Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 Fall Update

The NWBPC experienced some great fall paddling. Late August and early September trips to Likely included some fantastic runs on the Lower Cariboo and Upper Quesnel rivers. Likely fest was a great time (as usual), even if the organized party scene was a bit more low key (couldn't have been that bad if one NWBPC club member flew all the way from the UK just to be there). Pictured above are club members Duncan McColl and Matt DeLong at the bouillon pit.

Kayakers weren't the only paddlesport enthusiasts to shred Likely. New to PG and club member wannabe Andrew Cline made multiple first descents in the Central Interior this season as a stand-up-paddler. AC had some great surfs on the Lower 'boo on this spectacular day of sunshine and green glassy waves.

September also saw a small contingent of NWBPC members head east for Mini Fraser fest. Although the temps were cool, and the levels were low, it was a good intro to the Upper Fraser for new club members. Vet Ian Norn showed us the ropes and styled Overlander and Rearguard Falls in the process. Here's Ian hitting the cleanest line of the day on Overlander, making it look way too easy.

NWBPC members also highly benefited from the rediscovery of the Whitemud rapids on the Nechako river. Although the Nechako dropped significantly through the fall, it was by far the warmest water around. The Whitemud rapids provided excellent post-work sessions through the week. Although the features were small, the dropping water levels continually revealed a changing river and new features to discover. Pictured below is newbie paddler Haley Letchford finding her mojo at WM.

Some of the last outings for club members this year included runs on the Lower Quesnel. This is a stellar run. It's short, but the play is endless. Quesnel shred king Richard Dekker led multiple NWBPC paddlers on first time runs on this section of the river in September and October. This is a run that will no doubt be on more paddlers "must paddle" list for 2013. Pictured below is NWBPC paddler Jason McCloy ripping up Roadside.

With winter on it's way and rivers freezing over paddlers have moved into the pool to stay on their game and help newbies develop some skills. Club organized sessions are slated for December 12th, January 16th, February 13th, and then will begin weekly March 6th to April 17th. All sessions are from 9 to 10pm. If you've been thinking about checking out the sport, there's no better place to try it out than in the pool. If you're looking to meet paddlers and make sure they're all not a bunch of weirdos, you can also check out the club Facebook page here and connect at an upcoming social.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summertime Update

Summer's winding down but NWB members continue paddling local runs, travelling to paddling festivals, and finding prime features. The season has been marked by a handful of new paddlers who have really made an investment in time and energy to get themselves on rivers, upping their skill sets and confidence. Pictured above is newbie Erin getting a sweet ride at Surf City.

The season began with a handful of runs on the Willow. A bit further East, the Bowron soon came in, forming the local favourite Wayne's World wave. The wave can often come in for a short period of time, before the river level drops again. But this year the river kept rising. Thankfully, the log jam that helps create the eddy service to the wave didn't blow out. It looked like it might on a few occasions.

With the rising water came the formation of a new wave. It quickly became known as the Brown wave, perhaps due to the colour of the water at this time of year. The high water also forced paddlers to be creative with the run through Portage Canyon. Part of the Vama Vama FSR washed out, and paddlers opted to take out at Box Canyon off the Beaver FSR. Pictured below is Jason and Al at the Brown wave.

Nine boaters made an early June run on the Blackwater, a seldom run river an hour Southwest of PG. The run is made challenging by a 27km section of canyon beginning shortly after the put-in. It quickly turned "epic" as a paddler was injured in the first third of the run. This resulted in a five hour hike by the injured paddler and two others. Thankfully, Ross was ok, and all ended well with pizza and beers at the end of the day. In the picture below the road we hiked to is beyond the tree line!

As levels dropped, play came in on the Willow, and some guy with a surfboard showed up to carpool to the river one evening. Most of us didn't know what to think of the guy doing the SUP thing, but he quickly gained respect from everyone. The balance and control required to do everything we do sitting on our butts, standing up, is phenomenal. Andrew later pushed the limits of local SUP with a great run on the Lower Lower Willow.

The summer also saw the rediscovery of a set of rapids, possibly un-run for 10 years. The Whitemud rapids on the Nechako river, which become "prime" at around four on the online gauge, are catch-on-the-fly, but provide lots of entertainment and the feeling of paddling "bigger water." Pictured below is Duncan McColl.

August paddling has been marked by trips by NWB paddlers to Clearwater, Skookumchuck Narrows, the Kananaskis river, and Tatlow fest in Smithers. This weekend paddlers descend on Likely for runs on the Cariboo and Quesnel rivers, in anticipation of Likely fest in mid September. Spirits have been high with the growth of the club over the past year. However, there's also been an explosion of popularity on the club's Facebook page. Although it hasn't been rare to see 10 paddlers out for a run throughout the season, it's a far cry from the 100+ "virtual paddlers" on our Facebook group. So, if you've been following us on FB, send us a message, learn how to roll, and we'll do our best to organize a paddle that matches your ability level. Ciao, and happy paddling!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring, finally

With a number of river runs in the last week and the last of a very successful set of pool sessions, paddling season is well under way in Prince George.

Early in the year Brigade members travelled to several world-class paddling venues within BC, looking for warmer temperatures and decent boating. A trip to Tofino on Vancouver Island was definitely a departure for me personally, I'd never tried board surfing before so ocean waves were a new challenge. 

On a couple of days the wind was off the hook and it made paddling out past the breaking surf difficult. I quickly developed a good deal of respect for the raw power of ocean surf, getting it wrong would occasionally result in my short boat being tumbled end-over-end. River waves generally don't do that :) How Matt managed standing up on his surfboard was beyond me. Judging by the number of waves Rebecca and I caught in our kayaks, boat surfing seems much simpler.

By the end of the week I was on my own paddling, but I managed to hook up with some Vancouver Kayak Club boaters and was impressed to see they had some novices riding the whitewater closer to the beach. They looked like they were having a complete blast.

I'm resolved to organise another winter trip to Tofino, it's a beautiful chilled out little town with some awesome surf. Roll on next winter (did I really just say that??). Thanks to Matto for organising the trip, and to Luke for accommodations and sick surf videos.

Over the Easter weekend, Rebecca and I paddled the Chilliwack River near Chilliwack in BC. The canyon section was at very low water but made for a technical (and sometimes thrilling) start to paddling rivers this season. We also managed a run from Slesse Creek to Tamahi rapid, which was a much more relaxed paddle in glorious sunshine.

After Easter the rivers around PG were open enough for paddling to begin in earnest. Beginner runs down the Nechako in town and runs down Isle Pierre and the Lower Willow for the more experienced have all been fun, with the Willow already well on its way to a very high level. Prime Willow canyon play levels occurred around mid April.

In the next few weeks we will be organising lake sessions to introduce interested beginners to paddle strokes as well as rolling in cold water. Keep an eye on the club's Facebook page or the club blog for updates on this.

That's it for now, apart from a big thanks to Matt DeLong for organising the pool sessions. Thanks also to everyone that took part, especially those that brought boats and gear and gave up their pool time to help out new paddlers.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pool sessions 2012

If recent weather is anything to go by then Winter is pretty much over. Time then to begin thinking about long evenings paddling on a lake, or drifting between rapids in the warm sun. The paddling season in Prince George traditionally begins with sessions in the pool to prepare for the year ahead, and this year is no different. We will be renting the shallow pool at the Prince George Aquatic Centre from 9-10pm every Monday evening starting on March 5th and running into the start of the outdoor paddling season in April.

Pool sessions are a great way to dust off your skills and equipment for the rivers and we hope to see many existing paddlers there, especially if you haven't managed to get to any of the informal sessions that have been going on over winter.

If you are a novice or have never been in a kayak before but have any sort of interest in paddling, whether it's taking on some of the many local rapids, touring on lakes, or simply floating down the Nechako then learning to roll is a key skill that will bolster your confidence enormously on the water. Club pool sessions are a great way to learn the roll since seasoned paddlers will be on hand to offer the benefits of their experience.

No previous experience or equipment is required, there should be spare boats and paddles available. However these will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. If you wish to guarantee the availability of a boat then contact Rick at Backwater Paddling via phone or email to discuss a rental. Rick's website is

Costs for pool sessions this year are $25 for the first session which includes club membership for the year and insurance for club events, and $5 per subsequent session. Please note when you attend the pool DO NOT pay the pool entrance fee, just mention the kayak club and pay your fees to the eager-looking gentleman with the kayaks.

That's all for now, see you in the pool!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

(Very) Early season paddling

Jaws Of Death on the Thompson River

Take three bored paddlers and a night in the pub and the result is usually something interesting. In this case it turned out to be New Years Day paddling - somewhere. The trick was to find ice-free water on January 1st, not an easy task in Central BC. However a friend had explained that Tatlow Falls in Smithers was open due to the warmer than usual Winter. Plan A was to hike into Tatlow through the snow and surf the falls, then hang out with friends and celebrate the New Year. The night before we were due to leave however, we got pictures showing Tatlow frozen solid. A quick rethink (again, in the pub) and the next morning we were headed to Prince Rupert to surf Butze, a tidal rapid off the coast.

Hayley laughing off the cold

A combination of early tides, hangovers and a long hike to the put in meant that Butze was dropping quickly when we got to it, a couple of hours paddling on small waves and a pourover hole whilst the rain blew in horizontally and we'd had enough. It was time to make the 800Km drive back. Still, spending New Year with good friends in a hot tub under the stars was something I won't forget in a hurry.

We decided that we needed to be more organised if we were going to road trip, so came up with the idea of heading South to paddle in warmer climes. So Hayley, Jason and I loaded our boats and gear and began the long drive towards Vancouver. Plan was to find a river that would allow us to do some basic eddy turns and rolls in the cold, then find something more entertaining.

Hayley's parents kindly put us up the first night and as paddling accommodation goes it was first rate, another starry hot tub night and plenty of home made food meant that next morning we were ready for a cold paddle. We headed towards the Thompson River and found that Frog Wave and some of the more famous features were in even at the low water level. We were excited to paddle but an icy blast coming down the river valley made it almost unthinkable. Video and pictures that I took came out blurry as I couldn't stop from shaking violently even under my warm layers. Eventually we decided to miss it since the grade was a bit too high for Hayley and we wanted to all be able to paddle. When we got to Lytton we found the Thompson considerably more sheltered and we were able to put the boats in and do some basic river manouevers and rolls, followed by a quick run through a class II wave train. After taking my boat out I found my pfd straps and spraydeck had a coating of ice, like a scene out of The Day After Tomorrow :)

Wave train on the Thompson

We headed south and spent the night in Abbotsford, with no real idea what to paddle the next day since both the Seymour and Capilano rivers (plan A and B respectively) had now dropped to an unrunnable level. After more beers and another late start we visited Western Canoeing and Kayaking and wandered around like kids in a candy store for a bit. We left with a guidebook and plan C, which was to paddle a section of the Chilliwack, a nice solid class II run. With only one vehicle we decided to paddle down and then hitch-hike back to the truck.

The put-in rapid provided a bit of surfing and entertainment whilst everyone geared up and carefully climbed down the snow covered bank to the river. After that it was a nice run through wave trains with the odd catch-on-the-fly wave or small hole. Fishermen seemed the biggest hazard with one on almost every bend or rapid. Still they were all very courteous, except for one who seemed to think we could just duck under his river-wide line.

Hayley had managed to nail her first ever combat roll after going over on a seam but given that she was wearing a thin drytop and wetsuit she was severely cold by the end of the run. We hauled out as soon as the road was in sight and then made her run up the road to hitch a lift, very gentlemanly I'm sure but at least she stayed warm :) Very quickly a fellow paddler ran her back to the truck and soon we were all sat in a pub feeling considerably more human for a hot chocolate.

Paddling around Vancouver

Sunday we were in Vancouver and sadly the river levels were still too low despite (or possibly because of) a layer of fresh snow. So we entertained ourselves by paddling around the sea wall, throwing a few squirts and stalls to the amusement of those walking around Stanley Park.

Jason enjoying the sunshine off Stanley Park

Leaving sunny Vancouver and heading back ten hours to find PG at minus 26c was not much fun. But every trip has to end before the next one starts :) Meantime paddling will be in the pool, at least until I get the feeling back in my toes. Roll on spring!

Thanks to Hayley and Jason for the massive amount of driving and of course for their company, as well as Ross and Irene and Hayley's family for the awesome accommodations, and Tyler for the drinks ;) Pics by Jason and myself.