The Stakeout continued in full swing last week as we brushed off our hangovers from the UNLEASHED after party with some Mistassibi laps on Sunday. We sent it with a big crew many of whom were running the river for their first time. Mistassibi is a crucial river on the STAKEOUT radar, it holds many of the best surf waves in the world at high water including H2O wave, UCats2BKittenMe, Guantanamo, Black Mass and Ginormica all in the rafting section as well as Molly further downstream. When the level is too high or low for the waves we usually just runs laps of the river as it is a fairly short section. The style of the river is pool drop, over 4km it twists and turns through 5 long rapids which are enormous volume. Towering overhead waves surround you and there are often times when you feel completely alone, with water all around you and no possibility to look around and see where the rest of the group is because of the height of the waves. There are some big holes too and whilst most are easily avoided that doesn't mean you won’t see them and feel fear.
Traditionally you're first time down high water Mistassibi means you have to paddle all the rapids blind and first. I remember my first lap down vividly. Actually I don’t remember particularly the lap itself but the feeling of utter terror when Ben Marr told me of the tradition as I was putting my spray deck on. I remember feeling that terror grow as I was given loose beta for the run and sent on my way as the others gleefully watched me, and I remember being so confounded by the size of the river, the size of the waves and the size of the holes. Most vividly of all I remember the satisfaction of getting to the end of the run with good lines and a face which hurt from smiling. Although it was scary it was totally worth it, and honestly you only get one chance to have your first time down a river. But this time the shoe was on the other foot and I was the one gleefully sending my friends out in front to have the same experiences I had, happy in the knowledge that I had given them enough information for them to successfully find their way down but still keep an air of mystery about where we were going. And at the end of the run I was happy to recognise the same look of satisfaction as I had experienced my first time down the mighty Mistassibi.
Monday we had prime levels at a challenging wave called UCats2BKittenMe, which is steep, green, hard to catch (which usually makes it frustrating) and so much fun when you catch it. Last year I ended up paddling just one day as I had strained a muscle in my back the weekend previous during a swim during my Nielson race lap (more on that later), and as a result I had few surfs at this feature, and many attempts. This year I was determined to keep an upbeat attitude and after 2 hours, 15 attempts to catch the weave, 15 tours back to the top I had notched up 2 rides. Now I know what you are thinking, 2 rides in 2 hours? You must suck, but honestly this is an improvement for me on last year and better luck than some other people had during the same session. The key is just keeping your chin up, altering your approach tactics slightly and trying again.
The levels rose the next day and we sent more Mistassibi laps as well as a quick surf at Detonator wave in Alma. We ended up at Detonator the next three days which is unbelievable as all of the previous stakeouts I have been on we have never had good levels on this wave. It is a huge, fast wave that takes work and a little bit of luck but dishes out monster air.
The weekend there were two competitions in Quebec, The Nielson Race near Quebec city on Saturday and Defi des Grandes Rivere in Dolbeau on Sunday. At 5 hours apart most people would choose one or the other but for Bren Orton, Dane Jackson, Kalob Grady and myself this was more like a ‘Challenge Accepted’ situation to see if we could make it to both events and enjoy the legendary Nielson race party on Saturday night. So Friday night we paddled at Detonator the rallied the five hour drive in Dane’s Sprinter van. We made it to the river in time for two practice laps that morning, before racing in the afternoon. Now earlier I mentioned I swam during the race last year and all the Quebec Connection lads had not let me forget about it all year so I was itching to get redemption here. I had swum after a rowdy pin half way through the race course, and almost had a similar pin during the practice but luckily avoided it this time and after reviewing gopro of the run was feeling pretty good about the race. This one is a partners race where you work as a team to look out for each others safety as you go down the river. I had the same partner from last year, Kalob Grady and together we were able to pull off a smooth race run and scoot into third place with Emrick Blanchette and Charles Arsenault ahead of us in Second place and Bren Orton and Dane Jackson taking first place. That night we hit the party, attempted to speak french and generally had a good time. Kalob took the hit for the team and slept in the van until around 5am when we started driving back north. I took over driving at around 9am for the last hour of the drive and we arrived in Dolbeau ready for comp 2, Defi des Grandes Rivere.
Comp 2 was a freestyle throw down at Pillers wave, Ashuapmuchan river. This is a big wave that is backed up by a smaller wave and then a BIG hole, which is flanked by a medium sized hole which would probably look big if it wasn't positioned next to a huge hole. Through this event I mostly felt scared and intimidated. This was my first time paddling at this wave and right after my first ride I watched whitewater pro paddler Nouria Newman get absolutely beat in the smaller of the two holes and swim then loose her paddle. It didn't look fun. I paddled conservatively and not my best until I finally got pushed into the smaller hole myself. Luckily for me I was able to keep my cool, get in control and surf out but after that I decided to call it a day. During the second half of the day I saw a few more people go into the hole including Stakeout veteran Paul Palmer which ended in another swim. Overall I took 14th in this comp, my worst result of the year but still happy I put on and stoked to go back to both events next year. Thanks to Quebec Connection and Raft Quebec and all the individuals who made each event happen.
So a busy weekend followed by a long drive back to the Ottawa valley on Monday as Ruins wave is coming in this week and I have to work on the weekend anyway. Next week will probably be the last week of #TruckLifeTour. Hopefully it will be as fun as this week was. Stay up to date on Instagram @seth_ashworth
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