Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to choose the right Creek boat for you...

So it's getting close to creeking season in the southeast and lots of us are picking out those sweet new rides for the coming rains. With the multitude of choices and styles out there, it can be tough to decide on just one creeker. I've been asked a few times recently how to know a creeker is the right one for you? Well I'm going to do my best to answer this question as completely and concisely as I can.

First, ask yourself if you're a passive/reactive paddler or an aggressive/proactive paddler.
A creek boat should compliment your style and make up for your short comings.... so know thyself. I'm assuming you're considering creeking in it?

Active vs Passive:
If you like to sit sideways and figure things out then throw out longer,faster boats like the Villain... they need to be driven deliberately and proactively. You'll probably be more comfortable in shorter, more maneuverable creekers like the Hero. If you're a paddler that KNOWS where you want to be and where you want to go with a strong forward stroke and no second guessing, faster boats like the Villain compliment your style and will work well with you. That said, you can actively drive a Hero or passively paddle a Villain... but It's a lot easier to actively paddle a Hero than it is to slow down a Villain in the heat of the moment when you suddenly aren't so sure where you're going.

Know your weakness:
If you have a weak forward stroke or are a bit light and have trouble powering through holes and curlers, then a longer boat will put you at ease, providing all the speed you need the moment you want it. At the same time, if you're lacking technical skill and have to rely on powering through rapids, a longer and faster design may feel more comfortable for you. If you're a strong paddler with a powerful stroke but you tend to miss your boofs or lack the more fine tuned, technical skills of a seasoned creeker, then a shorter boat may be the best compliment for you since they boof and maneuver easier while still utilizing your speed.

Know your geology:
For really steep, rocky creeks a displacement (round) hull will usually be better. For higher volume creeking or pool drop style runs, a planning hull can be a huge help for carving tight turns or carving out of holes. Planing hulls provide a unique level of control but can catch on the sharper rocks found on mankier river beds. At the same time, longer designs may handle longer, more violent rapids better where powering through is the best option.

Hole blaster or hole bait?
This can vary with technique (ducking under vs punching vs boofing/ramping holes), but a common myth is that short, stubby designs are hole bait. It simply isn't true. While logically you would think that a short, bulky, stubby design should be more retentive, typically these designs have planing hulls. Longer designs typically have displacement hulls and many longer designs are MUCH more likely to overstay their welcome in a hole. Why is this? The real issue boils down to maneuverability and hull design. It doesn't matter what design you're paddling, if you end up hitting a hole at 45 degrees to 90 degrees (sideways) you will more than likely be getting to know your new bubbly friend. It doesn't matter what design you're in. If you have a displacement hull you're only bet is to gather speed and get to a corner so you can power out. Unfortunately, that isn't always possible. If you have a planing hull you have another option. You can initiate the edge, catch water as you would in a playboat and edge your way out of a hole. The edge has more drag and more applied surface area so you have more options and are much less likely to spend any time in the hole. Personally, I'll take the risk of a shorter design for the extra maneuverability and ability to edge out any day of the week.

So figure out what kind of paddler you are, what kind of skill set you have, your strengths and weaknesses, and what type of water you'll most likely spend the most time on and you'll be well on your way to knowing exactly what you want in a creeker.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vallecito Creek Video 2011

I finally had the opportunity to take my first trip through Vallecito Canyon in Colorado. It was at 2.3+ ft and at an awesome, fluffy level. Exhausted from the slow, rainy day I was running on cold, probably not an ideal state to be in before a run like Vallecito. The hike was hot with the sun beating down and I arrived at the put-in breathless, sweaty and near heat stroke. Long story short, this is one of the most beautiful places on earth. By the time I settle in and started feeling "warmed up" it was over. I was just starting to thoroughly enjoy it and we were already done. On one hand it's probably good its so short, scouting was useless and directions were vague and you just have to find your way through lots of it. A bad day could be really bad and the shortness of the run is its only forgiveness. On the other hand it left me wanting more. I wanted more of the quality rapids found within the short box canyon. I wanted more of the same adventure; I wasn't ready for it to be over. A video is worth a thousand words though and the writeup is coming soon. enjoy...

One of my new favorite runs...

South Mineral Creek 2011

Some GoPro footage from Primetime Gorge on South Mineral Creek in CO.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Epic New Years - 2011

Well it was pretty epic but I'll keep this as short as I can.

We stayed ahead of the storm Friday night while driving in some incredible wind. We had New Years twice!!! :-o once in each time zone... Feeling off to a good start, we decided to head on to the Tellico and camp, sleeping in the rain. Now we expected a storm and knew there would be wind and lots of rain, but we had no idea what kind of night we were in for. Camping at Baby Falls is no longer allowed and it has been paved over (sad and unfortunate) with the new camp ground WAY upstream in a flash flood zone toward the top of the pass... a really, REALLY
shitty place to be in a storm. The wind was horrific and large limbs for flying out of the trees and the rain was torrential, like a Tellico Monsoon! At one point I looked out of my window
worried the tarp was flying away (the EZ Up was bow-tied and off the ground!) and I saw Jonathan's tent airborne except for the one place Jonathan was curled up inside.... lightening, thunder, wind, rain, limbs flying around us, and the campground threatening to flood. We were alone in one of the worst camping situations I've been in... The next morning the downpour hadn't stopped, so we knew things were about to get interesting. We decided to completely pack up camp after making some breakfast and coffee and we started the trek back down to the Tellico Ledges. The Small tribs upstream were swollen beyond belief and things were looking more like Cheoah on a big day. We reached the confluence with the Tellico and it was looking powerful but maybe fun.
This next part is still hard to report, like stones inside, but I'll do my best for those wanting to know.I got a good look at the first ledge and noticed a crowd gathered where we were stopped by a boater and told there was a problem and to help. We pulled over, got out, and asked around to catch up on the situation and saw the group of 3 men performing CPR on another guy across the river. Already geared up we asked if help was needed and we were put to work. There were a LOT of people standing around watching, filming, and walking around in shock so it was hard to tell who was doing what and who was just in the way. I was buddy belaying with a live bait team and providing whatever support I could for the rescue already in place. Samantha is a first responder and was assessing the situation with the victim and the team across the river. Things were not looking good but another team was preparing a kayak

raft to ferry the drowned kayaker across the river. It's not ideal to have a break in the CPR but after 20 minutes and no professionals yet it starts looking like the best option. A pickup truck was waiting to receive
the kayaker so CPR could continue down the road until they could meet with the ambulance... We prepared for the crossing and it was finally successful. Me and Samantha got him out where the shock came to me as I immediately recognized him from a conversation we had in an eddy on the Ocoee. I remembered how lively and friendly he was and his passion for the sport but I was hoping maybe it wasn't him. Before we could give him some rescue breaths to go on,
Jonathan and his crew were already there to help, taking him up the hill and loading him up in the truck. They resumed CPR as soon as they could. The rescue continued until ALL rescuers were safely to the river left bank and out of the river. A memorial page has been set up for Paul
and you can visit it or send comments here:

With the Tellico at 8' and rising, we should have gone to Conasauga Creek in the Tellico drainage. We were drained, shocked, and just not feeling lively after our long night and rough day so we decided to move on to a different drainage to start our New Years over. We were thinking smokies or bama since Johnnies was running strong. We went over to check out the Little and Tremont since we were so close to knoxville. I've never seen things over there quite like that, I guess because when it rains that much I'm usually in Alabama. We looked at Kick Yer Dog Falls on Lynn Camp which was PUMPING! It looked great and the bottom drop looked smooth and deep. Since I hadn't paddled since Colorado (months) and since the drama was still fresh from the Tellico, I decided I should take things slow. I ran Lynn Camp alone (well, Jonathan and Samantha on the trail) and it was easy, but I was sloppy. I think it was a mixture of exhaustion, stress, and lag time but I knew I had to get my mojo back :roll: :| I met a randem guy from knoxville at the put-in for Tremont and we ended up getting a late (dark) run of a very flooded tremont. It was completely dark when we got out.

From there it was mexican and we ALL needed a drink... Me and Jonathan experimented with beer sizes lol and samantha enjoyed a stiff Margarita... we decided we should stick close and just "wait and see" so we grabbed a hotel (not feeling like another crazy night) and we woke up to one of my favorites... BIG CReeK!!!!

Big Creek was crowded and the scene was awesome! We were blessed with fresh snow melt, blue skies, and clear water cascading out of the smokies. We started our New Year over. After lapping Big Creek we ran into Drew Armstrong for another run....

While I hope our New Years isn't an omen, I can say that after my time off the river, I got my Mojo back 8-)