Travis probes Gutter Ball

Trial and error on Johnson Creek


It was my senior year of college and I was growing tired of sitting around on the weekends. The snow and weather wouldn't cooperate with my backcountry standards and I didn't want to waste 30-40 dollars on a lift ticket. Homework could wait so I was left staring at my computer screen. I needed another sport. Something that does not depend on the weather. Something that is cheap. Something that provides adrenaline.

Purchasing a whitewater kayak had been on my mind for years. I had done some whitewater rafting with my family when I was younger but I felt uncomfortable with other people at the oars. I needed to be in control.

Saturday, January 20th 2001. Troy and I were faced with another crappy weekend in Seattle. The forecast called for rain with snow in the higher elevations. We decided to go for it. Instead of packing our ski gear to shiver through blind powder we packed our wallets and headed for the border. We knew of a kayak store in Abbotsford BC so we gave them a call and they assured us some bargains. Troy and I gave the Hummels a call on our way up and they agreed to go. We met them in Bellingham and it wasn't long before we were being grilled by the border patrol.

"Where are you from… Where are you going… Why?"

"I'm from… We are going to Abbotsford… We are thinking of maybe buying some kayaks."

"Maybe eh?"

Indeed, the Hummels weren't planning on buying anything but I knew they would give in the second we walked in the door. We were led to the warehouse because the ones up front were too spendy. Troy and I found a creekboat that we liked -- the Perception Phat. The Hummels were talked into a popular playboat that was on sale -- the Necky Gliss. It took several hours before we finally decided. "We'll take two of these and two of those." The manager came back with a price that we couldn't resist. We picked out some essentials and the Hummels left broke.

The next morning I was sitting in my kayak on the lower Nooksack under a bridge in the pouring rain. We had no lifejackets or drytops and no wetsuit clothing of any type. All we had were sprayskirts, paddles, helmets, jackets, capilene and multiple socks. None of this mattered though because we were (pinch myself) kayaking.

I felt as though I was straddling a log in the middle of the ocean. We spent several minutes paddling in circles before heading down several miles of Class I. Jason and I learned to roll one side in a swimming pool the next month. It took Troy and Josh another month to learn theirs. It was about that time when I made my first roll in moving water. I went down twice in a single rapid on the Lower Tilton. The others were very impressed.

We spent countless weekends on the Suiattle running bony Class III in the middle of winter. We even managed a few Class IV rapids on the Lower Tilton before learning how to roll. We filmed much of it and it is absolutely hilarious to watch. It's no wonder we didn't hurt ourselves or lose more gear because a wet exit in ice cold water on a bony creek or river is not a very pleasant experience.

Somehow we survived. Take our fortune with a grain of salt and enjoy.





Disclaimer: Kayaking is inherently dangerous and all of the trips and activities described in this website carry the risk of serious injury or death. Anyone who is not an expert in kayaking should use an experienced, qualified guide or seek qualified instruction before engaging in any type of kayaking. This website is not a guide.