Summer Excursions

Summer Excursions

So far summer has given up some excellent time on the water for me around home and elsewhere.

click here to see SUMMER EXCURSION VIDEO (big file)
click here to see SUMMER EXCURSION VIDEO (small file)
Music on the video is by Ester Drang

After returning home from Canada on June 1st I had a couple weeks off the water and in the office to catch up on some things before heading out to Colorado to visit some friends and paddle. I fly out to Denver on June 13th but first I had to make a quick jaunt to DC to do some employee training on IR’s products for Hudson Trail Outfitters. This was a whirlwind trip but I did get to paddle the center line at Great Falls on the Potomac a couple times with my friend, Dave Blanding, who was also there for the Hudson Trail clinics.

Scouting the line at Grace Under Pressure.

I took the Crux out, and on our second run got a solid aerial boof at the rapid, Grace Under Pressure. This is a really fun, and not too hard, (about a 12 foot boof) drop at the top of the falls that is runnable in the 3 ft range on the gauge. Anyway, I blazed back home after that and got packed up for Colorado.

Waiting for the connection to Denver with all my camera and computer gear.

On Monday evening, the 13th, I arrived in Denver, greeted by a long time friend, Andre Spino-Smith. If you don’t know him, Andre, who is an incredibly talented paddler from Virginia, now lives in Salida where he sells real estate for the South Main River Park development, which is headed up by some other good friends of mine, Jed and Katie Selby. Anyway, it’s really exciting for me to see Andre doing this. Since I first met him, when he was fifteen, he has been mature beyond his years, and I think he still is. This is a really cool project too. Located practically next door to the South Main River Park in Buena Vista is Colorado Kayak Supply .

CKS, the premiere kayak shop in Colorado, and in the running for best worldwide, is a Necky dealer and was kind enough to hold an Orbit Fish for me to paddle for my week long stay. Thanks CKS! This trip was all play paddling, encompassing the play park in Salida, an overnight trip on Brown’s Canyon with raft support from Buffalo Joe’s Rafting Co. , and the wave In Buena Vista.

The view of camp on Browns Canyon from a high cliff.

Browns Canyon View

All these are on different sections of the Arkansas River and all very worthwhile.
A blunt at the wave in Buena Vista. This spot is in walking distance from the CKS store. Practically in town.

On the weekend we competed at the Salida hole in the FIBARK event. I earned my very first ever dead last place. Aside from washing out twice on my first ride I actually did pretty well to have gotten last. I hit one of my first McNasties ever in my second ride and some other standard stuff like loops and an air flip, but blew my Space Godzillas and other variety.
A McNasty in the bottom hole at Salida.

Another McNasty in the top hole of Salida during the competition.

The level of competition in the pro class is so incredibly high it is hard to conceptualize. To be top five or ten you would have to hit a plethora of moves back to back within the first fifteen seconds of the ride. I’m not kidding – front loop, back loop, air flip, mcnasty both ways, space godzilla both ways, orbit both ways or some other rendition was all completed perfectly in a matter of seconds by the top five placers. I felt an urge to do some catching up in the competition department. Doing one or two events per year for the past four years has gotten me a bit behind schedule. It was very fun nonetheless.

While in Buena Vista I was paddling with my friend Dave Fusilli, who is sponsored by a new company called H2O Audio . I saw Fusilli paddling with this thing and I asked about it. It’s a waterproof housing and headphones for an iPod. You play boat as hard as you want all day with this thing and never worry about getting your iPod wet. It’s even waterproof down to 10 feet. Ironically, I get home from my trip and find out that H2O Audio needs a sales rep and team paddler to represent them in the southeast, and I got the job. I’ve used this thing a few times now and can’t say enough good things about it. If you have an iPod and you paddle, or do any other water sport for that matter, you have to have one.

Here I am looking up a new play list before I drop into the hole on the Nolichucky.

The housing fits nicely into a secure pfd pocket.

Air flip to music. The headphones stay in place perfectly and you never notice the extra bulk of the player.

I was home by noon on the 22nd, just in time for it to rain all weekend in Western NC, compliments of a couple early season hurricanes coming out of the gulf. Within the next week we received several inches of rain making it nearly impossible to sit in my office every day and catch up on all the work I’ve been neglecting. Water is here and it’s the middle of summer, so I couldn’t resist paddling a few times, and I work nights a lot anyway. Might as well paddle part of the day. That excuse got old eventually being it’s August now and there has been good water all summer. During the end of June and Beginning of July the water was best and I was able to get on a few things – Horsepasture, Toxaway, Overflow and the Upper Rocky Broad.

My view hiking out of the Horsepasture with boat on head.

Horsepasture rest stop.

Upper Rocky Broad was a first for me and it’s twenty minutes from my house. Three fun class IV+ drops start the run off then it’s boogie class III-IV for about three miles, all close to the road. This run is fun and not terribly hard. I’m gonna go back for sure. The hikes out of both the Horsepasture and Toxaway make for a rewarding day on the river.

Toxaway Photos:
Putting in below the falls. Notice the OREO truck going across the bridge at the top.

Portage above Energizer.

Ben Marr from Ontario drove 18 hours straight to do the Toxaway this day. Here he is getting his money’s worth in a Crux on Energizer Bunny with his buddy Chris Gragtmans filming.

Ben follows Chris down the best rapid of his life, Wintergreen.

I hadn’t been to Overflow in a couple years and had forgotten how great of a run it is.

Here is Ray Cotton running Singley’s Falls.

Between creeking days the Nolichucky made for some fun playing.

An air flip at Quarter Mile hole.

July 16th was the Potomac River Festival in DC, so with my compadre Raymond, I headed back to the capital for another weekend and a little competing. I think the level was around 3.6 on game day so the race ended up happening on the center line of the falls and the freestyle event was at the S-turn wave. For racing I broke out my old blunt and placed about middle of the pack, lucky #13. Though I’m not a big racer this one was super fun to do, and I came out 2nd in the freestyle event paddling the Vibe. It made me feel a little better about my last place in Colorado.

A blunt in one of my rides at S-Turn.

This makes my third year in a row competing in this event. Oddly, I placed 3rd last year and 4th the previous year. At any rate I was excited to take 2nd behind Luke Hopkins. I think the running order of the placings was:
1st Luke Hopkins
2nd Oneself
3rd Todd Baker
4th Keith Liles
5th Bryan Kirk, and I forget after that. Joe Stumpfel and Seth Chapel, who are both ripping C1ers and Potomac locals, were also in the mix and placed high overall, but they divided out the scores for separate K1 and C1 results. I thank Colin Kemp and Rob Terry from Valley Mill Kayak Shop in Gaithersburg for organizing a great event.

In closing, at the end of July, along with Joey Hall and Ray Cotton, I was able to take our good friend Drew Hayes down the Nolichucky for his first time. He got his first air flips at quarter mile hole. Although it was nearly unbearable, due to his unwavering and steadfast annoyances, to be around him for a whole day, we were all proud of his accomplishments.

This wraps it up for now. Most likely we won’t post again in August since we have trade shows coming up and will be busy traveling and working. Probably not much paddling this month either. Hopefully everyone will have some water to enjoy.

Signing off for now,

Spencer Cooke, Team Necky

click here to see SUMMER EXCURSION VIDEO (big file)
click here to see SUMMER EXCURSION VIDEO (small file)
Music on the video is by Ester Drang

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