Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Salmon River - A Boaters Paradise

There is one place that I never had on my bucket list and having just been this summer I now highly recommend every kayaker out there add this trip to their list. The Salmon river in Idaho is stunning. It is without doubt a boating paradise, remote, pristine, wilderness, whitewater everywhere, blue, clear, clean water. Its just amazing. Its like a mini grand canyon. In fact if your planning on a grand canyon trip this would be a perfect warm up. Or if your trying to learn to Macho move and need almost 100 miles of non stop perfect practice waves this is the river for you.

This summer I had the chance to lead a trip of a lifetime with Jez. Seven days of non stop adventure down this beautiful river with 22 kids from Falling Creek Camp. Super talented all these kids took the rapids in their stride styling it the whole way. A relatively easy whitewater trip, mostly class 3 with just a handful of super fun big water class 4's. It was the distance and remoteness that was the main challenge. Almost 100 miles in just 6 days. For most of us 100 miles in playboats!

We flew in our tiny planes from the Idaho hub of Boise across snow capped mountains and through stunning mountain ranges to a tiny airport in Salmon. We then jumped on a yellow school bus and took the only road into the valley as far as it possibly went and then meet our kayaks, guides and rafts to begin the water part of our trip.

On the water the days varied in distance with us hitting 3 miles the first day and then 28 miles the next. Yes 28 miles that is more than a marathon in just one day it was insane. On the water we mixed it up boogie'ing (loose formation) our way down the easier rapids and then training up (paddling in a super long line) down the rest.  Rapid after rapid there was boats everyone, flying of waves, boofing small holes, kick flipping and wave wheeling everything safe. Over the course of the 6 days we found hundreds of the most amazing macho move wave trains we had ever seen. It was like a downriver play boating paradise. Off the water our guides looked after us well finding us beautiful campsites and cooking up 5 star meals. They showed us really cool local mining areas, insane bridges and trading posts along the way talking us through the history of this amazing place. One of the guides paddled a classic Dory (a traditional river expedition boat) a unique experience in itself to be on the river with such a craft, the rest in kayaks and rafts. Along the way we saw several bald eagles, a dozen or so mountain goats, wild horses and loads of other wildlife including snakes. About 3 days in we paddled amidst the remains of a forest fire burning along the river bank for about 5 miles in the middle of the trip. Then on day 4 a massive lightning and thunderstorm huge storm hit. It really was surreal being deep in this remote canyon just paddling our way along.

The days although long on the water actually felt short and we had a lot of chill out time at each campsite on the beach. We swam, sup'd, fished, played frisbee, climbed mountains and generally just hung out and had time to chat. The 22 kids we had were teenage boys. All super talented gentleman who had earnt themselves a special invite to this trip. For everyone involved it was a very special experience, life changing in so many ways. Each night we would sit around a camp fire and reflect on the day. Sharing our favorite and stand out moments. It was very special to be part of this especially in modern society where modern, electrical items, internet and phones dominate. To be fully remote. Living this life was such an important reminder of how valuable these experiences and moments are in a young persons development and life.

All too soon the trip was over and we found ourselves at the take out and back to the reality of life, back in a bus and on the road again, with cell phone service and other people about. A quick stop for ice cream in McCall, followed by another to check out Jakes Rake (a white water extreme race section) on the Payette River and we were back where it all started in Boise once again. Just in time to grab some pizzas and head to watch the Boise Hawks (baseball game).

Luckily Jez went the extra mile to capture the magic of this expedition in a video. As well as shooting loads of photos along the route. Enjoy watching our expedition and if you can I would highly recommend you make your own journey into this magic place.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Freestyle on Sky Sports

Earlier this year I had the awesome opportunity to film with Olympic Medalist Helen Reeves for the Sky Sports Go Canoe kayaking production. The feature went out as part of the World Championship Slalom and Sprint Sky Sports show and featured all the main paddle sport disciplines. Unfortunately I missed watching it live as I was in the middle of Canada but they have now put it online for us all to watch.

Check it out here its a great promotional piece for Freestyle Kayaking.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ICF Judges Seminar - Grade A Judge

45, 60, 90, 110. Clean , Super Clean, Huge, Aerial, Linked???

My brains is fried and its awesome. After many years in the sport and many many hours spent judging I have finally got myself on an ICF Judges Training seminar in Plattling with Sneaky Pete and Terry Best and officially passed so I can officially announce that I am now an A Grade which means I can know judge at all competitions worldwide including World Championships. I also was lucky to have the opportunity to learn from Terry and Pete how to deliver judge training seminars so that I can return to Australia and later this year run the first ever ICF Freestyle kayak seminar in Oceania. If your interested in judging freestyle on a National and International level, have an eye for quickly analyzing movements and your willing to practice and learn and would enjoy a front row seat to all the action then i'd highly recommend you sign up for an ICF Judges seminar.

Top Tips to give you the best chance at achieving an ICF A or B grade.

1. Study the rules and appendix's
2. Watch lots of videos and work out how to spot the moves
3. Read and watch all the videos and descriptions on the Paddle Education website
4. Spend a lot of time studying squirt boating as this has an equal part in the judges role and exams
5. Watch and judge as many athletes, competitions and runs as you can before you attend your seminar
6. Ask other judges for advice on help there are a lot of tips and tricks that you can use to spot the moves and judges are always happy to share their advice and experiences.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kellys Academy 2017

“There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.” 

 Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.

This summer I returned for my fourth season at the Kelly's White Water Park. Kelly's has become a large part of my life and I look forward to my three week summer adventure in this beautiful part of Idaho. This year was even more exciting as big snow levels meant the river was super high and the main wave was in. I flew in and received the call that the wave was insane at this level and the river was too potentially too high for the Academy. Great news for me personally but a potential challenge for our instructor team and the kids. I stopped on route in Banks to catch up with some of the North Fork Championships crew who were still in town. Then woke up early to drive the last hour and go surf. Just as I drove out of the no service Payette river  zone into Cascade I got the call. The levels had dropped! Gutted but kind of relieved the wave was gone but the levels were perfect for the kids.

So the next three weeks were spent at the park teaching local kids how to kayak, stand up paddle board and surf. With an incredible crew of instructors from across America and the amazing Jonas Litteri from Brazil we shared our love and passion for these sports. Inspiring, coaching and mentoring over 90 kids. Some were tiny super young 9 and 10 year olds others we're older teens taking time out from their school work and summer jobs to come to the the park to learn. We also had several returning kids helping out with the coaching on a mini mentoring scheme. It is amazing to be part of program like this seeing how important it is to have the opportunity to try these types of sports. So many of the kids will continue to be involved in these sports now for the rest of their lives because of the opportunities they are given on this summer program.

Cascade is middle of nowhere Idaho, an old logging town and the local income is very low so this Academy is available purely through the generosity of the Kelly's White Water Park founders Mark & Kristina Pickard. The kids get to attend for free, getting insanely good ratios (max 1:2) and for many this is the highlight of the year. Not only that the local town gets involved supporting the project, they learn to swim as a pre-requist to attending and attend a water safety, river safety talk with the local Sheriff in town.
Peter Holcolme was generous enough to give up his time shoot these amazing photos of our classes on the Academy. Jonas also made this incredible video showing the real value of what Mark and Kristina have brought not only to these kids but also to this town.
Inspring the next generation. Too young to be involved this summer Mavericks sister sat, watched and cheered every kid for 3 weeks waiting her turn to go next year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Montreal Eau Vive

Jet ski time!!!
The Montreal Eau Vive has already become one of the big fun must go to events on my annual calendar. This was only my second year at the event and once again it was amazing. Set in the heart of Montreal on the massive St Lawerence river, the Montreal Eau Vive brings jet boats, jet skis and kayaking together to create a massive festival of big wave surfing and racing. Starting on the Lachine rapids the action kiosk of with some freestyle. Kayakers paddle out to an tiny Island in the middle of the river and stage for their runs. Out in the middle of the river the only infrastructure is a tall scaffolding tower built high above the tiny island with many of its stanchions actually in the river. Tied to it is a raft full of kayaks. This is the judging, filming, timer and organizers stand and the key component in making this event work. In the eddy their are a full heat of competitors awaiting their turn. Then there's three Jet Skis ready to make the fun happen. Over on another Island about a mile away hidden high in the trees are two more judges and a photographer loaded with a massive lens and a drone. This is an event with logistics of epic proportions. This event shouldn't really be possible but somehow the masterminds of Ian and Phil have brought together everything to make it work.

Montréal Eau Vive 2017 from Montreal Eau Vive on Vimeo.


So my heat kicks of and I wait my turn. Now a vetran returning to the event I share my experiences of last year with those new. Most kayakers have never surfed Mavericks before or riden on the back of the Jet Ski so there is a lot to learn and so much more to this weekend than just the kayaking. Its my turn and I jump on board so excited to be playing on the Jet ski once more. A little dubious of my still bust thumb I adapt my paddle hold so that I can ride without it getting a pounding. As we drive out my excitement builds. I look for my line onto Maverick and a Brandon drops me off and drives away I try to line up my approach. The trick to Mavericks is to hit the shoulder (but not too far out) and surf the green. Its a very diagonal wave and as soon as you get pushed even slightly surfers left your ride is over as you get type writered out of the wave and across the hole.

This year the river is super high and Mavericks is way bigger than last year. Still beautifully formed and green but bigger for sure. I line up for the green face it looks awesome. I'm totally online smack bang in the middle of the green and then just before I hit it its crashes and boom i'm typewritring across and in the hole. I think about throwing a Mcnasty but my chance has passed and now i'm floating downstream amisdt the mess of biols and waves of the St Lawerence. The Montreal Eau Vive is a funny event because normally after missing a ride you'd be a little disappointed but not here. As I can already see the Jet ski on its way to pick me up and drive me back to the start eddy. How can you not be having fun out here its insane. The Maverick events is a 3 ride event with your best 6 tricks in your best ride counting. We'll in three rides I caught it once on my second ride and threw three tricks two big blunts and a flash back. Then got hit by the crashing curler and completely eaten on my third run. Big smiles I rode the Jet ski back up again and shared comedy stories out wipe outs with the others.

Big Joe

Next up was Big Joe. This time we paddled on and then Jet Ski'd back up again. I love Big Joe and like to think that I know it quite well but as I was about to find out its not the same at these levels at all. I dropped in and on my first two rides flushed on my first trick! My third ride I took my time I dropped in and surfed around and felt the wave out realizing the sweet spot was not the shoulders but was the middle of the wave hole. I got a few sweet tricks before going for a cartwheel. I know!!! Never gonna work but for some reason in the moment it felt like it was a good idea. Flying back over the waves, blasting my way back up I got in one extra cheeky run. This time I flew with a big blunt, flashbacks and an airscrew. Wave boating is tough but so much fun.
Over the day Emily Jackson hit ride after ride, trick after trick showing why she is the wave boating World Champion and taking the win.

Boater X

Which meant when we arrived at the start we had plenty of time to get ready and chill. Then at about 10.30am we jumped on the river and blasted our way down the massive St Lawrence in search of the staging Island. It was quite a fun run in as we all followed the first few people assuming they knew where they were going only finding out when we were far to committed that they had no idea and had never been before. Luckily I remembered enough to read and run my way down the big volume mess. Spotting in the trees along the way the glimpse of color of the film crew and with the sound of drones over head. Soon we had almost 50 people on this bird poo covered small island in the middle of the river ready and waiting to go. We all heard this massive roar of a Jet engine and looked up to see the Jet Boat raging up the rapids. It was time to play. In turn we jumped in our boats and paddled downstream. Meet the Jetboat and climbed aboard to be driven back upstream. Scouting the race line as we went. At the top we loaded into our boats. Hanging dubiously of the sides of the boat. The count down went and it was race on. Packed in tightly launching and landing was dubious and several of us flipped even before we started to race. Then back upright it was game on. Sprinting hard across the flatter flowing water we made it to the rapids section. Big exploding waves took us through several hundred meters of amazing quality white water before we hit the boily mess of the huge eddy the jet boat was waiting in.

I was in a Zen racing against a Nirvana and a 9R. Through the rapids I had sweet lines allowing me to just keep up, the girls escaping from me on each flat and then coming into the boil finish I got the line perfect blasting through the middle jumping from 3rd place to within literally one second of first place at the finish line. Turning round to watch the carnage of everyone else coming in to hit the finish line and then laugh our way home. The girls was crazy 10 paddlers in a one off race a head to head finals. The boys even more crazy 20 lads launching of the boat together in a mass final!! Watch all the videos on the line to see the carnage.

The massive paddle out

So everything awesome has to have a challenge within and the paddle home after the boater x is the challenge of all challenges!!! Almost an hour of non stop paddling after the finish of the final race and we made it to shore. One epic epic epic ferry glide home. Island hoping our way across the St Lawrence river. I'm not sure exactly how far the journey home was but lets just say really really really long. Last year we got a little stuck after the Boater X hiking with our boats through the streets of Montreal for another half hour after the epic paddle looking for our car. As after we had set a shuttle a big bike race had closing down loads of roads causing alot of confusion. So this year me and Elaine planned ahead and ran our shuttle the night before. So at least as we got of the river exhausted we were done. So exhausted we could just drive back up to the event base and grab some food and share stories from another awesome event with everyone.

New Flash : Intermediate competition and Pro Clinics

Now I didn't realise last year but they also hold an Intermediate competition and pro clinics as well as the pro event. If you fancy riding Jet skis on to Big Joe and then racing through the Lachine rapids there's an awesome Intermediate event that also runs at the Montreal Eau Vive event. With big prizes up for grabs. So if you fancy some jet ski riding and big wave surfing but in a slightly less extreme situation check it out next summer. There are also heaps of Pro kayakers giving clinics (with Jet ski support) over the weekend. Oh and Stand Up Paddle Boarding races, clinics, come and try its, Yoga, beer, food music... the list goes on. It's a really pretty awesome event.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Ultimate Kayaking Packing List

How to pack 101
As I left for my trip today Jez asked me if he could have my packing list to help him make sure he didn't forgot anything for his trip to the USA this weekend and it got me thinking. Traveling all over the world as much as I do the number of times I write and rewrite packing lists is insane and every time it seems to be almost identical. So I thought it was time to write it down and post it online so that not only only me and Jez but also anyone everyone else who travels to paddle could also potentially use it to help make traveling that little bit easier.

Throw back to flying to Nepal in 2004 with only
one 23kg item allowance

My Packing List

Wallet (money, credit card, cash, drivers licence)


Visas (if applicable)

Travel insurance documents

Car rentals paperwork

Accommodation paperwork and arrival address details (needed when you arrive at customs in a lot of countries)

Mobile phone and charger

Computer and charger

Camera and charger and sd cards

Go pro and charger

Hard drive and USB stick

Adapter plugs for international countries 

Boat and boat bag

Paddles x 1-2 and bag

Helmet, nose clip and earplugs

Cagdecks/ Drydecks (or Cags/Drytops and decks/skirts) long sleeve and short sleeve

BA / PFD, whistle and river knife 

Dry trousers


Sling and Throw line 

First aid kit 

Duck tape 

Shorts x 2-3

Fleece/paddling tops x 2-3

Sports bras / bikini / swimming costumes x 2
Roof rack strap

Waterproof jacket

Down jacket


Flip flops

T-shirts x 5-6

Hoody x 1-2

Jeans/trousers/pants x 1-2

Shorts x 2-3


Pants/Underwear x 8-12

Socks x 3-4

Bras x 2

Sports Bra

Towels x 1-2

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel


Toothbrush and toothpaste 



Paracetamol / Ibroprofen


Other Toiletries 

Any personal medicines 

 Cold water paddling additions…

Dry suit 

Skull cap

Extra fleeces 

Gloves / poggies


Extra boats - Squirt Boat / Creek Boat / Carbon Play Boat
Hand paddles
Extra Pfd - Play boating / river rescue vest

Boat lock and padlock

Yoga mat

Foam Roller

Camp Chair


Lacrosse ball for trigger massage, massage lotion 

Repair kit
Pin kit

Googles (squirt boat)
Books, Kindle, iPads


Generally I pack it all into a one large lightweight travel bag on wheels and my boat bag. Max 23kg / 50lbs each. Then I carry a personal small backpack with my computer, camera etc. I also pack a spare small (wet boating) kit bag in my boat so I can separate my gear when on the road.

Flying back from Germany

Where possible I travel with just two check in items putting my paddles inside my boat if there splits or if there not taping them in their bag to my boat bag so it counts as just 1 piece. Occasionally an airline will allow you to pack them separately in the paddle bag and as they only weigh a couple of kilos they might let them on for no or little extra charge. Remember to say their ski's especially if the airlines not kayak friendly see my flying with a kayak blog. I just travelled today with my split paddles for free as part of my hand luggage, as my small personal carry on item. When the lady ask I said it was the equivalent of my small musical instrument allowance.

My two piece splits have been an awesome addition to my international travel kit
Transiting through Dallas Airport with my carry on!

Top Tips

1. Always travel with a water bottle. All airports have filtered water available for free inside the terminals. So empty your water bottle before you go through security then refill it for free before you airs your plane. Saves money and the oceans.

2. Travel with spare underwear, shorts and a t-shirts in your hand luggage and a toothbrush and toothpaste and baby wipes. This means that if your bags or flights get delayed and you end up with an unexpected night without all your gear your comfy and clean.

3. On long haul flights or massive trips find the airports showers and freshen up between flights. In Singapore airport find and jump in the swimming pool its worth it.

4. If your short on space / weight either wear more layers as you check in and go through customs and carry and extra bag inside your back pack to put it in when your on the plane or try and work out what heavy / bulky items you can easily and reasonably cheaply buy (shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, books) when you arrive at your destination.

So much sports equipment so little space

Sometimes you have lots of space

Packing doesn't have to be for flying
Taking only what you need can make a trip way more fun

Obviously the list will change a little trip to trip and person to person depending on where your going, the weather, length of trip and your paddling goals but I hope that this can be of help as a starting point and general guide.

Enjoy your paddling adventures around the world.

Happy Packing

Claire O

Having the right gear in the right place... priceless