Friday, December 9, 2011

Big Thompson and Pacific Northwest Videos

I've been slaving away nonstop, only taking breaks to eat and go to the bathroom, and I am happy to report that the video edit from the Big Thompson this fall is finally done.

The Big Thompson is one of my favorite training runs. It is far more difficult than it is dangerous, and it's not very safe. The rapids are very continuous, but the creek is small enough that if you swim you can get out without too much trouble. You can bash your way down it without being exactly on line, but you can definitely tell when you're running the smooth line and when you're out of control. It's only about an hour from my house, too, which is the same distance away as the Poudre. On top of all that, since it's dam release, the best flows usually happen in the late fall, when everything else in the state is totally dry.

Most of the moves are fast linked small moves, but there are a couple big power boofs mixed in there. Since we usually go up there and run several laps, the creek can be kind of a jumble, so I haven't put the rapids in any particular order. This is definitely not a video guide, it's just us having fun.

Filmed almost entirely on a GoPro HD hero.

Within just a few hours of me finishing my Big Thompson edit, Chase Nobles also finished his edit from our trip to the Pacific Northwest. Since I lost the GoPro on Metlako, I didn't have quite as much footage as I would have liked, but my footage mixed in with Chase's made for a really good video. Enjoy:

What? Vimeo, don't hate. Apparently Mr. Fancypants here can embed in HD but I can't. We'll just see about that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Black Canyon... in December

"So, Ben, are you sure? I don't think they're predicting the temperatures to be much above freezing."

"Yeah, well, it's supposed to be snowing, so it won't be that bad."

"Oh, right, good point."

With that exchange, I decided to commit to one of the most intense endeavors ever attempted by humankind: a one day descent of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison... in December. I had been calling all the paddlers I knew in Colorado, trying to find someone to paddle with. Every time someone backed out because it was too cold, I would admit that I wasn't really that serious. Then, late friday afternoon, Ben Luck of Durango finally returned my call, and described how he was about to do a solo descent of the Black Canyon. I couldn't let Ben hog all the glory for himself, so I invited myself along.
I started packing immediately after hanging up, and arrived in Montrose at about 1:30 AM. Ben was highly in favor of an early start, so he woke me up again at 4:00 AM and we started setting shuttle. By the time it got light enough to take photos, we were about 2 miles in to the 7 mile hike leading down the closed road to putin. We both had a good chuckle when we got to the roadsign reading "7 miles to East Portal," since during our phone call Ben had explicitly noted the 5 mile hike in that would be required.
From December Black Canyon
Like a kayaking version of Fargo. December Black Canyon
Fortunately for us, the snow was thick enough that we could drag our boats, but not thick enough to slow down our hiking. I was very happy when we reached the long downgrade and I discovered that through some kind of weight/length ratio, I was able to sled down the road in my boat, although Ben had to jog. We made good time, and reached the water just a little after the sun peeked over the canyon walls. Of course, this is actually an estimate, because those weather dudes were spot on with that snow forecast, and the cloud cover was too thick to tell exactly where the sun was, all day long.
Blue sky? Nope, false alarm. Blue clouds. December Black Canyon
The reason that Ben had been so excited about this run was that the flows had just been turned up to 1600 cfs, which is tickling the high side of medium. Actually no, let's be honest, that's a pretty mackin flow. I've only been to the Black Canyon twice before, but Ben has done it many times (I think I heard him say 5 times just this season), and it was still the highest flow that either of us had seen in there. We moved fast through the first few rapids. At Daywrecker I got a huge backendo but figured it was just that I wasn't quite on my A game yet. By the third or fourth rapid, I started to realize that my game was right up at its normal level (meaning... AWESOME), but we were just running a frothing stout run. There was one particularly intense moment where Ben flipped over in a hole, and I tried to boof into him in order to push him out, but only ended up getting both of us surfed at once.
From December Black Canyon
We had been worried that the snow would make the portages treacherous, but we found that we had good traction through the thin layer of powder. We made it to Ballcrusher in very good time. In my previous two runs, at 1000 and 600, I had wondered why Ballcrusher had a name at all, much less a name as intimidating as Ballcrusher. Well, at 1600, that name was well deserved. The rapid started with a mission critical boof, but then continued into a series of easier moves with relatively heavy consequences. Ben decided that he was not feeling it, but I wanted to give her a go. The main danger that I was seeing was missing that first move. It was a simple move, but a big one, and if you missed that boof and ended up getting thrashed and swimming, who knows where you would end up by the bottom of the rapid. However, since it was flatwater leading up to it, and I had brought my Big Bang, I felt confident that I could execute the power punch, and deal with the runout as it came.
How many times can I work the phrase "Ballcrusher" into this post? December Black Canyon
The punch went even better than I had any right to expect, and I managed to not embarrass myself too much in the smaller lead out holes, although I got a little closer than planned to a sieve over on the right bank. From there we only had a few rapids before the waterfall and the beginning of the infamous portage. Ben was nice enough to shoot photos of me at the falls.
It looks small from that angle, but it's 18 feet, baby. Honest. December Black Canyon
The beginning of the portage was the first time that I really looked around and started to appreciate how awesome the Black Canyon is in the late fall. (It's not winter until the paddling season ends!) I was a nervous about the long hike that was coming, just like a 98 pound weakling is nervous before a fight with the football captain. We all knew what the outcome was going to be.
Looks like we're about to climb the Eiger.. or maybe escape Mordor.
The portage seems to get easier every time I do it. This time, I probably only fell face first into the dirt about 3 million times, dropped my boat 50 times (none of which were onto my toe), and only spent about 63% of the time sobbing. Overall, that's about half as bad as last time. Furthermore, the poison ivy was all dead because of the snow. At least, we certainly hope that it was all dead, because I definitely used poison ivy stalks at handholds a few times, and at least once when I collapsed from exhaustion I am pretty sure that I collapsed right into a little thicket of the stuff. We'll know for sure in another day or two.
What you can't tell from this photo is that Ben is jogging, not walking.
Ben, of course, is about ten times more hard core than me. He kept getting farther and farther ahead before stopping and waiting for me, and when I caught up to him at the first river crossing involved in the portage, I found that he'd had time to light a fire and change out of half of his gear while he waited for me.
The portage wouldn't be that bad if you didn't have to battle all those Frost Trolls.
The portage took a lot out of me, and we were also pretty far behind Ben's schedule since I was so slow at hiking, so we didn't take any photos once we got back into the water. The two "big drops" after the portage - Next Generation and Great Falls - were both possible, but very intense with the high flows. Both of those rapids involve running a waterfall and landing very close to rocks. Usually the rocks are nearby but the water going off the waterfall doesn't actually hit them. At 1600, the rocks in the landings were both receiving a healthy spray of the green water going off the falls. The line was obviously just as wide as it ever is, but we walked both rapids.

I hadn't had a chance to place any bets about the success or failure of our mission, but if I had bet, I would have predicted that we would get out of the water with at least a little daylight left, but we would finish the hike out of Chukar trail well after dark. It was good that I hadn't bet, because with Ben motivating that hike, we managed to finish up and get the boats loaded with almost 15 minutes of light left. Ben finished the hike within 30 seconds of 4:00, meaning that we took almost exactly 12 hours to get back to the exact same parking lot that we had camped at. Well, I took another hour or so on that final hike, so I guess WE didn't finish in 12 hours, Ben finished in 12 hours, but it's still cool. Exhausted from a long long day on only 2 hours of sleep and very little food, it was a grueling drive to my mom's house. Fortunately, Natalie called me so that I had someone to keep me sharp for the last part of the drive. When I got there, I went straight to bed and slept for 12 hours, then ran Barrel Springs to break up the rest of the drive home.
The face of a madman: Ben Luck kills again.
Here is a slideshow from the trip, with a couple extra photos.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving break 2011: Old Man Anderson and the kids

With Natalie out of the country doing geologic mapping for a few months, I found myself without my favorite boating partner for thanksgiving break. I really didn't feel like driving out to the northwest and paddling alone, so I started thumbing through my rolodex. Most of my B list paddling buddies have jobs, so I moved down the list to the C team. At the top of that list was Chase Nobles. I called him up a month or so ahead of time and got the trip all lined up. Pretty close to the departure date, Chase recruited a third paddler for our expedition, young Eddy Honea. I was happy to have a third person to share the gas costs and driving load. The three of us had an excellent trip, but I realized that, like most people, I'm getting old. Those kids were stoked ALL the time.
Since I was so excited about the trip, I wanted to leave at the earliest possible moment, and that was right after I finished teaching a lab at 8:00 thursday night. However, I had a busy week, and wasn't able to start packing at all until that night. Plus, we borrowed Natalie's car, and one of the conditions for its use was that we rebuild the roof racks before leaving, since they were tearing through the sheet metal of the roof.
I innovate while Eddy uses a circular saw and cellphone simultaneously. Thanksgiving 2011
After a couple pretty brilliant innovations involving an old broken boat, we packed up and had a nice timely 1:00 AM departure from Fort Collins. Just a short 24 hours later, we finished the snowy drive to Dan Rubado's house in Portland, ready to paddle. Of course, it was night time, but we waited until morning, and then headed over to Opal creek.
Now, I like to think that I had some fun back in my undergraduate days, but let me tell you: these guys were more stoked than anything I had ever seen. Lucky for us, the stoke regulations are a little more relaxed in Oregon, because in some states we probably would have been arrested.

Dan and I were catching up on old times during the hike in when the kids came literally running past us through the snow, one of them sitting in a boat while the other one towed him with his tow tether. Dan and I got a little stoked just from the fumes.
From Thanksgiving 2011
From Thanksgiving 2011
From Thanksgiving 2011
Opal creek was a pretty fun run. The levels were a little too low for the upper section, and there was a little too much snow on the banks for the sketchy portage in the lower gorge, so we only ran the easier middle section, but we still had a great time. Of particular note was the hilarious line that Dan had off of one of the rapids - Big Fluffy or something was the name.
From Thanksgiving 2011
After Opal creek, we continued to hit a series of more and more classic runs. Every day, the kids would call home and say that they had just run the best creek yet, and then the next morning we would go run something even better. All this stoke had the effect of making me feel ever older and more cantankerous. I don't know how it worked.
We progressed from Opal creek to Canyon creek, then the Green Truss, Hagen creek, to the Washougal, and then the Little White on Thanksgiving day.
Chase on Salmon falls below Opal creek. Thanksgiving 2011
Dan on the falls in Canyon creek. Thanksgiving 2011
Chase on the center boof of the Canyon creek falls. Thanksgiving 2011
Eddy approaches the falls. Thanksgiving 2011
Chase boofs the hell out of Big Brother on the Truss. Thanksgiving 2011
Eddy slightly off balance on Big Brother. Thanksgiving 2011
Eddy... STOKED! Thanksgiving 2011
On friday, we topped off the trip with a descent of Eagle creek. We had scouted it out earlier in the week, but it had been too high then. I used to think that Eagle creek was basically better and better as the water levels rose, but I was wrong. On our scouting mission, Punchbowl falls had a really strong current pushing into the undercut wall on river left below the drop, and everything was just super intense. When we came back on friday, the level was still high (3 times the recommended level according to the barometer gauge in the next drainage over) but was way more reasonable.
"Wow" levels"Reasonably high" levels. Thanksgiving 2011
We hiked up to Skoonichuck; a 40 footer to 10 footer combo drop. I was excited to try out the stern mount for the GoPro, but it took me a long time to get everything ready, so I ended up last in line to run the drop. Chase went first and dropped his paddle between the waterfalls, swimming in the bottom pool. Eddy still wanted to fire it up. As he peeled out of the eddy right above the drop, he got spun out in a small hole. He managed to get it turned back around and had what looked like a great line, catching a little bit of the boof flake on the left, like I had planned to. However, he did not resurface after running the first drop. He was just totally gone - probably behind the curtain of the 40 footer. Chase and I exchanged some gestures, and I ran back up to my boat to grab my throwbag, in hopes of throwing it through the curtain. I had some pretty grim flashbacks, but I was really relieved to hear some yelling when I was on my way back to the river. I figured that yelling meant that something had changed, which had to be good news.
Sure enough, Eddy reappeared while I was gone, and swam over the 10 footer, mostly okay. His boat soon followed. Watching the video footage later, he was only gone for about 30 seconds, but that's still way too long. I was still really excited about the drop, but I decided to rein it in, just to stay on the safe side. I walked around and put in below the waterfall. Here is Chase's footage from below the falls. I found it pretty intense to watch, but knowing that Eddy was ok made it not so bad. It's easy to miss if you zone out, but Eddy comes off the first falls right around 0:27.
The inbetween rapids were a lot cleaner than I remembered from my other trip down this creek, with Dave Schmitt. When we got to punchbowl, Eddy got out, still a little rattled from his close call at Skoonichuck, leaving just Chase and I.
I had a pretty awesome line off Punchbowl, if I do say so myself. Nobody got a photo, but it was okay, since I had the stern mount GoPro getting a sick shot of it. From the huge pool below, I snapped a hella artsy photo of Chase, although his line wasn't as amazing as mine.
Yeah, sure, it's good... but mine was probably even better. Thanksgiving 2011
After some cheering and celebrating, we paddled down to the decision point for Metlako. I was feeling it big time, because I really wanted to get some GoPro footage of it. Plus I figured the landing would be even softer than usual with the high water. You might even say I was a little stoked. Chase was on the fence, because Punchbowl was one of the largest drops he had yet run, and it was about 30 feet. Metlako is over 3 times taller than that. I managed to convince him with some strong logic. Our conversation was a lot like this:
"I don't know if I want to run Metlako."
"Let's just do it."
I had a less than optimal line. I went over the bars and landed on my face. My theory is that the water level was high enough that the ramp that normally sets your angle was sort of washed out, making it more of a sharp lip. Whatever the reasons, I pancaked a little and autoejected. I got to the eddy just in time to see Chase go over the bars by exactly the same amount, for a perfect double auto-eject. (So intense... what does it mean?) Unfortunately, when I ejected, my boat went sort of behind the waterfall a little, and got savagely beaten against the rocks. I rock climbed over to a tiny cave very close to the base of the falls to recover the boat. The stern mount had worked great, flexing enough to not break anything. However, during the beating, the GoPro case had broken open, and the camera had fallen out into the river, taking with it the sick footage of my awesome line off Punchbowl. I was slightly bummed, but stoked enough that I didn't really feel it.
Chase begins to go over-vert. Thanksgiving 2011
During my pancake landing, I cracked a blade in half on my paddle, and I made the mistake of tossing it into an eddy instead of up onto the bank. While I was rescuing my boat, the paddle slowly filled with water and sank. It was an expensive waterfall that day. Chase had tossed his paddle to avoid exactly what happened to me, and it had floated away downstream. This left us in an amusing position because we only had one breakdown paddle, but two paddlers. Our solution was to split the breakdown in half and share it. That was a really exciting way to run rapids. It worked great, and we ended up finding Chase's paddle about a mile downstream. We met up with Eddy and paddled back to the car just before dark. It was a pretty good way to finish the trip.
And Chase's paddle flew off into the sunset and had many adventures. Thanksgiving 2011
Part of the reason that I was so cantankerous was that there was nobody to take photos of me. Normally Natalie and I take photos of each other, and it works out pretty well, but I realized during this trip that that's because I trust Natalie with the camera. These kids were just so stoked out of their minds that I didn't really feel comfortable giving them the camera very often. As a result, most of the runs I was the personal media team for the kids. In fact, there were only 4 rapids through the whole trip where anyone took photos of me. In rapid succession, here they all are:
Reverse spawning at Salmon falls. Thanksgiving 2011
Orion set safety and got this shot of me on Spirit falls. Thanks Orion. Thanksgiving 2011
A random drop on Hagen creek (actually we were on the Washougal at this point) with a tight exit. Thanksgiving 2011
Returning to Metlako. Thanksgiving 2011
I lost the GoPro footage from Eagle creek, but I still have the footage from the rest of the trip, so I might put together a short video. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here is a slideshow, with a couple extra photos from that I didn't include in the post:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Poudre Narrows Video

Looks like fall is finally here. It snowed almost a foot in Fort Collins last week, and the Big Thompson has started running. This probably means that it's time to catch up on some blog posts. Here's a short video I put together from one of the last couple days of normal water on the Poudre Narrows (or "Gnarrows" as it is sometimes called.) The Narrows is now sort of my home run. It's pretty easy, so the video isn't the most intense creekboating, but we still managed to have a lot of fun. I tried to capture the typical relaxed fun attitude with the video. Enjoy.
Thanks to Evan Stafford for making a brown, Spencer Mauk for driving, and Natalie for changing her mind and paddling after all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wedding Part II: The Wedding-- FINALLY!

I know that many of you were wondering if we actually got married or if it was all a hoax because the wedding photos have been conspicuously absent from the internet since May 28th.  Well here is the proof! For those of you who came, thanks for making our wedding the best wedding ever. For those of you who couldn't make it, these photos are going to make you wish you did. ENJOY!

 If you would like any of these photos, simply click on it and it will take you to our online Picasa account were you can download to your heart's desire. Most photos are by Darin McQuoid, but there are some additional photos from Shelby Evans, Joel Metzger, and Renee Kramer, among many others. Here is a short synopsis of the wedding without slodging through the hundreds of photos below. You can also read Wedding Part I: Leif's Bachelor Party and Wedding Part III: Honeymoon.

 Here are a couple of my favorites from the ceremony.

Leif's first glimpse of his bride.
From weddingceremony
It was beautiful,
From weddingceremony
We all cried...
From weddingceremony
From weddingceremony
And we all laughed,
From weddingceremony
From weddingceremony
And we did it!
From weddingceremony
From weddingceremony

Wow, do we know how to laugh! I think that my abs were sore after this dinner...

 We vow to commit our love to each other, to respect one another's individuality, to be with each other through life's changes, and to nurture and strengthen the love between us.

Although it was pissing rain right before the ceremony, the sun shone down on us for our vows.

I have a sound recording of the ceremony, if you are interested in hearing it, please e-mail me.

What a blast.

Thanks Tapwater and Nancy for making the music and food exceptional!

It was so fun to have everyone there helping out before and after the weekend. The verdict is in, all weddings should be four days long.

It is good to know your strength,
but always return to your flexibility.
If you can cradle your beloved in your arms,
love will flow through you.

It is good to achieve things,
but always return to anonymity.
Your beloved does not need your achievements,
but needs your uncomplicated soul.

It is good to work for change,
but always return to what is.
If you accept all things whether painful or joyful,
then you belong to each other.

-The Tao

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gnarrows Race 2011

The Gnarrows Race is a grassroots event on the Poudre River. If anyone asks, it's not really an event at all, just a bunch of paddlers that happen to be paddling together on the same stretch of river. No money changes hands, and there's not much publicity about the race. For years now, I have lived in Fort Collins, and heard all the trash talking that happens online about the race, but never had the chance to compete, although Natalie competed in 2009. This year, the race happened a little later than usual, and we were just barely able to make it back from the Slave in time.

Looking back at Natalie's post from 2009, there are a lot of similarities between the two years. In 2009, Natalie's mom happened to be visiting, and took a bunch of photos of the race. This year, it was my mom. In 2009, Natalie broke her Werner bentshaft just before the race, and had to borrow a paddle. This year, exactly the same thing happened. In 2009, we have a photo of Kyle trying to pass Natalie right below the airplane boof (and he eventually did pass her). This year, same pass, same spot. And of course, both years, Natalie was the only female racer.

Anyway, here's the blow-by-blow account of the race. We got off to a late start because many of the race organizers were helping clean up a swim in the second rapid of the course (ahem... Spencer...). There weren't many competitors, so we ended up with two heats of 4 and a heat of 5 for prelims.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

From Gnarrows Race 2011

Prelims are a race through the whole Narrows; from up above Upper Narrows down to the end of Lower Narrows. It's a couple miles, and pretty tiring. I had been training a little on the Slave, but I had forgotten that the race would be taking place at high altitude in the Colorado mountains, so I had good bursts of speed but got winded easily. Fortunately, I had a fast start and was able to pull just barely ahead of Austin Woody, then managed to hold on to my lead with some lucky lines through the first few rapids. After that, I was pretty much set.

Kyle (previous champ) battles his way through Whiteline. Gnarrows Race 2011

Austin still right on my tail at Whiteline. Gnarrows Race 2011

Natalie was in the 5 person heat, and it was an incredibly stacked heat. They all started very tight, and stayed tight all the way to the finish line. There was a flurry of passes in Super Collider, the first rapid. Natalie had a fast line through the main part of the drop and passed Evan, but then got hung up on some rocks in the runout and was passed by Evan and someone else. They all came in to Whiteline very close.

Heat 3. Gnarrows Race 2011

The tricky move in Whiteline is a sticky eddy near the bottom of the drop (this is where Spencer swam, right before the race). Natalie ended up in that eddy, but was able to paddle out on her first try and stay very competitive. She might have even moved up to second place. Things were kind of confusing in the photos.

Natalie enters the eddy. Gnarrows Race 2011

Just after exiting the eddy (full contact eddy turn). Gnarrows Race 2011

The three prelim heats launched at some close intervals, so I was still in my boat when Natalie's heat arrived at the finish line. Curt was out ahead, but not by much, and then the other four boats were literally still running into each other jockeying for position as they crossed the finish line. Evan managed to pass Natalie during one of the final moves in the last rapid, and she took third in her heat.

The top 2 advance from each heat, but here's the cool part of the Gnarrows race: there is an extra round in between prelims and semifinals, where everyone who didn't qualify for semis gets another chance to race head to head and get into semis anyway. This year, because of how the numbers worked out, it was a heat of seven people with the top two achieving official redemption. This inbetween round is known as the Losers' Bracket.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

Nathan had ended up third in my heat, putting him in the Losers' Bracket. He had an excellent start, and maintained a solid lead for a seat in semifinals.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

Natalie had smooth lines, but they weren't enough to catch up to Nathan's start, and she took second, which still put her in semis.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

Seven people is quite a few when you're in a river bed this small.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

But I guess that doesn't matter if you're winning.

With our new qualifiers from the Losers' Bracket, we had two heats of four people each in semifinals. The top two from each heat would advance to the final round. I was in the first heat, right up next to Evan at the start line, but also racing against Nathan and Josh Heise. Evan got boxed in between Nathan and I at the start, and wasn't able to get his paddle into the water, putting him way behind. When the metaphorical dust settled, I found that I was in second, ramming Josh, who was first. I backed off a little for the boof, and lost ground, but eventually managed a pass near the bottom of the course.

About to pass Josh, with Nathan and Evan following. Gnarrows Race 2011

Natalie was in the second semifinals heat, and once again found herself in a very stacked heat. The whole pack was incredibly tight through the whole course. Near the airplane boof, it looked like Curt might pull way out ahead, but he flipped over and lost most of his lead.

Semifinals heat 2. Note the bottom of Curt's boat over on the right. Gnarrows Race 2011

In the chaos surrounding the boof, Austin Woody managed to pull out into the lead just ahead of Curt. Natalie passed Kyle, but the two of them were still in full contact across the flats.

You can tell from Kyle's face that he really wants to make the pass. Gnarrows Race 2011

Just like in 2009, Kyle kept dogging at Natalie and managed to squeeze past her, but the two of them had lost too much time battling each other, and neither of them moved on to the next round. It was Austin, then Curt, then Kyle, then Natalie.

This meant that our finals round was ready to go. Austin and I were the first place finishers from the previous round, so we had first pick of the start locations. After a coin toss, Austin started closest to the current, and I started on the opposite side of the lineup, in the hope that I would be able to get some effective strokes while everyone else bunched up trying to catch current. Curt and Josh were in the two middle spots.

My strategy almost worked, except I actually came out of the start in third place. Curt was out in the lead, and I was behind Austin and ahead of Josh. Finals was the closest matched heat yet, and we were all very tight, but I was definitely battling for last.

Finals heat! Gnarrows Race 2011

I had a little hiccup leaving the cauldron below the airplane boof, and Josh snuck past me.

Josh passes me, just below the airplane boof. Gnarrows Race 2011

I hadn't even really realized that I was in fourth, I just saw how close I was to Josh and Austin, and hammered as hard as I could to either knock them off line or make a pass.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

From Gnarrows Race 2011

Down below the late boof, in the last couple moves of the course, I had practiced an alternate line, in case this exact thing happened. The river is pretty narrow, and unless the leader makes a mistake it's very hard to pass someone when you're both in the same channel. I practiced this alternate line so that I would have an unblocked path to try to take, giving me a slightly better chance at passing whoever was in the normal channel.

As I committed to the alternate route, I realized that Josh, who was right ahead of me, had also broken to the right, which totally foiled my plan. However, I lucked out. He hit a couple rocks and got pushed out of the current, and I was able to capitalize on his small mistake and pull into third.

Reconnecting with the main channel, I saw that I had lost some ground and Austin had pulled ahead. This was the reason that most people had taken the left channel, after all. In a way my gamble had failed. However, in the second to last move, Austin took the left channel. That's the normal line when you're paddling for fun, since there is more water over there, but that channel zigzags enough that it is not the optimal race line. I barreled through the narrower, rockier, but straighter line just to the right, and gained just enough time to crash into Austin in the flats above the final move. We were neck and neck, and we both reached forward simultaneously to try to grab the water in front of the other person's boat. Lucky for me, I was in the Big Bang, which is a good 6 inches longer than Austin's boat, and I also have gigantic arms because I'm like a foot taller than him. I planted a stroke on the very front end of Austin's bow and yanked myself about half a boat length ahead of him.

While Austin and I were having our little reaching contest, Josh was paddling down a clear course behind us, and had managed to catch up. The three of us flew off the final boof all overlapping. I was barely in the lead, and Austin and Josh were on either side of me, with their bows right at my elbows. Of course, Curt was so far ahead of any of us that he was already starting to climb out of his boat. I had taken second in my first ever Gnarrows race. We decided that Austin and Josh were close enough that they had tied for third.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

The first place prize is an engraved belt buckle that gets passed from champion to champion every year. Maybe some year I'll get ahold of it. Second prize is a 40, but I don't drink. I figured that since it was such a close finish, I would donate it to Austin and Josh.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

Stoked with a great finish, I joined a group of other paddlers headed up for a victory lap, and convinced a couple people to try out the new Fluid boats that we had with us. It was a great way to end a really fun day.

From Gnarrows Race 2011

From Gnarrows Race 2011

So, in case you weren't able to follow all the twists and turns in that high speed narrative, here are some results:

1) Kurt Braunlich
2) Leif Anderson
3 (tie) Austin Woody and Josh Heise

5) Kyle McCutcheon (3rd in semis heat 2, 1st in prelim heat 1)
6) Nathan Werner (3rd in semis heat 1, 3rd in prelim heat 2)

7) Evan Stafford (4th in semis heat 1, 2nd in prelim heat 3)
8) Natalie Anderson (4th in semis heat 2, 3rd in prelim heat 3)

And past there, I don't remember how people placed.