Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Year One in the Books..

July 10th came and went with somewhat of a bang as I put a bow on my first year of eclipsed paddling adventure with an eventful paddle down the continuous class IV Ashnola River that ended with a grand hole beatdown followed by a swim that may have put the final nail in the Pure's coffin. In all both days combined I did get to enjoy the entire 21 km stretch of river we delved into before the event however.. :)

I humbly started my paddling career July 10, 2010 having been in the odd kayak maybe 4 times total over my life in lakes, and hating water, it was a big transition. So I jumped in, took the beginner kayak course through Purple Hayes School of Kayaking after learning about it on an initial trip to Western Canoe and Kayak. Following the course I picked up a used boat down the street and an assortment of new and used gear and started getting in the beginner run on Chilliwack River in my backyard and hitting Cultus Lake for rolling practice and whatnot.

September 10th marked my first time down Tamihi, the ominous (at the time, and still with big holes at big water levels) rapid that marks the mid point of the classic run on The Chilliwack. It has been called a class III- to IV rapid depending who you talk to and how conservative and water levels.

September 30th was my first day off Chilliwack River as I bombed down Chehalis and part of Statlu Creek for the first time without even flipping over! The next big milestone was October 21st or so when I got in my first Chilliwack Canyon run...the canyon ranges from class III- to IV depending on water levels, much like Tamihi rapid and can be continuous, and seem continuous no matter what your first time down!

By late November through late December I was hitting some easier creeks (Slesse and Lynn). Mid-January would mark my step up to run Chilliwack canyon at a high 2.4 or so (140ish cms or 5000 cfs) that ended in my worst swim I've had.

My first real creek run on a class IV creek was in mid April when I hit Canyon Creeks of the Stilliguamish and Lewis drainage down in Washington, both successfully, as well as the East Fork Lewis....the weekend prior to that marked my first waterfall (Sunset falls on EFL at 3600 cfs). I have paddled 5 different waterfalls to date that I can think of.

The most difficult thing I've run so far was SAT rapid on Nooksack North Fork Horseshoe Bend section at 1600 cfs. I got a good hole beating on that, but didn't swim. Speaking of swimming...after looking at my run log I notice I've swam on way too much of what I've lately my goal is to improve my paddling skills before tackling anything over class IV or difficult class IV even, tired of swimming, but luckily haven't had what I'd call a bad swim.

I'm a bit of a gearhead I think...I've gone through a few paddles in my first year:

1. Old school 90 degree 191 cm (still have)
2. Aquabound Splat AMT 34 degree 196 cm (sold)
3. Werner Carbon Player 34 degree 196 cm (sold)
4. Werner Carbon Sherpa 34 degree 200 cm (sold)
5. Select W1 adj. degree and length (fixed, current playboating paddle)
6. Adventure Technology Eddy 15 degree 199 cm (current creeking paddle)

....and some boats:

1. Dagger Medieval (sold)
2. Riot Magnum 72 (sold)
3. Pyranha Burn M (sold)
4. Prijon Pure (broken, still have)
5. Pyranha Molan M (current playboat)
6. Pyranha Burn M (current creekboat)

I've had 5 helmets and finally settled on an FNA full face and guide as my normal ones.
I've had 2 PFD's, a Kokatat Rogue drytop and GMER drysuit, at first had a wetsuit.
I've had 2 spraydecks that I still have and use (Snap dragon and Langer), the Langer is my primary.
My best piece of kit is my TEVA Gnarkozy creeking shoes, size 10 or 11, can't remember and my Raceface elbow and forearm guards. The one time I didn't wear them I got a hole in my drysuit banging my elbow off a rock.

Most memorable rivers/creeks I've done in my first year:

Ashnola River: Supercontinuous class IV fun for over 20 km and almost all roadside out in Cathedral Park 3 hours East of Chilliwack...this is a true gem, it's too bad it doesn't run through more of the year. Gets creekier as you go up.

Cameron Creek: Amazingly fun short pool drop at most levels class IV drops, about 40 of them packed into 5 km out on Vancouver Island in Cathedral Grove.

Canyon Creek (Lewis drainage): Ultra classic class IV pool drop creeking with huge pools and an amazing little canyon, 3 waterfalls and nothing but fun except for the 1.6 mile or so flat water paddle out.

Chilliwack Canyon: I can't bypass my backyard run, a fun, cruisy afterwork gem that never gets boring, always different lines to take and challenges to be found, a great way to improve skills and just a good section of river with a short, easy shuttle, class III- to IV depending on levels.

Ingalls Creek: This was an amazing little short run into Peshastin Creek near the Wenatchee which we were lucky to catch with water I think, the top third from the bridge at the park at the end of the road down was an amazing festival of boofs.

Another thing I've developed are some good friendships, there are so many good people on the rivers, I have never met a kayaker I didn't get along with as of yet. You definately need certain skills and a special mindset to be better at this sport of ours. It's all about having fun...and now that almost all of my friends are kayakers, that's a good thing!

I think I've rambled enough, time to get back on the river and into my second year of paddling! :)

The new Burn M

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Select W1 Paddle Review Update

A couple of months ago I purchased a Select W1 paddle and put up a short review on the blog, being one of the first, if not the first people in Western Canada to get one of these paddles I thought I'd let people know how it was. The review was good, not much flex, big blades, nice grips that I preferred over Werner's bent shaft but since find I prefer the Adventure Technology grips...well that's where the fairy tale ended.

I try to be as unbiased as I can when I review gear, and if I am biased, I let you know I'm biased beforehand. I am not sponsored by anybody and have owned lots of different gear in the short time I've been boating. I believe I have a fair idea of what a warranty should be, what should be covered and when, and how a company should operate.

So here's the story that everyone considering the purchase of a Select paddle should be aware of and take what they will from it.

I was going down Cameron River for the first time out on Vancouver Island back in late May after the Puntledge Festival when my paddle broke off of a simple rock strike. It broke at the bend in the shaft, and at the time was about a month and a week old and had seen use on average 5-6 days a week on runs ranging from class II beginner runs to class IV low volume steep creeks and waterfalls. This is the bent carbon shaft, kevlar blade adjustable length/feather paddle.

Anyway, I C-1'd it into an eddy, we recovered the longer half that I had, but didn't find the other blade until after the warranty action, it now marks the takeout at the Cameron. We had to cut the long shaft to make it fit in my boat, we took pictures of the broken end, which did not end up making it to the shop in the end.

Select partially covered the warranty having received only a part of the paddle, which I have no problem with and makes sense.

What I have a problem with is as follows:

1. The main person from my local shop who deals with everything whitewater was on the river with me and witnessed the simple rock strike that broke the paddle firsthand, but the company did not take his word on this, believing it was chalked between 2 rocks when it broke.

2. I learned after the fact the paddle I purchased was their 4 layered river running paddle as opposed to their 5 layered creeking paddle. My dealer has told me there was never anything on the initial stocking order about different strength shafts, he has said the area company rep never knew about this fact either. Clearly I would have gone for the stronger paddle with the amount of creeking I do and intend to do in the future.

I have no reason not to believe my dealer, I have a good relationship with them and they have made it easier for me to get into whitewater kayaking that it would have been otherwise. The dealer also has a great reputation warranty wise with other paddle companies it deals with such as AT and Werner. It shocks me that a new paddle company would allow an oversight such as this to sour their relationship with potential clients.

It is also truly unfortunate since I really did like the advantages of the paddle and would otherwise recommend one and probably would have bought a '5 layered creeking shaft' version had its existence been known to me, the dealer or the area rep. Unfortunately I now feel let down by Select. I have since replaced my Select paddle with an AT Eddy and in the past have also had a few Werner paddles. I have never had a problem with AT or Werner and consider them reputable companies that make good paddles.

Just some food for thought to consider if you're thinking about spending your hard earned money on a Select paddle.

Here's a video Ryan Bayes of Fraser Valley Whitewater did of a later Cameron River paddle:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pyranha Molan M Review

Wow, I've really taken a break from the blog it seems...spent lots of time paddling lately :) not a bad thing! Coming soon will be a synapsis of my recently completed first year of boating...along with my top 5 rivers that I have experienced! ...but in the meantime, here's a review of my playboat!

Back in February I bought the Pure and sold the Medieval, paving the way for the need of a new playboat...this time I wanted not a river runner, but a true playboat! I decided to try a few my biggest obstacle, as I'm sure I've stated before is my shape/size/height...I'm 6'2", 170 or slightly less lbs, with a 32-36" inseam depending on the pants...usually 34" is right, and I have size 10 feet.

Thanks to the folks at Western Canoe and Kayak I was able to demo a number of boats. First off were the Jackson's...I wasn't a huge fan of the All-star because I couldn't get comfortable and couldn't seem to fit in the medium Rock Star...though I like the large Rock Star it was too much boat for my weight...this was the same problem I had with the Project X, couldn't fit the 56 and the 64 was too much boat for me!

On the Dagger end of things it was the same, I couldn't fit the Agent 6.2. The 2 river runners I did try I didn't find comfortable...the Dagger Rx 6.7 and Jackson Fun. I also have a fundamental problem with Jackson's outfitting, I'm not a fan of their strings to tighten the backband, or their happy feet...and because I've had bad experiences in Jackson boats I've tried I'm already biased against them.

I'm sure you're reading this thinking wow...this guy is finnicky with his boats and outfitting...well, yes I am. Big time. If I'm dropping a good chunk of change on a boat I intend to get a solid amount of use out of, it better be comfortable...or at least not uncomfortable.

I had almost lost faith and was actually thinking of trying to find another Medieval to buy...when I thought of it. The one river runner I found really comfy that fit my weight was the Pyranha Varun M, so why not the similarly postured Molan!? I tried it and at first had trouble, but with some time and footblock experimentation quickly had no problem fitting this boat to my needs!

The Molan is a poppy little bateau. It's very fast for how small it is, both when surfing and catching waves and trying to get across the river, or down it. It's a thin boat with pronounced edges which makes it inherently destabilized and a hell of a lot of fun! My weight is perfect for the medium, which is nice and it sits where I want it in the water. I don't need to move the seat back at all...the bubbly stern seems to make it roll not bad as well and as long as you lean forward, you seem to get kicked out of bad spots similarly to a creek boat in a way.

It bounces on a wave, this took me a lot of getting used to compared to the bigger, longer Midevil. It wants to pop and loop it seems though I can't pull those off really yet. The Project X seemed to turn and spin better and have a lot more stability, so it really depends what you're looking for..but it came down to the 2 and the comfort of the Molan won out in the end.

I've started getting used to the boat now and getting it on waves and in bigger water and it gives non stop good times! I highly recommend one!