Category Archives: Rivers

LOCATION HOTSPOT: USA Raft Erwin, TN

Over the past few years I’ve started paddling more & more. My main focus has been Stand-Up Paddleboards or SUPs. Starting out on flat water and soon migrating to moving water, rivers. It’s opened up even more places to paddle and explore. Naturally after mastering slow moving rivers I began to explore whitewater. Now what used to be boring wave trains in a kayak, are hard and challenging obstacles to stay standing up thru. From my first rapid on the Winooski River, Hugo & JunkyardI WAS HOOKED!

Over the past two years my girlfriend and I have been spending our summers in Vermont and our winters down in Florida. With this option we get the best of both worlds. The warmest months up in the beautiful Green Mountain State and the coldest months down in Florida where sometimes its warmer than the warmest months in Vermont.

This spring, before we travelled back up North, we did a little research. Knowing we were going to driving up through western North Carolina and possibly Tennessee we started looking for outfitters in those areas where we could test out some whitewater SUPs. We quickly came across USA Raft on the Nolichucky River in Erwin, Tennessee. I contacted them and spoke with Matt Moses, the owner of the company, who told us they have some of the best whitewater in the Eastern US. He also had lodging options right there on site. It sounded good to us and we decided to stop and paddle on our way to Vermont.

Two days into our trip up North we arrived at USA Raft, and were impressed by the property. It has several larger buildings to support the staff, retail store, mess hall and lodging options for their customers. Walking around the property was amazing. It’s right on the river with beautiful mountain views within the Cherokee National Forest. The vibe is relaxed and casual, something you’d expect from a paddling outfitter. There is a pond next to the river where they offer weekly Sup Yoga lessons. After speaking with the staff in the office they said there was a Sup Yoga class that afternoon we could join if we wanted. I Love to paddle board but I’m not much for Yoga especially on a SUP so we graciously declined but said we’d love to come and watch.

The weather was beautiful and was expected to stay in the low 70s that night, so we decided to setup our hammocks in the trees near the Yoga pond. After getting settled in we walked back up to the office to rent a few paddle boards to run the 2 mile stretch of river below the outfitter. There were several different SUPs to rent and we decided on two of the Corran Streetfighters. They were short, wide and made of strong plastic and reminded me of a whitewater kayak only with a flat deck rather than a cockpit.

The rocky beach area on property was our launch spot from where we  began to paddle down the Lower Nolichucky River. Almost immediately there were some fun wave train sections of Class I/II. Its a shallow river, on average about a foot and a half deep so there were rocks to maneuver around and small wave trains to follow.  Further down there were some more Class II rapids with many different waves and eddies to play on and around. When we reached the end of the 2 mile stretch we loaded the boards onto my car, which the staff helped shuttle down earlier, and headed back up to USA Raft. 

We quickly ran to the grocery store within just a  few miles to grab provisions for the night, before the evening paddle session. The Hala Sales Rep, Jack Nelson, brought his boards to USA Raft for the yoga sessions and after yoga, the company does a group SUP paddle. We were able to join in, and I jumped on a Hala Hoss and my girlfriend jumped on a Hala Atcha with the StompBox (a retractable fin). As a group we headed down the Nolichucky as the sun was quickly dropping below the mountain ranges. This was the same section we had done earlier in the day, but it was even more fun to share the rapids with 8 other SUPpers of varying ability level. This was by far the largest group of white water SUP paddlers that we’ve encountered! USA Raft’s shuttle driver was waiting for us at the take out with van and trailer which we loaded and headed back up river.

After the typical post paddle drink and chat session, we all went our separate ways. My girlfriend and I were abel to hang out on the porch of USA Rafts tiny house as darkness took ahold of the valley and the stars began to twinkle. The tiny house is rentable on Airbnb and sleeps 6 people! The tiny house was actually made on Tiny House Nations so it has some really specialized features! It has a full bathroom and kitchen, although all miniaturized! But our favorite part is the deck, its wraps around the house and is ideal for relaxing into the evening.

 The next morning we got up and joined USA Raft for their most popular trip, The Nolichuky Gorge with a river side lunch. First, the raft guides did their safety spiel and tried to scare us all away before boarding the bus, but it didn’t work! We gathered our gear and loaded up. The bus took us up river over a sketchy, twisty, turny mountain pass. Thanks to our skilled driver, we made it safely without problem. I’ve always found, the narrower, the steeper and the twistier a shuttle ride is, the better the rapids following it are… so we just got more and more excited as we continued up river. At the top we unloaded and helped carry the rafts down to the river and off we went. The river was on the low side, but still plenty of fun. We had 6 people in a 6 person raft so we had no problem maneuvering around the rocks and getting through the numerous class 3-4 rapids while enjoying breath taking canyon scenery. About half way down the river we stopped at a river side lunch spot and the guides unloaded a feast! it was set up buffet style and we helped ourselves. After lunch, we continued downriver and landed back at USA Raft. Yup, thats right, they are right on the river at the perfect take out location after a morning of fantastic whitewater in the Nolichuky Gorge!

After rafting we reluctantly headed out of town. USA Raft was so welcoming that we found it hard to leave, but we’ll be back again!

A huge thanks goes out to Matt Moses the owner at USA Raft for hosting us and sharing his truly unique place in TN.

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2nd Annual Onion River Race & Ramble – June 6th 2015

What a great day for a river race!

If you didn’t know… today was the 2nd annual Onion River Race & Ramble  held on the Winooski River in Vermont. The course started below the Bolton Dam and finished at the bridge in Richmond. This ten mile stretch is a gorgeous scenic cut through the green mountains.

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The morning started out a little chilly for early June but attendance wasn’t affected from the cooler temps. Close to 90 people signed up this year to show their support and have fun at the same time which was almost double the turnout from last year. Umiak Outfitters helped out again by providing the shuttle for the eager participants. Noah from the Friends of the Winooski River led the group with a safety briefing before the heats started.

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Early in the race was the biggest obstacle, a set of rapids and rock garden, that stood between the racers and the flat water below. The tricky eddy lines surprised many paddlers letting them feel the cold temperatures of the Winooski River in June. There were many safety boaters on the water to help people to shore and recover their gear.

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Below the rapids lay many many miles of reasonably flat water on a normal day but today was different. A Northerly wind of 17 mph gave the paddlers a steady head wind most of the trip. At the end of the ten mile stretch you passed under the Richmond bridge and thus the finish line.

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After the racers finished and pulled their boats to shore they celebrated with a feast provided by Richmond Grange and sat down to reflect on the past few hours and enjoy some much needed food.

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All in all the day was beautiful, the people showed up to had fun and the Winooski River was once again conquered…at least for today.

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Big thanks to all the sponsors who without them this event wouldn’t have been possible. Sponsors include Friends of the Winooski River, with support from the Vermont River Conservancy,  Umiak Outfitters , the Vermont Paddlers’ Club , and the Richmond Grange.

Click the link below to view all of the photos from the days events.
Onion River Race & Ramble – June 6th 2015

 

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SUPing Mexico: Overnight on the Santa Maria

This Original story was written by NRS Ambassador, Aaron Koch. Click Here to see his bio on NRS.com 

 

AaronKoch NRS Ambassador, Aaron Koch, flees the brutal temperatures of the States and seeks winter refuge in Mexico. With girlfriend in tow, Aaron sets out on his SUP to paddle the scenic Santa Maria River.

In my relentless search for places to escape the cold, I found Mexico. A refuge from the polar vortexes of the U.S. and a paddler’s paradise. The whitewater is so diverse that you need multiple river craft to enjoy it all! But we only had our SUPs.

The headwaters of the Santa Maria River lie in the semi-desert region between the states of Queretaro and San Luis Potosi. Flowing 150 miles from the Gulf of Mexico where it converges with multiple rivers, and finally meets the salt water. The Santa Maria has no dams and all 150 miles are excellent runnable whitewater. Five canyons, miles of class IV-V big water and a 315-foot waterfall from the Rio Gallinas make this a multi-day paddlers dream!

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We recently did the most upper stretch of Santa Maria on SUP boards. The upper stretch is a 12-mile scenic canyon float with one class IV rapid. Our plan was to put on in the afternoon and camp beside the class IV. Put-ins in Mexico are sometimes an adventure in itself. This particular part of the river is a favorite watering hole for local cattle.

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Heather and I paddled the Czar 6 and Baron 6 SUPs. The extra flotation of the six-inch thick boards comes in handy when carrying camping gear and food. I carried the mosquito net, hammock, rain fly, a jet boil stove and a K-pump. Heather packed the extra clothes, water filter and head lamps.

The first day of paddling equaled to a little more than an hour. We found a nice spot on an island just beside the portage. One of the amazing things about inflatable paddleboards is how comfortable they are to sleep on. Let out half the air and you have a huge therma-rest bed. (The Baron 6 sleeps two—if you’re friendly.)

To avoid any bug encounters during the night, I strung our hammock loosely over the board. This hammock has mosquito netting built in and also comes with a nice rain-fly. It looked like rain, so we used the fly as well.

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After a good night’s sleep, we re-inflated the board, took a nice river shower, and launched for the next eight-and-a-half miles of class II. A portion of the old Spanish Silver Train, an improvised trail used in the 16th and 17th centuries to run silver from Peru to Panama, runs along the river’s right side. Huge Sabino trees, over 500 years old, lined the river banks. The Sabino tree has one of the most impressive root systems I’ve ever seen, creating incredible erosion protection. As their roots grow and intertwine they become an unbreakable shoreline.

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As we moved farther into the canyon, the riverbed became very sandy. If you’re just learning to SUP, the sand offers cushioning for the inevitable falls. There are numerous springs that enter the river as waterfalls descend on river left. I counted at least five, and all were quite a bit warmer than the actual river water. As you can imagine, they are also full of incredible vegetation.

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This section of the Santa Maria passes through the historic town of Conca, Queretaro, where a Franciscan mission was built in the 1700s. There are four more, nearly identical, missions throughout the region. At one point the river banks to the right and you can turn and see the Conca mission. It’s just visible in front of Heather above the first row of trees.

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If you are looking for new ways to enjoy and explore using a paddle board, I highly recommend this overnight trip. SUPs are the true SUV of paddle sports. With the right board and dry equipment the experience is stress-free and much easier than I ever thought possible. It’s your own personal watercraft and bed rolled into one. Make sure the run isn’t too difficult, because the weight of your gear does affect how the board handles. I found that by moving back towards the tail balances things out and makes for a great workout too.

​I know it’s still cold in the States right now, so roll up those boards, grab some friends and head down to Mexico and see us. Water temps are in the 70s and there are plenty of enchiladas to share.

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Gear Spotlight: Otentik Sunshade

We meet up with Ella at Surf Expo this year and got to talking. She was working the Otentik booth with a really cool product. The Otentik Sunshade is a simple, lightweight and quick way to get out of the sun while enjoying the outdoors. I instantly thought of 100s of different occasions I could have used this sunshade while camping, paddling, relaxing at the beach or just in the backyard around the pool.

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Otentik is a young Israeli start up, specializing in developing innovative lifestyle solutions. One of our recent and most useful products we have come up with is Otentik’s Sunshade. The product was released in2011, with great success around the world. No doubt the best solution for the beach: fast and easy to set up, lightweight and the most efficient protection from the sun.

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The Idea to develop Otentik occurred to us when we saw Parasol flying away on a windy afternoon at the beach. It took two years and several prototypes to find the ideal solution. The Otentik Sunshade’s user friendly design employs sand bags instead of stakes and can be used on any terrain. The sunshade is available in different colors, is light weight and easy to carry.

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The ease of use and versatility of this product lead to the development of the brand, Otentik. The Sunshade, and Otentik lifestyle, goes with us practically everywhere. It is a must have product for all the outdoors lovers. CLICK HERE to visit their website and read all about Otentik.

Otentik Sunshade sand bags

Otentik Sunshade easy set up

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Location Hot Spot: Rainbow River – Dunnellon, FL

This is one of those rivers that you can not miss. The Rainbow River bubbles up from its headsprings at Rainbow River State Park and winds 5.7 miles downstream before it flows into the Withlacoochee River. The crystal clear river is loaded with oversized fish and other wildlife that call this river their home. This is the fourth largest spring system in Florida producing 400-600 million gallons of water everyday.

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There are three put-ins along this river. The first is at the Rainbow River State Park and costs $2 per person. This put-in has the longest walk to the water, requiring you to walk all the way through the park.

The second put-in is at KP Hole Park, which has bathrooms, changing rooms, a swimming area and a snack bar. The fee to put in here is $5 per person, but you can drive your SUP right up to the waters edge. From here you can paddle 1 mile upstream to the head springs and 1 mile back to KP Hole. From here, if you’re feeling adventurous you can paddle 4 more miles downstream to the Public Boat Ramp in Dunnellon.

The Public boat ramp requires no fee and is just a parking lot with a ramp. This is located on FL 484 dirctly across the river from Swampy’s Bar and Grille.

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This is a beautiful river that a lot of people enjoy. It’s recommended to avoid the area of weekends and hot days because their is limited parking at all put in locations. On busy days the state park can reach capacity by noon. Go early, or go on slower days.

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Location Hot Spot: Weeki Wachee River, FL

Florida is known for its beautiful natural springs and crystal clear rivers. The Weeki Wachee River is one of those must see places in the state.

“The Seminole Indians named the spring “Weeki Wachee,” which means “little spring” or “winding river.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found. Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 74-degree water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns. Deep in the spring, the surge of the current is so strong that it can knock a scuba diver’s mask off. The basin of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides and there, where the mermaids swim, 16 to 20 feet below the surface, the current runs a strong five miles an hour. It’s quite a feat for a mermaid to stay in one place in such a current.” – WeekiWachee.com

Mermaid_Chelsea_web-700x700 Yes… you read correctly… Mermaids! Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is the only place in the world to see mermaids.
Click here to read more about the State Parks Mermaids. 

OK… Back to the paddleboarding. I put in at the state  park where the friendly staff at Paddling Adventures showed me the map and went over the rules of the river. I walked my BIC 12’6″ Wing down the crushed stone path and into the crystal clear waters of the river.  After pushing off I immediately began to see all kinds of fish and wildlife. Your not allowed to paddle all the way to the head springs so after a 300 yard paddle upstream I turned around and began floating with the swift 5 mph current.

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Even with the overcast day the water had a deep blue color and the bottom was easily visible. I had to turn around about 1.5 miles down to make it back before they locked the gate at 3pm. I’ll be back to paddle and make sure to give myself enough time to enjoy the 5.5 miles to Rodgers Park.

If you dont have your own board you can always rent one from SUP Weeki, a local business who rents and shuttles on the Weeki Wachee River.

Click the photos below to see more of the quick afternoon SUP on the Weeki Wachee River.

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BIC Sports Receives Men’s Journal Gear of the Year Award.

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12’6 SUP AIR INFLATABLE PADDLEBOARD NOTED FOR PERFORMANCE AND INNOVATIVE FEATURES

BIC Sport is excited to announce and honored to receive the 2014 Men’s Journal GEAR OF THE YEAR award for the 12’6 SUP AIR inflatable paddleboard. The board was tested by Men’s Journal gear test team and chosen as one of the “best tools, toys and tech” for 2014 for its innovative features and performance.

Shaper Patrice Remoiville, working closely with the BIC SUP team in Europe and North America, designed the 12’6 SUP AIR (together with the rest of the SUP AIR range) to perform more like traditional rigid boards than typical inflatables.

Dubbed by Men’s Journal as the “Go anywhere SUP”, the 12’6 was lauded for its exceptional rigidity and a “smooth, stable and relatively fast ride”. They also noted the innovative use of a “high-performance removable fin like the one found on regular SUPs” which is universally compatible with other fins for easy replacement or customization.

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Lake Powell – A Self Support Expedition

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On September 6th, Mike Tavares & Zach Hughes, Co-Owner and Master Shaper of Badfish SUP, Launched on Lake Powell into what would be an unforgettable self support journey across a great Iconic American Landscape.  Mike and Zack are typically paddling whitewater or surfing somewhere at the coast, but this time, they decided to plan a trip a bit out of the ordinary.  We had been hearing bits and pieces of trip planning over the last few months, but had no idea that they would come back with such amazing imagery and stories from the lawless Lake Powell!

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Mike chose to take our tried and true 14ft Great Bear Board for its versatilely, ease of paddling, and options for deck rigging.  This was a great option for Mike, as we heard that it treated him very well over the course of 150 miles and variable conditions with about 80 pounds of gear on top!  Zack hand shaped and created his very own self support board named “El Busito,” bringing Badfish creativity to the water!  6 days after launching on the Colorado River, the duo landed at the Glen Canyon Dam.

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CLICK HERE to read the first person recap of the journey across Lake Powell.

 

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HOW TO RIVER SURF WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND

In Littleton, Colorado on the South Platte River Glide team rider Alex Mauer river surfs with mans best friend on a local river wave named after him. On Alex’s River wave, Alex gives us a few tips on how to surf with and keep your dog safe on the river.

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“Surfing with a dog is really cool. I was giving a river surf lesson to a friend who brought his dog along. After surfing for a few hours he suggested that I try and surf with his dog, Wrigley, on my board. It was a really cool experience and got me thinking about a few tips to keep your dog safe on the water.

First and foremost, make sure your dog is wearing safety gear. Yes, they make dog PFD’s!

Next, you want to make sure your dog is comfortable in moving water. Swim the rapid and play around with your dog. Then, get your dog comfortable standing on your board. Paddle around a flat section to make sure your dog doesn’t jump off the board once you paddle into the wave. After getting your pup used to the river and making sure that your dog is comfortable in moving water and on your board, you are ready to surf!

*Disclaimer: In the photos I am aware the Wrigley doesn’t have safety gear on. His owner was spotting him downriver of the wave. I also took safety precautions by entering and exiting the wave on my belly to ensure Wrigley wouldn’t fall off my board.”

To see the video of Wrigley and Alex CLICK HERE

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