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I recently had the pleasure of attending a bachelor party with nine very good buddies. We spent the weekend at Lake James, NC, and experienced a sweet confluence of mountain lifestyle and lake lifestyle. I have been stoked about this trip for a while now, but it exceeded all expectations.
Lake James is a spectacular place, and our enjoyment of it was only augmented by the Surftech Flowmaster board that we demo’d from Diamond Brand Outdoors. Literally every chance I got, I was on this board goofing around in the lake.
Me learning the ropes in the SUP world (while rocking one of our new paddleboard shirts!)
The Flowmaster is a cool design because it has the pointed bow and other race inspired features, while also allowing plenty of volume and stability for beginners. We had a wide range of SUP skill levels and athletic abilities on the trip, and everyone was stoked on it.
One of my favorite parts of using the paddleboard was the almost hypnotizing cadence and motions. 10 paddle strokes on each side, switch, 10 paddle strokes, switch. You have the opportunity to recede deep inside your thoughts and watch the water sheet off the bow, while also checking in with every single muscle in your body. They are all engaged as the power goes from your hands through your body, and eventually to the water. Awesome experience.
Get out on the water and try paddleboarding if you haven’t! It truly is an amazing next step…
I am excited to announce the launch of TerraHubs.com, a sister website to TerraVida! This website will be an excellent resource for outdoor folks looking to meet up with others and go on adventures! This site is a free tool where you can create a group, join a group, organize adventures and events, and more!
This project was a collaboration between Dan Matriccino and Nathan Silsbee, with the vision of connecting outdoor minded individuals across the globe! Hikers, bikers, SUPers, kayakers, snowboarders, skiiers are welcome!
I hope you find this website useful, and please submit feedback if you come across anything that needs improvement!
I had the privilege of attending the Red Bull Divide and Conquer team triathlon this past weekend in Vancouver, BC. It was an unreal event that brought together some of the best mountain runners, bikers, and kayakers in the world.
I was fortunate to join forces with Asheville mountain running animal Matt Morse and Australian Super-D pinner Josh Carlson for the event, and I truly enjoyed the feeling of sharing all of the ups and downs of the event as a team. Generally speaking, athletes in all of these sports are usually all alone on competition day. We handle our own training, nutrition, preparation, and effort when it’s time to perform. Most of the strategy and planning goes on silently in our minds, and when we do succeed, it is us alone who celebrate at the top.
The team dynamic was much different, and I can’t wait to do more events like it in the future! The three of us were coming from all different walks in life, but there was such a supportive environment pervading throughout the week leading up to the event and the day of. We helped each other out with airport pickups, food, rides, and course planning. We were each deeply invested in each other, and when it was our respective turn to compete for the team, there was a much deeper motivation there than usually exists when you are competing for yourself. We all wanted to take our own games to the next level to honor our teammates’ efforts.
And that is what happened!
The course was a primal representation of what the North Shore of Vancouver is made of. The mountain run was 12 km long, but had two brutal descents of Mount Fromme and Grouse Mountain for a total elevation gain of 4800 vertical feet! At the top of Grouse Mountain, the runner scans the transponder and passes it off to the biker, who ran a 33 km course of single track and fire roads that featured gnarly rock drops, infinite slippery root networks, brutal hike-a-bike climbs, and 40+ mph fire road sprints. The biker then tags the kayaker, who runs to their boat, runs it to the Red Bull ramp, and launches into the Capilano River. Although only class III, the river weaves through a spectacular 6 km gorge on its way to the Pacific Ocean, where the paddlers then have to loop around a buoy, paddle against the tidal current up the coast, and run their boats a quarter of a mile to the finish line.
To top this all off, it rained all night before the event, and continued for the entire day of… the course was doused, and the runners and mountain bikers were working with the worst conditions imaginable.
Matt started us off strong with a staunch lead in the run 1/3 of the way up the mountain. He did this against Arcteryx, North Face, and Red Bull professional runners! He was so far ahead that the big guns didn’t see him get lost on the course, but that is what happened. Matt got reoriented and caught back up to the leaders, but then got lost again, this time unable to get within sight of the front of the pack again. He still finished strong in 6th position, and Josh took off down the mountain bike leg trying to close the 12 minute gap behind the leaders.
Josh slayed the track and showed why he is one of the best Super-D and Enduro riders in the world. He navigated the gnarliest North Shore roots and rocks in a blistering time, and tagged me in 3rd place looking like someone who had just been to war!
I hit the Capilano River charged with energy and had good lines through the gorge. I put the power down efficiently, and came across the finish line after 40 minutes of pulling hard. Our 3rd place position put us on the podium of this amazing inaugural competition!
Achieving that result together was different than previous paddling competitions where I have placed well. We all met up later to share stories, beers, and the cash prize that we won together. It was awesome teaming up with other people who devote their lives to their sport, and combining our efforts to achieve a team goal. While the race organizers predicted a seven hour total time for the event, all of the top three teams completed it right around four hours!
The event video can be found here:
The word on the street is that Red Bull will be rolling this event out to other places in the world to make it a circuit. Here’s hoping for an Asheville event!
I cannot believe that this stage of my life is over, but I feel far enough removed from my university days to look back and offer some insight into having the best possible experience as a kayaker (or any other avid outdoors athlete). Some of these were things that I learned the hard way, and I figured I might be able to help out some of the youngsters in the sport who are going to college in the next year or two.
Here are my top 10 tips for young kayakers seeking post-secondary education:
As strange as it is, that little piece of paper that holds your diploma is incredibly important and necessary to secure the opportunities that you want in this world. People have made it without that piece of paper, but you are severely handicapping yourself if you don’t have it. Aside from the practical aspect of it, university is incredibly fun, and you will meet lifelong friends.
9) Put energy into financial aid possibilities.
There are a whole lot of scholarship, grant, and student loan options out there. It’s worth your time to research what is available to you. The better your grades in high school, the easier this will be.
8 Choose wisely (try not to transfer).
Go to a school where you can see yourself hanging out for four years. If you want to kayak 4x a week, there are tons of great schools that can offer you this. Go to a school that is close to rivers, and work hard in the classroom and on the water. School is what you make of it, and there is no more beautiful thing in this world than life balance, and the ability to chase your dreams in all aspects of life. You do not need an Ivy League school to get an exceptional education.
**Other good motivation to get it right the first time – transferring is a pain in the butt, and you will lose tons of credits.
7) Go in-state if possible.
This one will make your parents very happy. The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuitions is massive, and your education could cost 5x as much if you go out-of-state. If you must do this, begin the steps to establish residency immediately. Get a driver’s license in that state, put utilities in your name etc. You are going to need to prove that you have a desire to live and work in that state indefinitely to be granted in-state after the fact.
6) Form an organized plan for completion from day one.
This is very important, because classes are not always offered every semester and they need to be taken in order. An advisor in your department will be able to help out tremendously in this regard. Keep this top-of-mind each semester as you register for classes, and check in with that advisor frequently.
5) Chase happiness, not money.
When choosing your major, give it some serious thought and ask questions. There is no one correct path for all of us, and your direction should be chosen based on what it is that you want out of a career. An added bonus is that in many cases, your kayaking experience can be very relevant to your coursework. The most important thing is not to be blinded by the money, and to choose something that is fulfilling and sustainable for you.
Don’t simply follow the career that takes the lowest number of school years and sets you up with the highest out-of-school salary. Often those jobs don’t have the same growth potential in the long term.
4) When in doubt… consult your professor
Many times, students will get behind in a class and feel helpless. I’ve got news for you: if you stay quiet and let the class steamroll you, you will fail. However, if you consult your professor and put forth an honest effort to understand the material, that professor will give you a bump when you need it. I’ve seen it happen many times. Friends or girlfriends will think that they can’t possibly pass a class based on the calculations of grades throughout the semester. The ones who don’t talk to their professors fail, and the ones who work their butts off trying to understand it are given a little boost by the professor in good will, and pass by the skin of their teeth.
3) Work hard AND smart.
Yes, you are a kayaker, and you want to go kayaking. But good money is being paid for you to get an education, and that’s what you need to do. It is possible to have it all, but it requires considerable time management and the ability to say “no” to paddling occasionally. School, kayaking, relationships, partying… something has got to give sometimes, and it is your decision as to what takes the lower priority. But your college days are some of the most important in determining the direction and quality of your life, so why not do the best that you can in those few years to maximize a LIFETIME of kayaking and playing in the outdoors? If you work smart, you don’t have to work as hard, and you will be able to do the things that you love around your commitments.
2) Get a good Internship.
I can’t stress enough how important this is. Internships are by far your easiest way in the door at a given business. There is much less commitment on the company’s part than hiring a full-time, benefitted worker, so this is your opportunity to get into your dream business. Once you prove your value there, it will be an obvious choice for them to slide you into a full-time position. Seriously… give this your highest attention and priority in the latter years of your college career!
It is and always has been about who you know. That is the way that the world operates, love it or hate it. Your single greatest opportunity in university is to meet people. Don’t just be the antisocial kayaker who’s gone every weekend. Go to school functions of all kinds, talk with your professors, get involved in intramural sports that you love on campus, brush shoulders with other students and the athletic staff, etc… opportunities will present themselves that you never dreamed of.
Network, network, network. Your network is your largest asset.
I hope that this has proven useful to some of you young bucks out there who are in the process of making these difficult decisions.
One other note: If you think working for yourself is more your cup of tea… I understand completely! Check out entrepreneurship and business administration resources at your school. This is becoming a larger and larger portion of Management Departments’ portfolios these days. If you have any questions at all about any of this, feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com.
Best of luck, and see you on the river!
I wanted to reach out and tell you about a special project that I have in the works for this spring. I’ve been hoping to do this one for a while, and it seems as though the pieces are finally falling into place.
In about a month, I will paddle from the source of the French Broad River in NC as fast and as far as I possibly can in 12 hours. The journey will begin with a team on the steep class V stretches of the North Fork of the French Broad and hopefully Courthouse Creek(with a 40 foot waterfall if water levels and wood conditions permit). The French Broad will then flatten out and I will paddle the rest of the way solo. The focus will be to make as many miles as possible as the river winds its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It will be an incredible trip, and I’ll be able to see parts of these mountains that I never have before. This challenge will need to be tentative since it depends on rain to make the class V sections possible. My goal is a day in early to mid April.
I would love it if you could support this cause! I have chosen to work with several non-profits that are doing great things. Feel free to browse through the links below to donate and see why I have chosen each of these organizations:
In addition to contributing to a good cause, there will be prizes from Astral Buoyancy, Immersion Research, Dagger Kayaks, TerraVida and others for donators. There will be prizes for largest donations, best guess of river miles traveled, and other categories.
Thanks so much for supporting organizations that are doing good things in the world, and I will keep you updated as this project develops!
Steamboat. 2/20/12 – Fourty inches in 36 hours!
An international team of six kayakers take on the Homathko River, a four day source-to-sea kayak trip in the Coast Range of BC.
What Up All!
I hope that the winter season is treating you well. It’s been pretty funny watching all of these Shit __s Say videos develop, and I figured that we could organize and embed a few for quick consumption by our viewers who may not have seen them all. It was a pleasure to be the official chauffeur for the kayaking installation of this viral phenom!
Without further ado, enjoy this compilation:
To what organization should TerraVida contribute our final philantrophy check of 2011?
- American Whitewater (AW) (61%, 44 Votes)
- Green River Access Fund (33%, 24 Votes)
- Southeast Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) (6%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 72
Voting closed. Thanks for your input!
So I’ve been pretty amazed with the way that this Noccalula Falls descent has exploded in the media. If you’re not familiar with the waterfall, check out my recent blog post in Blue Ridge Outdoors for the footage and ensuing media coverage.
But yesterday, I received an email thread that made me roll on the ground laughing. It includes my dad, Mike Gragtmans, my uncle, John Z, and one of the guys who got me into paddling, John M. Read on for the real story of the true Noccalula Falls first D…
Holy crap batman! Did you get a note from your mother? Let me know when the video is available so I can buy a copy. Taking my boat to Mexico on Friday for a week to do some ocean surfing. Pretty tame compared to this! Be safe.
Hey John, pretty fricking ridiculous huh! What they don’t show on the video is that John Z. and I ran the waterfall before Pat went. We ran it at the same time just to put in a little more challenge into our runs. The Super Sport and Pirouette did awesome. If you look real carefully at the video you will see John and I sitting on the riverbank as Pat went down. We are celebrating with a drink and a smoke. John took the case of beer down with him and I took down the cigars.
What a bunch of rookies!!
Glad you pointed it out to me. I can just make out you and John Z smoking a monte cristo and having a sifter of fine port. I agree, what a bunch of rookies
…yes, I don’t usually brag, but. Here’s another incredible factoid about this secret first descent of Mike Gragtmans followed by myself. I know Mike prides himself on his physical condition, so the best medical professionals hooked him up to state of the art equipment to monitor his physiological reaction the strain. They still can’t understand how his heart rate did not rise at all; it was equal to sitting in an easy chair reading a good novel!
My apologies, I said Mike ran it first… we did do it simultaneously but the Super Sport surged ahead on willpower and sheer athletic prowess to win by a nose due to the paddling machine otherwise known as Michael Gragtmans. He was actually paddling furiously as he went down the waterfall to really giv’er. And that’s how the other 3 were inspired to in fact give it a run and take the credit. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
This is why my family is awesome. Hope everyone is out there enjoying the rain!