full gear with more runs on the Big Sandy and Top Yough in my first Greenboat.  As things began to warm up, paddling started to heat up and I got out more and more.  May means two big things for me, the end of the semester and Cheatfest.  At Cheat Fest, we raced, partied, and ran the Lower Big Sandy 5 or 6 times that week.  I got to see some good friends, and share the love for the LBS I had with them. It still continued to rain into June, and we were lucky to get some warm weather runs in on plenty of stuff.  July dried out but the Upper Yough released every day but one that month and I managed to bang out 17 laps including a last place finish in Mens K-1 Long in the Glorious Upper Yough Race.  Tired out the lack of new runs in July, the first weekend in August meant my first trip down south.  That weekend, joined by good friends from the area we loaded up the jeep and drove south to Saluda.  A sleepless night of nonstop driving got us to the put in where a short break took me down the Green Narrows for the first time.  Two more days of fun and Greening followed, but word was no release for our last day there.  Fortunately rain came, and a low but fun first run down the North Fork Blackwater River with my trip companions happened.  September meant the start of school and Gauley season, and hurricane season.  Of course, Labor Day meant a trip to New York for Beaverfest with the crew.  We went non-stop from WashPa to Fowlersville Falls to kick off a weekend of Bottom Moose, Raquette, Beaver, and Oswegatchie boatings.  A few days later, following Dave Carey down Dunbar Creek after the second hurricane led to a cracked boat and catching the tail end of the water during my first Upper Blackwater trip led to a destroyed boat.  Hard work at Gauley Fest (and partying, and Upper G runs) got me a Nomad which helped chase the following storm's water down classic Delaware Water Gap creeks Van Campens and Hornbecks.  The rain kept coming in October, and we kept boating.  Halloween weekend marked my first ever run on Gluteal Mash only days after my first run down the Russell Fork Gorge.  Wrapping the season up was the greatest show in sports, the Green Race.  The beginning of November was marked with another trip down to Saluda with a pitstop in Johnson City to visit displaced Morgantownie, JB Seay, and run the Watagua.  Taking friends down the Green for the first time before the race was a blast, and we wrapped that trip up with a run down the Tallulah Gorge in Georgia.  The rest of the month slowed down as finals and holidays kicked into full gear, and I managed to paddle still through November and early December.

2011 has had its ups and downs.  I paddled 154 days on 38 new rivers, logged over 1000 river miles, and what would be a over a half marathon in vertical feet.  I broke 3 creek boats this year, but my Nomad's going strong!  My swim count is less than optimal, but I've got something to work on for 2012 like learning how to roll.  Met many new friends, saw lots of people (including myself) make huge strides, saw and shared new rivers with many people.  It was a good year, so I'm going to share the highlights.

First time in my first Everest, dropping Toyota Falls in Morgantown, WV
Photo: Liz Stout
It was actually 60 degrees that day in February, Chris Kyle's first day of paddling in 2011.
Photo: Radley Miller
That next day, the ice in the Coliseum below 7 Foot Falls almost landed on us.
Photo: Matt Bernstein
Chris Kyle boofing the crap out of everyone's favorite, Tohickon Creek.
Photo: Radley Miller
Glen King loading up for a boof at 7 Foot Falls.
Photo: Radley Miller
Myself taking a boof onto the clapper of the Meadow Run Cascade.
Photo: Mike Maloney
A little incident at Meat Cleaver, Upper Yough.
Photo: Radley Miller
Charging my way to last place in the UY Race.
Photo: Christine Traver
A summer thunderstorm made the 12 hour journey from New Hampshire to Ohiopyle worth it for Andrew Fournier.
Photo: Radley Miller
Spanking the Monkey - Chris Heim
Photo: Radley Miller
Boofing the Narrows on the Raquette.
Photo: Shawn Yingling
Jeff Blood's monster boof on Knife's Edge on the Bottom Moose.
Photo: Radley Miller
First waterfall in the Dagger Nomad - Heaven's Gate VCM-DE Water Gap
Photo: Sam Mease
Wonder Falls
Photo: Mike Maloney
Caleb Adams loading up on the Watauga Gorge
Photo: Radley Miller

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Whitewater Philosophy - The Things I've Noticed

I'd like to preface this with two statements: 1) This is not a cut at anyone, just a general observation from my short time paddling whitewater in different areas. 2) Take everything I write lightly, your opinion may differ but in the end we're all boaters.

It's only been since April-May of 2009 since I started boating, but not only has kayaking been a big part of my life, it has begun to take over my life in a healthy way.  The first few months of my boating career were spent on the Lehigh River, Muddy Creek, and learning how to surf at Scudders Falls on the Delaware with the aspiring hopes to do the Lower Yough and Tohickon Creek that year.  I tried to put my butt in a boat as much as possible.  My first boat, purchased before I even started kayaking was a Savage Skreem, saw very few river days and collected dust as I purchased a ZG 48 and paddled that for most of my first year.  Unfortunately, I never made it out to the Yough that year, due to a ruptured ear drum surfing at Scudders which put me out of kayaking for four weeks.  I did however manage to go to the Tohickon, and do my first real class III.

What was frustrating for me my first year was seeing other beginners progress at a much faster rate.  Once I sat next to someone and heard them receive a compliment that they would become a good boater.  I saw other boaters getting chances and opportunities to run the rivers I wanted to run, yet somehow got passed up.

Spring of 2010, I viewed as my chance to catch up and finally start to paddle.  Especially, due to my inexperience, I was not able to attend trips and paddle with my friends that were more experienced than me.  Hearing their stories and seeing pictures of harder runs really made me want to get out there and get at it too.  So, the only way I saw to improve was to log my seat time on rivers I was paddling to hone my skills so that I would then be invited on those bigger trips.  If you get to know me well, you'll learn a simple fact, I enjoy challenges and I saw proving that I was able to paddle was my goal.  On a side note, being discredited or made to feel inadequate really sets me off, and sometimes I take things to personally and graduate college a year early just to make a point...but I digress.  I really, really want to do the Cheat Canyon during Cheat Fest, that was my goal, and when I was told I wasn't ready it only made me want it more.

I ended up doing the Cheat, a few weeks later I graduated from UD in three years, and moved to New England to start the next part of life's journey as a graduate student at WVU.  I chose WVU not only for the opportunities they offered me academically (working on my first publication at the moment) but also the opportunity to improve my skills in one of the best kayaking regions in the county.

Upon moving to West Virginia, I ran the Upper Yough for the first time under the guidance of one of the few people at the time who told me I was ready for something, instead of telling me that I needed to relax.  Things kinda went out of control since then, but this is just getting to the meat.

So, I started paddling in the Delaware/Philly area and have since moved to West by God Virginia and I've noticed a lot of differences between the two.

People here tend to progress a lot faster than people back home.  I attribute that to the fact that we have so many quality runs of different ability levels in such short distance that it is easy to develop skills because you do not have to invest so much time into traveling to go paddling.

Even the boats that most people paddle in the two areas are different.  I personally have a 3 boat quiver, the Pyranha Molan, Pyranha Everest, and the Dagger Greenboat.  When I lived in Delaware, I almost exclusively paddled my playboat and this was because it the runs that are in that area are all play rivers, and when people traveled out to the Lower Yough, it was to surf Swimmers or something else.  I never wanted to paddle my creekboat, it was too long, it didn't turn fast enough, and it didn't surf.

Living out here, I've seen a different side of things.  Most people's primary boat is a creekboat, and their secondary boat is either a long boat or a playboat.  When living in Delaware, it seemed cool to be able to take your playboat down anything.  Big water, creeks, rivers, anything, because it is so unforgiving "it will make you a better creeker if you paddle your playboat on most things."  From what I've noticed about that phrase it is also compares to "I like this creekboat because it paddles like my playboat."  People that tend to spend a lot of time in a little playboat also tend to prefer a smaller sized creekboat for the reason I just mentioned.

Here it is different, one of the best and well respected paddlers in this area told me once "whatever creek boat you think is your size, get the next size up."  Which for a while perplexed me.  If I am on a technical creek that involves making a lot of moves, why would I want something bigger?  Well, I figured that out pretty quickly after trying two Pyranha creek boats side by side.  The medium Burn and the Everest.  From what I could tell, both boats turned and responded equally, but why since one is much larger?  Simple, the increased volume and rocker of the Everest means that there is less boat in the water.  With less boat in the water, the boat is easier to turn.  So while I can maneuver both the same, the increased volume of the Everest means more ability to resurface and go through holes.  Sold, bigger boat it is on the technical stuff.

What about the run that you do regularly that are difficult, how do you make them harder?  Here is where I have noticed the two schools of thought really come out.  Playboat versus longboat.  Those that want to paddle a playboat on runs such as the Upper Yough, I understand.  The pushiness of the water, and the lack of speed and forgiveness a playboat has makes is difficult to make some of the moves.  If you don't do it perfectly, it ends up with with being upside down or getting beat down in a hole.  Understandable.

However, I have no desire what so ever to take a playboat down the Upper Yough.  I don't like being upside down and I don't like being in holes getting my ass handed to me.  However, I do like a challenge, and that is where the Greenboat comes in to play.  Before moving here, the only time I had heard of anyone paddling a Greenboat was for the Green Race and my impression was that they were for racing, very difficult to paddle, and only pros used them.

I was wrong, and now I paddle my Greenboat almost exclusively.  The lack of speed and stability a playboat has on difficult things can be compensated for by gradient and a good brace.  My first run down the Upper Yough I was overwhelmed by how technical the river was, fast forward six months and I am surprised how open the lines really are.

I think a lot of people here, myself included, view Upper Yough runs as a way to hone creeking skills and keep them sharp.  On something steep, you've got moves to make, little time to react, and penalties that can add up if you miss them.  In the Greenboat, I feel that you have to be more proactive than in a shorter boat.  Though the lines are bigger than I once thought, you have to stay engaged.  You drive the boat through the current, you don't let the current take you which I feel has kept me pretty sharp so far.  Basically how I see it, if you want to get more proficient at maneuvering through technical whitewater, the more length you have, and the more speed you carry make it so that when those skills are transferred to a shorter, more maneuverable creeker, you are able to make the moves that count.

From what I can tell about safety is that it changes depending on the person, but in general I noticed many people when I was starting out were very concerned about me swimming.  People would get very worried to see a boater upside down to the point of blowing their whistle or yelling that there was a danger.  Many people tend to look at some dangers and concern themselves with things that are not necessarily things to worry about.  I blame a lot of this on internet descriptions of hazards that get people worked up.  Many of these hazards are played up and the likelihood of something going wrong is very slim to none, and these hazards are only hazards if you would choose to deliberately paddle into them.  On the other end of the spectrum, those who consistently boat class V tend to overlook moderate hazards on rivers because in the big picture, they too do not pose significant threat other than some bruised egos and scratched boats.

Where I notice the difference is preparedness.  It seems that most, if not all, the boaters that I have paddled with out here carry their unpin kit and first aid kit, and pretty much "shit hits the fan" gear with them at all times.  Maybe it is the nature of creeking in this area, that even on the easy stuff shit can go wrong so we're always prepared and I like it.  I feel that at any moment, you should be prepared to help your fellow boater out of whatever shit is about to happen and if you are willingly doing otherwise you are a detriment to the group and a liability.  Things beyond your control are excusable, but not being prepared frustrates me.  I've got my shit together for when something happens, and I just want to know that other people have theirs together if something ever happened to me.  The one time it did, a crew of great boaters saved my ass and I am thankful for it.

What I've written here has been on my mind since I really started boating in West Virginia and it really started to become obvious when the two sides started to mix.  It's just what I have noticed and that's about it.  Obviously, not everyone feels the same way and not everyone falls into the categories I described but as a whole it's how I see things.  You may feel differently about that, and I'd be more than willing to hear yours.



The next blog may be about cheese steaks.

Upper Yough GNAR

My friend Burton went down south over Memorial Day weekend and scored a 4250 in his old school canoe down the Green River Narrows.  His post about the Narrows GNAR got me inspired to do one for the Upper Yough to make things interesting this summer, but I need help. Comment, email, whatever needs to go in here.

Here is the current list for the Upper Yough River, MD:

1.A lap down Upper Yough: +1000
*Running Bird Bath: +
*Running Mel's Toilet Bowl: +
*Running Crack in the Rock: +
*Running National Boof: +
*Running Tommy's Left: +
*Running Time Warp: +
*Running Meat Cleaver Right: +
*Death Slot: +
Paddling the Upper Yough in a canoe: BONUS +500
*Handpaddling the Upper Yough: BONUS +100

2.Eddys (Double points for shotgunning a beer in any of these eddys)
*Left at Gap Falls: +
*Above National: +

*National Falls: +
*Cheeseburger: +

4.Cartwheels: +50 for first 2 ends +50 for each additional end
*National Falls
*Trapp Run Falls
*Above Lost and Found
*Wright's Hole
*Luke's Final Insult

5.Enders: +25
*National Falls
*Powerful Popper

6.Rock Spins, Splats, Wheels, and Grinds
*Generic: +50
*National Falls Splat: +100

7.Style Points
*Rail Grabs: +50
*Brown Claws: +50
*Paddle Toss: +100
*Handrolling after paddle toss or loss +250
*Backwards off Rapids: +250
*Legs out above Gap Falls: +50
*Legs out from below Double Pencil Sharpener: +100
*Legs out from above Double Pencil Sharpener: +200

*Tailgating the bubble at Sang Run +100
*Shotgunning a beer at Wait Rock:
*Shotgunning a beer at National:
*Shotgunning a beer in Lost and Found:
*Doing 2 laps on a 3 hour release: BONUS +1000

*Pro Call Out - "I can't believe your a pro, I'm so much better than you!" +50
*Ego Claim, to strangers -"Just so you know, I'm the best boater on the river!": +50
*Radness Yell - "Hey Check me out, I'm going to rip the shit out of this!": +50

10.Negative Points
*Missing the bubble: -50
*Running National Boof backwards (without calling it first): -300
*Breaking a paddle: -100
*Flipping (and rolling up): -50
*Flipping and swimming: -250
*Anything that requires hiking out: -1000

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

End of Spring Update and Whitewater Philosophy part 2

Wolfe popping his Wonder cherry.
Joe doing the same.
Matt fired up Splat later on in the weekend.
Splat got a bunch of people that weekend.  This was one of the friendlier carnage runs.
Hehehe, gotcha.
Saturday of Cheatfest, I took a decent sized group down for their 1st and 2nd descents of the run, and my 20th, and I put together a little video.

After Cheat Fest, paddling resumed as normal.  Things started to dry out for a bit and we went back to the trusty Youghs for boating.  The week after Cheat Fest, the Yough Lake was so full they had to do highwater discharges to get the lake down to a safe level.  Took advantage of this and went out in the Molan to get used to it.  The first run on the Lower Yough went pretty well, second one was terrible, and I finished my week off with my first Upper Yough run of the year.  Finished that weekend off with a birthday paddle down the Stonycreek for a friend and party at Mountain State the day after.  Paddling the Upper and Stony were good confidence boosters after having a terrible day on the Lower as I just couldn't figure out the boat and swam once and came close another time.

Liz, Chris, and Kenai shredding with us that fateful day on the Lower. Kenai wasn't the biggest fan of the whole shredding idea.

With more rain that was forecasted, more boating was done.  Mostly on the Lower Big Sandy, Meadow Run, Fike Run, and Top Yough.  The usual runs as they are becoming for us.

Martin and Ryan R-2ing Wonder Falls.
In this picture, we can see Katie refusing to make out with Walter, Ryan and Martin sucking, and therefore brining Walter down due to their mess in 1st Island.  It should be noted that Walter is not to blame for any of this, or at least that's how he tells the story.
He made them get their shit together by 2nd Island.
Jen dropping Wonder Falls the day after the rafting trip.
Curly Steve running Wonder.
After the LBS run with Curly Steve and Jen, we hit Meadow Run at 1.5'.  No pictures as the trip went by pretty quickly.

So that catches me up until this past weekend when Sam came to visit from New York to understand what creeking was about.  So, like any good friend, I kicked his ass that weekend.  Friday we did 1 lap on Fikes and 3 on Meadow Run.  Saturday he banged out a double LBS run, and then Sunday we topped it off with 2 laps on the Top Yough.  Dude got a lot of boating and 3 PFDs out of one trip, and did very well!

First up on the menu was Fikes, and Sam ran the Room of Doom.
After Fikes, we drove to Ohiopyle, and in normal fashion, didn't let him scout the first drop of Meadow Run.  On his second lap, he chucked up a Brown.
Nori was thinking about getting a Greenboat, so I let him try mine.  Afterall, it's the shit.
Brian H. running Cascade as well.  Much better than being a rookie guide in a ducky I bet!
Sam being a little camera shy on 7 Foot Falls.
Wouldn't let him get away with having a perfect weekend.  He did get stuck on this rock for a few minutes.
We ran into Uncle Jesse, and he showed us how it's down on The Slides.
After getting work done all day Saturday while Sam run the Big Sandy, we fed him desert in Oakland on the Top Yough,

Sam' first run down Swallow Falls.
Walt standing up and coming in for an R-1 landing.
Matt on Swallow Falls.
Laura camouflaged in her in her white Jefe and Rocker.

Sam getting it done on Swallow Tail Falls.
The safety crew at Suck Hole.
He's got a little captain in him.  He'll also kick your ass and make fun of you before he throws you off the ship, but in this case he'll just throw you a rope if you would need it.  He'll stick make fun of you though, either way.
Sam making the moves in Suck Hole.
Laura coming in for a landing in the middle of Suck Hole.
Well, that about sums it up.  It's been a good spring so far, but it looks like stuff is starting to dry up.  Luckily the Upper Yough is just 45 minutes away from here and we've got releases 3 days a week.  Anyways, if you just looked at the pictures, here are all of the recent videos.


(I put together a little short of me paddling the Greenboat down Meadow, Top Yough, and Big Sandy since I love that boat so much)



Sunday, April 24, 2011

Overdue Update

A lot has happened in the six weeks since I have posted last.  In the beginning, I tried to be pretty faithful with posting up updates weekly about what's going on in my life.  Well, so much has been going on, I haven't really had the time to update, so I'll give it my best shot to summarize.

It started off with spring break and heading home.  Upon arriving home Friday night, I spent some time with the family and then immediately left Saturday morning to paddle the Tohickon with some friends from home.  I spent the next week with my family and Kate, and managed to get out to Holtwood at a great flow.  Too bad I've been in the creekboat so much, that I forgot how to playboat!!  Oh well.  Here's a few pics from then:

Chris getting a big ole boof at the top of Racecourse.

 At Holtwood, Craig Kleckner throwing down!

Matt Booth about to go big!

Topher Smith blunting the Pyranha Varun

After my trip home, I returned to WVU to finish out the semester and get work done.  I also started my master's research which has been quite the adventure in itself.  The last month has been great weather wise, offering plenty of options to run different stuff.  Here are the highlights from the past few weeks.  The first thing that I did when I got back was take Justin Takasawa down the Lower Big Sandy for his first time, and Dave Stephens and Chris Kyle down the Top Yough for their first times.
Chris on his way down Swallow Falls.
Chris entering Suck Hole for the first time.
Camera started to fog, but Dave ran Suck Hole too.

When we got a lot of rain, Chris and I ran Daugherty Creek with Mike Crenshaw, Casey Tango, and Brad Romano.  I had a close call at Undercut Rapid, but after that it went really well.  Once we got done, Casey and Mike fired up Pringle Run, and Mike fired up Pringle Falls, a sweet 20 footer.
After that big rain day, it was a few days on the LBS and Meadow Run, and the other day I took my newly acquired Greenboat down the Middle Fork.  Here are the highlights, from about 600 pics from those few trips!
Chris Preparato dropping Wonder Falls.
Heim on Big Splat.
Finally a shot of me, Radley dropping Wonder Falls in the Greenboat. 
(The only reason this shot exists is because Heim thought I was going to get my ass kicked and he wanted it on camera)
The next few pictures are from a birthday creeking adventure for my friend Glen King.  Glen's wife Elisa asked me if Glen could come visit and do some kayaking for his birthday and of course I obliged.  She got him some creeking booties and some elbow pads and sent him west to learn to paddle like a man.  His first day creeking, we ran Muddy Creek, Fike Run, Meadow Run (2x), on day 2 was the Middle Fork, and day 3 was Meadow Run (2x) and the Loop at 5.6' (2x).  It was a good weekend!

Nori Onishi spanking a big boof right after the slides about 7 Foot Falls on Meadow Run (he later brown 
clawed another boof)
He learns quickly! Glen nailing the 7 Foot Falls boof on his first day creeking.
Jeff Felton taking the Greenboat through Death Slot 2000 on the Middle Fork
Chrystal Hauser coming through it too.
Jeff with another sweet boof on some random rapid.
Glen kickin' back and relaxing!  NOTE: Middle Fork is a perfect Greenboat run.
Glen hitting the boof onto the Clapper on Cascade
Jeff Felton boofing in the middle of Cascade
Mike Maloney doing some weird hand gesture.  He paddles a hero, so it isn't a brown claw.
Mike with some sort of normal behavior dropping onto the clapper.
Matt eddied out on the slide.
Heads up, in the center of this picture is a bad pin spot.  It is a crack on the last slide above 7 foot falls.  Make sure you are a left!
Glen hitting 7 Foot Falls again.
Matt browning 7 Foot.
Felton with a great boof.
Mike with the boof.
Going deep!
Matt with a good bounce on the Slide.

And that pretty much wraps up the pictures.  I got some videos to share though.