The first time I raced at Brush creek was probably five or six years ago and there hasn’t been a race there since until this past weekend. The southern end of the Sierras were hit hard by the California drought, and there hasn’t been enough water to make this amazing creek run. Maybe that’s why there was such a great energy in the air at Brush Creek last weekend. Not only did it have runnable flows for the first time in a long time, but it had high flows, making it super fun and a little more challenging.
This year, the race was of particular interest to me. I mean sure it is a really fun creek with drops and steep slides. Yeah, I did get to paddle it with some friends that I haven’t seen since last year. That was like the icing on the cake, but for me, this year, the best part of this event was getting to take “the kid” (his new nickname) that I have been paddling with the past year. For him it was his first time running this style of continuous drops and big slides. I’m beyond stoked to report that he killed it. By his third or fourth run down the creek he was leading others. This trip really highlighted how much he has grown as a paddler in the past year. When we first paddled together he’d be out of his boat before his head got wet if things didn’t go to plan, but not any more. On the occasions where he got himself stuck in a recirculating eddy, or flipped over in three inches of water with only one hand on his paddle, he kept his calm and sorted himself out without needing any assistance from anyone else. For him maybe more than for me, another highlight may have been him beating me in the race. I always knew it would happen but I really thought I had more time. Maybe if I hadn’t taken a beating and swam in practice the morning of race day I might have done better, but more on that story in a minute.
If you know me as a paddler, you know that I prefer kayaking where the water is deep enough to put paddle strokes in and drive my boat. If you say the word rock in your explanation of what it means to boof, I will disagree. I go to great lengths to keep my boat from making contact with solid objects in the river. Maybe that’s because I started out in composite boats. Whatever the reason, I’m especially picky about not beating up my 9R. My 9R is hands down my favorite boat to paddle, and let’s face it, if you had a Ferrari would you rely on the guard rail to steer you around the corner? Not wanting to abuse my Ferrari on the steep low volume creek, I rode the new Machno for the trip and I couldn’t be more stoked with how well it rides. It’s not quite as fast and dynamic as the 9R but it isn’t supposed to be. It is very predictable, stable, and forgiving. It’s easy to boof and runs over everything you put in front of it. This boat just became my go to for multi day and or steep low volume runs.
Ok I guess you’ve waited long enough. You’ve probably seen the pictures and video already. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this much media coverage on the internet for anything I’ve ever done, but sure enough I take a swim and suddenly I’m famous. So, for those wondering here’s how it went down. Dave drove into town Friday evening having never paddled Brush creek before but planning to race the next day. It was already too late to go up that night so we got started early the next morning. I had already done six or eight practice laps the previous couple days so I went up to show Dave what I thought were the fastest lines for the race course. We’re coming into a rapid called triple drop, which oddly enough is a series of three ledges. There aren’t many eddies so I look over my shoulder on the way in and say “justrun the all down the right.” Upon looking back downstream I note I’m a little late getting right. No problem. I can use that small eddy to help me get there. I made a slight miscalculation and suddenly found myself spun out in the eddy and drifting out the back of it. I took a quick look at the approaching ledge and decided there wasn’t enough time to spin back around. “I definitely don’t want to drop in sideways,” I thought to myself, “I’ll have to run it backwards.” I took my best attempt at a switch boof stroke, but alas it wasn’t good enough. Perhaps that majestic California Boof Stork was lurking somewhere near by. I fell into the hole and was immediately locked into a side surf struggling to keep upright. Dave and Ethan both landed on me and I didn’t budge. I tried going forward and backward but was unable to move an inch in either direction. I tried flipping over but to no avail. With noting working at all I new I had only one option left. Swim. Reluctantly and all too aware that my padawan learner was just down stream I pulled the yellow tab of surrender and was quickly removed from my kayak. I was lucky in that I came right up to the surface and was able to swim into a micro eddy and a small hold on the icy granite before swimming the following ledges. It would have been four years in June, but I guess we all must swim sometimes. At least I got a free beer out of it.