Another weekend and another great time boating on the Arkansas River in Colorado. This time, Richele and I headed down to FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas River), which is a very cool festival that is centered around whitewater kayaking and rafting. It is one of the biggest festivals of its type and it attracts the best of the best to compete in various disciplines, including slalom, freestyle, downriver, Class V boater-cross, and the Hooligan race.
The weekend really couldn’t have gone much better and it all started with a lunch worth of free samples at the Safeway Grand Reopening and then me winning an iPod Shuffle in the checkout line! Shortly after that, we met our kayaking hero Eric Jackson! Not only did he insist that we take out two of his Hero line of kayaks (hmmm, maybe he was the one playing up the whole hero thing…), but he also sang You Got Legs to Richele! Let’s just say that I’ve been wanting to meet EJ for the past several years, so this was a real treat for me. So then we geared up in our kayak attire, grabbed the two big, purple kayaks (Barney the dinosaurs) and plopped into the middle of the kayak course and competition right after Assad went by us! Neither of us had kayaked this stretch from Salida to Rincon and all we really knew of it was that there was a Class III rapid called Big Bear. A short while later after getting somewhat used to our borrowed purple dinosaurs, we encountered a turbulent maelstrom (well it felt that way!) of waves crashing from every direction! We both made it through without flipping, but we were both very surprised by the power of high water on the river. After a quick eddy break, we entered the main stretch of Big Bear rapid and I turned to my left to see Richele heading almost into the big hole that gives the rapid its name! The look on her face as she skirted the giant beast could only be described as awe, although a few beers would bring out many other names during the rest of the evening! At the end of the run, our luck continued as we immediately found a ride for us and our boats back to Salida with some nice folks in a big, ole Suburban. Once back in Salida, we got to watch the Hooligan Race, drink some beer, wander around the festival, listen the Hell’s Belles, and watch part of the Pro Rodeo that EJ was competing in. Maybe it was winning the slalom competition or the boater cross or the fact that he was competing against athletes half his age that led EJ to finish second in the rodeo. But after it was all finished, he couldn’t even stop playing. He got back into the hole under the spot lights and proceeded to out-do his previous moves all without a paddle, AND I was lucky enough to capture it on my little digital camera and get it posted on Youtube! So check out EJ with and without paddle tearing it up under the lights at FIBArk 2008!
Hand Surfing Video
Loop, Cartwheels, & More
The second day in the Arkansas River Valley turned out to be every bit as good as our first. This was one of those weekends that felt like it lasted about a month, but in the good way! After meeting up with Colleen and Greg mid-morning, we dropped a car at the Hecla Junction take-out, inflated and rigged the raft, and were on the water mid-morning to raft Brown’s Canyon. The day couldn’t have been any nicer- not a cloud in sight, low 80’s, no wind, and fast moving water on the river. The first several miles went by uneventfully and I don’t think we really appreciated how high the river actually was. As we approached Zoom Flume (the main rapid of the run), I opted for scouting via proxy, which amounted to yelling over to some kayakers to ask if the run looked okay. They said to run it center, then right, which is my usual line, so no biggie. Then we got to the top of the rapid and got to see what it looks like at 2800 cfs! WOW! This aint your daddie’s Zoom Flume, that’s for sure! We set up perfectly in the center and rode the giant green tongue like it was a roller coaster and crashed through waves that made the 14 foot raft feel tiny. The girls paddled like pros up front and Greg had the time of his life hooting and hollering in the back! We made it around the huge hole at the bottom and were drinking Tecate a bit later to celebrate our safe passage. I grabbed these photos off the web of us near the crux of the rapid, and since whitewater photos never look as impressive as the first person experience, you can only imagine what it was like to be crashing through those waves! I can’t wait to paddle raft it again this coming Saturday with Matt and friends for his bachelor party. The rest of the run went equally well, with huge waves that we blasted through while hooting and hollering! When we reached the take out, we all felt a bit of disappointment that such a great ride was over. In my mind, that’s the perfect way to end a day on the water and a great weekend.