Category Archives: kayaking

Miracle Whitewater Slalom 2009

Keith Kishiyama paddling the 9-10-11 sequence on Saturday.

Good friends, good weather, and good paddling at the 2009 Miracle Whitewater Slalom at the Miracle Hot Springs Slalom Course on the Kern River!


Rebecca Giddens adjusting gates for the 2009 Miracle Sllalom Race
Olympians Eric and Rebecca Giddens set an interesting course with several gate sequences that had not been done in previous Miracle races. Racers found the 4-5-6 offset and  8-9-10-11 cross current sequences to be particularly challenging. Here’s a short HD video of Keith Kishiyama paddling gates 7 thru 11. (Same video on Facebook.)

Saturday, Eric and Junior National Team member Nick Wilkening gave a pre-race paddling clinic, giving paddlers the beta on how to paddle the course fast and clean.

Thanks to everyone that paddled and helped with the race! Results will be posted on the KVRC web site soon.

Kern River Gold Medal Camp 2009

Bob and Joe adjusting slalom gates at Riverside Park

Bob and Joe Setting a Slalom Course at Riverside Park

Thanks to Bob, Joe, Tom and Smiley for another great GMC. As always, the paddling instruction was exceptional.

Training sessions were held on the Upper Kern River at Riverside Park in Kernville, and on the Lower Kern at the Miracle Hot Springs Slalom Course. Instruction ranged from fundamental skills to advanced techniques — all of which can be applied to paddling whitewater rivers, freetyle boating, or slalom racing.

Here are a few pics:

Getting ready to start the morning paddling session at Riverside Park.

Former Olympic Team Coach Bob Campbell and the slalom group watch Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Jacobi demo a slalom course in Riverside Park.

Joe Jacobi explains the intricacies of paddling a series of gates on the slalom course at Riverside Park.

Smiley — former National Slalom Team member Anne (Mitchell) Long — keeping warm on day 2. It was windy and cool, but not bad in the water!

Drying wet gear at the host motel, the Kern Lodge.

If you’re curious about slalom, or whitewater boating, the 2009 Kern River Festival is April 18-19 at Kernville’s Riverside Park. The Festival will feature two days of non-stop action with a steep creek race on Saturday, and a downriver race and the T.J. Slalom Race Sunday. It looks like the weather and water should be great!

Related link and post: Gold Medal Connections, Whitewater Slalom Racing

Wild & Scenic Piru Creek!

Gary Gunder paddling in Falls Gorge on Piru Creek.

Gary Gunder Paddling in Falls Gorge on Piru Creek

Today President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Act, extending federal protection to more than 2 million acres and 86 rivers in nine states. Included in the Act are provisions to create new wilderness areas and expand existing wilderness areas in California, and to extend Wild & Scenic protection to eight rivers in California, including 7.25 miles of Piru Creek downstream of Pyramid Lake. Piru Creek is the first stream in Los Angeles County to be protected by inclusion in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

The following segments of Piru Creek have been added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System:

(A) The 3-mile segment of Piru Creek from 0.5 miles downstream of Pyramid Dam at the first bridge crossing to the boundary of the Sespe Wilderness, as a recreational river.

(B) The 4.25-mile segment from the boundary of the Sespe Wilderness to the boundary between Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, as a wild river.

The reach of Piru Creek downstream of the Ventura County line — which includes spectacular “Falls Gorge” — was not addressed in the 2009 legislation. This section is within the congressional district of Rep. Elton Gallegly, and hopefully will be extended Wild & Scenic status in future legislation. In the meantime, a large part of the reach is within the Sespe Wilderness and is afforded the protection that the wilderness designation and having a Wild & Scenic section upstream, provides.

The photograph of Gary Gunder paddling in “Falls Gorge” on Piru Creek is from March 2005. More photos of Piru Creek can be found on my Southern California Creeking page Piru Creek – Frenchmans Flat Campground to Lake Piru.

Whitewater Slalom Racing

2002 World Champion and 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Rebecca Giddens zeroes in on a red up gate while racing in the T.J. Slalom at the 2007 Kern River Kayak and Raft Festival.

2002 World Champion and 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Rebecca Giddens S-turns through a red “up” gate while racing in the T.J. Slalom at the 2007 Kern River Kayak & Raft Festival.

A whitewater slalom course consists of a series of red gates and green gates that are paddled sequentially through a set of rapids. The paddler must pass through red gates moving in the upstream direction, and green gates moving downstream. Racers are timed, and a 2 second penalty is added for each gate that is touched, and a 50 second penalty added for each gate that is missed.

Typically, there are 18 to 25 gates, with 6 to 7 up gates, and the rest downs. The gates are placed to create challenges for the paddler, and the difficulty of a slalom course is usually about a grade higher than if the same rapids were paddled without gates.

In national and International races a specialized whitewater slalom boat is required, but at local citizen races paddlers also use plastic river-running kayaks and even playboats. Paddling slalom gates is a great way to improve your river-running skills!

At the elite level, higher performance boats and custom built whitewater venues have upped the adrenalin factor for competitors and spectators alike. The whitewater events were one of a few that sold out at the attendance plagued Athens Olympics. The Beijing Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom venue  looks challenging, and should warrant good television coverage by NBC.

In the past decade, whitewater kayaking has grown in popularity, but the sport hasn’t lost its “small sport” appeal. The  sport’s medal winning athletes, such as Rebecca Giddens, are not only superb paddlers, but are also very humble, hard working and hard playing people, willing to share their expertise and ideals. Rebecca and her husband Eric — also an elite paddler — now live in Kernville, California and operate the very popular brewpub, the Kern River Brewing Company. Eric will be setting the courses (gate sequences) for the whitewater events at the Beijing Olympics.

1992 Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Jacobi also works hard and plays hard. Joe, along with his partners at Gold Medal Connections offer paddling camps and clinics across the country. This year’s Gold Medal Kayaking Camp was the 11th on the Kern River. Joe will be part of the NBC broadcast team covering Canoe/Kayak events at the Beijing Olympics. For Joe’s “thoughts, ideas, and life lessons from the outdoors” see his blog Gold Medal Living.

If you’re curious about slalom, or whitewater boating, the 2008 Kern Festival is April 19-20 at Kernville’s Riverside Park. The Festival will feature two days of non-stop action with a steep creek race and raft races on Saturday; and a downriver race and the T.J. Slalom Race Sunday. There’s no charge to watch, and as a result of this year’s good snowpack, river conditions should be nearly ideal!

Google search: $g(whitewater slalom), $g(olympics), $g(Kern River), $g(Rebecca Giddens), $g(Joe Jacobi), $g(brewpub)

Kern ‘Four Mile’ River Trail

Kern River from the River Trail, upstream of the Johnsondale Bridge.

One of many excellent hikes/runs in the Southern Sierra, the River Trail starts at Johnsondale Bridge — about 19 miles north of Kernville, California on highway Mountain 99 — and follows the river north 4 miles to Four Mile rapid. Here the trail turns east and works up to the Rincon Trail.

This section of the Kern River is part of the beautiful and challenging Forks of the Kern class V whitewater run. Numerous class IV rapids and the class V rapids Carson Falls and Confusion are found on this reach. In the Spring and Summer expert kayakers and rafters may be seen maneuvering among the many boulders and drops. (A Forest Service permit is required to paddle the Forks.)