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