Tag Archives: whitewater kayaking

CKS Paddlefest is a must-do for families

This post was written for Jackson Kayak and can also be found at: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/06/09/cks-paddlefest-is-a-must-do-for-families/

CKS Paddlefest is held over the memorial day long weekend in Buena Vista, Colorado, a funky mountain town a few hours west of Denver. It just celebrated it’s 18th year and keeps getting better and better for both paddlers and families alike.

Once you arrive in the South Main area of Buena Vista, you can pretty much park your vehicle and spend the rest of your time walking or biking everywhere, which is such an amazing things for families. This is our second year here and were were once again impressed with the friendliness of the people, the cleanliness of the area and the general fun factor of the event, which includes running races, a disc golf tournament, bouldering competitions, Stand up paddle boarding, flat water activities, freestyle kayaking and down river kayaking. Pretty much something for everyone!


There are 3 solid choices for accommodations:

* Camping or RVing in the camping area that is right beside the river. It’s mostly a gravel lot but convenience outweighs everything else.

* Air BnB / Vacation Rental of a house or apartment in the South Main area – no more than 2 blocks from the river and all the action in the main green

* Hotel – stay at the Surf Hotel, which is right on the Arkansas River and in the middle of everything

Fun family activities off the water:

* Buena Vista playground is about 3 blocks from the river, full of high quality playground equipment and right next to the community centre bathrooms (super handy – someone was thinking!)

* Buena Vista skate park is just on the other side of the playground and has features that work for beginner through to expert and both skateboards and scooters

* Buena Vista pump track is just across the road from the playground (what amazing forethought to put these 3 sites within 100 yards of each other) and super fun to play on with your bikes

* There is even a dog park that has agility toys so you can get your dog out and playing (located just on the other side of the pump track)

* South Main bouldering park is SUPER Fun for kids of any age – nothing beats climbing up and around things to keep everyone smiling. Most kids are out in their socks or bare feet vs actual climbing shoes.

* Run around in the big grassy area at the South Main square, which has a nice mixture of grass, shade, benches for mom and dad and a bouldering rock to climb on

Getting out on the water:

There are on water activities from Friday through to Monday and are geared at a wide range of paddlers. You can choose to compete in some events (freestyle, downriver class IV and downriver class II) or just take a workshop or two from world class paddlers.

* This year there was a fun kids paddling event at the pond geared at getting kids out kayaking on flat water. A number of the kids from the Jackson Team were on hand to teach some skills and cheer on others as they learned.

* Freestyle clinics were taught by Stephen Wright and Mathieu Dumoulin

* EJ was running slicy boat clinics on both Saturday and Sunday to help people make the most of the newest old school boats and tricks

* Rocky Mountain Outdoor Company runs full day kayak river running sessions for a range of skills

* You can also take ACA instructor classes to get your certifications or re-certify

On top of of that, Buena Vista is just a beautiful place to hang out. There are a range of trails to walk, run, hike and bike on that you can access directly from the South Main area. Lots of restaurants within easy walking distance and three ice cream shops so you won’t get in a rut!

One of the things that we love best about CKS Paddlefest is how safe it is. If feels like a small town event and there are no concerns about the kids running around back and forth between the river and the campground or even heading down to main street to get ice cream.  We completely recommend CKS Paddlefest as a family event – whether you come to compete (because that is super fun), to learn (amazing opportunities) or just to paddle some of the fun rivers and features in the area.

Paddling moms rock!

This post was originally published at: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/05/09/paddling-moms-rock/

With mothers day right around the corner, I wanted to take a moment and celebrate kayak moms, and most specifically the paddling kayak mom. Paddling kayak mom’s are lucky as they have a choice…similar to sports like hockey, soccer or swimming, a kayak mom can choose to be the shuttle driver and stand watching from the riverside OR they can chose to get in a kayak/canoe and get out on the river with their kids and their family.

Those are the moms that we are honouring today – the paddling mom. Those mom’s are a varied group – some were paddlers before their kids and continued seamlessly while their kids were young through to when they were able to get them on the water. Some were paddlers before their kids and then took a break from the sport while their kids were little, finding it again when their kids were old enough to get involved. And some jumped into the sport with both feet as their kids were learning.
These moms are amazing role models that deserve to be celebrated. They are growing a whole new generation of paddlers. They are role modelling active, healthy living and family time. They are modelling bravery and life long learning. And they are demonstrating humility and team spirit, especially as their kids surpass them. They get to be there for the lows when their children have an energy bonk and crash in the middle of the river run or stand in tears when scouting a rapid that they are terrified of. They also get to be there for the highs of that first surf, that first big drop or must make move. Sometimes they are right there in the middle of the run with their child and sometimes they have portaged the feature and are providing safety. Either way – these are now shared memories and moments that will last a lifetime.
Here are a few of the amazing mom’s that are part of the Jackson Kayak team, and their stories behind why they chose to get in the water with their families.
“I love paddling with my family for the simple fact that we are all together conquering the same hurdles, enjoying the same conquests and running the gamut of emotions at the same time. It’s pretty sweet where on any given day, I can be coached by my 15m 17 & 20 year old sons and then turn around and look like I know what I’m doing when I give the same advice to my 13, 12, 10 and 8 year old kiddos!” Susie Kellogg’
“I began paddling because my family loves to paddle and I love to spend time with my family. I love to see them try new things and improve in their skills and joke and have fun together on the river. Over time, my reason for paddling has changed a bit. Now I paddle for myself as well. I like to try new things and feel the sense of accomplishment as I improve in my skills. I love the way paddling brings our family together, and the super people we meet through the sport, but I also love it for the growth and fun that I have on the river.” Carol Walker
Where else can you immerse your family in solitude, with lessons in environment, ecology, hydrology, geology, etc.. You learn to listen, trust, follow directions – and it never ends. Every river is different, and every level is a new river. To watch your child grow on the water, learn the basic skills, and follow you – then lead you – as they grow in confidence and decision making skills, accepting risk with confidence, and making choices to walk, based on their ability and tenacity, and then realize they have surpassed you in, not only paddling, but the understanding and power of the water, and the confidence to run things you never dreamed of. That’s when you know you have raised your child the right way. When my daughter runs class 5 rivers, I’m often asked if I’m scared or worried – and I’m not. Because the river has raised her to be the person she is, and I beam with pride to know this is a direction we turned her to… and she has the knowledge, strength, confidence and skill to head down, making good decisions as she goes. These lessons transfer to a lot of life situations, and I cherish watching her handle them with poise, strength and grace. As a couple, and a family, we have trust, communication, and respect for each other and the environment, all lessons encouraged by the river, so yes, we love to paddle together! Stephanie Viselli
I love being on the water, not only with my family, but with other families. I love nothing more than seeing my kids have fun with other kids on the water while learning and challenging their skills. My favorite moments are the flat waters in between where we connect and share experiences as parents and families. I always relish in the magic of these moments never wanting them to end. Paddling with my family is our bond. We are unconnected, unplugged, not being entertained, but rather creating our own moments. I’ll never forget when I saw Jackie get her first combat rolls in the pool session. Maddie’s slug roll – no hand roll on the Ottawa. The magic is that I am not on the sideline watching as a fan, but that I am as much in the moment with them on the water as a participant in the same sport. I get to play and we get to play together.  Stace Kimmel
Turning moments into lasting memories, with my family, is the reason that I kayak. Not only does this sport keep me pushing myself, but the unplugged time on the rivers, with my family, creates enjoyment that I have not been able to duplicate in any other activity. Melissa Hargrove
If you are currently a riverside kayak mom – take the opportunity to get out with your family, even just for a flat water paddle, this year for Mother’s Day. If your family doesn’t kayak and you happen to be reading this – definitely give it a try. Most kayak shops offer lessons, which can be a great way to start on the water as a family together.
For us, this will be a life long sport – something we come together to do and something we do separately. It’s a shared passion, with a shared language, that allows us to meet new people, explore new places and get outside as often as possible.
Lee Vincent

Kicking off the kayaking season – build progression into your goals

This post was initially posted at https://www.levelsix.com/blogs/blog/kicking-off-the-kayaking-season-build-progression-into-your-goals

Progression in kayaking is an amazing, terrifying and rewarding activity. It’s HARD sometimes and yet oh so worth it…

 With a fresh paddling season upon us, this is a great time to think about what your goals are for the year. It’s also a great time to be kind and generous to yourself and remember that your season does not have to be full of “go big or go home” moments. First and foremost, kayaking is supposed to be fun. Consider having progression as a goal in itself.

 We’ve learned a few tips for progression that I wanted to share:
1) If at all possible, have a home river that you can use for your progression benchmark. It is great to have a place where you are highly comfortable to measure your improvement against. Is that ferry easier than it was a month ago now that you’ve challenged yourself on some other rivers? Can you run the harder sneak and feel in control the whole time after having consistently run the easier line? What one thing can you do on this run that is different from your normal runs?
2) Find people that you trust to paddle with that will support your efforts to stretch yourself. Will they take the easier lines down a new river section for you to expand your experiences? Will they teach you how to boof that one tricky feature on your home river? They can be your biggest cheerleader and you need that when you are pushing yourself. Progression means growing, and growing often means feeling uncomfortable, which leads to a whole lot of adrenaline running through your system, which can be exhausting and overwhelming. Hence the very valuable external support.
Tim & Hunter Vincent in the Ottawa River
3) Take your time and move at your own pace. Progress doesn’t have to be linear. We have been to Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade Idaho 3 times now. The first time I (Lee) didn’t go in the top hole at all. Looked at it and said, “no thank you”. The second time I went in it, got worked and again said “no thank you” for a repeat adventure. Our third trip was in late June of last year. The weather was warm and I decided that I was going to push myself. My goal was to be comfortably surfing in it by the end of our visit, which was 10 days long. I spent the first five days in “get to know you” mode. The most logical approach to the wave was through a big foamy hole and it terrified me so I practiced dropping in from up top, from entering on the far side and by just paddling into the back of the foamy hole but not actually going into the trough. Five days in and I was starting to get the feel for the foamy stuff so started dropping into the hole and just side surfing. Days 6-9 were works in progress with some big high 5’s and a few topsy-turvy beatings that had me call it a day. Day ten and I closed off my visit with entering through the hole side, front surfing the wave under control, got a spin and back surf and even had an unintended wave loop.

4) Work on the mental side of things as much as the technical and physical. Why is my 14 years old progressing faster than me? He’s more willing to throw himself into a feature and work it out than I am. Case in point is he was surfing the top feature at Kelly’s on our first trip. It was his first time surfing in a hole that big and he got stuck in a side surf, had that terrified look and feeling of fear about how am I going to get out, got worked and swam. But got back in again and carried on. Many of us adults have stronger recall of that uncomfortable feeling and don’t jump up and down to replicate it. Anna Lesveque wrote a great article on paddling resilience that is worth a read for additional tips in this area (https://mindbodypaddle.com/8287/build-emotional-resilience-water/).
5) A day on the water is better than not going out on the water. If you aren’t feeling it or the run your friends are running is just too daunting, take a look for a way to still get out and do something on the water. Can you drive shuttle and then put in from the take out and paddle up to meet them on an easier section of whitewater? Can you find a place where you can go back to basics and spend time finding the joy in jet ferries or zen-like front surfing? Can you find a nice eddy or lake and practice your flatwater skills?

Bonus: embrace the swim. It happens to everyone for one reason or another. Don’t beat yourself up. Shake your head, self-rescue, smile and then get back out there!
Tim Vincent, Columbus Georgia Chattahoochee River
Tim & Hunter Vincent
Tim & Hunter Vincent


Columbus for the win yet again!

Our first experience in Columbus, Georgia was two years ago. We spent a week in late November and were so impressed with everything that the city had to offer – both on the water and off. It was definitely a “must do” for our travels this fall in the south east. Lucky for us, it is an incredible paddler friendly town with a secret parking lot that is steps from the river. Urban camping at its best…

The main features are located on the Chattahoochee River, which runs right down the Alabama / Georgia border and through the main business area of Columbus (aka Uptown Columbus). There is a 2.5 mile stretch of whitewater that ranges from class II to III+ depending on the water level. There is also park and play off the island with a number of different waves that come and go at different water levels.

Water levels range from 1-4 generators and can be checked here. Predictions can be found at the Georgia Power website (select Bib Mill Pond) but they are often wrong… (to translate 1000 cfs = 1 generator, 5000 cfs = 2 generators, 10,000 cfs = 3 generators). As you can see from the chart, the water levels move around a lot. The positive note is there is something fun at every level.


One of the best parts of our year this year has been meeting so many other great kayakers. It was fun to get to connect with people in Columbus that we originally met back in May at Buena Vista at CKS Paddlefest.

At the top part of the island is a small wave hole and a set of rocks that is super fun to practice pogo flips off of.

Next up comes Waveshaper wave (what you can see through the boys).

Then you get to Oli wave, which shows up at 2 generators and above – super smooth surf wave with a nice pocket.

Good Wave is next in the line up (photo of Matt Hargrove styling it!) – it shows up at 2 generators and really picks up at 3 generators. Considered comparable to Garborator Wave at the Ottawa.

This is Good Wave at 1 generator – definitely a different feature… great for beginners to build up their surfing skills.

Just after Good Wave is Micro Wave, which comes in between 1 and 2 generators, and is a great beginner surf wave and a fun place to play King of the Wave, which Tim was pleased to be crowned winner…

At 2 generators and above, Great Wave is also in, which is the last wave in the line up and can be a first experience at a wave that you drop into and it stops you before zipping you down the face of the wave, ala baby face on the Ottawa.

It was pretty fabulous to spend 4 days with the Hargrove Family during our recent visit. Nothing better than having like minded friends to hang out with, on and off the river, especially for travelling families…

Once again we have to say a HUGE thanks to Outside World Columbus for their amazing hospitality. Be sure to check out their store when you are in town!

We also strongly recommend both Barberitos and Your Pie pizza shop for yummy affordable lunches and dinner. They are both located in Uptown Columbus, which is only a few blocks from the river.

Wilson Creek – a little bit of California in North Carolina

Wilson Creek, designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, is a beautiful place tucked away in central North Carolina within the Pisgah National Forest. We had a great time running this with friends in mid-October after rains brought the levels up.

The run is about 2 miles long and people often do at least 2 laps in a day. Assume your first lap will take 1.5+ hours and your second will be close to an hour since you now have a better sense of the lines. The road parallels the entire river so you can scout everything and shuttle is quite easy – could be done by biking or running if need be.

The entire run is in a granite canyon, which makes it feel more like California than eastern USA. It was a full face helmet and elbow pads kind of day due to all of the drops, slides and rock boofs. Although the guidebook says that this is good up to “2” on the gauge, local intel suggests not doing it at anything greater than “1”. We did it at 0.5 and it was a great first time level. There are a few sticky holes placed throughout the river so be sure to read the guidebook or find a local for a guided tour down on your first run.