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Confidence in kayaking

I have been told time and time again that I need to have more confidence in my own ability. This has applied to my time playing canoe polo and also white water kayaking. I reached my goal of representing GB at canoe polo in the summer of 2015 which is something I had worked hard but didn’t actually believe that I had the right to be there; I was completely lacking in self confidence. In that environment, you are expected to motivate yourself and to deal with any issues that you have in private. Everyone on the team had their own issues and personal demons to deal with so it was really difficult to approach anyone else for support or advice.


I realised after the championships that my heart wasn’t in it, and I couldn’t carry on training every day for something that I wasn’t enjoying anymore. After a chilly, super fun, high-water weekend on Dartmoor I decided that I needed to get back into whitewater kayaking. I couldn’t stop grinning! Unfortunately this was challenged when my friend Beth Hume sadly died in India, as it made me question that choice. The antithesis was the coming together of her friends and the celebration of her life that made a weekend I’ll never forget and reassured me that I could take control of that decision. It made me realise that friendships have been cemented by the experiences we share, both bad and good. Some of the best times have been on the river and white water kayaking is something I keep gravitating back to.

Why am I telling you this I can hear you ask? I’m telling you as the issues with self confidence extend far beyond the confines of canoe polo for me, and I know that I am not alone. I have given up the relative safety of canoe polo but now often question my ability when faced with new rivers or challenges and find myself doubting decisions I’m making. Again I see this in others and want to explore how we can challenge ourselves and in return build our own confidence.

So how do we define self-confidence?
It is how you feel about your abilities which can vary from situation to situation. It can affect how we perform and how we approach new situations whereas self-esteem is how you feel about yourself overall. You can have have good self confidence but poor self esteem. The two are often confused but it is a lack of self confidence that can hinder progress and stop you from achieving what you are capable of.

Confidence operates in the realm of the known, and courage that of the unknown. This means that we can have a lot of confidence on a familiar run or river, but none when faced with something new.

13958078_10157351645055094_2276740088505635659_oNow we know the difference what can we do to boost our self confidence?

Cement your basic paddling skills on rivers that you are familiar with and gradually push yourself onto harder sections, but only when you feel ready. There can be pressure from others to do this before you are ready. Go with your gut and remember why we do this. It’s meant to be fun!
If you don’t enjoy paddling grade 4/5, then don’t do it. Do what you enjoy!

Choose the right boat for you. I never thought I’d like the 9R, but I tried it and loved it. It’s narrow and fast, suits my paddling style and also performs really well when fully loaded. Such a good creek boat for the smaller paddler!
Try lots of different boats and make sure that it’s not too small/big. It sounds obvious but we are often told what we should be paddling. It’s definitely a personal choice so go with what you feel good in as long as it’s suitable for what you’re doing. If you’re in the right boat then it should boost your confidence.

Paddle with the right people. This may be difficult to figure out. Try paddling with different people and learn how you operate in different groups. Often we paddle with the same people and end up relying on them to make decisions for us instead of developing our own concept of our own abilities. That doesn’t mean that people can’t try to push you; sometimes that’s necessary, but only in the right time and place.

If you’re paddling with people who make you feel bad for messing up, then they’re not the right people to paddle with! It only takes a small comment or a roll of the eyes to undermine someone’s confidence, especially when they’re having a rubbish time. Picking the right group can make a drastic difference in how you feel about your own ability and how you progress.

Be kind to yourself and to others. If something goes wrong, reflect on it and try not to beat yourself up. Not everything is a competition and you don’t have to do things perfectly every time. Most importantly remember to do things because you enjoy them. Whether that’s enjoyment that you get after a scary run or from surfing or learning to do freestyle or competing. You will gain the most out of whatever you’re doing if you enjoy it and that in turn will give your confidence a lift.


If you experience anxiety then try to realise it in yourself and how it manifests. Try to identify what makes you anxious and share it with others. For example paddling without scouting things makes me anxious and I get snappy, so now I only paddle with people who are happy to stop and look at stuff. Anxiety can come across in many different ways and can turn into panic. Learning what makes us anxious enables us to form strategies so we can manage it rather than letting panic take over. Strategies may include visualisation, planning trips differently or self relaxation techniques; find what works for you.

Don’t be afraid to push yourself to try new things, even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it. Surf things you wouldn’t normally surf, and if you need further support then get some coaching from someone you trust. Say yes to things that you feel nervous but not terrified about. Some nerves are good, it’s when they turn into something more that we struggle. We have to reach a level where they don’t affect our performance. Easier said than done when you’re lacking in confidence, right?! Take things slowly, and take a step back if you begin to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes we can push through and sometimes we can’t!

Seek positivity and take it from the small victories. Love what you do and if you find yourself not loving it for some reason then take a break, reflect on things and talk to people. Relish the challenges that kayaking poses but don’t let them overcome you.

A lot of this might sound obvious but all of these things should help you to build your self confidence when it comes to kayaking. It doesn’t have to hinder our progress or stop us from loving what we do. We just need to take the right steps to make things more manageable.

Now to practice what I preach! See you on the river!



What is unseen and unheard, receives no glory, but it is in these private moments of struggle, courage, and resilience that you decide your truth and your truth is a Brilliance that EVERYONE can see.


Opal Creek

Learning to do life while balancing a tightrope between walking and non-walking is a task that requires 100% of my attention, 100% of the day, whether that is seen or unseen by the everyman’s eye.

Looking the part of an athlete and the quiet moments of learning adaptations, PT, strength training, ice, prayers, pep-talks, and daily adjustments; The way I stand, the pace I move, the jobs I can(t) accept, to the constant manipulation of my kayak outfitting to minimize pain, is a behind the scenes grind that few will ever actually notice.


Everyday you take on these discrete, glory-less moments that build into your truth.

When no one is looking, how deep can you dig, how far can you truly push yourself….Tuning out “why me,” “this hurts,” “what am I going to do,” and tuning into “How can I make this beautiful.”

When you believe in you, the world will follow.


First Descents, Snake River, WY

Because strong does.



Maniflowba and the Dream Wave

The tip-off came from a friend who had recently flown over a river with enormous rapids in Manitoba. Joel had originally planned this trip for the fall of 2015, however a severe weather system forced the team to delay their mission until the following year.

In August 2016, an eleven strong team of some of the best big wave surfers in the world met up at the Wilderness Tours base camp in Ottawa and made the forty hour drive north to Manitoba with high hopes of discovering new treasures. It is fair to say that this was going to be an unusual trip. As we would be navigating a lot of flat water and would be on the water for ten days we opted to use two motorised rafts which were kindly loaned to us by Wilderness Tours. We also had two shotguns as we would be a long way out in the wilderness and wildlife such as bears and moose were definitely a realistic cause for concern amongst many of our group. Personally, I was worried about neither set of furry animals, as I grew up in Warrington and there are far scarier things to be found in the streets of that town than a glorified deer and a real life Winnie the Pooh.


We arrived in Cross Lake, Manitoba and immediately began unloading the van and setting up the rafts. Cross Lake is a quiet, little, northern town full of wonderfully kind people and we attracted quite a scene as we frantically manoeuvred around eleven people’s equipment. Despite being curious and friendly, the inhabitants of Cross Lake were also keen to warn us of the dangers of this river and regale us in sobering stories of friends and family members drowning. Undeterred, we finished packing, enjoyed a fantastic lunch with the locals and headed out into the wilderness of Manitoba in search of big waves.


Joel had taken a float plane ride over the river to scout out the major rapids and check our route, he had seen five major rapids and lots of ‘small, insignificant rapids’. The first rapid we arrived at was one of the ‘small ones’. Upon dropping into the meat of the rapid, we promptly realised that Joel may have been a tad mistaken on his judgement from 100 feet up in the air. The wave train in that rapid was enormous but thankfully clear of any big holes. Ecstatically happy to the degree that only running a rapid blind and getting away with it can provide, the feelings of doubt and worry as to whether we would even find anything on this trip were replaced with an altogether more pleasing realisation; ‘If this is a “small” rapid, what on earth must the major ones look like?’.

We continued down the river pushing to make it to the first major rapid of our trip, White Mud Falls. This rapid is the biggest and scariest piece of whitewater I have ever seen. A brief scout led us to believe that we could possibly run it, upon further inspection from both sides of the river we quickly reconsidered. The entry into this monstrosity is a tiny curling, surging tongue through two of the biggest holes I have ever seen. The unpredictability of this entry, the likelihood of being ripped from our kayaks by one of these holes and having to battle the whirlpools downstream had us running away with our tails firmly between our legs.

We made camp and continued down the river the following day. We found a small, diagonal wave on one of the next rapids despite not being the size of wave we were looking for everyone was keen to surf something and we made camp at this wave and surfed well into the evening.


The next day we knew we would get close to the ‘Powerline Rapid’. From the air this rapid looked by far the most promising in terms of big wave potential. As we ventured closer and closer to the horizon line, we realised we had found something special. We tied up the rafts and the whole team sprinted down the river bank to see just what we had found. A more intelligent person may well have used a word such as ‘eureka’ to summarise a discovery of this magnitude, all we could manage was a series of cheers, war cries and several words that should probably never be written down.

We had found our dream wave, hidden amongst the wilderness of Manitoba. One of the biggest waves we have ever surfed, an anomaly of whitewater, with a smooth face and huge bowl. I’ll be honest, it was intimidating dropping into this wave for the first time but several surfs later I was slowly relinquishing the death grip on my paddle and had stopped holding my breath while surfing. As we grew more confident and comfortable on the wave the tricks started to flow. We stayed at this wave for the following seven days. Throwing huge tricks, crashing hard and loving life on the island next to the wave.


With food supplies dwindling and everyone’s bodies sore and broke after a week of surfing really hard we packed up one final time and finished our descent of the Nelson river. Arriving back in town we were met by the locals with surprise and relief written all over their faces. Despite our assurances they were almost certain they would never see us again, hence the banquet / last meal they provided before we left.


We had one last celebratory meal with the Cross Lake towns folk before commencing the long drive back to the Ottawa. Each of us, tired but elated and already dreaming of our return trip.
With thanks to Wilderness Tours for sponsoring the trip, the Cross Lake community for all of their hospitality and Joel Kowalski for putting this mission together and inviting me.

See you on the water,

(Photos by Kalob Grady and Tom Patterson)


Keeners 2016

What are Keeners? Keeners are young people between the age of 12 and 17 who are “keen” about kayaking and have a positive attitude about life.  The Keener Program focuses on the following:

  • Personal Demeanor, Attitude, Work Ethic, Conduct, Youth and Character Development
  • Leadership
  • Public speaking – ice breaker speeches on Sunday night and formal speeches every Monday
  • Written communication – Keeners must post at least one weekly blog to
  • Skill Development
  • Competitive Training – Keeners compete weekly
  • Cross training
  • Kayak Swiftwater Rescue Training
  • First Aid, CPR Certification
  • All aspects of becoming a PRO Boater


This is the second year I have been to Keeners. A typical week here is where you paddle with the coaches Monday through Friday and then on weekends you have freedom to go paddle when and where you want. This past month has been amazing, within one week I was able to learn many skills. We have warm ups on the water every morning for about 30 minutes. During the flatwater warm ups we do many fun things, which include flipping over and seeing how long we can hold our breath to get us prepared for Beatdown Thursday. We also work on flat water tricks and how to help someone in need on the water. After that we have a flatwater paddle every day down to The Lorne, which is a fun section of the Ottawa with many features to play in. All the features there depend on water levels, but the features there are Garburator, Bug Bus, Mini Bus and last but not least Push Button. When we were there, the two features in were Garburator and Push Button. Since we have  a flatwater paddle everyday, I went from barely being able to flatwater loop to being able to flatwater McNasty. Since you paddle down with the coaches you get to see all the huge tricks they can do on the flat water too.


Everyday at Keeners is a different day, it starts with Speech Night Monday, Freestyle Tuesday, Race Day Wednesday, Beatdown Thursday aka Big Water Bacon Beatdown Thursday, also on Thursday nights we have Knots for Gnar. Then Friday is Funky Fresh Freestyle Friday. Also each Keener must do a blog each week on something related to Keeners or something that happened at Keeners. During every morning on the weekdays we play a random game like Death Ball, Ultimate Frisbee, or anything Anna ( Keener Mom) comes up with. During the one of the weeks we played a game where you put your average kayak gear at one end of the grass field and you line up in groups at the other end and race down to get all the kayak gear back. Though here’s the catch, you can only get one peice of gear and you must wear it and then once you get back to the group take it off and hand it to the next runner and they must wear that gear and get another other piece of gear and wear that one too. So you can start to see how the game works. In my group just happened to have Tom Dollé, one of the French kayakers here, because he doesn’t weigh much we put him last in our group becasue we had to run and get the kayak and then put him in it with all the gear and then run back down the field. That weighed a lot so we had our entire group of like 7 pick him up in the kayak and run with him in the kayak in our hands down the field. We were in the lead but unfortunately we kinda dropped him on the stern of the boat, so we lost but it was the funniest thing ever.

One of the other games we played was Ultimate Frisbee which is when  players on teams attempt to score points by passing a frisbee to a teammate over the opposing team’s goal line, but keener style. Basically just a bunch of  just awoken up teeenagers having to play a game that involves running, so for a while we played and scored points, but the fun hadn’t started yet. We started playing the game a little faster since we were finally awake, so one of the Keeners, Holly, started running down the field and was going for the frisbee, and she didn’t catch the frisbee but didn’t see the cement septic tank in front of her and ran full speed into it and fell. We all walked over to her to see if the was ok, she ended up spraining her ankle really badly but after a while it was really funny. She couldn’t paddle but she was able to take a SUP board put the McCoy’s and take pictures of Beatdown Thursday.


On Tuesdays we split into groups of 4 or 5, depending on how many coaches are there. On one of the Tuesdays, after our warm up we paddled down to Garb and worked on tricks. I talked to one of my coaches telling him I have my blunt down on my right and now I want to learn my pan-am , which is an over vertical blunt. He said ok and he told me how to do it and to go try it on Garb. I attempted many times and many times I fell on my face, but that’s the beautiful thing about freestyle kayaking, you can fall on you face many times but the more you fall, the closer you are to getting that trick down. Before we went to paddle down to go get lunch I went for one of my last ride and I carved over to the shoulder of the wave to get on top of the foam pile to come down the wave to take off and thow a trick. Once I got to the top I knew it would be a good pass so I went down the wave and took my powerstroke and I went flying in the air, I went for the pan-am and  it went massive. My boat was completely out of the air and I landed the trick too. It was one of the best moments I had at Keeners, I had the biggest smile on my face, I was really excited about my ride.

img_1260 img_1261


The next day was Race Day Wednesday, our first race was a relay race at McCoy’s, which is above where the Keeners stay. We paddle the flatwater of to Baby Face and then hike with our boats for 5-10 minutes and then you can put in at the top of the island and paddle the rapid. We were put into relay groups and there were about 5 of us in each group. The first part of the race started on the island and you started running down  the island to the water to get to get in you boat and paddle backwards across the river into the other eddy on the other side of the river. Though the catch that the keeners didn’t know was that one of the coachers flipped and switched around the boats so the racers were confused. Once they got in their boats they paddle as fast as they could to get  to the other side. I was in the second leg of the race and I had to paddle to the Hero Eddy back on the other side of the river and then paddle back again the other side, but since there are 5 kayakers racing all at once it’s a little difficult. There’s a catch to getting to the other side after you have caught the eddy. You have to catch this glass wave and surf across about a 15 ft of rushing water and above Phil’s Hole, which you very easily get beat down in, and make it to the other side to tag the next person in the next leg of the race to start. I raced to the hero eddy and I was one of the first people there, though not good becasue you have the other boaters paddling into to the eddy which is only a 2 boat eddy. So you have boaters  slamming into as your trying to get out, therefore I got stuck on a rock and ended up missing my line and going right towards Phil’s, which isn’t to bad, I just took the line through the center of the hole. Once I finally got to the other side I tagged the other person in and the race went on, surprisingly we came in 3rd with a time of about 20 minutes.



Then on the last Wednesday we took a trip to the Gatineau River in Quebec and it was gnarly. The first rapid is one of the biggest on the river and there’s a hole there called Lucifer’s Anus. This hole is nothing like Phils, this hole will teach you a lesson if you go into it. Basically you wouldn’t want to go into this hole on purpose, but were Keeners so we do go into this hole on purpose. At least some of us do. I did not plan at all to go in but I did, becasue of one of the Keeners, Kaelin. He told Bren Orton that if Bren went into Lucifer’s, Kaelin would. Well, Bren went in and he didn’t get beatdown at all. Of course I just happened to be standing next to Kaelin when Bren walked up and told Kaelin it’s his turn, Kaelin replied with no, I don’t want to, then Bren looked at me and said Cat, go get in Lucifer’s so Kaelin can see how easy it is. I was a little scared but I told myself I have a mile of flatwater and kayakers at the bottom, so what could possible happen. I went to get in the hole and missed, I went again and missed 3 or 4 times but finally I caught Lucifers.

After that I started to walk up the side of the river to try again and I saw one of the other Keeners, Bryce, attempt to go into the hole. I wasn’t really paying attention that much till I started hearing cheering. I turned to look and Bryce is getting the crap beat out of him, after about 45 second of seriously getting beatdown he went to pull his spray skirt and he came out and got body recirculated and as he started to get body surfed his boat hit him on the head and then he went down under water. It had been about 15 seconds he hadn’t popped up and we started to get a little worried, you could here people start to say where’s Bryce, where’s Bryce, we really were getting worried. Then he popped out of the water, he got tunnel vision so he didn’t  pass out thankfully. After watching Bryce’s beatdown I decided not to go in, and nobody else went in either.

The next day of the fun Keener week is Big Water Bacon Beatdown Thursday; the first Thursday I attempted to get beat down in Right Side Phils but failed. After our morning at McCoys we paddled down to the lunch site and ate lunch. After lunch we usually have a choice to either go to the pour over and swim into it, swim in the whirlpools or go jump of the the jump rock. I chose to go swim in the whirlpools and it was super fun. I got sucked down for about 20 seconds and it was great, but after a while I open my eyes and realized its dark and I can’t see the light and I got a little freaked out but then I floated back up to the top. Then on another Thursday I went to the jump rock and attempted a frontflip, and this rock is about 17 ft, so I went to jump and I was scared to under rotate,  after a little bit of thinking about I finally jumped and over rotated. Luckily I didn’t over rotate so much that I belly flopped but I landed on my face and it was very painful, yet very funny.


Kalob doing a flip off of Stairway to Heaven

On the last Thursday my dad drove up the Canada to watch us on the last few days and he wanted me to get beatdown in Phils and I told him that’s not possible, I have tried for the past 2 years and it hasn’t worked. He said go anyways I want pictures. I went and little did I know this would be the beatdown of my life. As I went in I got beatdown for a few seconds and then I came up for air and as I came up I went back under. I started getting thrown around like I was a feather. After about 20 seconds of getting thrown around I was done and wanted out, well that didn’t happen. I went to pull my skirt and I couldn’t get to it, I was getting thrown around so much I just couldn’t. Finally I popped up after about 10 seconds, I was completely out of breathe because I hadn’t actually got some oxygen. I looked at my dad and I flipped over again and pulled my skirt and got body surfed. On Thursdays we have at least 2 people below Phils in an eddy  incase someone swims you can paddle over and help them. Once I popped up I started swimming to the football eddy and Savannah and Rachel came to help me and Bren went and got my boat but I couldn’t breathe and they helped me get to the side and gave me some water and I was good to go. A coach was also in the eddy with them and Rachel told me that he told them to get ready to go help me because I was in there a while, and he thought I was going to swim. He was right.


“Gangster’s Paradise Island”

That night we had knots for gnar; since this was the last day of knots for gnar we were able to go repeal off a tower that is about 160 ft. I was the last person to go and you have to climb up the tower to get the where you can repel. It looks super sketchy but it’s actually really safe climbing up. Once you get to the top you walk over to the guys who help get you set up for repealing, once that is done you walk over to the spot where you drop off of and it’s super scary going because you walk backwards and have to like lean of the tower and just drop. Once you start to repel you calm down and it becomes super chill.


Also the Thursday paddles down the river are cut a little short becasue we drive back up to McCoys and play on Baby face. Though not all of us are in our kayaks. My friends and I went in a raft and attempted to surf Horseshoe, which isn’t commercially rafted, but again we Keeners so we do it. The first week I went on a raft with my friends and another Keener, Ray, as our raft guide. Everytime we went in the raft flipped. It was really fun. Then on another Thursday my friend Olivia and I went out on a SUP board and attempted to surf Baby Face, we tried many times and we caught the wave once after we figured at that the person in the front needed to paddle hard and the person in the back needed to rutter. We only caught the wave for a few seconds till the bow plunged and we went flying forward, this was definitely one of the best times at Keeners.


Now the last day of the epic week is Funky Fresh Freestyle Friday. This is where we go train on Garb or Push Button for the morning and compete after lunch on that feature. I mostly competed on Garb and did my normal ride which was Blunt, attempt at a Pan-Am, and spins. On another week I went and competed on Push-Button. For me Push-Button is a very difficult feature, its wave-hole. That means you can do both wave and hole tricks. After training I asked Bren if I could try his carbon Jed, he said sure. The entire month that I was there I was not able to loop in the feature and once I got in carbon boat I hit my first loop and it was amazing. I was super stoked. This about wraps up this year’s Keener adventure. I can’t wait for many more years to come at Keeners.

Sign up for one of the Ottawa Kayaks School Programs

Hope to paddle with you on the water

Cat H.



Seal Your Pyranha Kayak’s Hatch The Easy Way

We get it, fitting a hatch cover to your kayak can be a frustrating task, especially when you’re tired from a long day’s paddling…

It doesn’t have to be that way though; follow the simple tips in the video below and you’ll soon be the fastest hatch fitter in the west!


The Pyranha 9R Large: My New Favourite Kayak

For years I have considered the Pyranha Everest the ultimate big water/multi-day whitewater kayak, however, over the last few months I have come to a sad realisation; it is time for me to retire my beloved Everest in favour of my new favourite whitewater kayak, the 9R Large.

I initially decided to give Pyranha’s 9R Large a go due to its massive rocker for the steeper runs in India; It has been an absolute dream paddling it on steep, low-water multi-day trips and not having to worry about the fact that it had a few days’ worth of overnight gear packed in its massive bootie.

Four days worth of food and camping gear in the boot and still easy to throw aroud

Four days worth of food and camping gear in the boot and still easy to throw around!

What surprised me about the boat however was how well it handles on big water; with less defined rails on the 9R, I suspected I would still prefer the Everest on higher volume rivers, but within a rapid or two on the big water of the Panjshir in Afghanistan I realised the 9R Large is much more than a big-boys’ boat for steep whitewater. The rapid acceleration of the 9R means you can charge across wide, pushy rapids in long, read and run sections and it really goes from zero to hero in no time to get you through any features that sneak up on you on fast flowing rivers.


At around 80-85kg, sitting near the bottom of the weight range for the 9R L, I had a few concerns that it would feel like bit of a barge whilst paddling low water runs, but thanks to the fact it is designed for racing, its sporty nature means even on tight creeks it is still a wicked kayak to throw around.


Back on British low water I suspect I will still chose my trusty 9R Medium (although the Machno looks like it could be giving it a run for its money), but for almost any trip outside of the UK the 9R Large is now going to be my go-to kayak.

Photos by Gull Hussian Baizada, Callum Strong and Jamie Conn


Feather Fest, Now and Then

As Galen Volchausen and I watched cars, trucks, and vans pull into the small abandoned school called Indian Jims, not the most PC name but that’s the name, we watched the campsite fill up and I remembered when my family used to come here on the same weekend years before it became a large west coast paddling gathering. The campground is beside the North Fork of the Feather River just out side of Orville California, east of Chico.



Feather Racers Gathering

Fall colors were starting to pop and the air was cool with a slight breeze that made it pleasant and not too cold. As more kayakers entered and our camp started to fill with familiar faces, some I had seen recently and others I had not, you could almost feel the energy that would reach a high point and evolved into the largest kayak festivals on the west coast, known as Feather Fest.
Feather Fest started as one man’s birthday party. Roland Mcnutt’s birthday happened to fall on an AW (American Whitewater) organized release of the North fork of the Feather. Slowly his birthday parties grew and grew in popularity and I can remember being around 13 at my first Feather release/ Roland’s birthday and soon it became Feather Fest, known through the west coast for its party, race, and California life style. The release happens on the last weekend in September, which by this point all the water on the west coast is gone or at summer flows and the only runs are usually dam releases or commercially rafted sections.



The section of river that the dam releases is great place for all skill levels. The upper section known as the Rock Creek section, named after the dam that
releases, is a class 2-3 section of whitewater great for beginner kayakers and rafters. The campground and ground zero for the festival is the take out and you can put
on there for the Tobin section. The Tobin is a great class 4-5 run that only lasts a mile and a half. There are many lines through the mile and a half of classic California granite boulder gardens. It’s real easy to get lost sometimes in the Tobin section due to all the channels and slots, but still many age groups paddle this section.


This was my first class 5 run, and its pretty cool that I did that in a Pyranna MicroBat when I was around thirteen. Now kids as young as nine race and paddle this section; a true testament to the growth of our sport. The Tobin section ends and a great 3+/4 section called Lobin is next. Lobin is a great stepping stone run with good moves and some
consequences for messing those moves up. Rafters and kayakers alike both run this section and it rounds off the river release with a good intermediate run making the Feather river a great place for all skill levels and ages.
Feather fest also offers multiple races during the weekend; there is a slalom race just upstream of the campground as well as a down river race through Tobin section and ends half way down the Lobin. The race is a tough one, I have raced it now twice in my lifetime, because the river doesn’t run consitently enough for people to have it super dialed and know which channels are the fastest. Racers can race long boat and short boat making it an iron man race if they choose. I chose to do that and it was pretty comical in my head. As I was reaching the last minute of the long boat race, which my time was 13.21, I was thinking to myself, why did you sign up for short boat as well? At the end of the long boat race I caught a ride back up with Gareth Tate and a few other racers, had a quick dance party, and went to grab my short boat.
My short boat of choice for all things right now is the 9R. I love that boat, but for this race I was taking out a new steed for myself to meld with. I raced the new Pyranha Machno.
I have paddled this boat a few times and like the design. It’s quick for a boat designed just to run anything and boofs amazingly. The bow of the boat was easy to keep dry and it was
easy to maneuver. In the end it served me well for the short boat class even though I suffered through the entire race. In the end team Pyranha came out pretty well. Dave
Fusilli tied for second with Rush Sturges in short boat with Ian Jonska coming in 5th and myself in 6th. I placed third in the long boat category as well. Will Pruett took home
the title of Champion wining both the short and long boat class.
The best part of any kayaking festival is the party, hands down.


I always feel like letting loose after making myself race hard, fast, and loose. Its just that little reward that makes you paddle that much harder. As well with the party there
was a raffle to benefit American Whitewater, who makes these releases reality. Pyranha donated a sweet Teal purple Loki for the silent auction and Dave, Ian and I
answered questions about our boats. Later in the night the band came on that was super groovy. After they were done a DJ, who just came back from Burning Man with
his art car, kept the party going till the early morning, and in the morning everyone was moving slow. Major thanks to Dave Steindorf for making the release happen and
putting on a great time.
Till the next eddy…
Kyle Hull
Photos:  Dave Fusilli


Feather Fest 2016

I always start to feel excitement when summer comes to a close and the fall season begins. Here in the Golden state, we get some fine days on the water thanks to the hard work of American Whitewater. One of those releases is on the North Fork of the Feather river, which is the home of the Feather river festival. Feather fest features a film festival, a slalom race, a downriver race on a great section of class IV/V, and a killer party. It also serves as a fundraiser for American Whitewater, and it’s one of my favorite events to attend.


This year was the 26th annual festival, and it was one to remember. I pulled into the campground at 1:30 Friday afternoon to a packed campground full of paddlers getting stoked for the weekend. I was able to find this rad little spot up on a hill with enough room for Demshitz, and set up. I decided to do a low water lap with some friends, and soon after, everyone began to arrive. We cooked some food, grabbed some beer, and went to check out the film fest. Everyone turned in pretty early that night, with high expectations for the weekend.


Saturday morning, I showed some friends the race lines for the downriver race on Tobin, and took some other friends down Lobin for their first time. Watching my friends step it up and challenge themselves was really cool to me, and it is something I won’t forget anytime soon. The race meeting, originally set for 12:15pm, started fashionably late, and things kicked into high gear around 1:30. The race featured a pretty stacked number of racers, with 45 short boat racers and 18 long boat racers. I knew it was going to be a competitive race, and my hope was to just beat my time from last year. As everyone started to take off, I felt the excitement start to rise in me. I got in my boat, and when the countdown began, everything went quiet in my mind. I took off, and ran a fast race with clean lines. When I hit the finish line, I felt like I was around the same time as last year, and I was happy with that. That night at the party, the winners were announced, with friends Will Pruett and Dave Fusilli along with Dan Menten being the podium finishers. When times were posted, I wandered over, and was shocked to see that I blew my time from last year out of the water. I was over 30 seconds faster, and I finished in 5th place. Everyone celebrated, and the party went on.


Sunday brought more great times on the water with friends. I was even able to spend some time in the Machno. We spent a full day on the water, and were the last ones to take out at the end of the day.

I want to give a big thank you to American Whitewater for putting this event on, my sponsors for all the support, Dane Peterson and Eric Howard for the photos,and all my friends who made this feather fest one I won’t soon forget!



Cherry Creek Summers

Four years ago, I had a goal of running Cherry Creek. If someone would have told me that for the next few Summers I would be living out of a trailer, running this section almost every day, and even becoming its first female photo kayaker, I would have responded by saying, “a girl can sure dream..”

Cherry Creek is a California classic. Also known as the Upper Tuolumne, it’s what dreams are made of. Nine miles of amazing, grade 4/5, granite boulder gardens, no portages.

What I say to you is dream big. Because four years from now, you might realize something you never thought possible.


Massive moves at the Montreal Eau Vive

The Montreal Eau Vive, created by several prominent kayakers within the whitewater community that centres around Lachine rapids in Montreal, Canada, celebrates both the whitewater and city of Montreal with as many people as possible.

The event is unlike other events in both its format and judging. Taking place over two days throughout the weekend and consisting of both a freestyle and race stage, the overall crown is given to the kayaker who performs best in both events. A cash prize and an invitation to the White Water Grand Prix make winning this event a highly sought after prize.

Day one consists of two freestyle events. The first is on the well known and beloved Big Joe wave, a six foot tall bowling wave that allows for any trick to be thrown consistently and has great combo potential.

The other freestyle event takes place on the infamous Mavericks wave. The biggest wave of the Lachine rapids, an eight foot tall, surging beast; with a surfers right shoulder that behaves much like a barreling ocean wave.

Mavericks is exceptionally hard to surf and throw tricks on but those that are willing to tough out those missed tricks and crashes will be rewarded with some of the best tricks of their lives. This wave is also difficult to get to and nigh on impossible to take multiple rides on due to it’s lack of eddy service and location, in the middle of a three mile wide river. Fortunately the organisers had come up with a solution to this problem in the form of two high powered jet skis, to allow kayakers to access this unique and rarely surfed wave.

Bren Orton on Mavericks from Montreal Eau Vive on Vimeo.

I had been in Montreal a week prior to this event to get ready for this competition and was stoked to take first in both freestyle events with a record high score on Mavericks.

Day two saw competitors load up on a high powered jet boat to be taken to the boater-X course. The rapids that form the course are located in the middle of the St Laurence river which is several miles wide. Without the jet boat these rapids would not be accessible to even run, let alone hold an event on, as such a big thanks to Saute-Moutons Jet Boating Montréal for sponsoring the event with both a boat and captain for the day.

The boater-X was a hard fought battle, but in the end I managed to take first place, against local hero Seb Clermont, the Quebec Connection crew and the Ottawa valley locals, Kabob Grady and Seth Ashworth.

I have wanted to take home the win in this event for the past three years and I was so stoked to finally be able to do it and procure my spot in the 2017 White Water Grand Prix.

The Montreal Eau Vive celebrates the famous rapids and city of Montreal in style. Aided by jet skis and Jet boats, the event manages to show new sides to well known rapids and provide people with new surfing opportunities. The vibe for this event is very special; owing to the unique format and location of the event, a scoring system that rewards style and amplitude and the awesome attitudes of the organisers.

Much love to everyone that makes this event happen and thoroughly looking forward to next year’s edition! Bren.

All photos by Damien Larrigaudiere

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