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.
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
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.
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.
The Deception Pass Dash is fast becoming a Northwest paddling tradition, and like holiday season gatherings everywhere, it attracts something of an odd crowd. Some 200 members of the extended paddling family showed up at the sixth-annual Dash near Anacortes, Wash. Dec. 4, bringing sea kayaks, surf skis, standup paddleboards, outrigger canoes, rowing shells and more.
Is this the biggest wave successfully surfed in a sea kayak? Well, not quite, says San Francisco-based sea kayak instructor Sean Morley, who caught this 12- to 15-foot giant at Three Arches Rock near Pacific City, Ore., in late October. Morley says he’s ridden bigger waves but it’s rare to find them so “clean and nicely formed with a long period,” and rarer still to experience the size, power and speed of the experience through water-level photographs from fellow paddlers Bryant Burkhardt and Jeff Laxier.
Long before the Lumpy Waters, Golden Gate and Rough Waters symposiums, sea kayakers gathered on Lake Superior’s Canadian shore for the Gales of November Rendezvous. The event was the brainchild of Detroit-based paddler Stan Chladek, which he named after Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot’s famous ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the 729-foot ore-carrier that sunk on Lake Superior in a 1975 storm.
Kayak guide Chuck Graham looks back on two decades spent exploring the rugged and surprisingly remote Channel Islands wilderness, just off the crowded Southern California coast in ‘Home Waters,’ featured in the new, December issue of Canoe & Kayak, available on newsstands now. Here the author outlines the challenges and rewards of exploring the island chain by kayak, talking from Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island, and then taking the C&K crew on a tour of his favorite sea caves nearby.
National Geographic just released its annual Adventurer of the Year nominees. It was no surprise that two of paddling’s hardest, and most ambitious expeditions from the last year accounted for two of the 10 nominated adventures. Cast your vote for Jon Turk and Erik Boomer’s bold, 104-day, 1,495-statute-mile circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, or Sanu Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa’s tandem paragliding flight off Mount Everest and ensuing paddle down the Ganges River to the Indian Ocean.
It’s not easy to set a record on the roof of the world—especially one that involves paddling. Everest has been climbed more than 3,000 times since the first ascent 58 years ago, so you’re going to have to do something very, very different if you want a record on the world’s tallest peak. It’s been skied down, climbed by a blind man, an amputee, a 13-year-old and a 76-year-old.