teamjk 06/09/2016 | Posted in 2016 Rock Star Competition, Family Zone, JK Little Shredders, Kid's Kayaks, Playboating, rivers, Trip Reports, Trips, Whitewater, WW Disciplines
This June/July me and three others of my kayaking mates from New Zealand were lucky enough to travel to the Ottawa River in Canada for three weeks to participate in the “Keener” program . Keeners is a summer kayaking camp with kids from all over the world coming for the epic whitewater, cool as coaches, and crazy amounts of fun. Keeners is based literally on the banks of the Ottawa River and runs under the umbrella of the Ottawa Kayak School and Wilderness Tours. As part of Keeners we get the privilege of world class coaches teaching us. In session 1 we got some of the coolest coaches ever. Thomas Farhun, Tyler Curtis (TC) Mathieu Demolun (Mattoose), Joel Kowalski, Steven Wright (Steve-O), and Nick Troutman. Each coach was super nice and helped heaps of us Keeners with our kayaking skills, wave/hole skills, and being cool people in general. One of my favourite things to do with the coaches was teach them New Zealand slang and accents. When they attempted them it was pretty funny and entertaining. The Ottawa River is truly a magic place for kayaking because at any water level there you’re guaranteed amazing surf spots, whirlpools, jumping rocks, seal launches, pour overs and rapids.
Every morning at Keeners we warm up on the flat water just outside of Keenerville and we practice our flatwater skills like bow stalls and cartwheels. Steve-o always makes sure we look after our happy shoulders by doing our 100 back paddles a day. After we warm up, we normally head over to McCoy’s, surf there for a wee bit, then head down to Garb. My favourite surfing wave would have to be Garburator.
Garb is a super fast wave just above the lunch spot of the Ottawa. It’s foam pile is about a meter and a half high and if you go on top of it and time it just right you can get some BIG air. I saw a few of my fellow Keeners manage to throw some big as tricks on Garb like air screws and panams and air blunts. I threw a few blunts but couldn’t quite get the technique for the air screw but it was still fun to try! After burgers and hot chocolate at the lunch spot, we head down to Push Button, a small but a choice surf spot.
At first I found Push Button a challenge to stay on after plugging for loops, but after talking with Nick and Mattoose I managed to find the sweet spot and found it much easier to loop and space godzilla. After Push Button is Butchers Knife which is a rapid with a surfing hole called Chopping Block, the coolest trick I saw on Chopping Block was when Luke managed to throw a pistol flip on it. It was awesome!. Just below Butchers Knife there are cool-as whirlpools that you can swim or paddle in and get some epic down time in. The longest time I was under for was about 10 seconds. Below the whirlpools is the BFR (big friendly rock), a big jumping rock about 4 meters high which lends itself for some amazing tricks. On the first day of Keeners we got to seal launch off it. It was fantastic. But I have to say the highlight of the BFR was Gingies backflip which turned out to be more of a back flop. It was a crack up. We all had sore stomachs from laughing. After the BFR is “the kick flip of destiny” which is pretty self explanatory.
My first few tries at “the kick flip of destiny” was more of a “kick flop of destiny” but after some coaching from Thomas and TC I was starting to get a few. Further down stream is Coliseum which is a crazy fun rapid. You can take many lines on it. One of the favourites is the Meltdown which is a pour-over on the right side of the river. Steve-o taught me that If you take a left stroke as you are going over it, and slightly angle your boat leaning into it, the water will go on your deck and push you under and you pop up a wee distance down stream – it’s pretty fun. Another line you can take down Coli is to go just right of the “big Kahuna” (a hole in the middle of the river) and punch through a small hole – it’s smooth sailing from there:). The rapid after is Centre Slot which is where the river splits up and we take the centre channel. Along the whole stretch of the channel is a big hole. If you take the right line you hit the tongue and punch through it.
Whereas if you take the left line you have to ferry across the channel and go far left but there is a greater chance of a big beat down. Some of my many highlights from Keeners was “Race Day Wednesday”, “Big Bacon Beat-down Thursday”, and “Funky Fresh Freestyle Friday”. On Wednesday we have races down the river and rapids. The races can be anything from a backwards race down Waikiki, a beach ball race, to a skirts off race down Garb. Thursday is when the coaches encourage us to scare ourselves in a fun and positive way by going into places in the river we would normally not want to go into. So if we do ever get into a bad place in the river we will know what to do. Phil’s hole in a gigantic hole on the McCoys Rapid. There are two sides to it – left side (big and not too sticky) and right side (big and sticky). So, on Thursday mornings we head over to Phil’s and see who can get beat down of the week. I managed to claim the red ribbon of glory, beat down of the week award on week 1 when I had a crazy beat down on the right side Phills for at least a minute and a bit. Freestyle Friday is a fun day when we all do freestyle competitions. We either surf at McCoys, Pushbutton or Garb. It’s super fun! I managed to get 4th overall in the 1st week it was awesome:)
Keeners was truly an awesome experience, with amazing kayaking, people, road trips, poutine, and a crazy amounts of fun. I got to meet some of the top kayakers in the world and made some awesome mates from around the world. I’d like to thank Anna Bruno who was our camp mum and one of the most fun and best people ever, she makes an amazing mum. I’d also like to thank the Skeggs Foundation who are helping me reach my kayaking goals, the awesome coaches who taught me heaps and my fellow keeners who made my trip crazy fun and awesome:) I loved Keeners and I hope I’m lucky enough to go again soon.