Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gnarlfestivus 2013

Well hello there human. Hope you're feeling good and having fun as much as possible. Speaking of fun, this past weekend was the inaugural Gnarlfest race and party! Race organizer, or as clever Mr. Cavin puts it-- disorganizer, Justin Patt and myself were talking on the ride up how many people would attend this year. We were worried that many California kayakers would be at Burnfest instead up on the Trinity river. Normally, the two events are held on separate weekends, but this year, more water was scheduled to release out of Little Grass Valley reservoir, the week after our 'normal' date. So, we decided to delay the race for a week to get 400 cfs, a much more pleasant flow than 350.

Boy were we surprised upon reaching the put-in. Tons of boaters scattered the picturesque scene as we took a practice lap on friday. The Gnarfest race course has to be one of the steepest, stoutest, and funnest sections to charge full-throttle in California. Its pretty short, but you get a fun little class IV paddle out of around 2 or 3 miles. Then you have to decide whether you want to hike-out the Post creek trail, plus the road which is now closed by Sierra Pacific (thanks guys); or to, keep paddling the South Feather river all the way to the next little man-made dam. I always chose to hike-out on my 6 laps so far this season, and I can honestly say I feel a little more in-shape because of it. Plus, the shuttle is much shorter and easier when you hike-out, and I took advantage of my sweet new ride. I got a little 49cc motor bike, which literally is a bicycle with a motor on it. Gets a 100 miles to the gallon though baby!

So, as usual, we partied pretty hard the night before the race, and Anthony provided us with some exciting Poi demonstrations that had us all a bit scared that the forest was gonna catch on fire. I'm sure our camping neighbors loved us! Come race time, which is always a proper display of California boaters taking their time and enjoying each others company, the skies opened up and gave us some warm sun to start the charge. For a moment, we almost started the race before our safety boaters were set-up, and this was a very good decision as their help was critical for a few racers. Therefore, we waited a mere 5 minutes, and I fired off the starting line like some steam out of a locomotive. This is the only race that I know of where a GoPro camera is used to time everyone.

Its a simple but effective scheme, in that the first racer, which was me this year, wears the GoPro and keeps it running after he finishes is race and films all the other racers hitting the finish line. Then we go back and use their start times, to see how long it took each racer to complete the Gnarl-zone. Unfortunately, 2 racers didn't complete the race, at least in the amount of time my GoPro battery lasted. Our back-up GoPro man, Gavin, got tossed in Mad Dog and swam. Then, Tay Cav broke his paddle in Mad Dog and C-1'ed to the eddy above the falls where Robby Hogg pulled him to safety. Gnar indeed!  I would like to send a huge thanks to Nick Urquhart, Anthony, Robby and any other safety boaters I forgot. Your help makes us all feel safer.

For the racers that did finish the run, not a single one, got through without getting jangled up at least once. I guess I got jangled the least and took first, but was still 6 seconds from beating Justin Patt's record from last year in the mighty Greenboat. Its hilarious how we go from, last year having something like 5 out of 8 racers running the Greenboat, to none. This is mainly because hiking-out with a Greenboat is pretty brutal, and it just goes to show it isn't that much faster than the Nomad on this Gnarly course where flat water is scarce.

As our normal party location was pretty crowded with hunters and such, we decided to have the party next to the dam at an old quarry. It was a great venue for us Gnarly boaters to drink our beloved awards in grand ceremony. If you don't already know, the alcoholic beverage known as Four Loko was banned in 50 states for having too much fun in a single can. Therefore, the company lowered the fun level and it stayed on the shelves. Lucky for us, we have a reserve of what we call OG 4Lokos, ones from the original era with the max fun level. Unlucky for us, the liquid seems to be eating through the cans in their ripe age of around 3-4 years, and we have lost many of the OGs to can malfunction.

This year, only one OG 4Loko was awarded, and I was the lucky recipient. However, we decided this year, more 4Loko fun needed to ensue for the racers. So, we forced the other top racers, one DNF'er, and the two buddies who finished at the same time to chug a 4Loko in under their race time. This may not seem to hard, but I can honestly say taking down my OG lemonade 4loko in under 3:05 was pretty brutal. Let it be noted that Taylor Robertson single handedly dominated the competition in the Chug-athon.

Thomas and crew gathered a hefty amount of firewood, and thus, we raged until the rains sent us to our sleeping bags. Gnarlfest was a great success and saw 4 more racers than last year. Only 12 brave soldiers gave their all in a race for fun. Gnarlfest is a grassroots event that we hope continues for a long time. Enjoy the video from my race lap. As with all GoPro footage though, it just doesn't do this run justice. Until next year, keep the stoke up for the Gnarl!

Royal Gorge 13'

This year, 2013, was a weak snowpack year in the Sierras. As soon as the snow cleared from the road leading into the Royal Gorge, the flow dropped below the recommended level. I couldn't be held back from getting in there, and convinced Ben Coleman and Charles King that it would still be 'fun'. The gauge at Clementine was reading around 650cfs, and we normally do it around 1000.

Once we got in there, we were actually surprised at how good it was. Sure, it was really bouncy and slow, but just getting to experience that wilderness is worth it. Halfway through a gnarly section that we were portaging part of, I was confronted by someone on foot shouting at us from above on the opposite side of the river. I couldn't understand him at first and kept inspecting, what seemed to be, a familiar human. I was right, and recognized him as someone I had talked to at the dog park in Grass Valley. He asked, "are you guys certified?". I answered with a "Yes sir". I reckoned we were about as certified as it gets to be kayaking in there. So, we continued working our way down to the famous Heath Springs gorge without trouble.

I love the lead-in rapid to Heath 1 waterfall, and quickly decided to run it. Ben and King on the other hand were questioning running any of the Heath series. The reason I love the lead-in rapid, is because you go super deep! That I did, except I flipped in the process and barely hit a roll before going over the next slide. Stoked on the lead-in, I then waited on Ben to walk around and get photos of me running the 40 foot falls. This is something I'm not very good at-- waiting on the cameraman to get ready before running a significant drop. I much prefer having the camera ready before I even get in my boat, and then go exactly when I choose to. I was ready, but Ben wasn't. I kept anxiously looking over the horizon line waiting for the thumbs up. When the time finally came, I charged the lip too hard and ended up landing a little flat and crooked. The impact was massive, and the sound of my boat echoed through the canyon like a gunshot. I knew something wasn't right.

Surprisingly, after the impact, I got out of my boat and started to scout Heath 2, which has been on my check-list for quite some time now. The realization set in pretty quick that I wasn't going to be able to run Heath 2 or maybe even the rest of the river. After a little time of sussing out the situation, it became clear that I had hurt my ribs. Ben and King helped me make the decision to continue downstream to Rattlesnake and make the call whether to hike-out from there, or not. The main reason for this, being that the land, leading up to Heath Springs is private, and kayakers hiking-out is greatly frowned upon. Whereas, the trail that leads out of Royal Gorge at Rattlesnake Falls is public.

Portaging around Heath 2 and the Crux Gorge wasn't easy with throbbing ribs, but I manage to stay safe and get back down to the river. The first rapid I was faced with after said portaging isn't easy-- a solid class V rapid. But with some positive reinforcement from Ben, I successfully limped my way down the rapid. With only a couple more painful portages on rapids I would have normally run, had I not been hurt, I found myself stoked to be resting above Rattlesnake Falls.

The area around Rattlesnake is incredibly beautiful, and I began to appreciate being there with some good friends. Even though my ribs were killing me with every breathe, I was staying positive and hoping to feel better in the morning. Sleep was good, and I awoke the next morning feeling with much less pain. I made the decision to paddle out with the boys, over making the grueling hike-out alone. I immediately realized this was a good decision as I was able to reasonably deal with the low-flow rapids that ensued. Sure, I portaged my ass off because there are some huge drops in there like Scotts, Wabena, and some un-named 20'ers. I did decide to plop off Split Falls and had a decent line without having to roll.

To make a long story, slightly less long, we paddled the extremely long paddle out below Wabena falls before darkness set-in. As I continued to paddle, my ribs actually began to loosen up and feel better with every mile, surprisingly. I even probed a couple of the burlier rapids simply because it was more painful to eddy out, than it was to simply brace my way down. Moral of the story-- take your time, don't get over-excited for a drop, be calm, and go kayaking-- even if its only half the flow you're used to. The Royal Gorge is an amazing place that I hope to experience many more times, with more wisdom from my previous descents. I hope to only become stronger, wiser, and calmer as the years continue. Here are some of the few shots from the trip. Keep Charging!

King Charles gearing up for Royal!

Mr. King sending a sweet boof.

Will Pruett about to plug in.

Still good at low-flow.

Looks like a good line, but wasn't.

Twisted fire starter.

You could have still run it, but none of us did.

Magnificent scenery.

Charles doing some river-side Yoga.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Land Of New Zea

Here are my pictures from an epic trip to New Zealand in January. I will let them do the talking.