On The Water, by Leslie Kolovich
Paddling on water so glassy, you literally cannot tell where the sky touches it. Water so clear the color blue has breathtaking character. Slow moving watery trails that lead into ancient groves of cypress trees, teaming with wildlife you only see on television. I’m talking about the most incredible flatwater experience, and it’s in my own backyard.
Walton County Florida. The Gulf of Mexico to it’s most furthest south with the Choctawhatchee Bay and Intercoastal just a few miles to the north, and spectacular creeks, springs, bayous and lakes in between there and the state line. Florida is home to over 700 natural springs and 40 of them are in Walton County.
I became enchanted with Stand Up Paddling on a beautiful coastal dune lake off of scenic county highway 30-A in South Walton County Florida. Coastal dune lakes are rare geological features that only occur in the Florida Panhandle, Madagascar, Austrailia, New Zealand and the northern Pacific coast of the USA. So as you can imagine enchanted is almost not enough feeling to describe paddling there.
Some of my most memorable paddles have been in places I thought I would never go. Being born in Salt Lake City, Utah, I have to admit the dark water creeks and bayous scared me to death. Memories of the movie Deliverance had never left my mind. If it weren’t for a group of experienced paddlers, whom several are Master Naturalist that invited me for a creek paddle one early spring day back in 2010, I may have never stepped onto that dark water. They assured me I would be ok, and I had nothing to fear, and doing so, opened my eyes to some of the most beautiful parts of North West Florida that is not seen from the road. Paddling with Master Naturalists is definitely a comforting education for backwater adventures .
We paddle amongst ancient cypress trees with so much character it’s like looking at clouds and seeing faces, and objects in them. For me, I get a mysterious, cautious feeling as I paddled through the groves as if I’m being watched. We whisper in the silence of the slow moving water, “if anyone hears banjo music paddle faster”. Meeting the locals has actually turned into one of our favorite things to do.
It’s that first encounter on the water that always makes me chuckle. Picture this, two locals in a motorized fishing boat loaded down with coolers, and lawn chairs coming up stream as three ladies on bright colored SUP boards are going down stream. Eyes meet, eyebrows raise, and a big “hello” followed with “what do you call that?” “we ain’t never seen a surf board on this water before”. They are completely amazed that we have these large boards on their water, and promise one day they will give it a try.
Paddling on these creeks makes one feel they are lost in time. The landscapes surrounding the water are magnificent. There are many times when I’ve paddled around a bend to an area that is so beautiful that it literally has felt like I just paddled into Mother Nature’s cathedral. The cypress trees lined up in front of clear, clear spring water, with flowering vines, magnolias, water lilies above and below the water all living side by side as if placed there for a photo shoot for a gardening catalog. The water is so clear as we paddle closer to the spring it’s as if you are paddling on top of an aquarium. Schools of shiny purple and silver fish, turtles swimming underwater and turtles basking on logs. We’ve seen red tailed foxes prancing through the trees, slumbering snakes in the crevasses of tree stumps, bald eagles flying high around a newly made nest, and yes the ominous bumps of a gator snout above water. I have yet to see this, but my friends assure me they have. However, as quickly as they are seen they are gone.
My backyard here in Walton County Florida is a very special place. Florida understandably is one of the fastest growing SUP communities in the country. It boasts all types of water experiences, from surf, to flatwater, and backwater adventure. There are many outfitters doing eco tours you will not have a problem finding one. And on a side note, if you hear banjo music stop and say hello to the people playing it, it most likely will be music worth listening to!
*For more information on paddling creeks and bayous visit Waltondoors.com
*When we connect with nature especially on the water something magical happens for your soul~Leslie Kolovich
September 27, 2009, Jordanelle Reservoir, Park City Utah. First interview with Dr. Bob and Betsy Risner.
It was a beautiful Autumn afternoon in the Wasatch Mountains when I first met Bob and Besty Risner. I had traveled to Salt Lake from Florida to attend my volleyball reunion at the University of Utah. The Sport of Stand Up Paddling was on the verge of explosion inland USA to lakes and rivers. The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show had been producing weekly shows since the beginning of Summer talking to people from every corner of the globe who had found this new, but ancient activity we now called sport.
I met up with Utah Paddle Surfing’s founder Rebekka Stone. She was bringing the sport to the Great Salt Lake. She was in the know for all the Utahns who were becoming passionate for Stand Up Paddling.
She gave me a list of names I should contact including Bob and Besty Risner. She said this couple found the sport 10 weeks ago and had been paddling everyday since and were training to compete in the 2nd Annual Battle of The Paddle in Dana Point California, oh and, they were in their late 50s! I knew I needed to meet them.
One phone call and a paddle was scheduled on the Jordanelle Reservoir with this dynamic couple. As soon as I stepped out to meet them you could feel the high energy of Dr. Bob! He wears bright colors, orange and red it matches his energy of passion. The air was crisp, the water cold the altitude 7000 plus feet. They took care of this thin blooded girl from Florida and only made me do 6 miles. Dr. Bob and Betsy were kind to me, made me feel like family as they did with everyone they met who shared a love for the outdoors and especially paddling.
In this podcast interview you will hear the complete excitement of this new sport coming from Bob and Betsy, especially Bob. His story and life philosophy of living every moment within something you are passionate about resonates deeply today.
This interview was before everyone outside of California and Hawaii knew anything about the sport. We had just discovered that the Battle of the Paddle was the Super Bowl of racing in the ocean, and Dan Gavere was the first person to run white water on a stand up board, and that there were such things as race boards and differences in designs and manufacturers.
In this interview you hear pure passion from Bob. It was a lifestyle he and Betsy had found and wanted to promote to get people outdoors on the water. Bob and Betsy, originally from Ohio, moved to Utah, discovered a Stand Up Board in of all places a mountain sporting goods shop, and bought 2 on the spot. Bob describes his first outing as “disastrous with unexpected encounters with the water”, but he continued to find his balance and speed on the lake which he and Betsy paddled daily for at least 8 miles.
And after just 10 weeks he and Betsy took it all the way to the highest level of competition in the ocean in Dana Point California for the 2009 Battle in both races. They were all in. They became part of the thread in the tightly woven SUP community from the West coast to the East coast. Fierce competitors with the friendliest after parties around! There are so many memories of the early days that include Bob and Betsy and I am forever grateful for them.
With Bob’s unexpected passing this week it makes us take pause, and listen carefully to his words about living your passions. Bob lived every moment no doubt, could he have slowed down? I think not. In fact if one believes in reincarnation, Bob is already choosing his next adventure, if not, Bob is most likely having a conversation with the one in charge about redesigning angel wings for more speed and efficiency.
Our hearts go out to Betsy knowing the pain of this loss to her. Let the peace from the water be with you, and the love of your community hold you and know the passion and energy Bob carried can never be gone.
With love, respect, and great gratitude~ Leslie Kolovich
SUP Radio Show, The Original Stand Up Paddle Radio Show with Leslie Kolovich
This session is brought to you by the Payette River Games in beautiful Cascade Idaho, June 20-22.
Joining me today for the 2nd of 3 white water sessions is Ken Hoeve. Today we talk about finding the right river for your ability.
If you are brand new to the sport start off on deep flat water and practice falling, yes we said practice falling and getting back to your board. Practice turning and navigating, really wear yourself out! You want to understand and feel how your equipment works before you get into faster moving water. Always go with someone more experienced than yourself, as Ken says, “the only thing worse than going by yourself is going with someone worse than yourself“.
We talk about safety a lot when talking about white water paddling. It is always better to be over prepared that caught off guard. Another very important thing to know is whats downstream? Knowing the areas you can hop out and portage is good to know too, and for sure there is no shame in that! Planning ahead of time can really make the difference in your experience on the river. Things to think about, weather conditions, how far away are we from help, should I take a spare paddle, if I fall off can I swim this stretch? Ken tells us about websites you can look at beforehand to give you information of stream flows and more. In the Colorado area you can checkout www.mountainbuzz.com or for even more great information www.americanwhitewater.org
For more information Ken has a detailed written column with the Standup Journal Magazine.
The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show with Leslie Kolovich
Joining today is White Water Paddling expert Ken Hoeve. We will be doing a 3 part series on everything you need to know about river SUP’ing.
With Stand Up Paddling exploding into the adventure category for 2013 white water river paddling is certain to follow for 2014. But before you go down to the river to play, it’s important to educate yourself on many levels. Safety is always the most important factor when paddling a river. Today Ken and I discuss the importance of having the right gear to create a safe experience from the start. Ken has written a article for the Stand Up Journal Magazine that further details our discussion today. Enjoy the podcast now and get ready for a real adventure on board! White Water Stand Up Paddling!
Hey there! This is Leslie Kolovich, and joining me today is 14 year old Ryan Maloney from Carlsbad California.