Monday, November 24, 2008

Cedar Creek Ride

With an extended period of nice weather in Kernville, we decided to hit up a high elevation ride one more time before winter. It was a beautiful day for late November; mid 70's in Kernville and 65 + in the high country - Cedar Creek was the destination.

We had a nice crew; Rebecca, Dave, Allison, Chris, Andrew and myself. We started at Sherman pass overlook and rode up over the snow, downed logs and rocks to get to Sherman Peak. The views were spectacular! After a brief snack (we had just started our ride) we descended into corral meadow (broken chain) and then down the Durwood drainage (flat tire) to the Rincon trail (another flat tire). From there we took an extremely exposed mining trail down to the four-mile trail (plunge over the edge, luckily everything ended up OK), afterward we rode out along the river (another flat tire for good measure). A nice night with friends at the brewery finished it off. All in all a spectacular ride with an amazing array of terrain and challenges. Enjoy some of the pictures from the day!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Damn, I miss boating

While we are waiting for the winter storms here in Cali, we have to be content with other outdoor activities, but sometimes I really miss boating...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fat Tire Time

OK, boating season is over until we get some good rains; time to have fun on two-wheels. There is some great Mountain Biking in the area; we spent a couple of days hitting up some of the local trails including Just Outstanding, Waggy Ridge and the Cannel Plunge. Here is a quick video of some stuff

Along with a slide show

I guess the one good thing about the river being low is that we get to exercise our little kayaker legs...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cherry Creek Post #2

Put together a couple of clips from the Cherry Creek race weekend. The first couple of clips are long boat runs down lumsden at 650 cfs - pretty impressive. The rest are peanut gallery clips from after the race. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cherry Creek Post #1

OK, I have more stuff to put up here regarding the Cherry Creek weekend, but this had to be done. Apparently Greg came to the party as a slalom racer - crappy roll and all. Here is a little clip of his shenanigans:

Video of Beijing Slalom Course

So Here is the Video of the Beijing Slalom Course. A couple of things to note - check out the stands, then imaging them full of people and doing a race, pretty cool feeling. Also, at the beginning of the video there are two pumps on - the full flow (which is shown in the rest of the clip) has four pumps going.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Designing an Olympic Course

Olympic Whitewater Slalom has now made its 6th appearance in the Summer Olympics. After making its debut in Munich in 1972, Slalom reappeared in Barcelona in 1992 and has been in every Olympic Games since. There have been quite a few rule changes in the sport over the years, but one thing has always remained - the action and excitement of whitewater paddling. This year in Beijing was no different.

This year was involved in "the show" for the 5th time, this time as a judge. My main duty was to design the gate configuration for the course, but I was also the "video judge" in charge of making sure there were no major judging errors during the event. If you saw any coverage of the event, it was challenging, but fair. I have had a few questions about how you design a slalom course, so I figured I would jot down a few words and show a few pics for those who are interested.

The lighting of the Olympic torch is the finale of every opening ceremony - in Beijing it was no disappointment. I actually had great seats for the event in the judges stands - third row from the track. I must say that the whole event was an impressive show of mass organization of people, something that china prides itself on. Only slightly less impressive was the display of technology; I suppose China's way of showing the world what they can do.The Olympic Whitewater Course was equally impressive. The whole thing runs on 6 pumps (4 running at one time) that draw about 17 cubic meters per second (about 600 cfs) from the lake at the bottom of the course. The water then flows down the man made channel with a drop of about 7 meters over the course of 250 meters (a gradient of about 150 ft/mile). Many of the obstacles are movable, so the actual whitewater can be changed in about 30 minutes when the water is off. For the Olympics, the whitewater did not change for the 3 months prior to the event so that athletes could practice the water. The gates configuration, on the other hand, was unknown to the athletes until just before the race. Once the course map was released, no athletes were allowed to train on the course, meaning that their first trip down the actual gate configuration is their first timed run of the Olympics.

The first drop - gates 4 and 5 of the qualifier When designing a course, there are a few things you have to keep in mind:
1. The course must be fair for left and right handed C-1/C-2 paddlers. This means that if you have a move that is easier for a righty, you have to balance that move with one that is easier for a lefty. This is probably the hardest and most important part of course design. As it turned out, a lefty one the race in C-1, but righties got 2nd and 3rd - a good indicator that the course was fair.

The gate 3-4-5 combination in the final course was a good example of balance. The move was extremely challenging since you had to cross the hole twice. In gate 3, a lefty would have the advantage by being able to pull on the inside then enter the ferry move paddling on the downstream side; a righty on the other hand will have to do a crossbow stroke in 3 and remain on the crossbow while entering the ferry - advantage righty. Once the bow hits the eddy on the right side in 4, however, the righty gets to switch to the right side and work the inside of the turn through 4 and then be on the on-side in the surf back to 5. The lefty has to do all this on the crossbow - advantage righty. Not only is this balanced in time and difficulty, it is also balanced in the nature of the move - each paddler must cross a hole on their offside.

Gates 3, 4 and 5
2. Another thing to consider is the overall difficulty of the course. Since the beginning of the sport, Men and Women / Canoes and Kayaks have all competed on the same course. If you make a course that is hard for the Men's Kayaks, the Women's Kayaks and C-2s will have a hard day. If you design the course for the C-2s and K-1 W, the kayaks will be extremely bunched up. In the case of Beijing, the whitewater course was already very difficult; we decided to make the gate combinations fairly straightforward and let the whitewater separate the best paddlers in the world. At first look, the course we set appeared pretty easy - to be honest, I was trying to make it more challenging but another member of the course design committee kept trying to make it easier; I guess what resulted was a bit of a compromise. That said, I think the end result was about right. The whitewater did its job; three men's kayaks separated themselves from the field for the medals. As for the Women and C-2's - in both cases extremely talented paddlers blew out; probably a combination of tough whitewater and extreme nerves. All in all, I think we got the course difficulty close to right; given the chance to do it over I would still make it a little harder...

3. One of the hardest parts of course designing is making it as easy as possible to judge. There is nothing worse for the sport than a judging controversy; it sucks for the spectators and it really sucks for the athletes. The two common problems are water touches (where water splashes up and makes it look like the paddler touched a gate even though the didn't) and head ducks (50 second penalties where the athlete may or may not have gotten their head in the gate). To minimize the first problem, you not to place the gates immediately below a feature (wave or hole) that the boat will crash through and cause lots of spray. This is something that I had to learn the hard way. In the World Championships in Brazil last year, I set a really cool move where you had to jump a ledge and make a tight turn around the pole. The move was spectacular, but the spray from landing the jump created all sorts of problems for the judges - live and learn.

The head duck problem, on the other hand, is a tough one. Whenever an athlete gets off-line, in order to stay in the gate, they will lean over to get their head in. One way we approached it in Beijing was to make many of the gates super wide (you'll notice this in the coverage). What this did was allow paddlers to get a little bit off-line without incurring a 50 second penalty - instead they just incurred the time penalty it took to get back on-line. Still, no matter how wide you make the gates, someone eventually gets soooo off-line that they have to head duck. In these cases it is such a bad mistake that you don't feel as bad when you have to call the 50. The unfortunate case, and the one that happened most in Beijing) was the head duck on the upstream gates. With the water as fast and as difficult as it was, entering the eddy a split second too early causes the boat to rocket up the eddy before you want it too - causing the athlete to have to duck on the back deck to get the head around the pole. In this case the error is tiny, but the penalty is huge (a 50 second penalty might as well be a DQ in the Olympics). This exact case happened to my good friend and US medal hopeful Scott Parsons. Going into the race he was a clear medal favorite - and after first runs in the qualifier he was sitting 3rd. On his second qualifying run, he got a little offline at the second to last gate (an upstream) and had to do the head duck. The resulting call was a 50 second penalty and he did not make the next round. The only way around this problem is to lower the inside pole on the upstream gates, but this makes the motion in these gates really awkward for the competitors and increases the chances for water touches and other close calls. In every case you try to position judges in the right place to make these calls - in Beijing I think the judges did a good job on these tough calls.

Another American judge in Beijing, Eric Lokken

The hardest part of all of this is watching all the athletes, many of which are friends of mine. You spend 4 years of your life dedicating yourself to something and it all comes down to 90 seconds. In the end, you only get to give out three medals, so most of the people walk away disappointed - your heart breaks for every one of them. For every celebration you see on TV in the Olympics, there are many more tears. In the end, I guess it is the friends you make along the way and the things you learn about yourself and that are really the ultimate reward.

Keep an eye out for a video post of the course soon. Also check out for a few other pictures of the trip

Monday, August 4, 2008


OK, I really don't get excited about class IV very often, but this last weekend we had a chance to run the lower T with a couple of good friends, one of which (Molly) has only been in a boat a handful of times. In order to make the journey a bit easier, we decided to put Molly in a Topo Duo - a two person kayak. Being unaware of the dangers she was about to face, Molly happily agreed...

Molly and her fearless captain To make the lower seem a little less gripping, we ran Cherry Creek with Corby - a great day for sure; highlighted by stellar lines, a few jive backenders, and successful runs for everyone down Lumsden.

Rebecca on the big one Corbs Jives it

Once down to Merrel's pool, we were able to relax, drink tequila and mentally prepare for the next day's trip. Before we got too far though, we had to test out the new craft

Warming up for the run sans water The first Roll

With tequila induced confidence, we headed to camp fairly certain that we could survive the 18 miles of class III-IV that we had to face the next day. With the morning upon us (and a slight hangover) the intrepid paddlers put on the river and waited for the dreaded "bubble". Of we went with our boat scouts leading the way - Rebecca, Corby, Brett, Dave, Mike and Andrew. So here is the funny part, this was actually my first time on the lower AND my first time in a Topo Duo, so while Molly trusted that she was in capable hands, I had no idea how or if we were going to make it down. The run progressed much as a first decent would, with boaters signaling back to me how to run each rapid; in addition, I could not see past Molly very well, making the read and run option very difficult. Add all that to the fact that getting one of my best friend's fiance thumped and scared away from whitewater was not an option - it made the day much more stressful than boating down Cherry Creek.

Me an Molly in the Gnar

After a couple of rapids, we (meaning I) got comfortable enough to surf. The wave was perfect - nice and fast with enough of a trough to completely douse Molly every now and then when we pearled.

The epic surf spot

The good news was that the 18 miles passed fairly quickly with the Topo setting the pace in the flatwater. I do think Molly might have been a little sore for the next coupld of days since she insisted (and I relented) on paddling the entire time. Of course I would stick a rudder stroke in every now and then to keep us on line...

All in all, a fun and exhausting day on the river.

Monday, July 14, 2008

EF video compilation

In case you were waiting, here is the video clip of triple drop along with a few other things.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mystery Lakes

As promised, this blog is not all about kayaking; we often head out into the Sierra with backpacks instead of boats. This time we headed into a set of lakes with several friends: Grant, Marc, Dave, Alison, Mary Joyce, Copper, Lucy and Charlie. This is one of our favorite spots with a superb campsite between alpine lakes at around 9000 ft - a great way to spend a couple of days.

Grant headed across the first creek crossing

The same creek crossing with super-hiker charlie doing self support

The hike in is about 10 miles and has a nice variety of scenery and biology as well as plenty of creek crossings for dog watering. The trail is almost entirely in Wilderness area as well.

One of the early views into the High Sierra

Yep, there is still snow up here in late June

A meadow with water for the dogs - a nice place to stop for lunch

Rebecca and her Mom posing in front of yet another lush meadow

Columbine and other flowers are thriving in the area this time of year

A Sierra Whistle Pig (aka Yellow Bellied Marmot)

Our destination...

A view from camp

Gourmet trail food - notice the expert convective oven set up by Chief Scout Marc. A bed of coals lay under the kebabs, which are fanned by the draft created by the fire to the right.

A nice morning hike into some of the impressive foxtail pines nearby. As you can see, these giant trees are growing straight out of the granite.

Lucy didn't actually have a tree fall on her, she's just resting...

Awesome spot with great folks!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fun on the Forks

July usually means the end of water on the upper Kern. Still there is fun to be had on the Forks of the Kern, a remote 17 mile stretch upstream of the SCE water diversions; this section has spectacular scenery and plenty of fun whitewater. While the run is short enough to do in a day, we really enjoy doing an overnighter on this section, especially when it is over 100 degrees back in Kernville. The day starts with a short hike in (by Sierra standards); about 2 miles of meandering downhill trail. Still, with gear in the boat and hot weather, the river is always a nice sight

Rebecca loaded up with her belongings The put-in is the confluence of the Little Kern and the Kern - ergo the name of the run - the Forks. The first few miles have fun, mellow rapids with plenty of scenic views

Rebecca taking in one of the many granite wall views on the run If you are doing an overnighter, there are plenty of camps to choose from; we tried a new one this time and fell in love with it right away. As we climbed out of our boats we realized that this spot had a great view of the Needles, a set of granite spires that are very unique.

A view of Camp with the Needles in the background As always, the fun challenge on overnighters is to concoct various "river" cocktails since packing in beer and wine tends to be bulky and unnecessarily heavy. On this evening we had an array of 151 jungle juice, vodka-tang martinis and kool-aide margaritas. Laying under the stars in the surprisingly cool evening air is about as close to heaven as it gets.

Man this is smooth.... When you do an overnighter on the Forks, you find yourself finding side activities to stretch out your day. We decided on a hike up Peppermint creek to view and slide on some of the granite falls.

Eric and Dave at one of the upper falls Rebecca staying cool on the hike After the side hike and lunch, it's back to the river to take on the more challenging rapids on the run; the new (and not so improved) Vortex, Westwall and Carson falls are the main ones, but there is still plenty of fun class IV drops littered throughout the whole run.

Dave in the main move in Westwall; not sure if he is taking in the scenery... All in all it was a great trip; Brett and Dave did their personal first descents of Westwall and Carson falls without any problems while we were just happy to be out on one of our favorite rivers away from all the other distractions life has to offer. If you are curious, here is a video of the main two rapids, Vortex and Carson falls (via Brett). Of note is the fact that Vortex has changed this year; one of the rocks in the center has toppled over, changing the rapid significantly. While the rapid is not nearly as fun, in my opinion, it is still fine. The center line becomes a bit worse at higher water, but then a somewhat creative sneak on river right opens up.

click on this to watch the video

As always, a permit is required on this section of river. Inquire with the U.S. Forrest service for more information.

Friday, June 27, 2008

East Fork Kaweah

Got a chance to get on one of my favorite runs this week at pretty much the perfect level. It was Rebecca's first time down and she nailed pretty much every line; Jason, another Kernvillian, joined in for his maiden voyage and did super as well. We shared the river with a crew from up North, Nocetti et al., many thanks to them for hanging out in a few spots to make sure we made it through! If you guys want me to e-mail the pics and vids I have of you guys, drop me a line. As always, click on photos to enlarge them and click on the videos to start them. Enjoy

For those who have not been, the East Fork of the Kaweah is a classic Sierra one day run; only about 4 miles long, but stacked with lots of drops including some epic drops if you really want to go big. It starts out with some fun read and run drops, some of which are shown below Then you get to Sky Hook, which is an inescapable gorge that terminates in a burly drop that slams boaters against the river left wall. It is best summed up by a kiwi I spoke with that ran it last year: "I don't recommend it bro". The portage is long with a healthy poison oak forrest, but a fun cliff jump at the end.

After that, there is a dicey seal launch - not pictured since I was busy face planting on the landing. Then things get real fun...

This section culminates in Dead Man's Alley; a pretty intimidating triple-drop with a super sweet boof into a boiling cauldron at the start. I fired it up (video from Jason pending) while Jason and Rebecca took a more leasurely approach

After that we found some river booty; a boat that had been pinned in a drop above Dead Man's about a week earlier had finally washed out into a more accessable pin. Here is Jarred with his new trophy After that, it was back to more action

With all of the great whitewater, sometimes it is hard to soak in the amazing scenery on this trip Even though it is only 4 miles, the East Fork is a long and difficult day on the river, especially on your first time down. When you finally get to the confluence of the East Fork and Middle Fork, it is all smiles. What a great day on the river!

Now the video