8.31.2005

Jeff's Photos

Here are a few photos from the Jeff's Joy run on the Rangitiki (I probably spelled that wrong).


Me in an eddy above Rocks A and B. Great names, huh? Thery're important though, as they both form nasty undercuts/sieves that can/have killed people. Easy moves to get around them though, so no worries.
Me entering Jeff's Joy. It's a big sort of slide that's run all the way river left...

And through the boil that's behind my boat in this photo (bottom of the drop).



The crew, scouting Jeff's Joy.

Our trusty shuttle.

Awwww...

Heartreak at Mangaho today. Damian and I took off after my class to go for a paddle. The river was flowing when we got there, so we put on our gear and went to the put-in. As we were getting into our boats the dam turned off the water, and as we watched the river dried up.

Sad.

8.29.2005

Surfing

I headed out to New Plymouth last weekend to do some surf kayaking. As I normally live a few thousand miles from the nearest ocean, it was a novel experience to me.

Saturday morning I put on my gear and walked the 100 yards to the ocean and put in. I scoped the surf from my hostel and it looked present but tame. When I was getting my gear together on the beach a huge barrel broke in front of me. Where the hell did that come from? I paddled out but screwed up my timing. a 9ft wave broke right in front of me, and the whitewash picked me up and dumped me back where I started. Crap.

I made it past the break the next time and paddled around the point to Fitzroy beach. I had an offshore wind, which groomed the waves well but also tried to push my fat, slow little boat out into the ocean. Boo. My drainplug wasn't quite tight, so I was shipping water as well until I corrected that little problem. I landed on Fitzroy without much trouble, ducking in past the breakers. The swells were producing huge barrels, and there were maybe two dozen board surfers out. I stayed out of their way, batting maybe 50%, half the time getting trashed, the other half of the time getting some great rides. My skirt imploded three times over the weekend from the force of the waves. Good stuff. I lost a contact lens, which sucked, so I surfed the rest of the day buccaneer-style.

Sunday I missed my tide since some bastard rugby player stole my drytop. "I was cold," was his explanation. I hiked to the beach and had some great rides on little waves before heading out to the big stuff. Batted about 50% again, got bashed around some, then headed back to the smaller waves to finish the day with a good ride. After saying "just one more" a half dozen times, I got flipped end-over-end by a huge breaker that somehow snuck up on me. Unfortunately, the whitewash didn't carry me out of the impact zone, leaving me there for the next two waves to kick the shit out of me, the last one dropping me on my head. It hurt. Figuring enough was enough, I paddled in and headed home.

8.22.2005

Stardom

Oh, I almost forgot. Nikki Kelly was in the cafe near the Kaituna when I was grabbing something hot to drink.

*sigh*

My brush with stardom.

She's smaller than I expected, but I suppose that's what everyone says about "famous" people (famous in quotes as paddlers are never really famous, only within our own little ingroup). This, combined with my brush with Chris Sharma, equips me with all sorts of name-dropping ability.

Central N. Island Trip

Had quite the weekend. It included a 23 foot falls, class IV in a playboat, and the biggest thrashing I've experienced to date.

I hooked up with Damian and some mates from Palmy and headed to Napier, in the middle of wine country, to stay at Damian's mom's house. Bright and early on Sunday we headed to the Rangatiki (sp?) to do the Jeff's Joy run. The first drop was pretty easy, but it contained Rocks A and B (inventive Kiwis), both sieves that have killed people before. Apparantly one of the bodies required a helicopter extraction; the river had that much pull. Anyway, the moves were easy, and we moved on to Fantail Falls and Jeff's Joy. Combined, they make up most N. Island boaters' first class IV. A few of the paddlers in the group walked it; I ran it in fine style, with one roll and a sweet line on the bottom drop. The drop was apparantly named after a tire tuber, Jeff, who took a hell of a beating on Fantail and ran the second drop unconscious and underwater. His mates revived him, and then named the drop after him. Long live Jeff.
The rest of the run was a lot of III-II+ boulder garden work; fun stuff, lots of rock dodging and route finding.

Then we crashed with a big group of people at Damian's father's house near Rotoroua. Had a huge dinner and a few drinks and then went off to bed.

Sunday brought the Kaituna. It's a series of not-so-big to really big drops in a short, steep canyon. It's rafted quite a bit, and includes Okre Falls, the highest commercially rafted drop in the southern hemisphere. After scouting the big drops (including the Weir, a munchy looking pourover) and watching a few people run it I was ready. I geared up, warmed up on the slalom course, and followed Aaron and Damian into the canyon.

The first couple drops were cake, III-ish, but I was a bit nervous in my little Rad. Then came the Powerhouse, a 10 footer that dropped into a boiling pool directly above the Weir. We all ran it clean, and Aaron dropped over the Weir. I followed; the line was a hard right and a boof into the river-right eddy. I didn't have quite enough speed, and though I made it to the eddy my tail caught on the pourover. I flipped, and as I set to roll I thought I wonder if it's going to suck me into the hole? Then I got hit from the side with a ton of water. I tried to roll against the grain once or twice, then switched sides and got half a breath before getting pushed back under. I reached for the green water, then set up for a big roll as I was running short on air. Then my knee punched through my skirt.

Shit.

I resurfaced on the corner of the hole, holding my paddle. Damian yelled "grab my boat" and I made one swipe at his grab loop before the hole grabbed me. It shoved me to the center, and then the green water pushed me deep. Way deep. It was the proverbial green room (someone said the river was way deep at this point, 40ft+). I must have been 20 or 25 feet down. I could dimly hear the drop, but for the most part it was real quiet. I swam towards the surface slowly, realizing that if I tried to get up to fast I could get sucked back in. Eventually I started to panic, running low on air, and I clawed my way to the surface. I broke through and sucked in the sweet, sweet air. "You're alive!" yelled Damian, and ferried me to shore as Aaron corraled my boat. I was reunited with my gear, a bit shaky, but I realized that the Weir was the scariest drop (to me) and that I had made it through the tough stuff.

We then dropped through Okre falls. Things went fast from the lip as the water dropped away. My line wasn't ideal but it was close enough, glancing off the boil and carrying away from the main curtain. I slipped into a seam next to the boil and flipped, but rolled up well downstream of the ugly stuff. We then carried on through the rest of the canyon, mainly class III drops with one scary one, The Abyss. It was an easy-ish move through a hole, but if you stuffed it up you ended up in a gaping, undercut cave. We finished at the Kaituna Hole, a world-class playspot, and then headed out to grab some lunch.

The afternoon featured a trip in a Topo Duo (a 2 person kayak; Damian was practicing to run commercial trips down the river in the summer). I was in front, which was weird, as I had little control over the boat and had to let Damian do most of the paddling and all of the edging. We made it through the canyon in fine style, rolling once (I had to ditch my paddle and grab the boat so he could roll us) and running solid lines. Then it was time to pack up the van and head home.

As we headed home I reflected on the fact that I started paddling a year ago this month. I've come quite a ways from learning to surf on the Vermillion at 50 cfs with Dennis to running a 23 footer (by far my biggest drop to date) in New Zealand.

Paddling is fun.

8.16.2005

Weekend Trip




Last weekend was a lot of fun. I hooked up with the Hutt Valley and Ruiahene clubs for a trip up to King Country. I packed into a van with six other people on Friday night and drove to Witomo, which is the caving center of the north island. It's a huge limestone area, and we stayed in a caver's lodge. Great place; not a lock in the place, everything is on the honor system. We stayed in these huge beds and cooked in the full kitchen, hung out in the lodge; it was great. On Saturday we paddled the Tawarau, a fairly small-volume III+. We had a huge crew; 20 people on the river, but for the most part we spaced things out nicely. We had a few portages, but as you can see, the scenery was great.

The river had quite a bit of flatwater paddling, but all in all it wasn't too bad.



There were a few big drops that merited scouting, including this one, Bob's falls.


We had good lines for the most part; a few swims but nobody was hurt and nobody lost gear.

After we got back to the cars a few of us ran a technical rock garden, which was a lot of fun. Real tight moves and route-finding. One guy swam and so we had a 20 minute rescue (that's him getting into his boat in the background). It was a great rapid though; I would have loved a few more kilometers of the stuff.


On Sunday we ran the Mokau, a big water III+. The scenery wasn't nearly as good, but the rapids were a lot better. Generally more technical, pushier, and more fun. I got tossed around in my little rad a bit, but it wasn't too bad.



This is the first major rapid, Little Huka. Lots of fun.





Later, this is me rolling back up in what's maybe the most consequential rapid. I got my tail caught on the first pourover and back-endered. The rocks to the right of my boat are undercut; a swim could have been ugly. Everything was pushing through pretty well though, and I hit my roll and continued on. The last major rapid had a big hole that we had to punch; I hit it well but I saw one guy in an Inazone get a major working. He swam, but he earned it.


We then headed home, taking a wrong turn which lead us past the ocean. That was fine by me, it allowed me to see more of the island. I wanted to get out and suf, but most of the rest of the crew had creekboats so they weren't so keen. Maybe in a few weeks.

8.12.2005

Everything's Just Jake

More photos from Mohagano: Setting up in the pretty new boat.
Backsurfing. See how my tail is sitting low? I probably get back-endered and flushed in the following few seconds when my tail catches the green water. Gotta work on that. My head isn't looking upstream either. Boo.
Dropping into the feature hole; looks like I'm trying to lift my nose over the foam pile. I think it worked.

Photos!

Here are the photos from Mohagano.
Me setting up in the hole. Quite a different feeling in such a small boat.
Dropping the nose to try and get a cartwheel in the feature hole.
Little Huka.
An inadvertant donkey flip. It turns out using your face to paddle out of the foampile is only marginally effective.
Getting a couple ends in the feature hole. Then I probably dug in and got trashed; hard to say.

I'll have some more photos for you later.

8.10.2005

Mohagano

Lately I've been heading out to the Mohagano Enviornmental Whitewater Park in Shannon, which is about 20 minutes away from my university. It's the first artificial course in NZ, and arguabally the best. It has a full-length, olympic length slalom course and a number of good play holes including one feature rodeo-quality hole. I don't have any photos of me yet (they should be coming soon) but here are a couple pictures of Damian, one of the locals I've befriended, in the main hole. It's got plenty of push and speed.

As for my own playboating, I've been cartwheeling and getting 2 ends pretty consistantly, but I'm having trouble with the 3rd. The other day I almost stuck a back loop in the feature hole, which was pretty fun. Hopefully things will keep improving.

This weekend it's off on a trip to a couple rivers on the west coast of the north island; should be a good time.

The Start



When I arrived in New Zealand I had no boat. Clearly, this was going to be problematic. So I decided to head to Bliss Stick's factory outside of Tiahape, about an hour and a half out of Palmerston North, where I'm going to school. I caught a ride with some friends who were going skiing. As it turns out, the factory isn't "just outside" Taihape. It's like 15 or 20 miles away. As my new friends were driving farther and farther out of their way they were getting more and more impatient. Lots of sighing and looking around. Eventually one of them said "this is getting rediculious." I agreed. Eventually they hit some road construction and dumped me off, and I hiked the rest of the way to the factory. I met the owner of Bliss Stick, Charles Sage, and he gave me the full tour, then got me outfitted with a boat, a Super Rad 180. It was a demo boat with a bit of oilcanning, but that also meant I could afford it. Sweet as.

I caught a ride home with one of the shapers, Phillip, the next day after crashing on his couch. All in all, it was a pretty successful expedition. Over the next week I found myself a paddle and borrowed a PFD and I was ready to get out on the water.

Test 1

Let's see how this works.