Tag Archives: whitewater

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.

FIRST TO CIRCUMNAVIGATE LAKE SUPERIOR ON A SUP

DULUTH, Minnesota – 23 year-old Jared Munch isn’t your average college student. Rather than living carefree and with no responsibilities Jared wanted to experience more. A couple of years ago, Jared decided and committed to circumnavigate Lake Superior by SUP and after two long years of preparations he was the first person ever to do so. The journey covered 1350 miles over 46 days on the lake and was largely a solo and unsupported expedition. To learn more about his expedition over the summer we caught up with Jared to talk about what his experience was like out on the water. Take a look:

Lake Superior is quite the task, what was your motivation in doing this extensive paddle?

I had originally been looking at a study abroad option in Patagonia that was designed specifically for whitewater kayakers. It looked awesome, but it was expensive and wasn’t going to help me with my major (civil engineering). I started looking for other ways to broaden my paddling experience and the idea came to me as soon as I looked out my dormitory window. I remember thinking “Why am I trying to travel hallway around the world to have a cool adventure when I have THAT right in my backyard?” At first I thought paddling around Lake Superior was just a crazy idea. It had never been done before on a SUP. I at least took the dignity of writing the idea on a whiteboard for further considerations. After a month of staring at the whiteboard, I knew that it had to be done. This all occurred almost two years before I actually departed.

lake superior sup adventure
Views of Lake Superior as seen by Jared Munch. | Photos Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
Did you train for this beforehand? What was your training schedule like?

Training? No. That’s for people with time and money haha. My “training” consisted of me frantically scrambling between school and work for the two semesters leading into the summer. I was working anywhere from 30-50 hours a week on top of being a full time college student just to fund my summer adventure. Physically, I wasn’t in tip top shape when I started. I was over prepared mentally though. I spent a lot of time in class 5 whitewater and surfing Lake Superior. I was totally comfortable being out there in some big water. In addition, I had gotten pretty good at making use of little supplies, and just being miserable in general over the last year during my “training”.

How long did it take you?

It depends on how you look at it. To me, it took me two years on planning and squirrelling away money to pull it off. My total number of days actually paddling around the lake was only 46. I left in early May, then returned to Duluth for two weeks to teach whitewater classes and raise more money for the rest of summer. I left again in June and got back at the end of July.

lake superior sup adventure
It wasn’t all easy paddling on Munch’s 46-day expedition. | Photo Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
How far on average would you paddle each day?

Over the summer, including my days off for waiting out the weather, I averaged just under 30 miles/day. My biggest day was 52 miles.

Was your adventure supported or unsupported?

Out of the 1350 miles, 1150 were solo. The other 200 miles were in the company of my dad, brother, and friends. I carried all of my food and gear on the board. I shipped resupplies of food to myself at 150-200 mile intervals.

What gear did you take with you?
  • Board: C4 Waterman Wai Nui
  • Paddles: C4 Waterman Carbon X-Wing, Two-piece sea kayak paddle for heavy headwinds, and a flatwater canoe paddle for beam winds
  • Clothing: NRS farmer John Wetsuit, 7mm booties, semi-dri wear, down jacket, camp clothing
  • Food: Lots of dehydrated food from Camp Chow and lots of Cliff Bars
  • Tent: MSR Carbon reflex
  • Stove: MSR pocket Rocket
  • Others: dry bags, GoPro, first aid kit, small sail for emergency use only, compass, gps, sleeping pad, and my trusty Pillow Pet
lake superior sup adventure
lake superior sup adventure
Gear Shots. | Photos Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
Hardships?

Dealing with the wind was a huge thing for me. Keeping a 14’ board tracking well in a strong beam wind is one thing, but put a bunch of camping gear on it and you will have a much larger problem. Hunger was also a big thing for me. I had no possible way of eating as many calories as I was burning. I lost 15 pounds in the first three weeks. The remoteness was difficult at times, but I mostly enjoyed the thrill of having only myself for any type of support.

Biggest thing you learned after going on this adventure?

Paddling flatwater all day isn’t very fun. You start to hope for some storms and nasty weather just for an ounce of excitement.

lake superior sup adventure
Munch getting the nasty weather that he had hoped for. | Photo Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
Would you consider doing it again?

The exact same trip? No. A circumnavigation of the lake was a one and done thing for me. I would feel weird doing it again. There’s kind of a spiritual thing about the lake to me. The memories from the trip are so vivid in my mind that I don’t want to relive them or change anything about them. I’m sure I’ll paddle parts of the shoreline again, or tour to some of the more remote surf breaks that I found, but I will not do another full circle continuously.

Do you have any other SUP adventures planned in the future?

Yes I do. Next spring I will be completing the first descent of the Steel River of Norther Ontario. We’re going to hit it as the snow is melting, which means living in a drysuit for a week and paddling lots of whitewater with camping gear on the board. Very little about the trip will be easy, but that’s what makes it an expedition.

lake superior sup adventure
Munch enjoying his solo time on his 46-day expedition of Lake Superior. | Photos Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUp Connect

We look forward to seeing a lot more expeditions from this young talent and we wish him the best of luck in his endeavors. To see a sneak peak at the documentary that Jared is editing check out the video preview below!

A SUPerior Adventure Teaser from Jared Munch on Vimeo.

Is there a new Royalex in Town?

If you’ve been in the paddling world a some time there’s a good chance you’re heard of Royalex. This lightweight, flexible and rugged material has been a popular boat material of whitewater and recreational canoes. Last summer the manufacturer PolyOne announced that it was calling it quits on this long time favored hull material. Since then outfitters all over the world have been in a Royalex boat buying frenzy building up their stock for the dark years to come.

jacques chasse

Jacques Chasse, owner of Esquif Canoes, thinks he has the magic bullet. Beginning this fall, Esquif will begin replacing Royalex in its canoe line with a brand-new, in-house-made material they are calling T-Formex. According to Chasse, this new material has the same indestructibility and performance of Royalex for approximately the same price. Chasse says “T-Formex will be 10 percent lighter and more 20 times more abrasion resistant than Royalex. Seventy-five to 80 percent of our boats are now made from Royalex. We had no choice but to innovate.” Royalex has been made for the last 35 years and there’s a lot of new plastic and new technology out there. Chasse is building a 6,000-square-foot T-Formex factory within Esquif’s existing 15,000-square-foot warehouse in southern Quebec.

The real question I want to ask is when will we see a SUP made out of a material like Royalex or this new T-Formex?

“I would like to see an all-around SUP board made from a material like this because I wouldn’t have to worry if I was paddling it down a rock garden on the Winooski River or thru Ithiel Falls on the Lamoille River,” says Jeremiah of Vermont SUP. “The advantages of having a lightweight but rugged SUP are endless,” he continued.

We’re unsure if this material will ever make it to the SUP world but are hopeful and waiting patiently. Until then, watch Esquif’s new T-Formex Canoes coming out soon.
For more info about Esquif Canoes click here:

Winooski Early April SUP Paddle

JJ & Erin at the end of their 4 mile paddle.
JJ & Erin at the end of their 4 mile paddle.

We’ve had our eyes on the rivers and lakes for weeks now. It’s been a long wait, but the rivers up here in northern Vermont are finally moving again! The last of the ice dams on the Winooski River have broken free and its time to paddle! With cold, high, fast moving water, large ice chunks and other debris floating in the river it’s not quite the season for beginner paddlers; but if you’ve got the right equipment and knowledge the fun can begin right now! Continue reading Winooski Early April SUP Paddle

First-ever Stand-Up Paddle descent of the Class 3 Little Nahanni River.


Adventurers Sean Leary, Tim Emmett, Jimmy Martinello and Trevor McDonald go on a mission to climb and BASE jump from peaks in Canada’s very remote Vampire Spires and Cirque of the Unclimbables.

The area is so remote that to get there they decide to make a first-ever stand-up paddle descent of the Class 3 Little Nahanni River.

This first of 4 episodes takes you on a river ride like you’ve never seen before!