Friday, May 29, 2009

Got Charc? Got Soul?

Magic Apple Pikey Tours 2009 presents...

Squirt Boating, West Virginia Style

What can I say really other than,

‘If you are a squirt boater you have got to go to West Virginia it’s amazing!’

In January on a cold, snowy day in the Lake District Tom Bailey aka ‘Maverick’ suggested the idea of a trip to West Virginia in the USA. I had heard a lot about West Virginia from friends who had been there previously. It had been described as one of the world’s best squirt boating venues and it was home to Squirt Boating Legend, founder and developer Jim Snyder. I had to go.

Five months later and we were on our way. As with all big adventures with Mav things didn’t go quite as simply as planned. Arriving early at Gatwick we received the usually funny looks at the check in desks as they questioned our odd looking luggage and started to look into company policies and procedures on flying boats. Explaining that we had pre booked them onto the flight we were met with some worrying news. The good news was that they were booked on and we would have to pay $100 each way, but the bad news was that the 2nd plane we were booked to travel on was too small to carry them, so they could not go all the way with us. A problem not noticed by the booking company. Things weren’t looking good we hadn’t even made it onto the plane (a common problem on Mavs’ travelling adventures, ask him about passport expiry dates next time you see him :o)). Luckily though, the ladies at the desk worked wonders finding us another nearby (ish) airport with bigger planes that could take us and the boats all the way. Brilliant apart from of course our car hire was at the original airport 2 states away. The car hire offices were closed and the ladies ensured us changing the pickup point would be easy and no problems at all. Problem sorted we were once again on our way.

But the car hire did cause us problems. Realising that without their help we would be stranded at the airport the car hire company has us tied and wanted an extra $1400 to change the pickup points!!! Exhausted and frustrated we returned to the airline desks this time at Pittsburgh USA to try and sort out the problem. Once again we were in luck and they arranged to Fed Ex our boats to WV and fly us and our luggage on two extra puddle jumping planes to our original airport destination to pick up the hire car and start our journey.

Eventually 33 hours and 4 planes after we had set off we arrived at our destination the Cheat River West Virginia. We were boat less for the moment but fortunately it fitted with our plans as we were meeting Squirt Boating Godfather and paddling legend Jim Snyder to do an overnight trip and he had already planned on supplying the boats some funky touring carbon ‘ Cheaters’.

Monday morning bright and early we met Jim and his Cheaters and embarked on our first paddling adventure a 24 mile, 2 day trip on the River Cheat. It was a fantastic experience to paddle this stretch of the beautiful cheat river, deep in the American wilderness. Jimi found us a fantastic camping spot on the side of the river and we spent the night listening to boating stories and tales of adventure from Jim under the stars tarp. Next day it was back on the river and then onto the road South, in search of ‘Mystery Place’ and full time climbing and squirt boating ambassador Steve O’Keefe.

Steve has been retired for the last 5 years and in that time has built himself a wonderful cabin set between the New River Gorge and the Gauley River. It is a squirt boating Mecca and we were fortunate to be welcomed by Steve into his home and life and taken by him on a two week West Virginia Squirt Boating, ‘magic apple tour’. Steve O’s magic apple tour took us to some of the country’s top squirt boating locations including Last Chance, Trash Compactor (Junk Yard), Bubbler 1 & 2, The Squeeze, Millers Folly aka Mellow Ledge and Fascination Alley. Not only did we get all these spots at their optimum levels we also had chance to paddle Canyon Doors Wave and the New River Dries.

Over the course of the trip and with a massive amount of help and direction from Jimi and Steve I finally began to master the incredibly complex art of mystery moves. For the first time ever I got to explore the depths of the rivers and experience the joys of underwater squirt boating travel to the full.

Going Deep = E E = MC ²

In the middle of the trip we attended the New River Squirt Gathering of Friends at the Bubbler for the ‘Bubbler Competition 2009’ where I had chance to put these new found skills to the test. Mav and I both came top internationals :o) and one an original bubbler completion mug but could not quite match the mystery or drinking skills of the locals who took home the top prizes, Hangovers!!!

Thanks to Ricky for organising and inviting us along to this fantastic event and to everyone else who made us feel so welcome.

The final part of our trip took us to Fascination Alley. Fascination Alley has to be one of the most amazing places I have ever paddled. There is something magical about this spot. I think part of it had to do with the company and the weather at 85°C+ but there is something else as well. There is something about the location with its smooth seam, feisty looking but forgiving eddy line, clear warm water and beautiful gorge that makes the place magical and makes you not want to leave. In just 3 days we had paddled at fascination alley for over 12 hours. Fascination Alley, with its guardian watching over us from the rocks and the magic apple on the side, was the perfect end to an absolutely fantastic trip.

Thank you to everyone who shared in our WV tour and made it so special. We hope to see and paddle with you all again soon.

An extra special thanks to Steve O’Keefe, Jim Snyder, Julie, Randy and Ricky I think you all know why...

Thank You.

To see some more video footage from our trip edited by Mav check out the folowing links

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Le Chasseraq

I have just returned from a fantastic trip with the GB Squirt Boating team to the Chesseraq Gorge in France.

Situated in South France in the Ardeche region the Chesseraq is a beautiful river that is home to one of europes top squirt boating seams.

During the trip we were joined by local paddlers Jose, Pierre Villcourt and Paul Villecourt.

Once again we had a fantastic trip exploring the depths of the french rivers. Here are a few photos that sum up the trip.