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Where did you cut your teeth?

5449 Views 22 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  riverinstigator
So I haven't posted in a while although I do check in and read from time to time - I own an 11' "Mini-Cataraft" - an Outcast (subsidiary of AIRE) Pac 1100 - 11' "Pontoon" boat that I bought almost a year and a half ago. I started as an angler and will always be one but I find I enjoy being on the river as much as I enjoy the fishing so I would almost say I'm 50/50, as I've been around rivers my entire life.

Anyways - everyone started somewhere - I've methodically worked my way up from class 1 rivers to rivers up to class 3+ now - haven't hit any class 4 stuff yet - not planning on it yet anyways LOL - I'm pretty content with the class 3 stuff - it's fun and still challenging. The last river I ran was a very continuous class 2-3+ and it was fun but I definitely had my work cut out for me with the 11' boat due to the continuous nature of the river! Here's a couple videos from that run a few weeks back:

Part #1 - Coquihalla River Pontoon Drift July 1 2014 Part 1 - YouTube
Part #2 - Coquihalla River Pontoon Drift July 1 2014 Part 2 - YouTube

Here is another short video my bro took of me on the Chilliwack River back in April- Chilliwack River Pontoon Drift April 19 2014 HD 720p - YouTube

Anyways - I've taken one - one day course to date with a local whitewater rafting outfit last year in September that really boosted my confidence and helped me see more of the boat can do and I'm hoping if enough people sign up, to take another way more comprehensive course mid September which I posted on earlier. I also plan on taking some swift water rescue training at some point as well. I've borrowed Jeff Bennetts book - The Complete Whitewater Rafter twice form the library to date now and most recently I ordered a copy off of ebay lol.

Right now I feel like I'm caught in a grey zone - somewhere between your average angler with a pontoon boat, and someone who recreationally catarafts rivers. I eventually want to get a bigger boat like a Wave Destroyer one day rigged to carry and fish one or two people if possible and to take on some bigger water. But for the time being I'm relatively content where I am.

I'm just wondering how you guys all cut your teeth? How did you grow from easy rivers to the really gnarly shit? What boat did you start on? What do you have now? Who showed you the ropes? Have you taken any courses or relevant training worth noting? What in your mind progressed you the most? What lessons did you learn the hard way if you don't mind sharing? I'd love to hear a bit about your story...
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I started in an Outcast Pac 1100, just like you. I still have it. I had friends who rafted & kayaked. They took me to Alpine Canyon (outside Jackson Wy.) to try something new with the mini-cat. Easy class III in late summer. I was hooked. I then joined a rafting club and started doing class II-III day trips with them. I learned a ton about rafting in general from them. On an June Split Mountain (Green River) trip, class III, high water, I had my first flip in Moonshine rapid. After that I decided if I wanted to keep running whitewater, I better get a "real" cataraft. I got a 14 X 19 JPW Flyer cat. Super fun for day runs, and I could carry a small amount of multi-day gear on it. More Split Mountain runs, Westwater, Payette runs. Then I progressed to the Main Salmon for multi-day trips. I did a few with an outfitter (Canyons Inc.) and learned a lot from their guides. Finally moved up to a July Middle Fork trip with them at about 2.5-3 feet. A nice manageable level. after that I met the group I boat with now. Multi-day trips in Utah, Idaho, Oregon mostly. I progressed through two Maravia cats, 14X22, 14X24, and now have moved to a raft. Maybe one day I'll do the Grand???? If I can stop having surgery on my leg.

Good luck in your journey. I have never sold my PAC 1100 because it's so nice for fishing and class II-III day runs (Green below Flaming Gorge, Moab daily). I love that little cat. I've also added a 13 foot touring kayak to my armada this summer. I'm headed for Grand Teton Nat. park next month for some overnight backcountry paddling & camping.
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….I started as an angler and will always be one but I find I enjoy being on the river as much as I enjoy the fishing….
Sounds like you caught the fever.

The challenge of navigating uncertain water and finding your own line is awesome. Whether in raft, cat, kayak …. whatever.

"You only have one chance to run it blind."
Well, my first memories of rafting where when I aaas a small kid. My Dad used to take us on the South Platte on float trips. We ran a few small rapids, and we took my uncle's canoe once, which ended up being my first flip and swim. I still remember seeing the under workings of the rapid (rocks and sticks and bubbles) and then feeling this hand grab me by the back of the PFD and pulling me into the eddy. But that's probably not what you mean by cutting my teeth... LOL

My Dad then went on to more whitewater when I was a teenager buy running the Salt with his buddies. He caught the bug big time then, so bought a raft. oars, made a frame, etc. He and his friends would run the Salt in the spring, then ship the boat to Colorado and we'd run the Ark all summer long. Mostly Browns Canyon of course. Every now and then I would row, but I was still mostly a passenger.

I then got to go on a multi-day on the Salt with my Dad my senior year in high school. That was a special treat for me. I got to see Quartzite before it was blasted, and spent some quality time with my Dad on the river. I got to row quite a bit in the calmer sections, and even rowed one rapid - just one. I flipped us and that was it for me rowing rapids... LOL

It was many years after my Dad passed before I got back into whitewater rafting (no, he didn't pass from the flip). Our friends invited my wife and kids on a big multi-family overnighter on Ruby Horsethief. Wife and kids had a ball, and my wife said "we should get one of these". That's all I needed to hear. Two boats and a garage full of gear later, we're all in! LOL

The maiden voyage as a family in the 14 footer was the Lower Eagle, the poo plant to the fairgrounds. We eddied out just above rodeo to get everyone back in their respective boats (we were with friends) when my entire family abandoned me for my buddy's boat - they were afraid I'd flip in Rodeo. It was like rowing a beach ball because all my weight up front was then in my buddy's boat, but much to their dismay, I ran it clean - as I have always done with my family on board (my friends, not so much LOL). So you could say the Eagle is where I cut my teeth as an oarsman - we ran it quite a bit that summer.

The maaiden voyage for the mini-Max was on Shoshone - wife and the kids on board. Wife and I R2ed, but we didn't get along so well. We made it through without incident, but learned a lot about the need for communication that day. I took a guide class the next year and spent a lot of time paddling and guiding, so cutting my teeth in a paddle raft was done mostly on the Eagle and Browns Canyon. Mostly in 13 and 14 footers, and some in the mini-Max.

I am starting to step up to class IV stuff, but like you, I enjoy class III mostly, in part because my kids are still relatively young and little and I am not ready for them to be running class IV - yet. Well, other than some stuff on the Salt and Cataract, which they have already done...
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My first rowing experience (and first flip) was a 13' Hyside in Cataract at ~30K. Granted I had about 7 years of prior kayaking experience, but rowing added a new dimension and more equipment to the garage.
My Start Was Rather Unusual...

When I drew a Grand Canyon Permit in February of 2012 I had NEVER been in whitewater. I had never rowed a boat. I was as green as they came, but that wasn't going to stop me! I put together a crew with some experience, and we shoved off from Lees Ferry on March 18, 2013. I rowed the entire river to Pearce. Every rapid. Every bit of flat water. I flipped in Horn:

Horny Horn - YouTube

The wife was not impressed, and I nearly spike the Fangs:

Killer Fang Falls Rapid, Grand Canyon Right Run April 2013 - YouTube

If all of that wasn't enough, I was able to land on a trip this past June, where things went considerably more right. I didn't flip in Horn, but I did run the LEFT HORN:

Left Horn TR - YouTube

Granite & Hermit were a blast again!

Granite Hermit 2014 - YouTube

And Lava was OH SO SWEET!

Lava 2014 - YouTube

So basically, I cut my teeth IN GRAND CANYON! I am currently building a Whitewater Dory that will float Diamond Down this October, and I am taking her down the Grand Again this coming March with 15 of my bestest buddies! That's some way to learn about boating, rowing and whitewater!

Go big or go home I guess!

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First flip as passenger was in westwater. Scull at 13k. That was my first overnight. Then I started doing the Yellowstone with my buddy in Mt. Then I needed my own boat. Did the upper blue at flood stage and learned about river wide trees and portaging. Ran pumphouse at 9k thinking it was a good noob run. Ran it clean with a front man in the spider. Turns out that was some of the biggest water I saw all year. Then it was off to the ark with wookie for some good lines (2011 was a huge water year). Did browns, royal gorge and then numbers late season. Did browns several times. Then I moved to Mt. Yellowstone overnights, Yankee Jim, Springdale wave. Last year I really cut my teeth in the Gallatin from low water to highwater, beartrap canyon solo first time down ever, then off to the lochsa for some real deal shit. I bought the big boat and started really learning to row. I used to fish too. Now I take my noob buddys and show them rivers and lines. Always learning something new. Teeth cutting video
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Yampa, 1967 with Outward Bound. Old military assault boats; we called em insult boats. Two people on the oars. Ran the rest of that year with the Explorer troop that outfitted Outward Bound, Thank you Mike!

Same the next summer, and ran my first paddle boat. I still have my paddle. Military surplus, natch.

Skip forward to 1973. I set out to arrest a miscreant at a disturbance. He mentions that "Wow man, I'm supposed to run a river trip tomorrow" which leads to further discussion and the discovery that my old friend Mike is now an outfitter. Sorry you met me D-9?

One thing leads to another, I get hired and bring on a couple of friends; (RIP Chris) and Joel, as weekend warriors. All over Colorado and Utah.

The next year I quit playing at cops N robbers and go full time as a guide. Just about all of the Colorado above Cataract, Green through Ladore (damn football players) and Deso. Arkansas, North Platte, and I found Eden on the Dolores. RIP Dolores.

The years after that were more of the same, with Cataract and the Grand added in. A New Year's Rio Grande trip. Tat in Alaska. Met my wife, who gently pointed out; there are no retired guides on a pension out there.

1979 I'm married and have to face reality. I get a "real" job and move to Oregon. Sneak in a Dechutes trip and my second Grand trip in 1984.

I discover that power boating is so much less work, and can be as much fun, especially when you have kids. Especially in the Northwest where water is so easy to find.

Fast forward to 2014 and I get back on the river for the first time in 30 years.

I've left the thing a couple of times, but it's never left me.

How do you "work your way up" to the big stuff? Jump in. Just do it. Don't over think it, don't analyze it, just get in there. I mean, what's the worst that can happen?

Yeah, and that can happen on a class I or II.

On my first Grand trip I learned that as a guide we don't have quite as much do with a good run as we think; the River God is pleased to point that out to overly confident, and over cautious boatmen.

Seriously. Do it. Don't pass up an opportunity because you don't think you are ready, cause if you do that you'll never be ready.
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I put my buddy on the sticks (with only a few hours training on Oregon day runs) on the middle fork salmon a couple weeks ago. He did great but now I need a new sport boat. Sold him my spider and he's been running it a couple times a week. Sorry. You have a new habit.
Like GCHiker4887 I cut my teeth in The Canyon. Kind of an insane opportunity I couldn't pass on. Never had even been in a oar rig and rowed the entire 225 miles without mishap. After scouting Lava I had to pull out the groover (literally!). 52 trips down the Grand later I guess you can say I am hooked on it - with a trip to Deso next week.
Upper Blue, 1995, buddy picked up a 12' bucket boat with a huge gash in the floor for $150. We patched it, got some PFDs and a pump and away we went. He's a kayaker and I think I figured out his motive a few years later when I realized I was always hauling his gear on overnights and multi-day trips. I've moved up in terms of what kind of raft I've got these days. Sadly my friend's drifted away from whitewateri in the last few years.
I am cutting my teeth this summer in Idaho. I've had some experience paddling on commercial (and friend) day trips for about 10 years. I went on my first overnight trip on Hell's 2 years ago. Started applying for 4 rivers permits after that. Went as a passenger on Hell's and the MFS last year and rowed a little on the MFS and all of Hell's below Granite and Wild Sheep in my friends boat.

This year I moved from Colorado back to Idaho and bought my own boat.

Yeah, and that can happen on a class I or II.
Truer words have never been spoken Schutzie. I flipped my brand new boat, on it's maiden voyage, on the very first rapid, less than 2 miles from the put in on the Main Salmon. Oh ya and it's a class II rapid. It's called Killam and at 4.6 on the Corn Creek ramp there is a hole that if you hit it exactly wrong it will flip your brand new 143R right over. The rest of the trip went much better.

My friends say my new river name is Class II. I think I'll paint it on the bottom of my boat and work to not see it again unless I'm rolling it at the take out.

It's a learning process and I'm proceeding. :)
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So I see I'm not alone LOL!

Thanks for the input so far everyone! Interesting video, the Grand Canyon looks like an interesting place! I think what I'm going to do is when the time comes down the line when I do buy a Cataraft, I'll try and time the purchase so I can do a trip to see the Lochsa Falls Memorial Day Weekend event and pick everything up direct in Idaho! Probably not next years but maybe the year after? Woohoo!
After spending a half hour deadheading with some guides I used to film a tour group with, I overheard a buddy in a bar talking about a trip coming up. Asked him what's up with that and got on the trip. I think he thought my gravity and ballast might keep the boat he put me in from flipping. It did. I spend 7 days bow busting in a 13 foot bucket boat on the Main Salmon at 24K in mid June 1989. I was working for a dirtbag contractor at the time and when I told him I needed the week off, he said 'you won't have a job when you get back'. See ya. Such an asshole. I found out later he created this procedure that called for therapeutic intravaginal massage….and rich, stupid women pay him for this shit. Oh well.

After the Main I started bugging the outfitter that ran the day trips I was filming. Got CPR, Wilderness First Aid and already had a bus license to improve my chances. Did the guide training the next spring. Two a days for about 10 days, sometimes in the snow. Stanley can be cold in mid May. Got hired.

Cataract that fall in an oar boat. Middle Fork the next spring as one of two oar boats and a cat for 16 people. Many kayakers. I was stuck a lot. Early June in a dry year is about 2.5 feet. Still had a ball and about three years later started guiding out there.

I put together my first river trip along in there - The Selway. I am so glad it was under 4 feet as none of us had seen it. And there was no internet to warn us we would die, so we just did it. The only one who flipped was the guy with the 'Class 5' experience just off the Bio Bio who couldn't wait for us to get ready in the morning because we were more hung over than he. No Slouch served up his ass whipping. In the book it's class "2".

I will never forget him still trying to get his sleeping bag dry by the fire at 2 in the am when I got up to pee.

Stay humble. Be flexible and never give up when the shit hits the fan or your first choice doesn't work out.
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Stay humble. Be flexible and never give up when the shit hits the fan or your first choice doesn't work out.
Truer words never more spoken. The advice given to me by "Coach" (as one of his guys rowing a 22' snout missed the eddy) was "read the water, give it your all, and never ever give up"
I grew up in Canon City on the Ark. Spent many a day on tractor tubes in the lower Gorge - not rafting but taught us a lot about being comfortable in fast water. In the early 70's a group of us bought an Army surplus ocean raft. It was big and floppy but got us into real rafting. My brother tried the Gorge (back then there was a low head dam that was a noted killer) and lost the boat and almost his life. During high school I spent a summer working for River Runners and have been on the river ever since.
I also cut my teeth on the grand. My buddy loaned me his 14' cat for a trip in Dec 2009. He knows the lines, so I just followed. Had a clean run until lava, where I flipped and took a bad swim. Was hooked after that and bought the cat off of him the next summer.
Find a section you want to learn. Find someone you trust to show you the line. Ride along, and pay attention to where the hazards lie. Ride along as many times as necessary until you feel relatively comfortable with the lines. Once you think you've got the gist of it, take your own boat with people you trust following you in a sweep position. It's best if you also have another boat in front so you can follow there lines. Keep trip format tight in case there is an issue. This is how all commercial guides learn new water. Don't get cocky! Play it safe. There is a huge step up in consequences between class 111 and class 1V and V. Have respect for the river as well as those on the river with you, to learn the rivers before you jump in with both feet ( literally).
My first time on whitewater was on the upper yough (V). I was raised in an area rich in whitewater, but had never been exposed to it. I took my older friend up on the offer of a "free ride down" because he needed extra weight in the front to "catch the eddys".
The only one who flipped was the guy with the 'Class 5' experience just off the Bio Bio who couldn't wait for us to get ready in the morning because we were more hung over than he. No Slouch served up his ass whipping. In the book it's class "2".

I will never forget him still trying to get his sleeping bag dry by the fire at 2 in the am when I got up to pee. .
Thats a great story. I've always noticed, especially when I was green and people gave out more advice or orders, the biggest d bags end up being the guys that brag the most and have to tell everyone how much shit they've done and how great they are. Its also funny to watch guys who were total greenhorns become "badass" in a couple years. I've seen that on here a lot lately.

One thing I've been thinking about lately is how at first its about hitting a line or setting the up the rig just right and as time goes on you begin to learn so much more about what the whole river life is about. I think this is true for a lot of things in life.
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