Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big Water

So, for some reason recently, I have been thinking about big water. I’ve been working hard to pay off student loans, and I haven’t been paddling as much as in the past. In spite of this, every second of my time on the water has been high in both quality and flow. Over the past two months, I’ve paddled the Horsepasture at high water, Overflow to Lake at 3.5 feet, Tellico at 7 feet, Watauga at 1300, and some juicy Green runs. It’s been awesome!

Baby Falls a little while back.

Credit: Daniel Stewart

After our run on the Watauga this past weekend, some friends and I started bouncing around epic stories of high water on all of our favourite rivers. Here are some of the ones that I think I know… however feel free to correct me if I’m off on these.

Chattooga- 10 feet by Russ Kullmar and crew.
Raven Fork- 27 inches by Matt Sheridan, solo, in an I3.
Green- not sure, but I’ve run it up to 26. Pat and I ran Gorilla at 24.
Watauga- I’m sure it’s been run over 3,000.
Elk- I feel confident in saying that Herzog, Spencer and I hold that one, Watauga was at 9,000.
Linville- 3.3ish? probably by Herzog, Brad Kee, etc… although the gauge has changed.
Ottawa- Billy Harris and crew at 30 feet.
New River Gorge- Was Brian Jennings at 95,000ish, I’ll bet someone broke that recently.

So what have you guys got? I want to hear:

Toxaway Bear, West Prong, Rock Island Falls/Sieve Rapid, Little River Canyon, Nolichucky, Wilson’s Creek, Gauley, New, Gatineau, Rouge, Taureau, Upper Cherry, Middle Kings, Stikine, etc…

Comment here or back on Boatertalk. Photos are even better!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Green Race Season... here we go again.

Well, here we are again. As of today, there are 54 days until the annual Green River Narrows Race. I'm super stoked about bombing down that river once again this year, and the word is that we're going to have upwards of 150 competitors out there from all over the world. Just writing about this event raises my heart rate, and I hope everyone is working hard to get themselves ready for it.

I am a bit limited on my training time due to a 17 hour final semester of school at UNCA, but I'm trying to set myself up well as always. I'm working with Crossfit Asheville until the Green Race to try to get my fitness where it needs to be. They're super cool people, and have helped me out tremendously already.

Here are a few pics of my first run down the Green with the big boat this fall:
**Photos by Jakob Kafer**

The ultimate race weapon...

Taylor Fearrington bombing through Frankenstein.

Damn it feels good to be back.


Fast and clean. November 7, 2009.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Downhill Racing...

So I've been getting more and more into DH mtn biking over the past year, and this fall I've been able to get out to a number of sick races. First up was the Dirty Bird race out at Hawks Nest resort. The course was extremely challenging with a bunch of off-camber roots in there, and it poured rain before the race, making it a total cluster@#$k. Paul Stamilio saw me take a ridiculous high speed crash the day before where I got clothes-lined by a tree, but I was able to get my mind straight for the race. I had a good run down through the course, but hit the gap near the bottom with too much speed and slid off the course and down the hill. I pushed my shit all the way back up the hill and got back on my bike, but my run was over. I ended up around 20th in the Amateurs out of 35 or so. Oh well.

The next weekend was the ETSU collegiate race. That weekend went way better. My little brother and I got some good practice in and both of us laid it down on the course and had good times. I got 1st in the Men's B division, and would have ended up around 14th or so in A. Nick won Men's C, and would have gotten 3rd in B. Here are a couple of pics of us:

Nick ripping the last drop off.

Credit: Ashley Woodring

Same drop.

Credit: Ashley Woodring

Me on the gnarly rock section right above the finish line.

Credit: Ashley Woodring

The next weekend was the race out at Beech Mountain in Banner Elk. This is my favourite race course that I've ridden. I was super stoked to get back out there, but unfortunately I had some equipment failure. I was basically having the run of my life on my bike(with a headcam on), and dropped my chain about 2/3 of the way down the track, and couldn't hit the big stepdown at the bottom. I coasted it out and dropped a couple of choice words at the finish line... words like "gosh" and "darn."

Bryan Harris killing it out there.

Myself hitting the bottom stepdown.

And coming up a bit short!! This is why I love having 8 inches of travel.

And that's all I've got for now in the biking front, look forward to seeing everyone at the ASU and Brevard collegiate races, and then the Paris Mtn race in Greenville SC.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Canadian Sessions #3: High Tension

One trip that has certainly become a tradition for me is the yearly playboating overnighter that I do on the Gatineau River near Maniwaki, Quebec. When High Tension wave is in, it's the ultimate experience to drag camping gear in and stay on the sandy beach right next to the wave. Unbelievable. This year I was able to introduce my buddy Bryan Harris to these sick rivers, and he was freaking out having never been on big water before. It was also cool hanging out with all the British Team lads as they prepared for the Worlds in Thun, Switzerland. I'm stoked to train up and hopefully attend another Freestyle World Championships in the next couple of years.

Overall, the Gatineau is a super special place, and I hope you enjoy these pics of the experience:

**All photos by Bryan Harris**

Bryan stoked to be on the big water.


**All photos by Bryan Harris** Thanks buddy!

Life is rough next to my favourite wave on earth...


Canadian Sessions #2: The Ottawa

So I was fortunate enough to do some work for Liquid Skills Kayak School this summer on the Ottawa River. The Ottawa has been a staple in my yearly schedule since I learned how to paddle there when I was 11, and it was awesome to work with the Skills this summer. Check them out if you're trying to get world class instruction on the Ottawa River...

Liquid Skills Website

Myself showing one of my clients, Daniella, through McCoy's Rapid.

Credit: Georges

The view down the pipe at Dragon's Tongue on Garvin's Chutes. Quite an excellent rapid.

I actually went to Liquid Skills when I was 15 for a Junior Development Camp, and met some of my best friends of all time that week, including Benny Marr and Max Kniewasser. It was awesome being able to work with the young guys and girls during my time up there this summer, and I was definitely amazed by the talent and quick learning of all of them. I paddled for a couple of days with an Alberta boy by the name of Stirling... Stirling was super stoked about his Dagger RX and certainly started pushing the boat to it's potential by the end of his two week stay.

Here's Stirling reverse wave-wheeling into the Odyssey hole. Survival surf session!

Credit: Andy

And here's a cool scenic pic that Stirling sent in from his home river... the Kananaskis.

The Ottawa definitely is one of the ultimate places to find yourself in the North American summer. Hope to see some new faces out there next year.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Mont St. Anne World Cup!

So my younger brother, sister, and I have been obsessing for the past year over a number of videos documenting the World Cup series of downhill mountain bike racing, and we finally got to attend one of the races. More info about the races can be found here:

UCI World Cup Site

Basically, I knew these guys would be fast, but I had no idea how fast. I was scared just standing on the side, and the skill and fitness that they showed was truly inspiring. I would love to see kayaking receive the level of recognition and support that downhill gets. I watched two of my favourite racers take the Downhill and 4 Cross titles, Sam Hill and Jared Graves, respectively. Sam left no room for doubt beating Steve Peat by 4 seconds.

Check out these pics of the action:

Filip Polc.

Steve Smith from Van Island!! Such a sick rider and Canada's top finisher.

Brendan Fairclough

Steve Peat, 2nd.

The podium. Aaron Gwinn in 3rd is the highest US finisher in years. Yeahhh.

Syndicate V10s... so beautiful.

For more coverage of Mont St. Anne World Cup, as well as other goings on this summer, check out the next LVM.

From there it was on to a sick day of riding at Bromont where we didn't take a single picture. Sorry! It was awesome though. Here's a headcam video of my favourite trail, first trail on the vid:
Bromont Trail 7


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cottage Livin and Niagara

I never get tired of returning to my family's cottage near Picton, Ontario, Canada. I have traveled to a lot of cool places in the world but I'm pretty sure that this is my favourite. Whenever I'm there it's nothing but amazing company, food, drinks, sailing, swimming, riding, etc.

You'd have to be there in person to understand, but here's a couple of pics of the cottage experience.

Myself enjoying the Bay of Quinte on the sickest singlehand sailboat, a Hobie Cat 17.

Credit: Julia Gragtmans

Here's my little brother, Nick, partaking in the Cinnamon challenge after I bet him $10 dollars he couldn't do it. Look it up if you don't know what it is. Nick talked to Uncle Pukie after this one and I payed him the $10 out of pity.

And here's another sibling, Julia, learning how to ride a mountain bike. Julia's one of those people who you get pissed off at because they can do anything involving athletics completely effortlessly.

This image is a testament to the beauty of Prince Edward County.

The crazy thing is that this is not unusual, the sunsets are like this every single night!

Credit: Julia Gragtmans

Ashley and I took a trip to Niagara Falls. The power of that place is super humbling and it was fun to check it out for my first time since I was four years old.

The line is there for sure...

It's really not that big at all.

They made us ride a damn boat to get these $16 ponchos!

Hope everyone else is enjoying their summer as well.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Canadian Sessions #1: Taureau

So after the return from Colorado, it was time once again to head up to Canada for my yearly trip. I've said it time and again, but Eastern Canada is one of the sickest places in the world to be in a kayak. (or on a mountain bike... or a sailboat)

My car locked and loaded once again in Asheville.

I was able to hit the Taureau section of the Jacques Cartiere River with my buddy Adam Herzog. This region of the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec is nothing short of epic, and I don't seem to grow tired of visiting it.

This was my first time on the Taureau, and I've been wanting to get on "the Linville of the North" for a long time now. This river captivated me when I was maybe 13 and read the AW article "A Perfect Day on Quebec's Perfect River" by Chris Koll. The river just sounded so ultimate, and I've wanted to paddle it ever since. Here's the link to the article:

Looking upstream towards the Taureau from 20 km downstream of the takeout... where the pavement ends.

Adam and I met up and camped at the takeout, so we would have part of the epic shuttle done. Adam was wandering around at 4:15 AM already and I "slept in" til about 6:30. We ate breakfast, got our stuff together and headed up. After a short hike in and a quick snack at the putin, we were floating on a beautiful, tannic coloured river through some meadows... with 15 miles of whitewater in front of us.

Adam paddling the flats.

The aforementioned article describes the river as having a symmetrical gradient scale from start to finish, meaning that it goes from flat, to class 1, then 2, then 3, 4, and then about 7 miles of class 5, after which it makes the same smooth transition back down. It's an unbelievable place. The flatwater lasts for a couple of minutes, and then the river slowly and gently narrows and starts to form riffles and eddylines. It just begs you to go downstream and discover what it has in store.

The class five section is nothing short of sick, and the river asserts a feeling of power that only big water creeks are capable of. Adam had about 25 strips of duct tape on both sides of his deck, with the names of the biggest class 5 rapids, and he read them off and explained them one after another as we drifted into them.

Here's the top of one of the gnarlier rapids on the river, Sieve Drop. Worth a scout and some safety.

Credit: Adam Herzog

All in all the river took us 4.5 hours and we did not stop enough to properly document what was going on. Adam says that this river is possibly the best river he has ever paddled, and I would have to say it's up there for me as well. I would recommend it very very highly... my one suggestion is to bring a shuttle driver!

Cheers, and good lines.
Chris Gragtmans