“There’s no bad weather, just bad gear”. This is the response to “inclement” weather in the paddle industry with those die-hard paddlers who love their sport so much there’s no season that will deter them. And honestly, it’s (mostly) true. We live in a time where we’ve discovered synthetics (albeit HORRIBLE for the environment but oh so cozy for our wimpy, hairless human bodies). Last weekend was testiment to this golden rule of gear vs weather.
It’d been two months…ok 6 weeks…since I’d paddled but I felt so ready to get on my board and I’m not scared of cooler temps. I have all the gear and was going to be near a few river stretches with some time on my hands. With that in mind, Friday we paddled a really easy section of the Clackamas. Donned with drysuits, pile onesies and all the neoprene “whatever”, we hit the water. And ROASTED the whole time. It was sunny and about 53 degrees ambient air temperature–beautiful, no real rapids to write home about but SO nice to be on the water.
What really got me excited was paddling a river I’d never done and has been on my bucket list–the White Salmon (below Husom Falls). It was a small group of us, and even smaller group on a paddleboard. Myself, Sam and a buddy of his plus four kayakers. I put in below Rattlesnake Rapids because, well, I’d have almost surely fallen in and didn’t want to begin my day in the water. This day was NOT 53 and sunny. It was about 32 degrees with long icicles hanging from the sides of the gorge. Cold and cloudy but undeniably beautiful. The White Salmon is different than I’m used to paddling…narrower, gorged out and continuous. SO SO fun. Weird side note…the rapids get easier the farther down you go, until a drop right before the takeout that snuck up on me (and wasn’t reported by my fearless leader who knew it was coming but probably knew it best not to mention)? I made the first necessary move totally on purpose, and then the second crucial move, I felt, was made by my board which happily followed the best line and I stayed on my board)…haha
Throughout the run I felt a little like Bambi on ice since I was paddling on my new Badfish that I’ve only paddled two or three times, plus not having paddled for a while. And yeah, freezing temps apparently make me less ballsy. I will say without question, my core never got cold. Not for a minute. My feet were ice cubes even wearing neoprene socks under my drysuit booties and Tevas. Then again, my feet were wet the whole time. Was it worth it? Absolutely. There’s also something strangely satisfying about “suffering” a little to do what you love, and the incredible feeling of then, getting warmed up. I don’t know if others share this strange opinion. In many cases I’ve treated myself with tater tots after (not this time) but loved the takeout Thai food we eventually inhaled once getting back to Portland and cozying up in the warmth and comfort of home. Maybe running rivers in the winter isn’t for everyone, but there’s more to do than skiing this time of year (although that’s great too!). Consider getting out there–it’s beautiful and there’s gear to help!!
Thanks for listening…see ya out there on the frisky ripples.