Pennsylvania photographer Regina Nicolardi captures two kayakers post Great Falls of the Potomac race as they make a final lap on the Class V+ run.
It took me a decade to hit the Dirty Devil window. I drooled over the quadrant of canyon country it scribes through, full of side slots and sandstone slickrock and Butch Cassidy hideouts. Some years it would be a bare trickle, no more. Once it came up, but I dallied one day and missed it. But last spring the snowpack was deep, spring break landed right, the river gauge was coming up nicely. We made the leap, drove 700 miles, and found ourselves in mid-March, camped all alone at the end of a four-wheel-drive road, perched above the braided, murmuring stream running about 220 cfs.
Flowing through some of the most stunning and desolate reaches of Arizona, the Verde is one of the Southwest’s finest whitewater runs, and one of its best-kept secrets. Located midway between Flagstaff and Phoenix, the Verde—Arizona’s first (and so far only) National Wild and Scenic River—tumbles south through three national forests, offering in places virtually non-stop technical whitewater amidst stark, lonely hills, towering cliffs and arid Sonoran Desert terrain bristling with cacti, including the giant, treelike saguaro. Pretty and peaceful pools alternate with long stretches of rock-dodging Class II-III rapids. There’s great hiking up hills and in side canyons with ancient cliff dwellings and pit house ruins. Roaming through the remote countryside are javelinas, river otters, mule deer, coyotes and mountain lions, as well as nearly 300 species of birds.
Dane Jackson has been touted as a kayaking prodigy since his age was still single digits. Flashes of brilliance and raw talent have always been Dane staples, mostly in the freestyle discipline, but that’s changing. Dane—who just turned 18 this year—went on a tear in 2011. From now on he’s going to be playing with the big boys. How will he fare? His results already speak for themselves. Here’s a timeline of his unprecedented last year.
Last September Australian Tom Smitheringale, 41, set off to cross the Sahara Desert, east to west, roughly 4,660 miles, from its boundaries on The Nile in Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean in Morocco; all to raise money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which helps sick children recover from devastating illnesses.
Glassy water and uncharacteristically dry, chilly temps greeted 103 committed Pacific Northwest paddlers who competed on Jan. 7 for Seattle’s third annual New Year’s Challenge paddling race. The six-mile course started on Lake Union in the heart of Seattle and ran through the Montlake Cut to Lake Washington. All types of craft competed, ranging from SUPs and sea kayaks to canoes, OC-1s, OC-2s, OC-6s, dragon boats, prone paddleboards, rowing shells, racing kayaks, and surfskis.
We’ve all run the gnar backwards plenty of times, but never on purpose and never this cleanly. Here, Asheville, N.C.’s own Pat Keller runs the fabled Green River Narrows switch. Do the back-paddling antics mark a step forward in downriver freestyle kayaking’s progression? We’ll see. We do know that it’s been a big winter for Mr. Keller
If nothing else, 2011 proved to be a landmark year for paddlesports media presented from one important perspective: the paddler’s. Advances in waterproof camera technology and dropping price points have made it easier than ever for paddlers to bring back high-def reels from spots with real high-death potential. Here, Shon Bollock from Shasta Boyz Productions takes us behind the scenes of his latest release, Slippery When Wet, with a highlight segment shot entirely on the original GoPro Hero.
For Tart, an upstart long-distance kayaker and recent college grad who sketched out the Paddle For Wells expedition as a 15-month paddling and fishing epic in support of World Vision’s clean water initiatives in Africa, the shakedown on the Ohio was unraveling fast. “This whole thing is new to me,” Tart said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “A lot of professional instructors set out on these trips and they’ve got a system down and can really cover the miles. I’ve been hunting, fishing, canoeing and kayaking most of my life, but I’m a total amateur at something like this. The fun has been getting out there and learning.”
Google has spoken (or at least its analytics widget has). We tracked the data, looking back at the year that was, and we found the best stories on CanoeKayak.com decided by you, the reader. So here’s our Top 10 Stories of 2011, determined by number of page-views, with a few noted honorable mentions that cracked the Top 25, also listed by number of views.
We paddle through the night, guessing our direction from Orion reclining on the artificial canyon walls. Beyond the last portage in early morning, the water was salt, mussels clung to the rocks and seagulls took to the air at our approach. Beyond the breakwater, the sea pulses with the minute swell of diminishing energies. At this time of the year, titanic storms batter the coastline with 20-foot waves and driving snow. As we turn our tiny canoe north, the Black Sea extends to the horizon in glassy calm before melding with the clear, cold December sky. Fortune smiles.
After its six-annual running on the weekend of Dec. 3-4, it’s clear that the Deception Pass Dash—a two-day, northwest Washington paddling festival centered around an all-craft, six-mile race through the fickle tidal currents of Deception Pass—has become one of paddling’s best, and most eclectic holiday gathering traditions. Check out this video, with some feisty bluegrass from The Pitchfork Revolution, that captures the festival, and explores what makes this unique race so many things to so many different types of paddlers.
Last year, Florida State Park Ranger and lifelong paddler Rick Storsberg, 63, was planning his retirement. “I was going to travel around the U.S. and visit all the National Parks and do a little volunteer work,” he says, smiling. Then he pointed to his chest. “But when I went in for my physical they found a big black spot on my lung.”