While reflecting on my paddling year, I feel very fortunate to have had so many wonderful moments on the water in 2023! It truly was a magical kayaking year with lots of quality time on the water. As an instructor for Calleva’s River School, my year typically follows the awesome programs that they offer.
This year, I worked hard to make all the programs that I taught even better than in years past. Through these programs, the friendships I have built with the paddlers that I work with have been incredible. Seeing people enjoy the river and make growth motivates me. Pushing me to continue to work on making my instruction the best it can be.
As a team paddler for Dagger, I was able to enjoy the new Vanguard that was released. Also I tested the prototypes for the Indra, which is new in 2024. With so many incredible opportunities to spend quality time on the water this year, it is great to take some time to reflect on what an awesome year it was.
The winter months brought some awesome times with pool freestyle classes. It is a great feeling on a cold day to huck your kayak around in a warm pool! The small playboats are so fun to cartwheel and stern squirt all over the pool! More about our Pool Rolling Classes here.
The dream of a 12 foot half slice became a reality! Dustin Goen, Steve O McKone and I got together on a February day at the Calleva Farm with a Vanguard prototype, some heat guns, and a giant lever that Dustin had made. Then after a few hours of work, we had a 12 foot squirting and splatting machine! Oh yeah!
Initial Experimental Vanguard Testing
The Shenandoah River was high so I was able to get lots of time in the new creation. Boy did it ever make paddling down-river fun! That concave stern catches the water nicely and provides incredible amounts of lift! So the boat is able to splat and surf with ease and can be stern squirted on a strong eddy line! This boat brings me tons of joy any time I get to use it!
Early Indra testing
Then I began testing the first Indra prototype in early March and fell in love with the boat! It was great to get it out on Great Falls and test it. The huge bow coupled with the stern’s ability to slice under for lift created a full on machine to make nailing your line in Class 5 whitewater easier! Just when you think boofing couldn’t get any more fun, here comes the Indra!!! See what fun kayaks we currently have for sale.
We ramped up the challenge of Cheat Elite this year by adding a Top Yough training session and the Top Yough race to the schedule. The Top ended up being too high on the training day so we did a long boat creaking clinic on the Stony River in West Virginia that feeds into the Kitzmiller section of the North Branch of the Potomac.
It was a truly amazing day! The low water of April also allowed us to do a long boat clinic on the Upper Yough. Maneuvering a 12 foot boat down this bouldery run is a challenge and it was great to see everyone do well with it. The final April weekend brought one last tuneup for the Cheat Race with a rising gauge for our double runs that day! It was a great day full of enthusiasm and camaraderie!
High water caused the Cheat Race to be switched to the Narrows section, which is much easier than the canyon, but still a fun race course. The best part about all the rain was that I was able to do a run down the North Fork of the Blackwater into the Lower Blackwater in the Indra before heading to the race. This is one of the best runs in the whole state so it was a great day of creeking and longboating!
Many of the people in Cheat Elite competed in the race and did an awesome job! So it was great to see everyone’s smiling faces on the river. Then I capped off my Cheat Fest with a sweet run down the Lower Big Sandy on Festival day!
Spring Surf Academy
Next, we added a Surf Academy program in the spring. It brought some awesome water levels on the Potomac for playboating. We had Wet Bottom Hole and Maryland Chute at perfect levels. That combined with our out of town trip to Stonycreek River in Pennsylvania, allowed everyone to get tons of hole playing and practice with freestyle moves!
Yough Training is always a fantastic program where paddlers make large amounts of growth and many of them work their way to the Upper Yough for the first time. We had an outstanding group this year. By the end of the program, everyone had smiles so wide they had to turn sideways to fit through their car doors! Everyone crushed their lines and that “first time down the Upper Yough” feeling of euphoria is such a great way to celebrate all the hard work everyone put in!
This program really works on higher levels of paddling and handling steep whitewater. We work a great deal on boofing proficiency and boat control in order to prepare people for the Green Narrows. Our July Advanced Moves on the Upper Yough trips tested the paddling skill of the participants. Thus showing them challenges similar to what they would encounter on the Green.
We had another great group of people this year and our July trip to the Green was a total success with everyone paddling very well on the run! I also picked up the second version prototype for the Indra to paddle on the Green trip. That boat did not disappoint and I was very excited about the improvements!
Upper Yough Race
This is a fun race in July that really tests the endurance of all participants with a half hour or more of hard paddling through the Clas 4 run. I took 7th this year in the race and was happy overall with my run. It is such a fun event to come to and see so many of my friends out there!
Advanced Canada trip
I headed up north with the Calleva Youths for a week of creeking and big water. The trip was incredible. Quebec is a very underrated area to go kayaking. The whitewater up there is world class and it is not that far away! The Youths took on the challenge. They did an amazing job facing their fears and stepping up to some big drops! So watch out for these young rippers in the coming years! If your little ripper is interested, campers can learn the required skills by attending MD Intermediate Kayaking Camp.
Great Falls Race
I nursed a rib injury sustained from an awkward landing off a waterfall on the Canada trip but was able to race well. I took 9th in short boat on the Virginia side of the falls and 8th in long boat on the Maryland side of the falls (only 2 seconds behind 2nd place to give you an idea of how competitive the field was).
It was cool to race different sections each day and the falls race is one of my favorites. This race is a great community event too with tons of people coming out in support!
Summer Surf Academy
Low water didn’t dampen our spirits for cartwheels, squirts, and spins! Despite the the water, we had good flows for Horseshoe Wave, Portage Hole and O Deck Hole along with some tailee work in the Bermuda Triangle. Overall, the trip to the Lower Yough was phenomenal with tons of cartwheels, splats, and spins! The Lower Yough is an underrated play run and there are tons of spots get your boat vertical the whole run!
King of New York
Labor Day weekend in upstate New York is one of the best trips to take on the entire east coast! The whitewater up there is top shelf and the race series on the Beaver and Racquette is so much fun. I had a fast and solid race run on the Racquette, cleaning all my lines and finishing in 5th place.
We caught the seldom run Lyons Falls after. This is a sweet 40 foot drop on the Black River. Then the Mosier Spillway always kicks off Sunday morning with a bang and is one of my all time favorite rapids. It is a giant roller coaster ride down a steep channel cut through the bedrock!
Racing down the slides on the Eagle section of the Beaver is a major thrill and this natural amusement park always makes me happy! I took 8th overall in the King of New York series and can’t wait to go back again next year!
The Potomac was at low levels, but we still found lots of good squirt eddies and fun surfing at Horseshoe Wave. Also I went to the Gauley for 3 weekends in the fall and had a fantastic time each trip!
The Green Race is a very challenging event as you need to be on top of your game to get a 12 foot kayak down the course in one piece! Still I had my best run yet with smooth lines through much of the course. The last rapid, Rapid Transit, I came down too far in the middle and caught a weird bounce that turned me sideways. Then I dropped into the hole at the bottom and was sidesurfed. I made one good attempt to get out but couldn’t make it so I swam across the finish line with my boat, paddle, and me all traveling through the gate that marks the end.
It was such a bummer to have my race ruined less than 50 feet from the finish line! However, I finished the weekend on a high note with a trip to the Tallulah for some fast rides down Oceana!
My paddling scales back considerably once cold weather hits but I was able to get a nice Blackwater day in late November with a great crew. The sheer number of great boofs on this run is jaw dropping. Additionally, you get to tee them up like a bachelor party on a municipal golf course! The Blackwater truly is one of my favorite rivers anywhere!
What a fantastic year 2023 was! I am stoked with all the rivers I ran, races I competed in, and friends that I got to share the river with! The Calleva staff members that I worked with this year were all particularly awesome! Thanks to Steve O and Ashley for making such a great schedule of programs. Also all the help with getting everything arranged. Special thanks to Jesse Pulliam and Dustin Goen for the extra help with collecting great video and pictures! I look forward to seeing all of your smiling faces on the water in 2024!
My 2023 Highlights
Calleva River School Instructor
Here at the River School, Bobby Miller is a main component of the instructor team. Bobby leads Fall Training, Cheat Training, Upper Yough Training, Green Training…. whatever you want to train for, the Zone Dogg turned elementary school teacher, can get you there!
If you’re still not impressed, Bobby is a pro athlete ⎯ sponsored by Dagger Kayaks, Accent Paddles, Immersion Research and Astral. He also has multiple first descents on rivers, creeks, and waterfalls throughout the United States.