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Dirtbag’s Guide to Whitewater The International

Edition Because anywhere feels like home to a Dirtbag‌






Summer time, and the livin’s easy…

Unless you’re a dirtbag. Then you’ve probably been guiding or instructing on the same three rivers since May while you watched your favorite late spring runs dry up. You tell yourself, “It’ll be worth it when…” you can afford that big trip this winter, or you can dodge the job search just long enough to catch the fall releases. But with all the pro-deals you just secured access to and the increasing distance you’re willing to drive to paddle anything other than the river you’re on now, we both know any thoughts of financial security are a delusion. Yes, the summer season is like a broken promise from your favorite dam operator. It was guaranteed to be full on, with the reliability to open up new lines and new runs. But somehow you’ve been left high and dry. !

That’s what we’re here for. To remind you that even though you’ve already spent all the tip money you’re going to make this summer on discounted shorty-drytops and matching boardshorts, at least this mag is free. To remind you that, someday, the rivers will run again, and even if they don’t there are plenty abroad that apparently never get too low. As a paddler, you’re a part of a family that transcends borders. You can go anywhere and feel at home as long as there’s a river nearby. So take heart, dirtbags, the local streams will flow again, and until then, there’s always Canada… Welcome to the Summer ’12 issue of The Dirtbag’s Guide to Whitewater

The International Edition!


Editor-in-Chief Photo Editor Cover Design

Eric Adsit Scott Martin Eric Adsit

Words: Kate Daniel Eric Adsit Scott Martin Photos: Brian Murphy Eric Adsit Scott Martin Dylan Cobb

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Contents 13

Slowing Down with Captain Holiday, B.C., Canada


Tandem: The Future of Sport, Northwest U.S.


Blessings in the Barrens, N.S., Canada


Feet Up in Norway, Norway


Demons in the Dark, Northeast U.S.

Slowing Down With

Captain Holiday

Character must be built, and with all the character Don Butler has built up, it should come as no surprise that he’s built a few other things in his life along with it. A home, a business, and a life of adventure are found with just a scratch at the surface, but the intensity of his dedication to these (and all) aspects of this modest man speaks much more candidly than a mere list of accomplishments. “It’s not what you do, but how you do it,” is more of a mantra than a statement for Don. As I help unload boats and hang up wet gear from a class of twenty high school students the day before, he doles out careful instructions on where and how things should be placed to dry. They are purposeful conventions that speak as much to his forethought as to the quirks developed in owning and operating your own business for over fifteen years. Don is independent and capable on his own, but unafraid of accepting help when it’s offered. When my paddling and pedaling partner in crime, Kate, asks what she can help with, he sets us both to work with quick concise answers. We work hard; fueled by an appreciation for this man’s self-made success and the knowledge that playtime will begin as soon as the work is done.

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On the river, Don is quick to smile and paddles with purpose. He offers beta concisely and frequently as we dodge holes and surf on the numerous catch-on-the-fly waves of the Cal-Cheak. It seems impossible for someone to be so familiar with a place so beautiful, but Don’s directions never fail. His expertise extends beyond the river, too. Eager to experience as much of “The Most Beautiful Place on Earth” as possible, Kate and I follow Don’s directions to some of the most incredible mountain bike trails I’ve ever experienced. The technical terrain offers all the challenge we could ask for, especially for my first time riding clipless. After exhausting ourselves on trails like The Torture Never Stops, The Fountain of Love, and the aptly named Pinocchio’s Furniture, we were sure there was no way our trip could get better.

As I finish rinsing the last of our dinner plates (a small price to pay for the excellent meal Don prepared for us), I ask, “Where’s this?” There’s a photo of a cabin with a wide, open bowl in the background, barely visible under the heavy icing of snow. It’s a classic image, personalized by Don’s understated response. “I do a lot of ski touring up there, and one year we decided to build a touring cabin.” The term “we” was a group of backcountry enthusiasts ranging in size from Don and a buddy to six people laying foundation, carrying in 4x8 sheets of plywood, and felling dead stand for the walls. He spent every day for three months working on it, a feat made all the more impressive by the four mile round-trip trek required to access the site. When we find out he also is responsible for the beautifully remodeled home we’re staying in, he shrugs off his accomplishments saying “these things take me probably three times as long as they should, but I find them rewarding.”

A room with a view, Kate steps out onto the deck (opposite) for some fresh air and classic mountain views (bottom left). Don’s craftsmanship and creativity is readily apparent in his remodeled home, featuring cupboards made from upcycled stairs and river rocks in the kitchen (middle left) and large picture windows (top left). !

This seems to be the theme of the weekend, and a lesson Don claims to have learned from his father. There’s no need to hurry. It’s an easy lesson to look past. I’ve dreamt of visiting this place for as long as I can remember, and in the back of my mind I’m constantly reminded that I have a limited time before I need to return to my responsibilities. I’m getting older by the minute, my youth is running out, and time is moving too fast. I want to fit as much into this weekend as possible; paddle as many rivers and ride as many trails as I can. But true experience is a savory draught best sipped. So we wake up slow. We sip our coffee and nibble our toast. We let the sun rise as we watch the final stages of the Giro D’Italia. And soon we’ll put on another river and drop over the next horizon, or unload the mountain bikes to explore and adventure and race around the next bend, but for now, we will sit back in our hand-varnished chairs with the sun and the mountains at our backs. We will enjoy the experience of the present.

Because time isn’t slowing down any time soon, but it isn’t speeding up, either.

Words and photos by Eric Adsit


Tan The Future

dem Of Sport

When Steve Fisher was asked about the future of kayaking, he responded, “longer kayaks that hold more people” philosophizing that “kayaking could become a team sport.” According to Anton Immler and Steve Fisher, who just so happen to be the current world record holders in tandem kayak waterfall descents, the future of sport in general is in tandem. Inspired by these leaders of the sport and wanting to be at the forefront of the movement, I set out on a little tandem exploration of my own…well, in as much as one can tandem on their own. It all started in a discussion about the impending 2011 Northwest Creeking Comp. I was training to compete in the race solo but found my training to be lonely and lacking. I soon discovered training was fruitless, and somehow, casual conversation led to an agreement to race in tandem with one of my paddling buddies…neither of us having ever paddled in tandem in the past. A quick trial run down easy class III instilled limited confidence in our ability to successfully race in a regional class IV creek comp complete with a 12-footer finale. Only moderately comforted by the words of my former paddling coach, “What could possibly go wrong?” So we packed up from our trial run and made our way to the creek comp a few days later. There is something uniquely terrifying about partnering your paddling skills with that of another. Solo boating puts the entirety of control on the individual paddler. The game changes, though, when you are reliant on someone else for the outcome of your run. No matter how excellent a paddler you or your partner might be alone, your success in difficult whitewater is highly dependent on your ability to communicate. If my personal and professional experience interacting with paddlers has taught me anything, it’s that they are not always the best communicators.

The start of the race was a little rocky. Somewhere within the first quarter of the run, we flipped. No matter how easy it was for us to roll the tandem in flat water, it was exponentially more difficult in moving current. We carped a number of roll attempts sculling on edge for what seemed like forever. At one point I was certain my partner had swam, but to my relief and I’ll admit a bit of surprise, we righted ourselves. It was evident our communication was not effective up to that point, and the adrenaline rush of the race had taken over. But after restoring our upright and seated position, we settled into a groove and actually began talking to each other, relaying messages about lines, paddle strokes, and power. !

I am the type of paddler who doesn’t like to subject myself to much beyond my control. Equally, if I have had a good run, I tend to not want to run a second lap because I figure it can only go downhill from there.

We put on the local slalom training grounds, so the whitewater was challenging and the eddies prevalent. We warmed up briefly with a few ferries and a roll or two before diving into the meat. We slipped in and out of eddies with ease jet ferrying wherever possible and picking our way down the river. We would talk about lines and pick challenging moves—both of us throwing in braces, draws, or corrections intuitively and with precision. We clearly jived and thrived, and the experience was epic.


Because of this, I am surprised I did not hang up my proverbial tandem boots…though I almost did. About a year after my initial exploration, the tandem bug hit again. Steve Fisher had just dropped off Metlako in tandem with Bam Margera, and I had recently acquired fairly easy access to a tandem boat. My good buddy Eric (whom you may recognize as the founder of this fine publication) had been pestering me for a while to get in a tandem with him. But the terrific nature of the tandem loomed in such a way I was reluctant to jump in the front of another boat. Paddling a lot with Eric, though, I found we had similar paddling styles and motivations, so I finally conceded. !

While my trepidation may not have fully waned, I was convinced we could be mightily successful provided Eric and I could communicate well. And we did. And it clicked.

I tell you all of this not because I necessarily think tandem is the future of sport. Even Fisher and Immler crack up at this statement in their YouTube short. Rather, I share this to iterate the value of communication and connectedness among your boating crew. Many of us can point to times when communication has failed or you simply realize the bros you chose to paddle with that day just don’t have your back. I, like most whitewater paddlers, love kayaking—whether in a tandem or solo. And part of the reason I love to paddle is for the people. Having a crew around that is fun, reliable, and able to communicate—often in ways that are non-verbal—is a true joy. This, my friends, is how I see the future of kayaking. For more ontandem kayaking, watch the footage of Anton and Steve Fisher here:

Words and photos provided by Kate Daniel, tandem paddler extraordinaire.


Adrenaline is now rushing through my veins. I glance up stream to see if Rob is in sight. My idea of going ahead to shoot some photos was a good one at the time, but now I wish I was with the group. I feel vulnerable; scared to be in a foreign country. I miss my wife, my dog, and my mom. Snap out of it! It’s only an open wound, it could be far worse. I signal to Rob, “NOT OK!” He comes screaming into the eddy and with one look at me knows something is seriously wrong. As calmly as possible I shout, “stitches, I need stitches!” Rob moves me 100ft downstream to a bridge in a flash. The first aid kit comes out just as fast and he pulls his knife out of his pfd. My heart starts racing. “I’m going to cut the bootie off your foot,” he says. The bootie slides off quickly. I breathe a sigh of relief as he glances at the slice and remarks that I did a good job stopping the bleeding. We have to ascend the riverbank up to the road, but the slippery rock makes for a slow journey. After a couple hobbling steps, Rob kneels down and says “Jump on.” I shake my head incredulously, saying “Rob, I’m 190 pounds.” He looks at me seriously, “Get on,” he insists. His 6’ 5” frame crouches down and lifts my heavy body. Up we go. “Man, you’re a heavy unit,” he grunts. While the doctor at the hospital sews my foot closed my thoughts drift; I am happy to be on the river with someone I know and trust.! Happy to know they would act appropriately with skills gained from swift water rescue and first aid courses.

How Can I Norway I’m happy that we had a first aid kit with us on the river; happy to know my friends will help in any way they can. Most of all I am happy to know that I, too, have the training to help my friends if they are in need and the tables turned.

enjoy the rest of my stay in if I’m not in my kayak? The doctor at the hospital sewed my foot closed, told me to take it easy for a few days and enjoy the rest of my stay in Norway. How can I enjoy the rest of my stay in Norway if I’m not in my kayak? !




The Dirtbag's Guide to Whitewater Issue 3  

The Dirtbag's Guide is a homegrown whitewater publication, but that doesn't mean we don't love the whitewater in other countries just as muc...