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January 25, 2006

It has been a great trip to showcase the Star, All-Star, Super Star, and Fun 1 on the waves of the Zambezi and Nile. The Boat Armor outfitting has been the ticket to keeping the hull in speed and bounce mode without losing any to flex. The wider stern and flaired side walls have proven to really help land moves consistently and stay upright and on the wave. The balance of speed and rocker are such that forwards or backwards you can focus on doing your next move, instead of trying to keep the ends from catching, all while having great hop, and sufficient drop in speed. Stephen, Clay, Jay, Emily, Jessie, Dane, and I are having a great time in all of the places we have been paddling and I can’t wait for you to see all of the biggest moves being done on a variety of spots.

One of my favorite moves has been the Mystery Flip. It combines a big straight on Ollie (like on a skateboard) into a bone out and air loop. Boning out is where you push your bow down fast, raising your stern out of the water. If you get a good enough ollie, you can bone out far enough to catch your bow and then ride up the wave, looping off the peak of it. I have been able to do some really high ones and stick some medium ones.

Emily, Dane, and Nick are tearing up the wave, showing just how well kids can paddle on big waves. Nick is getting huge air, and Emily has been getting some nice Donkey Flips. Dane has been able to throw huge air as well and is working on combo moves.

Jessie showed us down the second day run yesterday, starting at Calagala Falls, a 15-20 foot rolling falls with a major channel of the Nile going over it. A hole with boils shooting up about 4-5 feet high and feeding into the whole river left side is the bad part that you sit and stare at for awhile saying, “I don’t want any part of that.” The right side is pushing out and has a flake to boof off of but is still a commitment move. Jay ran it in 2003 and lead the way, followed by Stephen. Both of them had good runs and made it look much less scary. There are boils leading down to the lip of it that could push you left if you aren’t careful, but dealing with them wasn’t as hard as they looked. I warmed up with about ½ of my normal warm up in a little eddy about 50 yards above the drop and gave the thumbs up and hit the gas to get in position on river right. The spray coming up from the landing is a reminder that there is a lot of power in the high volume of water that accelerates down into the falls. The hump I was planning on lining up on was not visible until way later than I had hoped so I gauged off of the tree branch hanging down over the water and put my helmet directly under the last of the leaves. This lined me up perfectly as I dropped into the ramp and could pick the final takeoff. There is a rock on the right that would be a terrible peton, making a strong curler that, at the landing, looks like a place that could put you deep. My landing in the drop was at 45 degrees and on line, but I took a hard hit to the face, went down 3 feet or so and popped up with downstream speed. Clay went next, getting a hard pull on his paddle, but held on. Nick had a smooth line, followed by Dane. I didn’t think they would run it, but they decided to and they did fine. Last but not least, Emily decided to give it a run. I was on the river right eddy at this point and trying to get over to river left, the best spot for safety. Kristine gave the “here she comes” signal and before I knew it Emily was coming over the lip in perfect position. She disappeared at the bottom….. and stayed there for about 5 seconds…. Then popped up with no paddle and quickly swam out of her boat. She managed to quickly get to the right eddy with her boat, but her paddle went downstream. I made a hard ferry, barely getting to the eddy where she was. The eddy on the left side of the falls with the big boils was scary and I didn’t think committing to the point of no return was a good idea. I made it to the eddy where Emily was and she had already emptied her boat. She got in an took my paddle and made it out of the eddy in the heavily aerated water that was all pushing back into the eddy. It took me a couple of tries, just to get across the eddyline and around a big rock that the water was being forced into. I hadn’t seen the rapid below yet and was committed to reading and running with no paddle. It went fine, however, and we all got reunited with Emily’s paddle. Emily was embarrassed for swimming, but handled it perfectly. She had never been in such a situation where she had taken that big of a hit to know just what to do with your paddle to assure you don’t lose it. From now on she’ll keep it lower and in front of her at the bottom of such a drop.

Emily was all smiles all day long as Jessie lead us down the rest of the run, hitting all of the playspots we could find.

🙂 EJ