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Kayaking in Costa Rica: When Mother Nature Expresses Herself

| Posted in Costa Rica Whitewater Kayaking |

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Guiding internationally, there is never a season when, as a group of guides, we are not at some point taken completely by surprise by a change that has happened on one of the rivers that (we think) we know so well.  This is particularly true in Costa Rica.  The reasons for these changes are numerous and we have written about them in previous posts  “Costa Rica Kayaking, Never the Same ‘ol.”

We will ‘fess up: this year’s surprise was a big one.  The Upper Sarapiqui.  About our most favorite river here in Costa Rica.  We will be the first to say that the Sarapiqui is like the most fickle female — not just changing from one year to the next , but sometimes changing in a mere week’s time. It is no surprise to see the river switching channels 40 feet to one side or the other, hiding house-sized boulders, rearranging significant rapids at whim.  It is never boring to show up at this river after a particularly strong deluge and prepare mentally for what might have changed.

Once a fairly tight, steep channel, the put in rapid for the Upper Sarapiqui went through a huge change this year.

A number of years ago, an earthquake occurred upstream, damaging a dam and sending a massive wall of water downstream. The flood took out a hydro plant and a bridge set 30-40 feet above the river bed.  It razed the riverbed, taking a fairly narrow channel that dropped about 150 feet/mile and both widening it and flattening it.  The bridge itself settled downstream about 1/2 a mile.  Mother Nature had a temper tantrum that day.

While we should not be taken by surprise by anything new on the Sarapiqui, arriving at the put-in and seeing the river for the first time this season was a complete jaw dropper.  It turns out that about two months ago an avalanche setting across the river, creating a dam.  It must have angered the river to have been cooped up like that because when it broke through, the river roared downstream, bringing trees and debris and water that again scoured the river bed.  At the putin rapid alone, the damage was intense.

The aftermath of the surge that drove downstream

Changes like this are why we spend a week reviewing every section of river that we will use on our trips before our friends arrive so that we minimize the chances of showing up at a river and being taken by surprise.  We have finished guide week with surprises like the Upper Sarapiqui, but also surprised to be bringing back into our lineup a gem of a run that we have not used in years.  We are all set to begin our first trip here in Costa Rica.

when you cut down all the rainforest to plant crops like pineapple that will sell for $5 a piece in the US market, Mother Nature objects.

 If you will not be joining us this season for an international trip, feel free to live vicariously through our trips here in Costa Rica and Ecuador through the Endless River Adventures Facebook page and the blog site and the extensive photo albums we share with each trip! And of course check out all that is about our trips to Costa Rica and Ecuador on our website to help you with your wish list!!

 

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How to Keep Warm Kayaking Without a DrySuit

| Posted in Kayak Gear Reviews |

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Preparing for cold weather kayaking

Zipping into a drysuit to enjoy kayaking on a cold day is the bomb. It is also a big investment.  Don’t let not having a dry suit deter you from enjoying a beautiful winter day on the river!  Here are a few tips from the North American Endless River Adventures crew (different than the crew that runs away to Costa Rica and Ecuador over the winter!).

  • Layering. Layering. Layering.  Make sure and have multiple layers of tops to keep your core warm.  It also allows you to put on/take off layers as the temperatures change.
  • Dry Top. If you don’t want to invest in a dry suit at this point, understandable.  But a dry top will go a long way in keeping you warm. And is actually more versatile than a dry suit because you can continue to wear it year-round long after a dry suit is too much.  Make sure the dry top is a breathable material like the Bomber Gear HydroBomb waterproof Bombtech 2.5-ply breathable fabric.  That way when you perspire under all your layering, the breathable material makes sure that the moisture does not build up inside your dry top.
  • Hydroskin pants or paddling pants.  Keep your legs warm with a good layering under your board shorts.
  • Skull cap. Your mom always told you to “put on a hat if your feet are cold.” She was right. Invest in a skull cap to wear under your helmet. It will make all the difference in the world.
  • Pogies or Gloves.  Your hands are going to get cold on a blustery winter day.  Having a pair of pogoes or gloves will really help out. Take some time testing out which you feel more comfortable using while holding your paddle because it is a really different feeling.
  • For your feet, adding a pair of neoprene or wool socks under your booties or shoes will really help keep your feet warm.
  • Warm beverages.  Pack a small thermos of hot tea or hot chocolate.  Another trick  is warm jello in a thermos.
  • Keep your runs shorter than you might in the summer. That way sunset does not take you by surprise half-way down the river.

Having all the best gear is great but it is an investment.  You can find many of the above items right here at the ERA Boater’s Store!! Or stop in when you are coming through the Gorge this winter to talk about options for staying warm on the river.   Don’t slow down your paddling just because you don’t have the latest. Use a little common sense and be a bit more conservative on colder days and you will have a great time out on the river!

 

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Adding Astral Brewess to My International Suitcase

| Posted in Costa Rica Whitewater Kayaking, Kayak Gear Reviews |

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I am a flip flop kind of girl…that is not a secret in our crowd.  So it came as a surprise – even to myself,when I threw in my never-been-worn Astral Brewess shoes when packing for my winter.

Rasslers and me enjoying the view on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

I have always struggled with minimizing what I bring when packing for four months of guiding in Costa Rica and Ecuador.  Between clothes, paddling gear and a few books I cannot leave without, the bags get pretty darn heavy. And I have to carry them (most of the time).   So while my Costa Rican flip flops might be my mainstay, I do like to run about Costa Rica on the beach,  or from the river; I would not like to miss the opportunity to hop on a horse in Ecuador, or walk a muddy trail to a new amazing over look.  So shoes have always been a conundrum for me.  In the final hours that I chose to actually pack for my trip (I had much more fun things to do than pack) I suddenly eyed my pair of Astral Brewess that I had yet to wear. Hmmm…. a pair of really good river shoes (something my fellow guides always chide me about not having), a pair of shoes I could go for a run after the river…. a footwear that would see me running across a beach in Costa Rica, or a trail in Ecuador…suddenly I was minimizing my footwear to a pair of flipflops…and Rasslers.

Verdict: Good choice!  Happy to have my Brewess’ with me this go-around.  I think we will have fun together!

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Fall Kayaking Fitness: 5 Steps

| Posted in Whitewater Kayaking River Magic |

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by Sam Ovett

Why get fit for Kayaking? All you are doing is sitting on your butt floating downstream, not much effort involved in that now is there?

The answer is “no” there is not much effort in just sitting on your butt and floating downstream, but then there is more more to whitewater kayaking than that isn’t there?  Awesome moves like catching eddies…peeling out of eddies… ferrying from one cool eddy to the next… And then there are boofs of all sorts! Big water boofs…dry rocky boofs…fader boofs…delayed boofs…auto-boofs…Surfing green glassy waves…throwing ends in playful and not so playful holes.

Oh the joys of kayaking! The list goes on and on.  All the river moves are on our radar but one of the key components of kayaking can be the effort involved in hiking ones kayak to the river.  Whether hiking down 500 steps or walking in a mile or (oh no) having to hike out a run, it pays to get in shape.

Here are 5 Exercises you should be doing that require nothing but floor space and a pull up bar.

If you do 5 rounds of 20 reps of each exercise you will find yourself in better shape and more stoked on hopping in your kayak to shred the gnarr!!

For all the exercises prefer good form over quantity. Rest as necessary without being lazy. See you on the water!

Pull-ups


For pull-ups change to 10 at a time.  Nno worries if you can’t do that many.  Do what you can in the pull-up department, but don’t short change yourself–give it a little extra effort and your may surprise yourself)

Push-ups

(All the way up, all the way down. Keep your chin up)

Plank

(20 seconds instead of 20 reps) tighten your core and hold for 20 seconds

Lunges

Tap that knee to the ground keep your torso straight up and down.

Want a challenge? Make your right leg and your left leg count as one rep instead of two.

Body Squats

Pretty straight forward on this one, keep your back straight. Don’t lift your heels as you come up.

Get started today on this sequence and maybe next Monday morning you will not suffer from Tallulah legs as much as usual!

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A Young Lady’s Perspective on Kayaking

| Posted in Kids Kayaking |

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by Margaret Branson, Jackson Mississippi

 

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My Experience Being a Junior Kayak Instructor

| Posted in Kids Kayaking, Women and Whitewater Kayaking |

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by Olivia McGinnis

I often go kayaking in Bryson City, North Carolina. There is a kayaking store called Endless River Adventures in Bryson City.  Endless River Adventures offers kayaking instruction, guided raft trips, unguided raft trips, and fly fishing instruction. They sell Wave Sport kayaks and kayaking gear. ERA is mostly run by a lady by the name of Juliet and also a guy named Ken.

This past summer, Juliet asked me to be a Junior Instructor for Endless River Adventures’ Beginner Kid’s Camp. I was so excited, but I also didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous. Kid’s Camp is three days and, depending on the day, around seven hours long.

We met at ERA in the morning with Pelle and Ellie, the two ERA instructors who were helping with the camp. When all of the kids got there, they all got in one of the ERA vans and we loaded their kayaks in the trailer behind the van. We drove to the Finger Lake to teach everyone basic strokes and to get them used to their kayaks. When kayaking, you have your paddle and kayak, the gear that you usually wear is a helmet, a PFD, and a spray skirt. A spray skirt is something that you put around your waste and then put around the hole that you sit in in your kayak so water doesn’t pour in. What is good to know how to do in kayaking is how to roll. A roll is when you flip over in your kayak (intentionally or unintentionally) and you use your paddle to flip yourself back up so you do not have to swim, also known as the wet exit. What we were teaching/working on with the kids at the lake was how to swim. There is a loop on the front of your spray skirt that you need to pull if you flip and can’t roll up. Once you pull the loop, your spray skirt should pop off of your kayak and you need to push yourself out of your kayak.

One girl forgot how to pull her spray skirt when we were practicing the wet exit. I wasn’t in my kayak because the instructors were out of their kayaks helping the kids (who were in their kayaks) with the wet exit. The girl was struggling under water and I was the one keeping an eye on her and helping her at the moment. The other instructors were about fifteen feet away and didn’t notice what was going on. I swam over to her and she put her hands on my shoulder and got her head out of the water so she could breathe. I pulled her spray skirt for her and she swam out of her kayak.

Later that day we went on a small portion of a fairly simple river called the Town Tuck (Tuckaseegee). We ran only one rapid that day because the kids were mostly new to kayaking and were pretty tired from being at the lake for most of the day. I sat in an eddy (calm water behind a rock) in my kayak above the rapid so if anyone had trouble and flipped I could paddle down and help them. The instructors all went down and the last little boy to go down the rapid in his kayak got scared and paddled into the eddy next to me. “I don’t think I can do this.” He told me, his voice shaking with nervousness.

“You’ll be fine, I promise. You’re one hundred percent skilled enough for this rapid. Once you run it you’ll be so proud of yourself and you’ll realize how much fun it was. I swear, you’ll have an amazing time running it.” I told him.

I talked to him for a long time about what we were going to do in order to go down the rapid successfully. After a while of encouraging him, he finally followed me down the rapid and, like I had promised him, he did brilliantly. It felt really good to see him paddle into the eddy at the bottom of the rapid with a huge grin on his face. “I told you that you’d do really well! Aren’t you glad that you ran it?” I asked him.

“Yeah!” He replied, stilling smiling like crazy.

That day I learned so much about teaching and how good it felt after you helped somebody learn something. I made lots of friends and a couple of them I became really good friends with and I will most likely see them next year at the Kid’s Camp.

Throughout the next two days of the camp, I helped kids learn the technique of strokes, balance, rolling, and just having fun kayaking. It felt really good helping people learn. Not only did I teach them something, they taught me something: how to be a good instructor.

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Review of the Big Dog Force Canoe

| Posted in Kayak Gear Reviews |

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by local boy J.J.

This boat has a non-traditional look being small but it feels good on river. Things I like:

  • The initial stability is stout enough to not tire out your core and your lower back when you are just floating.
  • You can relax in easy water and not feel like the boat wants to shift from edge to edge.
  • The secondary stability is awesome and predictable. It truly has the ability to save you. This boat can handle a lot of lean. When making a peel out or eddy turns this boat is as sharp or smooth as your skills will allow it to be.
  • When taken over drops it surfaces level and quickly and it does punch holes well. The plastic is strong and I have for sure put that to the test.
  • It boofs well and lands very solid.
  • I am very surprised at how well a boat that size paddles even when it is swamped. It does lose some speed but keeps stable and that gives you the ability to catch that last second eddy when you need to.
  • This boat is incredible and good lines are rewarded with fast ferries and sharp eddy turns. Bad lines are rewarded with water in your boat. This is a great creeker. If you want to make moves instead of just paddling straight down river this boat can do it.

Although this is now my favorite canoe I have to be fair and let you know about the down sides. The boat is a bit heavy for trails and the factory foot pegs could use more adjustment points. The sides of the hull have plastic tanks instead foam to take up air space beside your hips. These do tend to take on water but they are easy enough to drain. The front deck has a lip that could act as a splash deflector to keep the hull dry in moderate chop. However, this seems to deflect small waves into my face when I hit them at a bad angle. Overall the negatives are just me nit-picking when in reality this is the quickest sharpest most comfortable canoe that I have paddled.

If you want a boat that will allow you to push your abilities this is a great one for it. If you are a beginner or intermediate paddler this boat will show what you are doing wrong or right. Do it right she treats you well. Do it wrong and you will swamp out.

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2013 Kayaking World Championships Hits National Networks

| Posted in Endless River Adventures News |

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Whether you were here in the Nantahala Gorge for last year’s 2013 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships, or tuned in for the live streaming,  you could not miss the cool drone circling above the freestyle wave… particularly during the evening semi-final event.  Coming out of that is a broadcast production that begins a month-long national television run this week.

The hour-long broadcast will feature footage of the Nantahala Gorge,  Swain County and exciting competition footage and interviews with some of the event’s top kayakers. The broadcast has the potential to expose millions to freestyle kayaking and to the compelling natural resources the North Carolina Smokies and Swain County.

Fox Sports Net National will carry the event on 14 regional sports networks and additional affiliate networks, reaching 100 million TV households in the first run and a cumulative total of more than 450 million TV households including repeat airings.

Broadcast schedules of the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships vary according to regional sports network coverage areas, so viewers should check local listings.   After the event’s initial run on Fox Sports Net National the event will enter syndication on regional television broadcasts.

Check out the listings for Southeastern Regional Networks:

Fox Sports South

Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee Monday, May 5 @ 10am
Thursday, May 15 @ 3pm
Sunday May 18 @ 12:30pm
Sunday, May 18 @ 6pm
Thursday, May 29 @3pm
Fox Sports Florida

 

 

Florida, Southwestern Alabama Tuesday, May 6 @ 4pm
Saturday, May 10 @ 8am
Thursday, May 15 @ 3pm
Saturday, May 17 @ 3pm
Monday, May 19 @ 9am
Mid-Atlantic Sports Network2  (MASN2) Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia Sunday, May 4 @ 12pm
Monday, May 5 @ 8am
Thursday, May 8 @ 3pm
Sunday, May 11 @ 12pm
Tuesday, May 12 @ 8am

 

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Test Your Creeking Skills on a Slalom Course

| Posted in Whitewater Slalom |

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The million dollar question in kayaking: “how do I know my skills are solid enough to start creek boating?”

You can go over the checklist in your head:

  1. Boat Control
  2. Angle Management
  3. Stroke Timing

But how to put those three to a “test” to see if you have the skills to start boofing those awesome drops and running the creeks lines?

Slalom Gates. Yep – slalom gates.

Hop on a slalom course in a Class II-III stretch of whitewater. If you cannot confidently run a series of gates in Class II-III rapids — where you have a 3-foot wide margin with each move (3 feet being the width between the two poles of a slalom gate), then your creek boating preparation check list is incomplete.

There is always a set  of gates below the Freestyle Wave on the Nantahala. And spring heralds in a whole series of slalom competitions….

and we have a library of articles about why slalom is great training for river running so Read More….

 

 

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It’s Slalom Season in the Southeast

| Posted in Whitewater Slalom |

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It’s race season in the southeast!  Spring always welcomes in a host of well known races held across the southeast. Many of the races are citizen races (open to the public) and offer opportunities for paddlers to test their slalom skills., as well as down river and some good-humored boatercross events.

In February, the Alabama Race series kicked off with the first Locust Fork event.  March welcomes in the Mulberry Fork Race,  followed by one of spring’s favorites: NRC Glacier Breaker, the second Locust Fork race, the Alabama Mountain Games (this year dedicated to BomberGear Founder Richard Franken), and the NRC/Bank of America US Open.

Don’t be shy about participating in the events. They are fun, competitive but not intimidating,, many include good music and regional entertainment, and they all provide a great opportunity to learn how much slalom and river running actually compliment each other.

Endless River Adventures is a proud supporter of these events.

 

 

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