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Sooner or later as a whitewater paddler you are going to want to travel to an international destination to experience what the world of rivers has to offer. At the point when you decide to do so the natural question will arise: do I travel with my boat?
A major advantage and disadvantage exists with travelling with your kayak, which is: travelling with your kayak. While it is great to have your own boat in a remote location that may not have access to your usual craft, travelling with a kayak is getting harder and harder these days (not to mention inconvenient).
Over the past few years I can say that I have had some good and bad results doing so. Here is a list of things I would recommend exploring before you make a decision on travelling with your kayak:
1. Is it important for you to have your trusty kayak? My thoughts go like this: Yes it is since I am likely travelling to a fantastic destination that I may not get to again. This isn’t your local backyard run and if you are going to great lengths to travel to a location to paddle it is best to paddle your best. Therefore, you do want to have your comfort and familiar feeling.
2. Is there an option of getting your familiar kayak where you are going? This is sometimes easy to check out in advance. For instance, where there is whitewater kayaking there is usually whitewater rafting. That means there may be the option of finding your boat as a rental. Take the time to research and find out what options exist.
Contact your company website to see if dealers exist in the area you are going. They may have rentals or demos that you can get your hands on.
See if you can contact local paddlers and get some beta on some locals maybe looking to make a buck off your rental. This works well in South America.
3. Remember, if you are going to more remote locations that it is always harder for these countries to import good whitewater gear if at all. Many locals depend on travellers to sell gear and boats. This means that the kayaks that you find in different areas might be more banged up than you are used to or they may even be broken.
Don’t hesitate to fly with extra outfitting. For instance, I know exactly what I like with my Jackson Villain S. I will fly with a spare set of hip pads and a Sweet Cheeks seat so that I know exactly how I will feel in the boat once I get there.
4. If you do decide to fly with your kayak it might cost you some good money. For instance, it is up to $400 one way to go to Europe.
It might not be a bad idea to sell your kayak at the end of your trip to recoup costs. Many places will pay good money for a kayak since it isn’t as easy for them to get whitewater kayaks as it is in North America (unless boats are manufactured where you are going).
5. Another factor to consider when flying with a kayak (and gear) is that airlines will not load a kayak if the luggage is full on a flight and they will put it on the next flight to your location with more room. This has happened to me more than once.
If you plan to travel more from your flight destination this can add a major inconvenience to wait for your gear. If this does happen, see if your airline will deliver your gear to your final destination. Most of the time they will do so (or compensate you otherwise). Some airlines (UNITED) just put you out altogether for this and will not do either.
6. Consider a high quality breakdown paddle. For example, I always travel with a 4 piece Werner Powerhouse. This can be easily broken down to fit in regular sized luggage and is super reliable for on the river. It is the exact replica of the one piece paddle I use on regular days. I have never had any flaws or felt any compromise with travelling with this paddle. In fact, I find I have used it more the past year than my regular paddle.
An advantage to this is not having to travel with a paddle bag as the airlines will qualify this as oversized and potentially charge you more. You also run the risk of breaking paddles when they are shipped as is.
7. Research your airlines in great detail prior to departing. For example, Continental says on their website that they will take kayaks. However, what they don’t say is that this doesn’t apply to their ‘express’ flights. Usually these are the flights that you will take to the major hubs before your final destination. I was actually pulled out of customs in Toronto with my kayak in hand once due to this. It was a major inconvenience to say the least.
I have actually called airlines prior to the flight (up to 2 hours on the phone before) to confirm what is listed on the web in correspondance with my actual flight. If you do get a confirmation in this case, make sure that they will put a note on your reservation so that when you do checkin there is not a “change in policy”. When someone sees a note on your reservation they turn from questioning you to extremely helpful. Make sure you get the note!!
8. SMILE and be friendly. Airport people can be generally unpleasant and usually a smile and a friendly attitude can go a long way. Do this despite how bad your travel day is and it will go so far. Most people are bitter travelling and if you can stand out, you will get stand out service. Say Cheese!!
9. Conceal your goods. Most airlines don’t really know or understand what a whitewater kayak is. If you have your kayak stowed in a good bag you can use terms like a ‘wave surfer’ to break down the definitions of what they will fly with. It is surprising that this works, but it does.
Another thing to consider with this option is that you can usually put more gear in the boat when it is concealed. Usually a decent airline counter person will charge you for oversize or overweight…..not both. They will only do that to you if they are in a really foul mood (yes I am talking about you, rotten mood lady in LAX!!)
10. Finally, be prepared to get turned away. After all the prep that you will take sometimes you will just get turned away. Make sure you have a back up plan with your ride to the airport to quickly ditch your gear if you can’t take it.
Make sure you have a back up plan in your final destination if you can’t bring your gear.
All in all, travelling with a kayak can be a different call with every trip that you do. Make sure to do your research and be patient.
NOTE: Westjet is awesome to travel with if travelling in North America. I have been able to take kayaks before for as low as $22 to California. That is better than Delta will charge for an extra suitcase.
NOTE 2: UNITED is the worst airline for travelling with a kayak. They lost mine for a week. Not ‘we sent it to a wrong location’ lost. LOST lost. A Villain S. Gone. We ended up finding out a week later it was in Washington (when I was in Mexico).
We were able to get to the flatwater section in just a little over 5 hours of paddling. Add on an hour or so of class II to get to the take out on river right. Not so long ago this river was considered a two day trip but with new boat designs, materials and better equipment, this is likely one of the best one day trips you will find.
OPS Paddlers: Mike Mckay, Phillip Kompass & Eric Clement
The highly decorated work of American Whitewater can find its roots in upstate New York, namely in the fight to save the Moose River. In the early 80’s a band of dirt bag paddlers (Chris Koll, Pete Skinner and others) bonded together on a common issue: the damming of many of New York’s rivers.
Over years that followed, these battles helped to shape the way the AW works with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and, set an example that still provides recreational releases on rivers across the United States. Check out the summary of these events in Currents Moose River Part 1 & Moose River Part 2
Use it or lose it. With the ink dry on the negotiated schedule for recreational dam releases, it was important to bring people to the Moose River. The brainchild of Chris Koll; Moosefest became a reality. The annual whitewater festival held in Old Forge, NY the weekend after Thanksgiving (Canadian) has been going strong since the mid-nineties, bringing hundreds of boaters to benefit from one of the last whitewater days of the season.
Paddlers flock from all over the Northeast to huck themselves down Fowlersville Falls, a 50 ft slide that gets your heart pumping early in the day; or Agers, one of the cleanest waterfalls you’ll find. (The cold water just might help cure a hangover from the previous night’s shenanigans).
As much a social event as a paddling festival, Moosefest is no stranger to Canadians either, and many will cross the border to hang out on the Moose and paddle this classic river.
A few things to consider when coming to Moosefest:
Temperature: It can be cold and for many people who paddle the warm summer rivers, a shock to the system. One option is the Barrier Drysuit . This will help keep you warm and is a very worthwhile investment for us in the North who would like to extend the paddling season early into the spring and late into the fall.
2. River running: Many in the Ottawa Valley spend the entire summer in a play boat. The Jackson Hero or Super Hero is a great way to transition easily for a intermediate paddler to a river running style. It is sturdy and easy to control. It also has the volume and feel of a creek boat with not all the displacement and size.
3. Protection: I have seen people get hurt on this river and it is best to protect yourself. I like the Sweet Wanderer personally but if you want to take it one step further, a full face helmet (Sweet Rocker FF) may be your choice. This will not only protect you, but will also instill a level of confidence to tackle harder rapids.
By: Mike McKay
This past weekend OPS paddlers Philip Kompass & myself headed down to New York State to take advantage of releases on the Taylorville, Mosier, and Eagle sections of the Beaver River and releases on the Raquette River. Traditionally this weekend is jammed packed with fun, friends, great camping and a lot of kayaking. “Beaverfest” as it is known, comes together through the great work of American Whitewater. If you are interested in the back story, check out Currents Season 1 Episode 11 Part 2.
To give a break down of the sections:
Taylorville section of the Beaver is a beginner creeking paradise. It has everything you need to get on the steeper rivers but offers them up at moderate pace perfect of intermediate boaters. There are slides, boofs, technical rapids, and even some nice ledges. They are all relatively friendly which makes them great for paddlers looking to get on harder rivers, and this section is short enough that an easy walk brings you back to the top in 10 minutes time for multiple laps.[FYI, Mike actually nailed 7 laps on Taylorville this year. Not sure if it is a record, but it is a heck of alot.]
The Moshier section of the Beaver is a slight step up from Taylorville, providing some larger, steeper drops including a perfect 10 footer at the start that is a great place for people to try their first waterfall. The notable exception is Moshier Falls proper, which is an absolutely stellar class IV+ rapid, offering stacked drops in pushy water with multiple moves throughout. Sadly this year this year a tree blocked the entry making it necessary for paddlers to skip the first tier. Thanks to those folks who took the time to wave down incoming boaters, as that strainer presented a real hazard for people who would have otherwise just rolled into the drop on the fly. Moshier Falls is a gorgeous rapid, and worth running several times.
The Eagle section of the Beaver is short and steep. Super fun, not overly difficult but a big step for those who are not familiar with steep and channelized slides. Since it is short it is and easy section to lap and get many runs on. This year the boys from ‘King of New York’ hosted their second stage of 4 races on the Eagle. It proved to be a great success and attracted nearly 40 racers. Times came in as low as 1:30 for those using Green Boats.
After a jam packed weekend of hitting the Beaver we all rallied over to the Raquette. We found that rather than the traditional 720 cfs release, it had been ramped up due to heavy rains the night before. This made for some more bite to the already hard rapids. For me, this was my second year organizing the Raquette Race and was very happy to have it as the third stage for the King of New York. Things went very well and the race was success for the second year in a row attracting some very fast and strong paddlers.
For more on the Raquette, see the earlier OPS post on fall creeking: Raquette Heads Up Article.
Over the weekend I had a great time paddling my Jackson Villian S. It proved to be a great boat for taking down some more technical lines as well as getting some serious air off some of the sweet boofs. Also, since it was such nice weather I was happy to be in my Level Six Chochee. This might just be my favourite piece of gear. I love the neck gasket. It keeps water out of my boat but I also stay cool while paddling.
All in all, a great weekend. Great turn out. Awesome times with friends. Looking forward to hitting some more fall releases and spending as much time on the water as possible.
A Jackson Hero Review by OPS Team Paddler Mike McKay
The Hero is just plain fun.
I would also argue that for many in the Ottawa area, an excellent river runner for many kayakers looking to expand on the area’s rivers.
Most people will argue that a bigger boat is better as that seems to be the trend over the past few years. However, I will make a few arguments for the defense of the Hero:
Due to the easy transition between a playboat and the Hero, many will feel a great sense of control. While the Hero will lack some speed, many will feel that the compensation in speed is greatly made up in the control that the paddler will have in any given rapid.
Transitioning between creeks and big water is a breeze in the Hero. The added volume gives you more confidence in big water than a traditional playboat while the length gives you mobility through tight boulder gardens.
3. Added Fun
For advanced paddlers the Hero adds an extra element of excitement to your home base class 5 run.
Last summer I was fortunate enough to prototype the 2011 Hero with Clay Wright on the Raquette (a tight and steep class 5 section in Colton NY). I also had a chance to try the Hero on the Green River Narrows. While both rivers provide a challenge at any time, the added excitement of the Hero boosted my enjoyment factor.
In fact, I find I am now more excited to paddle the Hero than my playboat or creekboat.
I would recommend this boat to paddlers looking to add some spice to their local runs AND those who are transitioning into more river running from playboating.
Don’t let the size deter you. In fact, control will play a huge role in the transition in to river running for most. Also, unless you are doing expedition paddling or consistently running steep, large drops, a big boat may just inhibit your paddling on harder rivers.
Some rivers to check out in your new Hero? Upper Petawawa, Kipawa, Rouge and many more!!
See attached a pick from Hell or High Water. While the Hero is not an ideal racing boat, it was so fun to run multiple laps of the river in (as you can see by my cheery look!!).
Stohlquist Descent PFD Review By OPS Team Paddler Eric Clement.
I’ve been wearing the Stohlquist Descent for three months now and I really like it. I’m always hesitant when it comes to changing a piece of gear. In this case my decision paid off.
The Descent felt really comfortable the first time I wore it since it is not too bulky nor too heavy. (Thanks to Stohlquist’s Wrapture ® Foam) It also has the side zipper which I like more than the pull over vests. One of my favourite features on the vest is the padded anti slip shoulder straps that make those long hikes more enjoyable. Another thing I like is those two straps situated in front of your arm pits that keep the vest fairly low and locked in position. The Descent also has a big front pocket that allows you to carry a lot of safety gear. One thing I would like to have on the vest are adjustable straps on the shoulders.
When buying a pfd the first thing you should consider is your safety. The Stohlquist Descent has lots of flotation (Type V PFD with sea level buoyancy of 17 lbs to be exact), lots of coverage for back protection and is also approved in Canada, so you’re good to go. From my point of view comfort should be second on the list and this vest is very comfortable. I’d give this vest an 8/10 over all.
The new paradigm shifting openboat (Product Page) has hit the market, and the buzz has been strong. Graham Preston and his crew took down a pair of L’edges to the Ottawa River for some big water fun on the Main Channel. Here is what he had to stay:
We rolled out of the driveway with fried egg sandwiches in our stomachs; pump up music pouring from the radio and two new Esquif L’Edges on the roof. The crew: a group of friends from the Ottawa Valley ranging from the casual playboater to canoe instructors to adrenaline seekers. Our destination: the big water of the Ottawa River with the goal of demoing Esquif’s highly anticipated new open boat design. Life was good.
The L’Edge was designed as an all around solid river runner that could handle anything from steep and challenging creeks to performing on a wave or in a hole. The idea was to rival high performance boats such as the Spanish Fly, but maintain the classic open boat design. Constructed of durable rotomolded plastic with bulkhead outfitting, the boat is available in both decked and fully open models. Since becoming available in stores this past summer, the L’Edge has caught the eye and praise of several of the world’s top open boaters. We decided to see what all the hype was about.
The first thing I noticed climbing into the L’Edge was the stability. The boat had excellent overall stability, with no compromise on either primary or secondary stability. I was able to confidently tilt the boat down to the gunnels, and the transitions over the edges were very smooth. In fast current and big waves I rarely felt caught off guard or had my edges unexpectedly grabbed by the water, and battling the pushy boiling water common below sets on the Ottawa was a breeze. With staying upright moved to the back of my mind, I was able to focus much more on the actual paddling.
Once you stop marveling at the fact that your new little boat hasn’t flipped you coming through that massive hole of death, you move on to praise a new god: the L’Edge’s dryness. The L’Edge was easily the driest boat I have paddled. The decks and bulkhead outfitting allowed us to plow through some huge waves with nothing to worry about but looking good for the camera. When we did manage to fill up, the boat still handled quite well. As a bonus, the L’Edge rolled up with a very manageable amount of water, so it was rare to be paddling it fully swamped.
Despite the incredible stability there is no trade off in performance. The L’Edge is comfortably predictable yet highly maneuverable. It responds to each stroke according to plan. Engaging the edges resulted in smooth carving through the current or eddy turns in the blink of an eye. Although not the fastest boat on the market, it was rare that its speed felt inadequate, even on a high volume river, and compensates with its impressive stability and dryness.
For those who like to play, the large planning hull and distinctive edges produced the best surfing any of us have experienced in an open boat. The L’Edge has unbelievable control on a wave. It was easy to maneuver across the wave without carving off as with many boats this happens more frequently, and maintaining control while in a flat spin was nearly effortless. With shouts of disbelief we were able to fluidly slide into side surfs, back surfs, fully around or back the way we came. Dare I say I even witnessed an ender?! And because of the decks, we were able to stay on the wave much longer than normal without swamping.
The L’Edge’s predictable maneuverability and stability combine to create a boat that is an easy and welcome transition from other boats. The bulkhead outfitting was both comfortable and enabled precision control of the boat. Whether coming from a Dagger Rival or an Esquif Detonator, we all felt at home in the L’Edge and it inspired us with confidence to push our paddling past our perceived limits. Surf on the mighty Garburator Wave? Why not! After a great day on the Ottawa River, I can’t wait until the spring creeks start running, and I have another chance to paddle to the Esquif L’Edge.
As most of you may know the new 2010 Jackson Star series has swept the podium at the worlds and dominated every freestyle competition on the planet. There is no doubt it is one of the hottest playboats on the market that can even make the average joe boater look and feel good. Then Jackson somehow improved what was already a great boat in the Jackson Fun series and has become the staple jack of all trades boat in the industry.
What else can they come up with in 2010? Jackson’s latest boat ‘The Villain’.
Photo courtesy of Five To Nine Productions http://five2nine.ca/
The new river creek boat that replaces the Rocker in the Jackson line up. We just got our hands on one last week and immediately sent it out for testing. Mike McKay of Five to Nine Productions http://five2nine.ca/ was kind enough to take it for a spin on the Bottom Moose in New York State and let us know what he thought:
Stats: 5’11 165lbs
Current Boat: Dagger Nomad
Found it sluggish in some ways. A little slow at times because of funny tracking. I had to work a little harder to stay on line.
It launches though. I liked that a lot.
The outfitting was great. I really liked the shock type bulkhead. Great idea in my opinion.
I kinda thought it was a bit of an advanced boat in a way. I ran all the lines really nice in it though. However, like I said, it was a tad harder to keep on line.
I would give it a B-.
However, I am just one opinion. Thanks a lot for the opportunity to try it and let me know if you need me to do anything else for you.
The verdict is in and this baby is a boofing machine! This boat has fair amount of rocker, especially in the stern. Add this with it’s soft edge and ripping in and out of micro eddies is a breeze.
Check out this vid of Stephen Wright rippin’ in a Villian, shot with a HD Helmet Hero
The Villain is in stock here at the shop and we do have the demo in our rental fleet, so swing by and check it out!