Category Archives: yakking

A few shots from a recent paddle

Two weeks ago, I was able to get in two nice surf days at Emerald Isle. Myself and several other paddlers, put in at the public beach access on Emerald Isle, about 3 miles from the point, paddled down to the inlet and bear island, then back. We ended up paddling around 15 miles the first day and a little over 13 the next. Magic Seaweed had conditions at 1-2 ft the first day, dropping to closer to 1 ft the next. Windy had primary swell a little higher.

The second day, Sunday, was initially supposed to be only 0-1 ft according to Magic Seaweed, but they updated their forecast sometime Saturday night/evening and in-fact towards the end of the day, the swell in the inlet really picked up. We were also facing a very stiff wind in our face, so the paddle back ended up being a long three miles, where we were only averaging in the 2-2.5 mph range.

I got to paddle with several other talented sea kayakers and had a great time. Below is a quick video of me cutting through a wave, as well as some still shots from that.

The below is a map of our track and some stats:

Blue Line – 2018-10-13: 15.3 Miles, Max Speed 10.3 MPH, Moving Average 3.3 MPH, Time on Water 5:19

Orange Line – 2018-10-14: 13.3 Miles, Max Speed 9.1 MPH, Moving Average 3 MPH, Time on Water 5:34.

This is an unrelated Dam Roll from a recent paddle at Falls Dam:

Roll Practice and the New Camera

Through a stroke of weird luck with my cell phone provider, I got a GoPro Session 4 for pretty cheap a few weeks ago. I finally got a chance to play with it a bit at the pool and took some videos of me rolling while at the Friday night Pool Practice at Optimist Pool in Raleigh.

Even though it is an older model, the quality is pretty good. It will remain to be seen how well the Session 4 holds up to use at the ocean, as it doesn’t use an enclosure, but is instead supposed to be water proof up to around 30 feet.

I am planning a multi-day kayak trip next month around the Portsmouth/Ocracoke area and am planning on bringing it with me to try to get some surf/ocean shots.

Underwater Roll

This is a shot from underwater of a couple onside kayak rolls:

From the Side

This is a shot from the side of a couple rolls…the last two are off-side rolls.

First Person Roll

This is a video of doing the roll with the camera on my helmet.

Bragging Rights: First Fourth Kayak Decent of Milburnie Dam in Over 100 Years

Edit 12/27/2017: After posting this, I spoke with someone else who had the same idea and had gone down the rapids before me. They went without the benefit of rain though and got stuck, so while not the first, I was likely the first at a slightly elevated rate…

Edit 01/29/2018: I’ve had a chance to run it a second time after work on the Dam removal was completed and after a decent rain event. I ran it 4 times, portaging up around the dam. While it will still take a lot of rain and some time to clear out the old sand, I think this may shape up to be a cool little rapid.

Today, I did what I think is likely the first, or at least the first in a handful, of kayak decents in over 100 years down the newly removed Milburnie Dam.


If you are in the area and thinking of doing this, please don’t. The water levels aren’t great for it and as it is now, there are no good paths down and all of them have their own dangers.

So, give them some time to, hopefully, fix the paths and make this a fun/safe play spot.


The Milburnie Dam was built around 1900 and is located close to the intersection of Milburnie and New Bern Ave in Raleigh. In its most recent form, prior to being removed, the dam was built to power homes in the area. Before that, there had been other dams dating back to before the Civil War.

For at least the past 15 years or so, there have been discussions about removing it, but the removal did not begin until this year. Starting in around September, they began reducing the amount of water behind the dam and actually started the removal around November 15, 2017.

The company who is handling the removal, Restoration Systems, is doing so to generate mitigation credits, which will be sold to other companies or entities as a way of offsetting damage that is being done to the environment elsewhere.

Overall, I am excited about this, as I think it will make the river healthier, although I’m sure there are some upstream folks that aren’t too excited about loosing their lake front property.

About the Decent

I have been excited about being able to run this rapid since I first heard they were planning removal. Unfortunately, water levels have been really low all year and there hasn’t been a good time since they actually began the removal process, several weeks ago.

We got a little bit of rain starting on Friday and really Saturday would of been the best day to do this since the dam was removed, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get out there until Sunday Morning 12/10/2017.

I did my normal upstream run to Milburnie Dam and then spent about 30 minutes scouting it from different angles. There isn’t really any good path as it stands now, partly because the water levels are too low, but also because the area down stream area is filled with sand and shallow, and from a safety perspective, there are a number of safety concerns whichever way you decide to go down.

I ended up picking what I think was the least dangerous of the paths and made it down fine, although it was really scrapy.

Am I really the First Kayaker to Run the Dam in 100 Years

Since the dam has only been down for a couple weeks, there hasn’t been any rain to speak of since they took it down, and the number of people that are motivated enough to do it and live in the area is probably pretty low(possibly only 1,) I think there is a good chance I am the first or one of the first.

In an article by the News and Observer, they include some drone footage released by Restoration Systems showing two standup paddle boarders going down. However, you can tell that there isn’t a good path for a kayaker, let alone a paddle boarder, and they cut the video twice, ending with one of the paddle boarders stuck on his knees trying to get over the last rapid.

I think it is fair to say they were probably the first, but it was even less elegant than my decent…plus they were on a SUP and not a kayak…so I’m counting it.

If anyone has done it prior to today, please let me know in the comments!

Thoughts on the Work So Far

Hopefully, they intend to fix this so that it is more paddler friendly and not just leave it more or less like it is now. I have a feeling they are, but as it stands now, the old dam site is hardly passable now and full of danger to someone who wanted to go down it. Most of it is one big low-head dam and there are strainers and bad lines, not to mention the amount of sand once you get down the rapids makes most of it unpassable.

Some Pictures of the Dam

Pectinatella Magnifica at Falls Lake…Or What is This Tree Goo?

A few weeks ago while paddling with a friend at Falls Lake, he noticed what appeared to be tree goo stuck to the branches of many of the partially submerged trees that line the lake. Having never noticed this before, we guessed that maybe it was some sort of fish eggs or possibly sap running out of the branches. It was quite solid to the touch, almost like an extra thick version of ballistics gel like you might see on Mythbusters, so the egg sack theory didn’t make too much sense and since it was on a variety of trees(and I’ve never seen it before) the sap theory didn’t make much sense either.

After seeing this for a few weeks and wondering what it was, I finally got around to googling it and it appears that what we were seeing is a type of bryozoan bloom of a species called Pectinatella magnifica. Bryozoan’s are a very small aquatic filter feeder and this particular specieis of fresh water bryozoan is commonly found in waters East of the Mississippi, but has been cropping up in a number of non-native places, such as Washington.

Scientists are unsure of what impact these might have in areas where they do not normally appear and they can only survive in water that is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so as we see temperatures increase due to global warming, they are likely to appear in places that they would otherwise not survive. They are filter feeders, so keep the water clean, which can be a good thing, but also has an impact on other species that live in the water.

It is possible these have always been here and I just never noticed them before, although I feel like it is a somewhat new occurrence and they are EVERYWHERE around Falls Lake!

Some Pictures:

Cruising Around Robertson Millpond Preserve

Last weekend, I decided to make a short trip out to Robertson Millpond Preserve in Wendell to checkout the bald cypress trees. If you haven’t been, it is pretty neat experience. There is a short paddle trail, marked by buoys, which you can follow and wind your way through the park.

The brochure indicates that there are 16 buoys making a half mile trail, however, there are actually around 70, which allow you to make a loop back to the put-in. I’m not sure the total distance, but it is still pretty short. When I went, I made 4 or 5 laps around and did a little playing off trail.

It can get a little tight towards the buoys 59-70 or so, but was otherwise easy to navigate. While there, a guy on a stand up paddle board took a swim, as the fin on his board caught a branch or root, which didn’t look like that much fun as the water is pretty murky. Aside from just the neat experience of being able to kayak through a swamp, it has a place to wash off your boat when done too, which is nice. Unfortunately, it is only open on the weekends, but is definitely worth checking out at least once if you are in the area!

Summersville WV Paddling Trip(or Picking Up the New Boat)

I’ve been paddling for while now, close to 4 or 5 years, but I didn’t really start skilling up relatively recently. I was already a very competent paddler at that time, but had become comfortable in my local river runs and didn’t push myself too much past that.

During my progression from casual to addicted kayaker, I made it to the pool every week during the winter learning/practicing my roll, was fortunate enough to meet a highly skilled ocean paddler who dedicated a lot of his time to helping me learn how to approach the ocean(and paddling in general) safely, stepped up my boat game, and started to do some skill based classes, including a really fun swift water rescue class, whitewater skills class, and a level three ACA sea kayaking assessment. I was also introduced to kayak surfing, which is quite fun.

I have been wanting a new surf boat for some time now and after attending a symposium last summer, have been focused on an NDK Pilgrim. I’ve surfed a great deal in a Romany and it is a fun boat, but wanted the Pilgrim because it is a bit smaller. The knee bumps it has were also a big driving factor as in addition to just feeling really comfortable, it helps me stay in a low volume boat more comfortably, whereas the low volume Romany I tried was not a good fit height wise.

Finding the Boat

I spent a bit of time calling around to some of the NDK dealers and kayak outfitters on the East Coast, but was unable to find any used Pilgrims…only several Pilgrim Expeditions(the longer version.) I did find one on that looked perfect, but it was unfortunately in Ohio and and about an eight hour drive from me. I talked with the owners back and forth for a few weeks and was hopeful that we would be able to get the boat to the East Coast for an upcoming Charleston SC symposium, but we were not able to find someone to transport the boat.

During one of our talks, I had mentioned that anything South of Washington DC would be an acceptable meeting place for me, because I could do it as a day trip, whereas driving to Ohio was going to be at least an overnighter. The owners, who turned out to be very cool folks, suggested a meeting place of Summersville Lake, which is in West Virginia and feeds the Gualey river(in addition to being close to the New River and a bunch of awesome looking water/country.)

So, with the place set, we picked a date that worked for both of us to meet at the lake.

Paddling Trip

I, along with I think the owners, couldn’t justify driving five hours and not paddling, so we met at Summersville Lake and spent several hours rolling and paddling around. They were big into Greenland paddles, where most of my experience is with a Euro blade, and so after we got back, they spent a bit of time working with me on some Greenland paddling techniques.

Ultimately, I spent 2 more hours on the water than I should have and coupled with pretty heavy rain, didn’t get home that night until almost 10PM. But, it was totally worth it! I met some really cool people, who I hope to get to paddle with again, and picked up an awesome new boat!

One of my First Rolls in the Boat

Some Pictures of the Lake

First(ish) Impressions of the Dagger Alchemy 14S

I’ve had my Dagger Alchemy 14S for about a month now and have used it quite a bit now, so this isn’t quite a first impression, but pretty close. I’ll do a proper review later, but gotta say this is a pretty awesome boat!

The Alchemy handles rough and flat water really well, edges easily, and rolls like a champ. The hull shape includes a decent bit of rocker and is streamlined enough that it makes it really easy to maneuver.

There are two versions of the Alchemy, a 14.0L and 14.0S. The 14S is about an inch narrower and weighs about 3 pounds less. I’ve not had a chance to sit in a 14L, but the 14S is plenty roomy for me.

I have had a chance to play with the Alchemy at Falls Dam several times, playing in waves and going down some light rapids, as well as take it on one 8 Mile flat water run. It is super fun and I am really digging this boat! I can’t wait till I get a chance to take it out to the ocean and do some Sea Kayaking.

Pool Sessions: Fun and Training

This is the first year I have made it to the pool and I really wish I had started going earlier. It is great fun and you meet some cool like minded yakkers, while growing your skills in a safe environment. In the triangle area, we have pool sessions in Raleigh at Optimist Pool, as well as in Chapel Hill. The former has better hours and is closer, so is usually my preference, although depending on my week, I have made it out to a few sessions in Chapel Hill.

I’ve only missed a single session at the Raleigh pool this year and that one was due to bad weather closing it. Part of my heavy attendance this year is that I wanted to learn to Roll, which I accomplished after putting in a good bit of work. Now that I have a fairly decent on-side roll and passable off-side roll, and am comfortable rolling in all of my boats, I still enjoy going and practicing/talking with other yakkers. It is nice to be able to try out things in the pool, like sculling, bracing, edging, in a forgiving environment, rather than out on the river somewhere. I’ve also been able to try out a number of other boats, including some smaller play boat styles, not to mention pool water is generally cleaner than most of the rivers I frequent. I can do things I wouldn’t normally do on the river, with fewer and less severe consequences, along with much warmer water than you would find otherwise. The main risk is of physical injury due to not doing a roll correctly.

Pool sessions will be ending sometime in the coming months, as the weather and water warms up, but I will definitely make it part of weekly paddling routine next year as well. People are generally really friendly and if you don’t have a roll and don’t want to splurge for a lesson, people will generally give you a bit of time or help pinpoint what you are doing wrong.

So, if you are fortunate enough to have pool sessions in your area, I would highly advise taking advantage of them while you can!