Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Spring turns it up a notch: BAM! (This post is from 2009)
From Spring 2009 Whitewater Rafting photos
Sun, Rain, Snow, and Flowing California Whitewater Rivers!
Day One of Spring... travel time!

From Spring 2009 Whitewater Rafting photos
Day Two of Spring, we hit the South Fork and North Fork American Rivers. Some adventurous couples ran the Chili Bar section of the South Fork American with Drew and Booty, and a bachelor party ran the North Fork with Justin, Alex H. and Greg D.

The flows were perfect and the weather cooperated. That night in camp at Camp Lotus we had students from UC San Diego that came up early for the NoFo on Sunday.

Day Three of Spring, we picked up the UCSD students at Camp Lotus and drove to the North Fork American...then the rain started... and by the time we reached Weimar and Colfax, it was snowing BIG FAT FLAKES of Spring snow!!!!! The North Fork American was 1,700 CFS (cubic feet per second) ...perfect... and the snow turned to rain. (UC Berkeley wha 'sup?)

By the time Justin and Alex hit the takeout at Ponderosa Way, the sun was out and the golden California Poppies were open and blazing orange: a beautiful California Spring on amazing California Whitewater!

We're now 18 days into our season and we've been on the river 15 of those days, and we've run the North Fork American and South Fork American repeatedly. What's next? Who's next? Back to it!

From Spring 2009 Whitewater Rafting photos
So far... Country Mike, Drew, Booty, Robin, Nick, Duff, Greg D., Chad, Bird, Alex H., Chris Z., RoBo, and Justin have answered the call... so where are you Saul, Jonny, Jason, Meg, Mag, K-Dawg, Rob, Wolf, D-Rex, Mac, Theo, Tom, Kyle, Ninja Mike, Disco E, Cool J, and Heffe?

Hehehe ... bring it.

... stay tuned... shhhhhh Triple Crown on American River next week!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lars Holbeck

Lars Holbeck passed away Friday night after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Lars and his friends: Chuck Stanley, Banducci, Richard Montgomery, and others took their kayaks, kayaking, and all whitewater sports to a level that no one ever realized was possible.

Lars and Chuck were the ring-leaders and scribes to an era of discovery that the California and World whitewater communities never saw coming. Lars Holbeck and Chuck Stanley wrote the classic: The Best Whitewater in California: The Guide to 180 Runs. (Third Edition)

This book is the bible for California whitewater. I would say 90% of all paddlers have purchased or traded that book... handing it down to the noobie paddler as they begin their journey into the world of whitewater. Mine simply fell apart after much use and being carried perpetually in my dry bag. Blogger BR Thomas wrote a review about the whitewater guide book for California as recently as in 2007.

UK Rivers Guidebook team member, Mark Rainsley wrote in his field report, "Lars Holbeck Must Die." His reference implied that Lars' book on California whitewater had taken the UK team from Wales on a dangerous adventure of Class 5+ rapids with no possible return.

British paddler Rainsley writes about Clear Creek; "All of a sudden, a horizon line came into view and like the close knit team that we are, we fought each other tooth and nail for the remaining break outs. That was a close one - a walled in hole immediately upstream of an undercut- unpaddleable (sic) by even the most hairy and gnarly of Pro boaters. It got worse, we then rounded the next corner only (to) be confronted with a huge steep walled-in rapid (Grade V? Grade VI?) which we couldn’t inspect or portage. There we were in a real live Foxy cartoon."

Lars also wrote: "The Rivers of Chile". Lars and kayaking friends ran the steepest rivers in the deepest canyons with skill, intelligence, and more than a bit of dumb luck ... they were the whitewater Jedi! He pioneered the now popular Futelafu River, a pristine whitewater river in Chile that is a true destination river for rafting and kayaking.

Within hours of his death, the news spread rapidly throughout the whitewater and river networks. In the Coloma - Lotus Valley in Northern California, the entire community gathered to honor this legend. Scores of kayakers and paddlers descended into the North Fork American to pay tribute to the man. The North Fork American River is a favorite for all the river community and now has conservation protection due to the Auburn Dam demise.

All of us (rafters, kayakers, paddlers) owe Lars Holbeck eternal respect for his exploits. The gift he shared of his California adventures, his paddling world, his love of the rivers, conveyed his passion for white water. His writing and journaling with no sponsors, no labels and no paychecks, is a testament to who he was as a man. Lars Holbeck loved whitewater rivers and the paddling community!

GoodOnYa Lars!
Stephen Liles
CEO, W.E.T. River Trips

Note: Thanks to UK Rivers Guidebook and BoaterTalk for photos...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Surf or Die

Surf ... or die.

Surfers have long suffered from the stigma and stereotypes propagated by cheesy, 60's surf movies, a butt-load of crappy music, and they were dragged into the 80's with Sean Penn's character of Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

Surfing has always been a metaphor for moving through life with danger, fear, excitement, and a certain disregard of the Establishment ... surfing is deeper than that.

For those that haven't tried surfing ... it is freakin' hard and requires dedication, stamina, perseverance, practice, and athleticism. Anyone can be a poseur ... not everyone can surf. Surfers know that ... maybe that's where some of the stereotype comes from ... that certain air of detachment and a sense of "knowing."

One of our guides, Justin, learned to surf this winter in Costa Rica and Baja. He didn't have a reason to learn ... neither did he have a reason not to. So, he did it. He discovered how hard it was to learn and how nearly impossible surfing is to master. He learned. He surfed. He's loving it. He's a surfer. (he is a former mortgage broker).

Justin just arrived back into California ready to guide rafts and paddle kayaks. He's' living it ... the dream.

Whitewater rafting is for all ages!

Not all surfers pull on wetsuits and stand on slabs of fiberglass while slipping down the face of a wave. Surfing is more than that. It's a challenge, a feeling, and it's the personal exposure that you can only experience when you submit to Nature, Fate, and conditions beyond anyone's control.

You can get that by biking, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, exercising, painting, writing, speaking, climbing, dancing, hang-gliding, flying, diving, jumping, bouncing, motorcycling, kite-boarding, kayaking, playing music, singing, burning man ... and by white water rafting!

You must do these things: step into nature, submit to her power, and ride it out. Then, paddle, walk, run, ride, crawl out and drop in again. You're living it.

I'm 53 years old and when I pull my KLR motorcycle up onto the rear wheel and ride it out to redline, or revel in the benefit of gravity that slings me down a snow slope, or paddle a raft down American whitewater, or speak in front of 6,000 people ... I remember how I felt when I paddled my homemade 10' surfboard into the north Pacific without a wetsuit in March in 1967 ... I was living it ... I was 12.

Surf ...or die.
(and check out some good surf music: Dick Dale, Los Straightjackets and the Mermen)

Advil is a wonderful thing!

Note: thank you to krungstock.com for the old surfer image! And thanks to WET River Trips for the all ages rafting picture!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Whitewater Rafting in California

What a surprise... the rain, the snow in late February has changed the entire landscape once again in California. Just a few weeks ago, we were planning on having a shorter spring rafting season. We just thought mother nature wasn't going to cooperate this year.

Now March is here and the storms are coming one right after another. I look up at the sky and see another round of dark clouds rolling in from the west...

white water rafting in california

North Fork American was at 10,000 cfs a couple of days ago. The flow, of course is far to big to go whitewater rafting on that stretch. The crew is on standby watching the rise of the rivers, waiting for the chance to jump on the rapids. A precious gem of crystalline waters rapidly descending from the mountains and into the river of dreams, is finally calling to me again.

forward paddle!

This is a river that challenges the seasoned paddler. Not fun in the sun, but fun under the gun! One right after another, the class 4+ rapids thrill and excite like no other extreme sport. Team building? This is the ultimate team building sport. No question... hands down, this river rafting trip is the best in Northern California.

california whitewater rafting

Friends of the River had a monumental victory this year regarding this precious resource. The North Fork American has staved off the water barons for now. The Auburn Dam has been shut down, at least for this round.

north fork american chamberlain falls

california rafting trips

Those of you who are mad about rivers and whitewater rafting should know: this is looking to be an incredible North Fork American season. We ask you to reserve now with the thought that this year, we need you to be experienced, aggressive paddlers on the Chamberlain Falls run

The Deal: call us now and receive the 2009 NoFo special; includes lunch, wetsuit, splash jacket, lifejacket, shuttle and our professional guide service. This year the price is all inclusive. We want reservations to be simple so pricing reflects that.

north fork american class 4+

kayaking north fork american river

There are three companies over there that we highly recommend:

WET River Trips (largest & longest use; most experienced)
American Whitewater (2nd largest use; experienced guides)
American River Recreation (regular use; experienced guides)

Note from WET River Trips: Russell Towle, champion of the North Fork American drainage system died a few months ago in a tragic auto accident.  A profound loss to the conservation community since there are so few with his passionate embrace of this river. There was a tribute for him in Dutch Flat, California. Here are some photos of Russell.

From the last post of his blog: "... brilliant and innovative mathematician, entranced by higher-dimensional forms. He was a computer animator. He was an extremely doting father who enjoyed every single moment of life with his kids. He was a lover of classical Latin literature and Shakespeare, of Tintin comics and Terry Pratchett novels. He was a historian and a writer; a geologist; a linguist; an artist; a builder; a musician with a special love of Brazilian music; a nature lover and photographer."