Sunday, March 12, 2006

Friday 10 March 2006

It was a hell of a Friday. We started the day with a trip to Pacifica Paddlesports, where after Paula picked up some new gear—a couple of stuff sacks and a weather radio mainly—we finally loaded up her new kayak. The Old Town Adventure XL 12.5 is a real beauty. It is rotomolded plastic—well, Old Town raves about it being a patented “polylink 3”, but it is still a plastic boat—but it has forward and rear watertight compartments and a rudder, making it a boat suitable for overnight trips and extended touring. The price was so good that she bought it without even a test paddle, but from the configuration, it should be similar to the Pamlico 100 in stability. It comes in right around the fifty pound mark, so Paula will be able to lift it on her own if need be. But until the need arises, it looks like I'll be the one humping it about.

The neoprene skirt wasn't in stock, so it should be arriv ing sometime this coming week, leaving only the problem of a new paddle to be taken care of. But with Ocean River holding their spring gear up sale March 18 and 19, we will take care of that problem soon as well. This will give us four paddles for two boats—the bare minimum as far as we're concerned. With Alison's boat and equipment the past couple of weeks (while she's been paddling rental boats in New Zealand), we've been quite comfortable with two paddles for each boat. And with the low key nature of the paddle group, two extra paddles for the group has seemed to be sufficient.

There is also a plan to buy an Advanced Elements nine-foot inflatable in the next week or so—thank goodness for money in the mail!--and a new PFD. Then the accumulation of more safety gear like another pump and throw line. Paula's current intention is to haul the inflatable to Mississauga and paddle it through the Toronto Islands just off the CN Tower.

We've also acquired a full skirt for the Pam (a Seal nylon skirt from Mountain Equipment Co-op) and it is pretty much fully kitted out. This includes a drybag with both first aid equipment and spare clothes after John's experience in inversion a couple of weeks back (see his posting below for details). As John commented last weekend; “Sure, one dump and all of a sudden everybody's got a drybag!”

The afternoon continued with me going shopping for gear—well, just a second drybag for the new boat, but still.... So Paula is also kitted out with spare clothes and a first aid kit.

And although I almost forgot, I managed to get down to Ocean River in time to attend the Reel Paddling Film Festival Friday evening. Talk about good value for the money--$10 got about two and a half hours of film, a magazine subscription (Rapid, Adventure Kayaking, or Family Camping and Canoeroots) and any profits are going to the Boy and Girls Club.

Six films were chosen for the evening from the 21 listed on the tour book. The choices were good ones; This is the Sea 2 (two parts—Skookumchuck and Greenland Paddling), Daily Planet: White Water Evolution, Across Asgaard, Kayaks on the Roof of the World, and Hypoxia 2.

The first film pretty much set the tone of the evening. This is the Sea 2: Skookumchuck was a group of people paddling sea touring kayaks in some of the crazier water this planet offers; the tidal race at Skookumchuck. Currents up to 15 knots and a bottom of massive rock pieces create a challenging environment for anything to survive in—let alone a paddler in a mid-size boat. Massive standing waves, water better suited to a river, and a group of paddlers showing off their amazing skills made for a memorable opening to the evening. Particularly the opening shot of the paddler's face as she approached and was maytagged in some crazy water—and came out with a massive grin on her face.

Daily Planet: White Water Evolution is exactly that, a clip from Daily Planet (the science news program on the Discovery network) showing some of the ways that white water kayaking has evolved over the last decade or two. People going really fast, people twisting through a slalom course, people falling over waterfalls, and (possibly strangest of all) people in boats that float just under the surface of the water and are used to corkscrew down into the water until the paddler is ten or fifteen feet down.

The first half ended with Across Asgaard, where Frank Wolf and Todd Macafie canoe across Norway, Sweden and end their trip 800 kilometres later in Finland, trying to retrace an ancient Viking trade route across Scandinavia. That they are even able to talk to each other at the end of trip is astonishing. But along the way, they talk to Saami people, at least one of whom is still a bit sore about Norse double taxation. Bloody Vikings....

Regretfully I didn't win the PFD during the intermission, but I did manage to get in to the bathroom—which was probably poorer odds than the door prize.

The first film after the break was This is the Sea 2: Greenland Paddling. This featured Doug VanDoren talking about and demonstrating classic Greenland paddling technique and rolls. His successful roll completion using a latex examination glove blown up while under water was a classic. But he really became my personal hero when he slowly stood up in his kayak and began to juggle. My new hero and my new goal, eh?

Kayaks on the Roof of the World was a pretty good whitewater doc. To quote the program:

In 2005, a group of kayakers travelled to the remote Parlung Tsangpo in eastern Tibet to attempt the first descent of the river. Two years earlier, expedition leader Chris Jones had decided to give something back to the area by training the first Tibetan kayakers. High altitudes and difficult whitewater challenge the expedition while a group of Tibetans put their two years of practice together and discover the joys and frustrations of river running.

While this crew does share what seems to be the standard view of all whitewater kayakers that “any river is ours to run—simply because we own kayaks,” Chris Jones does give the impression that something deep inside him is tied to Tibet, and because of this feeling he tries to give something back to the country and its people.

The overwhelming feeling one is left with after watching the evenings final film, Hypoxia 2, is that here is an excellent accidental documentary of whitewater cultural imperialism. Oh, this crew has attitude in spades; they don't respect local laws, customs, or feelings. “We are white, western, and sponsored. Get the fuck out of our way,” is really all the depth this lot are capable of. From running from the cops in Sweden, to running the Baktiari River in Iran just after the end of the siege of Fallujah, this crew has no idea why they are resented by the local population, shot at, and stolen from. Personally, I felt they deserved worse than what they got, but then that's just me. Although it was kind of nice to see Canada represented in the film, I won't be crushed if they never return. But they can be found at

Helluva Friday.

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