Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rad Tour 2012

I'm sure someone has used that title before for their Colorado tour, but before you say anything, watch our video.



... Now, having watched the video, ask yourself: could anyone else be as rad as that?

The Colorado season is usually a short season, but this year has been exceptional. Not exceptionally good - quite the opposite. It's now the end of May, and competitions are just beginning to get started, but many of the rivers have already peaked. Natalie and I have been dashing around the state trying to get on as much as we can before the drought really starts. We are making a special effort to get a lot of shots of Natalie, since we have the official word that the Whitewater Grand Prix will be selecting one women's wild card spot based on video submissions. We put together a promo for Natalie way back at the beginning of last fall to try to get this spot, but that was before we knew that the format for the 2012 WWGP would be entirely racing. Our old promo was much more well rounded, featuring creekboating and playboating. Here is a link to the old video. Still awesome. If we need to make a video featuring nothing but creeking, we are going to need more sick waterfalls.

I used to not really understand it, but it turns out that there are plenty of awesome freefall opportunities in Colorado. There are a lot of manky creeks, for sure, and the waterfalls that we have are generally either hard to access or difficult to run. The pacific northwest will probably remain as the waterfall lover's paradise. However, if you've got the skills and you're willing to put in some work, you can get some goods in Colorado.

Conor spikes the punch. First run of the season? Rad Tour 2012
Our goods-getting started with a hike and huck of the Crystal Punchbowls. We were joined by our friend Conor Flynn, and we almost got skunked. We spent most of the day driving around in 4WD low, and the road to the punchbowls was still snowed in. However, we decided to hike a little ways past the snow, and found that the drops themselves were clear. We don't know for sure, but I think there is a good chance that we were the first people to run that drop this season.

From Rad Tour 2012
Natalie had an exceptional line, nailing a very pretty boof. This was trickier than usual because the water was low, which meant that the lip was bumpy, and tended to give you a kick in the pants at the last second. For Conor and I, that kick sent us flying out of control, but for Natalie it just made her boof bigger. I think it was because of the Bazooka she was paddling.

From Rad Tour 2012

Rock dodging on the NF Crystal. Rad Tour 2012
After the punchbowls, we hit the North Fork of the Crystal (also low, but fun), and generally started taking more video instead of stills. Conor went home to his family and Natalie and I continued south to Durango. I was apprehensive about a Durango trip, because this is the area of Colorado that is most infamous for difficult hiking, and I was still recovering from a broken ankle. Durango is the region that spawned paddlers like the Klema brothers, and Ben Luck, who has so much mountain goat blood in him that he actually has horns. I was fresh out of physical therapy and just starting to hop a little bit on my weak leg. I had no idea how the joint would hold up during any real hiking.

Fortunately for me, I'm still young. Maybe not as young as I was last year, but not yet 30. My ankle held up quite well. We scouted out GHM falls on Wolf Creek pass. Here is the video of Pat Keller making the only descent. When we finally made our way down to the falls, I thought it was way too low, but after reviewing the video, I think that the levels were not too different. I guess that, as the kids say, I am not Pat Keller. That drop is much more frightening in person than it is in the video.

After a day of walking around on the pass, we headed in to 4 Corners Riversports for the local beta. The word on the street was that the second gorge of Lime Creek was at a good level, so, after trying unsuccessfully to motivate a third paddler for safety or photos, Natalie and I hiked across Purgatory Flats for a lap down one of the sickest creeks I have ever experienced. The gorge was short but sweet, and extremely committing. There were only two or three waterfalls, but it was an ultra cool place to be.

Natalie enjoys an evening session at ultra low water. Rad Tour 2012
Having spent a few days gallivanting around, it was almost time for Paddlefest in Buena Vista. We had time for a couple laps on Vallecito, a creek that is so classic it needs no description. We relaxed for the weekend in BV and ran Lake creek between rounds of the rodeo. It was a great break. Next up are the Teva Mountain Games, the North Fork Championship, and many more competitions. Hopefully there will be enough water for the rest of the season.

Here is a slideshow with more of the photos that we took during the trip.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bazooka Review

There has been a lot of excitement about the new Fluid creekboat, the Bazooka. If you're on the edge of your seat waiting for your local shop to get its shipment, here are a couple reviews, from a variety of different viewpoints, as well as a bunch of photos.

Detailed stats on the Bazooka can be found here: Fluid Kayaks: Bazooka. All reviewers paddled the Medium Bazooka.

Our reviewers are:

The Pro: Natalie Anderson

Natalie has paddled on Team Fluid for several years now and is a highly experienced creekboater and playboater. Her sponsors include Fluid Kayaks, Snap Dragon Designs, H2O Paddles, and Stohlquist Waterware.

Jump to Natalie's Review

The skeptic: Nathan Werner

Nathan is not so much a skeptic as a hater. He is most famous for hating profusely on mountainbuzz.com, and is known as "the country boy hater". There has never been a confirmed instance where he has praised any product, and he has been personally responsible for creating several derogatory nicknames for some of Leif and Natalie's main sponsors. Inexplicably, he is also a CKS Local Hero.

Jump to Nathan's Review

The average guy: Lenny Layman

Lenny is just sort of a normal dude. He has a job, he paddles. He's like the perfectly normal guy. He even has the perfect last name for the job.

Jump to Lenny's Review

If you want to skip all the reviews and just see the photos, check out the album here:
Bazooka Shoot

From Bazooka Shoot

View #1: The pro perspective:

Natalie Anderson, team Fluid

Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado
Favorite River(s): Cal Salmon - Northern California, Slave River - NWT
Height: 5'8" on a good day
Weight: 145 lbs.
Ability level: Super Advanced (Class V+)
Days spent on the H20 per year: 150+

Intro:

Leif and I have been getting ready for creek races this year with a bit of flatwater training. I started out training in the L Detox. When I got the Bazooka, I immediately took it out on our local pond. My first impression was, this boat is fast! Instead of being about 5 boat lengths behind Leif in his Big Bang, I, suddenly, I was only one. I could't wait to take it out on a river. I was so antsy to take it out on the river that we took it out on some super low Poudre runs. And my first impression was confirmed. This boat paddles really well through low volume boogie water, threading really clean tight lines. My first 'real' river run was on the Embudo, and I found myself constantly catching up to people in front of me. I also really enjoyed busting out carving boofs with this boat and turning quickly upon landing.

Pros:

Fast. I have not paddled a boat that does carving boofs as well as this one. Turns and tracks where you want to go quickly. I also really like the size. The M Bazooka is larger than the M solo- actually closer in size to the L solo. Comfy outfitting. Easy to carry because it is nicely balanced with a hand grip on the front pillar.

Cons:

At the beginning I found myself paddling behind the boat because I wasn't used to the speed. As a result, at times I overshot some of my lines. I find that it doesn't resurface as quickly as the solo when you miss your boof or are lazy and complacent. Although I love the outfitting, the foot braces do need to be beefed up, especially if your legs are shorter and you are setting the foot braces up high.

The Verdict:

The best overall creekboat in the Fluid line-up and one of the best creekboats built to date. Expect to see a lot of these on the water. This boat is setting a new standard for the next generation of creekers.
Boofing in lower narrows Bazooka Shoot
Double drop in the Gnar section of the Big Thompson. Bazooka Shoot
Boofing more Bazooka Shoot

View #2: The skeptic's perspective:

Nathan Werner, hater

Hometown: Wellington, Colorado
Favorite River(s): Big South, South Branch, North Fork Little Wind, where the water is
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Ability level: Advanced (Class V+)
Days spent on the H20 per year: 100+

Intro:

I fit in play boats with normal shoes on. I paddled the medium Bazooka, which I’m probably on the high end of the weight scale for, several times in low water Poudre Narrows laps. Recently, I have been creeking in the large Detox and Jackson Rocker.

Pros:

Speed. This boat is very fast. The medium Bazooka is even faster than the large Detox. The first day in the Bazooka I found it a little squirrely and it wanted to spin out, typical first day in a new boat stuff. The second day I realized that the lack of an edge on the front of the hull gives you a ton of control to turn quickly, and creates a lot of speed, then the edge from the seat back locks into the water to drive into moves. Did I mention the boat is fast?

I have found Fluid’s outfitting to be uncomfortable in the past. The new outfitting feels like a big improvement.

Cons:

I’m a little nervous about the durability of the thigh braces. Also, when I outfit boats I like to set the bulkhead as close as possible and push my feet against it. The new bulkhead didn’t hold up to this. Note: Natalie broke it first.

The bow takes a little getting used to when resurfacing. It slices up and out like a play boat more than a creek boat. Once you figure out how it will resurface this could easily be turned into a pro.

The boat called me fat, and doesn’t come with an auto-roll function.

The Verdict:

The speed and handling of the Bazooka should put it up with any new creek boat. I’m not sold on the outfitting but I’ll see how it holds up. I think at my weight I would fit better in a large, but the medium was plenty boat to feel confident in.
From Bazooka Shoot

View #3: The normal paddler perspective:

Lenny Layman, normal dude

Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado
Favorite River(s): Poudre, Little South Poudre, Ark
Height: 5’11’’
Weight: 160
Ability level: Intermediate (Class IV)
Days spent on the H20 per year: 80+

Intro:

I have been boating the last 2+ years in a medium Fluid Solo. When I purchased the Solo, I told myself this would be the last boat I would need to buy for a very long time. The Solo was such a great design I think I figured that any new hull design coming out would simply have minimal positive improvements, so that it wouldn’t really be worth it to purchase anything new. Then, through my friendship with Leif and Natalie, I found myself last Sunday paddling Natalie’s medium Bazooka on the Poudre Park/Bridges run of the Poudre.

Honestly when I saw the hull of the Bazooka I thought, cool idea, make the bow more of a creek boat and the stern more edgy, but I wondered if I would be able to truly feel and discern any significant difference. The new Bionic Outfitting allowed me to very quickly customize it to a near perfect fit right at the put-in. I insist on a custom and tight fit in any boat I paddle and the Bionic Outfitting allowed me to have an extremely comfortable and tight fit with very little trouble. The new thigh braces contour to the outside of your legs, creating a connection to the boat that adds comfort and increases control. I love the new Bionic Outfitting. Within a few minutes I found myself dialed in and punching holes, grabbing eddys and setting aggressive ferry angles with such an increased confidence that I knew there was something truly special about this boat.

I had such confidence running Pineview Falls that I convinced Leif and Natalie to allow me to run it down Middle Narrows of the Poudre the following evening. I am less familiar with the lines down Middle Narrows that I asked Leif to join me. The first drop is Sportscar, a Class IV, and this boat brought me such confidence that even though nervous, I was able to style this drop, putting and keeping my boat on the exact line I wanted. Wow, what a feeling to have the skills to boat somewhat harder water and to be in a boat that brings out the best in you. I believe this is exactly what the Fluid Bazooka has done for me, it brings out an increased confidence to better match my skills and allows me to up my game. The Green Bridge drop, another Class IV, on the Middle Narrows allowed me to evaluate the boofability of the Bazooka and it passed all of my expectations. The biggest difference was how confident and comfortable I felt in the lead-in to Green Bridge which allowed my boof stroke to be much more focused and purposed. The Bazooka surfaces with such stability and predictability, I felt in control and confident that I could make the necessary adjustments when required. The speed of the Bazooka was another surprise to me. I was able to ferry, catch eddys and in my mind, make those must-make moves with such ease and confidence I could hardly believe it was me having this much fun in the midst of the Middle Narrows. The transition hull on the Bazooka, along with its many other design improvements, coupled with the Bionic Outfitting, has created a boat that truly brings out the best in my paddling, physically and mentally.

Pros:

Initial and secondary stability is incredible.
The Bazooka wants to stay upright but also rolls up super easy.
The new Bionic Outfitting is superb, very little has to be done to totally customize it to any individual paddler.
The Bazooka is super fast and easy to control.
The transition hull creates a perfect combination of predictability, control and speed.

Cons:

Honestly the only negative I currently have about the Bazooka is convincing my wife Penny that I “need” a new boat and having to wait a few weeks before I get it.

The Verdict:

The Bazooka is a boat that has increased my confidence to better match my skills. All of us know that kayaking is as much mental as it is physical. Until now I would evaluate my skills being superior to my confidence. The Bazooka is a game changer for me. In the Bazooka I feel that my confidence is at an increased level that it allows me to focus more on my skills and technique and less on my nerves. Being more confident will allow me to focus more of my attention on improving my strokes and technique while paddling more difficult water and less on simply surviving the run. The Bazooka brings out the best mentally and physically. Well done Fluid.
From Bazooka Shoot

Since it was overcast the day we paddled with Lenny, the photos are all of Natalie. To see a whole buttload more photos of the Bazooka in action (as well as a couple other nice shots from that day), check out this album:
Bazooka Shoot
Until next time!
Hiking up for some more Bazooka Shoot