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STAKEOUT  the time of year in early spring when a small group of (crazy) people gather in northern Quebec in search of the world’s biggest and best river waves, and stake them out.

This spring I experienced my first Stakeout, and here are some things you should know if you are planning your first Stakeout:

1.  You will be cold.

Even with a drysuit and proper layers, there is nothing that can prepare you for the feeling of being upside-down in water that was covered in ice just the day before.  The brain freeze is real, and the fear of swimming in that ice cold water will challenge your mental game to the limit.  Hopefully you won’t have to deal with dodging massive icebergs TOO often, but sometimes that just adds to the experience!

2.  You will be scared.

To be completely honest, I was absolutely terrified 95% of the time I was at Stakeout.

3.  You will feel unmotivated.

Wet drysuit, sore muscles, wet layers, cold hands, shoulder injury, stout hangover, eating the same food every meal for three weeks, snow on the ground, so scared you might pee in your drysuit… whatever your excuse is, there will be times when kayaking sounds like the worst idea in the world.  But there is nothing worse than watching all your friends go paddling while you stay at camp shivering and eating yet another bowl of mushy instant oatmeal by yourself!

4.  You will need to be strong.

Just because the waves are massive does not mean they are easy to catch.  There were days at Ruins and Detonator when I would catch the wave 1/10 attempts.  Also, the chances of getting injured if you are not in tip top shape and feeling strong are very high.  You will get beat down often (daily, if you are me), and if you haven’t put in the time doing preventative PT and strength training, you will not have a good time!

5. Your perspective of “big water” will change.


I thought I had run plenty of big water and was prepared.  I grew up paddling big water in Montana and Idaho.  I spent a summer on the Ottawa.  I had run the Grand Canyon.  I had been to the Slave River.  I had been to Uganda and paddled the big rapids on the Nile.  And yet, I had no idea was I was in for…

6.  You will spend more time waiting for the waves than actually surfing the waves.

With the waves as big as they are, and the consequences as high, proper river levels are essential to ensure fun will be had.  There is nothing scarier than getting beat down in a massive foamy wave(hole) in freezing cold water with giant icebergs crashing in on you as you are getting beat down!  It can be frustrating, but waiting until the levels are right and the wave is green and iceberg-free is 100% worth it when you finally get that perfect pass and roost with the biggest trick of your life!

7.  You will have the best month of your life.

My first Stakeout was the scariest, stoutest, coldest, and absolute best month of paddling I have ever had.  There were definitely days when the fear outweighed the fun.  But there were also days where I giggled and screamed from happiness the entire time I was on the river.  I didn’t know it was possible to be so scared and yet so stoked at the same time.

Photos credit: Seth Ashworth and Wally Mistassib