Tag Archives: whitewater

Party Surfing – a fun way to develop boat control

This post was originally posted at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/07/09/party-surfing-a-fun-way-to-develop-boat-control/

We have used party surfing for years as a fun way to develop and fine tune boat control. It turns learning into a game that is highly interactive and fun for everyone. It is also a fun game that can be played with both kids and adults.

Step one: Find a bunch of friends to paddle with that like to have fun
Step two: Find a wave that will fit at least 3 boats in it
Step three: Someone starts surfing and then the next person joins in, and then the next person, and so on and so on.
Step four: When you fall off, or are knocked off, paddle back to the eddy, get in line and get back out there.
This game can also be called King of the Wave (or hole), which refers to the person that stays out in the feature the longest.
We have found that you can get a bunch of people playing this and it can go on for up to 30 minutes, at which point most people are exhausted and need a rest. People are smiling and cheering and laughing the entire time and don’t realize that they are actually enhancing their paddling skills; – learning better edge control so you don’t zoom into someone, getting comfortable in areas of the wave/hole that you don’t normally go to, playing with side surfing to make room for someone else.
We were in Glenwood Colorado in May and spent an afternoon on the Glenwood wave with the Kellogg family. We had the party surfing game going for a good 30 minutes with at least 8 people cycling through. Even the Dad’s gone into the fun and showed you are never too old to party surf!
If you are a bit hesitant and just getting started, then just try party surfing with one other person, then slowly add more friends/family into the mix. You will be amazed at how much fun it is and how your skills develop without you even trying.

Never Winter – Family Whitewater Adventures in Columbus, Georgia

Original post can be found at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/01/19/never-winter-family-whitewater-adventures-part-four/

It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and you definitely can’t go with kids! This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Destination #4 is Columbus, Georgia which is located in the southern United States. It’s not what you traditionally think of in terms of warm water paddling but compared to the rest of North America – it is warm and is fairly easily accessible. The water runs all winter long and the temps are rarely below freezing. The average high in the coolest months of December and January is a balmy 59 F (15c)! November and March are great times to either extend your season or kick off your season, with temps almost hitting 70f (20c).

The Chattahoochee River runs right through town and acts as the border between Columbus, GA and Phenix City, Alabama. Columbus has a small airport but flights may be more economical landing in Atlanta, just a few hours away.

We have always travelled there in our RV however there are 2 hotels that are right on the river and within easy walking distance: Columbus Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott (Phenix City). There are also 2 great outfitters in Columbus that can help get any trip organized – Outside World Columbus and Whitewater Express. You can also rent boats/paddles from the outfitters if you don’t want to fly with your gear. If you will be travelling by RV, be sure to message us and we can give you tips and suggestions.

The Chattahoochee River is a 2.5 mile stretch of river that runs from the dam through to the whitewater park. It is anywhere from class II – class IV depending on the level of the river and the feature you are on. It is dam controlled with traditionally lower flows in the morning and higher flows in the late afternoon/evening as the power company needs to make hydro. One of the best parts is that there are lights in the play park at night so you can paddle when it’s dark out – that is an adventure in itself!

The Chattahoochee is big water, which makes things a bit pushy. At the same time, it’s warm and a great place to learn. Lots of room to roll up after every feature. Any rapid on the river run has an easy line and a hard line and the park and play whitewater park right in town allows you to play at the spot that best lines up with your skills. There is a big flatwater pond for smaller kids, trailing small waves off the back of the island to practice your ferrying, small and medium surf waves and then the big bouncy “Good Wave”, which definitely packs a punch at 3 generators! It is considered on par with Garb wave on the Ottawa.

Things to think about when considering Columbus:

  • Consider what your normal temperature threshold is when packing. We are northerners so what is considered “cold” in Columbus was still quite warm for us. On our last visit in late November we were wearing swim tops and shorty dry tops while the locals had switched to full dry tops.
  • Both Outside World and Whitewater Express are amazing ambassadors for kayaking – check in with them before you go to get some beta and drop by when you are in town to see about getting shuttles to the dam so you can run the river
  • There are many affordable restaurants in Uptown Columbus, which is only 2 blocks from the river. Our favourites are the pizza place and the burrito place.
  • Chat with the local paddlers and they will give you lots of great information
  • Take time to check out the fabulous museums and science centres in town – they are amazing resources and lots of fun for kids. The riverwalk runs right along the river and is an easy walk or bike to most sights and locations

The Vincent Family (www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.twitter.com/chasingthesunyt // www.chasingthesun.ca )

More information can be found at:

http://visitcolumbusga.com/visit/outdoors/kayaking/

http://www.whitewaterexpress.com/chattahoochee/

http://www.outsideworldcolumbus.com

Never winter family whitewater adventures (Mexico)

The original article can also be found at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/01/11/never-winter-family-whitewater-adventures-part-three/

It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and you can’t go with kids! This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Destination #3 is Mexico, which is located in the southern most part of North America and is a beautiful country. The majority of the kayaking is on the eastern side in the regions of Valles and Vera Cruz, which are north east and south east, respectively, of Mexico City. The peso is the national currency but you can get away with US $$ in some places.

At the time that we went, this region of Mexico was considered fairly safe but that can change so be sure to check with the local tour operators. The only sketchy part was the drive through the northern region near the Reynosa border crossing as we drove from San Marcos, Texas down to Valles on both of our trips. Being in a van for 16 hours is not the most family friendly experience so we would definitely recommend flying into Mexico City (for trips to Vera Cruz) or Tampico (for trips to Valles).

Mexico is not as clean as Costa Rica of Ecuador and the water should not be assumed to be drinkable. The roads are a work in progress in many regions and armed military guards are the norm as you drive through every town. Don’t be surprised when you get stopped – just stay friendly and in most cases, all is fine.

The rivers in the Valles region are the most family friendly however it is a bit harder to mix and match things here. Neither of the outfitters that we worked with had the ability to provide multiple itineraries within a trip. This is a great region to learn how to do drops and slides, with most being between 5-10 feet. We did this trip the first time when Hunter was ten and anything he (or we) weren’t comfortable with him running, we tossed his boat over and then he and Tim would jump off the drop.

Our second trip was when he was 11 and by then he was more comfortable with the idea of slides and drops and we would allow him to do anything up to around 10 feet. There was only one drop bigger than that (20 ft) and Hunter and I took out before it and hiked around it on the road.

Rivers that we have paddled in the Valles Region:

  • Rio El Salto – an amazingly azul blue river full of pool drops and slides over travertine
  • Rio Micos –  Upper and lower sections – more travertine slides and small drops and super warm water
  • Rio Tampaon – big water wave trains and canyons

We have not yet paddled in the Veracruz region but have heard great things about it. Aventuretec is where most paddlers base out of and there is a range from class II to class V runs all within a few hours.

Things to think about when considering Mexico:

  • Most of the water is warm but you can get cooler days as you are up in the mountains – bringing an assortment of gear allows you to have choices to match the weather as well as a better chance of your gear drying if you can alternate sets each day
  • Long pants and tops are important for both the sun and the bugs – don’t forget socks as the sand flies can get pesky
  • Bring both bug spray and sun screen for on and off the river
  • You can use US $$ in some places but be sure to have small bills. You will get a better exchange rate / price if you are using pesos so consider changing some before you travel
  • Assume that the water is NOT drinkable and always ensure that the water you are drinking has come out of a bottle
  • We have invested in break apart paddles so we can bring our own paddles easily with us on the plane. For those that don’t have them, you can rent paddles in most places, which is often easier than checking full paddles as luggage (no matter how well you pack them)
  • The travertine can scratch up hands, which can turn into infections. We learned and brought gloves for that extra layer of protection on our 2nd trip
  • Experiencing the culture of a new country is half the fun – be sure to check out the fun foods that can be found at the corner stores and the small community restaurants
  • Everyone is quite friendly so be sure to stop and say hi and experiment with your spanish

When we travelled we went with Ben Kvanli of Warm Whitewater. He has been travelling to the region for years and takes a group down once a month from October to March each year. It is a more economical way to go as the group drives down in a van from San Marcos, Texas, and shares travel costs. It is a VERY long drive to be in a small space with kids…On our second trip to Valles we met up with Tom McEwan of Calleva’s Liquid Adventure School. He has also been running trips to both Valles and Veracruz for many years and is well respected in the region. He trailers his boats down there in November and then has guests fly in for the week. We would recommend flying in for your first trip – it is safer and will have everyone in a good mood when you get there rather than grumpy from a 16 hour car ride.

The Vincent Family (www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.twitter.com/chasingthesunyt // www.chasingthesun.ca )

More information is available at:

https://calleva.org/kayakmexico/

https://www.facebook.com/WARMWhitewater/

https://www.aventurec.com

Never Winter – Family Whitewater Adventures (Ecuador)

This post was initially published on the Jackson Kayak blog at: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/01/03/never-winter-family-whitewater-adventures-part-two/

It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and that you certainly can’t take kids! This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Destination #2 is Ecuador, which is located in the northwest corner of South America and is an amazing country. There are four distinct zones in Ecuador – the Amazon jungle in the east, the Andes mountains in the middle, the Pacific ocean in the west and then the Galapagos Islands off the western coast.

As a country, Ecuador is going through a number of positive transitions. It is a relatively clean country (daily garbage pick up) with solid roads, education and health care systems. The water and sewer systems are not as strong so you do need to pay attention to where your water is coming from (both drinking water, ice and food cooking water) and remember that you can’t flush toilet paper other than at the airport. It is also a very safe country and we wandered around in the evenings in a number of the towns that we visited without a single concern.

The main airport is in Quito, which is also the capital city. The main kayaking areas are all to the east and south east. In the Andes to the east the main paddling bases are in San Francisco de Borja and Baeza, two small towns near the Quijos river basin. Further to the east is Tena, which sits right on the edge of the Amazon jungle and is one of the key bases for jungle tours. To the south east is Banos, the adventure capital of Ecuador, which offers kayaking, hiking, ziplining and more. The primary currency is US $$ but be sure to bring a lot of small bills as most stores can’t change anything bigger than a $20.

Similar to our Costa Rica trip, we went to Ecuador as part of a guided trip. We chose to go with Ecuador Kayak because they offer to provide as many guides as needed to meet the levels of the group. This meant that Hunter and I could have one itinerary and Tim could have another. It worked out superbly well – Hunter and I had a great week that focused on his progression in creeking while also embedding an extra amount of local culture and information to support his homeschooling activities. Tim was able to spend his week on various class IV rivers and we got to hear all about them when we met up at the end of each day.

Other organizations that we have heard positive things about that run trips to Ecuador are Endless River Adventures (with a summer base on the Nantahalla River) and Small World Adventures (been in Ecuador for over 25 years). All three organizations are based out of San Francisco de Borja on the Quijos river but include rivers in Tena in all their trips.

We have been to Ecuador twice and have loved both trips. It is a great mixture of creeking and big water kayaking, with amazing culture and people mixed in.

We have paddled the following rivers while there:

Quijos River – there are at least five sections of this river and they run through the Quijos valley. They start out as steep creeking and then move into big water. The difficulty correlates directly to the water level.

Borja – a fun creek that runs into the Quijos and is only available when the Quijos is at medium to high levels. It is narrow and shallow but nice and close to the home base in Borja and it runs directly into the Quijos so the take out is a short walk.

Cosanga – a rocky creek style river in the Borja valley with an upper class IV section and a middle class III section

Misahualli – there is an upper, a middle section and a lower section to this beautiful river near Tena. The Upper is good solid class IV creeking with big round boulders and boofs everywhere. The Middle section is great class II/III and perfect for teaching the basics of creeking.

Upper Anzu – a fun class III river in the Tena basin with some holes and surf waves

Jatunyacu – big water, big wave trains class III run in the Tena basin that can be a half day run or a full day adventure. The Upper run starts at a fabulous eco resort with rope swings and is a class IV section. The middle starts a few bridges down and is perfect class III. This river is also known as the Upper Napo river and it is part of the headwaters of the Amazon.

Pastaza – a big water class III/IV run near Banos. Super fun with big wave trains. Beware of the water quality and try not to swallow any water and shower after the run.

Jondachi River – the quintessential class IV creeking river – amazingly scenic jungle section with super big boulders and clean blue water. Fun hike in that involves local porters carrying your boat – with it being the best $5 you have ever spent

Hollin River – a class III/IV river in the Tena basin that has something for everyone – boulders, canyons, side streams, and drops

Things to think about when considering Ecuador:

  • The Andes region is like spring paddling in most of North America – while it is sunny a lot of the days, drytops are needed most of the time and it’s great to have long pants and a fleece or light puffy jacket for evenings
  • The Amazon region is sticky and hot – perfect for rash guards and splash tops
  • Bring both bug spray and sun screen for on and off the river
  • You can use US $$ in all places but be sure to have lots of small bills.
  • Assume that the water is NOT drinkable and always ensure that the water you are drinking has come out of a bottle
  • We have invested in break apart paddles so we can bring our own paddles easily with us on the plane. For those that don’t have them, you can rent paddles in most places, which is often easier than checking full paddles as luggage (no matter how well you pack them)
  • We took full face helmets on our second trip and were really glad we had them based on the number of scratches you could see. The local paddlers just wear regular helmets so it comes down your skill and confidence levels
  • Experiencing the culture of a new country is half the fun – be sure to check out the fun foods that can be found at the corner stores and the small community restaurants
  • Try to spend a day in Quito at the beginning or end of your trip. Even better if you are there for the weekend market, which is full of local vendors. Be sure to check out the buildings and history of old town
  • If you have the time, be sure the extend your visit by even a few days and check out the town of Banos or some of the small villages in the Andes region. An amazing add on is a few days in the Gallapagos, but it can be quite expensive.

The Vincent Family (www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.twitter.com/chasingthesunyt // www.chasingthesun.ca )

More info can be found at:

Kayak Ecuador (www.kayakecuador.com)

Endless River Adventures (https://endlessriveradventures.com/international-trips/ecuador/)

Small World (www.smallworld.com)

Never Winter – Family Whitewater Adventures (Costa Rica)

Here is part one of our four part series for Jackson Kayak on Warm Whitewater destinations for families – check it out!

Never Winter – Family Whitewater Adventures: Part one

Costa Rica – a super family friendly kayaking destination

It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and you definitely can’t go with kids. This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Costa Rica is located in Central America and is one of the simplest southern destinations to visit. It is safe and clean, with good roads, education and health care systems. In most places, the water is safe to drink which can make life with kids soooo much easier! People are very friendly and you can get away with English in most places. People are also good sports about trying out your “spanglish” and teaching you new words. The colonne is the local currency, however American dollars are taken in most places.

The main airport is San Jose, which is pretty central within the country. Costa Rica is bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The majority of the paddling takes place in the mountains east of San Jose, and just west of the Caribbean Sea. A great place to base yourself out of is the town of Turrialba.

Within a few hours are an amazing assortment of class 2 -5 rivers or river sections. The water and the air temps are generally warm. With this being the jungle/rain forest you also want to plan for the fact that it is possible to see rain at some point every day.

We have been going on winter family kayaking trips for the last four years since Hunter was 10. We have found that picking a good guide company makes all the difference in the world. For our trip to Costa Rica we went with CostaRica Rios, who have been recognized by National Geographic for their experiences. The other two companies that we have heard really positive reviews on are Esprit Rafting (with a summer base on the Ottawa River) and Endless River Adventures (with a summer base on the Nantahalla River).

We started our trip out on the Pejibaye River. The morning was spent on the class I//III lower section to get back in the groove. After a yummy jungle lunch you could step things up by running the upper, a class III/IV steeper creeking section or head back to do the lower section again and hook up with the gang from the upper when they came through.

Day Two and Three were spent on the Sarapiqui, which is about 3.5 hours from Turrialba and is considered the “Jewel of Costa Rica” – it is further into the jungle and has a more tropical feel, with lots of greenery and lushness. There are three distinct sections of the river, ranging from class II to class IV so again there is something to match up with every paddler.

Day Four was spent on the Upper Upper Pacuare – a traditional creeky, boulder section of river. This is a class II/III river that has a road paralleling it for the entire class II section, so those not confident to run the class III can do laps on the class II section. The class III section can be stepped up a bit by finding tricky lines and lots of boofs for the more advanced paddler. After the main takeout, the bottom four rapids of this run are class IV and are a fabulous way to end the day for the more advanced paddler. You meet up with the rest of the group at a picnic lunch with beverages to celebrate a fabulous end to a beautiful section.

Day Five and Six were spent on the Lower Pacuare, which is a 24 km (17m) section of river that is split up with an overnight stay in a jungle lodge. The day five section is a mixture of class II and III with lots of surfing waves and fun little rapids. There is an amazing lunch stop beside a creek with a small waterfall curtain/cave that is a perfect place for exploring.

The lodge is rustic but perfect for families – individual huts have lots of room to spread out and the more adventurous teens can sleep in a hammock in the main building. It’s pretty cool to experience sleeping in a hammock in the jungle and hearing all those noises all night!

The lower section of the Lower Pacuare are a mixture of class III+/IV. Those that are not comfortable with this level get to raft the section, which again means that all of the family members get to experience the river and have a great time together.

During the low water of the “summer season” (mid Jan – mid March) the Upper Pacuare section is also available as an option. It is another fun boulder filled creek run that will keep the class III/IV paddlers on their toes.

Things to think about when considering Costa Rica:

  • It is a very humid country and therefore hard to get gear to dry. Bring multiple sets of swim tops and shorts if you can
  • For those that are really warm blooded, you can get away with just a swim top and a shorty for the cooler days. I would wear a shorty on the warm rivers and a dry top with a swim top underneath for the cooler days
  • Bring both bug spray and sun screen for on and off the river
  • You can use US $$ in most places but be sure to have lots of small bills. It is still handy to have some colonnes for use in the small town stores for snacks and drinks.
  • We have invested in break apart paddles so we can bring our own paddles easily with us on the plane. For those that don’t have them, you can rent paddles in most places, which is often easier than checking full paddles as luggage (no matter how well you pack them)
  • Experiencing the culture of a new country is half the fun – be sure to check out the fun foods that can be found at the corner stores and the small community restaurants
  • If you have the time, consider extending your visit by even a few days and check out the beaches on either the Pacific or the Caribbean side. The week on the river is busy and tiring so beach time is a great way to slow right down truly chill out

Every guide company we have ever travelled with has offered options for non-paddling companions so if someone in the family doesn’t paddle then there are still amazing adventures to be had. They are also always open to finding childcare to help parents still feel like they are on vacation!

Are you starting to see what’s possible? Dreaming of warm water paddling and adventures with your family? Stay tuned for next week to learn more about family kayaking adventures in Ecuador!

The Vincent Family (www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.twitter.com/chasingthesunyt // www.chasingthesun.ca )

More info can be found at:

Costa Rica Rios (www.costaricarios.com)

Esprit Rafting (http://www.riversandrainforest.com/costa-rica)

Endless River Adventures (https://endlessriveradventures.com/international-trips/costa-rica/kayak-costa-rica/)