Friday, July 29, 2011

We really wanted to change stuff up this year for the Outdoor Retail Show, so we called...Sam-o!

Shane and Sam-o! signing off sometime around midnight

This is going to be our 10th year at the Outdoor Retailer Show so we decided to have a little fun with our booth!  Just when we were trying to make a decision on what we should do to make the exhibit different I met Sam Ogden, an incredible artist just graduating from the UNC School of the Arts in Winston Salem, N.C..  I got to check out some of his work which ranges from graffiti and murals to set design and construction. The graphic murals that he had done immediately caught my eye and everybody at Liquidlogic and Native Watercraft was completely stoked with the idea of having our booth painted by Sam-o!  It was soo fun to watch the process.  I am sure it was a little nerve racking for Sam because most nights Woody, Bryon, Bill, Mike or I would be there just to watch it happening.   It was a good scene all around.  Let me set the scene... open warehouse space, white walls, many many many cans of spray paint, some pulsing electronic music, and a man with a plan.  

I will post more photos of the finished product after the show opens.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The first prototype of the Stompers on the Green River

The Test Crew, Day 1 on the Green River in the Stomper 80, Freight Train, Elvis, and Lil A'
The first day that I had the protos of the Stomper 80 the Green was so crowded that I didn't want to have our brand new protos out on the river for the entire world to see.  So we had headed over to the Chattooga river where we knew we wouldn't run into too many folks, especially since it was over 4ft.  The next day was a Monday and we knew that it wouldn't be crowded out there on the river so we decided to drop in on a good flow of 15" on the stick.   A couple of us had paddled the boat the day before but John and Jeff hadn't so those guys were excited.  They geared up quickly and were on their way down the trail almost before I could get my frozen dry suit on.

First thing you might notice is that I made all the cockpits larger.  A large skirt is hard to put on.

I threw a curve ball at the team with these new boats.  I made the cockpits a little larger.  So we all had large cockpit spray skirts which made for a funny moment when we had to decide who was going to be the last one in the boat.  We got it all figured out though.  The other difference in the cockpit area is that the cockpit is recessed a little more and the cockpit is straighter looking from the side than other boats which does a couple things.  It protects your skirt from your paddle bashing it as much and it keeps more water from squirting up under the skirt from the side and back which is the place where the most leaking happens.  I also straightened the cockpit as it goes up and over your knees.  This makes it drier as well because the skirt isn't trying to follow all the crazy curves.  However in the first prototype I did make the recess a little too tight.  :)  I had a hell of a time fitting a large rand skirt into the recess.  I fixed that on later editions of the boat.  Ok lets go back to paddling.
Lil' A cleaning Frankenstein 
Rapid number 1, Frankenstein, showed an obvious difference in a flatter hulled design, quick turning.  The move through this rapid is tight and technical with a quick change of direction and then a boof that Adriene is doing in the photo.  We all smiled at each other with the knowing realization of how nice it made that move.  As soon as we came out of the tight part of the rapid and we needed to make the turn to line up for the boof it happened instantaneously.  The Stomper turned so quickly that I had to back off a little and realign my boof.

That nice flat hull can also have a side affect when it comes to creeking and running rivers in general.  Those can hang up on rocks, hard eddie lines, and currrents and we felt that a little as we dropped off the boof in Frankenstein.  The left edge sort of hung on the drop and made it a little harder to pull the boat level underneath as I  landed.  It wasn't much but I could feel a little instability.  Nobody flipped over or anything but it was something to note and think about as we paddled the rest of the river.  It wouldn't be long before the edges would show a nasty side that I would have to fix in the next proto and would make us all a little nervous.

Well it got a lot more exciting when we got to Go Left and Die.  I pulled out on the rocks in the middle of the river to take some pictures and those guys lined up to run it.  At this level it is a super beefy rapid.  The hole is very stout and its too low to run the straight line that gives you tons of speed over the hole so you have to run the normal line and drop into the meat of the rapid.  Grace had a sweet line but Adriene was coming in a little lower and a touch slower so she took a little more of the rock in the center of the drop and suddenly her downstream edge caught and she tumbled straight over the center rock.  In Adriene style she landed on her feet with a big smile on her face.  At this point I knew I was going to have to work on the edges a little to make them more forgiving.  Luckily this was prototype number 1 with many more revisions to go. Adriene wasn't done yet either.

Adriene finding an edge in Go Left and Die

I don't want to make it out like Adriene had a bad day but she did have these two crazy things happen to her on her way down the river.  First she does the crazy flippy thingy in Go Left and then she scares the hell out of all of us at Gorilla.  Gorilla is also a really tough rapid at 15".  The notch is pretty much at it meanest.  The whole volume of the river does a complete flip as it goes through a 5 foot wide crack in the rocks.  It is very hard to stay upright and in any semblance of control through that kind of chaos.  At higher flows you can actually clear the notch and miss that mess. Grace came through beautifully.  Even though he is usually paddles a much larger boat he stayed in control and if not on the surface the whole time he resurfaced under control and headed in the direction he intended.  Now I can't really say the same is true for Adriene.
Grace resurfacing like a champ at the base of Gorilla

Adriene's run was very exciting and scary to watch.  The first time I saw her after she came through the notch she was upside down and headed for the drop.  She was still upside down as the boat started to go off the lip and I was getting ready for a rescue.  If you look at the photo you can see how close she is to the wall on the right of the photo.  If she stays upside down she lands on rocks and meets a rock we all call "face breaker", with her face, but what happens next surprises us all.  From under the water I see her paddle quickly snap a stroke and she is perfectly upright at the moment she hits the bottom of the drop.  She has huge eyes when she paddles into the eddie next to us.  Grace, Freight Train, and I all have huge eyes.  Then she says, "well this thing definitely rolls easily".  At the time I wasn't sure if that was the adrenaline making that roll easy or the actual rolling characteristics of the boat.

The holes below Gorilla were stompy big and tough to get up and over because of the sloping drops that lead into them.  The angle of the slides as you approach the holes in Scream Machine and Nies Pieces make your bow drop down into the foam piles which can lead to excessive poundings and abstract freestyle kayaking of the unintentional kind.  What we were hoping for was what we call a "land and leave" feel in the flatter bottom boats and that is what we got.  In the photos below you can see that John is headed right into the meat of it bow down but the next shot you can see the bow has skipped up and is headed out of the hole and on downstream.  The "land and leave" characteristic is one that I wanted to make sure and keep in the Stomper through out the development.  On this day I found 3 amazing qualities that let me know I was headed in the right direction.  The first thing everyone notices is how quickly it turns.  The second one is the speed and "land and leave" feel that you get while paddling the Stomper. And the third thing that Adriene specifically figured out was how easily it rolled.

Grace entering a BIG hole in Scream Machine

And skipping through!
It the winter the main gorge of the Green can be pretty dark and cold but when you come around the big bend dropping off of Groove Tube and approaching the next big rapid the name suddenly makes a lot more sense.  Sunshine is the warmest and most spectacular spot on the river in the winter months.  The rapid is still scary but the sun gives you a little more confidence.  The rest of the river was beautiful and we were starting to get comfortable with this first proto of the Stomper.  We would paddle proto 1 for a couple weeks before moving onto the next version of the boat.  The Green would obviously be the main testing ground and I paddled it at levels from 3" up to 25" or basically flooding.  I will get a bunch more photos up there for you all to see but for now enjoy the sunny finish of our first day on the Green in the Stomper.

Groove Tube in the Sunlight.
Jeff "Freight Train" Paine with a sweet left line at Sunshine
Lil' A speeding through Hammer Factor
Here is a link to the temporary Stomper pages on the LL page
They will start shipping to stores this week.  Stomper 90 starts shipping mid August.
Talk to your dealer and make sure they have demos on order or just get your order in.

Here are a bunch of photos from that first day on the Green.

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