Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Liquidlogic Kayaks Selling Direct to Paddlers Beginning October 1st

Fletcher, NC –Liquidlogic is stoked to announce our transition to a direct-to-consumer sales strategy.

Liquidlogic will launch a redesigned website, featuring direct sales, October 1st, including a platform for selling kayaks, accessories, and parts. We may even have the hats, stickers, and t-shirts that you all have been begging us for lately. We’ll also open a retail store at our manufacturing site near Asheville, NC. and the Green River. We want to create a micro-brew style experience where you can walk in, learn about the boats from the people who make them, see kayaks being made, and walk out with a boat fresh from the tap.

Customers from around the U.S. will purchase Liquidlogic kayaks from the website or from our factory retail store. Pricing will be lower than current retail prices and kayaks will be shipped directly to your home, to a shipping terminal, or to designated events. We are in the process of partnering with dealers, instruction programs, clubs, and ambassadors around the states to create Demo Centers in higher traffic areas, near popular rivers, and in larger paddling cities. Liquidlogic will also be on-the-road developing a tour of events where people can try our kayaks. Our customers outside the U.S. will continue to purchase our boats through their local dealers and distributors. We have a lot of ideas that we will roll out as we move forward and we would love to hear any that you have to offer.

For Liquidlogic, selling direct makes sense given our connection to paddling’s core. We’ve always listened to paddlers’ ideas and dreams as we’ve shaped our vision. You may have taken part in some of our Automatic for the People questions and threads. AFTP has brought us great concepts, strengthened our relationships with customers, and has shown us the benefits of direct connections. Going direct will give us even greater flexibility to make the unique boats that AFTP demands. We also know that customer service will be a huge part of what makes direct sales work and that added communication between paddlers and ourselves will only help us maintain our tight connection to the core of the sport. You can’t get more Automatic for the People than creating the kayaks people ask for then marketing, selling, and providing good customer service directly from the brand to you, the paddlers.

The hardest part of this transition is the move away from our strong relationships with dealers, who have been at the forefront of the business from the beginning. We have paddled, done business, and partied with the folks who have sold our boats since we started Liquidlogic 15 years ago. They are friends and partners.

Like I said to somebody on Boatertalk the other day, “Class 5 biz is just as hard as Class 5 Whitewater.” Many pressures make whitewater kayak sales difficult, and drive us to innovate in our business model. Fewer and fewer true whitewater dealers carry more and more different manufacturers’ designs. Retail pricing for whitewater kayaks approaches the upper threshold of affordability for the market, and that pricing pressure pinches dealers and manufacturers to an unsustainable degree. We will not allow those pressures to force hard choices about materials, craftsmanship, boat design and working conditions. Going direct means many changes, but quality will not be one of them.

Direct sales will allow Liquidlogic to continue to maintain the same high standards we have stood out for in the industry, and to remain a responsible manufacturer and employer. We have committed to paying our employees a certified living wage for the skilled, full-time work that they perform. With each decision, we work for a more responsible manufacturing footprint, and work with vendors and partners who believe in those same values. Selling direct will give us margin space to maintain those values and pass along savings to you the paddlers. No one is getting rich in this industry. Fortunately, that isn’t the goal. The goals are to strive continually to make great boats and to create a business model that will first sustain itself, and then grow. Having studied the factors over the last few years, we feel that direct sales will do that.

Thank you

There will be more information to come. Stay tuned on our webpage http://liquidlogickayaks.com, (which will relaunch anew October 1) or on our facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/liquidlogickayaks.

If you would like to become a Demo Center please contact us at info@liquidlogickayaks.com with Demo Center in the subject line.
You are also welcome to contact me personally at shane@liquidlogickayaks.com.

Monday, June 30, 2014

We are Psyched to announce that Pat Keller is joining the Liquidlogic family!

Shane and Pat testing out Flying Squirrel Prototypes.
Decades ago, 7-year-old Pat Keller walked up to Shane, introduced himself, and proceeded to explain that he was going to be a kayak instructor and travel around the world to paddle. He’s met and exceeded that declaration in so many ways: waterfall huckmeister, blistering-fast racer, cutting-edge downriver freestyler, epic adventurer, and innovative design advisor. Born and raised around whitewater, Pat has a totally unique art and style as a paddler and regularly visualizes completely new paddling possibilities. Pat’s gonna leap out of bed in the morning with out-of-the-box ideas for a kayak and a way to use it that no one has even imagined, and the Liquidlogic team has the tools to bring them to life.

Pat’s resume is long and his accomplishments speak for themselves: Reigning Champ and three-time Green Race winner (so far!),with frequent seconds; two-time Teva Mountain Games winner; many First Decents including: Toxaway Falls, Linville Falls, Valser Rhein Falls, Cane Creek Falls, Wolf Creek Falls. Every day, Pat finds beautiful new lines that show his passion for boating. Maybe more than anything else, that love of the sport makes all of us at Liquidlogic so excited to work with him. Shane said, “It’s going to be great to have Pat on board here at LL for more reasons than his amazing paddling. He is a great ambassador of the sport. He loves it and his passion is contagious. It’s already got us fired up here at the factory!”

Pat's First Win on Team Liquidlogic
Woody, too, can’t wait to work with Pat. He says, “Pat joining the team marks a new era at Liquidlogic. We want even more input from our team, and having someone of Pat’s experience contributing design ideas and development is just what we’re working toward.”

Long-time team member Adriene Levknect adds, “Having Pat join the Liquidlogic team puts the icing on a super sweet team that is always pushing the limits and testing new lines. Pat is an innovator and dreamer when it comes to kayak designs and what he wants them to do. Plus, he's a great character!”

Way back when Pat was in junior high school, he and Shane worked together on a boat design as a class project. Having Pat join Liquidlogic seems meant to be.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Design and Development of the Native Watercraft Slayer Propel Fishing Kayak

Initial Drawings of the Slayer Propel 13
The Development of the Slayer Propel 13 really started when Native Watercraft first developed the pedal drive Propel system in 2008.  I had just joined the Native Watercraft design team so I hadn't had any input on the beginnings of this concept and design.  In the few times that I pedaled the Mariner Propel I could feel the potential and I got really excited about designing the newest addition to the Slayer line of fishing kayaks in 2013.  As we began to work on the Propel, we started to really understand that the advantages of using your legs were not limited to the power of larger muscle groups to do the work: pedaling also leaves your hands free to fish, and the more you fish the more you catch (well sometimes). Beyond that, we also found two more advantages of having a bike-like motion to drive the propeller. The motion itself is familiar and easy to maintain, as most of us have pedaled bikes.  By simply pedaling in reverse you can drive the boat backwards which plays a huge role in fishing. Pedaling facilitates actions that every angler needs to do, like approaching a structure, stopping, and pulling large fish out of tight areas and from under obstructions.

Native Watercraft Pro Staffer Philip Ruckart Slayin'em.

We started initial conversations about the new Propel design with Native Watercraft guides and pro staff. It was agreed across the board that the traditional paddled Slayer kayak would be a good place to start. We even had folks on the Native Watercraft Facebook page asking for a propel driven Slayer before we were even really sure we were gonna do it! Everyone thought that the open floor plan, 360 degree accessory track coverage, superior stability, and efficient paddling hull of the Slayer would make for an ideal platform to install our Propel System. What we came to realize over time was that it wasn't just a fishing kayak we now understand that it's a great boat for cruising out on the water for any reason at all.

Another view of the Slayer Propel 13 and the seat slider attachment.

We focused first on hull design because the hull does have to be adjusted quite a bit to accept the propel drive unit. We spent a lot of time looking at how the water flowed across the hull and into and around the propeller. One of the challenges was getting the prop to engage completely and more efficiently with the water while keeping it tucked up against the hull to minimize the depth of water needed for the prop to run. After our first prototype, we had a bit of aeration during hard pedaling, so we did some old school plastic welding to form different curves to change the flow of water into the propel cavity. Not only did the changes create more power and speed, they also decreased water noise.

Welding in new hull curves.

The rest of the hull design balances traits of efficiency and stability. Too wide and you start to really hinder speed and make more noise by having to push a wider hull through the water. Too narrow and the boat will become unstable when it loses buoyancy on either side of the paddler. So it is important to prioritize the desired performance characteristics. In the Slayer Propel, we wanted to create a boat stable enough to stand in easily, but that would still move through the water as smoothly and quietly as possible to take advantage of the speed of the Propel System and maintain the ability to paddle the boat as well. The Slayer Propel is 33" wide, so by no means a sea kayak (which are sub 24 inches), but it is much more stealthy than other fishing-specific pedal-driven boats. We started at the bow with as sharp an entry as we could while still maintaining the large front storage tank. Smoothly curved, large pontoons drop down into the water through the mid section of the boat to provide a ton of stability and a quieter ride. Without the pedal-drive system, we have found that this hull paddles well with a kayak paddle. We feel as though we have come up with a confidence-inspiring hull design that complements the Propel system.

Testing the stability of the very first Slayer Propel prototype.
Hips slightly above the crank spindle.
 Ergonomics provided a key focus in this design as well. We knew we had to integrate our First Class seat. Not only did we want people to be more comfortable while pedaling, we wanted them to be able to pedal for longer durations and be more efficient while doing it. We tested many different people's leg lengths, weights, heights, and pedaling styles, and found that sitting up higher in the Slayer with the head of the femur at the same height or higher than the crank spindle (the axle that goes through the top of the unit) allowed pedalers to relax and sit more upright. We created a sliding rail system that adjusts by simply loosening two thumbscrews and sliding down the rails to the desired position to adjust to different leg lengths and pedaling postures. 

Testing different crank arms, pedals, and seat heights.
Another aspect of the pedaling ergonomics that we tested extensively was the length of the crank arm (what the pedals attach to). Normal upright bikes use something around 175mm crank arms. In our older propel models we had used 165mm crank arms but in our testing were getting an uneven pressure during the rotation of the pedals. We found that the 155mm cranks evened out the rotation pressure, eliminated the feeling that our knees were in our chest, and still gave us plenty of leverage to drive the prop. During tests, I did several long pedals ranging from 2 to 10 miles. Once we switched to the shorter cranks I found that I could maintain 3 - 3.5 miles an hour for extended periods and still have plenty of energy to get the boat up to 4.5 or even 5 miles an hour and hold it for 5 to 10 minute durations.

Propel Testing Tank
Last but not least the Propel drive unit has gone through extensive testing and transformation over the past couple years.  We brought in house a former bicycle industry designer and engineer to focus on the continued improvement of the Propel drive.  We have put the unit through long hours of submersion testing at our facility and the resident gear heads put together a motor and linkage to drive the unit constantly for days of wear testing.  It has been a fun project to not only design the boat but to also make improvements to the drive unit itself.

5 mile pedal in the first Slayer Propel proto
Stats from the 5 mile pedal.
The longer the testing went on the more excited we all got. The Native pro staff and endorsed guides did a great job advising us on features they wanted to see. What I found during the time I was on the water experimenting with this boat was that I wanted it not only for fishing but to just get out and enjoy the water. During my longer pedals the feeling I was getting was that of going on a bike ride, or a cruise in one of our touring kayaks. Everyone who takes it out for a test pedal falls in love with the way the speed and ease of pedaling lets you explore a huge territory and maybe get a little exercise.

Out for a sunset cruise with Betsy.

Here is a link to a bunch of photos from the Development of the Slayer Propel.
Here is the Slayer Propel Webpage.  Check it out!
See you on the water.

p.s. Here is a little video I did of the first day pedaling the production Slayer Propel.

The First Pedal of the Slayer Propel from Shaneslogic on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Day 11 and 12 in the Grand Canyon: Rocks are cool and the real world has double bacon cheeseburgers.

The Final Camp
Day 11 and 12 in the Grand Canyon passed in a bit of an exhausted blur and its not because we found hidden treasure.  Averaging 20 miles a day and doing a few big hikes had started to wear all of us down.  Even the unstoppable Mike Hipsher said that once he got off the trip he was going to sleep for a week.  I had moved past the sore phase and into the great feeling of complete weariness that covers your whole body.  It's nothing that will stop you and you happily move with it because you know all the great things you have done to get to that place.

Packing and Unpacking the Stinger XP from Shaneslogic on Vimeo.

Pumpkin Springs:  I wouldn't go in there.
In the last two days, the lava flows are visible the entire day.  They form all sorts of amazing contours and formations.  Smart people describe them like this:

From the Arizona State University page.

"What many people do not realize is that the western Grand Canyon lies on the edge of the Uinkaret Volcanic Field. During the Late Cenozoic (65 Million - present time), molten rock made its way up a giant fault system in the region called the Toroweap, and now the landscape above the canyon is peppered with cinder cones and lava flows.  The most famous cone is named Vulcan’s Throne, and it sits on the North Rim directly above Lava Falls. This mile-wide cone formed from material that came up the Toroweap Fault. Lava flowed into the Grand Canyon all the way down to the Colorado River creating a lava dam five- to six-hundred feet high. The resulting lake backed water up to Lees Ferry!"

The fine community at Wikipedia told me a little more, with a lot of links to follow:

"Lava flows from the Uinkaret volcanic field that have cascaded down into the Grand Canyon, damming the Colorado River, have been used to date the canyon's carving.[3] ...

The Colorado River was dammed by lava flows multiple times from 725,000 to 100,000 years ago.[5] While some believe that these lava dams were stable, lasting up to 20,000 years and forming large reservoirs,[6] others think they failed quickly and catastrophically as massive floods.[7] Lava flows traveled downriver 76 miles (121 km) from river mile 178 to 254."

Lava Flows and Formations
Those miles cover the rest of our trip from Lava Falls (mile 179) to the take out at Diamond Creek (mile 226).  Constantly in view for the remainder of our trip were lava flows and cinder cones.  I spent much of the waining time on the river wondering visually through the rock formations.  

Warm Camp!
Taking out at Diamond Creek was a great way to slowly reintroduce ourselves to the "real world". The take out was no where near civilization and the trip back to reality starts with a slow bumpy ride up a rocky river bed to pavement.  Even though we had reached asphalt, we were still in the middle of the desert.  The roads got bigger and a few houses were mixed into the landscape.  Then a highway with signs and businesses, and then we saw it... an A and W restaurant.  I know right now you are thinking, grooooossssss!  At that moment we were all thinking bacon double cheese burger, and a root beer float.

Bacon Double Cheeseburger and a Root Beer Float!

Here is a link to the rest of the photos from Day 11 and 12 in the Grand Canyon

Its a trip of a life time.
Make sure you do it someday.


Diamond Creek Takeout

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 10 in the Grand Canyon: Lava Day!

Nervous Scouting Lava
 It's day 10 in the canyon and that means one thing, it's Lava day!  The stress started the night before at camp, especially for those who have been challenged by the big volume whitewater thus far.  Every conversation focused on the rapid and its main features, the Burble Line that lines you up to start the rapid, the stompy V-Wave, the ledge hole Hole that eats huge motor rigs, and the Eddie at the bottom that can keep the best kayaker missing rolls.  As the fire turned to coals that evening some were still trying to decide whether to go with their skegs up or down.  In the morning breakfast was hushed and we packed our boats with just a little more care, just in case.

Woody Dropping In
Lava has several different lines.  Our group usually runs down the main tongue, breaking hard to the left just behind the ledge hole, and hopefully missing the deceptively powerful V-wave and then bobbing down through the lower waves.  Our success varied from a perfect line to beat downs and a swimmer.  If you miss the charge left or have a little angle to the right you will find yourself quickly in the maw of the V-wave.  It seems to me that getting thrown there serves a harsher line than going for the v-wave directly.  A few of us decided to run the meat of the rapid.  We also had varying levels of success.

The Eye of Odin shot while paddling in by Chuck Joy!
Over the years we have developed a series of traditions with regards to running Lava Falls.  We check our skirts, line up on the burble line, and look for the Eye of Odin.  Recently I added another tradition, inspired by our pal Kasi from Switzerland.  He yodels while dropping into big rapids and it sounds awesome, when he does it.

Lava Day in the Grand Canyon from Shaneslogic on Vimeo.

Treasure was found!
Here is a link to all the photos from Day 10 in the Grand Canyon.

That was a fun day!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 9 in the Grand Canyon: Staying Warm

Chasing the Sun Down the Canyon
Day 9 we started at Ledges Camp (Mile 152): not a warm place in the winter. The morning had been a little cooler temperature wise, a huge wall shadowed camp, and ice had formed on the water buckets. The sun was never going to hit us there. The cold wasn't bad but the wind bit a little as we slid into the water. We chased the sun down the river, through a few rapids, but mostly just pretty relaxed whitewater. Havasu Canyon gave us one of the highlights of the day. We squeezed the entire group of 16, in our boats, up into the tight slot gorge. Everything glowed iridescent blue from the travertine-filled water bouncing around the canyon walls.

The Glow in Havasu Canyon
Warm Sun Lunch Spot
As we continued downstream, the sun only hit us in a couple of small patches. On days like this, the only consideration for a lunch spot is that it must be in the sun. We finally found a spot tucked up against a vertical wall with a waterfall spraying off the rim above and bright warm light on our faces. Our destination that afternoon was Cove Camp (Mile 175). It felt good to put away so many miles, but I was starting to feel the accumulation of several days paddling and hiking. From camp, we strolled up through a side canyon where a mud flow had thrown huge boulders around. As we returned to camp we found the sun had swung around the wall was blaring down on our camp. We all stopped what we were doing and soaked it in for the 30 minutes it allowed. It felt great. The second it went behind the walls again, we all pulled on our coats and hats and built a fire.
The Sun Hits Camp!
Staying warm in the Canyon during the winter is not hard if you are prepared. We were lucky this year with the weather. We had bright blue skies with lows in the 20s and highs near 50. There have been colder trips for sure. Last year they had some days where it never got up to freezing.

On the river its amazing what paying attention to layering and good gear does for winter paddling. Most days I was in light leg tights and a single heavy top under my drysuit. I like to keep my core a little extra warm so that warmth radiates out to my extremities I wore my paddling mitts almost every day and a beanie whenever the temps dropped. Warm food and drinks are a must. One of my favorite pieces of gear on this trip is my thermos. At camp, I wore heavier fleece pants and wind pants on the colder nights. Up top I wore a fleece and down jacket. Obviously you need a warm hat but the one piece that I think people might forget which makes a huge difference is a neck warmer. It closes that last little gap where the wind and cold try to get to my jugular. As for sleeping in the cold, of course a good sleeping bag but don't forget to have a sleeping pad that will insulate you from the ground. Shnuggling against frigid sand and rock caused a few of us to have a cold night along the river.

Full Moon and a Warm Fire by the River
Here is a link to all the photos from Day 9 in the Canyon.

As Day 9 finishes it begins to settle in that we are getting close to the end of the trip.  I try to keep  as present mentally as I am physically in the Canyon.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 8 in the Grand Canyon: Feeling a Little Primal.

The happy place at the top of the Deer Creek gorge

Deer Creek Falls

The 8th day we started from Stone Creek Camp (Mile 132) fairly early so that we could do a couple short hikes and still cover 20 miles to Ledges Camp (Mile 152).  The first was one of the most iconic in the Canyon, Deer Creek.  Deer Creek is a small stream that has chewed a very unique canyon for itself out to the rim of the inner canyon. At the canyon's edge it drops 80 feet or so into a pool along the Colorado.  The second hike was also a very popular hike called Matkatamiba.  It is a cool climb up through a smooth polished mini canyon that you can climb chimney style for quite a while.
On the lip of the inner canyon at Deer Creek
By day 8 in the Grand Canyon we started to feel a little primal.  There was sand in everything.  On day 3 Woody was pretty much rolling in it. I sort of cleaned my dishes after each meal.  A lick is as good as clean. Right?  The cadence of the nomadic group provided the only clock work that really mattered.  Sunrise started each day.  We pushed as far into the evening darkness as we could so that we could remain asleep till first light.  In a very basic sense, the only things that mattered were; Eat, Sleep, Stay Warm, and Travel.  There was a routine.  We began to do things pretty much the same way everyday.  Waking, fixing coffee and breakfast at a certain time. Packing our bags a certain way.  Loading them into our boats just so.  Climbing into our gear.  Paddle.  Lunch. Paddle. Hike. Eat. Gather Wood. Fire!

Orzo, Veggies, Calamari & Tapenade
You could definitely classify everyone in the group by whether they stew over their canyon food for months or pick it up at the grocery store right there in Flagstaff.  There are 3 schools of cooking for this trip as far as I can see.  Number 1 captures the serious backpacking gourmets who prepare their meals before hand and dehydrate them.  They do more planning than I have ever put into this type of trip but man, the meals look awesome, and they are one pot meals because they just boil the water, cook the contents, and eat out of the same bowl.  Cooking and eating out of a single bowl is a big deal.  It means less you have to take and less you have to clean up after each meal.  Number 2 has the down-and-dirty packet boilers.  This includes your Mac N' Cheesers, your Beans and Rice-a-roni packs and your high falutin' Mountain House style backpacking food folks. This style is also very simple and what it lacks in creativity it gains in time saved.  The only reason I am careful about anything in this style is the very high sodium content.  My heart starts racing just thinking about it.  Number 3 features the fresh food river chefs.  I start in this category but towards the end of the trip I begin to wander towards packet boiler status as I get tired.  The fresh foodies bring veggies, eggs, meats, bread, etc. to fill out the menu.  The benefits are obvious:  the food is good, and you can adjust and create different meals by adjusting contents.  The downsides are: longer cook times, more dirty dishes, and a heavier boat.  I wrote the categories so I get to break the rules;  I consider myself a mix of all three.  I bring some fresh foods, a dozen eggs, a cooked ham, giant cheese block, onions, fruit, etc. but I also have a base of easy to cook pastas, rice, and grains, and I also carry a couple bags of dehydrated veggies that I soak into meals.  I add ready made sauces, meats, and spices from my spice box for variation.  There are lots of ways to attack the food thing, but it does take a little planning.


Here is a link to all of the photos from Day 8 in the Canyon.
Its good to have fire.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 7 in the Grand Canyon: The Hike to Hardy's Boys Crack

Just hanging out with the cactus.
The hike up to Hardy Boys Crack
We started from Black Tail Canyon (Mile 120) fairly early on Day 7 so we could cover the 12 miles of river to Stone Creek camp (Mile 132) before lunch, which gave us plenty of time to join Mike on another special adventure.  I will remember this hike for the rest of my life.  I also love the story about the people who found this crazy up-and-over loop hike from Stone Creek to Gallaway Creek and back to camp, which includes this awesome down climb through the tapeats sandstone known as The Hardy Boys' Crack.  The rumor that I heard goes that in the 80s, a couple old time river guides spent their winters on the longest permitted trips possible drifting through the canyon and wandering up onto the rocky shelves and crumbling talus slopes of the side canyons and peaks of the Canyon.  When their permit ended, they would take out, head back to Flagstaff to replenish their supplies, and then grab the next long term permit available, pretty much living off their guide wages from the summer season and remaining down in the gorge all the year round.

The hike started off like so many down there, scrambling up a rocky wash working around big boulders and along the eroding edges of the terrain.  At this moment we had our first "are you serious" moment.  We cleared our way out of the stream bed Mike pointed up at a huge red wall and said, now you want to work your way up this scree slope and along that wall and finish on top of that first level.  I thought to myself "are you serious"?  Up along the wall we went, under boulders, and scrambling.  A few calls of "ROCK!" came down from above but it was all good.
We made it.  Then an amazing traverse on top of the Tapeats Sandstone level.  All the while Mike is giving us the history of the world according to piles of rocks.  It was awesome.  Then I start thinking about how the hell are we going to get down off this cliff and I remember the name of the hike and start expecting a down climb (my favorite) chimney style and there it is! Nothing too crazy but cool none the less.  I thought to myself, "awesome we did the climb"! But there was another level of the same, and then yet another.  Mike walked along the edge of the cliff scoping out a line.  I looked over the edge and thought, "are you f-ing kidding me"?  It was 100 feet down.  Then he found a slot and said, "this is it".  One of the Dutchies said out loud what I was thinking, "ARE YOU SERIOUS"!?  It was a tight climb down a rock choked chimney.  There was a little exposure but the hand holds were plentiful.  The line worked beautifully and we all were sputtering with awesometude.  All that was left was a sketchy traverse to the next side canyon and back to camp.

WHAT AN AMAZING DAY!  Yes that is Mike laughing at us all.

Beaz's Cigars!

Here is a link to all the shots from Day 7 in the Canyon

def.  Awesometude- The attitude adjustment you receive when you get to do something awesome.

Day 6 in the Canyon with Liquidlogic: Big Water in the Remix XP and Stinger XP

Walls above Granite
The annual Liquidlogic trip through the Grand Canyon was a dream of Boyce and Woody's. Boyce loved doing multi-days in his kayak and Woody knew that the best place to test the Remix XP series would be to take them on an extended trip.  What better way to achieve both goals than 12 days in the Canyon?  The first year, they took prototypes and early production models to test how they paddled and carried gear.  They came back knowing that they would do it again.  I couldn't join the XPdition until a couple years later but I kept hearing how great the trip was and how perfectly the boats performed but I felt a little removed from it because I didn't have that experience yet.  I had done some short overnighters on the Chattooga, and other rivers in the Southeast but I hadn't really loaded it down and lived from the XP for an extended time especially not while paddling big whitewater.  When I finally signed on, filled my boat with gear, and paddled it through big water,  I fully realized what an awesome boat it was for that type of trip.  The more weight I added to the boat the more stable it got and yet remained capable of rolling easily and maneuvering through the rapids.  The other big factor that I didn't realize the importance of was the skeg.  At the bottom of most rapids and all along the river big boils, swirls, and reflecting currents can toss you around a bit.  By dropping the skeg, the XP cut through the chaotic water quickly and effortlessly. It's also amazing the holes and breaking waves you can punch through with a boat that weighs nearly 200 lbs.

Granite for Breakfast
I am a lucky person to get to see my work play a part of people having incredible experiences. During the afternoons in the Canyon I love strolling around the beach after a big day on the water, pulling gear out, setting up camp as the evening light slides up the canyon walls, and listening to everyone talk about how amazing the day was.  It's not the boats that make it happen but they are a little part of it.  In one moment this 6th day that I won't forget, I got a little sunburnt with pride when we floated into the sun at Hermit and the entire LL armada was soaking it in, working through the rapid, laughing and yelling for one another, and I got to watch an inexperienced nervous paddler reach into the mountains of water and pull himself through and smile broadly at the bottom of the wave train.

Bram pulling his way through the waves.
As soon as we decided to make the Stinger race boat a real production boat, Woody and I both knew that we wanted to make it as an XP version as well.  It's a perfect complement to the Remix XP series.  For more experienced paddlers, the Stinger XP is fast, playful, and yet still super stable and predictable. The Remix XP's are extremely stable and forgiving for paddlers of all skill levels.  I experienced the speed of the Stinger as one obvious difference.  I could move forward and back in the group quickly and easily.  I felt like I was using less effort to cover our 20 mile days.  When I paddled the Remix XP I almost felt like I couldn't flip over but I could move around very well in the rapids.  At first I thought both boats seemed to carry the same amount of gear but as I got more used to packing the Stinger it seemed to have more room.  They both surf well but it can be tricky to fit the Stinger into tighter waves.  The Remix surfed easily in lots of different waves. I found that by dropping the skeg in either one and I could catch waves more easily.  We had a good mix of both boats on the trip this year making it fun to see the advantages of either design.

Black Tail Canyon
We paddled from Granite (Mile 194) to Black Tail Canyon (Mile 120) this day.  After the big hike and fairly long paddle of this day we were bushed.  Fortunately it was a short hike up into the super tight and sweet Black Tail Canyon to finish off the day.

Here is a link to all the photos from Day 6 in the Canyon.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 5 in the Canyon: The truth about the whitewater in the Grand Canyon

By Day 5 packing the boat is getting pretty easy.
Day 5 in the Canyon contains a bunch of fun whitewater as we drop into the Upper Granite Gorge with some big name rapids like, Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, and Horn Creek. We covered 20 miles from Rattlesnake Camp (mile 74) to Granite (mile 94).  Nothing like camping above a big rapid to make for some slightly restless sleep.

Mike dropping into Hance.
When I was a kid paddling around the Southeast I heard stories about the whitewater in the Grand Canyon and I saw videos of the huge waves and holes flipping giant rafts.  I didn't think I would ever kayak anything like that.  It only took me a few years to realize those thoughts weren't true but still when I first enter the Canyon I have a little bit of concern for the rapids.  I think that nervynous that I feel is tied mostly to the history and lore of the river but I also think the remoteness and size of the water adds to the mystique.  During the winter trips add in the cold dark shadows that the canyon walls cast over the river and it starts to get a little bit of an ominous feel to it some days.

Jeremy Approaching Horn Creek in the Shadows
The truth of the matter, however, is that if you have a bomber roll and can paddle sideways down through waves you are good to kayak the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.  There is no doubt that some of the rapids have serious moves for rafts but almost every single rapid in the Canyon is "hey diddle diddle, right down the middle" for a kayak.  Yes there are a few features to avoid but they are very obvious.  Yes there will be different water levels that may affect this determination but for the most part its all good to go.  Tentative kayakers have highways to avoid the big stuff and solid boaters can paddle right down through the biggest parts of almost every rapid.  There are a couple whirlpools that will bury you for a second and if you are upside down they might torment you enough to make you swim but those are few and very far between.  The one rapid that throws some curve balls at you is Lava.  The easiest line can be hard to hit and the angled curling waves come from different places that can slap you around hard if you are in the wrong place.  My goal by mentioning this isn't to belittle the whitewater, my goal is to clear peoples minds of fear for the whitewater so that anyone may take the opportunity to float through the Grand Canyon.  This is a trip that every paddler should make in some form or another.  The paddling is super fun and I enjoy every riffle whether I am in a tiny playboat or a long loaded missile.

The Team is all there.
Heres a link to see all the photos from Day 5 in the Canyon.

More awesome whitewater tomorrow.

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