Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 year in review by team paddler, Luke Vollmerhaus

Hey Team!
So I thought I’d throw together a little summary of my year and pass on my recommendations to all you adventurers! 

I started off the season slow with kayak laps on local rivers; the Elbow, Sheep and High Wood. These are some of my favourite runs in southern Alberta; easy to access, well documented in local guide books and all with flow gauges. There’s plenty of beta on these runs as well as they are all very popular. If you’re in the area and down for a simple bit of fun I’d look them up!


The SUP season started off a little slow as well, I did a lot of lake paddling both with clients and on my own. Ghost dam is one of the easiest bodies of water to get to from Calgary for flat water SUP if one wishes to be out of the city (Otherwise the lake communities are great, just don’t forget your PFD, they will yell at you with a megaphone until you get one). I suggest venturing up the arm of the lake that lies on the north side of the highway as it is more wind protected and there’s less power boat traffic.

As the season came into swing I got together with my friends Zac and Liam for a river kayak trip starting in Jasper and finishing in Waterton. Our first stop was a hidden gem; Beauty creek, 40 min south of jasper before the Columbia ice fields this creek drains into the main valley. It has no gauge and there is little beta as it only gets run a handful of times every year. There is however an excellent description in the Stuart Smith guide. The hiking trail runs river right and provides a great view of all rapids on the way up. Because of its location in the forest and narrow canyon wood can be a big issue on this run. Be sure to check all drops carefully, sneaky wood is a paddlers nightmare. Be sure to bring a rope and harness as one must repel into the pool below Lumbarsis to run proper safety. If it’s rained recently there will most likely be water in the creek. You just have to run in and check it when you get to the pull out on the road. 


The Ram was our next river. First note of caution on this run, there’s a 50ft waterfall right at the put in. It can be hiked around but it’s a bit of a nightmare due to a 6 ft cliff band and steep shale slopes. It’s easier to run the falls than to hike. So show up ready to rock for this run. Be careful about safety on the next drop (particle accelerator as rescue options are limited. There’s a big seal launch on river left to get around it. This is an awesome run and I highly recommend it to experienced paddlers.

Other highlights from that trip were Cataract Creek and boundary Creek. Cataract has lots of descriptions in the books and on the web and there’s generally lots of beta on it as well. It is a long run though (16 km) so plan for a full day and bring food. There is also a Flow gauge for cataract. Boundary Creek doesn’t get run very often and has only a bit of info on it. It is in the Stuart Smith guide though. It is a very committing class V run.  It drains into Waterton Lake, you either have to paddle or rent a speed boat to get the 6 km to the mouth of the creek (right beside the Canada/U.S.A. Boundary marker).  Then one must hike 3 km up stream to the put in. Bring bug spray. Be sure to scout every rapid on the way up as there are very few scouting points on the way down. Over all it is a beautiful run with some of the most incredible wilderness surrounding it. However it is class V and if something goes wrong it happens very fast. I highly recommend this to very experienced boaters.

When I got back it was time to hop back on a SUP board. The bow river from ghost dam to Cochrane was flowing beautifully and Harvie passage was at a perfect flow for a surf. For the SUP boarder with the beginnings of river training the bow from ghost dam to Cochrane is an awesome run, some fun rapids and cool little surf waves with plenty of flat relaxing water. (Note that the flood has significantly altered the rapid directly below the dam, though this is easily portaged if necessary)
 Surfing at Harvie passage is on hold for the moment as the redistributed the river bed in the area significantly. We’ll have to wait and see what spring flows and cleanup crews put together for us.  

After the flood not much was paddle-able so my final venture was up to the Slave River on the border between the North West Territories and Alberta.  This river is enormous peaking around 7000 cms every season. There are so many different runs you can do on the same stretch of river simply due to its vastness. There’s everything from easy class I/II to big burly (emphasis on the big) class V and it’s all warm water. There are some of the most amazing freestyle kayak play spots on this river. It’s a great place to practice any skill at any level. Huge eddies make excellent training grounds for beginning paddlers. I really can’t say enough good things about this river and I haven’t even mention the community yet. Due to its location north there are few people in the area. The town of Fort Smith (right beside the monstrous river) is small and very charming. The paddling community there is small but one of the most welcoming I’ve ever encountered. The Fort Smith paddling club runs weekly paddles for all skill levels and provides all equipment for beginners. I highly recommend that any and every one venture up North for this amazing locale. I especially recommend attending the Slave River paddle fest (August long weekend) as it is one of the most diverse and awesome paddle fests in the world. In my mind it sets its self apart from other festivals because of its openness to complete beginners. It’s super easy to hop in a boat there with little or no experience and be well taken care of, safe, and have a great time.

My list of adventures unfortunately ends there due to a knee surgery and the time consuming monster otherwise known as university. However I will mention one final destination I highly recommend although I was not able to make it out this year: Skookumchuck Narrows in B.C. There you’ll find one of the best play waves in the world. It’s a tidal influx that creates a current into an estuary. Long story short it forms a huge consistent beautiful wave that is perfect for freestyle kayaking. I really want to get a SUP out to this wave in the near future as it would be perfect for a surf. There’s plenty of camping in the area as well as hotels nearby. Its easiest to paddle into the wave on an incoming tide from the docks and leaving boats at the wave so you don’t have to hike them out at the end of your session. If timed properly you can also paddle out of the wave on an outgoing tide so no long boat lugging is required.

Finally looking at next year I’d like to stress to anyone paddling in Alberta that the flood refaced EVERY river. Even if you’ve paddled the run 100 times before, it’s going to be a completely different river so paddle the run like it’s a new river and be very careful, scout more than you think you should and set more safety than you think you need. 

I would also like to thank Nikki Rekman Sales for making my adventures this year possible, it truly has been a wonderful season.

On that note I’d like to wish everyone Happy New Year. I’ll check back with a report at the end of February after a SUP surf adventure to Sayulita Mexico!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Update from our Canadian Junior SUP Champion - Eli Fischbuch

Now that winter is here my paddling season is over for this year and I am just spending my time trying to stay in shape for next season!  

Here in in Cochrane, Alberta it gets cold and snowy very fast which means it is basically impossible to go out and paddle.  I do try to go out on the Bow River as long as I can.  Me and another group of paddlers from Aquabatics Junior Development group got out at the very start of the season when there was still some snow and ice around and paddled down the Bow for a little bit and then we saw an iceberg in an eddie and we decided to all jump on it and started doing down the river on it - paddling an iceberg was something different!  

Claire Clarkson and Eli Fischbuch both on the Aquabatics Junior Development SUP team!  photo: Vanessa Fischbuch

A few of us also went out this fall - our last day was on October 12th. This was World Paddle for the Planet Day and we thought we might be able to get some other kids to come out and paddle with us. But it was cold and no one seemed to want to come!

Since I cannot actually practice paddling here I just try to stay in shape over the winter.  I joined a climbing club to get stronger so I climb two days a week.  I also ski a lot.  I am really starting to like backcountry skiing, so you have to tour up the mountain before you ski down.  This should really build on my endurance.  These are the main ways that I try to stay in shape over the winter when I cannot paddle.

Next year I am planning on continuing racing SUP as well as hopefully getting on the river some more here in Alberta.  There are lots of different races that I keep hearing about - there is one on the Hood River I heard about that sounds like fun and I’d like to maybe try that one.  There was also a river race up in Edmonton as well as a surf competition at West Edmonton Mall this summer - if that happens again I’d like to go check that out. There’s alot to do! I just have to hope my parents are keen to drive me!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gear Review - Kokatat Gore-Tex Bib Pants by Kayak Angler, JF Marleau

JF Marleau is a professional kayak instructor, sea kayak guide and kayak fishing guide for SKILS

Photos: courtesy of Kokatat Watersports Wear

When someone asks me what my favorite piece of kayaking equipment is, I respond without hesitation, my Gore-TEX Kokatat Whirlpool bibs. I use my bibs constantly; not only for kayaking, but also when kayak fishing, waterfowl hunting, ice fishing, fly fishing, or even just mucking about in any wet environment.

I work as a kayak guide in the Pacific Northwest all year round. My Kokatat bibs protect me against the cool water, wind and rain I so commonly work in, helping me to stay warmer, dryer and much happier. As a result my energy level is much higher which allows me to put more effort into my work. I cannot believe I used to work without my bibs! Pre bibs I wore regular paddling pants that kept me rather cold and wet. Just thinking about surf launching or landing myself and my clients, in cold water, in those paddling pants, makes me shiver! I wish I had known about bibs when I started guiding in 1998 as my life would have been much more enjoyable. While Kokatat bibs can be more expensive than other brands, you get what you pay for and these bibs are worth every penny. Speaking from experience, the cheaper option often costs you more in the end – I recommend you make the investment in this crucial piece of gear from the start.


By now I hope I have convinced you that the Kokatat bibs are a fantastic tool which will keep you warm and dry while kayak touring. But wait! Bibs are more than just a tool, they are a multi-tool. Bibs are like the Swiss Army Knife of kayak clothing, with several functions to offer. As an outdoor addict, I love things that serve more than one purpose. Pair bibs with a paddling jacket and you have fantastic raingear; pair them with a drytop, and they become a drysuit.  
Kokatat bibs have a neoprene overskirt that work with most double-tunnel drytops to make a seal and become a versatile two-piece drysuit system. As long as the bib’s overskirt is folded correctly with the double tunnel on your drytop, you will remain almost as dry as you do in a regular drysuit. The way you fold it is very important.  This system works best when you us a sprayskirt with a neoprene tunnel to help hold tight the seal made between your bibs and drytop. Pressure from your PFD also adds security to keep the seal in place. I have performed short swims and immersions for up to 10 minutes and remained dry. The long-term waterproofness remains to be tested, and during extended immersion period with intense physical activity, the seal could progressively weaken, but for quick dunks this combo works.
When I paddle in conditions with warm air but cold water, and my risk of capsizing is low to moderate, I simply wear my bibs. The pressure of my tight neoprene sprayskirt tunnel and my PFD against my torso provide an adequate enough seal to prevent much water from seeping into my bibs in the event of an unexpected capsize. Contrary to popular belief, I will not sink if my bibs fill completely with water, as water is neutrally buoyant. However, my dexterity will be impacted. 
The Kokatat bibs and dry top system is suitable for most paddling conditions the average paddler faces. Paddling in a drysuit is often overkill, especially when air temperatures are warm and your chances of capsizing are very slim. Hyperthermia, or overheating in your drysuit, affects your comfort level and paddling performance just as much as hypothermia or being too cold can. Buying a combination of bib pants and drytop is usually cheaper than buying a drysuit and provides you more versatility to adapt to different type of paddling conditions. 

Another function of the bibs is to use them as waders for ice fishing, fly fishing or waterfowl hunting.  For each of these activities layering underneath is required to keep you warm, but the bibs will keep you dry.  I like to carry a waist pack when participating in each of these activities, and the belt of the waist pack provides some level of protection against my bibs filling with water in the event that I fall in the water or step into water too deep for my bibs. Finally, I like to use my bibs while kayak fishing where I frequently have to get in and out of the boat. The bibs also function as an easily washable armor against blood, slime and bad smell.


The Kokatat whirlpool bibs are made in two different fabrics: Gore-TEX and the Hydrus 3L (3 layers). I myself have only used the Gore-TEX version. Gore-TEX is a well known, proven and reliable waterproof breathable fabric. The Gore-TEX bibs come standard in black with a relief zipper and integrated dry socks.

The Hydrus3L bibs are a cheaper option. Hydrus 3L is Kokatat's proprietary waterproof/breathable
fabric.  It is perfect for those paddlers looking for a price sensitive alternative to Gore-tex with great waterproof performance and slightly less breathability.  Of course, breathability is not a big issue with pants.  It has a super tough nylon woven outer layer which provides long lasting abrasion protection and features a durable water repellent (DWR) coating which repels water. Kokatat Hydrus 3L garments are backed by a lifetime warranty against defects in the material or workmanship. The Hydrus 3L Whirpool bibs come standard in grey with a relief zipper and ankle gasket.

Both the Gore-TEX and the Hydrus 3L bibs come with the following features:

·         Suspenders that keep them in the place,
·         Reinforcements on the back and knees so they can withstand a lot of abuse,
·         A pocket on the chest that is handy for keys, cell phone, wallet, etc. which is accessible while wearing most modern PFD’s. (I often go kayak fishing during business hours and I use the chest pocket for my smart phone. I can answer the phone or return important emails while kayak fishing),
·         A relief zipper so you do not have to undress every time nature calls.

The relief zipper in the men’s bibs is naturally located on the front while the relief zipper in the women’s bibs is a drop down rainbow shape zipper. A word of caution here ladies - try out bibs or a drysuit with the drop down rainbow shape zipper in your own kayak (s) before purchasing to make sure it is comfortable. Some kayak seats and some hip shapes are not compatible with the drop down rainbow shape zipper, which can result in a lot of discomfort. In such a case consider using the men’s relief zipper in combination with an urination device (like the she-wee or go girl).

Bibs come in different sizes and can accommodate most body shapes, however, Kokatat also offers the option to special order customized bibs and drysuits. Ask and they shall deliver.

Care and maintenance

Take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you. Kokatat provides ample information about how to care for their products, and yet Kokatat gear actually requires very little maintenance. Make sure you rinse your bibs after using them, especially if you are wearing them in salt water. Occasionally your zippers will benefit from being lubricated with a light coat of paraffin, beeswax or other zipper lube product. I feel the most vulnerable part of the Gore-TEX bib is the feet. To protect them I wear appropriate footwear, depending the activity I am doing. This both avoids damage to the dry socks and keeps my feet warm. The footwear combos I use include;

·       -  A combo of booties and neoprene socks when I am kayak touring or kayak fishing,

·        -  A combo of an old oversize pairs of running shoes and neoprene socks when I am kayak touring,

·         - Felt boots when I am fly fishing,

·         - Muck boots when I am ice fishing or waterfowl hunting.


The Kokatat Gore-TEX whirlpool bibs are a cost effective solution for anyone looking to stay warm and dry. My Gore-TEX bibs have been reliable, sturdy and comfortable in all seasons and for numerous different water sports and activities. Considering the amount I have used them, the price I paid is well worth it – they are a great investment. They are probably the most envied piece of gear by my paddling companions. I think Kokatat bibs are a must have for avid paddlers in cold water environment as they will extend your paddling season, comfort and happiness.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jackson Kayak Big Rig Video

We are excited to share with you the long awaited promo video for the Jackson Kayak BIG RIG video for all you kayak anglers.

Check it out here and order through your nearest dealer today.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Overboard Accessories on the Water in December!

Huge shout out to Calvin Peters, Manger at Western Canoeing and Kayaking in Abbotsford, BC for sending in his thoughts on his Overboard Accessories 12L dry-tube.

"I loved the easy to roll top with it's plastic reinforced edge; makes it easy to form a solid seal. The shoulder strap with clip was also nice; making attaching it to the board quite simple and much easier to throw over my shoulder and carry up to the truck at the end of the day."

Photo: Laura Demers

Calvin enjoyed a chilly day on the water with fellow Western Canoeing and Kayaking colleague, Laura Demers where he was testing out the new bag.  You can find Overboard Accessories at Western now - perfect for a Christmas stocking stuffer!!!

Thanks for your feedback Calvin. 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Woes

       When the seasonal paddlers hang up their paddling gear and bring out the ski's, the die hard paddlers brush the snow off and prepare for the unique challenges winter presents.  Although it's not for everybody, paddle sports can still be enjoyable in the colder winter months, even more so than summer in some ways.  When considering winter paddling it is essential to have the right equipment, experience and a friend to paddle with.

Ice Jam on the Fraser River at the Mission Bridge
      There have been many previous posts on cold weather paddling and so most of us know a drysuit is the only way to go at this time of year.  Just as important as my Kokatat Gore-Tex Meridian Drysuit are the multiple layers that I wear underneath. As a base layer the Polartec Power Dry Base Core works well in combination with a thicker fleece Polartec Power Dry Liner that I almost never go without.  The liners smooth exterior also makes sliding that drysuit on over so many layers a little easier.

     Beyond protecting our core body temperature with warm dry layers; our hands, feet and head cannot be neglected. If you've ever been out on a cold day you will know that your extremities are usually the first things to freeze.  Warm socks, hand protection and a toque are must have's. For hand protection while paddling a kayak I prefer the Kokatat Neo Kayak Mitts or pogies over gloves.  A couple packets of hot shot's to stick inside your booties and gloves go a long way to extending your time spent on the water.

        While winter is not the ideal time of year to be kayak fishing there are still some fish biting.  Sturgeon and Steelhead are both active at this time of year.  Recently a friend was kind enough to take me out to catch my first ever Sturgeon from a kayak on the Fraser River.  This kind of fishing takes patience and a way to stay warm.  Being that you are casting and then sitting and waiting for the majority of the time it tends to make you cold that much faster.

As I mentioned earlier, having the right gear for winter paddling is essential.  Just as important as warm clothing is having the additional safety equipment to avoid incident.  One of the extra pieces of gear I would consider at this time of year is a paddle float rescue stirrup.  The use of such a stirrup in combination with a paddle float can make it that much easier to re-enter your kayak in the event of a capsize.  The addition of this "step" allows one to get a boost into their boat just like using a stirrup to mount a horse. Now you might be saying, I can do that without the stirrup, however once you experience cold water shock, even with a drysuit on, your body may not be as mobile as you thought.  As with most winter activities its also a good idea to bring extra warm clothing and a warm drink.

             Well, although winter paddling is enjoyable, there are other things that we do during the winter months to keep busy.  Rigging your kayak with new my case a fish finder I've owned for months but never had the chance to mount.  Smoking some of that fish in the freezer while it's still fresh is also a great winter task.  I plan on giving some away as gifts for Christmas.

After all the Kayak fishing I did this year I had to do something with all that fish!  Thanks to Marlin Bayes for the help smoking my salmon.

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin