Slave 2012 - Week 1

Here are a couple handy Slave-related links:
Map of the rapids
last year (week 1, week 2, week 3, goodbye, wood video)

Week 2
Week 3
Best of this year

This Week has been a little busy, so we haven't had time to update our posts day by day. Here are all our adventures, in one big mass. There is a slideshow at the very bottom of all our photos of the trip so far. Some of our favorites from this week are sprinkled liberally throughout the article.

The water has started out high this year, and there's still a lot of snowpack left up there in them hills down south. It's so high, in fact, that the traditional high water spot known as Sweet Spot has been washed out. We've spent most of our time on lines that go through the Forgotten Waves and Chico (check the Map of the rapids to see where I'm talking about).

We also watched a forest fire from Chico. Slave 2012
John remembers how to work Forgotten wave. Slave 2012
Natalie gets a cool bounce on a tricky wave. Slave 2012
Leif practices the airscrew. Slave 2012
Panam! Slave 2012
A little back panam action at Chico. Slave 2012
John figures out the blunt. Slave 2012
Too much time at these two medium quality spots can get a little taxing, so we have also been exploring a little. Natalie bagged a first descent on a new line in the Molly's ledge. I used to call that rapid "Holey Land" but now Natalie gets to pick a proper name. She's taking her time finalizing the name. The names in favor right now are "Honey Badger" and "Spread Eagle". We'll keep you posted on her final decision. John and I also took a day to take creekboats out into the creek lines out in the woods to the right of Cassette rapids. I was feeling fired up that day, and ran pretty much everything I could get, even though the water was the highest I had seen it out in that region.

On both of those days, we took mostly video, so we don't have many high quality stills.
Natalie making her first D. Slave 2012
Running Split Rock. This is one of the "micro lines". You can just see me over on the left. Slave 2012
Patrice Falls. Slave 2012
Rumplestiltzkin. Normally this rapid is a 4-6 foot flake type boof. Slave 2012
We also spent a day wandering around Pelican rapids, the biggest set of rapids on the Slave. We hiked up through the channels over on the far side, hoping to find a wave that was good there at high water. We struck out on that count, but while we were there, I decided to give the main rapid a go. Normally this rapid is just a huge wavetrain. There is an annoying eddy line that you have to fight through to position yourself above the main rapid, then a big diagonal wave with a monstrous hole on the left that starts the wavetrain itself. It's a very intimidating rapid, but arguments could be made that it is really just large class 3.

At high water, the eddy above the rapid actually got easier to leave. An upper section of the eddyline became accessible, which was a lot easier to cross. I decided that I wanted to give it a shot, since objectively there weren't any features in the way, just big swirly water.

I left the eddy just fine, getting even farther across the channel than normal. There are a couple of waves in the plateau above the main drop, and the second of these waves stood up and chundered me pretty good. I was a little surprised by its size, but I kept my composure and continued ferrying to the right. I got to the big horizon line pretty much exactly where I wanted to be, and my first thought as I came over was that the main wave, for the first time I had ever seen, was surfable. My second thought was that I might get surfed unintentionally in the largest wave I had ever seen in my life.

I briefly considered turning around and trying to catch the main wave. I have always wanted to surf this wave. I'd seen footage of the pros from back in the day trying to catch it, in super long old boats, but always getting pushed off the diagonal. The pile I saw was shaped so that you could stay on as long as you could stand. However, it really was huge. I don't know how to express its largeness. Imagine a wave as large as your house. Do you live in a two story house? If so, then the main wave would have been just barely over your roof. I kid you not. It was big, and I was a little scared. I decided to stick with plan A, and avoid the pile.
Looking up the face of the main wave. Way up. Slave 2012
I took three long deep strokes up the face of the wave, still driving to the right. I skimmed the right side of the pile, tucking a little to punch through it, and I was immensely relieved to get a little skip and a splash and fly past the lip onto the back side. I relaxed, since now all that was left was the choppy runout, which could be violent, but wouldn't recirculate a boat or a swimmer. I pulled in about half a breath, and then immediately sank. I didn't even make it to the trough behind the wave. I landed from my little skip, and just kept landing.
Skimming the very edge of the pile. It was bigger than it looks here. Slave 2012
I don't think I've ever had that much down time. At first I was upright but submerged, just chilling in the dark. I could feel my skirt pressed in against my thighs. After a while, I felt the currents swirl a little harder and got rolled over. I fought the urge to pull my skirt, since that would just release the bubble of air inside my boat, and decrease my buoyancy. After what felt like a few inverted flatspins, I began to feel the water speed up as it moved past my hands and paddle. I was starting to surface, finally. It took a really long time to make it all the way to the surface. I could feel it as soon as my boat broke free, and I rolled immediately and took a huge breath. I had surfaced sidesurfing a big boil, down below the third wave, in the runout of the rapid.

I had just run the majority of the rapid underwater.

John and Natalie were in the lower eddy, ready to chase down whatever sort of yard sale I might have had. Natalie said that she hadn't seen my run at all. John said that he had seen me somewhere near where I surfaced, after the wavetrain was over. Ben's only comment was about the size of my testicles.

I gave a big holler, stoked to have experienced some of the awesome power of my favorite river, and said a quick thanks to Snap Dragon sprayskirts. If my skirt had imploded from the pressure, down at the deepest part of that run, I would have had a REALLY bad swim. I also gained even more respect for Rush, Steve, Ben, and Tyler for their Congo project. I can only imagine running rapids like that in a river with almost 5 times the flow of the Slave.

We spent the rest of the day surfing the tiniest waves we could find, and paddling flatwater.

Near the end of the week, tragedy struck. I was surfing my Element over in the impossible pocket of Chico. There is a second pocket that opens up way out in the section of the wave that is normally too green to surf to. The Element is fast enough to get over there and do tricks. I threw a couple lefties, and then tried an airscrew. I missed the airscrew and caught my bow in the oncoming water. When it dove underwater, I was shocked to feel a super solid impact with the rocky bottom of the river. Apparently the reason that the wave is so green there is that it's super shallow. When I rolled up, I could immediately tell that my bow was screwed. The top and bottom had not totally separated, but they weren't totally together anymore, either. I guess this the one argument in favor of plastic boats instead of carbon fiber.

After some consultation with friends on the internet and Celliers Krueger himself (owner of Fluid), I have a patch strategy all set up. As I write this, the first stage of the patch is curing. Tomorrow night will be the second stage. I'm also taking this opportunity to patch up several little dings and cracks that have accumulated over the years. I'll keep you posted on the results.
Not too happy about my broken boat. Slave 2012
As a final note, the bugs are a little worse than normal this year.
Bulldogs! Slave 2012
Bulldogs! Bulldogs! Slave 2012
Here is a slideshow of all our photos so far.

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