Quinn Connell’s White Water Kayak Project – Part 5: Grand Canyon

In the Fall of 2013, Quinn Connell devised an Independent Study in Kayak Design using free courseware from an MIT Naval Architecture Graduate program. Quinn was able to combine his experience as a kayaker with his studies in fluid dynamics and design his dream white water kayak. He then approached Jamestown Distributors and asked to sponsor his project  in order to make his dream boat into a reality.
Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

I had just finished designing and building the boat of my dreams, so what better way to celebrate graduation than to take it down a 230 mile stretch of one of the most scenic waterways in North America

"...and set off for the grand canyon.  I had secured a spot on a trip that worked out perfectly between finishing school and starting work in Denver designing whitewater parks."

“set off for the grand canyon. I had secured a spot on a trip that worked out perfectly between finishing school and starting work in Denver designing whitewater parks.”

"Not a bad maiden voyage - Day 1 on the water, paddling into the canyon."

“Not a bad maiden voyage – Day 1 on the water, paddling into the canyon.”

"The Grand Canyon was an amazing place - I’m so fortunate to have been able to spend several weeks down in that little universe which feels entirely disconnected from the rest of the world."

The Grand Canyon was an amazing place – I’m so fortunate to have been able to spend several weeks down in that little universe which feels entirely disconnected from the rest of the world.

"Not to mention the great companyWe had four rafts and four kayaks on the trip, which provided a great platform for transporting gear, people, and enjoying the river."

Not to mention the great company. We had four rafts and four kayaks on the trip, which provided a great platform for transporting gear, people, and enjoying the river.

"The side hikes were truly amazing."

“The side hikes were truly amazing.”

We hitched a ride to lounge on the rafts through some of the flat water, and the scenery didn’t disappoint.

"We hitched a ride to lounge on the rafts through some of the flatwater."

"The scenery didn’t disappoint"

Neither did the whitewater:

"Neither did the whitewater."

Over the course of the trip she earned the name, “Pepper.” Not only does her dark hue with flecks of silver match the appearance of ground black pepper, but my decision to lean design towards performance over forgiveness meant that handling her got a little spicy at times.

"Here’s a shot of me dropping into Lava, the biggest rapid on the river at these levels. (Photo: Nina Frankel)"

After an amazing trip, I loaded her back onto the Subie and followed the Colorado River upstream, making my way to Denver; where I spent the summer paddling and designing whitewater parks. On a business trip up to Idaho, river levels looked right for a famed wave called the Lunch Counter to be in outside of Jackson, WY.  My boss, an avid surfer, suggested a slight detour after driving nearly all night. We were not disappointed.

"This was the wave I had designed this boat for - a large, green face allowed me to lock in those edges and tear around the wave.  The strong shoulder was perfect for launching aerial moves and a slight pile kept surfers retained - my dream wave in my dream boat on a gorgeous day.  I was in heaven."

Pepper in Action

Pepper performed exactly as I imagined she would; down to the last detail.  I could not be more pleased with the way she turned out.

"Taking flight like only carbon can."

“Taking flight like only carbon can.”

"Look ma, no hands!"

“Look ma, no hands!”

The beautiful weather brought out a crowd of spectators.  After totally blowing our schedule to get a few extra rides in, we had to leave the wave behind. This short session was a window into the bounds of her performance, as she remains true to the purity of her design – an uncompromising wave boat (as the rocks in Colorado have rudely reminded me a number of times throughout the summer).  Can’t wait to get her out on a big wave again.

"Quite the Crowd!"

Here’s a short video from our session – We didn’t get a ton of footage as we were crunched on time, but had a blast while we were there.  Enjoy!

I have been paddling Pepper on a regular basis now, and have been absolutely loving the boat.  I’ve used her in several competitions, and even got to take her out into the surf at my home break in Oregon.  She truly has lived up to my expectations and despite a nose job or two thanks to the rocks of Colorado, things have gone without a hiccup.

"My friend David putting her through the paces up in Idaho."

“My friend David putting her through the paces up in Idaho.”

Thanks again to Jamestown Distributors and their TotalBoat line – this stuff is top quality.  See you on the river!

-Quinn

 

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