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Fitz to Smith Bump and Grind Edition 2017

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A few years back we did our first top to bottom Slave River Run as a duo double date with our good friends John and Gen.  It was a special trip.  Since then, we have tried to do a top to bottom every year.  I think we missed last year, but the year before that we had a nice trip with Leif's mom and boyfriend Rob.  We just finished our top to bottom for this year dubbed by John Blyth as Fitz to Smith Bump and Grind Edition 2017.


Although the trip is becoming more 'normal' for us and it is easy to become jaded or to think that there is no new story here, I realized that our adventures with our northern family and friends and our adventures as a new family of three is worth writing about.  Sure, the trip no longer carries that ring of doing something new which is always a great motivator for sharing the story.  However, the newness is still there in other ways, the spectacular scenery is still there, and the friendship is still there.

This year was a little different because…

Impressions of Colombia

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Somehow this post never got posted a few years back.  So here it is a belated re-count of our Colombia trip from 2015.



I've been wanting to come to Colombia for about five years or so....

For this trip I didn't bring a camera, not even a cell phone camera.  The photos that you see here are compliments of Kent Bretzlaff or Leif.  Although I do miss having those photos to flip through to remind me of moments from the trip, I found that not having a camera along on the river and on the trip in general was really nice.  I was taking this trip for myself; it was personal and I didn't feel the need to record it.  Well, I guess I'm sort of recording it by recounting my memories here.

Taking a paddling to trip to Colombia isn't for everyone.  If you are looking for a South or Central American paddling destination to maximize your paddling days you might want to check out Ecuador, the Veracruz region in Mexico or Pucon, Chile.  In Colombia be prepared to spend more days tra…

Nomad (Newmad) Review - First Impressions

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The original Nomad was a successful boat for a inordinately long time. I think that the two big parts of what made it such a hit through several generations were: how easily it boofs, and how fast it was. You could lift that bow up over anything, and it was also reasonably fast for when it was introduced. As times changed, the standards for speed also changed, so it eventually fell behind.

Of course, this is all guesswork on my part, because the old large nomad is nowhere near large enough for me. I paddled one a couple times, but it was hilariously undersized, and I spent a lot of time chest deep in the water after boofs.

Well, enter the New Nomad (the Newmad). There are three sizes, and the large size is great for me. I'm 6'7", 220 lbs, 36 inch inseam and size 14 feet. I as able to hop into the large with my shoes on and make no special modifications to the outfitting. In fact, my footpegs aren't all the way forward, there is an extra notch available, and I was ab…

LW boof dedications and Darin McQuoid interview

A couple days ago, Darin McQuoid posted a relatively innocuous comment to his Facebook wall which sparked a heated online conversation. The debate revolved around the quality of online content. Here is that post (oh the technology!) Observe the number of comments (and click through to see if you can access them via facebook).

You know what kayaking needs more of? Shameless sponsor plugs. And GoPro selfies. Posted by Darin McQuoid on Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A few of my favorite bits (cherry picked, not to be taken as a complete picture), with names abbreviated to protect anonymity:
JS: Don't forget a string of unintelligible hashtags

Darin McQuoid: Or two strings if all the good ones won't fit in one.

RKS: Small price to pay to do what you love... And you gotta start somewhere. As much as part of me misses the days where it took 1-2 years (or more) for a new DVD to come out, or months for photos to be released in a magazine, now a days the playing field is a little more acces…

Building the Slug

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Based on my wealth of experience in patching two or three cracks in my Element, I decided that I was fully qualified and ready to build my own boat.

The plan was to design a boat from scratch, because it was becoming increasingly difficult to find production boats that fit me. I liked the Element a lot, but it was just impossible to paddle in a hole, and it was also a little tough on highly concave waves. The long bow tends to hit the water if the wave is really curved. The design I decided to make was basically an Element without a long bow. I decided that I would make it a touch wider, like maybe an inch, and also give it a tiny bit more stern rocker, as well as a shorter and wider stern. I was going to keep the aggressive flared rails. That was where a lot of people raised their eyebrows, since it seems crazy. I was thinking back to the Liquidlogic Vision, which had apparently been acceptable in a hole, despite having some pretty aggressive rails. Of course, the sidewalls on the v…

Composite boat repair for the clueless

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My actual introduction to working with composites came when I broke my composite Element. Well, actually that's not true. My real introduction to composites came when my parents used to build paddles and boats in a workshop out back when I was a young kid. Well, actually, I would get in trouble if I tried to go play in the workshop, since resin is toxic, and they didn't want me to start having liver issues before turning 10. So I suppose my real introduction to composites was when I built a composite deck plate with the advice of Jeremy Lauks. But that thing was a piece of junk.

Anyway, the point here is that I was paddling a composite Element on the Slave river in 2011, when there was a huge ton of wood coming down the river. I hit a couple stumps, which put a bunch of little cracks in the stern and a few other areas. However, the big one that finally made me get down to business was when I tried an airscrew on a shallow wave, landed upsidedown, and opened the bow up like an…

Introduction to Composite boatbuilding

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Do you sometimes feel like a cantankerous old man, shaking his fist at the kayak industry? “I could totally build a better playboat than that!” you might yell from your porch, or perhaps “What I want to paddle is the gliss monkey hull with the edges of a skunk rocker!” Are you fed up enough to finally do something? Are you ready to put your money where your mouth is? Well, in that case, prepare for a mind-blowing introduction to the incredible world of homemade composite kayaks.




Personally I started building custom composite boats because I am too tall to fit in production boats. I fit in the 2010 Monstar, but it wasn’t comfortable. I also fit in the Fluid Element, but that’s… a  very special case. I needed something short but big. I saw a few other pro paddlers building their own boats, and I figured, hey - how hard can it be?

Oh, looking back on those foolish days of my youth, those two or three long years ago.



In a series of articles on this blog, I will try to express and pass…