Monday, September 15, 2008

The Linville Triple!!

Today was a pretty unbelievable day. Since I started getting into the creeking scene here in Asheville when I was 14, I've really looked up to Johnson City boater Adam Herzog. I've always thought that he is one of the most core people in our sport, simply because he never seems to care at all about the superficialities and corporate image bulls&#@ that consumes alot of people, and he just crushes it in a kayak, on a road bike or on a trail. He has won the Jerry's Baddle Greenman class two years in a row, run 40-40 on the Toxaway in a Perception Overflow, consistently beat the 5 minute mark in the Green Race, run the Raven's Fork and Cullasaja in a day, taken me down the Elk at richter flood levels (Watauga at 8600), and run the Linville twice in a day SOLO. Dude is an animal.

Adam and I have had conversations over the past two years or so about doing the Linville 3 times in a day, and how that would be the ultimate day of kayaking in the Southeast. I have always thought that my physical conditioning would allow me to complete the three river runs if that was all that was involved, but the hikes in and out of the river are over a mile each, with majour elevation changes. The first time I paddled the Linville I was 100% physically and mentally drained when I reached that takeout, and then even moreso after hiking for an hour back to the cars.

Here's the elevation profile for the Linville Gorge.

Credit: Chris Bell/Boatingbeta

I guess the only way to find out if you are capable of something is to try it... so I woke up at 3:45 in the morning, checked levels, and called Adam at 4. Things were looking good, the Linville was at a high level of 3 feet but appeared to be dropping in. Time to skip four classes!

The plan was to meet Fergus Coffey for the first, slower run in which we would have to look out for new wood, and then knock out the next two runs with just me and Adam. I left my house at 4:25 am loaded down with Gatorades, Powerbars, PBJ, a Mac and Cheese/bean mix that I concocted the night before, and 4 liters of water. After a lonely, dark, rainy, foggy drive up to the Linville that involved a lot of loud music to boost my confidence, I met the boys at the falls at 5:45. Adam said he had driven straight through the headwaters and they were getting slammed with rain, and that the triple plans were pretty much scrapped. However we set shuttle and kept a positive attitude, and Spencer and his son Mason showed up as we suited up at the Babel Tower parking lot to document the ridiculousness of our situation.

Babel Tower trailhead, 6:30 am.

Credit: Spencer Cooke

Heading in.

Credit: Spencer Cooke

RUN #1
...was intense for me as I've never paddled Linville nearly that high. All the rapids were really really awesome, but it just felt like we were flirting with disaster the entire time. As long as you keep your boat skipping through those holes its all good, but if you get stuck in one... I don't really want to think about it. It is a sick class V+ run at that level. Demanding lines with the most dire of consequences if you come out of your boat. We all had smooth lines through everything and I was feeling my groove by Cathedral Gorge. Sick run and we were back at the putin by 10:25, which meant 2 hours on the river and another 1:25 total for the hiking.

RUN #2
I crammed some food and water down at the put-in, but we started down the trail before I could really think about anything. The second hike in started hurting, and by the bottom, my quads and calves were feeling pretty flayed. We hiked in silence due to the fact that it was pouring on us. Pouring! I would be lying if I said that I wasn't very nervous hiking back into that powerful place. I did not want to disrespect the Linville.

Wiseman's Dome on a pretty ominous morning.

Credit: Spencer Cooke

We got to Babel and noticed that the water had risen by a good two inches on Adam's gauge rock. We ran Babel Tower for the second time and cruised downstream at high speed, leapfrogging down the river whenever one of us would get slowed down for any reason. I was feeling great still but was starting to get the brain fuzz from overdose of huge whitewater. It was still f@#*ing raining! We had smooth lines through everything and hit the Conley trail after 1:20 on the river. Adam pronounced at the takeout that he was 100% out for the third one and not to let him go if said he wanted to paddle again at the top. I was pretty exhausted myself but thought I might have the reserves for a third... I hit a carb gu and put my shit back on my head.

We got to the cars 35 minutes later and after feeling the hood on Spencer's car I figured I could catch those boys on the hike in. As we drove to the putin a very crucial thing happened... the sun came out. Adam proclaimed that he was back in for the triple, and we rolled into the putin right as a huge crew was getting ready to hike in. YEEESSSS. I put my kayak on my head and started stumbling down the trail again.

Adam and myself getting fired up for the third run.

Credit: Spencer Cooke

RUN #3
I got to the gorge drop-in overlook and took my kayak off my head for a sec. John, Toby, Al G and Pat were taking a break there, and they seemed pretty worried about my involuntarily shaking legs. I think my response was something like I'm fine, just need to get to the river...

Adam reaching the river on our third hike in.

Credit: Spencer Cooke

I think this is called the 1000 yard stare...

Credit: Spencer Cooke

Adam running Babel Tower for the third time.

Credit: Spencer Cooke

I hit another gu at Babel, and we put on with an 8 person crew chasing us, and the final run was incredible. Adam had a scary experience at Jailhouse rapid, but bulled his way out of it, and then made a good decision to hike Cathedral Gorge via the trail on river right. I knew that I was going to crash hard soon, as we had been exerting ourselves at a very high level for 11 hours, but it did not hit me on the river. I felt absolutely great and had a blast bombing the boys through some huge rapids. We hit the trail after a 1:30 final run, and after a quick celebration we got everything together for one last hike out.

I didn't take any breaks on the hike out, but about 15 minutes from the top my body was starting to crash. I stumbled up the last 5 or so switchbacks and up the final stretch... Pat was there with his camera and said that he has never seen me that tired, ever. Adam rolled in a couple minutes later and Pat came through with the celebration beverages! It was an absolutely incredible day, one that I will never forget.

Adam and myself at the takeout from Adam's blog.

Credit: Adam Herzog, Pat Keller

Also from Adam's blog, here is the Linville gauge. The initial spike resulted from Hurricane Fay and we caught it on the 28th.

Credit: American Whitewater

Here's the math on the Linville Triple:

Conley Cove(takeout) trail: 1.3 miles, 1100 vertical feet
x3= 3.9 miles, 3300 ft.

Babel Tower(putin) trail: 1.2 miles, ? feet
x3= 3.6 miles, ? ft.

River: 5.9 miles, 1009 vertical feet
x3= 17.7 miles, 3027 ft.

There will be a mini-documentary on the Linville Gorge and the paddling history and allure surrounding it on Spencer Cooke's first Rapid Transit DVD, to be premiered with LVM at the pre-Green Race Show at the end of October. More details can be found on the Rapid Transit Video website.

Chris Gragtmans

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Buseater and Quebec epicness...

Salut mes amis!

Hope everyone's getting on some good water this summer, I can't express how stoked I am to be free for a couple months and getting in my kayak as much as I possibly can. Yeaaaooow!!

I'm wrapping up a two and a half week trip in Eastern Canada, and thought I would share a couple photos of the goings on up here... full coverage will be featured in Lunch Video Magazine's Northeast State Series DVD premiering this fall.

Welcome to Canada.

So I haven't surfed the Buseater waves of the Ottawa river since 2004, and it is so great to be back. These waves, along with the many others that this region of Canada offers, have been and will continue to be one of the primary driving forces behind the evolution of freestyle kayaking. They are super big and dynamic, and allow for upwards of 5 feet of air to throw tricks.

Brooks Baldwin towing out onto Minibus.

I met up with Pat Camblin, Ben Marr, Marlow Long, and the rest of the YGP crew up here, and needless to say the boys are killing it. You'll have to wait for the footage to really understand what I'm talking about, but the consistency and magnitude of the tricks that are being done is impressive. One of my best buds Ben Marr in particular has been absolutely destroying it! Kid is one of the best in the world without a doubt.

Here's Benny on a late-afternoon run of the Main Channel of the Ottawa.

After wrapping up the Ottawa stay it was time to hit some races and creeks in Quebec. I competed in the RIP Cup on the Neilson River, as well as the creek race up in the city of La Tuque, both of which were sick!

Neilson wilderness.

The scene at the RIP Cup.

So the RIP Cup is a team race on the B section of the Neilson River. The course is about 6 or 7 minutes long, and is high volume whiteout style creeking. Super fun and challenging. In addition to this it is a team race, in which two people start together and the clock stops when the second person crosses the finish line. The last rapid is a double drop that is intimidating in itself, and even moreso when your muscles are lactic and you're fighting for air!

Looking back at the final drop from the finish line.

The race attracted a bunch of very talented kayakers from around the world, and the 15 or so teams were stacked to say the least. Dominic Chaput and myself teamed up for this race, and we were stoked to find out that we were tied for 1st after the first run with Ben Marr and Dave Neiuwenhuis. Our second run was fast and clean until the second to last rapid, where Dominic caught a weird flake and ran the slide upside down, and then got caught in the hole, taking a little swim! All good though it was a super fun event and these things happen when you're hammering down big class 5 rapids.

RIP Cup starting line.

RIP Cup final results:
1) Ben Marr/Dave Neiuwenhuis
2) Tyler Fox/Joey Hitchins
3) Rush Sturges/Patrick Camblin(i think)

David Laroche was nice enough to put me up at his place during the event, and afterwards we got on the road and took a little mission out to the Charlevoix region of Quebec, where a tonne of beautiful rivers drop from the California'esque granite mountains down into the St. Lawrance River. We were able to paddle the 2nd descents of the Riviere Noir and Riviere du Gouffre, as well as take a first D of a beautiful 30 footer on the Gouffre.

In general, the rivers of Quebec are powerful, rugged places to be in a kayak. They make you feel small.

Very fired up after a successful first D!

The next creek race was in La Tuque on the Petite Bostonnais River. This is yet another sick class 5 race course! If these races were anywhere close to the Southeast they would probably have 100+ participants, but since they're way up north they really don't get the credit they deserve. If you ever have the chance to attend one of these events, jump on it for sure.

Footage of the race from last year can be found here:
Petite Bostonnais Race

The Petite Bostonnais race starts with a bang about ten feet above a slide into a 15 footer, and then directly afterwards a beautiful 10 foot boof.

Starting line.

Shit is stacked!

Vincent Ratte hammering through the only flatwater on the river, directly below the first rapid.

The first rapid is sick, but the real challenge of the course is sticking the 1/4 kilometre whiteout slide at the bottom of the course. This thing is so awesome! Think Space Mountain section of the Toxaway but more continuous... You come skipping out of the hole at the end and the finish line is right there. Action from start to end.

I took two practice runs of the river to frantically try and figure out the fastest lines, and then got my stuff back to the top and got ready to battle for the $1000 first place prize. I hammered as hard as I could on my first run but caught a couple misplaced scrapey rocks and plugged deep into the hole on the 3rd drop. My second run however was one of the best runs I have ever had in my career, in any race. I find that creek racing is really just finding the highest level that you can push your body and still be able to have smooth lines. That run was the closest I have ever come to achieving that, and I freaked out as I crossed the finish line still on a plane from the last hole. Incredible feeling.

Petite Bostonnais Results:
1) Chris Gragtmans
2) David
3) Vincent Ratte

It's been a great trip for sure, and I can't wait to come back later this summer. Until then, hope to see you on the rivers of the high Sierra in California.

Chris Gragtmans

Captain CRUNCH spring break!

What up All!

So this spring we got hit with a couple huge storms that spiked all of the best stuff in the Southeast up to some huge levels. One such storm provided me with a most excellent spring break from school. First up Silver Run Falls.

Silver Run is a sick rapid that consists of a rhododendron tunnel entrance, into a big twisty slide, and then directly off a 30 to 35 foot waterfall. It's one of my favourite rapids in the Southeast for sure, but it's super tough to catch with enough water.

Jesse Wilinsky bombing down the entrance...

Toby McDermott with a less than optimal line! He was ok though.

Beautiful sunset over a richter high Toxaway River. That place is incredible.

So the next day we were torn between a potential West Virginia weekend or staying and paddling the epic flows that were already occurring in our backyard. After talking to Kelsey Thompson and the Bryans I made the decision to head up to WV with Jesse Wilinsky. Our mad dash north was motivated by one very classic Southeastern waterfall...

Captain Crunch Falls.

Photo: Adam Johnson

So Captain Crunch and the Laurel River used to be a staple of West Virginia creekboaters, but a huge flood back around 2001 destroyed the creek, and made the waterfall a fairly sketchy proposition. It's been run since then only a few times, and I've definitely been itching to bomb off the lip of that thing. The level was a bit low for it, but Jesse, myself and Kelsey decided to go for it.

Myself on the lip.

Credit: Bryan Kirk

Impact position.

Credit: Bryan Kirk

10 minutes after running Captain Crunch, we were treated to a couple of the best waves on earth. You forget the 4.5 hour drive in about two seconds on these waves, and at this point I was super stoked about our decision to make the drive up.

So the next day we wanted to go for another Fayetteville double header... Mann's Creek in the morning and a Dries surf session in the afternoon. This is definitely one of the best days of kayaking that you can have on the planet. Mann's is a great continuous class 5 creek that just keeps going and going, and both times I've been down it I've just followed Bryan Kirk...

Here's Bryan boofing over some sketchiness in Goliath.

This is a standard scene on Mann's... chaos. This rapid, I think it's called Double Play, is pretty stressful. We ran the left line due to new wood on the right.

Bryan setting safety below Liquid Draino.

After Mann's you get to paddle the moving ocean known as the New River at 60,000 cfs.

Uhh yeah this was F#^$ing huge. A bit higher and you might just have the ultimate wave.

Signing out for now... Good lines!
Chris Gragtmans

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Vid...

Watch Wintertime Creeking Video.

What up all!

So I've been paddling and filming a good bit recently, and finally had the opportunity to sit down and put the footage together. This video includes headcam footage of Big Hungry Creek, the Green at 400%, Raven Fork, as well as other footage of the Horsepasture, Toxaway, and the Valles River in Mexico.

Pat Keller going large south of the border.

Watch the video HERE.

I would like to give a special thank you in this post to the artists that are gracious enough to supply us with such sick music. They are mentioned at the end of the video, but here is the info about each of these artists:

"Another Day"

Big Dro & Zinndeadly ft. Mystic
"Choose One"

I'm pretty fired up about this video, because it sums up in about 8 minutes some of my all-time favourite places to go kayaking. Of particular note on the video are the 2nd and 3rd descents of the left line of the Micos waterfall in Mexico by Pat Keller and Lawrance Simpson(after first d'ing it 2 days earlier). That drop is a sicko twisting slide into about 55 feet of freefall. Very cool. Also, the footage of the Green at 24 inches or 400% is also the same day that Pat and I ran Gorilla at the highest flow I've ever attempted it. For reference, check out the wave that is usually the whale tail rock...

And it's kind of eerie when you just boof right over the top of the Frankenstein Rock.

Anyways, incredible day out there, and my headcam fell off in Go Left, but allowed for us to go for a soul-boating descent of the monkey without any cameras or outside influences involved. I may be wrong, but to my knowledge it's the highest that rapid has been run. It was a really awesome experience.

Well, hope you enjoy the video, and see you on the river sometime soon!

Chris Gragtmans

Monday, February 25, 2008

Random Wintertime Musings...

Whats up everyone!

So with some good water hitting the southeastern US over the past month, I've been getting pretty fired up about kayaking again, and I figured I'd do some rambling on the ole' blog.

To start things off, I'd like to mention a new video that was produced by one of my best buds, Spencer Cooke. The video is called Night of the Living Donkey, and it features a number of whitewater athletes doing their thing on various different rivers around the world. I was psyched to contribute some footage to the project, and then just sit back and watch what Spencer came up with for the final result. Needless to say, it's a really entertaining video, and there is some very sick creeking, playboating, and surf kayaking in it.

Check out the trailer or order NoTLD here...

Something else of note for 2008 is the fact that there will be another mustache growing contest... Immersion Research is the title sponsor for the event, and the winning prize is a drysuit, not too shabby a reward for making a fool of yourself!

Anyways, moving on... I took a trip to Mexico with a couple of friends from both the East and West Coast of the US back around New Years, and upon returning from that trip, things were looking up in the southeast. There is a grassroots head to head race on the Chattooga River every year, and I rode down with Chris Gallaway and Daniel Windham this January to line up with about 10 people and sprint down that ultraclassic stretch of whitewater from Woodall to Soc-em-Dog.

Adam Herzog powering out of the Soc-em-Dog hole to finish the race. Our times were in the 27 minute range this year, and I was pretty close to puking while taking this shot.

Daniel Windham boofing off Soc-em-Dog.

The Chattooga is a dangerous place, be careful out there.

A week or so later we got some good rain, and after getting shut down on the Toxaway, myself, Brad Kee, Rob Tompkins, Chan Jones, and Chris Gallaway ran the Horsepasture at a perfect flow.

Paparazzi on the Horsepasture.

Chris and Brad sticking it.

400 foot Windy Falls dropping off the face of the earth... such a beautiful spot.

Chris Gallaway is currently working on a video short of that day, so I'm not gonna share too many images. Check out Chris's documentary video from 2007, The Green Race Movie. Chris won the Professional Documentary and Best of Show awards at the NPFF this year for that vid, congrats bud!

So I also figured that I'd dig up an old post that I put up on Boatertalk a while back in response to Brian Miller questioning if he was ready to run the Toxaway, Raven Fork, or Linville Rivers, three steep, challenging creeks in North Carolina. I figured it might be worth putting on my blog. Here's the post:

"Hey Brian,

Well, first of all, let me say that I know that you are capable of paddling all of those rivers safely, and I'd be glad to take you down them anytime.

So for anyone else who may be interested, it's none of my business who paddles these rivers. It's your personal decision to put on any river, and everyone has a different perception of what it takes to be "ready." For me personally, I prefer to overprepare for hard whitewater, because let's face it, the consequences of messing up are not losing a game or taking a hit to your ego like other sports... we are all aware that class 5 rivers can kill us. So I know that you can get down these rivers without putting in nearly as much time; the following is just what works for me, because I love the feeling of sticking a hard river, and knowing I've still got reserve energy at the takeout.

I like Clay's comments about "on-siting" rivers. It's totally true that we are not necessarily capable of paddling rapids as big as the biggest ones on our local runs in foreign territory... Familiarity breeds complacency, and I am sure that if Gorilla was on any other natural flow river, it wouldn't get run nearly as much. Both Toxaway and Raven Fork require you to run rapids that are as big or bigger, and you can't spend an hour scouting each one, and watch ten people go first, like on Gorilla.(keep in mind I am talking about RUNNING these rivers... if it's your thing to drop into huge rivers, and walk all of the rapids, that's your choice, I just don't see a point in this) So in preparation for the Toxaway and Raven's, I would advise that you be mentally capable, have the fitness required, and have the paddling skills required. If any of these are missing, it's going to be a long day. Here's how I think of it:

Mental Skills... The simple fact of the matter is, adrenaline wears you out. It gives you short lived bursts of incredible energy and excitement, but during a long day of class 5, the adrenaline spikes will beat you down and cause your mind to slow down. Ever hear Tommy Hilleke talk about the thousand yard stare? That's what he's talking about... So in that respect paddling the Raven Fork, Toxaway, or Linville(or on the extreme edge of the scale, Middle Kings, or Stikine, or Tsangpo) will be mental overload if you're not accustomed to dealing with more than just one or two runs on the Green River. Basically for this I would suggest thinking about how you feel after getting off a class 5 creek. If you get off the Green after a run or two and you're exhausted and spent, think about paddling and portaging for another couple of miles, and then hiking 4 miles up a ridge to get back to your car. Basically, paddling those rivers requires you to be in control of yourself, and on your paddling game for extended periods of time. This takes practice, and all of us eventually get exhausted and hit a mental wall, you just have to know at what point that will happen for you personally, and if the river that you are going to do is realistic considering that.

Paddling Skills... There are hard moves on those rivers, and you need to be able to stick them every time. I like to put myself in hypothetical situations on rivers that I know are not too dangerous, and test myself... ie tell yourself "make that eddy, or you flush into a sieve", or stick that boof with a fader right stroke, and then carve over to river right and stick that other boof into an eddy. If you don't make it, think about why you didn't make it and what you will do differently next time. When you screw up big rapids, don't just laugh it off and think that it's no big deal! Obviously not everything about a river can be in our control, but we should strive for perfection with lines that we know. Big Creek and the Green are my two favourite places to do skills training, they are both incredible for that. I would suggest learning how to run each of these rivers(or any local river for those that don't live in NC) in race mode, straight downstream and fast... as well as know how to catch every eddy in the rapids. On the Green, check out the recent issue of LVM with Tommy's top ten eddies... then go catch them! If you are running Gorilla every time(and in my opinion you should be if you want to run Toxaway or Raven Fork), practice every line. Sit in the eddy above and visualize exactly what strokes you are going to take and where you're going to be looking. Decide if you are going direct or catching the notch eddy. Try and run it with the minimal amount of strokes possible... substitute rudders to keep you on line. If you can start breaking down big rapids like that, you're definitely ready to take a look at the Toxaway and Raven's. Basically the point is just push yourself on your home rivers, at a number of different water levels, to see what you are actually capable of.

Physical fitness... I've been in situations where I'm exhausted from portaging drops, and paddling hard class 5, and even though my arms are limp, I know I need to stick another mile or so of boogie until the takeout. This is when dangerous mistakes are made. On my first run down the Toxaway when I was 17, my only carnage of the day happened in a class 4 boogie rapid after wintergreen... I was exhausted and not paying attention, and fell off the wrong side of a boof rock, directly into a log. This wouldn't have happened if I was in better shape and had the energy to stick every move on the river. These days, I incorporate Ledges attainment training sessions into my creekboating schedule, as well as something else that Pat Keller has always been into... the Green River shoulder shuttle. This is sick training for hiking out of Linville, Horsepasture, Toxaway, or for the even bigger Cali hikes. It also saves gas... and allows you to poach without needing anyone else to give you a ride. Paddle down to Sunshine, take out, hike back up to Groove Tube, and hike up the trail and out of the gorge to the road. It's about 2 miles to the road, and then leave your boat and jog 3.5 to the Gallimore parking lot. It takes almost exactly the same time as paddling out, loading up, and shuttling back. It is painful, but it gets you in shape. That's just a suggestion, other cardiovascular sports are great too, but I enjoy putting on music and grunting that shit out. Either way, the point is... be in shape.

Phew... anyways, sorry I'm getting a bit carried away. Here's what I personally think about the Toxaway and Raven's Fork preparation in a nutshell:
-Run the biggies on the Green(up to a medium to high 100%) or other rapids elsewhere of similar caliber and STICK them. Just because you're flopping down shit and making it doesn't mean you're skilled enough to run it.
-Be in shape.
-Be prepared and relaxed about running some very very big rapids. Go with someone who knows it well, and go with your gut instinct on the rapids.
**Ask your friends who know you well and who have paddled the rivers what their honest opinion is.**

You will be so stoked when you finally run these rivers, especially if you're prepared for them. Anyways, I'm no authority on these matters, this is just how I think of it and what works for me as a bit of a perfectionist, hope it helps any of you folks out there who are interested. Dismount soapbox...

Cheers, and good lines!"

The link to the full thread can be found HERE.

I don't really read Boatertalk too much, but I feel like that site can be either a great resource for us paddlers, or a venue to put others down and create drama over the smallest things. Unfortunately, most of the time that I get on there, it seems as though its the latter. But... I figured I'd dig this post back up because I put some thought into it when I wrote it, and I feel like a lot of people are thinking about making that big step up and want some added perspective into whether its a good idea. To be honest, I'm pretty surprised these days at the number of people that are crowding themselves into the Raven Fork or Toxaway. I haven't been on the scene too long, but even since I started paddling these rivers back when I was 17, things have changed alot. I truly hope running these rivers doesn't become a status symbol or some kind of peer pressure thing for people, because I've seen it happen before and have experienced it myself from time to time.

It's all good though, those places are still some of the most incredible rivers to find yourself in a kayak... and as long as we're all staying safe and maintaining access, noone has the right to judge whether others are allowed to be there.

Hiking in for a beautiful wintertime run on Raven Fork.

Credit: Rob Tompkins

Exiting Headless Horseman.

Credit: Rob Tompkins

Getting dwarfed by the top of Landbridge on the Toxaway.

Credit: Spencer Cooke

So I talked a bit about this in the aforementioned post on Boatertalk, but I've definitely been thinking about the fitness aspect of extreme kayaking recently. With Jerry's Baddle coming up, and a couple of other ambitious marathon day plans that I want to do in preparation for the California and BC summer, I've really been trying to stay motivated, eat well, and train hard.

This is the Ledges Park on the French Broad River.

The Ledges are probably responsible for more than half of my overall fitness as a paddler, and I spend a lot of time out there, especially during Green Race season.

Daniel charging upstream.

Another thing that I've really been getting a kick out of is riding a mountain bike. This is my recently acquired bike, a Trek Remedy 6 after a very muddy Bent Creek ride. I looove her.

Riding is the perfect crossover sport for paddling, because bombing downhill is a very similar sensation to kayaking, and the uphills will get them kayaking chicken legs into shape! Plus for mountain biking it needs to be dry, so it's perfect for when there's no water.

My little bro Nick going for it.

The author riding the Clemson freeride course down in South Carolina.

My roommate, Chris Schell doing his thing.

Goofy self portrait at the top of Kitsuma Ridge... such a sick trail!

I've been using my Shred Ready Phly helmet for riding. It works well as a crossover helmet for a number of sports, and even has a goggle groove thing on the back for snowboarding or skiing. Check out the Shred Ready website HERE or just click on the link in the toolbar on the right side of the blog.

As I conclude this cathartic blog post of rambling, I'm gonna go on record and say that I love Big Creek. Getting back to the whole peer pressure thing, I get made fun of almost every time I say that I'm gonna go run that creek instead of one of the sicker runs of the area, but I just don't care. It's so much fun, and every bit as challenging as any run in the Southeast when its running high. Here's a picture of the takeout at a prime level of 4 feet. Action!!

Alright, well hope everyone gets outside and enjoys some good water. I'm gonna wrap this gong show up... hope you enjoyed my ramblings!

I'll leave you with this picture of Rob Tompkins boofing the crap out of left side Sunshine in his long boat!

Chris Gragtmans