Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mucha Agua BABY!

 Martin styling the "Guidebook Cover Rapid" on the Upper Jondachi.  The big boulders and jungle-covered canyon walls are amazing here.

Ok, so, yes, I'm majorly slacking in the blog department.  Slowly but surely I will catch up!

Here's the blog from February 4th's Mucha Agua trip.  

It was a small trip with just Willie of Washington (ok, that's not true, he lives in Portland, but he paddles in Washington a lot) and Maritime Martin (ok, that's not exactly true either.  He lives in England, which you can technically call "maritime" even though his job doesn't involve the sea); but the alliteration is nice.

 Willie boofing his way down the Upper Misahualli

Luckily, they were both bad ass paddlers and we ended up with an incredible week of paddling.  We had high levels most of the week so had to miss out on a few creek runs; but hit the Piatua at the highest level I've ever seen it at; got Oyacachi at an awesome high level (twice); got the Upper Jondachi at a perfect medium-high; the Upper Mis and the Lower Cosanga at sweet levels; and waaa-haaa-haaaa, the Quijos at epic floods (see the Torrents blog for more details)--coming next...give me a week or two.

 Martin tempting fate in Gringos Revueltos (Scrambled White Dudes).  But, luckily his playboating skills kicked in and he freed himself from the hole before any scrambling ensued.

The Piatua was a super great catch.  We awoke to a massive rain, thunder and lightening storm.  We thought we should still drive out to the Upper Jondachi (plan A) just in case it was a localized storm and was not affecting that river.

Willie also in Gringo Revueltos.  This was after our 1st lap down the Oyacachi at high water.  The boys decided they wanted more time in the boat so after we finished the Oyacachi we headed down through Bom Bon Canyon and the Lower Quijos.  Now that's a lot of river miles!

So, we drove out there, found the Upper Mis to be a quite high but managable level.  Not necesarily a good sign for the Upper J, but we pressed on.  We arrived to the Jondachi bridge to find a brown, high and yucky level.  So we headed back to the Upper Mis with thoughts on doing laps up there.

 Despite all the rain, we did get some clear days.  This day we were lucky enough to see Reventador spewing some ash and smoke.

I put in a quick phone call to Don who said he was heading to the Piatua with his Torrents crew to check levels.  I decided it was worth the risk to stall and wait to hear from Don.  So we went to Archidona to kill half an hour while we waited for Don to see the river. Willie entertained himself by eating Quail eggs while Martin entertained himself by fixing up his Go Pro camera for the day.

Willie enjoying some Quail eggs in Archidona while we wait on "water talk."

Then we got the call from Don.  The Piatua was high but doable.  So we set off for that run.  It was SOOO worth the wait.  The Upper Misahualli is fun at high water; but the Piatua is really amazingly fun at high water. photos, we were too busy paddling 14 kilometers of insanely continuous IV/IV+ hole-dodging, wave-riding fun!
 Tuti running one of the Upper Jondachi's numerous boofs.

The next day we headed back to the Upper Jondachi and found it to be a perfect medium-high level.

 Me taking a silly line in 3 Huevos.  Dumb, I know, but I just had to because I could!

In the end, we had 7 incredible days of boating.  Kayaking in the rainforest is one of the best things in life!

The team!  Willie on the left, Martin on the right

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Intro to Creeking--Ecuador is turning out more great boofers!

David working on his boof stroke timing.  He waits patiently, hanging on his stroke until the lip of the drop and then--boom!--fires one off to clear the hole!

Ecuador, it turns out, is the perfect training ground for up and coming creek boaters. 

Chris on the Cosanga River taking a late boof stroke since this hole slopes more without a defined "take off ledge."  He's doing an excellent job of releasing the nose of his boat from the water to avoid plugging the hole

In recent conversations about the importance of practicing creeking skills like boofing and boat scouting over and over again, I realized just how lucky we are in Ecuador.  Repetition is key for mastering skills and it’s often hard to fine repetition without boring yourself on the same stretch of river over and over again.

Martha, also being patient for her late boof stoke on another sloping hole on the Rio Piatua
Someone once said that you need 10,000 hours of practice before you can become and “expert” at anything.

 David practicing boat scouting skills at "Eye of the Whale" on the Cosanga

We’ll, I’m sorry to say you won’t get 10,000 hours of paddling done in your week of kayaking with SWA, but you will get 7 full days of super quality practice in on an incredible variety of rivers.   This will equal roughly 40 hours of practice which will set you right on your way to becoming an expert!

One of the best things about creeking is some of the incredible places it will take you.  Don looks after the group in front of an amazing boulder on the Piatua.

With runs like the Upper Mis and the Piatua you can literally do 40 + new boofs in just a single run.  That is some serious practice.
Kayakers in the jungle.  Stiener, Daivd and Megi looking small amongst the giant ferns on the Upper Misahualli.  Kayakers are always impressed by the "house plants on steroids" they see while boating in Ecuador

Both rivers are also equally good for boat scouting as the eddies are countless and the gradient is just the right steepness (130 fpm on the Upper Mis and 110 fpm on the Piatua) as to not make it too easy to bomb down but easy enough to learn to boat scout when you aren’t well practiced in this skill. 

 Martha, stoked on the sunshine, clear water, and granite boulders!

Then you have the Cosanga, Quijos (some of the upper sections) and Oyacachi which are bigger rivers that have a somewhat creeky feel.   These rivers let new creekers feel the push of bigger water while still throwing boofs, boulders and tricky, technical moves in their way as well.

This is what Megi's boof looked like on day 1 of the trip.  Her boat placement and angle are leaving a little to be desired...(Sorry Megi, I only put this up because the next boof is SICK! and I knew you could take it)

So, in 7 days of creeking in Ecuador, paddlers will get to encounter a wide variety of character and features which in the end will make them better, more experienced paddlers. 
 Megi's boof on day 4.  Perfect boat placement, boat angle, body positioning, stroke placement and timing!  Good work Megi!

It’s amazing how much we watch paddlers progress on these trips.  7 consecutive days of paddling with coaching, video review, and skills practice goes a LONG way in paddler’s development!

Paddlers enjoying some rainforest scenery on the Rio Cosanga

Couples boating!  E.J. leads the way through the wall boof as his sweetie-pie Martha follows him down

El Polaka charging his way through the Upper Piatua
You gotta love Ecuadorian ingenuity!  Rolling out empanadas with a beer bottle in Baeza

Steiner and Megi waiting patiently for their fresh out of the oil empanadas 

So what are you waiting for?  Get down to Ecuador and refine those paddling skills on some of the world’s most awesome rivers!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Birthdays, Anniversarys, and Good Times for all!

Don loving life on the Piatua

A big thanks to George and Leslie for putting together this group from Colorado (and Michelle from California) to celebrate the long kayaking careers that many of them have had, and to enhance and build upon the short kayaking careers that some of their newest members have had.

Michelle enjoying some fine scenery and great whitewater on the Upper Cosanga

There was a 60th birthday celebration and a 19th anniversary celebration on the trip; and to top that, there was a 71-year-old out there showing all you young-uns that you can still be a complete bad ass even once you pass 22 years of age!

George taking flight in the Jefe Grande on the Rio Cosanga

This crew paddled some of Ecuador’s best Class IV runs including the Cosanga, El Chaco Canyon, the Upper Mis, and the Piatua River.

While the "other crew" was downing an entire bottle of Don Julio, Don Grall decided to talk a walk amongst the gardens at Cabanas Tres Rios and enjoy a little nature

So, all you young boaters out there, keep it safe and take care of your bodies so you can still travel to Ecuador to paddle Class IV when you are 60—and even better yet, when you are 71!

Leslie staying focused and enjoying the awesome whitewater in the Quijos Valley

Peter W., the "token 71-yr-old" tearing it up in the Quijos Valley!

David, the newest member of George's paddling crew showing his boof skills off on the Rio Piatua

Tres Amigos at Cabanas Tres Rios--Don, George, Leslie chilling out and enjoying happy hour on the porch of SWA's lodge

Spencer and Ben doing what they do best--drinking and relaxing on the beach after a sweet surf session
And, on a completely different topic (and trip), here are a few shots from our Rivers and Beaches trip.

Guy, Tarquino, Spencer and Ben enjoying the last rays of sunshine from their beach front cabana.

 So, long long ago (well, back on January 7th) we had a Rivers and Beaches trip.  On this trip, the group paddled 4 days of rivers in the Quijos Valley basing out of SWA’s riverside lodge.  Then, they headed to the coast of Ecuador for 3 days of kayak surfing in the ocean. 

Sunset on the coast of Ecuador
Larry’s camera just recently surfaced with a few photos from the beach portion of the trip so I’m adding them to this week’s blog of our Colorado crew of distinguished bad asses.

Speaking of distinguished bad asses, Larry!   Here he is admiring a bad ass bromeliad from the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Still Raining a Ton in Ecuador Which Means Big Water Fun for Everyone!

Big Pilot Tom keeping it straight and with downstream momentum at Gringos Revueltos

For our 2nd Torrents trip (Class IV)—named after the bad ass Torrent ducks  that swim through whitewater better than they fly—we had an eclectic group that included: Polaka, Senor Liam, Smiley Megi, German T-Bone, Big Pilot Tom, and Stomper Dave. 

 Polaka showing his stuff on one of the Piatua's many boofs

They had an awesome week that included both BIG boofs and even bigger waves.  

Liam, stoked after successfully paddled Chuchaqui's humungous waves.  There is truly nothing like the feeling of styling a big water rapid

While the West-Virginia-ish crew was having epic high water on the Oyacachi, Don’s group was having a sweet day on the Lower Quijos.  It was a perfect high level that gave them 10-15 standing waves in Chuchaqui Rapid and allowed them to go bombing right down the middle of Gringos Revueltos (that’s scrambled white dudes to us English speakers). 

Don, and his exemplary boof form on Disco-Tech on the Piatua.  If you want to learn how to boof, Don is your man!

At high flows, the monstrous hole at the bottom of Gringos Revueltos goes away (well, mostly goes away as Megi found out).  It becomes a booming wave train and you just paddle your ass off through huge breaking waves and hope to come out upright at the bottom.  

T-Bone, rocking the high water line on "Eye of the Whale" on the Lower Cosanga.  He was just like a little watermelon seed getting squirted out of the pinch!

All and all, it was a super fun day and everyone got their big water groove on.
Greg enjoying some dry-land adventures sampling a scrumptious Empanada and washing it down with Ecuador's signature beer--Pilisner

Besides big water fun, they also got to hit up some creeking on the Piatua, Cosanga and upper Quijos stretches.

Most people are a little uptight or nervous when the water gets really big, but not Megi!  That big smile never left her face for the entire 2 weeks she was here!  Not even dropping into the giant Gringos Revueltos could shake her
The rain continues to pound down on our metal roofs as I write this.  Looks like this week’s group is going to get to practice some big water too!

       Stomper Dave, showing how it's done punching through colossal waves on the Quijos

Paddling, and spending time in Ecuador (on dry land too) is always an adventure.  So if you are in the mood for some good times and wonderful memories, come on down!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

West Virginia-ish Crew Does Ecuador

Tarquino leading the charge into Menage-a-Rodeo on the Lower Cosanga.  Happily, no one stopped to surf today

Last week we had two full crews of Torrents paddlers (Class IV).  One of the groups we dubbed the "West Virginia-ish Crew."  It was a group of 7 friends mostly from Morgantown, WV but with 2 rouge paddlers from the D.C. area--Margot and David.  (blog coming soon of the other Torrents trip AKA "Senor-big-water-lovers")
Margot boofing Disco-Tech on the Piatua

Sticking with the theme of the season, crazy variations in water levels kept us on our toes all week long!  We got to experience quite a bit of big water, with a couple of days of low volume creeking thrown in.   Not as much as John would have liked...but at least we had low water on the Piatua!

 Eric, immersing himself in Ecuador's whitewater

We had great runs down the Upper and Lower Cosanga, El Chaco Canyon on the Quijos, the Piatua, Oyacachi and Lower Quijos.  The only river on our hit list that we missed out on was the Upper Misahualli.  Tuesday it was too low, but then on Thursday when we were trying to give it a go, it was too high.   Ah, such is life in the rainforest.  But, the cool thing about Ecuador is that we had great alternatives.  John, you will just have to come back next year to get the Upper "Miss Hawaii." 

 David coming in for a sweet boof on "Lavadora" on the Lower Cosanga

Our most adventuresome day came on Friday with a rapidly raising Oyacachi River.  It had rained a bit throughout the night and so we were slightly suspicious that water levels may be on the rise.  We drove down to the Oyacachi bridge to check the level and found it to be a nice, low level.

 John in his element on the super technical Piatua

So, up the road we went.   Then it started raining rather hard and many of the little side creeks coming into the Oyacachi weren't so little anymore...We arrived to the put in to find a rather HIGH level rushing its way down towards the bridge.

 Kathrin lining up and reaching out for a perfect boof

Wisely, most of the crew opted not to put in up high.   One hard charger who had been wanting to go bigger all week decided this was his chance.  So Eric and I put in and the rest of the group drove down to "Ejector Seat" to join us for the last couple miles of the Oyacachi. 

Ben is stoked

Eric and I had a nice run down the upper and then met up with the crew at the lower put in.  The river was still raising, and it was looking like it was going to be a big water run down the Oyacachi, NOT a nice creeking run like it usually is.  But the crew rallied and did awesome!  By the time we got to the "Last Rapid" now called "Margot's Maelstrom" it was fricking HUGE.  Usually rapids get named after people who screw up in them, but this one is different because Margot completely styled the line!

Brian shedding water and coming through the hole at Menage-a-Rodeo

We got out to scout Margot's Maelstrom and found a chaotic mess of exploding waves, holes and wave holes.   There was definitely a line but it was thin.  Most of the crew quickly decided to walk but Margot was fired up and wanted to give it a go.  So, Margot, Eric and I set off.  We all had good lines, and high fives abounded at the bottom!  Then we set off down to the Quijos Confluence.  We all steered clear of "The Thing #1" and "The Thing #2" which are 2 rather monstrous holes in the confluence rapid. 
Cable car crossing of the Rio Quijos just below the Oyacachi confluence

But then David decided the Thing #1 looked like a sweet surf wave and jumped right in.  The first few rides were awesome, but then David and the Burn decided to stay a little too long and together they threw a few too many cartwheels. But, the good news is that the end result was a fun ride in a cable car!  This lady wasn't too pissed when she discovered gringos joy-riding in her "tarabita."

Thanks to the West-Viriginia-Ish Crew for an awesome week of paddling and thanks to John and Brian for the Remix's.  You guys rule!