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Previous Kayak Reports

March 2000

As you know, I have now been in England for almost a year after a number years in Idaho. When you are used to paddling the brilliant rivers of the north-west US, the British rivers seem a bit... small. In Britain, the season runs during the winter when the rivers get plenty of water from rainfall. But even with the amount of rain you get here, many (most?) of the rivers only come into condition when it rains solidly for a couple of days in a row. That means you cannot get as much paddling in as you can in place where the rivers are snowmelt and damfed.

In spite of this, I have managed to get quite a few trips in this season, and most have been brilliant. (See my kayak log.) In general the rivers are what the Americans would call creeks - really steep, rocky stuff with lots of potential for getting the boat stuck in nasty places. I haven't had any serious pins yet, but it requires constant technical paddling to keep away from problems.

The best rivers I've done have been the Upper Dart in Dartmoor and the Mellte in South-Wales. The trip on the Mellte approached epic quality. The river is full of very steep, narrow drops, and a bunch of waterfalls. One fall is 25ft but none of us had the bottle (British for guts) to do it that day- I want to go back!! Lower down the river I broke my paddle in half going over a 10 footer and paddled the rest of the river in C1 style.

Every Wednesday I still go to the local swimming pool to play kayak polo to keep the paddling muscles warm.

June 1999

Sorry for not updating this page for ages. As you can see from elsewhere on the site I have been on a trip to Mexico and Guatemala, and I am now living in England. I got a bit of white-water in when I was in Mexico, mainly in the state of Veracruz where the paddling scene revolves around a little town called Jalcomulco. It was a lot of fun hanging out there with other river rats.

In England, I haven't done any rivers yet for a number of reasons: 1) it is slightly out of season, 2) I haven't got a kayak over here, and 3) there is some great climbing to be had. To keep the paddling muscles warm, I have been playing kayak polo in Bristol Canoe Club, which has been brilliant fun.

August 1998

Nasty Hole
Me on the Little Salmon - note the worried look on my face!

Another great season on the Idaho rivers is coming to an end. Despite low snowpacks, the flows were excellent all summer because it poured down with rain most of May! Bad for sun-bathing, great for paddling. I went on some fun self-support trips down the Jarbidge/Bruneau, on Big Creek and on the South Fork of the Salmon.The last two were particularly fun, because I hadn't done them before and because they involved backcountry plane-rides to get to the put-in or back from the take-out. With enough people, it is surprisingly economical to charter these adventure flights. Other long trips included a trip down the Hell's Canyon and I've got a late season trip planned on the Middle Fork of The Salmon in a few weeks.  

Apart from that I have been paddling all the usual day and evening runs in the Boise vicinity. The Payettes - Main, Cabarton, South Fork, Canyon and North Fork - the Murtaugh, the little Salmon, the Boise (North and South Fork), the Yankee fork, and others. Did some playboating too - the stand-out was a couple of weeks in late May when the wave at the Horseshoe Bend "fish gutter" was pumping. A huge wave/hole was running, and it was filled with out-of-state paddlers in hot rodeo boats. I went there a few times - if you are on a fast link and can view MPEG files, have a look at how it went: [backsurf.mpg, 5.6MB].

February 1998

Sean Fred MathiasMathias did his first river trip! After our trip to Aconcagua, we did the Rio Mendoza in Argentina. It was class III and without any previous kayaking experience what-so-ever, Mathias (and Sean) obviously had a few swimming experiences. We had a lot of fun, though.

Fred on LochsaThe past year was a fantastic white-water year in Idaho. I went on some self-support kayak trips on the Jarbidge/Bruneau and the Owyhee. I sold my Dancer and bought a New Wave Extreme which I used on these trips because it carries lots of gear. Otherwise, I am spending most of my time in the RPM which is still my favorite boat. The wildest trip this season was definitely a very intense trip on the Middle Fork of The Salmon with a bunch of experienced rafters.

Brent and FredLate July, I went down the "Lower Five" for the first time which was a great experience. That is the lower five miles of the North Fork of The Payette -- an intense piece of white-water just north of Banks. Bob showed Brent and me the lines through the rapids -- Hound's Tooth, Otter's Slide, Juicer, Crunch. The water is very constant, narrow and steep; although the occational expert catarafter does the run, it is kayak-only territory. I was extremely nervous before and during the run, totally pumped up with adrenalin, but the run went smoothly and somewhat easier than expected. This year, I might give other parts of the North Fork a shot, but we'll see.

April 1997

The white-water season is about to begin! I've been out a few times on the Payette but the flows are still fairly low. In a month or so that will change when the snow starts to melt. And they say it will be one of biggest water years in decades because of a record-high snowpack in the mountains just waiting to melt. Keep your eyes pealed on my river list for updates on wild stories from the river banks.

The last couple of weeks I've spent a lot of time on a wave on the Boise River which floats right by my appartment. I often go down after work for a few hours - great way to stay in shape. The wave is river-wide - perhaps 30 meters - and features a great pile in the middle where I've been working on doing spins and other play boat tricks.

September 1996

I took up kayaking when I moved to Boise on a temporary (but perpetually extended) work assignment. It became an obsession just like climbing was when I lived in Bristol. It had the great attractions of adrenalin, dangers and lots of expensive gear.

I took a course with BSU (Boise State University) in May '96 which gave me a great introduction to kayaking technique such as rolling, bracing, obscure strokes and river slang. I also met other potential paddling fanatics. In fact, I still boat with a handful of fellow students from that class.

Immediately after the course I went out and bought my first kayak, a used Perception Dancer, and lots of cool gear. Since then, I've spend much time and money in the local paddling shops, IRS and REI. You quickly get to know the local paddling community when you hang out in those places.

One of my first river trips was an epic three-day adventure on the East Fork of The Owyhee with Robert, a fellow student, and a couple of his Califonian friends. They were in two canoes and I was in my kayak. I had my first swim in the rapid Thread the Needle and on the last day we got one of the canoes wrapped on a rock. We spend at least an hour trying to get it loose but in the end we had to leave it behind after having cut all the gear from it. Robert and David hiked out and the rest of us continued in the remaining canoe and my kayak. This was my first lesson in the power of white-water, but not the last.

I spent a lot of time on The Main of The Payette which is a great beginner run north of Boise. I often went up after work on my own joining others who was on their way down. This way I met loads of other paddlers some of which I now boat with a lot. The Main was running at up to 15000cfs at the time and I learned a lot on that river, getting my combat rolls dialed in and starting to play in waves and holes.

In July, I felt ready for The South Fork (of The Payette) which joins The Main at Banks - the place Boise paddlers hang out. The South Fork has a couple of class IV rapids, Staircase being the main testpiece on that stretch. Brian, one of my BSU teachers that I had met several times at Banks, took me down and showed me the lines through the rapids. The initiation went smoothly.

After that, I got the intermediate syndrome. The Paddler Magazine: "Someone with good basic skills but an advanced attitude. Scary to watch." I did more rivers in the area, Sunbeam, Grandjean, The Canyon and had moved my evening playground from The Main to The South Fork. My roll was solid, and fellow paddlers seemed pretty impressed of my skills after such a short paddling carreer. No wonder - I had done almost 50 runs in three months!

I was woken up in Staircase one evening paddling with Brad and Rich. Brad (who is still "scary to watch") and I decided to try a left line in Staircase instead of the usual right. I misread the line and went down the wrong shute where my boat got pinned in a log we had not been able to see from shore. I was trapped under water for some time before I, with Brad's help, got out of the situation only with a bruised leg. Since then, I've been more cautious.

I got my second boat in August 96, a Dagger RPM. It is a world of difference from the Dancer. It's much smaller, surfs like a dream and does wild things when I dip the nose or the tail into holes.





The Willerups 1996-1998




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