One of the first places Ben took me to after arriving in Trail, British Columbia, apart from Walmart was a wave (a white water wave) located on the Columbia River down stream from a smelter – the origin, I assume, of this waves name Industrial… aka Indie.
Prior to playing on this wave I had only paddled on man made white water. For those who don’t know me I went to high-school up the road from the Sydney 2000 Olympic white water park – a man made white water river now known as Penrith White Water Stadium. I started learning how to kayak, first on flat water and soon after also white water, every Friday after school during years 11 and 12 (my senior years).
I have been kayaking in Penrith on and off now, due to moving to Perth on Australia’s west coast back in 2007, for a little over 10 years. Being man made it is a controlled environment and therefore the risk of becoming stuck under a fallen submerged tree/log is not possible. However when kayaking on a river, especially in Canada with its massive timber (lumber for you Canadians) industry which still uses the river to transport this timber, the risk of becoming stuck under water below a submerged log or even bumping your head on a rock, of which there are plenty of, is increased 10 fold.
I remember, as written in my recent post ‘To Trail in the sky‘, sitting in my room watching freestyle and big water kayaking videos captured on the Ottawa River, Canada hoping I would one day get the chance to play on Canadian Rivers. So when Ben mentioned a few weeks before I left there was a wave he knew of near by his house, which he recently noticed due to some kayakers playing on it, I had been looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes ever since.
After walking down a dirt track for a couple hundred meters, with my mind still coming to terms with the fact I was in Canada, I was emotionally overwhelmed given my past dreams by the wave which stood only meters from the rivers bank. At that point it was a solid 3.5 maybe an easy 4 – a number with a maximum value of 6 representing a grade or class of whitewater running difficulty. Although it’s size was hard to judge from the bank, something which would be confirmed the next day. Oh and it’s important to know there was a surfer (with a surf board) surfing the wave. As we were leaving Ben, being a surfer himself, left a note on the wind-screen of this guys car.
That afternoon after Candice finished work we all drove down to a kayaking shop – Endless Adventures – located on the Slocan River approx. 45min from Rossland. I hired a Jackson Fun along with all the necessary gear. Jackson being the Brand and Fun being the name given to this particular model of kayak… like a Holden Commodore. That same afternoon Ben made contact with the mythical surfer and scheduled a play date for 10am the next morning.
The next morning arrived and it arrived with a bang… a head-aching bang! Apparently I had Jet Lag? After downing a few strong pain killers and relaxing with a long shower I felt well enough, well almost, to hit Indie… my first natural whitewater kayaking experience. After parking alongside a road, which runs parallel to the Columbia River, Ben jumped in a wetsuit lent to him by Glen the now named mystical surfer. Next was the moment I honestly put in the back of my mind because I didn’t think it would ever come true.
I slid off the rivers bank smiling wide. After a few chilling eskimo rolls and a short warm up paddle in an eddie I was ready to venture out to an island made by a boulder which had at some point fallen from the cliffs which surrounded us and created the valley this fun filled river ran through. This boulder created a viewing and launching platform for us, although it was not the easiest platform to land on. It meant kayaking slightly up river so you had time to get far enough across and enough time to line yourself up for the 2 meter wide edge of the boulder which faced upstream. It meant paddling hard so as to beach yourself up onto the rocks surface.
Next came the fun. After watching Glen and setting up my GoPro video camera it was my turn. I slid off the rock, again smiling wide, although this time with an increased heart rate and a rush of adrenalin mixed with the pain killers which had now kicked in. I paddled up stream against the rivers strong current before eddying out with a long left sweep stroke. As I neared the wave I turned so as to face upstream readying myself for a few strong strokes so as to not simply wash on and over the wave. As I felt the back of my kayak begin to drop into the hole I looked down and was surprised by the waters clarity. Below me was a huge boulder, a boulder typically above the water’s surface, although due to this once in a lifetime increased snow melt – caused by high snow falls during the winter – it meant the boulder was now beneath me creating this wave, which grabbed hold of me as I lifted onto its white wash. Industrial as the wave is named by locals is as I said a wave which apparently only appears once in a life time and here I was surfing it the day after arriving in Canada.
In that moment I put its history in the back of my mind and simply focused on enjoying the rush of being ‘captured’ by it. Captured in more ways than one! It was beyond any wave I had surfed at Penrith’s man made whitewater park. It was insanely bigger than I predicted from the rivers bank the day before. When in its valley it’s peak stood well above my head. Plus only a matter of 2 meters to my left (river right) the wave went from a fun surfable wave to what kayakers call a stopper. A stopper is a wave which does more than capture you allowing you to surf. A stopper holds you and this one in particular, especially at the level the water currently was, does not let you go. To get out you have to eskimo roll whilst still on the wave… whilst being tumbled around by a grade 3.5 – 4 wave. Once again upright it’s a case of either using your paddle to reach over the waves peak attempting to get hold of the water running through and over the wave. Or slowly moving your way back out of the stopper section into the surfable section. Luckily for me my experience meant I never got dragged into the stopper, but some fellow kayakers who turned up shortly after Ben, Glen and I, did not have so much luck. Although their experience also allowed them to stay calm and use one of the two above techniques to exit the stopper.
I have to rush off as its time to pack my bags once again. I am leaving for Vancouver late this evening where I stay in a hostel for two nights allowing me to venture through Vancouver and Granville Island before tripping to…….. NEW YORK CITY!
As I mentioned above I do have some GoPro footage of me kayaking Indie along with Ben and Glen surfing it, but sadly it is currently stuck on Bens external hard-drive, hence the empty gallery tilted ‘Day 2: Playboating + Hiking + Mountain Biking‘. The hard-drives cord is apparently a fun chew toy for Ben and Candice’s always adventurous son, Banjo. Their son who appears many many times within my blogs many Canadian Galleries.
I will get the footage to you at some stage in the near future. Possibly once I arrive back in Perth. For now I have found someone else’s footage capturing some other kayakers playing on Indie on YouTube.
Note the wave dropped dramatically even whilst we were playing on it. By my third day it was un-surfable, hence the title of the gallery capturing my third day… Industrial frowns.
See YouTube video above and watch this space for updates on my currently un-accessible footage.