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...

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