Category Archives: White Water SUP


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 


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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How To: Make A Safety Throw Bag (DIY)

A good throw bag is quite expensive and even fairly difficult to find the materials to make. First you have to track down a fabric seller that has Nylon Cordura and Nylon web strapping and then you have to buy all of the other stuff to go with the project as well. Unless you are putting together a dozen or more you may as well buy one.

There is a middle of the road alternative though and that is to make one from a nylon camp chair bag, the fabric is often cordura anyway but is always a close substitute. You can put a good rope bag together this way for under $20.

The first and most important thing you need is fifty feet of 3/8 floating rescue rope. This will cost about $15. You will also need a sewing machine, a seam ripper, some scissors, a couple grommets and setter, and one of those camp chair bags that everyone has in the closet and does not use.


You begin with the seam ripper and take all of the patches and carry handles off of the camp chair bag. These can be used to put a carry strap on your throw bag later if you want. With all of the nylon webbing off of the bag cut it 16 inches from the bottom. Save the draw string and keeper from the top of the bag to be used later. Once you have done that you will see all of the hard work is already done for you.


The first thing to is roll a one inch hem on the top end of the newly cut bag and sew that. I used white thread so it would show up good in the photo but you don’t have to. Just be sure it is very strong nylon thread that you cannot break with your hands.


So with the first hem in you can check the factory stitching on the original bag. If it is good leave it alone but if you suspect it is weak touch it up with a few stitches. Put a small grommet on the new hem be sure to fold the hem to the outside of your bag and put the smooth face of the grommet to the outside as well.


Next take that old draw string from the camp chair bag, and the keeper in hand. Run the string around the inside of your hem and pull the two ends through the grommet hole and put on the keeper. Tie a knot to keep from loosing your keeper. Carefully sew down the hem to the bag. The hem is now an inch or so wide so the draw string does not bind up. Do this slow as it is about the only hard part. Once you have this test your draw string to make sure it works good and that you didn’t sew through it or something.


The next thing to do is to take a piece of closed cell foam and cut it the same diameter as your bag. This makes a float. You can use a swimming pool foam board that you can get at the dollar store like I did or camping mat foam, it doesn’t matter. You also need a 3/8 inside diameter washer. You can just make one from some strong plastic if you like. A detergent bottle makes a great washer.


Once you have those pieces made cut a small hole in the bottom and add another grommet. The best way to do this is to cut a tiny hole with scissors and melt the edges with a lighter so they don’t fray. Add the grommet next. You could reinforce the hole by sewing a bit of nylon web strapping both inside and out and heat up a big metal spike and melt the rope hole if you do not have grommets at hand and have no plan to buy some. This is messy and smelly but it works.


Feed your rope through the bottom bag hole and tie a bowline knot loop and pull the knot back snug to the bag.


Punch a hole through your foam and slide the foam and washer onto the rope and into the bottom of your bag. The washer is simply there to keep the foam from working its way up the rope. Seal everything off with a knot tied as close to the washer as you can get it.


OK; now you’re done. Stuff the rope in and cinch the draw string. You can add nylon carry handles, belts, and plastic clips if you want, but remember whatever you add is just a potential extra to get snagged on a tree or a rock. It is best to just carry it around by the loop. That and it is no good to you strapped to the front of your canoe, keep it close.


As an option if you want to go all out you can find high visibility and reflective strips at most fabric stores you may want to sew some on to your throw bag for the few extra dollars.

Original article from Canoe Canada East

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Leashes and Lifejackets 101

The American Canoe Association(ACA) has published a great video tutorial about when to wear what types of leashes and lifejackets while SUPing. It is worth 5 minutes of your time to know when to use these key pieces of safety equipment.

The ACA recommends the following for calm water with no risk of entanglement:
~ coiled leash
~ inflatable belt pack

The ACA recommends the following for ocean surf:
~ straight leash
~ no lifejacket

The ACA recommends the following for moving water or whitewater:
~ coiled leash attached at the waist with a quick release
~ inherently buoyant type III or type V lifejacket

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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.


“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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Geek Beak – Why an Iconic Whitewater Fad Won’t Die

Check out this fun article written by Katrina Pyne of Rapid Media  to learn the history and future of the Salamander visor. If you’ve been around whitewater for a while, you probably have one stuffed away somewhere or maybe even still attached to your old school, but still good, helmet. I know I do. In fact, I rocked it just a few weeks ago on my SUP.

SUP The Winooski 2013 Salamander Visor

In the days when play-boats were more than 10 feet long, freestyle was called rodeo and pirouettes were a hot move, paddlers had a problem.

It was the early ’90s, and the Pro-Tec and Wildwater helmets of the day worked well for protection but nothing for sun protection.

People layered baseball caps under their helmets to add a brim, but the pressure of the hats’ buttons pressing into their skulls meant every paddling session ended with headaches.

Around the same time, Patrick Kruse sat in his Seal Beach, California, basement apartment trying to solve a dilemma of his own: how to launch his startup gear company into the world of whitewater and stand out against other manufactures.

A paddler himself, Kruse had heard complaints about the baseball cap conundrum.

After a two-day flurry of cardboard and fabric cutting and pasting, he emerged with a design that would push his new business into the mainstream.

The Salamander brim was a hit.

For years, every Dagger Crossfire and Perception Pirouette contained a paddler whose helmet had a sticky Velcro strip and colorful, three-inch, foam-filled visor.

It came out in more and more colors and jungle and hibiscus patterns that would’ve made the Fresh Prince proud.

More than two decades later, the same brim comes with the same Salamander logo on the same 600-denier poly-cloth and Volara foam with Velcro-705 molded hooks, as when Kruse first designed it.

It remains on Salamander’s best seller list and is easily the company’s defining product.

In the late ’90s though, helmet companies like Orosi started catching on – modern helmets emerged with built-in brims and started turning heads.

The Salamander does offer one advantage over built-in brims, says current owner, Shane Preston, who’s been with the company for six years. “If a kayaker is upside down, the bill will actually flip back rather than catch the water and yank your head back.”

Today, companies like Sweet Protection, WRSI, Shred Ready and Predator all make brimmed buckets of their own. But Salamander lives on.

The company still sells 2,500 visors every year, although for the most part, it’s not us buying them.

“To be 100 percent honest, it’s the horse industry – they love these things,” says Preston.

Salamander now sells 20 times more brims to its equestrian market  than to whitewater paddlers. The visors fit on riding helmets just as well as they once did on whitewater helmets.

He’s also selling to bike and ski shops.

“For the hot kayaker, not too many kids are wearing them because they’re a little dorky looking,” Preston says. “But they work. You can’t deny that it gives you some nice protection.”

Salamander’s original visor designer Patrick Kruse now runs a company called Ruffwear selling performance dog gear in Oregon.

Three years ago on a hot summer day he was driving down Highway 395 towards Red Rock Canyon when a giant grin spread across his face. On the side of the road he saw a crew of 20 or so road workers, each with a bright red Salamander visor Velcroed to their hardhats.

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Paddling Whitewater Basics

Looking for that next adventure on your stand up paddleboard? Try navigating a river! There are a few things you need to know before you paddle your way down just any old river.

First, are there any rapids on the river you want to paddle? What are they like? American Whitewater has a great compilation of most rivers with whitewater sections. Choose a river that is within your ability  level. If in doubt, call a local outfitter. They love to talk about the paddling opportunities around them.

Whitewater SUP Friends

Second, recruit some crazy friends to adventure with you. You should aim to take at least 2 other people with you. Besides being necessary for safety, you want someone there to witness and laugh at your many wipeouts.

Third, make sure you have the proper gear. A durable board, helmet, PFD, paddle and good foot protection are the minimum. You might also want to consider knee pads and/or elbow guards. A releasable leash can also be a good idea if you are worried about your board floating downstream without you after you fall off. Never tie yourself to your board while in moving water unless you have a quick release feature.

Falling Backwards

Fourth, go out and have fun! While on the river you will most definitely run into rocks, get wet and fall in. Check out this great blog post about how to safely fall off your board.

Lastly, take a picture and tell us about your adventure! We want to hear where you went and how you did.


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GEAR SPOTLIGHT: New 2015 “Rivershred” Inflatable SUP

Have you tried the Badfish MCIT? Did you think it was cool, but still had a few features that needed improvement for your whitewater expeditions? Well, that’s what we thought. It seems that Boardworks has really listened to their customers and made some sweet changes to their already great inflatable. They just released their new design, “The Rivershred”, which has some new features to make it the ultimate whitewater SUP.

We can’t wait to get our hands on one to try out.
If you have, let us know what you think!

New Whitewater SUP Inflatable Board…the Rivershred from Badfish SUP on Vimeo.

New for 2015 the Rivershred is the evolution of the proven MCIT platform, designed specifically for river running. At 9’6, 40” wide and built on a 6” thick drop stitch platform, the Rivershred was put through extensive testing by the Badfish pro team in Colorado whitewater in order to create the most technically advanced, inflatable river running SUP, ever. – SUP Connect

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The River Life Road Trip: Board Choice

The River Life Road Trip: Board Choice

SUP Magazine

In river racing, board selection is even more important than normal. You want speed but stability. Mobility but not on something that’s going to throw you every time you misplace a rail in the current. Here, as part of the River Life Road Trip presented by Nexen Tire, a few knowledgable whitewater competitors and designers talk shop on what people are using during the river race season.

Excerpt from SUP The


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