Thursday, December 27, 2007

North Fork of the Blackwater (V+) (WV) Headcam + Freestyle Footy

Adam gyrating in Hungry Mother, Upper Gauley, WV.
Watch the full video embedded below or click HERE.
Anyone who paddles in WV knows that the Blackwater River in the northern central part of the state is of the same caliber of North Carolina's Green River Narrows (but, of course, better in every way ;-). The Blackwater is a naturally fed stream that has three different sections: the "North Fork" (V+), the "Upper" (IV-V+), and the "Lower" (IV-V).
Jake Greenbaum admires Douglas Falls, North Fork of the Blackwater, WV.

Out of these three sections, the Upper Blackwater, averaging 233 fpm, runs the most frequently and is paddleable at a wide range of levels (some people run it real high, it just depends on how crazy you are). The Lower is less frequented because you have to either run the Upper into the Lower, or hike in and down a steep 400 vertical foot mountain (see map below). The Upper and lower offer extremely challenging boulder drop rapids with a few slides and larger drops. Both the Lower and the Upper will challenge any paddler when they descend the canyon, no matter their skill level.

Blackwater Area Map. Note the sections. When the Upper and North Fork meet, the remaining stretch is called the "Lower" Blackwater.

The North Fork, on the other hand, is a completely different stream. Instead of boulder drops and hard, tight, technical moves, the North Fork, which has a max gradient of almost 400 fpm, offers steep vertical drops consistently. The big drop, called Glutial Mash, is a picturesque 30' drop that you have to either boof or enter at a maximum of a 45 degree angle to avoid pitoning potential.

Some of the best things about the North Fork is that you can run it multiple times in a day (provided that you have the corn to power up the 400' vert hill and 1.5 miles of rail trail each time), it runs fairly frequently, and, essentially, is a park and huck (due to all the hiking).

Needless to say, the Blackwater is a powerful river that should not be taken lightly. Experienced teams only. In the words of LVM, "If you don't have the skillz to pay the billz..." please admire from a distance...

OR from this video!

If you are having trouble viewing this video, click HERE.

The video is from the North Fork of the Blackwater with some headcamera footage (WV, V+) and some freestyle on the Upper Gauley. Enjoy!

Also, if you would like to see the entire North Fork of the Blackwater headcam footage, click HERE.

Happy holidays and see you on the water,

-Adam Johnson

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Looking Good While Blowing Your Line: Part 1

Good Evening

As some of you, our faithful readers, are aware, blowing one's line is a very common occurence. Some Asheville boaters may claim that they have the perpetual lines of perfection, but they are tellin tall tales.

As some of you all may also know, it has been raining a good bit here in WV, and we got a few days on the Upper Gauley at high water. One of my personal favorite runs is paddling the Lower Meadow into the Gauley and finishing at Sweets. Its pretty sweet. Actually very sweet, like a lemon thats not really a lemon, but a piece of candy dressed as a lemon for halloween. Candy sure can be silly. But I digress...

I am going to get right to it. This is an instructional, how-to thingy on how to throw an entry move in your creek boat. This is especially useful when heading towards an enormous hole that you have no chance of going over, under, or around. In this type of situation you have two options: getting beat down, or getting beat down with style. Since I am the self-proclaimed king of style, I will instruct on the latter. Enjoy.

Step 1: Always look at the camera.

Notice how I am paying no attention to the rapid in front of me. That rapid does not matter. If it did matter, I would obviously be looking at it. The most important thing to remember is that rivers do not get the ladies, pictures get the ladies.

Step 2: Realize too late that you are off line.

But don't act like you care. Do not let off a flurry of strokes to correct your line. In fact, stop paddling hard at all. Remember, you're going into that hole on purpose. For the ladies.

Step 3: Hit the meat of the hole

Dodging holes is for open boaters. If all the water is going into that hole, then so should you. As you approach that hole you must smile, because you never know who may be watching from the bank. Because if an onlooker sees your fear, no more ladies.

Step 4: Get eaten by the hole

This is the magic part. This is your disappearing act. You want to disappear just long enough for people to wonder what cool move you have in store for them...

Step 5: Whammee!!!!!

Blast out of that hole into your vertical entry move. Get that bow up into the air because you want everyone to see your awesomocity. No, I didn't make that word up. If you haven't heard it, then you just aren't in the know. It comes right after awesomalicious, which is obviously synonymous with Gragtmans.

Step 6: Surf out of the hole and don't look back

You don't need to look back. You're an awesomolicious kayaker. You are always looking forward. The past is in the past, look forward to the future...your future...the future of action sports.

Check out the video...

Until I get burled again, I remain...

Dave Finney

Monday, December 10, 2007

North East Update

In the past couple months myself and Paul Twist have been traveling all over the Northeast hitting a couple of the classics. Beaver fest is like Mecca for paddlers in the Northeast, they travel from near and far to hit the one day release of the Moisher section of the Beaver River. After the Moisher and Eagle sections of the Beaver, Paul Twist and I met up with some of our favorite local paddlers, Michael H. Laflair IV and Uncle Jim "Hot Rod" Dobbins to paddle the Stone Valley Section of the Raquette. Here is the video.
Beaver and Raquette Video

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After the Beaver, it was time for Moose Fest. The Bottom section of the Moose is a classic Adirondack pool drop run with great drops. There is nothing like waking up in the morning and taking the hit at the bottom of Fowlersville Falls, a 40' slide. The Moose also includes Gorilla's sister, Magilla. Magilla is a huge ugly drop that just makes you cringe when you look at it. This year Michael H. Laflair IV was man enough to fire up this drop. Here is the video, which is a great peice of editing by Paul Twist.
Moose Fest 2007

moose fest 2007
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Be sure to look for our next post on Medina Falls, a perfect 40' vertical drop in Western New York.
Signing off for Team Riot Danny Doran and Paul Twist

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Looping on the Upper Gauley

Adam Johnson Loops in Hungry Mother Hole, Upper Gauley, WV.

This fall, after the huge crowd had left town post Gauleyfest, Stephen Wright, Tanya Shuman, Kelsey Thompson, and myself (Adam Johnson) had the opportunity to cruise down the Upper Gauley during near record high temperatures. The day proved to be filled with lots of gyrations, flips, and flops from each person in our party.

Stephen Wright going big in Geeks Hole.
Kelsey Thompson looping in Hungry Mother
Adam Johnson loops in Hungry Mother.
Tanya Shuman, recently retired, heading for the hole.
This is a great sequence
Stephen, completely aerial, about to land on his face after a *huge* ender
Stephen was super fired up about that last ender. We got to catch him in a rare moment of exuberance.
Stephen Loops big in Hungry Mother, and, well, pretty much anywhere.

This was certainly a great day to be on the river. I cannot remember the last time it was late October and I was paddling in a shorty splash top on the Gauley. This past weekend a crew which included David Finney, among others, descended the Upper Gauley from the meadow down at around 12,000cfs (the normal fall flow, pictured here, is 2,800cfs). The following few days were preceded by a 5,000 to 6,000cfs day, as well as a 4,200cfs and a 2,900cfs day. A truly classic river.

Looping Tips:
1. The biggest thing to remember when looping is keeping your boat straight when you drive your bow under water. You can control your lateral movement with braking and ruddering strokes as your bow travels towards the seam of the feature.
2. When you reach the seam, lean forward, keeping your boat straight. Your boat will soon start the ender. As soon as you start to ender upwards, stand on your feet and try to "jump" up and back into the hole to get your boat out of the water.
3. As you start to go over vertical, tuck back up and throw your paddle into the water. Do a stroke that starts at your bow and travels in an arc over your head to your stern (think of it as making a half circle with your paddle). This stroke aids in pulling your stern through the water. As this stroke travels towards your stern, lean back and help get your boat back upright.
4. Once you have completed the loop, be sure to get back forward and on top of things as the feature will want to mess with you while your are on your back deck. And that is how to loop in a nutshell.

See you on the water,
-Adam Johnson

Welcome Spiegels + Big Wave in China with Huge Experiences

Team Riot has a couple new team members named Speigel. David is the older brother and Eli is the youngin'. These kids are from the Seattle WA area but are rather worldly travelers. I have a unique privilege of coaching both these guys last summer on the Huge Experiences Colorado tour.

Currently David is attending his freshmen year of College in CO. We'll get a report from David soon. For now, Eli is in his Junior year of high school at Huge Experiences, currently traveling in China. Huge Experiences recently checked in with me from China with some sweet photos and a report regarding Eli:

When the New River Academy recently discovered what they are calling, "one of the world's best surf waves it was Team Riot paddler and student Eli Spiegel who hit the Huge move of the day. The school was departing the Salween River lying near the border of the former country known as Burma and China. After two and a half hours of curvy roads, constant bus honking, and viewing the roadside big volume water of the Salween the students spotted what they named "Fortune Cookie."

Students and faculty quickly noted the 12' trough, a huge pile, its steep glassy nature, and eddy access. Yes, that is right a big water wave with a perfect eddy that students would drift into. Fortune Cookie had a large curling river right shoulder and a river left rib in the middle offering teen kayakers the opportunity for the biggest aerial moves of their experience.

It was Eli Spiegel who stepped it up. Huge Experiences coach and director David Hughes stated, "Eli had been the first on and the last off the Burning Time wave all week. He kept trying more moves than anyone on what we thought was the best wave. That is until we discovered Fortune Cookie. Eli's hard work and passion definitely paid off big when he hit a 4 to 5' airscrew on his last ride of the day."

Eli Spiegel is an A student at the New River Academy and a Team Riot paddler. For more reports on Eli surf to

Eli airscrews on Fortune Cookie wave on the Salween River.


A blunt

Pre-China: Eli with his new Astro 58 and Magnum 72, ready to travel.

Photos ©Huge Experiences and Eli Spiegel


Spencer Cooke
Team Riot

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NOC's Homers Hole

GAF was awesome this year with some great karaoke performances, and clear weather. One of my favorite things about GAF was that the "NOC Wave" has been changed in to a hole and renamed "Homers Hole", so I'm told. The hole was pretty fast and shallow but over all fun, with a few strategically placed rocks to get a little more water flowing through the hole it could be a cool new attraction to add to the Nantahala. Loops were pretty rough, but cartwheels, blunts splits, space godzillas, and even donkey flips are possible.

Over all i had a blast and I am already looking forward to next year.

Alan Young
Photos by Casey Jones and Andy Gates

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Answer for the Big Boys... large Magnum and Thunder!

Hello Ladies and Gents.

Riot Kayaks has got some pretty cool designs for this winter, geared towards the larger folks out there. Expected release date for the Magnum 80 and Thunder 76 is January 2008. These two boats will both feature larger seats, and a standard(large) keyhole cockpit for easy entry and exit, as well as comfort.

Large Magnum:

80 gallons
8'4" length
26.5" width
45 lbs.

Magnum 80 prototype alongside Large Habitat and Mega Rocker.

Profile shot with Mega Rocker.

We tested the Magnum 80 prototype all over the Southeast this spring/summer, and it's been a joy to paddle. At 170 pounds I am not exactly in the target weight range for this boat; it is really going to be an ideal creekboat for the 190+ pounders. It will not be a replacement for the Magnum 72 at my weight, but rather another tool to use in certain situations. For me, the big Magnum will be ideal for overnighters, extreme races, and pushy class 5 creeking... Green at 200+, Raven's, Linville, etc. The Magnum 72 will be perfect for all other applications... big waterfalls, low-volume creeks, etc.

Rolling off the Gorilla at high water.

Cruising into the Happy Place after a good run... the boat definitely inspires a feeling of invincibility.

The Magnum 80 has the same chines that are featured on the Magnum 72, starting right around where the knees are, and extending back to peter out just before the stern of the boat. These allow the boat to be driven through big rapids, and help you to place the kayak exactly where you want it while planing out of drops, or resurfacing from holes. Another appealing aspect of this boat is the enormous amount of stern and bow volume, which, when combined with the same backband as the standard Magnum, will allow the stern to be packed full of a tonne of overnight gear.

Here are a couple of comparison shots between the Magnum 72 and Magnum 80:

Footage of the Magnum 80 prototype can be seen on Nathan Silsbee's VIDEO.

Large Thunder:

76 gallons
8'0" long
25.75" wide
43 lbs.

Joe Stumpfel enjoying the big Thunder C-1 style on the Green.

Photo by Maggie Snowel.

The Thunder 76 is the answer for larger folks who want a kayak that can do everything. The platform for this boat was the Booster, one of Riot's most successful kayaks to date. The Thunder features the hull from the Booster, which also happens to be the boat in which the helix was invented by Steve Fisher. What this translates to is a great deal of playability from the hull, while more creeky deck keeps you safe in hard whitewater.

Profile shot with the Large Diesel.

Please disregard my meatheadedness... think I was making some kind of joke about being diesel or something... my bad.

The first thing that stood out for me about this kayak was its hull speed. It easily keeps up with most creekboats on the market, while the flat hull and sharp edges allow for surfing, carving, spinning, and even cartwheeling. Definitely a jack of all trades.

Spencer testing out the creeking abilities of the Thunder in Go Left.

Spencer styling an off-the-beaten-path slot on the Green.

**All photos by Spencer Cooke/ unless otherwise stated**

Both of these kayaks will be available at Riot dealers in January, so be sure and check them out.

Good lines.
Chris Gragtmans

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Golden Rules of Creeking and River Running

Thats right, you heard it here. Creeking etiquette: what are some good general rules to follow whilst creeking? Here ya go:

Tha Golden Rules:
Sorting things out before putting on the river, Northern Quebec.
1. Always Bring a Rope.
I have been on too many creeks with people who have "forgot" their rope. Putting on a creek without a rope is "iffy" at best. As kayakers, we evaluate risk, run rivers and hard drops; however, sometimes, one cannot predict what will happen on the river. This is why we bring ropes--they are our backup plan and help lessen that "Oh shit" factor. If you have a rope, put it in your creekboat and leave it there until you need it on the river.

2. Bring Your Rope to Scout Rapids.
If you bring your rope with you on the river and lug it around all the time, why not take it with you when scouting? Oftentimes when someone runs a rapid, they do not want to stop and wait for someone to get a rope or camera set up. They simply want to go. Therefore, when getting out of your boat to scout, quickly grab your rope out of the back before you head down for a look. This is the most likely situation where you will use your rope.
Scouting a sweet 30+ footer in New Zealand.
3. Unsure of the line? Scout it!
There are lots of creeks out there which our friends run over and over again and know the lines to (Eg. Green River Narrows). Oftentimes, they would like to run the larger rapids just by telling you the line and going. This works most of the time, but if you feel like you would like to scout (for whatever reason), then do it. That is safer. Just because they have run that rapid a gazillion times doesn't mean that you are omniscient and know where the line is and how to paddle it. When in doubt, scout.
Also, if your party gets to the top of a rapid and is unsure of the line, but it is not something that everyone needs to scout, then send one person who is *good with giving directions* to take a look. You should always trust this person to give you the right line and good, accurate, and clear directions (guess what, that person should bring his rope when he is taking a look because it could save your ***).
While Kevin Dombey and Philly Williams are comfortable with the directions provided, Chris Sellers asks for more beta.
4. Standardize River Signals.
It is a horrible feeling when you are at the top of a drop, looking down at your buddies and they are giving you these weird hand signals that make no sense to you. At that point, you have no idea what the line is and you are thinking to yourself, "WTF!". Before you get on the river, have a chat with your buddies (in the car on the way to the putin, right before you get on the water, wherever) which standardizes river signals. Remember that not everyone has 20/20 vision as well, so they might not be able to see those hand gestures that you are pointing out from 100 yards. American Whitewater has a great resource HERE which explains the standard river signals, as well as some other very useful information (did you know that cold water can extend survival time for drowning victims? It is all there, check it out).
Kevin Dombey receives directions through signals from people on shore.
Kevin Stoked after getting good directions and nailing the line.
5. River Responsibility.
Do you know who you are directly responsible for whilst running a river? The person who you need to keep an eye on is the person *directly behind you*. Why is this? You can see the person in front of you; thereby, you will most likely know if something goes wrong. But what happens if the person behind you gets pinned? Most likely, you will be the first person to reach him.
Obviously, everyone is responsible for everyone while running rivers, but the person directly behind you is the person you are directly responsible for. If you are in the back of the group, you are responsible for having the gear in case of an emergency (med kit, breakdown paddle, duct-tape, whatever) and are also responsible for the safety of the people in front of you.
Adam Johnson, left, and Chris Gragtmans, POV, running the Doncaster river near Montreal, QC, Canada. Here, Adam is most responsible for Chris who is paddling directly behind him.
6. Know Your Limits.
Be prepared. Oftentimes, there is a paddler who is at the top of one group, but not quite ready to go on the same rivers as another group. Many times it is hard to evaluate the difficulty of a river from others who know it well or are highly skilled. Or, the other case is when the better paddler wants to take someone down a new river who may or may not be ready for it. It is that paddlers' responsibility to get some background information, evaluate the paddlers who invited you, and do the research to determine the difficulty of the run.
Paddle off of this tall one with rocks at the base? I think not!
For example, this past spring I took a friend of mine who had just started kayaking down Hopeville Canyon (Cl II-III) on the South Branch of the South Fork of the Potomac. He had rolled before, but his roll was weak, but seemed to enjoy other rivers such as the Arden Section of the Tygart above Deception (Cl II-III). Needless to say, I thought he was ready to paddle Hopeville Canyon. He put-on and did fine for the run, had a few swims, but, all in all, everything was OK. At the takeout, he told me he was "gripped" throughout the run. This is a good example of a skilled kayaker who struggled to properly compare the difficulty of this (mighty) class II-III run between the Arden Section of the Tygart.
Good shoes come in handy right here. Notice Philly (left) holding his Chaco's in hand.

Other things that are certainly "good ideas" to have could be:
Good shoes capable of hiking long distances (a good fitting pair of shoes can make you a better hiker, just as a well outfitted boat can make you a better creeker).
Extra Gear (biners, another throwbag, layers, etc)
Pin Kit
An escape plan (do you know where there is a trail to hike out?)
Someone who knows where you are and when to start worrying if you do not come back (in a certain time frame).
Matches! These come in really handy for those unplanned nights out on the river.
A solid, high functioning group you can trust.
Knowledge: knowledge is power. Everyone has a certain skill set. Someone in your group may be good at making fires or scouting or ghetto rigging broken gear--whichever. Always be prepared. Know where to hike out from if necessary.

There could be many more things that I am missing here, so feel free to write whatever I missed in the "Comments" section of this post as a continuing dialog.

Have a fun and safe time on the river. See you out there,
-Adam Johnson