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As boats have improved, kayakers have learned fun and new skills, and new roads/trails have been opened, it’s worth taking the time to re-explore your back yard.  Often times, runs that were just too log-choked to enjoy may have now washed clean.  Sometimes new access is open to the public.  Many waves that were just too steep, or holes that were too shallow are perfect in the latest play boats.  Eddy lines that were just eddy lines before, can offer hours of deep mystery moves in new low-cut squirt boats.  And then there’s the universal constant for rivers: all things change.  Rocks roll around and form new rapids.


I was recently reminded of this when we found two new fantastic waves to surf at Rock Island in three days.  These were levels that we’ve seen many times before, but with different gates open, and after a few rocks have been moved by high water, we found some of the best waves I’ve ever surfed at Rock Island .  “Braver Wave” was the original name given to the waves that formed at very high water between the dam and the falls at Rock Island when 20,000-30,000 CFS was pumping through the water.  We already had a “brave wave” downstream, which was a play wave that formed just upstream of an undercut rock in an eddy.  Braver wave was even more nerve-wrecking due to the close proximity of the high-water falls just downstream….we often couldn’t be sure that a paddler who blew a skirt or broke a paddle would make it to shore before being pulled over the falls.  Luckily this never happened 🙂  This really isn’t a place to play if you have any doubts about equipment or class 5 skillszzzz.


Over the past  5 or 6 years, we’ve often seen different waves form and disappear below the dam at different levels and with different gates open on the dam.  Sometimes there are no waves.  Sometimes there are waves with no eddy.  Sometimes there are just big holes.  Lots of days, we’d try to surf something that looked good from the road, but was disappointing once we were on it: frustrating eddies and surging water often made for lots of work but very few tricks.  Last week, at levels between 12,000 and 15,000 cfs, we found great waves with great eddies!  Enjoy the photos of the 12,000 cfs wave day shot by myself and Clay Wright 🙂  These few days reminded me that in the past three years at Rock Island, we’ve also “discovered” a few new waves and holes, several new lines on the falls, and 2 or 3 fantastic squirt boat spots.  All of these are in a 1/2 mile section of river that has seen hundreds of kayakers over the years.


If there are this many new ways to have fun in a kayak in just the Rock Island area, I can’t help but suspect that there are many more opportunities out there wherever we live and kayak.  Don’t hesitate to get out and re-explore places that have been written-off in the past near you—you never know what you might find!


Live from 30,000 feet,

Stephen Wright

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