Select Page

Before I start this blog, two important disclaimers:

1. I’m terrible at stern squirting.
2. I was NOT stoked on the MixMaster when it came out, and I really did not see the appeal of slicey boating.

However, I take it all back. Summer in the PNW has me embracing the slice of life. I’m now even the proud owner of a MixMaster, and I shamelessly try and convince my friends to jump in the ole elf shoe and try some slicing for themselves almost daily.

In the PNW, the water might be cold (like, heart-stoppingly, breath-stealingly cold), but the days are hot. While I’m lucky to have the White Salmon River run through my backyard, the downside is that traveling to kayak seems like work and effort. How can I keep the same handful of runs interesting as flows drop lower and lower? The answer: paddle different boats and embrace different sections of the river for different things. Enter: the MixMaster.

The White Salmon River flows from Mt. Adams, up near Trout Lake, WA, down to join the mouth of the Columbia River in Underwood, WA. The top stretch is known as the Farmlands; the next section is the Green Truss/Orletta, followed by the Middle, the Lower, and the Bottom (or Lower Lower). As the river drops, the Farmies and Truss might drop out (specific level depends on local snobbism), but even when the river is below two feet, there are three to four sections, depending on how you link them, that range from Grade I-IV available to paddle. Many sections drop out as the White Salmon River drops below two feet, but some pretty fantastic eddy lines come in.

Even in the depths of low water summer and fall, you can rip a short and sweet Orletta, but be prepared for a week walk-in; do an Orletta to a Middle, just a middle, or my late summer fave: a quick and dirty lower lap/bottom. If you’ve got the time and want to double dip, you can do a lower into the powerhouse or a lower plus a bottom all the way to the mouth. Both are home to some fun surf waves, beautiful canyon walls, and loads of fun eddy lines to session all year long.

As mentioned, I am terrible at stern squirts. I’m even worse at holding a stern stall. I’ve made it my mission the past few years to improve, but I only recently started to figure out what all the fun is about. The biggest breakthrough came from paddling a boat small enough to give positive feedback when I got things wrong and reward me when I got it right. And.. while you might argue.. what about a playboat?! While I LOVE my Rockstar V, I’m gonna go old school and hype the slower, more stable stall/squirt that a longer full-slice provides.

I typically paddle a small Antix, which is “fire.” It’s a great all-around, do almost anything all year long boat. It stern squirts well but still requires the proper technique to make it happen. I can get vertical (inconsistently), but I can’t boss it around how I wish I could (yet). My biggest bad habits have come from paddling a playboat for years- either moving too fast or putting on too much edge. It turns out, fixing these habits required finding a slightly easier (read, smaller) kayak. Just like edging, sometimes less is more.

Last summer, I jumped in a Perception Jib (kid’s boat circa 2000) that is more flat than anything else. It has no thigh braces, no backband, and requires subtly hyperextending the knees to get in. But it’s awesome! For the small human (sub 130 lb) looking to try and crack the code of the stern squirt, the Jib is a great place to start. It forces you to go slower, has great stern balance, and it fills with water so fast you’re basically in a stern squirt without trying.

Then, I got in the MixMaster. Again, I was NOT an advocate of this boat initially, but it’s time to face the facts: I love the Jib (still do), but the MixMaster is even better. It has a more modern knee profile, making it significantly more comfortable and rocker than the Jib, but stern squirts just as easily, if not more easily. It lets me really feel when I keep my boat flatter for longer and how to counter edge and use my lower body to control the boat when it’s vertical.

Why is that getting a boat to go vertical, your feet above your head, is so fun? I have no idea. Maybe it’s the defiance of gravity? Maybe it’s just the addictive buzz of learning something new.

Either way, I encourage you to jump in a double-slice (or half-slice kayak) and figure it out for yourself. Your roll will improve, your edge control will improve, your core will grow stronger. Plus, getting comfortable on your stern opens up a whole new realm of play on the river.

*** Apologies for the lack of quality images. I was busy having too much fun.***