March Madness in NorCal

Crews cash in on heavy rains

Photo: Darin McQuoid

By Joe Jackson

Oh spring, glorious spring! On April 1 the California Department of Water Resources reported that the Shasta River Basin was showing 199 percent of its average snowpack. At the end of March, Northstar-at-Tahoe reported 42 feet of snow—the ski resort’s snowiest winter in 25 years. Most whitewater paddlers are frothing over the length and potential of this fresh season with the amount of precipitation feeling borderline biblical. While Northern California had a record-breaking amount of snow in the first weeks of spring, kayakers Cody Howard, Darin McQuoid (see his photo gallery below), and Shon Bollock haven’t waited for it to melt to start getting after it.

While prepping for a humanitarian/expedition trip to Japan in May, the crew has not had to go more than an hour from home to notch five first descents and daily Class V excursions. Huckin’ Huge Productions’ Howard grew up in Phoenix (Read more about Howard here), where he had to get used to exploratory paddling. “Sometimes we’d have a 48-hour pocket of rain per year. This breeds a very motivated type of paddler,” Howard says. In the past month he hasn’t had to explore farther than his Auburn, Calif., backyard. He and select teams, including McQuoid, have racked up five rain-fed first descents within 40 miles Howard’s house. “If I look farther I will find more, but we have not had the time to look any farther,” Howard says. The ex-Marine has been studying topographic maps, taking advantage of the precipitation, and been gambling some unexplored spots. So far he has been pleased with his odds. “If you drop into a gorge in California, you are probably going to get into something good.”

Mt. Shasta, Calif., local Shon Bollock has been easily keeping his Class V chops for his Japan trip quite close to home as well.  He doesn’t need to go more than 50 minutes to get on California gems like Slate Creek and “The Sac” at high levels thanks to the amount of water pumping through the Siskiyou drainages. “There is plenty of stuff around here going,” Bollock says. “Right at the beginning of spring, Lake Siskiyou was already full up. Then we got biggest storm all winter. We got another 5-6 feet. We were snowed in at my house for two days.”

Check out Howard’s recapping of some of these select first descents:

Here’s some of Bollock’s best recent clips from the swollen Sacramento drainage:



And from the “Five-year” wave in Redding, Calif., with Taylor Robertson:

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