Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Season for Playboating

After all the water of spring rains wained away and the creeks became bony trickles there was still left enough water to playboat. The regular trip to the St. Louis's first wave/hole albeit alone or with friends became a restoring endeavor, since I was still inflicted with the thralls of medical school that raged onward nearly until July. Yet by the time the Midwest Mountaineering Kayak Festival had passed, it was becoming clear that the St. Louis's water was quickly shrinking to it's summer level. In search of more time on the water, I never thought twice upon an invitation to travel to paddle Sturgeon Falls on the Winnipeg River in Canada.

I drove down to St. Cloud and rendezvous with paddling friends Scotty and Nora.We headed Northward under the eventual cover of nightfall. Sturgeon falls in lore and by word of mouth has been described as a world class play boating location. Located 20 minutes East of Winnipeg Manitoba it is within striking distance for us. I had only seen pictures of it's large picturesque features. As we arrived we drove down to the boat landing I peered into the darkness seeing little, but could hearing a distance roar across expanse of water before me.

Myself surfing Sturgeon Falls! (courtesy of Nora Whitmore)

As the morning dew settled upon the tents we awoke and rallied with fellow paddlers from Minnesota, paddling into the expanse of water towards the distant sound of Sturgeon Falls. Upon my first sight of Sturgeon Falls, it looked promising but its beauty and power was yet to be fully appreciated. When we neared the doorstep of Sturgeon's features, the size and magnitude of the waves became wonderously impressive. To the eye, Sturgeon Falls appears as if two lakes are mystically flowing between one another. However in viewing a map, it would become clear that it is actually formed by the flow of mighty Winnipeg River.
If one looked casually at it's expanse, you might be able to convince oneself you were standing beside a flowing ocean of perpetually breaking waves. During our time, 68,000 cubic feet per second flowed through Sturgeon falls and created multitude of beautiful standing waves ranging from 4-10 ft. Yet between the maze of waves there stood an singular island of smooth rock, and behind it formed the giant eddy that is a sanctuary for kayakers. The eddy swirled and surged in pattern like that of serpent swimming, creating small whirl pools strewn about. Furthermore, it provided a place of rest and access to the waves.

Over the course of the next three days, I spent countless hours surfing waves from the mounting sunrise to the falling sunset. Imagine being on a 8 ft tall standing wave while it crashes behind you and then throwing a stroke and surfing backwards, staring the explosion of water
in the face before you...the feeling is priceless. On Sunday afternoon we left Sturgeon Falls. My body was sore in places I had never perceived. When I arrived home I slept heartily smiling at passing of well spent Fourth of July Holiday.

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