Thursday, March 1, 2012


Steve (featured here) asked me the hard question this week at a Spokane Whitewater Park meeting; "Are you going to do Hydrotherapy Sessions this year?" I had thought a bit about this question previously but had not forced myself to answer.

This event was started with the desire to build a stronger bond of community among Inland Northwest area playboaters by encouraging people to try new things, help people learn a few new moves and get out on the water at the same time. I can thankfully say that at some level or another I've seen all three of these results happen over the past few years thanks to HydroRX events. With a revolving group of personalities over five years of events (started in 2007), we have had scores of smiles in the water, and even more on the shore cheering. As I look back over the memories from each competition I can't help but smile with fondness.

Hydrotherapy Sessions will not continue in its current form for 2012. It is hard to say this, as the fondness and memories are hard to ignore.  The time for a change has come. Our event attendance has dwindled over the past two seasons primarily due to a lack of  event promotion (aka my fault). Looking at 2012 I don't have the internal drive to promote or organize these events. In 2010 and 2011 seasons I was incredibly grateful for the help of the other event leaders (Dustin, Steve, Dave, Chris, did I forget anyone?) but I can't ask them to continue if I'm not going to put the work into promoting the event series on the water, on the web, in print, and through numerous e-mails.

Hydrotherapy Sessions started before the foundation of World Kayak's Hometown Throwdowns which essentially mirrors the ethos of our local series  WK Throwdowns were a natural fit for our local event and were the primary sponsor for 2011 and an amazing partner (Thank you Colin Kemp). I hope that if anyone is disappointed to see this series end for 2012 that they get in touch with Steve Bailey and see how they can help re-start the fire under World Kayak.

2012 is going to be another great year of paddling in the Inland Northwest. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone out on the river this year as we thaw out and splash around a bit.

Events like this don't happen without allot of support. Our sponsors have been very generous (be sure to thank them with a purchase).   Our host the Spokane River has been kind with water flows and we could not be more grateful.  Most of all, my deepest thanks go out to the people who showed up, tried something new, learned a new move and smiled a bit in the process.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Steve Bailey in the Spokesman Review

August 6, 2011 in Washington Voices
Steve Christilaw

Aspiring kayakers can learn to enjoy what river offers

J. Rayniak photo

Spokane Valley kayaker Steve Bailey surfs the “Sullivan Hole” on the upper Spokane River, Mon. evening, August 1, 2011. The wave is a Spokane low water play spot for whitewater enthusiasts. J.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

“I think most of the people I grew up with were raised to fear the river,” said Bailey, an EMT and a lieutenant in the Spokane County Fire Department. “The water is deceptively fast, and if you don’t understand it, you learn to fear it.”

Steve Bailey grew up with a fear of the Spokane River and its deceptive mix of currents and eddies.

That changed when Bailey took up kayaking. For the past seven years he’s been a certified instructor, teaching others how to respect and enjoy the river.

This year, with most area rivers and streams running high, Bailey and his friends have enjoyed exceptional kayaking conditions on the river.

“If you know what you’re doing and if you have the necessary experience,” this has been a great spring and summer on the river, he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to kayak in some pretty incredible places – from New Zealand to Norway – and Spokane is unique in that some great kayaking is so accessible. You don’t have to drive a long way to get to good water.”

The people you read about getting into trouble on the river, he added, are people who don’t have that necessary equipment.

“You see folks go out and buy a secondhand kayak and go straight for the river,” Bailey explained. “You know, in a lot of ways a kayak is counterintuitive. If it feels like you need to go right, you probably should go left. If you think about it, a kayak’s most stable position when you’re in it is upside down. It’s not the kind of sport you can go off and learn on your own. You need instruction from a qualified teacher.”

The good news, he said, is that the amount of instruction needed to enjoy the stretch of the Spokane River that runs through Spokane Valley is only seven or eight hours.

“The first couple of hours of instruction for someone brand-new to the sport is done on still water – no current at all,” Bailey said. “You need to learn how to handle it, how to right it – you need to get a good feel for it.

“You get that under you and you can get out on some great sections of the river. The Spokane River is considered a Class 2 (rapids) and Class 3 river. The stretch through the Valley is pretty much all Class 2. The Class 3 stretch comes below Spokane Falls and includes the Bowl and Pitcher.”

Bailey was first introduced to the sport in 2002 and he’s been in love with it since.

“I was one of those types who didn’t really like taking classes,” he laughed. “Once I got some basic instruction I just headed to the water. I was fortunate to find a community that was very accepting of a new guy. People came up to me and introduced themselves. They kept an eye on me and helped me out when I got into trouble.

“I think that’s one of the great things about this sport. The people you meet all care about the sport, they care about the river and its environment and about protecting the sport.”

Bailey introduced his wife, Kristy, to kayaking and the couple spends as much time on the water as possible.

“I live along the river, so I’m out here all the time,” he said. “We have a 1-year-old son and he’s down by the river all the time, too. He wears his life jacket, of course. I wish more people could see just how beautiful the Spokane River is and what a magnificent resource it really is.”

Bailey supports the efforts to create the state’s first white-water park on the river below Spokane Falls – a joint effort between kayakers and the Friends of the Falls.

“It’s a long process, and since we want to make sure we protect the river at the same time, there are a lot of parts to the process that just have to take time to make sure they’re done properly. It was part of this process where we discovered red trout in the river, for example.

“The last thing we want to do is create a white-water area for recreation and upset habitat for any of the animal species that live along that section of the river. It’s been a long process and it’s going to take a while longer to make sure it’s done right.”

Kayaking is not an inexpensive sport to get into, Bailey said. A kayak for a serious enthusiast will run about $1,000. Quality paddles can run between $300 and $400. The right protective clothing for being in the river during, say, the month of February gets pricey as well.

“It’s not cheap, but you can do your research and try out a lot of equipment – in fact, that’s what I recommend to all of the people I teach,” he said. “The right kayak for you is a very personal thing, so I always recommend that people try out a lot of different types – and you can rent them all locally.”

It’s worth it – especially from the health standpoint, he said.

“You wouldn’t think it from just watching from the shore, but you get a pretty incredible leg workout when you’re paddling a kayak,” Bailey said. “You’re always using your legs to counter what you do with your arms. You get a great workout for your arms while you paddle, of course. But it’s a great workout for your back and abs.

“If you stop and think about it, it’s a lot like sitting on an exercise ball for a couple hours with your legs up and working your arms. After a couple hours of paddling, I’m pretty tired. But it’s a good tired.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wicked Good Event!!!

Two days after the longest day of the year (Summer solstice) over 25 people helped make the last scheduled hydrotherapy Session a raging success. Corbin Park was at prime flows (19300) giving up some of the best the wave had to offer. With a heap of paddlers and a great spectator crowd we all learned something at this Hometown Throwdown (sponsored by

We had three rounds during the evening each challenging the competitors in a unique way.

The First round was a backsurf contest. You cannot back blunt, back Pan Am or even mcNasty well until your backsurf is dialed. Competitors were timed on how long they could keep their stern upstream.
  1. Brian J
  2. Jarrod
  3. Dillon & Nick tied
  4. Daniel & Brady tied
The Second round was a spin competition. Given 10 minutes to do as many spins, in any direction, in as many rides as they need. It started as a bit of a scrap fest as everyone hustled to get onto the wave and threw elbows to get there. We calmed the event down a touch by giving each surfer as much time on the wave as they needed, there was still clearly some cutting in the eddy.

  1. Brian J
  2. Daniel S
  3. Jarrod
The Final round was truly anyone's game. we had another 10 minutes to get the best retro style thrown down on the wave. The crowd was awed by long front surfs, enders, paddle twirls, guitar playing and the classic shudder rudder.
  1. Dillon H
  2. Jarrod
  3. Nick S
From the night we came away with some overall winners:

  • Longest Ride Award: Dillon H
  • Best Mystery Move: Nick S
  • Overall Winner (aka most improved): Brady H

Congratulations to all of our participants, especially Brady for taking on the Corbin Whirlpools like a pro!

Due to time out of the area I don't have any more events on the books but I'm guessing based on water flows that we will re-start the series in late July early August for some classic Sullivan Hole Surfing! Keep your eyes on this blog,, IE Whitewater Group or Facebook Spokane Whitewater Group. Note: If you want these to continue be sure to thank all of the sponsors who helped keep the event full of great awards! Snap Dragon Designs, NRS, Jackson Kayak, Smith Optics, Super Feet, Kokatat, Immersion Research, Astral Buoyancy, Chaco, Mountain Goat Outfitters and Mountain Gear.

Thank you to Steve Bailey, our Spokane World Kayak Ambassador and Chris Hoffer for serving as judges while I kept records and the peace between them.

Thank You to Westbound Studio's for covering the event and taking photos so I did not feel bad about forgetting my camera. See their work from the evening.

Special thanks to Dave Turner & Lauren Deland for an amazing evening PB&J sunset surf. I really needed that!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Corbin Park

That's the call say's Dave Turner. Now that we sent Erin and Jud off to world's in Plattling Germany we can relax about playing around in holes. So for Thursday we get to Surf one of the Classic's: Corbin Park Wave! Excelent Spectator location with great evening sun its sure to be a good time!

Where: Corbin Park Wave (Check out the MAP for details)
When: 5:30pm or as soon as everyone is in the water and Dustin is smiling
Why: Free Prizes & lots of fun with friends
What: Playboating that will push all of us to learn!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 9th Session

This weeks session was small but fun. There was more spinning than Hippy Concert, some flipping and a little bit of sticking in holes.

Thanks to those who showed up, see you and 30 more friends at the next session.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thursday Surf off!

Dustin Semb has come to the rescue and is going to Get the Spokane River Hometown Throwdown going for Thursday Night! I've got a conflict and am not going to be able to make it unless the workplace intervenes. Either way Dustin will be out at Dead Dog on Thursday making sure that the Hometown Throwdown is as good as it has ever been!

Where: Dead Dog Hole (Park on the North Bank)
When: 5:30pm or as soon as everyone is in the water and Dustin is smiling
Why: Free Prizes & lots of fun with friends
What: Playboating that will push all of us to learn!

Sunday, June 5, 2011