Friday, September 4, 2015

A different Sacramento river

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."

Heraclitus said it so certainly and believed strongly in change in the universe.  I experienced universal change very clearly on this trip.  If you study the map, the 100 mile stretch of river I recently paddled is exactly the same route I've paddled in the past, but my experience this time was so much different.  Like looking out your window in different seasons to find the same view but in a different way, this Sacramento River looked different, it felt different & it flowed different although it was the same view.  Not better, not worse, just different.

I joined up with three other Rivers for Change board members and some knowledgeable advisors for an on-water meeting to discuss the future of the organization and how to get there.  It's a fantastic group of wise-minded individuals with vision who all happen to be in love with rivers.  So, as the noon hour approached on Saturday and we loaded our rafts, canoes and sups, I launched onto the river to experience it again for the first time.  18 miles downriver we pulled into an eddy, setup camp on an unnamed island and got to work.

By noon on Sunday after an evening and morning of discussions we all arrived into Balls Ferry, checkpoint one for the California 100 and a place familiar to me even though I've never approached it by water.  We shuttled the vehicles, said our goodbyes and then 7 of the 8 other people on the trip with me departed for home.  Danielle Katz and I were left with our boards, camp gear, a car 78 miles downriver and no agenda.  Off we went.

As we negotiated the current, worked on our strokes and discussed RFC we were tuned in to the sights and sounds of California's central valley.  The hum of water pumps pulling water for irrigation, the roar of large-scale industrial sized farming machinery stirring up dust, the screech of eagles circling their territory.  All new sounds to me as I had not heard them my first trip down this river.  We kept a mental list of our surroundings, from the bald eagles & osprey above to the river otter & fish below to the deer and landmarks on the shores.  We waved to the happy fishermen on the river and contemplated the unhappiness of the ones who didn't wave back.  We counted the broken down and pinned boats on the river, reminding us of how quickly things can go wrong.  We empathized with less experienced paddlers racing their way down the California 100 course and discussed the balance of safety & adventure.  While paddling river left I vaguely remember running the safe riffle river right the last time.  Just as sandbars at the beach move around, so do rivers and their flows.  This river is changing and it's wonderful to experience it as a different man.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Traveling SUP setup

I've been working on a system for SUP traveling for some years and at every step I've made changes to improve it.  My parameters are simple.  It needs to be 50 pounds or less, it needs to hold everything I need for a trip and it cannot include any unnecessary equipment.


  • The 14' Elite is hard to beat.  It continuously exceeds my expectations for performance & durability.  If I could own just one board, this would be it.  The only thing I've had to do is trim the battens, add deck attachments & repair the fin box. 
  • The Werner Nitro M is pretty great.  I do plan to shorten the two longer pieces by about 1" in order to make packing easier and more streamlined.  Right now, those are the longest pieces in my kit and are a bit too tall for the pack.  
  • The Seal Line 115L Pro Portage Pack is awesome.  It's well designed, well built and very comfortable with a 50lb load.  I am disappointed that I've worn two holes in the bag after just one flight, but I blame myself for bad packing.  Holes are easily repaired anywhere since the repair kit includes everything necessary to do the job quickly.  




Monday, July 13, 2015

canoe camping sup trip

On a recent canoe camping trip to a class I & II section of the St. Croix river in New Brunswick we brought along a Red Paddleboards 9'2" Surfstar for some added fun.  This was my first time traveling on water with an additional board, although it's the main reason I got this board in the first place.  Designed for surfing, it has enough volume and stability for flat-water use and does pretty well in whitewater.  Throughout the trip we used in on flat sections, for morning meditation sessions and to play in Little Falls, the biggest and longest rapid on our trip.  It was damn fun to have along and will definitely be joining me on future canoe trips.

packed and ready.  Notice the Surfstar in the Old Town Tripper.

Friday, July 10, 2015

ACA July Instructor of the month

I've been working hard in the paddle sports industry for 15 years.  In that time I've never considered it a career, although it has accounted for a large percentage of my income each year.  I've met many wonderful people through this sport including many of my best friends.  I've helped people achieve paddling goals and it's felt wonderful.  I've had paddlers injured under my watch and it's felt terrible. I've failed and succeeded.  I've won a couple races.  I've taken trips to incredibly beautiful places and pushed my paddling limits over and over.  I've guided.  I've coached.  I've managed events.  I've worked hard on my personal skills all these years.  I've been mentored.  But most importantly, I've learned. I've learned a great deal about myself and about others while working in this industry.

So, I'm honored to have been awarded the American Canoe Association July instructor of the month.  Kokatat sponsors the program and has graciously sent me a new PFD as a gift.  I'm proud of this award and of all the work I've contributed to the paddle sports industry.

ACA: What drew you to become an ACA certified instructor?

Palmariello: In 1999 I was finishing an internship in the ski industry and looking for a summer job on the coast. Without experience, I was positive I'd like sea kayaking so I bought some equipment, taught myself the basics and talked my way into a guiding job for the summer. I quickly realized how much I didn't know and sought out the best training I could find. That led me to the ACA. I was hooked after that first course and on a mission to become a competent well-rounded paddler. That summer job was the beginning of a new lifestyle and my introduction to the ACA and paddlesports.

ACA: Do you have any memorable trips, events, or stories that stand out as your ‘favorite paddling moment?’

Palmariello: One of my most exciting and most memorable padding experiences took place in 2013 when I entered a 100 mile river race in California. In a field of one hundred twenty paddlers, five of us accepted the 100 mile, 1 day challenge on standup paddleboards. I approached the race with the goal of finishing but just 25 miles into the race my competitive side took over. A paddling colleague, Michael, was clearly racing hard and took a lead over me by a few minutes. I chased him for a long time and thirty miles later I was only thirty seconds behind him. For another fifty miles we battled downriver within a minute of each other. In the end we finished that 100-mile race in 12 1/2 hours and just five minutes apart. The real enjoyment, however, came from the paddling community that embraced each other and the people I met that weekend. I bonded with Michael on the water that day and was so impressed with the camaraderie that I became involved with the non-profit group that runs the race.

ACA: Have you participated in any particularly meaningful paddling programs, outreach events, educational sessions, or projects?

Palmariello: From 2009 to 2014 I managed the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. Bringing an amazing community of paddlers together once a year to celebrate sea kayaking made me incredibly proud. Witnessing all those people paddling outside of their comfort zones and achieving success was very rewarding to me. More importantly, a diverse group of people with various backgrounds were making friends and memories on and off the water. I've met some of my best friends through paddling and it has been such a meaningful piece of my life.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Backpacking the BOLD Coast

About 15 years ago I spied some photos of the Cutler Coast and desired a visit ever since.  This area is part of the famed Bold Coast in Northern Maine and is an amazing representation of how beautiful it can be when untouched rocky coastline meets the sea.

Trish and I spent two days backpacking the trails in the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land and were treated to lush mossy forests, thin old trails above cliffs, a calm sea, miles upon miles of visibility and best yet, some solitude.  It was arguably one of the hardest and most strenuous short hikes I've ever done and fully worthy of its nickname and a visit.

The Bold Coast extends north to Quoddy Head and around the corner to Lubec, easternmost town in the United States.  Across the Bay of Fundy lies Grand Manan.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Settling in to the Maine way of life

I moved to Maine.

I never thought I'd live on the East Coast again, but things change and people do to.  Change is good and I'm embracing this one.

After a five-day cross-country drive listening to a Short History of Nearly Everything, sleeping in the backseat of my Subaru at truck stops with everything I own and toting 5 standup paddleboards and a bike on a trailer behind me I arrived in Maine only to find out I still had another hour and a half to go.  Trish surprised me by renting a cabin for the week on a little lake chain in central state.  I quickly unloaded my crap into a small storage unit, dropped the trailer and headed Northwest to Belgrade Lakes with bikes and sups for a week of unwinding on the lake.  Northwest?  Yes, Northwest.  I have to get used to that again.  If I'm looking north the ocean is to the East, not the West.  And I just spent the last ten years learning it the other way.  Whatever - by the end of the day I was paddling with loved ones and was off to a good start settling in to the Maine way of life.

In the next week I relaxed, read a book, visited family, got some mountain biking in and paddled just about everyday.  I canoe commuted to the market to pickup groceries for dinner and to the post office to mail some work.  I paddled in a downpour when I ventured too far across the lake (it rains here!).  I portaged Main street in order to explore another lake in the chain.  There is water everywhere and coming from a California drought, this is a huge treat.  I've renewed my love of canoeing and I'm excited to undertake some downeast adventure.

scouting some streams.  Site of a canoe poling competition.

dock life is the good life

mountain biking the Bigelow range

exploring Great Pond

freshwater & a borrowed canoe

training on Long Pond