Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Ottawa River, Canada – A playboating paradise

If you are a playboater and have never been to the Ottawa river in Canada you are missing out on one of the best natural play parks in the World. It is as if someone said ‘lets design a section of whitewater that is perfect for freestyle and bulit it!

Claire O, Kiwi Courtney and Emily J paddling into the top of McCoys

On the Ottawa there are two main freestyle sections McCoys rapid and the Lorne. Separated by a very short car journey or a 10 minute flat water paddle these sections awesome for paddlers of all abilities.

McCoys is a great rapid at the start of the main channel that contains two awesome waves – ‘corner wave’ and ‘Babyface’, two meaty beatdown rather than playboated holes ‘Phils’ and ‘Satlers’ and the best squirt boat mystery venue in Canada and possibly the World ‘ Smoothie’.

The Lorne is the 2nd section and the most popular and contains the ‘Garborator’ wave and ‘push button’ at low water, Waikiki at medium water and Buseater at high water!

Then there is the rest of the river which also has a variety of waves, holes and river play and river running on it.

North West Club Gathering, the Ottawahis is a very popular kayaking destination

One of the greatest things about this river is that most of its best features have perfect eddy access and nice long flat (ish) run outs behind them. Making them brilliant for paddlers of all levels of ability and great from training on. You can go full out during your rides safe in the knowledge that there is nothing that will beat you laying behind.

Add to this beautiful wilderness country, gorgous blue skies and sunshine and you have the Ottawa river a playboating paradise a freestylers dream.

Wilderness: a snake chilling on a rock in the middle of the river next to Babyface wave

This year I was very lucky to have the opportunity to go out to Canada for a few weeks training at the end of the summer. I travelled out with Islay Crosbie and we had an amazing trip.

Claire O and Islay travel in style with their new shuttle vehicle, an amoured Tank!

Surfing everyday we, the hole boaters from the UK, had the chance to work on developing our wave surfing skills. We joined the Jackson clan, the Keeners, the local kayakers and raft guides and several other Brits from back home on the water each day and had an amazing time.

The atmosphere out on the Ottawa is amazing everyone chats and smiles in the eddy and supports one another on and off the water.

Clay loving the sunshine and perfect levels on Garb

Claire O and Clay drop in to surf Garb in the Dynamic Duo

Stephen coaching the Keeners

During the trip I really had chance to test my wave boating skills. I find it funny being out wave surfing because I have done so little of it (relatively to hole paddling ) I always feel out of my confort zone and unfamiliar with even the most basic concepts. Luckily Den (sweet water coaching) had loaded me up with a training plan before I left the UK so I had an idea of what to start working on and how to structure my training.

I shouldn’t have worried though as help was on hand out there. It was inspirational being able to watch and train with some of the Worlds best waves boaters learning from their years of experience on the waves.

Claire O working out how to wave boat on Garb

Claire O going big backwards (photo by Jen)

Carbon + waves = fun (photo by Jen)

I have known for years that freestyle wave moves have been my weakness but this trip has helped spur the belief that thay are not unachievable I just need to focus some training and practise and they will become possible.

Islay absolutely flew during the trip and it was inspiring to watch a variety of female paddlers ripping it up and paddling so well.

Islay student rodeo training with the Shudder Rudder

Islay big clean back blunt

Islay big air blunt

Whilst we were there we took part in the Canadian Cup competition and really had chance to see the wave specialist at work. Emilt, Nick, Dane and Courtney took the top spots with some very impressive and stylish runs. But it was Stephen , Clay, Brandon, Islay and Emily Wall who stood out for me during the day throwing some massive moves and consistently good rides during the comp.

Canadian Cup Event on Garb

Claire O surfing

Emily Jackson huge air back pan am

Brandon showing off his wave skills

Clay flys with a massive back blunt

Stephen throws some holes moves into the mix

Stephen setting up for a huge helix

Here is a great little video put together by SB productions from the event

Canadian cup 2011 from SB Productions on Vimeo.

During the trip we also had chance to go to Montreal and surf big joe on the Lachine. Situated in the middle of the Lachine rapid on the massive Montreal river the wave is unbelievable. A big smooth wave, that provides hours of fun and the ultimate freestyle kayak workout.

Claire and Wyllie preparing to take on Big Joe

Stephen showing us how it should be done with 50+ clean air blunts on Pyramid

Claire O drops into the bowl of Big Joe

A super sweet green grind on pyramid

If you are a playboater or a squirt boater and want to go on holiday to a brilliant playboating destination go to the Ottawa.

Ok so I almost forgot to mention ’Smoothie’

At the very top of McCoys rapid there is a spot known to most as ‘the big river left eddy above Satlers’. But to those who know the complex art of squirt boating they know that this eddy is not just an eddy but is one of the best mystery venues in the World.

This super smooth eddyline has the perfect convergence that creates a downwards force of flow that provides some of the best ‘downtime’ in the world. Each July it plays host to the ‘Jimi Cup’ competition but despite its quality and the fact that it runs at all levels, for most of the year it is empty as the number of squirt boaters on the Ottawa and visiting the Ottawa are still very low.

Luckily I was staying with Stephen and Clay two of the main squirt boaters on the river and had plenty of opportunity to go and check it out.

Stephen set about showing me how it was done hitting consistent 25 second + rides. Up until this trip my longest rides were 15 seconds before I would panic and come rushing up for air. With a bit of guidance and coaching from Stephen I was soon hitting regular 16 second rides, which although only 1 second longer on this spot where you have to initially work quite hard to get the boat to go down needed much better technique and breathing preparation than I had ever done before, and then eventually I got my first 21 second ride.

video coming soon

Just to make sure I remained focused and determined to come back and go for longer rides Clay then dropped nad hit several 20+ rides and Stephen put down a massive 33 second ride!!! Followed by a huge flying fish (an exit air screw over a foot clear of the water in a squirt boat). Why is it that just when I think I am finally catching up with the lads they always up the game :o)

Ottawa 2012

My plan for 2012 is to spend a lot of time out on the Ottawa squirt boating and freestyle kayaking and I am hoping to run a number of trips and clinics out there. If you are interested in finding out more about where and when I will be out there and the courses I will be running please email me at

Massive thanks to; Stephen Wright for making this trip possible, for putting up with our British Invasion and for making it an awesome trip, Clay and Tara, Courtney, Max, Kristine, EJ, KC, Dane, Emily, Nick, Wyllie, Pete, Anna, Toni, Toni, Steph and Matthew for making it such a fun trip.