By Eric Jackson
The new Rock Star was well tested in holes, winning the World Championships for men and women in 2013 and just about every other freestyle event as well this season. However, we had not been able to play it for any extended period of time on epic waves. We are two weeks into our trip here on the White Nile with great water levels now and the Rock Star is proving to be everything we hoped it would be.
Shorter, faster, easier to take off, land, combo, and goes bigger than anything before it. We brought “competition” version boats here, that have the innegra/foam core hull support track, lighter seat and hull. This makes the boat super stiff and light for fast rotations, bigger bounces, and landings that stick better. Dane is rocking his pink Rock Star medium at 142 pounds and 5’6” tall. Nick is in his yellow one at 5’6” tall and 150 pounds. I am in my yellow one at 5’7” tall (I was 5’6” until my last trip to the doctor, so I am going with the new height ) and 160 pounds. Jessie Stone is in her Red Rock Star S at 5’4” and 125 pounds. Steve Fisher is in his custom Green Hornet Rock Star large at 200 pounds and 5’9”. This is the first time I have paddled with Steve on the same team as me in any way. I was team Wavesport and he was Team Riot… Then I was team Jackson Kayak and he was team Fluid. He was Seven 2 paddles, I was AT, he was Peak UK gear, I was Patagonia. He was Teva, I was Sperry… Literally we have never been on the same team in any way. Finally, we are both on Team Jackson Kayak working towards a common goal. I can not tell you how happy that makes me. Steve is capable of about anything he puts his mind to. He is one of the highest performance people I have ever met. Confident, unique, talented, and hard working. I still remember one of his more unique pick up lines from days gone by… “Hi, I promise not to use my either my charming personality, or incredible good looks on you…” but I digress…
The water levels here have been different from years past. Instead of low water Club wave that comes in at 9am and goes out at 11:30, you have medium or “Angry Club” wave many mornings that pitches on the shoulder and discourages many from going out on those mornings. today was one of those mornings… a Saturday, which is typically lower water. I have been doing my time trial up to the waves from the Hairy Lemon every time I get on the water here. I put on at the beach, paddle up to the rock at the top of the eddy and then start my stop watch. My goal is to improve my conditioning, forward stroke, water reading, and set new records for myself. today was 8:49. Yesterday was 8:46 in the PM, 8:49 in the AM… Each time the water level is a little different and the lines are a little different. Random rocks jump out and grab your boat in the eddies, and because this is big water, the final ferry has two jets of current that move around, the eddy lines are boily, the waves surge and disappear and the difference between a lucky and good surge of water and an unlucky one is 30 seconds. That is a long time. The Rock Star is not a race boat for attaining, but I enjoy the challenge of trying to set a new record each time. My record was set last week at 8:26. I got a good surge on the ferry and final attainment. for the past week, I have paddled harder, focused more, and really tried to break that record, but the final ferry and attainment have not had a lucky surge with a wave to surf.
Nile Special has been better this year than year’s past. Higher water means a bigger wave. It has been a great trip for practicing my wave moves and learning new ones. Dane is paddling incredibly well and so is Nick. Alec Vorhees is only 16 but really improving and showing some strong skills on waves he is seeing for the first time. I am a mix of being better and being not so good. This trip is different in that we are not training for the World Championships. In year’s past, we were here to train for the Worlds. We did timed rides, scored rides, competed every day. This time we are on our own programs, working on whatever we want, filming, etc.. The lack of specific objectives isn’t good for me and I don’t excel unless I have a specific challenge. I have been creating my own challenges this past week and have finally started to paddle well again and can rival anyone here. Perhaps we can organize a mock world championships this week… one on Nile Special and one on Club Wave.
We finally got a couple of days of rain after 2 weeks of hot/dry weather. The island needed rain as the vegetation was drying up and turning brown. Two thunderstorms did the trick. From the porch of our banda, Kristine, KC and I watched how the red tailed monkeys handle a thunderstorm. Lightning strikes… they all stop and look around, then the thunder cracks and they start running and jumping from tree to tree in panic. Then they stop and try to hide under leaves to stay dry until the next thunder cracks and they go nuts again. I can say with confidence that these monkeys do not like rain or thunder. The troop here is about 100 monkeys strong and are quite fun to watch.
I celebrated my 50th Birthday on the Nile and it was an epic two days. We had a “Beach Party” up at the Nile Special and paddled every craft, but kayaks, including Nick and Dane’s air mattress on Nile Special. I am lucky to have such great friends.
Jessie Stone organized the distribution of 200 wheelchairs to people in the area who really need them. The Walkabout Foundation supplied the Wheelchairs and logistics for getting them to Jessie and helped to distribute. We helped them get the wheelchairs ready, maintained, adjusted for the patients, etc.. and generally loading, unloading, moving them around, etc.. It was a very enriching experience to be part of this incredible project and see the faces of people who have been dragging themselves on the ground, or parents who have had to carry their disabled children around. This includes a lady with 2 16 year old disabled twins and she walked to the clinic, carrying both of them. She wheeled them out. The next time you see Jessie Stone give her a hug and say, “good job”. She is an amazing woman.
There are only so many things you can do in a day when you paddle twice a day on an island with no electricity, internet, etc… You can use solar chargers to keep cameras and computers charged up which allows us to film and make videos. Nick, Dane, and I are compiling our footage so to make one video from here. I will make a second one with more lifestyle, etc.. in it.
When Nick and Dane make a video many of the shots I would like in a video don’t make it, because they have some other content that appeals to them more. Before GoPro cameras and easy editing software, I would not be making many videos, as it was a group effort. Now I can film, edit, and produce my own videos quite easily. I use my Hero 3+ camera, and GoPro Studio software on my Macbook air. Hard drives are a must to store footage as I can fill up a 1 TB hard drive in a few months. I can fill up my computer in a few weeks. Look for my first quarter of 2014 video here…
The final stretch of my trip included a river run with Dane and Alec on a very stormy day. We had amazing paddling at Super Hole with Jessie, followed by an epic run of “Itunda” where Alec and I managed to surf both the Cuban and Ashtray at the same time, something I would rather not do with a 6’3” person at super high water. No injuries, however, as we managed to no destroy each other with our boats in these two holes. The Cuban was a perfect wave level as it was the highest water in a long time, but we entered it on top of each other so neither of us took the time to surf; we both just tried to separate and regain control. Below Itunda is a “secret hole” that is the best on the river at the right levels. We did some great hole rides there, linking Trickywoos/lunar orbits, etc. etc..
The travel home was long, but uneventful. 35 hours of traveling straight with the final stretch being a 4 hour drive from Atlanta to home with Jet lag and no sleep. I got us to Chattanooga and then Kristine took over for the final stretch and pulled it off. It is 7:15am and getting light outside. I am fired up for being home, but will reflect on my time in Africa. I am in good fighting shape right now and intend to stay that way. 157 pounds, no injuries, flexible, and in strong cardio shape. I think I want to pick up my Karma and Karma Unlimited and start paddling them!!
Here are some images from the trip…