Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mwave 2013

It seems like it's becoming a tradition for us to collect a bunch of nice mwave photos, then sit on them until almost the end of the year and publish a huge group of them at once. Here is a link to our similar post from 2010. I guess it's not much of a tradition if we only did it twice. But twice is more than once. It's interesting to see the progression in paddling and photography, and just sort of see the changes in emphasis between the two posts. It looks like we went bigger in 2010, (maybe different levels) but the tricks and photos may have been better this year. And in our defense, the 2010 post was a collection of all our best photos from a two or three month Mwave season, whereas the photos in this post were taken over the course of two weekend trips, before the levels dropped unexpectedly.

Here are a few of my favorite shots, and there is a slideshow at the end with a lot more photos.

First, one of my absolute favorites, which had almost nothing to do with paddling.

Spencer dropping in
A nice tight airscrew
Natalie hits a sweet launch
Cool shot of finishing a launch
Natalie works on the clean
Hey, how you doin'?
Natalie from water level
Some sweet splashes
More sweet splashes.  Artsy, even.
And one photo of Nathan.
Here is a slideshow of many more photos. It was hard to trim our collection down to 80, much less down to the few that you see here in this article.

And despite popular demand, here is a collection of photos of everyone looking awkward while surfing. Especially Spencer Mauk.

Parting shot:
The Mwave patiently waits for next season.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Giant Slalom on the Slave River

This year at the Slave river Paddlefest, we introduced a new event: the GIANT SLALOM. It's not just giant because it's on the Slave river, but it certainly helps.

Giant Slalom from Leif Anderson on Vimeo.

The course was on English channel, which was awesome. English channel is one of the smaller channels, but it's steeper, and because it's so little, all that gradient is much easier to handle. We started river left, above the main hole. There is a line to the left of the hole, which is faster because you don't have to ferry all the way out into the current before starting to move downstream. After the main hole, the rapid necks down a little and loses a lot of elevation as it drops into a big V wave. The "gate" was in the river right eddy. You had to circle around a rock outcropping over there. The V wave in the fastest part of the course was not playing nicely. It tended to toss people back to the left, away from that crucial eddy. To make matters worse, the V wave was backed up by a surprisingly powerful hole, which I will call the linebacker. After circling the rock, you had to ferry back across, usually using that linebacker hole, and touch the rocks on the left bank. The first half of the course was fairly straightforward, but entering and leaving the eddies at the bottom caused a lot of trouble. We had a lot of competitors miss the entry to the right eddy. If you miss that eddy, the current below the rapid sort of piles up onto an island, and there are a few MORE holes down there. There was a little carnage, but in true Slave river style, it was more fun than frightening. I think that it's the warm water that makes it easy to push the envelope.
Leif and Rob Murphy at the steep part just before the V wave.  Photo by Dave Crerar.

The field was pretty stacked. There were FIVE of us competing. If you've watched the video, you know how it shook down, but here's the pro commentary.

I went first. During practice, I had never really missed the left line at the first hole. But during my race lap, I was thinking a little too far ahead. Coming in to the tongue next to the hole, I was trying to carve back to the right too early (to get back to the fast current below the hole), and I carved right into the hole itself. I bounced a few times, but came right out. I never even fell all the way down into the trough of the hole. I rolled up, thinking the race was lost, and tried to rally the rest of the lap to maybe get top three. I barely made it over the V wave, and came into the right eddy low. I tried to pace myself across the flatwater, and was really feeling like I had lost. The rock move was not smooth. I missed a lot of strokes and hit the rock with my paddle a bunch. When I peeled back out, I managed to make the jet ferry across the backup hole the smoothest I have ever made it. I came into the final eddy high and felt like I had a really good sprint to the finish. Overall, I felt like my mistakes were minor enough that I had a chance of finishing well. I felt like I could beat other "mistake" runs, but certainly not a clean run, even a conservative clean run that went right of the first hole.
Typical scene at the English Channel crux.  The "gate" is visible in the eddy on the right side.  Josh Singleton (inverted) is about to experience the linebacker, and John Blyth and Rob Murphy are on either side of the V wave.  Photo by Dave Crerar.

Next up was Natalie. She took the conservative line through the top, and was looking smooth and still fresh coming into the V wave. When she hit the V wave, the shoulder picked her up and tossed her back into the center, right into the backup hole. She rolled there, then got rolled again on some of the boils against the low island. By the time she was back up and paddling, she had been pushed to the left at the very bottom of the rapid. She was way low, against the island, and entered the river left eddy about as low as you can enter it. To finish, she had to paddle all the way up the eddy, which is about a quarter mile. She looked bummed when she finally made it up to the finish rocks.

John was after Natalie. Apparently, he had a whole plan for that river right eddy. When peeling out of the river right eddy, you get a close look at the currents at the top of that eddyline. They are rowdy. His plan was to try to enter lower so as to not get rejected. In the video, you can see him move left a little before the rapid drops. He entered the V wave from the left with a ton of speed back to the right and WHAM! GOT REJECTED! Just like Natalie, he was lightly tooled in the backup hole, then flushed into the river left eddy. However, John stayed a little more upright, and was able to realize that he was getting rejected, allowing him to drive into the left eddy a little sooner, for a much faster finish than Natalie. In fact, his bare time was probably faster than mine, but since he had missed the gate, there was a 2 minute penalty added on.

With John, Natalie, and I in the bottom eddy, it was time for the main event: Zack Fitzpatrick. I was super stoked to see Zack's line. He is a tiny little paddler, barely as tall as my elbows. The Salve is a really huge river for him. But that hadn't been slowing him down; he'd been charging harder than anyone on the trip. He swam out of Rockem' Sockem, then returned for redemption anyway. In the race, he got rolled early, passing the first hole in the upper part of the rapid. He rolled up quick and started driving right during the elevation drop, entering the V wave on the right side. He got tossed a little, and ended up in the backup hole. After a quick slapping, he flushed out, got some Congo style whirlpool action, but ended up flushing to the right. He was super low in the right eddy, up against the lower island, but he was the second person to make the eddy. He saved energy and worked up the eddy at a controlled pace. After making the rock move, he took two tries to peel out of the eddy. I think he was nerving himself up to battle that hole again. By this point he was moving pretty slow. My estimation was that he was just aiming to finish, with no thoughts of winning or losing. He peeled out, and entered the backup hole for round two just perfectly. He started surfing across, got a huge bounce and landed his first blunt ever (a goal for the trip) accidentally. He pulled his shit back into control and went back to ferrying. It was looking like he might be pulling into that second place spot, since we were the only two people to make the move so far. Then, on his last bounce, as he exited the hole, he bounced up, his nose came down a little, and as landed he was completely eaten by a boil. Just totally head under vanished. Pow! Eaten! Capsized! Sank my battleship! Visiting the fishes! He was out. He rolled up, got whirlpooled a few more times, and ended up flushing down the right side eddyline, to the wrong side of the island below the rapid. He didn't make it to the left bank until the end of the run, several hours later.

It was at this point that I realized that my "not as good as a clean run" lap was actually the fastest lap so far. However, if there was one person that I was worried about, it was LUKE VOLDEMORT, who was up next. Luke has a slalom paddling background. He played it down quite a bit, but I had been keeping an eye on Luke. He has a much better stroke than mine, and what's more, he was super de duper fired up, like a rabid tiger just released from a cage, because he had been teaching beginner and youth clinics for Aquabatics all week, and this was his first day of paddling on more or less his own schedule. I was nervous, but happy that I was at least top two.

Luke took the conservative line through the top. I learned later that my messed up line past/through the top hole had changed pretty much everyone's mind about taking that line. Luke was looking smooth through the V wave, and nailed the move into the right eddy. He was totally slalom paddler style through the narrow channel around the rock. Then, coming back across, in a weird surge, the backup hole completely vanished and there was nothing there to surf across. Luke got pushed way downstream, almost against the island, and had to dodge the hole way way down there before even starting to paddle back up the left eddy. He was as smooth as possible once he was locked in to that line, but there was just so much more distance involved that it had to be slower.

The real question was how Luke's mistake on the return ferry would balance out against John's mistake. John had a time penalty for missing the gate (2 minutes), but had salvaged the run by entering the left eddy very high and fast. Luke had made the gate but lost time returning. When our head judge Helen Panter compiled the scores, it turned out that John's salvage had indeed saved him just enough time. Both John and Luke were around 4 minutes, but John was 30 seconds faster. My lap that I had been beating myself up about was actually the cleanest lap. Basically, I had gotten a little unlucky, but every single other racer had gotten even more unlucky. Once that sank in, I started celebrating. Apparently, I had won by default. In fact, come to think of it, I had crushed everyone! Wooooooo! Yeah me!

I am understandably a little nervous about next year. What will I do if there are more than 5 racers?

The final results were:

1) Leif Anderson
2) John Blyth
3) Luke Volmerhaus
4) Natalie Anderson
5) Zack Fitzpatrick

For more info on Paddlefest, check out the Fort Smith Paddle Club website, or check out the promo video that I put together for paddlefest 2013. The water's warm, the waves are sick, and there are no crowds. If you want to come up and paddle the Slave, contact Natalie and me. We have a house there and we're going to set up a sort of informal kayak hostel.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Flood Riding!

I'm in a bit of a hurry here, so first off, here's a slideshow of all the photos: Right around the historic flood that hit the front range of Colorado, there was some sick paddling. We missed out on a lot of it, since that was the weekend that our friends Alex and Alex got married in California, but we got a few runs while the water was on the way up and back down again.

First, as the water was rising, Spencer and I got in a run through town on the Poudre. There were a few dams, but nothing that we ended up having to portage. It was pretty weird finding a whole new run right there in our home town.
Somehow we ended up getting lost, missing takeout, and paddling to within sight of I-25. We eventually hiked out and found ourselves in a natural area all the way down by Horsetooth, which was impressive since we put in above Shields. (These are streets. If you're not familiar with Fort Collins, I guess that made no sense at all.)

After that was the wedding, but then once we were back, we got a few runs in on Bear Creek, which was awesome. I'm glad we were able to rally, and bummed that Nathan Werner couldn't make it. Bear creek is a continuous and difficult run, filled with wood and rocks. That description makes it sound not that great, but it was a blast to paddle. We had a flow of about 500 cfs, which felt very rocky and low. Apparently the usual medium flow here is 200. I imagine it's a bit like the Big Thompson (although who knows how that run has changed with the road reconstruction after the flood) - if you know the run, it can be smooth even at low water, but if you don't know it, there are rocks even at high water.
Spencer forgot to put on his skirt below No Fun Falls. I found this incredibly amusing.
Spencer later took a swim (not related to the skirt incident). I found this incredible amusing as well.
As the water continued to drop, we eventually got into the Poudre canyon, and got a few runs down the narrows with reasonable levels. I was amazed at how little it had changed, since the levels were estimated to have been above 8 feet.
I really like this photo, and there's a funny story behind it. Apparently while we were getting ready, Spencer kept warning Josh about an eddy at the bottom of this drop. Spencer has swam out of this eddy a few times, and he was describing to Josh how to avoid getting stuck in there. Josh kind of brushed it off, with a reply like "Spencer, I'm a kayak instructor. I know how to eddy turn." We even chuckled about it in the eddy above the drop while we waited for Spencer to get ready at the bottom. As you can probably guess, Josh got a little off line, lost his angle, and washed into the eddy of doom upsidedown. He ended up taking his first swim in about 7 years out of the very eddy he had been warned about. We all had a great laugh about it later.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gore Race 2013 - the Flynn rivalry continues

This post is a little overdue, because I've been focusing on facebook publicity lately and letting the blog fall behind. We have a new facebook athlete page (you should go "like" us). The objective is to have a way to share stuff with all those people that sent me friend requests even though we have never met. We set a goal of getting more likes than Todd Wells' facebook page. He may be a bigger deal (maybe), but there are two of us, so... I'm not sure Todd knows about this. I mean, we're not really super close friends or anything. But I'm getting off track.

The Gore race is one of my favorite events. This is the sort of race that I seem to be able to do well at. Small mistakes have a minimal impact on your time. It's really more about endurance and some flatwater technique. Apparently I tend to average out better than a lot of other paddlers in that arena. For a few years now, the Gore race, for me, has been all about me versus Conor Flynn. This is mostly because we started racing the Gore race around the same time as each other. Neither of us was really that amazing, so we weren't winning, but we could compare to each other. He raced one year that I didn't and he got fifth, I raced one year that he didn't and I got fourth. There was a lot of trash talking between us for another year or two, while Conor started working for Charlie MacArthur and improved his technique. Finally we raced against each other and Conor won the race while I took sixth. This made me furious. I started training a lot harder on the Slave river, since this race is usually just a few days after I come back from Canada. The next time, equipped with a faster boat (the Fluid Bazooka) Conor and I were the first two starters. When we finished, he had beat the interval by 12 seconds, so we thought he had won again. However, when the times were posted, it turned out that we hadn't started at one minute intervals, and I had actually beaten him by 4 seconds (in a 23 minute race). Check out the video I put together from that year.

After winning last year, I knew that Conor would be feeling a lot like I had felt after he beat me, and would probably step up his game, so I started training even earlier, in a sort of fitness preemptive strike. I consulted my old friend Andy Corra for a training schedule. (Andy is a real downriver racer. Like, better at downriver than I am at playboating.) I bought a heart rate monitor and started actually doing whole runs on the Slave devoted entirely to race workouts. I was feeling fast.

Funny thing about the Slave river: it's like 6,000 feet lower in elevation than Gore canyon is. I don't know why I never noticed that before. Maybe this is the first time I had literally come back the day before the race. I did a practice lap with my fancy heart rate monitor, and noticed that my heart rate was about 10 percent higher than it should be. Walking around with my boat on my shoulder was hard all of a sudden. Climbing hills left me out of breath. Conor drove down from Aspen (down as in, down by a couple thousand feet of elevation), and seemed pretty calm about the race. I started to worry.

Well, race day started bright and early and then kept on starting for about 3 hours. I filmed a lot of interviews. There were many different training strategies. Apparently my whole "paddling hard for long lengths of time" strategy was pretty rare, which made me nervous again. By the time we got to the start, I was wondering if I had acclimated any better than yesterday, but either way I was starting to have a pretty good time hanging out with all the USA friends that I hadn't seen in several months. I started to let go of a little of my attachment to winning, and just focused on doing as well as I could at altitude. I came out of the gate really fast, to frighten the other racers, then immediately got winded by the first little rapid.

Throughout the race, I was not sure how I was doing. I was trying this crazy new strategy that Andy had described to me in some detail. It was called "pacing yourself". I wasn't dying, but then again I wasn't sure if I was going as fast as I could be. I hit a few really fast lines, like the meat line through Gore rapid, and I finally had a fast boof in Tunnel (every year I seem to mess that up a little).

Gore 2013 from Leif Anderson on Vimeo.

At the end of the race, we had the usual trash talking at the finish, and a fun paddle out. Results were posted early (less suspense than last year), and it turned out that I won by 14 seconds (of course Conor was in second). I was totally stoked. Now that I've beat Conor twice in a row, there's no way I can relax. He'll be out for blood next year. I've already started training.

Although this post has mostly been about me and Conor, the race wouldn't be the same without everyone else that I didn't have a chance to mention here. Josh Oberleas and I settled another rivalry that started with our fifth and sixth place finishes at the Wind river race during last spring break. Maria Kallman and Natalie had a super close finish in the women's class, which I didn't really capture very well in the video. Ken Hoeve finally managed to finish in two classes in the same race (he did a short boat lap and a long boat lap). Austin Woody came out of retirement to get trashed somewhere along the course. Charlie Mac won the long boat class again. Peter Kabzan (I like to call him Pedro - Pedro Kalishnakov) had me very very nervous because of his C1 downriver background. Tony Meily let me pass him at a convenient spot (if we had battled it out we would have been doing a boatercross through Tunnel). Will Rawlstrom showed me a better line through Tunnel. Cody Beach... was there. Ross Herr "borrowed" a pair of hip pad shims which I still haven't gotten back. And many more. Hopefully I'll see everyone again next year.

Monday, August 26, 2013

March Madness Photo comp recap

This March-June, we both entered Darin McQuoid's March Madness photo contest. This contest is based on an old online photo contest that The Range Life blog used to host. I remember seeing the original once or twice and wishing I was cool enough to have something to enter. Well, years have passed, and now the contest is revived and lo and behold we are cool enough to have a ton of photos to enter.

Throughout the competition, Darin provided commentary on the photos and results. The decisions were based on five votes: four judges and a popular vote. Darin was not one of the judges, so his commentary is unbiased and very interesting to read through. I've included links to his commentary at each stage of the competition. It's worth checking out. I've also linked to the site so that you can see what photos we were competing against. I can't repost the other people's photos without permission, of course, so you have to visit the original contest site to see them.

I can't wait to compete again next year. Ok, here's how it went down:

Natalie's bit to say:

Leif has so many cool photos that he didn't get a chance to show off because he got booted out early (oops, spoiler).  It was so much fun to showcase our photography via this competition and I can't wait for next year! All in all, I'm pretty proud of being the only female participant and to have made it so far in the comp (3rd/4th out of  32! see descriptions of the photographers- first fourteen, second fourteen, last four spots), beating out renowned whitewater photographers such as Mike Leeds while winning myself a sweet new WRSI helmet and a subscription the Canoe and Kayak Magazine.  Thanks Darin for putting on a great show, even if it lasted 5 times as long as it was supposed to!

Round one:

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results
Natalie's Entry

Natalie's alternate color version not entered

Natalie's Commentary:

This shot of Leif was taken in the lower canyon of Rio Nevados in Chile this December while we were there for the Grand Prix (see Going to Grand Prix, Back from Grand Prix, Stage 1 Gol Gol, Stage 2 Puesco, Stage 3 Nevados, Stage 4 Futa boatercross, Stage 5 Futa marathon).  I really love boating in tight narrow steep gorges and I felt that this picture really captured the feeling of this drop. I debated a long time about whether to submit the black and white version or the color version.  Leif convinced me to submit the black and white.  After reading Darin's comment "the blacks are crushed too much for my taste " I realized that the blacks were blacker on a lot of computer screens other than my own.  And upon further reflection, I agree with Darin rather than Leif.  I think Darin would prefer the color version below that I did not submit.  Anyway, I breezed into the next round with this gem. 

Leif's entry

Leif's Commentary:

This is Natalie ducking a log on Stovepipe on the Little White Salmon (see past posts: Hood Classics, and Welcomegiving). I debated only a little bit before submitting this photo. It's one of my favorites, if not my favorite photo, and I considered holding it in reserve for later rounds. However, looking at who else had signed up for the comp, I decided that it would be silly to hold back and get eliminated. Better to spend it all early and make it farther than to get eliminated before starting. Imagine my surprise when I got ELIMINATED by Tom Janney!

Wild card:

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Leif's Commentary:

I can't remember who this was, but the waterfall is Casuela Sucia near Pucon Chile. This had been one of my photos that I had considered for round one. I ended up putting it in for the wild card round after consulting with Natalie. Basically it was the most unique of my photos. The cool circular vignetting from the trees, and the weird lighting (I had to crank on this in lightroom, but it ended up looking pretty good) made it pretty different from what I thought other people would submit. After seeing the other wild card photos, I was definitely biting my nails. I knew some of the photographers from their photos, like Ben York's shot of Dan Menten boofing the shit out of this huge bump thing on Fantasy falls, or Xavier Engle's shot looking downstream into a very ominous-looking Turnback canyon. I expected to see Ben York and Adrian Treggonning bump me out, if not any of the other sick photos, but I somehow advanced and got myself back in the game.

Round Two (Sweet Sixteen):

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Natalie's Entry

Natalie's Commentary:

This is a shot of Leif on the M-wave was one that I originally never thought too much about. A few years back we printed it out and put it on our wall.  During the photo comp I realized that I was not tired of looking at this photo on my wall and thus it was worthy of entering.   I think what I like most about this photo is the depth. The bushes in the front provide interesting framing and foreground while the river behind him guides your eye to the Montrose hills and then further back to the snow capped peaks in the background.  I also really like how the right side of the channel is in shadow while the left is in full sun, and the clouds aren't too bad either. It is hard to get a unique interesting playboating shot and I felt that this one would stand a chance against all the other  nail biting steep creeking photos that I knew I would be competing against.  I was right and I breezed into the next round, again.

Leif's entry

Leif's commentary:

This is Natalie on a slidey drop on Crapo creek (pronounced cray-poe, not crap-o) on the day between my bachelor party and our wedding. This run turned out to be a huge challenge because of wood (look how tiny that creekbed is), and was the third time in four days that we ended up hiking out in the dark. I picked this photo because I was proud of using a little control over the depth of field, and getting all artsy with some composition, showcasing the weird moss that was growing there after the fire that had swept through a few years earlier. I was pissed when I ended up in another tough bracket and got eliminated for real.


This is one of my all time favorite photos.  It has also stood the test to time on our wall.  I think that Leif should have won this round (and Darin agrees with me!), but I guess it is hard to vote against the aqua colored water in the Steve Arns competing shot (bracket A).

Quarter Finals:

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Leif, Marcus and Maria enjoying Skook (see Skookumchuck)

Seth Chapelle on Triple Falls, Southeast (4 days in Southeast)

Natalie's Commentary:

Since I got to submit two photos for the quarter finals I decided to go with variety, a tight and a wide shot.  I really like both of these images.  They both capture the feeling of the moment.  The first portrays the magic of skookumchuck narrows when it is sunny and not raining.  Although Darin would prefer not to have any other boaters than the one on the wave, I think that it would no longer make you feel like you want to be there spending a sunny day with your buddies.  The photo of Seth Chapelle on Triple Drop in the Southeast really is unique.  The lighting, perfect exposure of the water and utter concentration on Seth's face is amazing.     Most other photographers variety consisted of a vertical and a horizontal shot of some creekboating.  This set of photos really set me apart from the others and I again breezed into the next round.


Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Dan Rubado, Entry Boof on Oh Be Joyful, Colorado.

Leif, Short Sands, OR

Natalie's Commentary:

Although I was nervous about going into the next round with the above two photos I went for it anyway because I liked the pairing.  I liked the unknown excitement of the first photo, Dan boofing into the abyss, paired with the calming knowledge that Leif is leaving the power of the big surf behind him at sunset.  I also really liked the idea of pairing two photos with very different color palettes, one sharp and bright, the other soft and muted.   I was nervous because scenic non-action shots had not done well in the competition so far.  I was right to be nervous, I didn't advance. While writing this post I came across the strong photo pictured below that I didn't even remember about during the competition.  I think that if I had paired this one with the photo of Dan, I would have made it into the finals.  But C'est la vie.

Leif, Rio Nevados, Chile.  


Funny story: in the photo of Dan on OBJ creek, he is in the process of falling over and rolling off the lip. It wasn't too funny at the time, but now that a few years have gone by, I am quite amused by the serendipitously awesome photo that came out of Dan eating shit. It was really weird. He just had one of those rare days where you're not on your game. He had flipped on Daisy creek earlier that morning, and after this "roll" he decided to call it a day. I think it was the only time I've seen Dan miss a line in an important way. For your entertainment, here is another amusing shot of one of our friends making a slight miscalculation:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Conor Flynn.
Maybe that one would have been a good one to submit. As Natalie said, C'est la vie.

Hypothetical Finals:

The actual finals

The actual finals results


The following four photos were ones I picked out in case I made it past the last round.  Truth of the matter was, I was getting a little thin.

Leif on Glenwood wave, Colorado.

Leif on Mamquam Falls , BC (see just passing through )

Dave Schmidt makes an O as he watches Leif get chundered on Spiral Staircase on the Slave River. (search Slave River on our blog for multiple posts)

Adrian Keirnan (the man behind whitebox magazine) on Triple Falls, in the Southeast (4 days in Southeast)


We spent a lot of time picking out possible shots for finals, since we were going to be leaving email access before the semifinals results were announced, and we had to be ready for Natalie to advance. At the time, I thought we had picked out a very nice set, going for a lot of diversity and emotion (even a little humor).  We had our friends give us feedback and advice at a party we were having.  However, looking at the actual finalists, I see that the unified set that works a single theme is probably a stronger entry, and takes better advantage of the format. That's certainly not an angle that I've considered before, either in a contest context or in other posting contexts. I usually form a group of two or three photos because I can't pick a single one out, not because the group works well together to cover more facets of a single theme or idea. This is fertile ground for artistic expansion.