Wednesday, August 30, 2006

US National Whitewater Center Video Tour

Take a video tour of the USNWC - CLICK HERE to download in quicktime format!

Last weekend I was privileged to be invited along with fellow paddle sports reps and friends, Rion Smith and Scott Sullivan, to try out the whitewater course at the newly operational US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. This facility has been under construction for a few years and has finally become a reality. Sarah Harper is the director of paddling instruction at the park and kindly showed us down the course for a couple hours last Saturday evening before the US National Slalom Championships.

I have to say I was extremely impressed with what they have built there. With this blog entry my goal was to show my experience paddling there for the short time we spent on the water. Hopefully the stills and video tour will give you an idea of what is in store for your first visit to the USNWC.

This is the pool where you start. Some people call this a "put in." Over to the left in the background you can see the control tower and the water pumps to the right of it. On the right in the background you see the climbing tower and park entrance.

If you put in and paddle to the right you will go down the Class III-IV "race" channel. This is the course where they held the US National Slalom Championships. It is shorter, steeper, narrower and faster than the other channel, though very fun.

This is a pretty nice drop with a hole at the bottom. After you enter the race channel you are pretty committed. If you are not a solid class IV paddler I would recommend that you work over in the other channel for a while before paddling here. The reason I say you are pretty committed is that you can't just get out any old place. You will notice that the walls on the sides are at an angle that is very difficult to climb coupled with the fact that most of the eddies are moving about as fast as the downstream water. With all this in mind don't let me scare you away if you are easily spooked. The will have river guards (life guards) on duty at all times and you can stand up just about anywhere in the entire river. Plus, some of the employees have already swum the entire course from top to bottom just to see what it would be like for a swimming boater. The swimming report got two thumbs up.

Here is the last major drop of the race channel, terminating in a somewhat sticky hole and some seriously turbulent eddies on both sides. If you don't like "funny" water you should blaze right down the middle here. I should mention that throughout this entire course you can eddie hop pretty easily and scout your line as you go. You'll want to make that call depending on your skill level.

You end up at the bottom in this massive pool where you catch a quick ride to the top on a magic carpet. This river almost ends where it begins. I'm sure this will confuse the average joe rafter who is already notorious for asking the question, "do we get out the same place we get in?"

At the top you slide over these shiny rollers and plop back in the pool where you started. If you cruise to the right at this point you will be heading down the "rodeo" channel.

This is a view looking back upstream just after dropping into the rodeo channel.

At this point you may choose to split Left, into the beginner, Class I-II channel, or split Right, into the Class III-IV stuff. Notably the Class I-II section is much lower volume and has large, slow eddies. It's perfect for any beginner whitewater paddler. I should also note that the whole park does have rocks on river left and right every hundred feet or so where you can get out of your boat if you have to. Some spots are easier than others. Also regarding the "rodeo" channel, the width is much greater over there than in the race channel. Probably twice as wide for most of its length. This photo gives you an idea of the width difference.

This course is littered with small holes and waves that are fun for wave wheels, kick flips, cartwheels, blunts, you name it. I imagine they will tweak most of these play spots the more they learn about them as they go along to alter and improve them. This spot was a really fun surging wave where you could hit spins, blunts and cartwheels. I even hit a couple mcnasties there.

About half the way down the rodeo channel you go through this semi-munchy hole that is actually really fun to play in. Cartwheels were really fast here and I saw Sarah Harper hit a loop. I think this spot has a lot of potential.

Just after this the river turns right and funnels down before the last hoorah of rapids. You can see here that it gets calmer but more constricted and you notice a horizon line at the bridge.

When you drop over this you start down a slide that ends at M-Wave, which is a close duplicate of the M-Wave in Montrose, Colorado. For anyone who has ever surfed at the actual M-Wave, the Charlotte version is pretty similar except more foam pile and about half as fast water speed, making the wave more friendly. The eddies are similarly turbulent to the real M-Wave, but not quite the same power. Though, the incoming green water is just as shallow as the actual M-Wave so be aware of that.

Here is looking back upstream from a surfer's point-of-view in the M-Wave.

And a shot of the same wave from the bridge. There is a photo of this wave in the newest Paddler Magazine that you may have seen.

After this there are a couple hundred yards more of fun whitewater, ending in a smaller, but fun wave, then flattening off into the bottom pool on the opposite side from the race channel.

Rion, Scott and I all agreed that this place is awesome and it holds huge potential for the growth and perpetuation of our sport. Hopefully other US cities will take a note from this fine example and use their resourses to make something similar happen in their own towns. Asheville, Atlanta, DC, Columbia and many more places already have perfect, urban rivers that are aching to have their stream beds altered slightly to accomodate the many paddlesports entusiasts living there. Not only is it really accessable and fun but this park makes huge economical sense, saving tons of gas money for local paddlers who previously had to drive hours to paddle. Additionally it projects an incredibly healthy, active image to the impressionable, non-outdoor enthusiast, especially urban kids who have never been exposed to the outdoors. Furthermore, I believe this place will make an incredibly positive and substantial impact on local and otherwise southeastern outdoor retail businesses, namely whitewater paddlesport dealers.

The people working at the US National Whitewater Center are extremely nice and welcoming and there is something at this facility for everyone. Aside from the river you will find 25 miles of mountain biking trails, climbing walls, a high ropes course, flat water paddling on the Catawba River (located beside the park), food, retail shopping and more. If you have your own boat and all your own gear $15 gets you an hour and a half of boating, and believe me that is plenty of time to wear you slap out. A bonus is that they only allow 30 people per session. Apparently the Penrith, Ausralia course only has one channel and they allow 100 people per session. So, Charlotte is making this as appealing as possilbe. Oh, you'll want to remember to stay hydrated out there. The water is warm and so is the air. I imagine fall, winter and spring will be very pleasant times to paddle there, concerning the temperature.

I give this place an A+

Take a video tour of the USNWC - CLICK HERE to download in quicktime format!

Thanks for visiting the Riot blog,

Spencer Cooke, Team Riot

Check out my newest kayaking DVD, "Enter The Donkey"

Monday, August 28, 2006

Canada's got the goods...

Greetings fellow whitewater enthusiasts!

I'm back in Asheville after what has so far been the best year of paddling of my whole life. Just thought I'd share a couple of pics from my favourite wave, High Tension on the Upper Gatineau. Click on the picture for a larger version.

I don't know how it could be more perfect...

I got to spend a total of six days at High Tension this year... which is kind of unheard of in the summer, and was brought about by some very large storms in the watershed. My friends and I decided to do a playboating overnighter in order to avoid the crowds, so we each hauled in like 50 pounds of crap through some pretty big water to make it to the wave. It was all worth it after our first session; I can't really imagine a cooler place to fall asleep.

Paradise Island.

Kelsey Thompson can make a very good fire!

And on to the paddling... This wave is unique because of its glassy face and uniform shoulder that helps you launch pretty much anything you want! It was awesome getting back in my Astro; it's the best boat that I've ever paddled at just sticking past vert, tweaked out tricks every time. I kept on thinking that I was just going to slam into the green water and flush under the pile while landing big tricks, but the boat would just land flat on the green water and plane sideways without even touching the pile. Very cool feeling...

Panam in the Astro.

The thing just launches...

Helix out in the green.

Here's a cool pic of my friend Ed Smith from Scotland going huge on Garb. Ed is one of the best wave paddlers I've ever boated with, and along with Ben Marr, I think there are going to be some serious dark horses in this World Cup. Good luck boys!

**All pics by Jon Best.**

Anyways, school's started again so I guess it's back to the real world... I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some Toxaway/Raven's/200% Green sometime soon!

Good lines.
-Chris Gragtmans

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Paddling the Green in the Magnum

The Green river is one my favorite rivers in the world because it is an ultra-classic class V creek that runs 90% of the year. With that said, I will go into the good stuff. (Click on pictures to see higher quality).

I thought it was an unlikely it would run, as it hasn’t rained in weeks and it’s ran for the past 3 days, but I was very happy when I called the number and heard the familiar words… “Tuxedo hydro station will be running one unit at 100% capacity from 7:00 am until 12 noon....” It was go time. My dad had really been wanting to see what the green was all about, so I got him to hike in and take some pictures. It was running at a low 100% and the warm-up class II felt scrapier then ever. I passed through Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein with ease, then arriving at Pin cushion where the line has changed semi-recently. Skirted around the log and continued to bomb the boogie water. A lot of this top stuff is really fun to bomb down, especially in the Magnum, which is the fastest creek boat I have paddled. Soon I arrived at Boof or Consequence after Boof, I eddied out above Go Left and Die.. This was where my Dad was supposed to be. I didn’t see him around so I got on on river left and began hiking down.

I found him and our weird dog named Lyra at Gorilla.

Both were looking a little worse for wear from the hike. We hiked back up and I ran Go left, banging the slot a little as I came rocketing through. That slot gets so narrow at these low water levels…

I went and caught the Zwick’s eddy, then peeled out and boofed the hole.

Next game Chiefs, which gets sketchier and sketchier the lower the water gets. I waited as my dad made his way down to just above the notch. Then Pencil Sharpener… I went for the flying squirrel, (far river left). It went smoothly and put me in perfect position for the notch. I caught the eddy just above gorilla, going from a boof to rudder stroke and planing into the eddy.

I boofed off the pad, with a big lefty, and hit speed trap straight on. It spun me in the eddy, but didn’t keep me luckily. (I got caught in there for the first time the day before). The slides below gorilla only add onto the enormous rush that you get after you run gorilla.

Rapid Transit was bouncy and scrapey as usual. A lot of boat-breaking potential in that rapid for sure…

I got down to nutcracker, and ran the far left slot. Evidently there is a line in the middle of the river, it’s pretty sketchy though. (Get your bow hard left, or risk an awful piton and/or a nasty pin). Spencer Cooke ran it recently, and it will be interesting to see if more people start firing that up… Groove Tube is always fun. Kicking it down on the center line.

Sunshine was sketchy low, I got a good amount of rock and my boat drove up on top of the rock and I landed fairly flat in the eddy below.

I paddled around in a little circle inside the sunshine cave, before peeling out onto the second ledge. The rest of the run went smoothly, and I was thinking about how little people I had seen (it was a Saturday after all), when I got to Hammer Factor. Here I found about 20 people all hanging out at Hammer Factor. (Sprinkle, Chris Houston, Steven, both Nicks, etc etc etc). Everyone was fired up because about 4 tubers had just run Toilet bowl and Hammer Factor, and evidently there was some good carnage. A little disappointing that I missed their runs, but it was pretty funny hearing them talk about it. Got to the takeout, where the usual summer scene awaited. (Hot tubing girls/ little congregations of paddlers talking about their runs). Sprinkle gave me a ride back to the put-in in his super sporty shuttle rig. Another great day on the river!

Signing out,
Nathan Silsbee

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ohiopyle Falls Festival This Weekend! (Saturday, August 26)

This weekend is the 8th annual Ohiopyle Over the Falls Festival! American Whitewater, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds & Rivers, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, announce that the Eighth Annual American Whitewater Ohiopyle Over-The-Falls Festival, August 26, 2006.

Watch Adam’s 2005 Ohiopyle Falls Freestyle Run

2006 Over The Falls Festival Poster
The activities start at 8 am on Saturday (26th) in Ohiopyle State Park for Registration. From about 9:00 or 9:30 until Noon there will be Practice Runs and a how to run waterfalls Clinic.

A few words about the Clinic: the people that attend the clinic and participate in it will be put into a database of names. That database (organizers hope) will later be used, if/when Ohiopyle Falls becomes "open", as a master list for those that have permission to run the falls. In short, it would be encouraged to be on the Clinic list, even if you already know how to run waterfalls.
Run the Falls!
Jeff Snyder from Maryland, Roger Loughney from Pennsylvania, Chuck Morris, as well as myself, Adam Johnson, will be helping teach the clinics.

At Noon: the falls race will commence (a 200-yard whitewater course that includes two-foot, four-foot and eighteen-foot drops). Directly after the race, the Freestyle portion of the event will follow.

This has to be one of the *most* fun freestyle waterfalls on the planet. Not only does it have the 18 footer to do whatever type of freestyle maneuver possible off of, it also has spinning rocks and a spin hole placed 4 feet from the lip of the drop to play in. All in all, an incredible waterfall.

Watch Adam’s 2005 Ohiopyle Falls Freestyle Run

At 6:15 there will be the Upstream Race on Entrance rapid on the Youghiogheny River, guaranteed to be interesting.

Finally, at 7:30 is the Ohiopyle Town Party. ('nuff said)

So, the more people that attend and sign up, the better chance organizers will have to open this waterfall to paddlers in the future. So come out, run the drop, and have fun. There is prize money involved for event winners, free beer at the party, a silent auction, and live music by 706 Union.

Hope to see you there. For more information, please visit .

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Doing the International Boogie in Sri Lanka

After living in Afghanistan for the past year and a half, you would think that one would get sick of being in a conflict zone. However, after scoping out the surf forecast for the east coast of Sri Lanka this season and looking at where the front lines of the fighting in Sri Lanka were at the time, I decided that it was worth the risk to make a go at the trip across the country from Colombo to the far east coast surf mecca of Arugam Bay. Taking my R&R from Afghanistan, Lelania (my wife) and I flew into Colombo and hooked up with a rental van and launched into a 10 hour drive across Sri Lanka, getting into Arugam Bay just in time for an afternoon surf session.

Arugam Bay is a small coastal village on the far east coast of Sri Lanka that has served as a major international surf destination for board surfers for years. A-Bay was hit hard by the Tsunami, with over 500 people lost from the series of waves that hit the village, and it has taken a lot of dedication by the local community to get the place back up and running. Board surfers have been trickling back into the area and their tourist dollars have helped the locals rebuild what was lost and get themselves back on their feet. Prior to the tsunami, A-Bay had been surf kayaked by at least one other party and since the Tsunami A-Bay has been hit up by a fellow from England that did a write up for Playboater Magazine last year who raved about the surf and how cool the people were. I was the second surf kayaker to hit the beach post-Tsunami and I can confirm all that he said, as the locals were great, the surf fantastic and the food and beer rocked (the local Thai restaurant serves fresh locally microbrewed German ales on tap!!!).

The main break is a right point break that just breaks forever over in some places, shallow coral reef. Outside the village, there are several great breaks that are easily accessible with a little walk in after a tuk tuk ride.

The surf was great the whole week we were in SL, with the average break being around chest to head high but with bigger sets rolling in in the morning and afternoon when the wind would change to a slight offshore breeze, producing nice barrels and clean, crisp sets that were just perfect.

I was born and raised board surfing and that was what actually got me into kayaking back in the day, so I was no stranger to surf kayaking prior to this trip. However, in the past I have always surf boated in a playboat since I had no real surf kayak to use. This was my first time trying out the Riot Boogie surf boat and it proved to be a great ride. The boat was super fast when charging down the lineup, the finbox set up kept me right on track and where I wanted to be with no side skipping down the face, and it was a generally comfortable boat that was a joy to throw down in. If you haven't tried the Boogie out, give it a go at your home break, you will be stoked.

Although things have gotten a bit hotter there in the past few weeks since i have been back, Arugam Bay is still not in the crossfire yet and it is still the surf season for the east coast, so if you fancy a bit of combat surf, great seafood, tasty brew, and the chance to meet some awesome local surfers, take a trip south and check out A-Bay, you wont be sorry!

Cheers Yall,


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ottawa Freestyling

Here are some more photos from the recent Canada trip.

Check out the Ottawa Freestyle Video for your viewing enjoyment (5.84mb)

Oh yeah, Garb is good...

Ottawa Freestle Vid (Dial-Up Users Only)

All Photos by Billy Boylan
Ottawa Freestyle Video