Spring Break Surfing

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This year I had the unique pleasure of joining the crew running a surfing intensive program in Tofino. The trip consists of four days on the beach in Tofino, with surfing twice daily; a training session falls over the lunch hour to bring students up to speed on the physics and science involved in the sport. Things got a little lighter towards the end of the week as the wear and tear of surfing daily starts to get in; we instead of surfing went for a day around Tofino and the trails in Ukie as a break. Loding was at the Botanical Gardens Ecolodge, an amazing little hostel style accommodation that has been helping the program deliver some of the stellar trips to the west coast of this island over the last few years.

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They needed a videographer for the morning surfing days; as recording peoples technique greatly aids in the learning process. When not recording students catching a wave, I was able to grab some awesome shots from the beach level of some incredible scenes. Weather was perfect for this trip with bright sunshine most of our days. Videography of surfing was a little bit different than anything I had ever done; as the objective was to simply capture anyone who is able to pop up in hopes of giving better technique advice back at camp. From behind the camera, I noticed right away the difference the videographing makes on students who are able to get themselves captured. there was noticeable increases in skill level over the days. Of course I am not ruling out natural aptitude here, but it was quite amazing seeing people who had never seen a surf board in person before learn how to catch a wave, stand up, and start moving horizontal to its flow in a mere four days.

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The trip is probably the best thing I have done with the Outdoor Rec. Crew, which is saying something as everything they do is absolutely incredible. I highly recommend getting a surfing lesson from Matt and Greg, you can sign up here:  https://www2.viu.ca/campusrec/outdoorrec.asp

Staff Adventure, Winter 2016

I got the chance back in December to get to know the staff of the program, now that I had been officially been hired on as Outdoor Rec’s new promotions expert. We went looking for a river surfing location, and while the rapids were strong the cresting we were looking for remained illusive. _MG_0036

As with most media people, I made quick friends with the dog, snapping some great shots as we trekked through the thick undergrowth and trails running the side of the river.

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We did eventually find a gold mining camp along the river, outside a site that had constructed its own bridge across a small creek bed.

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Despite not finding the right rapids to surf, we still had a great time. It’s always a great adventure here on the island, and in doing so, we became more familiar with each other for the coming term.

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Matt’s leadership brought us all closer together that day, and It is an amazing spot I will be marking on my own map to return to in the future.

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Life as a River Rafting Guide

Written by : Megan McPartland

“Wow, what a great job.”

“This must be so much fun.”

“How do you get this job?”

“I wanna be a raft guide!”

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Whitewater raft guides hear this kind of thing all the time and the customers are right. There is nothing like guiding your raft through a crashing wave and coming out the other end while the guests cheer and beg for more. “How far ‘til the next rapid?” They’re all dying to know. The guide does know and, if possible, is more excited than the guest to get there. They ask family members in other rafts “Did you see that?” Guides ask each other the same thing, “Did you see my line?” punctuated by laughter and phrases like “The stoke was too high” and “Oh yeah, your line looked a bit spicy.”

And your group of dentists on an office retreat also laughing about incorporating such language into their profession, “Can you imagine if we went into work like ‘Man, the stoke was just too high that day.’” “I wish,” says another.

That was my summer as a whitewater guide on the Arkansas River in Colorado, which saw particularly high stoke with the water reaching record levels. When we were not on the river with guests we were still on the river because whitewater is an addiction. We certainly acted like addicts trying to get a fix, driving all over from put-ins to take-outs and back, hitch-hiking when someone forgot their keys. We did some crazy things in the pursuit of whitewater, we put on at 8pm to paddle class V rapids in near pitch black, we took rafts into commercially closed sections, we skipped meals, we lost sleep, and we had an absolute blast!

The more commercial trips I had, the more I realized that my guests were jealous of me. From schoolteachers, to brain surgeons they wanted to try out my job. The most educated, well-to-do people were desperate for a taste of my life, for a taste of the stoke that was often “too high.” The probably were not jealous of the crappy pay and leaky tent I slept in, probably were not wishing they could lift heavy boats in the blistering sun all day, listening to yet another guest complain about how tight their life jackets are. No, they didn’t envy me for my diet of beans, cheap beer, and the occasional free sandwich, but they did envy me. For the endless adrenaline rushes, for my office of pristine blue skies, blinding sun, and jagged peaks. They wanted my sandal tan line, my excuse to wear a pirate hat, and they wanted my stories (most of which were made up, but hey, I am a raft guide).

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I would invariably get asked, “How do you even become a raft guide?” Which lead me to explain the British Columbia River Outfitters Association (BCROA) raft guide certification. It is a week long, on-river course offered through VIU Outdoor Rec at special student rates. I took the course last May and was immediately hooked. We spent a week on the Gold River, moving the raft up and down the river, ferrying from eddy to eddy, setting up mechanical advantage pulley systems, and mock rescuing swimmers with bags of rope called throw bags. At the end of the week in order to get the certification and be allowed to guide commercially you have to pass a test which includes throwing three throw bags 11 meters in 30 seconds, a written test, a safety talk, and a stressful eight eddy river run, which, for me, began with the tester literally asking me what the hell I was doing. I barely managed a pass, but it was enough to get me the certification, the beginning of what would be an epic summer.

It is still the middle of winter and most of us will be buried in schoolwork until spring, but I still cannot stop thinking about guiding again in the summer while I work on my life jacket tan. It really is the perfect summer job with raft season ending just as school begins and VIU students get a deal on the BCROA certification. So, if you’re not sure of your summer plans I can think of one thing you should absolutely be doing!

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Avalanche Awareness this weekend!

We have a few spots remaining for our Avalanche Skills day this Sunday, Jan 10th. Learn how to use an avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, how to navigate in avalanche terrain, and how to read an avalanche bulletin. Great value and the forecast looks good too – follow the link to register and the photo below is from last year. This could be you.

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https://www2.viu.ca/campusrec/outdoorrec.asp

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River

 

unnamedLast fall I got the call from a friend that his father had just won the random lottery for a private trip down the Grand Canyon and I was invited. As a white water kayaker and river sports kind of guy this type of invitation doesn’t come along all the time and the best part were the dates – an April trip – which just happens to be my slow time during the university year where I could take three weeks off work!

The group got organized, a rafting rental company was used for the majority of the equipment and food needs and by the spring of 2014 the 16 of us found ourselves at the put in for the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. There is so much to write about and share with this kind of trip but for the sake of a blog post I’ll try and keep it brief.

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This is easily one of the best trips I have ever done. The scenery is spectacular and there were always interesting things to look at. Everything, from the smallest rock I picked up off a trail, held in my hand and thought, ‘this has got to be the most beautiful rock I have ever seen’, to the never ending panoramic views as we made our way down the canyon – the Grand delivers in every sense. The white water is challenging with big rapids and difficult lines and I tried my best to maneuver a loaded, 18 foot raft around monster waves and car eating holes. For the most part I was pretty pleased with my lines and I managed to keep the raft upright and my passengers from falling out into the cold water. We had a few white water kayaks on the trip and even an unnamedinflatable Stand up Paddleboard (SUP). When I was not running a raft I spent a fair amount of time using the SUP and could quickly move away from the main flotilla of our group and find a bit of peace and quiet within the beauty of the canyon. Even taking the SUP down a moderately difficult rapid was a challenge, almost guaranteeing a fall into the rapid and then proceeding to swim, tied down to this giant inflatable board – still an awesome experience. Where the SUP did excel was on large smooth waves suitable for surfing. Here the white water kayaks were not long (fast) enough to surf but the SUP could sit on these standing wave features forever. I had my best river surf ever on this trip while standing on the SUP.

We learned about the history of the Grand Canyon’s aboriginal population, how they used the terrain as the earliest explorers, adventuring in boats, same as us, taking in the area’s amazing geology. As we floated down the Colorado River, we learned that today, the relatively new creations of dams  control flooding, generate power and irrigation. We had great weather in April, and the river ran very clear for us for the entire trip. The river can turn a chocolate milk colour as sediment enters the river from rain and flooding eunnamedvents.  During these events the sediment loads are incredible and represent millions of tons of sediment moving down. The movement of sediment within the entire watershed has been negatively impacted by the creation of dams, which results in the removal of sediment from the river and this material instead ends up being deposited in dam-created lakes. Once in the lake, it remains there and very little of this sediment gets to move into the next section of river below the dam. It ‘s mind boggling to try to comprehend that the Colorado River doesn’t even flow into its river delta in Mexico anymore because just about all the water has been diverted for human use.

If you ever get an opportunity to travel the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River with your friends and eat great food, drink lots of beers and scotch, navigate challenging raging rapids, sleep under the stars for 19 days, learn about a place through your experiences, and witness one of the most beautiful environments on the planet – take it. If you have a bucket list – put this trip on it and if you don’t do bucket lists (I don’t) then make a mental note that during your life on planet Earth you need to do this trip.

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Written by Matt Kellow

Adventures with Kids

It feels like I have a bunch of kids but to be exact I have three children, a couple of boys and a young daughter. As an adventure sport enthusiast I participate in a number of outdoor based activities and own way too many bikes, skis, surf boards, kayaks and all other kinds of outdoor sporting equipment. I have always loved the experience of wilderness tripping and when I started having a family my wife and I decided to spend a portion of our summer vacation each year getting our family out on a multi-day wilderness adventure.

When the boys were just three and one and half we had them out on a multi-day rafting trip down the Thompson River west of Kamloops. Every summer since, we have managed in one form or another, to get the kids out and into the wilderness adventuring. Some years my wife is busy and can’t make it and over the years we seem to have adopted some other adults and kids along the way as friends and family each loudly advocate for inclusion in these experiences.

These trips are pretty much the highlight of my year but the real highlight has been watching the kids grow and benefit from deep immersion in nature. My two boys now commonly ask what adventure I am planning for the summer and make suggestions as to the equipment I will need to bring to make the trip a success. The kids have been able to build confidence and I have watched them learn how to set up a tent, inflate their therma rests, keep their bedding dry, pack up camp, and light their own kid fire. They can’t always hangout around the adult fire – because we need a break from the kids to drink beer and use the f word.

The saying “the journey is the destination” can’t have more truth than when tripping with the kids. Just this summer past we were up on Kennedy Lake enjoying Clayoquot  Arm Provincial Park and I got the idea for all of us to paddle over to a creek, hike up the creek to a small lake, and then go for a swim. Now I can read a topographical map and it looked good on the map, but what we found was pretty much the film location for where Yoda lived in Empire Strikes Back – total swamp! This was my mistake and I must have silently asked myself 150 times on the way to the lake if we should turn back? The answer was always yes – but the kids were always a bit ahead and they didn’t seem to think this experience was sucking as much as me and the other dad did. By the time we got to the lake we could see that there was no swimming to be had as you had to walk through a half kilometer of mud to get to the clean water. At this point the kids were totally covered in mud, all their clothing was completely soaked as they had done some swamp/creek swimming on route to the lake. On all accounts this lake excursion was a complete fail…but the kids were totally amped on the adventure, laughing and carrying on as only little kids can, and this part of the trip was the highlight of the entire week on the lake – okay the cliff jumping was popular too. On the way back down the creek there was some crying but it isn’t a kid’s trip without some tears and these were quickly forgotten as the kids got back in the boats to return to basecamp while nonstop discussing the swamp hike and the fun they had.

As we enter the west coast winter and the days transition to some of the shortest of the year, my mind wanders to what our kids adventure trip will be this summer. The kids are already asking what we are doing and whatever we get into this year, will undoubtedly be a highpoint.

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-Matt Kellow

 

Your Next Endeavor: Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

It can be somewhat depressing when the sun spends days or weeks behind a blanket of flat gray and the ocean loses its ultramarine color. But below the surface of that slate colored sea, there’s another entire world just waiting to be explored. Shirley and Steve White, owners of Nanaimo Dive Outfitters, are no strangers to the beauty of the ocean depths. I had the opportunity to speak with Shirley and she let me in on a few of the ins and outs of Scuba diving and snorkeling. Check it out!

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 Megan: Can you first tell me a little bit about yourself and about the Nanaimo Dive Outfitters?

 Shirley: Well, Nanaimo Dive Outfitters has been here for 10 years now. My husband and I purchased it 5 years ago. 563320_10150721045414704_1774763640_nWe moved to the island 10 years ago and just loved diving here so we got into it full time and we cater to all sorts of divers from recreational, very beginner divers all the way up to the most advanced divers. And we do all kinds of diving ourselves. Our favorite kind of diving is introducing people, new people, to the diving world because there’s so much to see under the water.

M: I was wondering if you could tell me a bit of the history about the sport and how it got to be what it is today.

S: There’s so much history to Scuba diving, it’s amazing. They’ve been diving for years, centuries really in some way, shape, or form. It’s kinda like back in the days when divers could go down, come up, breathe a little bit of air, and go back down again but then every time you breathe out you’re breathing out carbon dioxide so gradually their oxygen depleted, so they couldn’t spend too much time down there. Then back in the early 1900s pretty much for modern Scuba diving, Jacques Cousteaucousteau-5-sized and Émile Gagnan, they kind of introduced us to more modern scuba equipment where you have a regulator, or a breathing apparatus, what we call a demand breathing apparatus, so that means that every time you breathe in you actually get air, when you breathe out there’s a valve that shuts it off so it doesn’t waste air. There’s lots of women in the sport too, which I really like, there’s a women’s hall of fame in Scuba diving and there’s some awesome women in that. So, really we’ve been diving for a long time and equipment nowadays is actually going back to what we used to use many decades ago, so it’s kinda come around in circles.

M: When people think of Scuba diving, one of the comments you always hear is “The Bends.” Now you can you explain to me what exactly the bends are and how you can prevent that.

S: “The Bends” are bubbles in your blood that expand too fast. They form in your joints and it causes pain. Basically it can happen from ascending too quickly, and the bubbles don’t have time to dissipate out of the blood. That and a build up of nitrogen in the blood and the nitrogen bubbles expand too fast and get captured in the joints. It’s related to Scuba because it’s related to breathing air under water. You’re taking in new air under water. So you’re constantly circulating air into the blood. So when you descend air compresses and when you ascend air expands. You need to ascend very slowly. If you ascend too fast the air bubbles expand faster than what they can dissipate out of the blood. So they get captured inside your body, instead of being expelled from your body. They will go into your joints; they can actually go into your bloodstream, into your brain, into your spine. It’s called Decompression Sickness; you can actually get very serious injuries and possible death from it. That’s one of the key causes of Scuba diving injuries, is coming up too fast.

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M: So, what would be the right speed to ascend? Is there a set rule?

S: There’s an average rule, and it’s basically 30 feet a minute. So, it’s a nice slow ascent. For example, if you’re in the bottom of the swimming pool, the very deep end of the swimming pool, it should technically take you 20 seconds to come up the surface as you’re coming us nice and slow.

M: Now, you say you like to bring people into the sport. What are some of the benefits of Scuba, not only physical but also mental, emotional, psychological, even spiritual benefits that you would associate with Scuba and snorkeling?

S: Well Scuba diving really means something different to everybody. For some people it’s a sense of freedom. You get in the water and you’re floating, it’s like flying almost, you know you’re just in the water, you’re not touching anything, you can turn 360°, look 360°, it’s so quiet and there’s sea life moving all around you423323_10150667920609704_712605396_n and it’s a stress-releaser, because everything else fades away when you see all that and there are some areas of the world, here included, we’ve got some awesome sea life. It’s so cool to just sit there and watch Mother Nature at work and how everything interacts with each other. So it is very spiritual in that respect for a lot of people. Also, it can be a very strenuous sport, especially in cold water. So you do have to a sense of physical fitness. There’s a little bit of swimming that you need to do when you first take the course, just to show us that you have the capability of handling the equipment and the little bit of exercise that’s required for the sport.

M: You don’t have to reveal all the super secret spots, but what are some of your personal favorite places around the island to dive?

S: Nanoose Bay has quiet a few really good dive spots. Madrona Point being one of the favorites, and there are people that come from all of over the island just to dive here because we’ve got some really good shore diving sites and it makes less expensive for people to Scuba dive if you can just grab a tank and walk in from shore. But we’ve got some awesome boat diving just outside the harbor by Snake Island. We’ve got a couple wrecks out there and then further in we’ve got a wreck in the channel, the Rivtow Lion and a couple of pinnacles that we can dive. So, we’re really lucky in the Nanaimo area, we’ve got a lot of really good diving, both from shore and from boat.

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M: What is some of the sea life that can be seen around here while Scuba diving or snorkeling, specific to this area.

S: Oh there are so many things. The key thing that people like to see when they come here, that we’re known for in the Pacific Northwest, is the Giant Pacific Octopus.284222_10150263848519704_7618852_n It’s the biggest octopus in the world; it can have an arm span of up to eight feet. The big ones, unfortunately, they only live three or four years. The other thing that we’re known for is the fish called the Wolf Eel, it looks like an eel, it’s actually a fish. They’re about four to five feet long. They’re really, really interesting to see. And then we have all sorts of Nudibranch varieties. A Nudibranch is basically a sea slug, but some of them are very pretty and we’ve got a lot of varieties here. There’s lots of sea stars and sea cucumbers and tons of different kinds of crabs. We also, of course, in the winter time we get the sea lions164315_498153019703_3826316_n that come around and visit us as we’re diving. Lots of different kinds of fish, books and books full of fish.

M: How can someone who, like me, has no experience really, or gear, get into Scuba diving or snorkeling? What’s the best way to start?

S: The easiest way is to come on into the shop and we can talk all about the Open Water Scuba diver course. Now there’s a couple steps prior to that, if you want. Just snorkeling, you need to get yourself a mask and snorkel and some fins. And you can just go along the surface. If you’re comfortable with holding your breath and diving down a little bit, that’s a great start. If that’s all you want to do, that’s awesome because that is getting you to experience more of what our world has. If you want to go past that and give Scuba diving a try, we have what we call Scuba discoveries where you go into the pool 395648_10151603095979704_943969378_nfor an hour or so and you feel what it’s like to be under the water without having to come up to the surface all the time to grab a breath. If you like that, you can go ahead and take your full Scuba diving certification course. It starts off as an open water scuba diver, meaning you can go out into the ocean and you can dive to about eighteen meters and then there’s training from there on. Each step takes you into different realms of Scuba diving.

M: Wow, it sounds just beautiful. I hope we can spark some interest here and maybe send some people your way! Thank you so much for your time!

So there you have it! Next time that sunless sky is getting you down there’s plently of color to be found practically in our back yards. Be sure to check out the shop at 2205 Northfield Rd.  Nanaimo, BC (250) 756-1863

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Get to know: Standup Paddle Board

Stand up paddle boarding

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Stand up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. It is not only a recreational pass time but also a competitive sport. It is a zero impact sport which allows for participation for any person of any age. Paddle boarding offers greater versatility than other paddle sports in addition to providing a more intimate relationship with the water due to the simplistic nature of the sport. While the origins of paddle boarding are contested it is believed to have originated in tropical locations such as Polynesia and Hawaii, we do know that is served as the initial mode of transportation for people in water.photo-set-1-2-bmp  Due to this early heritage the connection that an individual has with their external environment while paddle boarding is unlike any other water sport activity. It is an eco-friendly sport that will only burn calories. A majority of the workout focuses primarily on the core muscle groups while utilizing stabilizer muscles to maintain your balance and your upper body to propel you further. Being based out of the coastal community of Nanaimo, I find it incredible that people rarely spend time on the water. We are presented with fantastic opportunities to enjoy the biodiversity of the ocean while being able to just as easily paddle down a river. The protected environments of the local lakes also provide a different experience as they offer a perfect opportunity for people to practice their skills before heading out onto the ocean.

The paddle boards we offer weigh roughly 23 pounds and vary between 11’0 and 12’0 which makes them easy to transport. The stability of the boards is incredibly high but still leaves the need for a skill to be acquired. I always find it interesting whenever we come across people on tours who assume that it is incredibly challenging. Typically people are up and running after only 15 minutes. The fear for most people is that they will fall off, but we have noticed that the involuntary fall rate we have encountered is close to 1 out of every 20 people.

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Ultimately, this is an activity that re-establishes an individual’s connection with nature. It brings a peaceful awareness of the environment in a non-intrusive manner. There’s something to be said about a person who is floating on the ocean with little more than a board and a paddle because it’s a feeling that needs to be experienced.

Learn more at http://www.vanislepaddleboardco.com/

By Jennifer Vroom

Christie Falls Hike

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We’ve all gotten melodies stuck in our heads before, a pop song you heard on the radio, your favorite rock album. I’m experiencing a similar sensation now, but the tune I hear comes from the Outdoor Rec’s trip to Christie Falls, just outside Lady Smith. When I close my eyes I can still hear, days after eating lunch waterfall side, the rush of water as it plummeted down, dancing over rocks, cliffs, and through tight ravines. And much like a familiar song, the thought of it takes me back.

Getting to the waterfall required a brief walk along a logging road lined with trees and the colors of changing leaves, from burnt orange and yellow to Tim Horton red. IMG_9641From there we followed a leisurely trail in among the trunks themselves. Armed with cameras the students couldn’t resist snapping shots of the rays of autumn sun that slanted in, alighting on silk spider web strands and lichen-coated branches. No one minded a stop here or there if someone wanted to photograph a tiny toadstool IMG_9697or a giant tree. The trail had a couple turn-offs that afforded us overlooks of the cascading creek, which lead us up to Christie Falls.

 

At the first of two falls we encountered that soothing crashing of water onto rock Nature’s white noise, the churning water turned white with bubbles that leapt into nothing. Communicating in loud voices, we navigated our way across a log bridge that really looked a lot worse than it was.IMG_9662 Up to the second waterfall equally dramatic in the sun, with mist spraying into the air and a combination of trickles meandering down the rock face next to torrents that rumbled. It was the perfect place to feed our own rumbling stomachs. In the shade of the falls we had lunch and listened to the constant water.

 

Sadly, then it was time to head back down. Is it crazy that I wished to stay forever and let the gentle roar of the waterfall sing me to sleep while I forgot about studying and the stress of upcoming midterms? IMG_9667I wasn’t alone; other students expressed their desire to stay in the sun and “recharge” at least for a while longer. Lucky for us, though, there’s always another Outdoor Rec trip where we can rejuvenate, no only our bodies, our minds as well. In the meantime, I’ll daydream between studying and let the melody of Christie Falls stay stuck in my head.