November 12, 2011


It is 9pm on a Saturday night and I am riding shotgun in Emily and Nick’s Honda Element with Dane driving.     Yes, we are borrowing my daughter’s car.     We have three boats on the roof.    Two Fun Runners and one Zen prototype.    We are heading to the Tallulah… sweet!   I am so fired up to show off our new river runners!    The Fun Runner is the smallest boat we have put the Uni-Shock Bulkhead into and we just finished up the final prototype of the heel block that goes into the boat to provide heel to toe support.   This is an incredible thing to have a 35 pound boat with a full uni-shock bulkhead,  I hope I peton somewhere (not at Oceana, but somewhere!) to test out the system in this boat.    Chances of me hitting anything is pretty slim as the bow is pretty high on this boat.


I wish we got the Zen prototype done on Friday, but we didn’t.   It was done at 11am this morning, too late to make the drive to the Tallulah and catch the water.    We cleaned out our basement and played some disc golf in the afternoon while Emily, Kristine, her brother Scott and sister-in-law Patty laid a new floor in Emily’s backroom.

We just cleared Ducktown, where Joe Jacobi and his family live and are in Georgia.   We’ll be at the Tallulah before long and spend the night and hopefully get in a couple of runs.  I want to run the Fun Runner and the Zen both, and so does Dane.    Our first river run in the production Fun Runner and the first time ever that the final version of the Zen (out of a composite mold) has been paddled as well.    Double dose of Christmas in November!


I will give you my feedback in a day….


Dane and I just got home from our day on the Tallulah…. Awesome!    It started off cold at about 34 degrees but then warmed up to 62 and sunny!    We got to the put-in after a big breakfast at the “cupboard” around 10am.     Dane set shuttle for some folks from Chicago and then we walked the 1,100 stairs (or however many it is exactly) down into the gorge.    Jeff West was there in his Villain.   Dane and I attained up to below the big falls at the put-in.  I started off in the Zen prototype and Dane in the production Fun Runner.    We ferried around and caught the swirly eddies at the falls.   The Zen was zipping around and making it really fun to go in and out of the eddies like a slalom boat.      Dane looked like he was having fun too as he had big smiles and said “this is easy to paddle”.


We weren’t in any group really, just the two of us among a hundred or so kayakers.    We ran down the first rapid and then was above the first boof and a woman wanted a little direction as she “didn’t have a great run last time” there.    She did well, flipped, and rolled quickly.


The next rapid is Oceanna and it is always an awesome site.   Big steep slide with a huge kicker that shoots water everywhere and is very intimidating. (for good reason as anyone how didn’t get left of it on the big slide regretted it big time).    Dane did a rock spin in the Fun Runner at the top and as usual slide more right because of it and clipped the “thing” a little.    My run was a simple down the slide a little left angle and a boof at the bottom, eyes closed as I can’t seem to open my eyes between the thing and the boof (about 1 second).    The Zen cleared out and was in the right eddy immediately.    I am not sure what the thinking was, but about 50% of the 20 people I saw run the rapid swam today.    People must not like trying to get out of the bottom hole in their boats.


Dane and I played at the little hole at the bottom of Oceanna and did some enders and pirouettes.   Dane was doing really well in the Fun Runner.    I was doing attainments and  playing around in the Zen and was amazed at the carving speed of it.     A new toy is so fun.


We switched at that rapid and I was in the Fun Runner and Dane in the Zen.   Dane was super fired up right away and doing attainments and S-turns behind holes/rocks and boofs.


At Bridal Veil we played around at the top hole, surfing and spinning in it and then running down  and skimming across the pool.    A boat and paddle swam by and got stuck in the hole for a while and then went around the corner while Dane and I were walking back up.    The boater was on river right and was walled out and had not safe way to get to his boat.    A photographer below the cliff at the lip of the rapid looked too comfortable at river’s edge to be a normal person, so I asked if he was a kayaker and he said yes.   I managed to get to a rock in the middle of the river at the lip of Bridal Veil and asked the more important question, “can you use a throw bag?”.   He said yes, so I through him mine.      He was close enough to get the end of the bag to the swimmer and safely pull him around the cliff so he could walk downstream to his boat.   It worked out perfectly and I got his paddle which was already on the shore on river left and paddled it down to him.


I followed Dane down the river with my GoPro camera on my head trying to film him in the Fun Runner or Zen as much as possible.   He had one on his stern as well and his head for some of the time.    It is super fun following him as he will try to run lines that are hard and since it has been 6 years since I have run the Tallulah (Dane ran it last weekend)  I get to discover the rapid again while zipping around behind Dane.


We got to Amphitheater and Dane had a cool seal launch planned out.   We walked up the smooth granite rocks as far as possible to a spot with a downed tree and got in.    Dane went first.   He flew down the hill and hit the water fast and planed right up across the eddy into a speedy blast in the biggest hole in that rapid that everyone tries to avoid and most swim out of that hit it.   It was awesome.     I was smiling from ear to ear as it was cool to just watch and what a way to throw yourself into a big hole from the side… out of a full plane at high speed.    I slid down and bounced across a couple of nubs in the rock and hit the water and it felt like I was on ice, as my boat just planed across to the hole and I leaned downstream and just flew into the pit and then right out the other side.   I will remember this move for next time as it is super fun.


Surfing the wave/hole at Amphitheater was quite fun in the Zen and Fun Runners and easier than any river runner in the Jackson Lineup we have ever had before.   The full planing hulls are not compromised and make for a super fun surfing experience, making it easier to turn back and forth on the waves and easier to spin if you want.    It is effortless surfing.  The Fun Runner is the easiest as it is shorter and slicier, while the Zen is the easiest of any boat in that river running category.   This was one of the design goals.   River running and surfing made as easy and fun as possible.


The rest of the day was more of the same and then a paddle across the lake to the takeout where we got a ride up to the put-in with the Cotes.


Dane drove most of the way home after a good meal at Enrique’s Mexican Store.    It was a great father/son bonding experience as well.  No girls, just the boys.


Today we paddle at Rock Island again.    Looks like 3,600 cfs, or “big rock island hole” day today.   Sweet!