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Justin Owen meet S. Yuba

Flew out a full week early this year to train at the Reno Whitewater Park in hopes I could get as good at combo’s as Stephen Carbon Rockstar video ( by the time of the Festival.  In that respect I failed, his 1500 easily beat my 950 and I ended up 4th in the comp.  On the other hand I got a 950 on a flushy wave feature, threw several combos, and learned to throw a lot more in practice.  I also got to hang out the the parking lot with great folks, meet the ‘Reno Crew’ for creeking on 49 to Bridgeport, and enjoy 2 x day practice sessions at 4x the altitude of Rock Island (or about half that of Buena Vista, my next event).  I knew I had come out a winner before the event was even over.  And then the Blue Beast went over the mountain…

changing at Summit Run put-in, Clay

For anyone NOT on facebook, the Blue Beast is Stephen’s new rig – and looks like something from the 90’s that got dragged out to Burning Man a time or ten before being salvaged from ‘out to pasture’ for his kayak pursuits.   Seems up to the challenge, as it climbed Donner Pass in a driving snowstorm before we dropped back into the warmth of California sun and the South Yuba drainage.  Our 1st mission – Purdens to Bridgport – would be Justin Owen’s first run in California.  Perfect time to combine the classic ‘entry class 5’ run of 49 to Bridgeport with the tougher upper stretch don’t you think?  We were joined by Tennessee to Cali transplant Will ‘Full Throttle’ Pruitt as well as AL’s Ryan Snodgrass and Taylor Calvin so I was stoked to have some Southeastern guides for this long Cali run.   I was less stoked when after the very first series of boofs and rock 360’s we saw Stephen hiking up the rocks and making slow progress back upstream.  It’s not like we waited or anything, but I did feel bad knowing we had shuttle bunny for the next 3 days in exchange for the loss of his company.  Ok not that bad, but not like super-good either.

The run was a blur of directions, whiteout, boofs, but I do remember something called ‘The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club’ which is a totally different rapid from the famed ”No Lookie Falls”.   In my 7’4” Hero I felt like I was paddling a playboat but in a good way – I was planing over the holes and boofing every rock I could find but when I did get into a hole or spun out by a curler it was amazingly effortless to get right back online.  By the time we got to the 49 Bridge both Owen and I were ready for a break – but after a Cliff-bar and some water it was game-on for the second half of the mission.  While Justin did get a dose of ‘Welcome to Cali’ ( he washed too far down the wrong side of the river, had to portage the drop, dropped his boat in the river while portaging, and then had to swim after it due to his walled-out location) he also got his game-face on and ran every other rapid blind on this 11 mile class 4-5 run with style.

After a great night in Will’s aptly-named ‘tough-shed’ we hooked up with Rock Scribar and Eric Petlock for the Forbestown run of the South Feather – a brushy affair since the stream is de-watered most of the time.  Rock paddles like he drives, so we pretty much bombed down the run blue-angel style with occasional portages, carnage or eddy-grovelling between the nonstop class 4 kinda manky rapids.  Thankfully the run opens up half way down with some nice bedrock drops that make the most of the 500 cfs we encountered and the 2-3 bigger drops we scouted provided good photo opps and memories that will last a while.

Clay n Justin scouting 'Goonies' and fearing the Henchman downstream

As a finale to our California quick-trip Stephen dropped Justin and I at the Summit Run of the South Yuba put-in so he could hike through the snow to take photos.  What a perfect way to end the trip – clear green water, white granite rocks, hot high-altitude sun, and mountains of snow all around.  3 Blind Mice, Goonies, and of course the ‘boof to oblivion’ East Meets West met or exceeded expectations for what California Creeking is all about.  I’ve enclosed a few of Stephen’s shots cropped down to show the paddlers – enjoy!  We certainly did.  Thanks Stephen and charge on Will and Taylor – an epic season awaits!

Clay's East Meets West Success