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I was awake one of the last nights of my trip in the Grand Canyon watching the milky way stretch across the sky as I remembered the incredible place I was fortunate enough to explore. We went down into the river with a group of 16 people with 5 rafts, 7 kayaks, numerous friends, and numerous future friends. I guided an oar rig down the canyon as well as brought my Jackson Rockstar to run the bigger rapids before I brought the raft down. The Jackson Rockstar was such a fun boat to bring down into the canyon as it allowed me to play going on down the river.

The Colorado was one of the biggest rivers I had been on in terms of volume and mileage so I was excited to paddle a raft and my Rockstar every day. When we hit the first big rapid, Badger, I was excited to get into my kayak and paddle through some big waves. A fellow paddler who also had a Rockstar and I climbed up from Lower Jackass camp to run the rapid. This wasn’t a huge rapid, but it was fun to go down the tongue, aiming for the big waves, and throw some cartwheels. What I liked about having my playboat was that I could hike up easily to run rapids over again, I could play in the big waves, and I could play in the strong eddy lines. I learned to paddle in a Jackson playboat so taking one down the canyon felt very familiar and fun.
Some of my favorite features on rivers are eddy lines as they provide so much play and practice in a safe environment. In the canyon I learned that I could even do some tricks that I didn’t know I could do on an eddy line. We had had a long day of paddling and there weren’t many rapids so I wasn’t able to get in my kayak as I had to row all day. When at camp I took my boat out and found an eddy line to practice stern squirts and have a little fun. I then had the idea that I should try a front loop on the eddy line and was surprised when I could get my nose down in the current and throw a big loop. My favorite aspect of kayaking is learning new tricks and it was so fun to learn how to do a familiar trick in a new feature on the river.
There are many reasons why I want to come back to the Canyon such as the many stunning hikes, staying at different campsites, trying a self-support trip, cooking, friends, and so much more, but one reason is House Rock rapid. My experience with big wave surfing is limited as I have been able to get on Bus Eater and Garburator on the Ottawa, but I haven’t had much time on them to feel totally comfortable and safe. House Rock is one place I would like to go back to so I could surf the wave right next to House Rock at the bottom of the rapid. It is big and looks like it could be really fun. I have heard of people surfing it and I know that if my group had stayed longer at that location I would have mustered up the courage to get out there and play. Its exciting to think of the future and what I will feel comfortable challenging myself on.

Besides getting play time in a playboat, the other reason I love taking playboats down rivers and had such a great time with the Rockstar in the canyon is because they challenge me in all the right ways. Unlike creek boats that can charge over a lot and are generally forgiving with their edges, the playboat challenges me to find the water that will allow me to pass. As far as playboats the Rockstar is super easy to control and charge when needed. Unlike in a creek boat, I had to start my moves and set up my line earlier so that I could make it through the waves. I also had to have control over my edges and my bracing so that I didn’t flip. An example is at Crystal where there are some big crashing waves below the infamous Crystal wave and if I was in a creek boat these waves wouldn’t have done much, but since I was in a playboat they could flip me over easily if I wasn’t on it. The bottoms of the rapids were also really fun to play in and watch my edging as the boils were big and exciting. Being in a playboat also helped teach me as a raft captain as in both, I had to setup early to avoid hazards. As far as rapids go the Canyon’s aren’t super difficult at the water levels I was at (8,000-14,000 cfs), but they were able to provide some great challenges, fun, and play that I enjoyed all along the length of the canyon

When I do a canyon trip again, I know that I will bring my playboat along for the ride due to the fun and excitment it brought me. I love playboating and the Rockstar has been the perfect vessel to play in. I wouldn’t take any other playboat down into the canyon and if I can choose to play in a Rockstar or a creek boat I would prefer the former. It has made me the boater I am today and I am stoked to continue to learn new tricks and skills as well as get back into the canyon to surf the House Rock wave.

Thanks for reading and I hope you get out and play today!
Jair Cruikshank