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By Joe Keck

October 25, 2006

One random magically warm day this summer I was on a classic high alpine run with good friends deep in the Colorado wilderness. After a particular bend in the river lies a good pool with a cliff standing around 20 feet over the water. Since it was a balmy afternoon and we had plenty of time, my yahoo friends and I decided to go up and seal launch off of it. A ten foot slide led to the lip of the cliff and looked as if it would boof the boats flat. My friends did not take my words of warning and let her have it. Sure enough, a huge “BOOF” shot through the air as Marty landed completely flat into green water from 20 feet. Thankfully, he was tucked up and did not hurt his back.

As I carefully lowered myself into my boat, I decided that I would drag my hands to go off the cliff slower. Then my plan was to throw my weight forward to get the bow down so I would pierce the water with a good angle. Unfortunately, as I was sliding over the lip and throwing my weight down, I was going much slower than Marty. This kept my Rocker near the cliff and completely vertical as I was falling. I tucked up, but was not too nervous because the pool was deep….WHAM.

I am now sure that the pool is not especially deep right by the cliff. Marty, who was watching from river level, said that my spray skirt did not even get wet before my Rocker came to a complete vertical stop on a submerged rock. After balancing for a split second on the rock, I teetered forward over the handlebars into the river. Following a few missed rolls because had I picked up my paddle backwards above the drop and my knees had shifted due to the piton, I managed to find an eddy. Still dazed in the eddy, I performed a systems check and realized, surprisingly, that both ankles still worked. Not only that, but they did not even hurt. I relayed the good news to Marty. This was really first-rate news because we were eight miles deep in the wilderness with portages to come.

Lessons I learned that day:
#1 – Tuck if you are airborne and in trouble. This helps protect your spine if you boof or in my case the tuck kept my face from crushing the cockpit combing when I pitoned.

#2 – The Jackson Rocker outfitting is amazing – the recent Kayak magazine gave it top marks for comfort compared to other creek boats. More importantly to me, since none of the components are attached to the hull, the outfitting can give in relation to the hull under enormous pressure. I am quite confident that this ability to flex and move within the hull prevented me from having bilateral ankle fractures. A boat with outfitting attached directly to the hull through bolts provides almost no flexibility and allows the piton force to translate directly into the paddlers legs. Clay, who helped design the outfitting, was psyched to hear the news of my piton. Apparently, no one had volunteered and I was the first person to push the outfitting system with a huge piton. Not that I would give it again!