Goodbye to the Slave

This is our last Slave post for this year, unless we put together a overall summary post. For more of our adventures, check out Week 1, the wood movie, Week 2, paddlefest, and Week 3. There is also a map of the rapids online with rapid descriptions. Water levels can be checked here. There are also a whole heap of posts from 2009 and 2010: Driving, arriving, flooding, still flooding, Sweet Spot, Rollercoaster, and Outrageous.

It saddens my heart to write this, but, as it does every year, our trip to the Slave has finally ended. I spent the last few days moping around the house, and trying to have as much fun as possible out on the water.

On the last day, we took requests via facebook, and let the fans decide where we would go. Of course, the fans are not nice people, and they picked Outrageous (the crappiest flat wave on the whole river) and Rockem Sockem (which is a great wave with a little less water, but made a huge trashy hole on that day).

I hate to sound like a broken record here, but the Element is incredibly sick. We got to Outrageous and it was even flatter than last year. John took a quick ride, and he was able to frontsurf for a little while, but soon he washed off forwards. I was able to grind, stab, and clean blunt. I may have even stuck a helix. I can't remember. I could even catch it from the eddy, which I used to think was impossible. The Element rocks.

Brown grind. Slave 2011

Pow! Slave 2011

Downstream from there is the infamous Rock 'em Sock 'em. It's a slightly more technical rapid, with a moderately difficult entrance leading to a pair of big holes side by side. When the water drops, the river right hole gains a little bit of face, and becomes an incredible wave. You may have seen it in the old Scott Lindgren movies of the Slave. It's the one where the paddlers fight their way through a mean hole out to a nice wave, do big air moves in their Wavesport Z's, and occasionally fall back into the trashy section.

We now call the trashy section of the hole the Penalty Box. It's small at these levels, but it's still vicious. Unfortunately, once you've spent your time in the Penalty Box and finally fight out to the main wave, there's no wave. It's just a slightly less trashy section of hole. However, the crowd had spoken, and plus, on our 2008 trip at similar levels, we got a photo of me at that same spot that ended up in the Portfolio section of Kayak Session magazine, so we had to give it a try.

John in the pocket. Slave 2011

Carving out of the Box. Slave 2011

We got a little trashed, but (broken record) the amazing edges on the Element helped me carve out of the Penalty Box with minimal ass kicking. Once we got out to the pocket, the air just wasn't quite working for us, and, after a sad little surf at Rollercoaster (too low), we paddled back across for the last time of the year.

Then it was time for the inaugural run of a new Slave tradition: the farewell party.

John and Gen ready to party! Slave 2011

Getting the party started. Slave 2011

To most people, "party" means "get drunk", but since I don't drink, we tend to have slightly less conventional parties. Often back in Fort Collins, our parties involve a lot of Boggle and Bananagrams. Our farewell party was just the four of us out by the river, hanging out and having fun.

From Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

And of course, the fun soon devolved into light painting and other tomfoolery.

From Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

Then we packed up our boats and started the three day drive back to Fort Drytown.

Wrapping up the Element. The drive starts with three hours of gravel roads. Slave 2011

I saw a cloud on the way home. Slave 2011

Natalie's garden had turned into a jungle while we were gone. Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

As soon as we got back, we ran up to the Poudre to get ready for the Gnarrows race. The Slave had been running at hundreds of thousands of cfs, and the Poudre had only a few hundred cfs. It was shockingly different. I can't wait to get back to the Slave next summer.


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