On May 14, 2011, Brophy and Warren began their 16 day excursion at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, navigating more than 125 rapids, with 42 major rapids rated between 5 and 10g on the Grand Canyon scale of 1 to 10g. They standup paddleboarded about fourteen miles each day. Their expedition ended at Diamond Creek, Arizona. Adding to the challenge of riding over rapids on stand-up paddleboards was the unusually high river water level. According to experts, the Colorado River was running at its highest level in thirty years.
The most challenging rapids they encountered included the infamous Lava, Hermit, Granite and Crystal Rapids. By day eight of the trip, their time on the river allowed enough experience to become skilled enough to stick it to the end of most of the 6 or 7 class rapids. But any class higher than 7 often landed the paddleboarders into the 42 degree waters. Brophy says, “There’s just no easy button. It’s amazing, the power of that water.”
Lava Rapids was the most dangerous of all, with big water, big waves and ominous holes. From Brophy’s point of view, “The most difficult challenge was to pick your line so you wouldn’t get killed.”
Warren’s advanced whitewater skills combined with Brophy’s big wave surfing experience helped them through the larger, big water rapids. “We just pushed each other” Warren said.
The sport of standup paddleboarding has opened up an entirely new way to experience whitewater. "This sport is user-friendly enough that anyone can put into a river." Warren says.
But, warns Brophy, “Be prepared for this run. Take the right equipment.” Preparations include protection from the cold water temperatures, injuries and drowning. The two adventurers were fully outfitted by necessities such as life jackets, helmets and wetsuits.
“The future of whitewater is surfing big waves on the river. Standup paddleboarding is a natural progression in the sport. There are a lot of waves out there.” Warren said.
A life-long surfer, Brophy had never been through a river rapid in his life, until friend Seth Warren urged him to join him on this expedition. Just a few years earlier, Brophy had introduced Warren to his first paddleboarding experience at San Onofre State Beach, California. Warren was hooked, and took paddleboarding to where he feels at home, in the river.
Brophy’s entire life has been devoted to traveling and exploring ocean waves. Now, he says of his of his river experience, “This has opened up a whole new world for me.”
The trip was documented with Go Pro cameras and still cameras and is featured in LIFE IS GRAND, the last episode of the season of The Paint Shop TV show and can be viewed online at http://vimeo.com/
Sponsors of the trip included Kavu, Keen, Kokatat, Kialoa Paddles, Ocean and Earth, Hoven Vision and Patagonia.
More about Drew Brophy: Brophy has been a professional artist for over twenty years. An avid surfer and world traveler, Brophy exploded on the surf art scene in the late 1990’s with his wild surfboard paintings. He says of his profession; “It’s my job to make things look cool.” Brophy has over thirty active licensees and hundreds of collectors of his original works. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.drewbrophy.com.
More about Seth Warren: Seth Warren professionally kayaked for ten years before deciding to capture the world’s natural playground on film. In 2007, he directed the award winning film Oil + Water, which followed the longest-ever petroleum free road trip and, most recently, the film Nature Propelled. In addition to filmmaking, Warren travels North America in his veggie-fueled vehicle; Baby, teaching the public and youth about how live more sustainably. But most of the time, you'll likely find Warren out in the elements: skiing, surfing, kayaking, hand gliding, and practicing his most recent passion--paddle boarding. Contact http://www.elementstour.com/
(Hi-res images provided within 24-hours of request to email@example.com)