Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tutorial: How To Scout Rapids

#1: Get out of your boat carefully. You do not want to be swimming down the rapid you are scouting.
#2 Store your boat in a safe spot. Oftentimes when creeking, you have to stash your boat in a precarious spot (on a slanted rock, on a log or branches, etc). Before you leave your boat, make sure it is safe and will not float away without you.
#3 After your boat is stowed securely, BRING YOUR THROWBAG! I have seen too many people go to scout and walk down to see the rapid without a throwbag in their hands. I have heard of a few people dying on the river because their partner(s) did not have a throw bag with them. Even if the rapid is inconsequential, bring it because someone could end up slipping and falling in, or, when someone runs the rapid, you might not have time to run up and get your throwbag.
#4: Analyze the rapid. Look at it for a line. Find its hazards (caves, sieves, undercuts, holes, etc). Make sure to look at it from different angles as not everything is obvious from a single angle (a rock could look fine from one angle; whereas, from another angle, you could see the 12' undercut cave in the rapid).

Orion Chapman and Kevin Dombey scouting in California.

#5 Choose your line and stick to it. You should be able to visualize yourself paddling down the rapid even before anyone else runs it. If you cannot visualize yourself running the rapid in your head, you probably should not run it.
#6 Make a "worst case scenario". This should be what would happen if something went wrong. Lets say that you got off line: Where would you go now? How do you get back on line? Where is saftey set for help? Think about questions like these.

Chris Gragtmans scouts trashcan falls.

#7 After you have your line in your head and are confident that you can stick the line, give the rapid one last look and start heading back to your boat. Signal to your friends with hand signals or with a paddle that you will be running it (or not running it).
#8 Look at the horizon line. This is an important step in the scouting process and is often overlooked. You need to know where you are going when you are in your boat. From water level, what markers do you have to reference if you are on line? These could be waves, holes, riffles, trees, how far from the bank you should be, etc).

Find markers on this horizon line.

#9 Get in your boat and make sure you are ready (Skirt is on properly, noseplugs, elbow pads, backband, etc). At this point you will probably have some butterflies in your stomach. All that you should be thinking about is the line that you are about to stick.
Step #10 Ferry out and STOMP YOUR LINE!

Adam Johnson on Celestial Falls, 45'. Photo by Philly Williams.

See you on the river,

-Adam Johnson

Bombing the Soca Front in Slovenia

For those of you that know your military history, you may be familiar with the Soca Front of Slovenia, which was the third of the major frontlines of WW1 (the others being the eastern and western fronts). The Soca Front was named for the river that split up the opposing forces, the Soca River of Slovenia. With its various sections comprised of class 2-5 rapids, the Soca posed quite an obstacle for each of the armies to cross to make any headway against each other. The Water of the Soca is a surreal blue color due to its pouring out of limestone karstic rock formations in the area and is one of the most beautiful rivers that I have run across and one which will stoke any boater that makes the trip to the area.

Will Soca

Sitting very near to the Northeastern border of Italy, the Soca River has sections of water for everyone, with easy class 2-3 sections for the beginners or those that just want a day of play, to nice class 3-4 sections with slalom gates for those with competition in mind (Slovenia has a strong tradition of whitewater boating and slalom competition, in addition to mountaineering and tecnical climbing), to a great class 4-5 gorge section (referred to locally as the 'Cataracts section').

Soca Gorge entrance

I visited Slovenia in Mid october after a work trip to Italy and was lucky enough to have high enough water to run the gorge section a few times while in the area. With fun technical boulder clog-type rapids, a few good drops (with one of about 3-4 meters), some sticky holes and enough sieves to keep you on your toes, the Gorge was a blast to run and very reminiscent of Watauga Gorge in the Boone, NC area of the US. I hooked up with some great Slovenian boaters through the super cool local Riot Dealer, Piero of Alpin Action (http://www.alpinaction.it/) in Trnovo, Slovenia (located at the putin for the Gorge section). If any of you are interested in hitting the Soca up, drop Piero a line and he will do his best to sort you out with anything from boating partners to any gear that you have spaced out and forgotten. To top it off, to the side of his shop is a boater's bar and coffee shop, situated perfectly to get your pre-boating espresso and your post-boating Union Pivo in!

Cheers yall,


Will Soca iPod

Monday, November 20, 2006

Green River Race From the Eyes of a First Time Racer

For years now I have wanted to be a part of the Green Race family but other engagements have kept me away from the country's best extreme race. This year I planned to stay around the southeast through the first of November and participate in the Green River Narrows Race. The 2006 race showcased 126 racers including some of the galaxy's best kayaking talent, and approximately 500 spectators.

Leading up to race day I wasn't sure what to expect in the race. I have been down the Narrows 100+ times but never actually raced the Narrows. The day before the race I paddled a fast pace but eddied out above Gorilla due to a traffic jam leading into Pencil Sharpner. I found that eddying out and catching your breath makes a big difference in a rapid like Gorilla. My goal for the 06 Green Race was to have fun. My strategy was to paddle a steady pace, stay in the current and have good lines.

Race day I showed up and registered along with the other 100+ kayakers. Because it was my first year racing my start time was near the back of the pack. I was racer number 106. This gave me lots of time for warming up, and visualizing the rapids in my head. Time was moving slow but before long it was my time to go. Ten seconds the starter says, three, two, one, go. I am off into the current and my mind is surprisingly relaxed.

As I paddled into Frankenstein, the first rapid, everything felt good and I made my way down stream. It seemed like my race just started and I was already to Go Left and Die. As I dropped into Go Left I heard somebody yell, "yeah Eightball." Eightball is a nickname I have among my friends in NC. I made a smooth line through Go Left and stayed in the current leading into the next rapid. I linked a couple of other rapids together and before I knew it I was paddling into Chiefs. While exiting Chiefs I looked up to see hundreds of spectators watching and cheering on the rock adjacent Gorilla. I have paddled this river over 100 times and never seen Gorilla this way. It was truly an amazing sight and rather inspiring. I spotted my line going into the first drop of three in Gorilla rapid. As I boofed the ledge, I again heard someone yell my name. I wanted to look away but I stayed focused on the task at hand. Coming through the notch, the middle drop in Gorilla, I felt good but eddied out by accident after the Notch. Stopping in the Notch eddy is not preferred for racing but it does not take long to get back into the current. I rushed back into the current and off the pad I flew. Due to rushing I did not have the best line off of, “the monkey” causing me to flip at the bottom. Next, I rolled up hearing hundreds of spectator's encouraging cheers. To me this is what the Green Race is all about. Pushing your limits to total exhaustion and finding energy from the crowd to keep paddling down stream. I made my way down through the series of slides and finished the race.

I was satisfied with my race results. I finished with a time of six minutes flat and that included a good bit of time rolling up after Gorilla. After racing I realized I could have paddled faster and still had enough energy to finish the race. Next year I plan to have similar training but add more simulated race runs down the Green. The Green Race has been a great learning experience and I can say I am a better kayaker for it. Hopefully I will be back next year to be part of the best kayak race going.

Green River take-out morning of the race. Racers were registering and donating money to the Katie Hilleke Cancer Fund.

Photos by: Jay Gifford and Jason Aytes

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Riot Demo on the James in RVA back in September + Appomattox River Co Photo Contest!

Z-spot at a nice level

Back in September Joey and I traveled out to the surf kayak nationals out at the outer banks of NC. Afterwards we headed up to the James River in Richmond VA to meet up with Appomattox River Company and the local boating community for a Riot demo day. We struck it lucky with the water and were fortunate enough to paddle at Z-Dam at a great level.

Here is a short video of the day's activities CLICK HERE
Enjoy the soundtrack by Richmond's own AVAIL "over the james" - buy it from JadeTree.com

Big thanks to Vikki from Appomattox River Co for organizing and photographing the event.

The RVA crew is always motivated for a boating session when we come into town. Big thanks to the wole crew down in Richmond. We look forward to the next time, probably sometime this coming spring. These guys have one of the best play spots in the southeast. If you ever paddle at any of the Colorado play parks you'll notice a striking resemblance to Z-Spot. This is a perfect hole.

Fellowship by the hole

Some old Riot boats came out of the woodwork for this event.

Team WAV from VCU was there in full force, short bus and all.

Team WAV members tried out the Astro

Scott Wagner is a local who owns an Astro. He was going absolutely huge!

Two or three Discos came out of the woodwork for the event as well as an old Glide.

Joey and I had a lot of fun in our Flairs 47 & 57 and Astro 54
Joey loops

I flipped

Here is a short video of the day's activities CLICK HERE
Enjoy the soundtrack by Richmond's own AVAIL "over the james" - buy it from JadeTree.com


Spencer Cooke, Team Riot

Check out "Enter The Donkey"

Appomattox River Company PHOTO CONTEST
Show off your photography talent at the
Appomattox River Company End of the Year PHOTO CONTEST.
Entries must be in by Nov. 30th
Winners will be announced on Dec 23rd
1st Place Prize $250.00 arc gift certificate
Prizes will be awarded to the top 3 places

Must be your own work
Must be water sports oriented
( i.e.: pics of water sports, boats, gear or taken while canoe or kayaking, etc. use your imagination)
No obscene photos
Photo must be 8x10
Photo must be delivered to the Midlothian Store no later than 7:00pm Nov. 30th
Photo’s will be displayed in the Midlothian Store beginning on Dec. 1
Vote in Midlothian Store only
One vote per person (yes we will keep track to keep it fair)
Any Questions call 804-897-1556 or johnvikki@prodigy.net

Monday, November 06, 2006


The 2006 Green Narrows Race is over yet the adrenaline pumping through the blood of 126 racers is not. It was a beautiful sunny day, and crowds of people lined the banks of the river. (Photo: Doug Silsbee)

One person per minute are released from the top to challenge the rapids of the Green. It is a delicate balance of conserving your energy for the biggies yet paddling hard enough to get a decent time... Here is a photo of Gragtmans digging deep in the last stretch of the race. (Photo: Casey Jones)

It has been confirmed: The Magnum is not only an amazing kayak that is incredibly forgiving, and boofs like a charm... It's fast as hell too. Team Riot had great finishes, taking 3 out of the top 6 slots in the shortboat division.

* Results * (Click Here for Full Results and Overall Placement)

---Pat Keller won the Green Race---

Top 5 Longboat:

1. Pat Keller (Dagger Tank) 4:36
2. Andrew Holcombe (Dagger Tank) 4:38
3. Tommy Hilleke (Prijon Tornado) 4:41
4. Chris Gragtmans (Prijon Tornado) 4:43
5. Toby MacDermott (Prijon Tornado) 4:48

Top 5 Shortboat:

1. Pat Keller (Dagger Nomad) 4:54
2. Andrew Holcombe (Dagger Nomad) 5:01
3. Jonathin Shanin (Prijon Hercules) 5:07
4. Coop-a-loop Lambla (Riot Magnum) 5:09
5. Nathan Silsbee (Riot Magnum) 5:11
5. Chris Gragtmans (Riot Magnum) 5:11

Handpaddler Champ:
Keith Sprinkle (Prijon Tornado) 5:28

Ladies' Champ:
Andria Baldovin (Pyranha Creek 280) 6:26

C1 Champ:
Scott McCluskey (Dagger Cascade) 5:06

Some other numbers of interest from Green Race day:
16 swimmers!!!
126 Racers
1 dude in a chicken suit
200-Prize money I won from betting on Jonathin Shanin. Thanks buddy
1-Number of men hanging from ziplines and shooting footage. See lvmvideo.com
11-Years the Green Race has been around
A $%&# load- The number of Green Races that are still to come.

Here is a shot of Cooper bombing down Scream Machine. Coop got a better time in his Magnum then he did in his long boat. That's just how Cooper rolls... (Photo: Leland Davis)

Here is David Finney spanking the gorilla. He did well for not knowing all the race lines. All that McCoys training paid off. (Photo: Casey Jones). (Click for McCoys)

This is me off the lip of the pad... (Photo: Doug Silsbee. Nice job geezer!)

A shot of myself sprinting just below Gorilla (Photo: Casey Jones)

Chris Gragtmans showing how it's done. Gragtmans has been working hard on his eskimo roll in the Warren Wilson pool. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Here is a shot of one of the head to head heats. I won this one with Coop just behind me for second. (Photo: Casey Jones).

The Race was a huge success, and the party afterwards was awesome! I can't wait until next year...
Here is someone jumping over the fire at the Liquidlogic party. ( Photo: Caroline Moon)

See ya on the river,

-Nathan Silsbee

Now, Coop's Commentary:
It's the local run with all the local bros, fighting for local
bragging rights . This year's Green Race saw more racers, more
spectators, and more competition than ever. Team Riot showed up big
at the event claiming half the top six spots in the short boat class,
and the top two spots in the head-to-head (Nate your going down next
time.) Chris G claimed another top five spot overall, and all went
home with a perma-smile. For more event coverage go to...


Check yourself before you wreck yourself, Cause dis be Coopa Lambla
sayin' Big up yourself.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

FD on Pite river, Sweden.

Hello everyone!

It's winter here in Finland, so I started diggin up last summer's footage. I found some snapshots from video footage of our first descent on mighty Pite river in Northern Sweden.

The drop was just a massive slide. It was straight, but still it took us more than 30 minutes to scout.

I am there somewhere

Juho on fire

I like this shot. Juho trying to roll on funny water below the slide when beautiful evening sun hits the pine tree. D'oh...

There will be a big international competition in Pite river next summer. For more info about the river and the comp check here

Have fun!
Mikael Lantto

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Team Riot in the Green Race!

Greetings whitewater enthusiasts!

Well here we are again, in Green Race season... This is a pretty incredible time of year as almost a hundred people hit the Green hard, training for the perfect run on race day. I'm always amazed by how many new faces and young boaters are coming out every year to race for their first time. It's very cool to see people stepping up and racing what many(myself included) consider to be the most challenging extreme race in kayaking, and this event is only getting bigger and more competitive!

Here's a couple of pics of myself and some fellow Riot paddlers charging on the Green in preparation for this event:

Nathan Silsbee is a member of the Riot team, and has been paddling with Spencer and I quite a bit this year. He looks scrawny but can kind of keep up once in a while... Here's Nate-dog charging at the Gorilla.

Just kidding, Nathan's actually an awesome all-around paddler and it's been a pleasure paddling with him and especially introducing him to the Raven's Fork this year(more about that later).

Cooper Lambla is a recent member to the Riot team, and I'm sure he'll rip it up in the race this year. Last year he killed it getting somewhere in the 5:30 range in his time trials and winning the short boat head to head. Here's Coop sticking Sunshine rapid.

Dave Finney is another Riot paddler who will be in the line-up at the Green Race... word is those boys have been training hard up there in Blacksburg, so Dave should definitely be a contender in the short boat class... not sure if he's going to race long boat or not. Check out this link to a picture of Dave doing everything in his power to finish the Russell Fork Race... that is dedication!

I have the luxury of the Green as my home river, so I've been working hard to have fast times this year. I plan on competing in both long boat and short boat classes this year, and hope to defend my title as Green Race Ironman.

Here's me coming out of Sunshine in my Magnum.

And asking for some help in the Gorilla in last year's race...

Spencer Cooke is kind of the Riot team captain here in the Southeast, and has done a tonne of cool stuff this year with Riot boats. He is also an extremely powerful athlete, and often comes off of the couch to beat my ass in competitions! I would include Spencer as a top contender in any extreme race, and this is no exception... He is also a new father so it is still to be seen if he will make it this year, but regardless Spence is the man and I hope we will have him out there on the starting line on Saturday!

On another note, the Riot Magnum should prove to be a real contender in this event... In spite of it's comparatively short length of 7'11", it's surprisingly fast through the flatwater, and the edges in the stern and large-volume bow make the boat skip out of the rapids and carve while on a plane.

**Green Race Training Headcam coming tomorrow**

Alright, well that's all I've got folks, hope to see you on the banks of that beautiful river this weekend, send us some good vibes from shore because we are all going to be very scared coming through those rapids.

Good Lines!
Chris Gragtmans