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A Dynamic Start to the Year
Dynamic Duo that is! Each year I try to start the year out right by hitting the water New Year’s Day. This year I happened to be in Oregon for the holidays. The Oregon Whitewater Association hosted a club float on the Sandy River outside of Portland, OR. While most of the country has been getting hit with storm after storm, we here in the northwest have been having somewhat of a drought. Most of the northwest set records for the least measured precipitation ever for the month of December. So the normally guaranteed winter Sandy run was questionable at only 900cfs due to low water. Santa came through, bringing heavy rains (did I mention HEAVY RAINS!). The Sandy went from 900cfs to 24,000 over night, then dropped to 13,000 only to jump back to 30,000cfs the morning of New Year’s Eve. The recommended level is 1200-4000cfs. Well, the New Year brought good news by morning and launch time the river had dropped to around 7000cfs, with mostly clear skies. Around 100 hardy souls showed up to “start the year out right”, with about 50 rafts and catarafts, some IKs about 15 kayaks, plus a friend and I in the Dynamic Duo. Almost no one on the river had ever seen a whitewater double. My paddling partner for the day said 20 years or so prior she “had done some kayaking” in college. As you can guess, I had my work cut out for me with an almost non-paddler doing a high water run. The great thing is that I LOVE this boat–it will do that!
For years and years I wanted a Topoduo. After becoming a Jackson Team Member seven years ago I started asking EJ to come out with a Jackson double. Soon as I heard Jackson indeed was developing one, mine was pre-ordered. As soon as it was shipped, I had one of the first ones on the West Coast. I must admit I was so busy using my other play boats, I had only used it for a couple of really fun runs and then it hung in the garage largely unused. That is until this past summer when my friend Angela (a kayaker for the past year that felt she was stalled in her kayak skills development) started bugging me to take her down a river in the Duo. We started out just seeing if we could roll it together. With a plan in place we flipped over and BAM! We were back up. I could not believe how easily we could roll. The trick was, she would hang out, and as soon as she felt me initiate the roll she would simply finish with the sweep and hip snap, and bam, up every time . Straight on to class III water we went, and wow what a fun ride! It didn’t take any time until we were in sync and hitting all the lines we wanted. I found it was the perfect coaching tool. For months Angela had felt stalled out on skill development, in the duo I was able to explain what we were looking and feeling for as well as give stroke by stroke direction and more importantly was able to say stop and wait and not paddle until the time is right. After just a few runs she was past her roadblock and improving again.
I did find a major problem with the Dynamic Duo, though. During the summer we did a number of family trips and invited both boating and non-boating families. Dragging them along and introducing them to IKs, rafts and hardshells. Quickly everyone wanted to be riding in the front of the Duo with me. The great thing with the Duo is that if you have solid skills, the boat allows you to take non-boaters down places they may only be able to achieve in a guided paddle raft. The problem: everyone wanted to be in the double, and I only have one. Needless to say, we worked it out and everyone had their turn and a great time.
During the summer I ran close to 1000 miles in various boats, but by the end of summer as much as I loved my RockStar, my favorite was the Dynamic Duo. It is just fun to crash through waves, but the best part for me is pushing my skill level farther, hitting the line with a heavy boat, getting good braces (even when the person in front is leaning the wrong way), keeping the boat in control no matter what the person in front is doing, as well as the ability to take new and non-boaters out in a hardshell and share a true whitewater experience. A number of our newbies were kids that thoroughly enjoyed the chance to paddle out front in their “own” boat. I’m sure we have initiated a new wave of up and coming kayakers in our little corner of the Northwest!
The Sandy New Years Day’s run went great with some big waves, splashes and lots of smiles. My wife was in her Fun, thrilled to be out in a boat she loves, and she said whenever she would look at us my passenger was grinning ear to ear. What a dynamic way to start the New Year!
Happy New Year
Andy Graham