The Gradient

Newsletter by, for, and about Chicago Whitewater Association

April/May 2015

A Note From the Editor

Hey Paddlers!

No meeting in June - except the most awesome meeting! The trip to the North Woods is next weekend! I'll be parading around in a super hero cape, encouraging children to read over the summer, so . . . have some tasty treats and surf some waves for me. I'll miss you all!

Since I won't be there, someone will have to write it up for me, and send me lots of pictures. Thanks to those who contributed to this Gradient! The background this month is the Root courtesy of Bob and Dean.


Madame L’editeur, Cat

President's Report

Hey Everyone,

I'm keeping this president's report short and sweet (or trying to at least).

The Wolf Trip is just around the corner, and with that comes a few important things.

1. A feast on Saturday night of that weekend. Make sure you get your $12 into the club soon so you can take part in the feasting

2. Elections for officers. If you're interested in running for office, let me or one of the other officers know... we'll be electing people Saturday night.

3. The beginner trips will be over for the season... but the former-beginners will still be looking for folks to take them under their wing. If you're up for organizing a social trip to some place like East Race, Wausua, or Yorkville, please think about including the former-beginners on that trip... post something on meetup, or put it in the gradient if possible.

4. The FILM FEST! is shortly after the Wolf Trip, and you'll want to get your ticket for that too!

That's my short and sweet president's report.



May Meeting Minutes

Thanks to Jeff for the short and sweet May Meeting Minutes

7:30 Call to Order
Reading of the minutes
Rich Haick motioned to approve. Motioned was seconded and approved by a unanimous vote.

Treasury has $1846.50 in checking. There is $10970.00 in the savings account and $764 in pay pal.

118 Primary and 62 secondary. ( the complete report is now lost. my apologies)

(These event will have taken place now)
There is to be an IPC clean up of the Chicago River. A donor has included a free beer for those who participate.

Open Lands and the IDNR are publishing a map with paddling information on it.

May 20th at &:00 p.m. there will be a meeting at Hickory Knolls in St. Charles. This will be a gathering of the public and representatives from Hitchcock Design, WBK Engineering and Scott Shipley will be in attendance. The club hopes to get at least 30 paddlers to attend. Part of the agenda will be to get a final plan by August.

We are 8 tickets away from breaking even with the film festival.

New Business

June 14,15 there is a swiftwater rescue class at Wausau The price is $100 with RSVP.
Wausau also has a clean up scheduled that will allow those who participate some extra paddling privilege.

There will be a Hometown Throwdown at the East Race the weekend of the 9th.

The club is looking for storage space to put the boats from the Boyd Peshkin class.

Meeting adjourned @ 7:55 Motion by Jeff Brown, Second by Rich Haick all aye vote.

St. Charles is Moving Forward on Whitewater Park

St. Charles is making progress on their whitewater park. See the Daily Herald report about it and share the good news! We want to be supportive of this awesome development!

East Race Tip

East Race season is around the corner, and with that come's some serious wear and tear on your paddle blades.

One way to keep your blade in tip top shape is to invest in a pair of car door edge protectors (aka: door drim). They cost about $4 and you can get them at places like advanced auto parts.

They fit most thick paddles like the AT2 and AT eddy, but should also fit Werner's foam core blades with dynel edges (like the Sho-gun). If you have a thinner blade like the Werner Side kick or AT Geronimo, you may find you need to add some silicone or glue to keep it attached to your paddle.

Depending how often you frequent east race, you may find the need to replace the trim at the end of the season... personally I'd rather spend $4 /year to keep a paddle looking new than spending $400 every 4 years once one of the blades is 30% gone.

Trip Reports

N. Branch of the Potomac

Friday May 1st 8 of us headed out from Teter’s campground on the Cheat to paddle the W. Branch of the Potomac. I think only one of the group had paddled it previously. This run is 12-15 miles of continuous Class 2-3 boggy water depending on the water level. The level was 5 ft on this day. This is a very long fast moving run with lots of play spots. Dodging rocks was my the primary focus. The AW writeup is a little ominous and probably more representative of higher water levels.

The river reminded me of some of the Cache La Poudre in CO or Truful Truful in Chile. After several hours you pass Stoney River confluence on the right and the river picks up steam almost doubling in size. I was feeling pretty confident and started boofing ledges and holes for the fun of it.

Since really none of us had been on this run before (maybe Rex, years ago) we didn’t have a bearing on which rapid was which. I heard from the group that the hardest rapid was Maytag but really didn’t know where or when it was. The river got a little steeper with some sizable waves so I stayed center and set up to boof a decent rise in the river.

I planted my paddle at the top of the rise and then saw it, a good 5 foot drop into the hole in front of me. I pulled that stroke as hard as I could, made it to the top of the foam pile and started paddling my ass off only to see the shoreline going forward! Sliding back in the hole I penciled in stern first and violently flipped coming up with the bow facing river left and surfing the massive hole. I stabilized myself and tried to paddle forward to escape but there was a large ledge of water in my escape route.

This went on for a while, trying to maneuver the boat forward or backward. Breathing and exhaustion became my primary concerns. I tried to get a big breath, which took several attempts, because my mouth filled with water when trying to breath, in an attempt to roll upstream and reach down for green water and pull me over the foam pile. As soon as I put my paddle in the green water I flipped right up, still in the hole and continuing to surf. Rich was on the shore setting up to throw me a rope so I hung on. I was nearing exhaustion and knew I had to escape soon. My thoughts were of last year getting stuck in a hole on the Wolf River outside my boat and being recirculated in the hole. I did NOT want to be out of my boat in this monster. Rich didn’t want to get me wrapped up in the rope so he was tentative about throwing the rope past me.

On the third attempt I felt the rope at my upstream side, I grabbed it with my left hand and Rich started to pull. I moved about three feet up the side of the whole and flipped for the last time. Paddle gone, rope escaped my grip, went for hand relief, a couple of quick summersaults under water, I was out. Rex, was there with his boat to help me to shore. Bob grabbed my paddle and Jim got my boat. Thanks guys.

Summary of my trip on the river, 4.5 hours of continuous fun boggy water, 4 minutes of terror!


1. Study river write-ups better when on a new run, which is pretty much most of the time.

2. Practice side-surfing to move forward and backward. There was no lip behind me but I didn’t have the skill to drive the boat backwards and didn’t see the escape. But I did a hell of a job surfing!

3. Get much better distinguishing between bumps and mountains.

4. Bob enjoyed it way too much.

The day before I paddled the Big Sandy (much harder) and only got my head wet once, including 19’ Wonder Falls. On Saturday we paddled the Cheat, (also much harder) and only had to roll at Big Nasty, but I was really focused on avoiding any rises with no foam behind them. Got this season off to a good start if my body holds out.

Maytag from below and ‘after’. Doesn’t look like much.

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Root River Trip Reports

Root River in Racine, WI.
Sunday 4/12/2015
Approximately 1500 CFS

The Root River in Racine, WI was a river that I had heard about, but had not yet paddled. With a drainage of only about 190 square miles, the river tends to come up quickly and drop quickly as well.

The weekend of Saturday 4/11 and Sunday 4/12 provided an excellent opportunity to paddle the river. Water levels peaked at about 2100+ CFS on Saturday and were falling. Bob Menard and I drove up Sunday Morning to meet Dan Bowers (Rocktown Adventures ) and one of Dan’s students (Sean) who were arriving earlier.

Before meeting Dan and Sean, Bob and I stopped at the Riverside Inn at corner of Northwestern Ave (rt 38) and North Green Bay Road to scout Horlick Dam and Malted Milk. The dam itself looked runnable only on the very far river right, however just downstream was a log sweeper stuck amongst some trees.

We walked a few dozen feet downstream and scouted Malted Milk. Malted Milk looked like a nice big glassy wave. The couple fishermen at the shore were keeping their lines close to shore. We decided to continue onto Quarry park (Official name is Karen A Nelson Memorial Dog Park) and meet with Dan and Sean.

After gearing up, we carried our boats out the main park entrance down Northwestern Ave and crossed Northwestern Ave at the bridge going over the Root River. We continued down to the river on the right shore just above the bridge. Finding a small eddy we took turns getting into our boats and onto Malted Milk. Unfortunately, Malted Milk was deceivingly pushy and there was not a good service eddy to get another run at this feature. Continuing down we paddled through some class 2 wave trains, attempting to catch some surf on the fly waves and eddies. As the river was at relatively high levels, many of the eddies were actually in the trees so caution was needed.

CAUTION: At these levels the shore is actually in the trees, care and attention is needed to watch and avoid strainers and sweepers.

We reached the last rapid “All Evil” just about as Pat Rivers and Humberto arrived. For the rest of the morning into the mid afternoon we ran a few laps between “Upper Pipeline” and “All Evil” Upper Pipeline and Lower Pipeline were both very difficult to catch or stay on. Towards the middle afternoon as the water levels dropped and we learned some tips and tricks from the local experts (Rob, Bruce, and others), Pat was able to front surf these successfully with his longer boat as shown above.

Most of the other features were washed out until reaching All Evil. Most people, especially those in play boats ran All Evil on far river right, caught the river right eddy and then ferried across to the river left eddy. The river left eddy provided the better of the two service eddies.

All Evil provided some excellent front surfing on river left with a very nice service eddy. As you moved towards the center of river the feature became more turbulent, but still good for front, back, or side surfing. Continuing across All Evil further towards river right brought another smaller front surfing area before reaching the river right edge of the feature. Pictures of Bob, Dean, and Humberto surfing below.

The better paddlers were doing spins, but for many of us (myself included) we exited the feature upside down and rolled back up in time to catch the eddy on either side. Fortunately, there were no swimmers.

Summary, at about 1500CFS, the Root is a little washed out but still well worth the trip. I liked it so much I went back on Tuesday after work to see it running at about 450CFS. Further notes below.

Root River in Racine, Wi.
Tuesday 4/14/2015
Approximately 450 CFS

Upon arrival at about 5:00PM, I walked down to the river bank, and who should I happen to see coming around the corner? It was Root River Rob. After chatting a few minutes, Rob continued to paddle a little bit while I got my gear around. Rob then proceeded to give me the deluxe tour of the Root River.

Pretty much all features at and below Upper Pipeline had at least one spot that could be surfed. Some features could be surfed in multiple locations and allowed transition between the locations as well as service eddies to get back. Rob probably surfed easily over a dozen locations between Upper Pipeline and All Evil. With my skills being more limited, I probably could only reliably surf in about a half dozen locations, but could still get back into the service eddies to try again, and again, and again, etc….

A few of the easier locations offered excellent opportunity to practice gentle spins. Fenceline and Right Hip Pocket were two nice glassy front surfs. All Evil was much tamer than it was on Sunday at about 1500 CFS. Rob was easily able to stay in All Evil and perform repeated spins. I was content to mainly front surf and try to keep from getting pushed too far to river right and getting flushed out. At these levels, Rob and I mainly entered All Evil from river right instead of river left as was done on Sunday at the higher levels. To enter, we paddled out of the eddy at about 45 degree angle and when close to the hole leaned forward to start the drop into the hole. The momentum would carry us into the center, and as we started the drop into the hole we would quickly begin leaning back to prevent our bows from catching and causing us to get flushed out the back of the feature. Once again, Rob was masterful at getting in and staying in.

Summary, at about 450CFS, the Root is much tamer but still well worth the trip. If you live and work in the northwest suburbs, it is a great option for an after work paddle.

Based on just these two and only trips I have made to the Root, I would definitely recommend it, especially if it is running in the 700 CFS to 1200 CFS range.
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Easter on the Verm

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Pool Sessions and Classes

ACA Instructor Certification

Anyone interested in getting their ACA Instructor Certification this year should contact Tom.

Several CWA members are considering taking the 8/22/15–8/23/15 *AND* 9/5/15–9/7/15 ACA Instructor Certification course on the Lower Youghiogheny. The course will be 5 days, August 22 and 23, then two weeks later September 5 thru 7 (Labor day). The cost for this training is $490 but if we can get 5 students together it goes down to $465. They need a $65 deposit by 4/15/15. These prices include lodging at Tom's home in Friendsville, MD.


North Woods Wolf RiverTrip

Will be at River Forest Wolf River Camping this year:
$9.49 per person, per night. $25 for families (2 adults, up to 3 kids). +$5 for electric.

We don't have a pavilion or anything, so if you have any kind of shelter to put over a picnic table, bring it!


Tom has graciously agreed to cook a group dinner Saturday night... Tom will need help with cooking, and will likely need a few volunteers to bring sides, so please contact him if you can help out.

The official menu: vegi kabobs, a good rice recipe, grilled chicken and sausage for meat with maybe something else in the Dutch oven. BYOB

Beginners participating in the instructional trip will owe the club $30 / day ($60 weekend), unless you paid for the whole instruction package.

Camping is $9.49 a night (pay the campground)

Saturday Dinner: $12
Breakfast: TBD

CWA presents the Reel Paddling Film Festival

Save the Date!

CWA is hosting the Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour.

Thursday June 18th at Durty Nellies in Palatine, IL. More details to come soon!

Rapid Media's 10th annual Reel Paddling Film Festival showcases the world's best paddling films to audiences in Canada, United States and around the world. The festival inspires more people to explore rivers, lakes and oceans, push physical and emotional extremes, embrace the lifestyle and appreciate the heritage of the wild places we paddle.

The Reel Paddling Film Festival is a film contest awarding winning films in 10 categories. The winners and other shortlisted films are then toured to more than 100 cities around the world, screening for an audience of more than 30,000 outdoor adventure enthusiasts and their friends and families.

Price for CWA Members is only $10 - Each (dues paid) member can purchase up to 2 tickets at this price. Everyone else can purchase tickets online

Tell your friends!

Hometown Throwdowns

Got some tricks you're dying to show off? Come to one of these Hometown Throwdowns!
They are all informal mini-competitions with prizes thrown in from World Kayak's sponsors - a great chance to get a taste of competitions without a lot of pressure. Don't have any tricks? Come anyway and have a good time!

Throwdown Dates and Locations
March 28th Manitowoc (water depending)
May 16, East Race
May 31st Wausau
June 14, 28 Wausau
July 18, Yorkville (IL WW fest)
Aug 2, 16, 30 Wausau
Oct 3, East Race

Wausau Release Dates

For your planning convenience, the Wausau release dates:

May 16/17 Wausau Whitewater Cleanup Day- Details to follow.
May 30/31 Rec Release
June 13/14 Rec Release
June 27/28 Rec Release
July 7-11 USACK Age Group Nationals
July 12 WACKO Buttercup
July 18/19 Rec Release
Aug 1/2 Rec Release
Aug 13/14 Jackson Clinic
Aug 15/16 Midwest Freestyle Championships
Aug 29/30 Rec Release
Sept 19/20 Rec Release

For more information, check out their website.

Used Gear Classifieds

Have Gear taking up space in your garage? Find it a new home - send the details to

We've had several people have good success here, so feel free to send it in!

CWA Library

Check out a video from the CWA Library and hone your skills, check out awesome paddling, or live vicariously through movies while the temperature hopefully begins to rise.

Recently added videos:

The Kayaker's Toolbox

EJ's River Running Basics

EJ's River Running Advanced

EJ's Strokes & Concepts.

For a full list visit:

Chicago Whitewater Association


Bob M

Vice President

Andy Cocallas


Hannah Matzke



Patrick Rivers



Tom Costello



Dave McGovern


Erik Sprenne



Cat Bergan

Membership Information

The Gradient is the newsletter of the Chicago Whitewater Association. Membership in CWA includes this newsletter; notice of super trips, events and parties throughout the year; access to indoor swimming pools during the winter; beginner river trips in the Spring; a source of used equipment; and the chance to meet some of the best paddlers in the Midwest.

Membership Application

When applying for membership sign the waiver or your application will be returned!

CWA MEETINGS: the first Wednesday of each month. Check The Gradient for time and location. All interested members are encouraged to attend.

GRADIENT POLICIES; All articles, letters, and gossip received by your editor are likely to be published and sometimes copied, unless you specify otherwise when submitted. News of trips, postcards from far-away places and comments on common interests are always welcome. You – our members – are the ones who supply the words that appear in these pages. Ads are free to members; businesses and all other pay 20 cents per word. Send check payable to CWA with ad copy. Deadline for all copy is the second Wednesday of each month for that month’s issue. Request information at