It’s pretty obvious here at Watershed we love being on/around/near/under/or in the water. It’s literally part of our name. Although, we’ve created the best way to shed the water from your personal items, humans have thrived near water for thousands of years. But have you ever wondered what causes humans to be so drawn to it? Let’s find out!
Supposedly when humans separated from apes and began to carve our own path, we began to cultivate around rivers and oceans for the life giving water. We also started grubbing out on tasty aquatic creatures that were filled with Omega 3 fatty acids that promote brain growth. In fact, our brain growth increased dramatically when we came out of the forests and started hanging on the beaches and by the rivers. It’s even been shown that people with a diet including more marine life are less likely to suffer from depression. It makes sense that eating a pile a crab legs or cracking into a giant lobster tail does indeed make one quite happy! Our brains have been intrinsically connected to the seas and water ever since.
Anyone who spends time on the water can tell you it makes them feel calm. Life for humans can often feel stagnant if we are not near the water for long periods of time. This can cause us to lose desk jobs and relationships because we’re always leaving early to paddle, or calling in “sick” when the river is up and it’s 70 degrees outside. People who live near water report they feel less stress and depression as compared to those who live in busy cities. When humans are around water we get a break from the constant ‘going’ of our day-to-day. Water even slows our brainwaves down to a more calm and meditative state, and supposedly we can tune our waves more closely to the rhythm of water. Essentially, water lets us relax and realize the big picture of life rather than the little small stuff we sweat over.
You can make up all kinds of excuses for why you need to go paddling today to get you out of something you don’t really want to do. “I stubbed my toe, and now I’m stressed…gotta go kayaking!”. We’ll come up with just about any excuse to answer the call of the river that we feel deep down inside us. From a scientific standpoint, this isn’t completely untrue. Our bodies are composed of up to 60% water, and perhaps these huge bodies of water are pulling on us. They say that people go nuts during the full moon because the moon affects the water on earth, including the tides and in our bodies. Like ET being called home to the mothership, when the river answers I must heed her call!
After a killer day of paddling, we feel tired yes…but also alive. It’s as if the wolf or grizzly bear inside us can sleep for a while until we get the urge again. Humans experience profound psychological effects from water that elevate our moods, reduces stress, and improves our concentration, thinking and memory. Author Wallace Nichols has even written a book on the topic called Blue Mind that explores the science of why we are happier near water and how it affects us. Studies have shown that people’s stress levels drop when they are exposed to water sounds like the ocean, rivers or creeks. This is often why many people enjoy sleeping with sound machines at night. Soothing sounds of Class IV whitewater are enough to put any of us around here right to sleep.
Unless you had a bad childhood run in with the water, or perhaps a bad swim one day, most of us associate the water with happy memories. The smell of chlorine or hose water in the summer time is a huge connection to memory and will bring them flooding back. Even the stink of our river clothes drying on the line is enough to send us packing up the truck again to head back out to the watery mothership. While all the scientific things are happening to your brain and your body when you’re around the water, it’s easy for us to just chalk it up to hey…this is fun! We crave moments where we can really be ourselves and be in the moment and forget about everything else for a few. Our time spent on the water, paddling through the water or swimming under the water gives us those tranquil moments we need to live as happy human beings.
So we have learned that eating seafood makes us smarter, it’s ok for us to say the river is calling us home because it’s true, and that the calm we feel when we’re on the river is a combination of science and river magic. Feed your brain and body and head back out for adventure ASAP!
After years of research, development, and getting wet, we can proudly claim the creation of the ultimate weapon against wet sandwiches and ruined electronics that need to head down the river with you. Our Drybags! After realizing the roll down bags were inferior, we came up with our patented Zipdry closure system that’s second to none. Though our bags are great at keeping your personals nice and dry throughout your watery adventures, did you know there are a multitude of other clever uses for them? Here are some of our favorites.
Better Nights Sleep
Overnight paddling trips are great. You get to cover a ton of ground, and get a jump start each morning as you’re already ready to rumble having everything you need right there. Of all the items you really need to pack in with you in your raft, kayak, or other floating vessel…a comfy pillow doesn’t usually top the list. Here’s where the nifty Drybag comes in! Fill your Drybag with air as much as you’d like to create a nice personal pillow to sleep on. You can basically customize the comfort level with how much you inflate the bag. Put a soft tee shirt or towel over top, and wa-la! No more laying your head on a rock at night.
If you’ve been out on the river for days, weeks, months or years, you need some clean threads every now and again. Your amazing Drybag can be used as a hand held washing machine. Be sure to use eco friendly and mild soap then load all your dirty unmentionables into the bag. Add some water, and shake it like a polaroid picture. Or really more like a giant bag of shake and bake chicken. Give a couple of good rinses, and empty out the bag to be left with sparkling clean clothes ready for a nice line to dry on in the sunshine. You can customize the cycle for delicates or bulky depending on how much elbow grease and shaking action you want to put forth for this little experiment.
This may seem a little obvious to some, but maybe not to everyone! Your Drybag can be used as a bucket or carrying vessel. If you need to carry water up to your camp for cooking or cleaning, putting out the fire, etc; this is a great way to get the job done. With the carrying handles on our Drybags, this process is made even easier. Work smarter, not harder. This can also be used as a bailing device in case your old school raft you borrowed from that weird raft guide is a non-bailer. No holes in this polyurethane coated radio frequency welded drybag bucket…not today.
These bags are tough, and can really stand withstand the elements. If you have valuables like electronics or gold pirate coins or rubies you want to keep hidden perhaps while you’re swimming or hiking for the day, consider burying your loot in your drybag. You’d be surprised what people will snatch right out of your tent or off your campsite when they think you aren’t looking. Find a spot with loose sand or dirt to bury your bag that will stay nice and dry and safe until your ready to unearth your worldly possessions. This is a great idea for a day at the beach when you’re out frolicking in the ocean. X marks the spot, or so they say, so make sure you know exactly where you buried your booty. You wouldn’t want to add insult to injury by losing not only your treasure, but your sweet drybag you put everything in too.
Whitewater kayaking is grand, and we love the adrenaline rush and adventure that comes with it. Sometimes though, we need a calmer and more relaxing experience out on the water. Fishing is just about the next best thing to gnarly whitewater in our book, and you can combine your love of kayaking and fishing into one! Kayak fishing is a popular sport but also fairly new and features it’s own unique variables different from regular kayaking or regular fishing. These are some tips to get you started on hooking some killer largemouth bass while happily floating the lake or river in your kayak.
Kayak fishing is going to require a vessel unlike your river runner or creek boat you know and love dearly. You’ll need to consider where you’d like to fish, and what that environment is like. Would you prefer larger ponds, saltwater or freshwater, big rivers or small creeks? Will you be fly fishing? You’ll need to take these questions into account so you can choose a boat with the correct stability, comfortable seating, storage and size that you can transport where you’re wanting to fish. Lots of places will let you try before you buy, and paddling festivals and events are a great place to demo kayaks. You’ll likely want to look for a recreational or sit on top kayak for this kayaking fishing experiment.
We love any reason to buy new outdoor gear, and the beginner kayak fisherman needs a trusty fishing pole! Not any pole will do however, and some factors need to be taken into account. Typically, a shorter rod is suggested for kayak fishing which keeps all the action near the cockpit. This shorter rod however can become troublesome if a big monster fish decides to run on you, which game fish love to do. Unless your rod tip can be swung completely around the kayak beyond the bow and the stern, a fish cutting right angle escape routes under your cockpit will take your rod with it. Be sure you can swing a complete circle around your kayak so you can stay in control of your fishy foe!
If you’re used to whitewater kayaking the rivers and creeks near your area, these may not be the best spots for kayak fishing. You want to fish smarter not harder, and your choice of location can be a big factor in whether you’re reeling in a trophy fish and posting pictures to Instagram, or tiny guppies that will get thrown back. Ask around and see if your hard core fishing buddies have any secret spots they’re willing to take you to. You’ll also want to take into account what type of fish – if any – you’re looking to catch, and where those specific species thrive.
Familiarize Yourself With Fishing Techniques
You’re likely familiar with how to catch eddy lines, and drifting techniques in your kayak but again the rules are different with kayak fishing. You’ll want to brush up on some kayak fishing techniques to use while you’re on the water. It’s a good idea to consult a local fishing guide or expert – even if that’s your best friend or neighbor – on some techniques and tips. You’ll need specific boat positions, drifting styles, and will need to take wind into account. Balancing on a kayaking while whipping a fishing rod around, or reeling in a huge fish is a different ball game than regular whitewater kayaking.
Use the Water to Your Advantage
Any good kayaker knows to use the river to his or her advantage, and the same can be done with kayak fishing. Utilizing eddies will help to keep you right where you want to be without having to paddle or steer while you have a catch on the line. Go past the spot you want to fish, and tuck into the eddy behind it for a perfect spot to set up shop. Hug the shoreline in shallower water where the current isn’t as strong, and making headway upstream is far easier. Vegetation will help slow current, but be careful of getting caught in strainers! You can also cast to steer, the simple action of reeling in your line will cause your boat to move in that direction.
Why fish from the shore, when you can hook some beauties atop your trusty kayak! Kayak fishing is growing in popularity, and we can see why. You get the relaxing experience of fishing but the added enjoyment of kayaking we all know and love. And this way, if your better half says either you can’t go fishing or kayaking this weekend, just choose the other and you’re all set!
Spring is right around the corner, which means our beloved summer is not far behind either! It’s time to start planning our days around paddling again, or in all honesty just paddling even more. Spring and summer bring not only warmer weather, but some awesome paddling festivals too. From the Southeast to the Northwest, there are hundreds of cool festivals to check out this year to run new rivers, meet cool folks, buy sweet gear, and just kick it with like minded individuals drinking some cold beers. We’ve got a list together of some of our top favorite paddling festivals you may want to pencil in this season.
Get In Gear Fest, Asheville – March 18th 2017
Still just in its 3rd year, the annual Get In Gear Fest, organized by the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina, is a family-friendly all day outdoor celebration. Featuring live music, beers, tasty food PLUS gear demos, new products and (our favorite) paddling, it’s one you won’t want to miss. They will also be the chance to win heaps of prizes from tshirs to slingshots! See their event page for more.
Gauley Fest, West Virginia – September 14th-17th 2017
We naturally have to include a home-team favorite – Gauley Fest! Yes, September is technically considered fall but may as well start planning ahead! The mighty Gauley River has some incredible Class V rapids, and we all know the scenery in wild and wonderful West Virginia is top notch. The festival is put on by American Whitewater, and is their biggest event of the year and supposedly the largest paddling festival in the world. Boaters and outdoor enthusiasts of all shapes, sizes and skill levels love this festival. There’s tons of top vendors who often do raffles or games to win gear, and camping with good music and late night general debauchery. Plus, we’ll be there! Come say hey!
This 3 day festival down in the lowcountry has something for everyone in your crew. Whether you’re a paddler, rock climber, slackliner, mountain biker, or disc golf enthusiast you’ll enjoy this event. There’s a “Try It” zone where you can demo and test out all kinds of outdoor gear including archery and stand up paddle-boards. On Saturday there’s a disc golf and climbing competition, as well as a vendor village where you can try before you buy. Grab some boiled peanuts and sweet tea vodka to check out this cool event that’s in it’s 27th year.
Kern River Festival, California – April 21st-23rd 2017
Kayakers and boaters flock from all over to the Kern River Festival. There’s the fun to run or watch Hooligan Boat Race with a B.Y.O.B (build your own boat) approach and also the Olympic qualifying races. Watching the extreme slalom or downriver racing is worth the whole trip which include waterfalls, slides and a granite ampitheather for spectator enjoyment. There’s also a wildwater Biathalon, craft beer and tasty food to indulge in. All any good boater really needs from a festival!
GoPro Mountain Games, Colorado – June 8th-11th 2017
This event draws professional and amateur athletes to descend upon Vail, Colorado to compete in nine sports and 25 disciplines including kayaking, road cycling, trail running and even dog competitions. GoPro Mountain Games also holds a mountain photography competition, adventure film school, a film festival, an interactive exhibition and demo area, and live music. There really is an event or category for any outdoor junkie or music and art lover here. Plus, Colorado in the summertime is just… well it’s awesome. Definitely consider adding this extreme sports festival to your lineup.
To round out the list we’re going with more local flavor! This event is a fun annual fundraiser that helps advance watershed projects along the Cheat River. With bluegrass and music from good ol’ Appalachia, this event is sure to please. There’s a massive 10 mile downriver race called the “Massacre-ence” where all the best rapids the Cheat has to offer are paddled, including Decision, Big Nasty, High Falls and Coliseum. There’s also a 5K footrace for the runners in your pack, if that’s more their style. Plan to camp by the banks of the river for the weekend, and meet some cool fellow boaters.
Festivals and paddling, two loves all rolled into one awesome party and experience. Add some of these awesome top festivals to your calendar this year and as as always stay safe and dry out there!
Spring has sprung, well almost. If you’re anything like us you’ve likely been paddling through the winter season, but there are some who prefer to hang up the kayaking gear and hibernate through the winter. Kayaking in the cold season is a different ball game, and one little swim can make us long for the warm days of summer. Springtime is the perfect time to start running your icebreaker kayaking trips to start getting dialed back in for warmer weather ahead. If you have been cozying up on the couch, or playing a lot of darts at the local watering hole, you’ll need to do a little checklist before heading off on your trip of the season.
Check Your Gear
Any good boater knows to thoroughly check your gear often, and hopefully every time you use it. It’s easy to store boats and gear over the winter that may have sustained damage during last year’s paddling season, and completely forget once the thermometer begins to rise again. The old, “I’ll fix that later” attitude comes in perfectly when it’s 30 degrees outside and snowing. Set all your gear out and check over everything for holes, and dings or damage of any kind. Also, mice and other pesky creatures like your kayaking gear…a lot. They want to make little homes with the stuffing and fabrics, so check for critter damage as well!
Just because the weather is warmer, doesn’t mean the water is. Springtime can be deceiving, and you need to be prepared in case of a swim or general soaking. If you don’t own any good winter paddling gear, you might want to consider borrowing a splash top or dry suit from a buddy if you don’t want to invest in your own. Dressing in layers is key to keep your core warm, as water will conduct heat away from your body faster than air. You can always take layers off to stash in your drybag if you get too hot, but taking a swim and being cold the rest of the trip is no bueno and can be incredibly dangerous.
Springtime can be a perfect time of year to go paddling, but that perfect day can change real quickly. Weather is constantly changing during the spring and it’s not uncommon for storms and cold fronts to come on quickly and often forcefully. Like you would anytime you go paddling, check the weather in the area you intend to head to. Having a good emergency take out isn’t a bad idea in case things get too hairy. Download a solid weather app that will come in handy to stay up to date as soon as you hit the water, and for some hopefully having enough service to stay in the know throughout the day. Knowledge is power, but you’re powerless over the weather so…be prepared!
Most creeks and rivers are natural flow and will change after floods, storms and other weather or man influenced events. Even dam-released rivers can be altered in this way. You’ll need to re-learn the river and rapids to get familiar again. Don’t assume a river or rapid is going to flow the same it did last year, or that you’ll encounter the same obstacles. Even huge boulders can be moved with enough force creating all new danger spots, holes and what have you. When in doubt, scout it out. Kayaking is always more fun with your homies, so work together to hold safeties for one another and scope out each rapid step by step.
So it might take a bit to get yourself familiarized again with your boat, especially if you were watching a lot of Netflix over the winter. Don’t push yourself too hard, or get frustrated by a bad line or a by-chance a swim. Get a good crew together to go along, and maybe even make an overnight camping trip out of it. Kayaking is fun, but we all can have a bad day now and again so don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember to channel the ancient art of Wu Wei and “actionless action” to just go with the flow…but avoid rocks and holes. And your friends. And trees.
The river is calling my friend, and you must answer her call! Just check your gear and the weather, dress to impress, bring your buddies and re-introduce yourself to her. Warmer days are ahead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head off in search of kayaking nirvana today.