Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Ride With Si Day

-What a great place to see the world from!

Yesterday a year ago I woke in Norway, just another day and went to bed that night changed in a huge way for ever! A really good man, Simon Davidson, died kayaking on Red Earth Creek in Canada on the 22.06.11! Following his death 'I Ride with Si' was born and offered friends and family a platform to remember, share and talk of our lost but not forgotten friend! A few weeks ago I started to hear about I Ride with Si Day and thought it was great! A day to do cool things and share them with Si so he knows we are out there living it up with him by our side!
Again this year I find myself back here in Norway for Voss Ekstremsportveko this time not injured and ready to kayak! The morning of the 22nd started with a nice cup of tea and then Andy came and picked me up for a trip to the Brandseth but with a few hot days it was pretty juicy and not for us that day. I then jumped over into another car and we headed for the Teigdale on the other side of Voss.  We got there with a solid flow and the boys hurried round to get dressed!

-A long way down!
One by one they went off forward and backwards and it looked like a lot of fun! I hadn't run a vertical waterfall since surgery and was not thinking of paddling till this thought went through my mind and quickly turned into a fuzzy good feeling all over! I had remembered that it was the 22nd and it was in fact I Ride with Si Day.  I immediately knew it was time to go kayaking.  I asked Evan and Anton if they were going again and we were soon standing on top of the double drop.  I went and jumped in my boat and caught the eddy.  my boat felt light after a cali season and there was no warm up apart from 20m of entry.  I gave the signal and peeled out - Lined up the lip and boofed hard looking all the way down to the pool below. The first landing was soft and although there was a lot of mist I could see the second lip immediately. A few strokes kept me straight then it was time to roll off, pause and tuck.  Cue the second impact... again smooth! Back - check. Shoulders - check.  Cue excitement... Woooooo! Stoked to be down and had a sweet line!

- Rolling off the second part! 

Yesterday I woke up in Norway, but this time it wasn't just another day.  This day was a special day for a special friend! We miss you bro!
Cheers for an awesome day yesterday, wish you could have been there with me!!

-Aniol back freewheeling the top drop!! Amazing to watch - Photo Josh Neilson


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Upper Cherry 2012 - A trip to remember

I often hear the saying "there is always 2 sides to a story" and I agree that is often the case but in this story there are 6! I however only know 1 side with a bit of  from the rest info from the other sides.  My experience of the situation started back before I went to Australia and Colorado for film shows where the others were all heading into Upper Cherry and I was going to miss out.  A mission I must say I was glad to not be on but little did I know my own adventure would take place in there a week later...

-Packing gear at the trail head - Photo CasperVan Kalmthout

I got off the plane from Colorado and started gathering any beta on the flows and a crew that I could as the run had spiked and come back in.  Lulu was in Vegas and fired to to come and I heard word that a good friend from the Netherlands was on his way with a crew of 4 so we had that sorted.  On Thursday morning Lulu and I left Coloma and by mid afternoon we met Casper, Emiel, Sven and Tim at the trail head ready for a quick trip down a rapidly diminishing watershed.

-Casper makes his way up the first hill - Photo Josh Neilson

After some quick packing we all headed up the first hill with varying degrees of pain and suffering.  I seemed to have it the worst being relatively unfit but quickly the others followed suit and got their puff on! By late afternoon we saw our first glimpse of the river but it is only a reminder of how much further it is to walk!
-Casper, Lulu and I feeling the pain - Photo Sven, Tim or Emiel
-Hiking as the sun goes down - Photo Josh Neilson

-Hiking in the Dark - Photo Josh Neilson
-Lulu charging on the hike in - Photo Josh Neilson
As the team dropped the pace and carry systems failed we decided on dark to call it a night and rest our sore bodies on top of a ridge directly above Cherry Bomb falls(the crew would later discover).  After a quick meal we all went to sleep, some for longer than others.  I woke first and set the fire for breakfast, ate breakfast, packed and then while the others slowly emerged I was ready to start hiking again.

-Morning of day 2 - Josh packing, others sleeping/rising - Photo Casper Van Kalmthout

- Packed ready to go - see Lesson 3! - Photo Josh Neilson

Lesson 1: learn to sleep in too!
Lesson 2: if the person you are following leaves, you should leave too!
Lesson 3: if you are the only one who knows the way, DONT leave without the rest of your group!
Lesson 4: if you have radios make sure the one who knows where to go has one!

Ok so this so far will sound the same from all other 5 sides but from here on out my story differs by a lot.  I started walking early as both my knees were failing and I didn't want to be hiking in the heat of the day so off I went. Following the track up the hill I got to the spring for water feeling better than earlier.  I left the water tablets on a log on the track and carried on a little further.  When my knees really needed a break I stopped and waited for the rest of them.  A while passed and I started to think that they either slept in a lot or they were lost.  So I left my boat and walked back to find them... Nothing...

-I imagine it went something like "Where the F#$% is Josh" - Photo Sven

-Meanwhile I am at the put in thinking "Where the F#$% are they?? - Photo Josh Neilson
-And trying to cook my dinner in the sun with cold water - Photo Josh Neilson

-This is not the way to the river by the way - Photo Casper Van Kalmthout
Then I saw some tracks heading off down the hill where the track was at its least visible.  I followed for a bit but lost them in the bushes and turned back.  My thought was now that they had dropped in too early and I could go to the put in and paddle down and meet them solo.  So I kept walking. At the put in I rested and mentally prepared myself for my first solo kayak trip (apart from the Kaituna.. Slightly different)
Then I started to think about all the things I have been taught over the years about situations like this. How do you make a bad situation worse? How do you make a bad situation better? How was I sure I would meet them down stream? Being that the first day of Upper Cherry is relatively easy, how far would I paddle solo to find them before I would hike out?
And so the decision was made to leave my boat and hike out.  With 2 sore knees and a time of 4pm I knew I had a challenge ahead of me.  Off I went!
By 6pm both my knees were shot and I was moving pretty slowly but was getting there.  I stopped half way back to eat some of the cold freeze dried meal I had prepared earlier due to the fact I had to lighter on me which was not surprisingly disgusting!
By 9pm it was just on dark and I had made it but no sign of the rest of the crew. By now I was sure they had made the river and were probably wondering where I was.
I camped at the take out to wait for them to paddle out and by late afternoon I was about to go check the trail head when I heard Casper yelling "JOSH, JOSH" then I turned to see him hanging out of a cop truck and very excited "This is the first time in a cop car without hand cuffs" and "I am so happy to see you". I too was happy to see him and the rest of the crew.  We shared horror stories and decided to head to Sonora for a steak and a hotel sleep.  They had indeed made the river and had got to cherry bomb thinking they had put in too high and would paddle down to find me but then realised they were down stream of me and hiked out.  We were now back together and the situation could only get better from here.  And it did.  We made a plan for 3 of us to hike to the put in to get my boat and take it to Flinstone Camp and the other 3 would hike in to cherry bomb and get their camping gear and take that to camp.

- Finally by the river enjoying a camp fire and sore bodies! - Photo Josh Neilson

 By 9pm that night we were all there sitting by the camp fire stoked to be there and not be hiking anywhere.  Now this story has spanned over 4 days now and the rapidly diminishing flows had dropped to about half the lowest flow I had seen it so the next day we were in for some interesting paddling.  At dawn we all rose fast and were ready to go at 8.30.  With a quick scout of some unsure drops we made it to the pool above Cherry Bomb just as the light hit it! Now this place is amazing!
- Boofing at the top - Photo Josh Neilson

Sliding in the middle - Photo Josh Neilson

-Flying at the bottom - Photo Josh Neilson

-Casper followed with a ripper line! - Photo Josh Neilson

-Then Lulu showed us whats up - Photo Josh Neilson

- Next up were some Tea Cups - Photo Josh Neilson

- Sven on Perfect 20 - Photo Josh Neilson

- Me on Double Pothole - Photo Josh Neilson

--Scouting and getting ready for Double Pothole - Photo Josh Neilson

-Emiel on Double Pothole - Photo Josh Neilson

- Trees blocking the exit to the lake = one last portage - Photo Casper Van Kalmthout
One by one we headed down stream and I must say this was LOW but all the good stuff you normally paddle was still amazing and all the manking stuff was, well, rocky to say the least.
Everyone had good lines all day and we finally made it to the take out in good time and with huge smiles! Your first time down a classic run like this is usually your most memorable and it was for me until this trip.. One I will never forget!
Cheers to Casper, Lulu, Emiel, Sven and Tim for an great trip down the river! Sorry I left you on day 2 and that you ended up getting lost! Lesson learned!
Hope to paddle with you again some day!

- A very happy team make it to Cherry Lake! -Photo Josh Neilson

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New AT Super Duty testing!

-A perfect 20ft drop on Dinky - Photo Gopro2 - Josh Neilson

I got a call from the crew at Fergs Kayaks in Wellington a week before I flew out to Cali this year asking if I would be interested in trying the new AT Super Duty paddle on my trip this year.  Now I have to admit I have used and loved the Werner foam filled paddles for years now and had to think hard if this was a good move for my kayaking.  I had been trying a few paddles over summer in the falls with the thought of changing paddles anyway so figured it would be worth a try.

-Top left the boys are herding a huge log from the base of the falls so I can have a clean landing - Photo Gopro2 -Josh Neilson

So we managed to fast post them up and I packed them ready for some Cali testing.  The initial feel was different to what I had been using but that is the case with every paddle.  Now I know I told everyone I was going to ease into the season but that was not to be.  The first test would be Dinky Creek ranking in my top runs in the world to paddle and a solid test for the new paddle.  We had good flow so the paddle would not only be tested on some low volume slides but some heavy boofs and aerated moves too. Paddling round in the pool at the top with no warm up apart from a few rolls and a small flat water pool I was apprehensive but feeling fired up!  First move was a entry right boof into the middle and ride the slide out.  SOLD! I really enjoyed the paddle on this one and it did not let up! Slide after boof after eddy turn!

-Tea Cups on South Silver - Photo Tyler Fox

Part of my reason for thinking about switching paddles was the blade size and partly length.  I was using a 194 and my new AT Super Duty is 197cm long with an extra few cms all round the blade in size.  Great power and control in the water.  One of the other reasons I wanted to switch was the blade fluttering in the water.  When I would paddle my blade would not pull smoothly through the water and I dont notice this in the AT now so another bonus.  So I have now given it a good run for its money on Dinky, South Silver, Middle Kaweah a few times, more South Silver and South Yuba and its going strong and the next stop is upper Cherry.  I am stoked with it and will keep you posted on how it preforms over the coming months in Norway and Africa in the big water.


-Autobahn on South Silver - Photo Tyler Fox

-Skyscraper on South Silver, Nick and Toni Running Safety for me - Photo Tyler Fox

-Off Ramp on South Silver - Photo Tyler Fox

-An early Boof on Dinky loving the paddle already - Photo Gopro2 - Josh Neilson

-As you can see I am mid air flying down a shallow slide - Photo Gopro2 - Josh Neilson

-Everything is GREAT - Photo Gopro2 - Josh Neilson

-Water takes some amazing shapes - Photo Gopro2 - Josh Neilson

Cali-Brisbane-Denver-Cali in a week

I just spent a week on tour with my film and unfortunately just missed the Kayak race at Teva Mountain Games.  I left California on Monday night and flew via San Fran and Sydney to Brisbane to meet up with Dr Eric Brymer from the film for a show organised by Queensland University of Technology.  I was only in the country for 23.5hrs but got to present to a great audience.  Once the show was over I went out for a few beers then back to the Hotel for a quick sleep and back at the Airport at 7am to fly via Sydney and San Fran to Denver.  I rented a car and headed to Vail to be greeted by a very excited group of Kiwis and one very excited Canadian! It was great to unwind with a few drinks before the next days premiere.  The show was poorly advertised but still attracted a good crowd.  Now I am back in Cali looking at a potential Upper Cherry mission and then a few weeks before Norway!
Cheers to everyone I met along the way on the week long airplane tour!
-A common view for me all week!