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Here’s a short list of things that I really enjoy:  adventure, films about adventure, craft beer, and kayaking. On February 16th (Thursday) we’re going to have an opportunity to throw all of those things together for a night at the Southern Appalachian Brewery (S.A.B.) in Hendersonville. And we’re going to give away a kayak to boot! Now that all you boaters have perked up, let me fill in the details of the event and we’ll get to the boat giveaway a little further down the page. This evening will feature four short films from a variety of outdoor experiences (surf kayaking, longboarding, backpacking, and river running). We’ll be showing a re-cap of the World Championships of Surf Kayaking (held at the Outerbanks last fall), a Longboard Asheville short, “The Grand Canyon in Winter” (a segment from Coming Home), and the evening will conclude with “The Smokies: Punished into Ecstasy,” a story about backpacking the A.T. through the Smokies in winter. Most of these films were produced in Western North Carolina with the support of Outdoor Sports Marketing, a great local business that has its offices a few doors down from the Southern App. Brewery. O.S.M. represents leading gear manufacturers in the outdoor industry, from Chaco to Osprey to Cascade Designs. There will be a $6 cover at the door with door prizes provided by S.A.B. and Diamond Brand Outdoors. All proceeds from the evening will go to benefit Our Voice and RiverLink, two organizations doing important work in WNC. So you can know that you’re money is going to a good cause. The films will start around 7:30, and the bar has limited seating; so get there early to secure your spot. Now for the kayak giveaway. As most local river people know, Liquidlogic Kayaks and their parent company Legacy Paddlesports recently moved their base of operations back into Henderson County, home of the beautiful Green River. This is great news for the local economy, great news for local paddlers, and great news for the Southern Appalachian Brewery where the Legacy folks often go to unwind after a long day of building kayaks. On one visit to the S.A.B. tasting room the Legacy crew learned that Rapid Transit is partnering with the brewery to host this event to benefit RiverLink and Our Voice. Knowing the quality of these two organizations, the Legacy folks offered to support the effort by raffling off a kayak from their lineup. So, in the days leading up to the Adventure Film Night at S.A.B. we will be selling raffle tickets ($10 each) to win a kayak from the Legacy Lineup (this includes any boat from the Liquidlogic and Native Watercraft lines EXCEPT the Mariner and Ultimate Multisport models). That means you could win a new Stomper if you’re a whitewater junky, a Manta Ray if you’re a kayak angler, or a Versa Board if you’re into the recreational side of things. This is a fantastic opportunity and a great way to support local non-profits. Tickets will be available for pre-sale after February 3rd at the Southern Appalachian Brewery tasting room in Hendersonville (note their hours of operation below), the RiverLink offices in Asheville, Diamond Brand Outdoors in Arden, and Our Voice offices in Asheville. Entrants need not be present at the film night to win. We hope you’ll get your name in the running for a new boat and also support our local community. And we hope you’ll come out to join us for a night of films on Thursday the 16th at Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville. This is one of the few occasions when drinking beer and extreme sports go well together. Here’s a trailer for the Smokies story. Enjoy:
The Raffle Details:
Enter to win 1 kayak from the Liquidlogic and Native line of boats (excluding the Mariner and Ultimate Multisport series). Raffle tickets are $10 each, and entrants need not be present at the film night to win. Raffle tickets will be available for sale at two locations after February 3rd:
1. The Southern Appalachian Brewery Tasting Room, 822 Locust Street, Hendersonville, NC 28792. Open Wednesday thru Friday, 4pm to close, and Saturday thru Sunday, 2pm to close.
2. The RiverLink offices, 170 Lyman Street, Asheville, NC 28801. Open Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm.
3. Diamond Brand Outdoors, 2623 Hendersonville Rd., Arden, NC 28704. Open Monday thru Saturday, 10am to 7pm, Sunday 12pm to 6pm
4. Our Voice offices, 44 Merrimon Ave. Suite 1, Asheville, NC 28801. Open Monday thru Friday, 8:30am to 4pm.
 
A huge thanks to our business partners who are making this event possible:
 
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Racing is not my strong suit. I’ll say that right out of the gate. When I’ve participated in whitewater races in the past, I have historically lost focus, messed up logistics, or otherwise sabotaged my chances of performing well. I almost always leave a race thinking of one or two (or more) points in the race where a different decision or mindset could have made a huge difference. I like to think that I have not yet reached my potential in racing, that my best races are still within me, but at some point you have to trust the evidence–maybe I’m not a naturally good racer. But I’m drawn to compete again and again, and I think it’s largely because of the challenge involved. I like how competition demands focus. It places you, mind and body, in situations that require all you’ve got to give. I came into the fall season this year looking forward to the race circuit that I usually participate in (Russell Fork Baddlun, Lord of the Fork, and Green Race). As usual, I did not put as much time into training as I’d planned, but I did manage to fit in more preparation than in previous years–more road biking, long boating, stress-management, etc. Also, I’d worked it out to borrow a Stinger from Liquid Logic specifically for the Baddlun Race. I thought I had a pretty good change of placing top three in that event this year if I had my best race (if, if, if). Joey Jarrell and I went up to the Russell Fork the weekend before the race, and from the first moment I took a forward stroke in that boat I was in love. I have not paddled Liquid Logic boats and am not sponsored by them; so you can take my opinion for what it is: truly unbiased. This is an awesome boat! Pulling forward strokes, I felt the boat come right up to speed and track smoothly through the eddy. It felt like I was effortlessly cleaving the water with my bow (no resistance), and the boat tracked smoothly forward without veering. On our three runs through the Gorge that first weekend I found the Stinger to be easy to maneuver and a delight to paddle. I remember an irresistible grin spreading across my face as I tracked smoothly into Tower and spanned that long boat off the boof. Later, running the right side of El Horrendo, I melted the ledge and took all twelve feet of Stinger for a mystery move. The only complaint I could find all weekend was that you could sometimes feel the extra length in back banging around behind you on dry ledges, but it was a small issue given the fun (and speed!) provided. Joey and I practiced the bike and paddle legs of the Baddlun coarse that weekend and endlessly talked over our strategy for the upcoming race. A week later we found ourselves back at the Ratliff Hole parking lot lining up shoulder-to-shoulder with twenty other bikers for the start of the race. I’d been hydrating all morning, had carbed up and lubed my road bike, and I felt ready to go. We were cramped there at the starting line, hardly room to breath as we all clipped in and quieted our minds. I absolutely love starting off in these grass-roots style events: It all comes down to a bunch of friends standing side by side, waiting. One guy with a stop watch gives the thirty second warning, the ten second, and then we’re counting down to zero. Go! I stood up on the bike and cranked up near the front of the pack. I had three or four bikes ahead of me as we came into the bottle-neck exit from the parking lot and turned up the brutal hill leaving Ratliff Hole. Our tight cluster of bikes moved like a school of fish, conforming as a single unit as we entered the tight right-hand turn. Then, before I could fully grasp what was happening, Delaney Albright swept out to the left in front of me, leaving the formation. I would later learn that Gareth had thrown his chain ahead of us and Delaney was swerving to miss him, but at the moment all I knew was that my front tire was about four inches off of Delaney’s back tire, and I could not adjust quickly enough. Delaney’s rear while swept my front wheel off the pavement, and I was down on the ground with sixteen other racers trying to get around me. I jumped up and got out of the way, thankfully avoiding causing any other wrecks. Joey had to un-clip to avoid hitting me, but he was soon back in the saddle and climbing the hill. I waited for everyone to get past and then climbed back on and prepared to climb. My chain was off. I dismounted and re-set the chain, and then I had to walk back to flatter ground where I could get on the bike again. By the time I started the climb the pack was out of sight. When I was panting half-way up the hill, I could see the main body of riders making the turn onto the level gorge road. The leaders were long gone, but Joey called down encouragement, “C’mon, Chris. Catch us!” I was off the bike for maybe forty-five seconds to a minute, but in bike races such a delay gets compounded by other factors. You’re suddenly riding alone, unable to cooperate and gain efficiency with other riders. The good news was, my fall off the bike had given me a surge of adrenaline that propelled me forward. Once I topped out the hill and re-gained my breath, I was riding a wave of anger up the gorge road. I caught the main body of riders in the first descent, and I made it up even with Joey at the bottom of the first hill. After that the spacing between racers became much broader, and I started focusing on catching one rider at a time. I caught up with Taylor on the long hill–he was toughly grunting it out on an old road bike frame that probably weighed double what the rest of us were riding. As I passed Taylor, I could see two more racers far ahead of me, and I slowly closed the gap on them for the remainder of the ride. I came even with the first rider at the top of the second long hill and discovered it was Delaney. I knew even then that it probably wasn’t his fault that I wrecked, but I couldn’t help feeling some vindictive pleasure as I made the pass and left him on the downhill. The last rider I could see ahead of me turned out to be Gareth. I caught him as we began the final down-hill towards the river, and we were able to work together on the descent into the gorge to increase our speed and efficiency. We caught Charles as we came even with the river, and the three of us peddled into the transition just as Brian Menzes was making the change ahead of us. It looked to me like I’d made it back up into third or fourth position, though I remember wondering where on earth Jay Ditty was. We all dumped our bikes and began scrambling into boats. I was feeling very winded; so I focused on making a deliberate transition and not wasting time with foibles. But as I put on the river, it was clear I’d lost a lot of time: the other three racers were already a hundred yards down river in a pretty tight group. Throughout the paddle leg I was able to catch occasional glimpses of the other three ahead of me, but it was quickly evident that I’d spent my wad on the bike. My arms felt limp from the outset, and I made up my mind to paddle smoothly rather than to sprint and risk a mistake. I was thankful to be in the Stinger, which was easy to paddle and did a lot of the work for me. Going slow and steady paid off, and I caught up with Brian Menzes at the end of the river leg. We started running up the steep, rough logging road with maybe forty yards between us. I had nothing left to give as I scrambled up the trail. Within the first quarter mile I let go of trying to hang with Brian and just walked, intermittently jogging for spurts. I hoped that I had enough of a gap on the racers behind me to hold them off, but about halfway into the run Delaney came cruising up beside me, looking very fresh. I made a half-hearted attempt to fend him off, but there was no way. He loped past me easily, and I struggled forward in his wake. On the downhills I had searing cramps in my sides; most of the time I felt like I couldn’t breathe if I was jogging. I was constantly looking back for the next racer behind me. I thought to myself: this is fun. I finally caught a second wind as I came back to the river gorge, and I was able to jog up to Ratliff Hole and back stroke across the river, limping into sixth position. The rest of the racers rolled in close on my heals, and we all spent the warm afternoon recovering on the beach, talking and drinking beers. Jay Ditty won the whole deal, and that only using one blade on the river and choosing to portage around Fist. Crazy! I could kick myself for the mistakes I made in that race, but at the end of the day it’s not all about what a bad-ass athlete you are. These events are fun for me because they’re a test. They expose my weaknesses, and they punish me into being a stronger human being. Most importantly, the races are an opportunity to enjoy great fellowship with a fantastic group of people. Three weeks after struggling through the Baddlun I would return to the Russell Fork to put up another disappointing performance in the Lord of the Fork Race. Who knows, maybe I’ll never get to enjoy the perfect race that I envision. If I don’t, at least I feel that I’m still getting better and getting stronger, bit by bit. I look ahead to this year’s Green Race with the usual mixture of fear and excitement, and I’m going to try like hell to have a clean race. If I don’t, I know that sixty or so good friends will have my back out there and will make the day a worthwhile experience. It always is. My prediction for this year’s Green Race: Team Liquid Logic will be a force to be reckoned with. I think that the Stinger presents less of an advantage over the Green Boat on the Narrows course than in a long format race, but that design is fast on any water, and Liquid Logic is bringing out the big guns this year. Mike Dawson ran away with the Lord of the Fork Race, and that after only one trip down the river. He’ll have had several weeks of paddling on the Green under his belt when it comes time to race next Saturday. Will the title of Green Race champion stay local, or is this the year we see the event taken by an international talent? It’ll be a fun day regardless. I’m looking forward to seeing you all out there and to getting good and scared on the river together. Here’s a quick video that I shot at this year’s Lord of the Fork Race to whet your appetite. Have good lines out there this year, Chris
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Last spring and summer I was working with Katie Spotz towards making a documentary about her plan to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In May we filmed a series of interviews at and around her home in Mentor, Ohio, and we continued to seek financing for the project throughout the summer and into the fall. As her December departure drew near, we both realized that we lacked the resources (both time and money) to complete the project at a high level of quality; so we amicably parted ways. Katie is currently several hundred miles off the coast of South America in her rowboat Liv, and it will only be a few weeks before she lands at her destination in Cayenne, French Guiana. She’s had a hugely successful journey so far, and it looks like she will finish her trip well ahead of schedule. You can follow her adventure here. In anticipation of Katie’s arrival, I went back and dusted off some of the old footage we worked on together. I’d hate to see this content go to waste, and I’m also hopeful that I’ll be able to license some of this content to news outlets that want to tell Katie’s story. This short video reveals a bit about Katie’s anticipation of her journey as well as some of the tensions that emerged amongst her family as she pursued her unconventional dreams: Katie Spotz – Row for Water Interview from Horizonline Pictures on Vimeo. Just before my visit with Katie I spent two weeks touring the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, kayaking a handful of world-class whitewater runs. Part of my trip took me north into Canada where I got to boat three beautiful, wilderness rivers with John Alt, Pete Gehrels, and a few other good friends. John contacted me the other week asking to see some footage of a beating he took on the Cypress River on our first day out in Canada. Rather than just post the video to facebook, I thought I’d work it into more of a finished piece–a small preview of the extensive content from the North Shore that I will be producing with Rapid Transit in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more! The Cypress 30′: a North Shore Preview from Horizonline Pictures on Vimeo. Thanks for checking in. Let me know your thoughts on the videos and on shorts. -Chris keep reading
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Dewey Gibson in Jailhouse Rapid
Dewey Gibson in Jailhouse Rapid

I really enjoyed reading Rush Sturges’s recent account of his autumnal trip down the Middle Kings (check it here, http://theadrenalinerush.blogspot.com/2009/10/first-fall-middle-kings-descent.html), and I was inspired to do a photo blog about a trip we took down the Linville gorge this past Sunday. California may boast grueling, multi-day expeditions and 11,000-foot snowy passes, but down here in the South we’ve got deciduous trees!

On Saturday, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself for having to miss this year’s Russell Fork Race (due to a sprained wrist); so when Ben Blake messaged me that he’d be going to Linville Gorge on Sunday, I checked my sore hand and gave myself Dr.’s approval to get out and have some fun. We met up with a good group of guys (Jonathan Absher, Mike Patterson, and Dewey Gibson) and found the Babel Tower parking lot packed with the cars of people out to see foliage colors. The gorge was brilliant with fall beauty as we hiked down to the river. It seemed that the leaves were peaking a bit early this year and that we chanced to get out on one of the prettiest days of this fall.

When we got down to Babel Tower rapid, Ben and Mike guessed that the level was just over 2 feet: a nice, controlled volume with enough flow to make the rapids fun and not too scary. Everyone did some comparison of their Linville River experience level: today would be Jonathan’s first run, it was run number 3 for Dewey and I, Ben had been down about 10 times, and Mike had logged some fifty plus runs on this river (so he says!). Regardless of how familiar one is with the Linville, I always sense a strong undercurrent of nerves as everyone suits up at that put-in. But maybe that’s just me.

Dewey and Ben Put On
Dewey and Ben Put On

On this day I was pretty intent on building a mental map of the river, memorizing as many lines and rapids as I could in order to return without a guide in the future. This went pretty well for the first six to eight rapids, and then my visual memory maxed out and I was no longer able to log away any of our directions. That’s the way it is with the Linville: it’s a long, consistently good river with one horizonline after another, making it a tall order to remember anything beyond the major rapids. Ben was usually at point in our group, and whenever he couldn’t recall which way to go on a rapid he would consult Mike, who generally responded, “I’ll probably know once I’m halfway down.”

Hawksbill Peak
Hawksbill Peak

What a day it was to be out in the gorge. Fall is the season of beautiful colors, comfort food, and also of creek races and competition. I often find myself getting wrapped up in the drive to perform at my best and to get down any given river as fast as I can; so it’s really good to get out for days like this–to remind oneself of the core of kayaking. You’re out in the heart of nature, flowing down the river with good friends, and every few minutes you drop into another exhilarating rapid and give a whoop and a holler for sheer joy of being in this awesome place.

Ben, Cave Rapid
Ben, Cave Rapid

Ever notice how the Linville bares a colorful variety of rapid names? You’ve got your standard, foreboding/correctional-facility imagery (Jailhouse, Drunktank, Fight Club), a bit of childhood nostalgia (Dr. Seuss), a nerdy, gamer reference (Donkey Kong), and the reverent language of the church (Cathedral Gorge). I think this pretty well covers the range of emotions one experiences while descending this river. Here’s a glimpse of my favorite spot on the Linville: Dr. Seuss Gorge. This stretch is also known as the Bob Ross Gorge . . . “We’ll just put a happy little tree over here with its leaves burning red, and some nice, gentle cliff walls right here, and a pretty, little class five rapid as you leave. There we go.”

Dr. Seuss Gorge. Where did it get its name?
Dr. Seuss Gorge. Where did it get it’s name?

What can you say about the Linville? It’s truly a southeastern gem, and on days like this, there are few places I’d rather be. A few more pics from the end of our day:

Ben, Cathedral Falls

End of the day.
End of the day.

That’s all, folks. Thanks for taking a look and sharing the experience. To see larger versions of these photographs, you can visit my flickr stream here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12168432@N00/. Enjoy what remains of the fall paddling–it’s about to get cold up in here!

Focus on the water.
Focus on the water.
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            This Thursday, January 21st, Rapid Transit (a collective of kayaking film producers of which I am a member) will be hosting a premiere for our first DVD, The Eddy Feeling. The show will start at 9PM at the Cine in Athens, GA (http://www.athenscine.com/intro.php), and it is free (thanks to the UGA Whitewater Club!).         From my unabashedly biased perspective, I can report that this is an excellent movie that introduces the viewer to a collection of unique individuals, each of whom add something different to the film’s exploration of why kayaking is such an engrossing and enjoyable pursuit. The movie also gives an in-depth look at the Linville River, a remote, class V gorge in North Carolina that ranks among the elite whitewater runs of the world. Spencer Cooke wrote, produced, and edited the movie along with the collaboration of Rapid Transit producers Daniel Windham (From the Darkroom), Chris Gragtmans (Catalyst Media), and myself (Horizonline Pictures). For more info about the DVD, click here: http://www.rapidtransitvideo.com/blog/?p=207#comments.           Also, on January 20th (Tuesday) between the hours of 8 and 10, Riot Kayaks will be hosting a boat demo and roll session at Ramsey pool on the UGA campus. Contact the UGA Whitewater Club for more info on this.          There will be two other premieres for The Eddy Feelingcoming up on February 5th, 9:30PM at the Brew’n’View in Asheville (http://ashevillepizza.com) and on February 25th at Cabin John, Maryland (http://liquidadventures.org).          I am personally very excited about this first movie to be released from Rapid Transit. It represents the core of what we’re about as a group: telling rich, exciting, fascinating stories from the world of river running adventure. I hope you’ll take time to check it out, watch the flick, and that you’ll forgive the poofy, bowl-cut hairdoo in my brief appearance in the film. We all have bad hair days. Much love from the Southeast, Chris
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