Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dan and Bethany

So these folks are paddling from Canada to Florida. We have been lucky enough to meet them and are enjoying their company while they paddle our little section of the world. Here is their

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The sky is steel grey. The sea is slate blue and textured. Rain appears on the horizon but I feel only the occasional sprinkle. Muscles used to cubicle life talk back to me as my paddle strokes turn mechanical. Push across with my top hand, pivot around my spine and add a slight crunch as needed. I feel good. I have burned through the quick, superficial energy that gets me out of Sakonnet Harbor and warmed up by the point and have switched to the stored energy that will fuel the trip. My eyes focus on the next landmark that will be my reference.

I reach Town Landing when the wind shifts and picks up along with the speed of the outgoing tide. This is what will crush me but there is nothing for it. I huff, add more crunch to my stroke and shorten my reference points. Thoughts of how much the trip has started to suck are mixed with dreams of triumphantly pulling into the landing at the shop and being surrounded by smiling friends congratulating me. Underlying everything is a joy to be out on the water in such a beautiful place. The forces of nature push me out to sea so I angle towards shore more and run through my bailout options.

Breath rushes from my mouth. My heart beats furiously and muscles cry out for respite. I register the river entrance ahead and there is a sinking feeling as I watch how fast the water is moving. Half tide was not in my plan, at least not with high winds urging it on. I ferry across to Boater’s Beach. Excitement adds adrenaline as I cross eddy lines and dance briefly in the channel.

I try to ignore the pain but I have never heard my body scream like this before. I am spent but have no other option than to continue. The boat ramp is the bail point but I need to get there first. Dispirited, I flog myself onward. The dredge is a dangerous spot with the water moving so fast. Identity is lost in the struggle forward. There is no time to rest, that would invite disaster.

Relief floods through me as the wind is blocked by the island. Instinct has found an eddy that helps me move upriver. Some shred in my core paints pictures of the final yards to the shop and how good that will feel. I have ticked off every bailout point on my list and only Hick’s Bridge is left to get past.

Monday, May 18, 2009

With the flash of a smile

I fell in love again on Saturday. It was all fresh, new and waiting to be re-discovered. I had forgotten I could feel this way and what’s more…I am not feeling like the bumbling fool the way I usually do with these things.

Coming around the corner at the “Roll Hole” and looking down river towards “Turtle Flats” I spotted OSKA boats. Rental clients were being driven towards the shop by stiff gusts of wind. As they passed, I swung the board around and started traveling back with them. While chatting, it struck me. The vantage from the SUP board was offering me a different vista, way of relating to the world and an added depth to my kayaking. Kayaking was again giving me a base from which to expand my world. It was giving me the chance to SUP.

I love paddling.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pea Soup & S’mores

The Milton gang arrived late Friday afternoon. After a ‘quick change’ and some awesome ice cream cones compliments of Rory & Kathy Courturier of The Head Landing Country Store , we headed south in the vans towards Hix Bridge. Our beautiful sunny afternoon was quickly changing as a significant fog bank rolled in from the sea. We unloaded our gear and packed our boats as fast as we could. With limited day light and rapidly approaching fog we needed to get paddling. The glassy calm of the river was engulfed by the thick smoke and the gang was nervous as they paddled along into the unknown. We followed our bearings faithfully and were rewarded as our bows landed on Upper Spectacle Island.

The crew unloaded their kayaks and set up camp like veteran outdoorsman; tents up, boats tied up, dinner started, cozy fire, and the honey bucket positioned with a perfect vista. Burritos, hot chocolate, and smores filled our bellies and we relaxed around the fire chatting, laughing, and enjoying our foggy island adventure.

As the sun rose, so did Sam. I put on the java and headed to the beach to take a few casts. Didn’t catch anything but, enjoyed the ospreys and kingfishers as they did. Once the crew emerged from their slumber we hoovered down a delicious breakfast and began to break camp. With the sun in the sky the gang moved along with the speed of sloths and it was late morning by the time we were paddling south. We cruised along the islands of the lower East Branch, the osprey were everywhere –circling high, diving for food, and hunkered low in the nest. We had intended to paddle through the harbor and up the west branch but, the wind got a bit fresher and the fog started to move in and we opted to turn around and paddle to the Head with the wind at our backs.

We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon as we rode the tide exploring the nooks and crannies of the river. We rounded the last bend before the shop and the sprint was on, Sean took the prize and landed first followed by the fog. The rest of us were treated to valet service by Team Osprey at the landing (thanks guys!). Big smiles and a sense of accomplishment filled our circle while we cleaned up and loaded the trailer for its return to Boston. What a great adventure!
-Sam Ladd

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New SUP boards arrived

If you told me three years ago that I would be crazy about Stand Up Paddle boarding I would have told ya your nuts! Well I'm hooked!

We just brought in some Laird 12'1" SUP boards and a couple 9'0" trainer boards to add to our 11'0" NSP boards. We already have folks coming in and asking about "those giant boards in the yard". SUP is a great way to tour around our area. The ability to see over the banks and bushes along the river is great.

Although it requires a bit of balance, I feel like anyone can do it. SUP is also something the work out freaks will love. Talk about using stabilizer muscles and core development , You couldn't ask for more.

I'm training now for an event in the Adirondacks. It's called the Adirondack Canoe Classic. It's a 90 mile race over three days in the lake region of Upstate New York. 30 miles per day with portages. Looking forward to the challenge. See you out there! Mike

-SUP video re-edit

Monday, May 11, 2009

Will and Mike's CT. WhiteH2O Trip

It's so nice to be able to check the surf in the AM and decide if your going for a surf. It is equally as nice if the surf is flat, to have a white water option 1.5 hours from the shop. This morning the surf was flat so Will was I took off for The Mighty Natchaug River in Chaplin,CT. This natural flow gem in eastern CT may be a personal favorite in the area . The river bed is totally unique. A fairly steep gradient makes it worth the drive. At these levels the upper Natchaug ~ England Road to Mouse Trap Rapid~isn't much fun to run. Very low. The good news is there's a perfect hiking trail stretching the length of the bigger rapids. The main lines have just enough water going over them. Perfect little trip to keep our stuff wet. We were also back with plenty of time to surf!!! If there was any.......

The Upper Upper

It is a quiet, grey day. Fish are up but whatever they are feeding on does not resemble the lures we try so we catch our quota of water. Sam and Mimi come up the river out of the mist from their early morning SUP session, relaxed and happy. The shop is fully crewed.

We are allowed a little recreation. Rob, Carl and I are dropped off at the start of the Upper Upper with our “Masters”. A mossy bank, quiet sylvan setting and being in boats have us grinning like fools. The rushing sound of water over rocks comes from down river…not the quiet gurgle of a stream.

My boat and I sweep around the corner carried quickly by the current. The last run to Forge Pond is before me, laid out in steps of rocks and tongues of water. My eyes focus down river, brain plans the moves needed to negotiate the rapids. I feel a joy as I eddy out at the bottom and wait for the others. Both follow with the same large smiles seen all the way down this stretch of the Westport River. It isn’t huge water, but it is lots of fun in its unique way.

We still have the upper stretch to go before we arrive back at the shop. We cross the pond, the road and re-launch below the dam.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First Surf Class and The Green Mtn.Boyz

Chuck and Betsy came for the first surf class of the year. Small surf was on the horizon. Betsy was in her InAZone ,Chuck was in a new Dagger Kaos 10'2 SOT. I have to say that Kaos is a great shape! Chuck had plenty of waves from the outside all the way to the inside every time! He said he really enjoyed how easy it was to paddle out through the breaking waves as well as how fast it caught every wave he tried for. Betsy on the other hand..... Was ripping in her WW boat! Her first wave - she was back surfing and linking the outside to the inside with ease. Betsy also had an amazing aerial blunt on her last wave. She may not of tried to do it,but because she was looking and edging the proper way she landed it and surfed it to the sand. High fives to Chuck and Betsy. I look forward to coaching those guys again. Rendezvous was at the shop at High Noon. The Green Mountain BoyZ were either all ready on the water with Will Rich one of our surf guru's or driving in. I met the crew in Compton for an evening glass off session. Tom Thumb,JoshA,and snowboard guru Dave Red showed up for their first time in real surf boats. All these guys are class V whitewater paddlers. Their lack of surf knowledge didn't show at all! Daves first wave in The Reaction was great. Bottom Turn in the pocket and air out the back. Josh was in a Mega Cyclone. Not outfitted to well and boy was he ripping.Tom Thumb surfed a WW boat for a while and then got out in the Reaction at sunset. He also had some eye opening waves ! I love turning great paddlers onto the surf. These guys can't wait to return to the sea.We have big plans this summer for all.See you in the tube,Mike