Select Page

Karma on the Ldub

By Rafa Ortiz

To put the Little White Salmon River (AKA Ldub) in a few words, it’s the most quality, continuous piece of whitewater I’ve ever paddled. People live here because of this river; others drive hours; other of us fly just to paddle it. Today I had the chance to run it in my new Karma, and came back with a few opinions.

There’s that funky feeling when you start walking those 50 steps to the water: its not just the fact that its an intense run that I probably won’t fully remember, but also that its very cold water and this Mexican is not used to that. Oh yes, also the new boat on my shoulder. I put it down, sit in, get adjusted, close my skirt, quit whining and push off into the class II start.

At first it’s very different than my Villain S: much faster, edgy and a bit harder to turn. With only a few strokes I get into cruising speed down this little wave train and start playing with those edges to carve behind a few rocks. Speed feels great. After a few minutes I can already tell this boat will be incredible for evolving my creeking technique into more carving and less strokes.

Three minutes into the run that funky feeling is gone, now its just steeze. The past year I’ve been working a lot into always keeping my speed while paddling downstream, and this next part of the Ldub is where it gets challenging. Getting Busy is the first hard section of drops, where every other stroke you take is a boof over a hole or around a rock. Karma feels good, stays above the water incredibly but I start realizing that my boofing also needs a bit of adapting. You have to put it more on edge, which in fact is another aspect I’ve been working on, so this boat will be very good for me.

I’d have to write a short book in order to explain the whole run, there’s probably 40 rapids, all connected directly. Boulder Sluice, Island, Sacriledge, S-turn, Back ender, Wishbone, The Gorge, Stovepipe, to name a few. It’s like having desert again and again, and every bite just making you hungrier. At a certain point on the middle of the run I’m finally more comfortable on my Karma, I’m beater-ing less and steezing more. I’m less tired than I would usually be, as my boat accelerates with fewer strokes and my hip-flexers are feeling the mad edging I’ve been doing all day. And its cool, I have ridden the water more than ever.

We finally arrived at Spirit, this 35ft waterfall that holds the title of the most known drop of the Northwest of the USA. Last time I was here I walked it due to high water and being a chicken. Today I was running it, no doubt. The line is simple, you want to fly out far enough but you don’t want to land flat as it probably would hurt. And somehow it worked, I spotted my landing, as I looked 35ft down and I held that loooong right stroke, hit the boil and came right out. My body did feel a bigger impact than usual: bigger boat and flat hull. So I might save karma points and paddle my Villain S for my signature massive boofs (displacement hull just feels better on big flat landings).

From Spirit we still paddled another 5 minutes to the take-out. My confidence level on this river went up a touch with that waterfall, so I’m now carving even harder around holes and over big hydraulics. Eventually flat water, and maybe 10 steps to the car this time. I’m super impressed with the Karma, and just ready to paddle the Ldub again tomorrow.