Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Waterfall Tour of Quebec...

As creekboaters, there are a couple of destinations that we hear a lot about as being the holy grails of extreme kayaking. Norway, Mexico, California, and Chile come up time and time again as the places to visit when you can gather the funds and the crew. I love traveling to locations such as these that are well-established and documented, but once in a while it's fun to get off the beaten path a bit. That is what Quebec is to me... a fairly undocumented mecca of absolutely everything that you could want as a kayaker. But you've gotta work for it!

I take no credit for this graphic by Spencer Cooke...

A typical Quebec waterfall...

Photo: Kelsey Thompson

This July I took a week long trip with my buddy Kelsey Thompson, and we paddled some incredible rivers in the Laurentian Mountains.

First stop... Les Sept Chutes de Saint Anne, Drop 1.

Photo: Kelsey Thompson

The Sept Chutes of St. Anne are located east of Quebec City, and are 7 absolutely incredible park and huck waterfalls on the St. Anne du Nord River. These drops were first-d'd by Dominic Chaput and Dominic Fournier(Dom and Domer) a couple years back at low water, and to my knowledge have only been run a handful of times by them since then. I've been researching and wanting to run them for the past three years, and I finally got a chance. After the 4.5 hour drive from Montreal, Kelsey and I met up with Steve Arns, Krusty Thompson, and Bob Butler and got to paddle these sick cataracts. Incredible day at a flow somewhere around 200 cfs.

"Big Water" Bob Butler styling it while I film and Krusty shoots photos.

Photo: Steve Arns.

Steve Arns, Drop 5.

Photo: Kelsey Thompson

Bob mid-bounce on Drop 1.

Photo: Steve Arns

After the Sept Chutes, we made the big drive northeast into the middle of nowhere to paddle the Malbaie River. In spite of it's remoteness, it is well worth the drive, and provides a great day of high volume class IV/V creeking and the sweetest 30 footer you'll ever run! The whitewater immediately took my mind off of the long drive and rainy night that we had just spent, as well as the fact that I had 1/4 tank of gas about 120 kilometres from the closest gas station!

Myself enjoying the zen moment.

Photo: Steve Arns

Kelsey rolling off the lip.

Photo: Steve Arns

Kelsey boofing another cool Malbaie drop.

Photo: Steve Arns

Upon completion of the Malbaie, Steve, Bob, and Krusty had to make the 11 hour drive back to the city of Ottawa, and the real world. Kelsey and I decided to rally back to the Sept Chutes and spend another day running those bedrock wonders. Upon arrival, we discovered the river had increased exponentially in volume because of the rain... and the Sept Chutes had now entered the realm of truly world class whitewater.

Kelsey's and my run that day was one of the best days of the summer for sure, and I was fortunate enough to end it with possibly the biggest/sickest/most fun rapid that I have ever run in my life... a burly cascade starting with a boof over a huge hole at the top, then down a whiteout curler-filled slide dropping about 30 feet, immediately off a 40 footer at full speed(trying to get right, because the left half of the boil pushes into a nasty kiwi-in-a-pocket type place), and then down another Toxaway-style slide dropping about 30 more feet.

The forty footer from the overlook.

After finishing our run on the Sept Chutes, Kelsey and I headed back in the direction of Montreal, and scouted the infamous Steve Fisher rapid called the Chutes de la Sainte Ursulles. I've been looking at this one for a couple years too, and the damn South African superstar had to crush my hopes and dreams when he first d'd it last year. Punk ass! Haha... just kidding, didn't want a piece of it in years past, and that didn't change during this trip.

The sickest thing ever run in my opinion...

Photo: Kelsey Thompson

After our grand adventure, Kelsey and I were treated to two days of sessioning the Lachines Waves in Montreal. Couldn't ask for a better place to mellow out after scaring yourself a bit.

Kelsey doing his Canadian National Champion thing...

Well that's all for now folks, hope you enjoy the video, and see you at the Green Race!

Chris Gragtmans

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cheoah Race!

This weekend was a fun one out on the Cheoah River... I made the drive out with my Asheville buds, Daniel Windham and Ashlyn Little, and we got a couple great runs down that beautiful river. It was definitely the most fun I've had in my kayak since getting back to the drought-ridden Southeast.

As 4 PM rolled around, about 20 of us lined up, shortest boat to longest boat, at the Forest Service bridge for a little impromptu head to head race through the falls, and all the way down to the lake.

I was surprised with the showing, and with Shane Benedict and Maria Noakes paddling Pisgah rec boats, Chris Hipgrave in his Wavehopper, the man Adam Zog-dog in his T-Canyon, and numerous other heavy hitters in Dancers, Tornados, and Pirouettes, everyone was super fired up!

I got kind of a mushy start back in the pack a ways, battled with a number of people until the lead in to the falls, and eventually found some open water and was able to wind it out and get into a groove.

Muchos gracias to Ashlyn Little for the pics!! That's whats up.

Myself cruising up to the falls after getting clear of the mess behind me.

Zog-dog doing his thing... probably the most core person I've ever met.

I love this series! 3 boats into the falls at once... Daniel Windham goes for the pass.

And the ensuing mayhem! (L-R Shane Benedict, Chris Hipgrave, Joe Barkley)

**Photos by Ashlyn Little**

Anyways, it was an extremely fun, challenging race on a beautiful river, and I'm definitely in again for next year! Gotta credit my bud Pat Keller here for the use of one of his beautiful Green Boats... that is one incredible design.

The results as I remember them(I have a bad memory):
1) myself
2) Chris Hipgrave
3) Adam Herzog
4) Chan Jones(i think)

Chris Gragtmans

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Middle Kings Expedition...

After two Upper Cherry runs and a couple chill days, it was time for Pat, Coop, Dylan and I to bite off the crown jewel of the Sierras... the Middle Kings River.

We met up with the Asheville crew that was just taking off the river and got some very encouraging advice, as well as a couple scary peeks into what we were going to be dealing with:

Tommy- "It's the river trip of a lifetime."
John- "Here's a picture of Jules hiking in the snow on Bishop's Pass... ok here's a picture of Jules puking on Bishop's Pass."
Tommy- "There's the rapid where I swam."
Katie- "There's the rapid where I swam and lost my boat."
Jason- "Get ready to punch a thousand holes. It's awwwwwwnnn in there!"
Jules- "There's the rapid where homie compound fractured his arm and swam."

I knew that the Middle Kings represented a milestone that I've been training for since I started creekboating. The specs of this adventure are pretty incredible:

Shuttle- 400 miles down around the southern slope of the Sierras
Hike- 13 miles to putin, over a 12,000 ft. pass, 2 miles up at the takeout
River- 31 miles
Putin Elevation- 8600 ft.
Takeout Elevation- 2200 ft!!

I didn't take any pictures of this trip, so I'm going to refer to Pat Keller's Blog, and Cooper Lambla's Blog to tell the photographic story of the Middle Kings. It was six of the most incredible days of (I think) all of our lives, and I can't wait to go back.

Click below to watch the Middle Kings video.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Upper Cherry Double

I've heard a lot about Upper Cherry Creek near Yosemite National Park, but none of the hype could possibly have prepared me for just how incredible this granite playground is.

The 11 mile hike in through a lunarscape...

*All photos by John Warner*

Dylan and I drove straight through the night from Crested Butte, Colorado with beta from my buddies Max Kniewasser and Chris Harjes that Upper Cherry was super high, but would come in to a perfect level with a big cold front rolling into the area. Unfortunately, Max and Chris did not know just how cold it was going to get, and about halfway through the brutal hike it started snowing on us. We then recieved the news from some hikers that the high for the next day was 40 degrees, and lows for the next two nights would be in the teens! Needless to say, after 4 non-stop days of paddling in Colorado, a 27 hour drive straight through a night and a half to get to Upper Creek, and only 4 hours of sleeping in the dust before starting the hike, we were freaking demoralized! I had a 40 degree sleeping bag, a couple of good IR thick skin layers(thank God), and another crucial, lifesaving piece of gear, my tent fly. That night was brutal, nothing short of a blizzard hit us at the put-in, and we all hunkered down and shivered it out next to a dying fire. Harjes got the worst of it with no shelter, and the group was feeling rough in the morning.

It got sunny just long enough to coax us into not hiking out, and putting on to paddle down to Cherry Bomb...

Rapid #1, right below camp.

Filming Sam...

As soon as we put on and ran the first couple of the rapids, the snow started falling again, and the temperature plummeted. There was a lot of blowing into hands that day, and praying that we wouldn't swim as we worked our way through the Class IV Gorge, and the Gorilla Gorge.

Upon reaching the top of Cherry Bomb Gorge, the last place to exit before you drop into the 8 or so entrance drops, Cherry Bomb Falls and the next 5 walled in holes, I was feeling super pumped to drop in without the standard walk around and scout the gorge from the top, and Nick Wimsett, an incredible Kiwi paddler who had run Cherry Bomb the previous year, was also in. After a couple of minutes of deliberation, Sam and Dylan decided they were feeling fired up as well, and the four of us left Harjes, John, and Peacher and started paddling into that chasm.

Leaving the point of no return...

Amazing what glaciers can do.

Climbing up to the rock at the lip of Cherry Bomb was pretty incredible, just because that rapid is so legendary and I've always been so impressed with the way it looks in video and photos... and there I was, finally!

Our lines went well through Cherry Bomb and the next series of walled-in holes, and needless to say I was repeating the 7 Rivers Expedition famous line... "left, left, middle, right, right, middle, left". My dorky kayaking video obsession finally paid off!

Dylan givin' er.

Paddling the beautiful teacups coming out of Cherry Bomb Gorge.

Needless to say, in spite of the two nights of blizzards and a couple of big swims, Upper Cherry is one of the most incredible places a kayaker can find him or herself in. We got two runs with a total of 7 days out there on the granite, and I can't wait to go back. I'll let the video do the rest of the talking...

**Thanks to John Warner for use of his images**

Chris Gragtmans

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Quebec Waterfalls...

Hey Everyone,

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here, as I still have to do the Upper Cherry and Middle Kings updates, but I just returned from a 6-day trip to the province of Quebec with Kelsey Thompson, where we were able to explore a bunch of waterfalls that I've been researching and gathering beta on for a while. Check out the quick teaser below of one of the sickest/biggest/most fun drops I've ever run in my life. The province is packed with as many huge waterfalls as your body can take!!

More coming soon...

Good lines.
Chris Gragtmans

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Environmental Responsibility in the Whitewater Industry

Over the past years I’ve had the opportunity to work as an athlete representative for a number of very cool companies in the outdoors industry. I’m particularly excited about this year, because I’ve recently started working with Astral Buoyancy, Immersion Research, and Mion Footwear.

These three companies make top-of-the line products, and all of them share the very cool distinction of being environmentally progressive with their production methods and materials. The following is a brief look at how these three companies are making a positive impact on the world of whitewater business.

We’re fortunate to have Astral Buoyancy based right in Asheville, NC. As most of you probably know, this company is owned by Philip Curry, who also started Lotus Designs while he was in college(at Warren Wilson by the way), and eventually sold it to Patagonia. Astral is responsible for exposing the toxic externalities of using PVC foam(the industry standard at the time) in both the production and disposal of pfds. Since then, they’ve fazed in an organic, buoyant fibre by the name of KAPOK, as well as PE(polyethylene) foam, both of which are much lower impact, and PE can be recycled in the same way as plastic bottles... meaning that all the excess PE foam from the dyes can be recycled, rather than dumped in a landfill or burned like PVC. Very cool.

Enjoying the Aquavest 300 on the Green.

Photo by Spencer Cooke.

I’ve been wearing the Aquavest 300 this spring and summer, and it’s an extremely versatile piece of equipment. A couple of things that appeal to me about the vest are the tow tether with quick release, impact protection for the rib cage, and the fact that the extraction loop on the front of the jacket, as well as the shoulder straps have 1200 lb. tensile strength! Basically, you can rappel with confidence with this vest, as well as get yanked out of the worst of situations by your shoulder strap, because the webbing in the vest tightens around you as the shoulder strap is pulled up. It’s an awesome, very safe pfd, and I’m fired up to be wearing it in my creekboat and playboat.

Mion Footwear is another young company making waves in the kayaking world these days… started by Martin Keen previously of Keen footwear. Mion stands out with regards to its progressive energy practices… They are a carbon-neutral company, meaning that each of their sales reps’ vehicles features a Terrapass, which offsets the climate impact by supporting projects in clean, renewable energy. In addition to this, Mion purchases wind power from South Dakota to offset 100% of the energy used in manufacturing the shoes, and the European distribution center is 100% powered by on-site wind turbines and solar panels. The US distribution center in California is close behind with 60% of its power coming from on-site solar panels. It’s very cool to promote and be associated with companies who care enough to put these kinds of ideas into practice.

About to hike over the 12,000 ft. Bishop Pass during the 12 mile hike in to the Middle Kings River... with 85 pounds on my back! Very spiritual moment, and I'm glad I had some good hiking shoes...

Photo by Pat Keller.

My Flood Tide shoes lasted me all spring, through a Skookumchuck trip, Colorado, 2 Upper Cherry hikes(11 miles each), and 1 Middle Kings hike… and they still look barely used!

These shoes are pretty unique because they combine the play booty with the full on creeking shoe… meaning that’s all you need for any river trip. The play booty slides easily in and out, and both are made out of super tough, sticky, non-marking rubber. I couldn’t believe the play booty stood up to the razor sharp barnacles of the Skookumchuck Narrows in BC for 7 days in a row, but they still look great.

This fall, I plan on using the Fast Canyon shoe for creeking. It looks awesome with much higher ankle support and some burly treads for hiking through anything… Fast Canyon Link

Immersion Research is another company that I am super stoked to be working with. I’m coming from 5 years of representing Level Six clothing, and although I can’t say enough about the people and products over there, I feel as though IR will be a better fit.

With regards to environmental stewardship, IR is another company that just has it together… they have some very innovative new products coming down the line for 2008, but you’ll have to wait until OR show this year to hear more about those! In general, John, Kara, Roger, and everyone else at IR care about how their actions will affect the well-being of our planet.

Click here to view IR biodiesel video.

Aside from the biodiesel production, all paper, plastic, and can waste that is produced at the factory is recycled, boxes are reused, and light use is kept to a minimum. Most of the members of the IR community are also able to ride bikes to work rather than driving, and Roger Loughney rides to work a couple times a week in spite of the fact that it takes him 2 hours one way!

So, one piece of equipment that I absolutely couldn’t live without in the sport of kayaking is the Union Suit. For those unfamiliar with this product, it’s a super comfy thick-skin fleece one piece that you enter through the neck… and it is sooo warm. It comes in particularly handy on multi-days, because you can comfortably paddle snow-melt high elevation whitewater all day, and when you get to camp, strip off the rest of your gear, dry your Union Suit around the fire, and you’ll sleep a lot warmer in your sleeping bag. I probably would have been hypothermic during the Upper Cherry blizzards this year if it weren’t for this piece of gear!

Thankful for the Union Suit during a cold session in the Eternity Hole, NC.

Photo by Jeb Hall.

Anyways, I’m going to conclude my rambling, just wanted to share my excitement about working with a couple of very cool companies that care about the larger impact of their actions. Feels like a breath of fresh air in the profit-driven, image-oriented society that we live in.

Immersion Research
Astral Buoyancy
Mion Footwear

Signing out from Picton, Ontario.
Chris Gragtmans

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Colorado Goods

Hey Sports Fans,

I'm currently in Eastern Canada after an incredible trip out west... My buddy Dylan Bruce and I hopped into his Suby and made a 7,000 mile tour to some of the country's best whitewater. Gotta love summer!

Watch the Colorado Tour Vid.

Stop #1 for us was the state of Colorado, and we spent four whirlwind days paddling some of the classics of the area. After taking a frustrating wrong turn outside of Salida, we finally made it to the Pine Creek/Numbers section of the Arkansas. This section of the river turned out to be a perfect warm-up for the adventure, and it was great to paddle with our buddies Ben Blake, Josh Werts, Daniel Windham and Clayton Gaar. Dylan wasn't entirely stoked about the day, with a slight mishap in the Pine Creek Rapid about 30 seconds after putting in, but that's another story...


Day 2 was a slightly stressful day. I've heard alot about a rapid by the name of Paralyzer on Lake Creek just north of Buena Vista, and just the name has always freaked me out. I was fired up about running Lake Creek though, and after a quick scout to find the location of Tombstone Rapid(highly recommended by the way, it's easy to roll into), Ben, Josh, Dylan, Daniel, Clayton and I put in upstream. It was evident once we got on the run that the water was high, and eddies were in short order out there. Other than one incident involving a channel-wide log that was invisible from upstream, we made it safely through NIMBY, Toaster, and miles and miles of super fun boat-scout boogie.

Ben Blake styling some Colorado Class V in an SR Sherlock.

Photo by Josh Werts.

By the time we got to Paralyzer Rapid, I was feeling pretty fired up, but that thing turned out to be waaaay bigger than I expected. We scouted for about a half hour, and I finally decided to give her a go. Rolling into that mini-gorge of Brains Rapid, into Paralyzer, and then immediately into Z-Turn Rapid was a pretty intense experience, and I definitely felt alone in there, but everything went well, and I was fired up to be given that opportunity. After Lake Creek we rolled into Crested Butte and rendezvoused with Jim Toman, who I can't thank enough for putting us up for two nights. You're my boy blue!

Dropping in. The entrance drop before it fires around the corner into Paralyzer.

Photo by Josh Werts.

Moving left in the thick of Paralyzer, below the double boof, above the huge pillow rapid run-out.

Photo by Josh Werts.

We woke up on Day 3 to a sick couple of runs on the ultra-classic Oh-Be-Joyful Creek near Crested Butte. This creek is the shit and it's definitely my favourite run in Colorado. It's just good clean fun, and it boasts two waterfalls that are awesome for working on all kinds of creeking techniques.

The put-in for Oh-Be-Joyful Creek, 10,500 ft elevation.

Photo by Dylan Bruce

After some quick grub at the campground, we went to check out the North Fork of the Slate mini-gorge. I'll let the video explain this one, but needless to say I'm gonna need to get some redemption next year. It was a very scary rapid, and I allowed myself to lose focus in there. I got humbled for sure, but learned a valuable lesson about not letting your past mistakes affect your mentality, and your performance in the present. I've gotta also give a shout out here to Keith Sprinkle, Jim Toman, and Bill Clipper for the sick safety, moral support, and camera work. Can't thank you guys enough.

The next morning was awesome, because I got to watch/film Dylan running Stupid Falls on the Upper East River. This drop is a burly 60-foot multi-tier drop, and is a very intimidating horizon line to paddle up to. In addition to this, the bedrock is just plain scary(last year I picked little pieces of slate out of my boat after my run). Anyways, long story short... I opted out and Dylan showed us how it's done. Dude's killing it!

Dylan post-styling that shit.

Photo by Jim Toman.

After a couple more afternoon runs on O-B-J, and a delicious dinner at the Toman residence, we were again on the road, and following positive beta, we were in a bee-line for Upper Cherry Creek in California. More about that later...

Watch the Colorado Tour Vid.

Peace, and good lines out there!
Chris Gragtmans

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Skookumchuck Narrows, BC

The Skookumchuck Narrows is a place that I’ve wanted to visit ever since I first started kayaking. I’ve heard a million stories and seen hours of footage from the epic wave, but in spite of the large expectations I had built up, Skook lived up to and surpassed all of them. Spencer and I spent a total of 7 days at the wave, and experienced tides from 14 to 17.2 knots.

Click here to watch the Skook Video from Effort.tv

Ferry out to the Sechelt Peninsula.

The scene at Skook… Trip Jennings shoots while Karl Moser paddles.

One of the things that sets Skook apart from other big wave playspots is how dynamic and alive it is. The plankton-rich water that the flood tide brings in feeds starfish, anemones, kelp beds, and all sorts of other wildlife at the wave, and it’s pretty incredible to be surfing a big green wave and see the kelp waving on the rock shelf below you.

Oohhh. Preeeettty.

The wave itself is obviously very dynamic as well, and is at its best right before or right after it greens out on both sides of max flood. At these levels there is a small foam pile at the top, and it’s probably one of the best spots in the world for working out new tricks.

Spence works on his clean blunt.

Me enjoying the Flair 57.

I would love to have this as my home wave, and it was super fun to hang out with some of the locals who are fortunate enough to paddle here every time it comes in, especially Dru Lyall and Emily Lussin.

Dru and Emily cold-kickin it.

These guys are fellow members of Team Riot, former Canadian Team Members, and are two super cool people and very good kayakers. It was awesome hanging out with them.

Dru can throw some nasty clean blunts.

During max flood the wave greens out and playboats can’t catch it, but Dru was nice enough to let me use his Riot Boogie surf boat for a while during a big tide. After a number of vain attempts to catch the wave, I dropped in, paddled my ass off, and finally skipped down the face of that monster! “Walking on the Moon” by The Police came on my H2o Audio, and I had a ten minute, zen soul-surf out there. I really can’t describe how much fun it was, but I couldn’t stop laughing at what I was doing and yelling at the top of my lungs! It was a total spiritual moment and that single surf probably validated my whole trip out there, as well as reminding me how much I love what we kayakers are fortunate enough to be able to do.

So in conclusion, Skook is a truly special place to visit, and I’m sure I will be back. Unfortunately it looks as though the whole Skookumchuck area is under a serious threat from a local logging company. During our time there, we spoke to a number of locals who were working on petitions to protect their drinking water, and the natural aesthetic beauty of this part of the Sechelt Peninsula. Please help save this incredible paddling resource by writing an email before the proposed deadline, detailed below:

An Open Letter to all White Water Kayakers

The village of Egmont, BC, is asking for the help of all kayakers who have ridden (or aspire to ride) the waves of the Skookumchuck Rapids. We have learned that a logging company has acquired the logging license in this area. The logging plans involve three huge clear cuts on the local watershed with one that extends right to the Skookumchuck Trail within the Provincial Park. Also, there is a planned cutblock that would mow down the trees along Egmont Road from Highway 101 to North Lake; a huge cutblock off of Maple Road; and another cutblock on the watershed at the north end of Ruby Lake. As well, the company plans to log Sechelt Nation Reserve lands just inside the Sechelt Inlet just past the rapids.

The residents of Egmont asked if the logging company would take a sustainable logging approach but they said no and so the area's residents have said no to the logging company. We now ask for your support to keep the logging out of this area. We ask that you email the forestry rep before a June 6th deadline at

and copy that email to us at skookumnarrows@yahoo.ca

Please address your email to:

Cam Forrester, R.P.F., Consulting Forester
6231 Sunshine Coast Highway, Sechelt, BC V0N 3A7
Tel: 604-885-7142, Fax: 604-885-7112
Email: cam_forrester@dccnet.com

We will be posting all information about this proposed logging and our efforts to stop it on our blog at
www.saveourwatershed.com. We look forward to your support.


Friends of Egmont

Click here to watch the Skook Video from Effort.tv including information regarding the logging.

I’d like to thank Aquabound Paddles and Craig Langford for hooking it up on this trip! See you on the rivers of Colorado, California or Oregon in the near future.

Chris Gragtmans