Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coastal Dreams Come True by Eric Parker

I have two words for you: ocean surfing. Without a doubt, the ocean has offered the best playboating of the quarter. 7-foot waves crashed on our brightly colored watercrafts. The play features gave big bounces followed by big blunts and psychedelic pan ams. The Oregon coastline hosted some of the more unique paddling experiences of the semester.

Walking up after a great day on the beach! photo by Susan Hollingsworth

Sam Makman sets up on the face of a nice wave in Brookings, Oregon. photo by Susan Hollingsworth

Along with the ocean, we paddled various rivers while based in Florence. One great Coast Range run was Sweet Creek. Sweet Creek is a low volume, rocky riverbed full of slides and waterfalls. It offered the perfect opportunity for a World Class race. Thirty seconds apart, 16 student and teachers flew down the quarter mile run. After ten minutes of aggressive paddling, head coach Jesse Shimrock grabbed the gold medal with a time of 1 minute and 7 seconds, closely followed by sophomore Danny Doran. Senior, Dave Meyers, summed up the race, “It was a sick point sick on the sickter scale!”

During our time in Florence we studied in our spacious yurts, one of the more unique classrooms I have ever had.

Redwood Forest and Smith River Update by Jason Cohen

A weekend stop in the Redwood Forest proved to be a great time for World Class. It began with a quick stop in Arcata to wander around for a little while in the city. It was an interesting place, to say the least, but after a few hours we were ready to return to the real world: Crescent City, California and the Jedediah Smith National and State Parks. We camped out under the beautiful and famous Redwood trees of Northern California. Our tents were dwarfed and we all felt like little gnomes scrambling around in a world for giants.

One day all of the students, except for Donny Doran and I, went to surf the ocean. The two of us chose to cruise up to the Upper South Fork of the Smith River with three coaches, and it turned out to be an awesome expedition, partly because it was a break from 19 people crowded onto one small river. It was a fairly continuous Class III-IV run, but the most amazing part was the scenery and the crystal clear water; At all points on the run I could clearly see the bottom of the river. The untouched wilderness surrounding the river reminded everyone of Narnia, and we were expecting Aslan the giant lion to jump out and slay us. He didn’t, and we made it to the take out. While discussing the run later on, Program Director LJ Groth said, “Although we didn’t get slain by Aslan, I was still frightened that the White Witch might get us during the hike out.” Overall, it is a great run and I would suggest it to anyone.

The incredibly clear waters of the Smith River. Photo by Paul Twist.

The next morning, we comleted a day of school in the forest before heading up to Florence, Oregon. Our US History teacher, Susan Hollingsworth, had us go to the ranger station to learn about things that have happened in the Redwood Forest in history. In Biology, which Susan also teaches, we went on a walk in the woods talking about life in forest. I never knew so many things existed and depended on each other in places as small as under a rock. I’m glad we can go to so many places for interactive learning experiences.

The Feather River Update by Ben Dann

LJ lays some treats off the C-rail. Photo by Paul Twist

After spending upwards of a week in Three Rivers California paddling the Kaweah River we loaded up the vans and headed north for our next destination, the North fork of the Feather River. Taylor Robertson, a good friend of World Class, set us up with info about water levels and free camping. He also joined us on the river and showed our large crew the ropes. The entire group was able enjoy the epic class IV-V water. The North Fork of the Feather was filled with bald, granite rock which made for perfect boofs scattered throughout the river. This sparked the idea to have a boof clinic with the group, perfecting our creeking strokes. Sam Makman said, “It was a turning point in my paddling career,” and everyone benefited.

Ben Dann drives for that good boof stroke. Photo by Paul Twist

Our campsite was very roomy with beautiful views of snow capped mountains and deep forestation. Unfortunately the night time temperatures were the coldest we had seen so far on the trip. This resulted in the majority of morning classes being held huddled around the campfire or loaded in the vans. The road next to the campsite had minimal traffic and the perfect incline for cruising on our long boards. It was so fun that it inspired a few kids to buy longboards in the next town, Chico, California.

While in Chico, we held classes at the local university. The Cultural Studies class conducted a social experiment in the center of town. They walked around town and asked strangers why it was so difficult to talk to strangers. Ben Stanistreet said, “Through my studies I found that once you break the awkward barrier of starting a conversation with a random person they are usually happy to talk to you.”

The entire group enjoyed the North fork of the Feather and the California life style.

Trinity Update by Quinn Connell

Looking up the gorge from the takeout. Photo by Paul Twist.

After the Feather we made our way to the Burnt Ranch Gorge of the Trinity River. We stayed at a campground that had a large open area in the middle.  This was perfect for morning workout games of capture the flag, and Dave killed it, using his speed to maneuver through the trees. The Burnt Ranch Gorge itself was a fun stretch with much more water than the other rivers we had just been paddling. It was a pool-drop run through a basalt canyon, according to Sam, “It was a sick big water run with some awesome rapids!” A couple drops had stout holes and there were many sweet boofs. A big thanks to the guys at the Straw House, a hay-insulated cafĂ© where we spent a rainy class day, got to hook up to the internet and planned our world-premiere WCKA Cribs episode for journalism. We met a couple of wild characters during our stay and the teachers got a glimpse of the Burnt Ranch lifestyle first hand thanks to local Tim Thompson.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

kaweah Paddling by Quinn Connell

After a long drive, we found ourselves at a trailer park in Three Rivers, CA which was to be our home for the next week. There were some interesting characters in the park that we grew to know over out time there. There was Dave, the owner and manager who we owe a big thanks to. From letting us stay here to allowing us to invade his office at all times of day and night to use the internet, Dave made our time a lot easier. We met a guy called Big Joe, whose small terrier Bambino was so full of energy it seemed ironic. Once we settled down we were ready to get out on some California granite after a week of taking it easy.

Sam flying by the last drop of the upper hospital rock Photo By Ben Stanistreet

Susan killin it in the "green boat" photo By Sebastian Scholl

The first couple of days we ran a section of the Kaweah from the entrance of the Sequoia National Park down to our campsite. With low water this continuous boulder garden was the perfect warm up to get us back on the water and used to our creek boats which some people hadn’t sat in since before we left for China.

We took a trip up into the National Park in search of better whitewater, and were helped out by a friendly ranger “April,” who got us set up with all of the permits we would need for the next week. We ended up running the section above the Hospital Rock run, putting in below Chuck’s drop. This is a stout slide that head coach Jesse Shimrock and WCKA’s friends Justin Patt and Shon Bollock ran later in our stay. The section below starts off with Diggin’ to China, a granite slide into a four foot boof in the middle, or a pillow ride to plug on the far right. There’s also a slot down the far right that saw some carnage. We ran several laps on this rapid and then made our way downstream. After a ton of small, clean boofs the run ends in a series of slides with a giant sieve on the far right that we ended up losing a paddle to.

Stani setting up for the final slide by Photo Sebastian Scholl

Kristi taken it to china By Photo Sebastian Scholl

Our take out also served as the put in to the Hospital Rock section. This starts off with a big angled slide that you can either run against the wall, or ride up high on the right side and fall down into the pillow. The entire run is continuous whitewater with a few bigger drops thrown in. The river narrows down to a few feet wide then falls off a 12-foot boof, Little Niagara. A lot of smooth slides later, 420 gorge begins with a series of slot-drops known as 420 rapid. A couple of fun drops later, past a dam and “Wonder Boof,” which is exactly as it sounds, we hit Zero to Sixty, the biggest rapid on the run. The line starts by boofing your way through the entrance, sliding over some granite on the right that slows you down, then hitting the pillow on the left that instantly shoots you over a 15 foot ledge. This section is a classic, incredibly fun and perfectly represents the clean granite drops characteristic of California paddling.

We took a day trip to the Tule, and after a couple hours of driving stopped for a quick lunch before putting on a rarely run section of the south fork. More slides and boofs- we’re all beginning to love this style of whitewater. The most memorable rapid on the section is a double drop. It starts with an eight foot sliding drop, and after a short pool falls off a 25- foot nearly vertical wall that everyone fired up. The rest of the run had several portages and ended in a fun slide.

Dave Getting high on wonder boof Photo By Sebastian Scholl

We returned to the Kaweah on the last day of our permit for a race. We were in teams of three and the race involved running from the put-in to Hospital rock to the put-in to the upper section, tagging a team mate waiting in their boat, and racing down the upper stretch. It continued relay-style until everyone on the team had both run and paddled. Sebastian, Erik and Dave took first and won free t-shirts from the trailer park we were staying in. As we left, a ranger reminded us that we had no days left on our permit, so we decided to take off the next day to Justin Patt’s and the Yuba.

Weekend Warriors by Ben Dann

Danny Doran styling the 20 footer on the Tule. photo by LJ Groth

Here at World Class Kayak Academy, a two day weekend on a “real world” weekend is almost unheard of - saturday and sunday free!?! Generally we use our days off for paddling longer stretches or for travel. With a little break from classes and homework we finally get to relax a little and experience some new paddling. What more could a world class student ask for?

On Saturday we were able to drive further and take more time exploring a new stretch of river. The run of choice was the South fork of the Middle fork of the Tule river. The first mile of the river is clean granite bed rock that created some of the best drops we have seen on the trip so far. Some of the rapids consisted of fun s-turn slides and some decent sized slides and water falls. Due to the small amounts of water there was lot of portaging involved but still entirely worth it. Eric Johnson said “We have water falls, portaging and poison oak. All we need are rattle snakes.” And sure enough, at the take-out we spotted a remarkably large rattle snake slithering between rocks of the river bank. In one day we saw everything these amazing California rivers had to offer.
Eric Parker boofing a sticky hole. photo by LJ Groth

Since we were near Sequoia National Park we thought it would be a prime opportunity to go check out some of the monstrous Sequoias that grow high in the hills of the park. The drive started from camp at the banks of the Kaweah and continued 40 minutes up a windy California road. We found ourselves surrounded by some of the biggest trees in the world. The further we drove the bigger they got. We finally pulled in to a parking long that had a large sign that said General Sherman. After about 200 yards of walking we found ourselves staring up at the worlds biggest tree. It stands at 36.5 feet in diameter at the base and is 275 feet tall. If the trunk was hallowed out and filled with water, that would be enough water for some one to take a bath every day for 27 years. It was one of the most remarkably large things I have ever seen. Later that day we headed back down to the Kaweah and had yet another great day of class IV V white water.

Site-seeing in the park. photo by Jason Cohen

Food here at World Class is quite the sacred thing. We had the privilege to go out to dinner to a pizza joint in the town of Three Rivers. We chose our pizza buddies and got a 12 inch pizza for each pair. Everyone crowed around a couple of tables and waited anxiously for the amazing food to come. I started to feel really bad for the waiters and waitresses because every time they called out a pizza every kid in the room tried to beckon them over to their table. About 10 minutes after all the pizza had been brought out each platter had been licked clean. Every student left content, full and satisfied with their weekend.

Greetings From California! –by Ben Stanistreet

Our East to West adventure has moved west as we start 4th quarter in California. I cannot even describe how unique and valuable our trip to China was. We are very fortunate to have experienced a part of the world that very few Americans have actually seen. When I asked George Milheim, a sophomore here at WCKA, about the differences of traveling with World Class in China and in the US he said, “In China we really made an impact on the local communities, here we are just like everyone else.” We were probably as foreign and interesting to the Chinese communities as they were to us. “I have gained so much by visiting the Yunnan province rather then the cities of eastern China”, says Kristi Murrin. This was her second time to China with World Class and she was just as amazed by the culture and customs as she was the first time. Our experiences in Yunnan have left us all with life long memories.

After a ten-day spring break students reunited in Portland Oregon for a long and grueling drive south to the Kaweah River. “The drive was long but well worth it” says Eric Parker. Long days in the vans are common when traveling with WCKA in the US. We take advantage of the time by doing homework, watching movies, or catching up on sleep. I enjoyed staying in California over spring break and visiting my sister in Santa Cruz before meeting up with World Class at the Kaweah in the town of Three Rivers. Everyone seems to have really enjoyed some relaxation time over break, but we are all stoked to be back, living the World Class life on the west coast!

Looking down on our camp site at Three Rivers Hideaway - Photo by Ben Stanistreet


April 4-6 – Feather River
April 7-10 – Paddling on the Trinity River
April 11 – Surf Crescent City and Camp at Jedediah Smith Redwoods National Park
April 12 – Paddle Upper South Fork of the Smith River
April 13 – Surf Oregon Coast and drive to Florence, OR
April 14-16 – Surfing and Paddling Sweet Creek in Florence
April 16 – Drive to Eugene, OR
April 17-18 – Paddle the McKenzie River
April 19 – Paddle the Miracle Mile on the Willamette River
April 20 – Paddle then Drive to the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, OR
April 21-30 – Camp at BZ Corner in Washington and paddle rivers in the Columbia River Gorge
May 1 – Drive to the Payette River, Idaho
May 2-7 – Paddle various forks of the Payette River
May 8 – Drive to Crystal Springs, MT
May 9-13 – Paddle Alberton Gorge
May 14-15 – Surf Brennan's Wave
May 16 – GRADUATION!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We've Made the Front Page!

We've Made the Front Page!... of the Keweah Commonwealth, a local Three Rivers, CA newspaper.  Two journalists came and interviewed us at The Three Rivers Hideaway, the trailer park where we were staying.  

Quinn Connell catching up on local Three Rivers news by reading The Kaweah Commonwealth.  Photo by Jason Cohen

They learned a lot about us, but we also learned a lot about the town of Three Rivers.  It used to be a massive communist colony until the mid 20th century.  The famous General Shermann Sequoia actually used to be called the Karl Marx Tree until Anti-Communist Americans decided it would be more politically correct to name the tree after a Civil War General who swept a wave a destruction and death throughout the Southern States.
We also learned about the flood habits of the Kaweah River, which we all found very interesting being the amateur hydrologists that we are.  Anyway, read the whole article at: !

Final China Photos by Jason Cohen

Our translator and friend, Zachary.

Quinn Connell paddles hard upstream to catch a monstrous wave.

Locals crossing the Salween River.

Dusk begins to settle over the Dredger Wave.

Some ducks eating food while waiting to become food.