LEAF Festival

Win Tickets to LEAF Festival!

This weekend is one of our favorite weekend of the Spring – it’s LEAF time! LEAF Festival is an intergenerational family of 12,000 people that join together upon the beautiful Lake Eden in Black Mountain grounds to experience the power music, art and culture has to transform lives, strengthen community, and foster unity. LEAF Festival takes place on the site of the old Historic Black Mountain College with a stunning array of rolling hills, lakes, streams, and mountain beauty on hundreds of acres of comfortable camping grounds. LEAF scours the globe for artists, musicians, performers and facilitators that are not only masters of their craft, but who also care deeply for the power of arts education and family engagement.

LEAF Festival

WIN TICKETS!

We have 2 x Passes for Sunday May 13th to give away! Want to win them? Just tell us this simple question!

LEAF Tickets Sweepstakes!

A winner will be picked on Friday May 10th and sent the tickets via email.

Good luck!

Ocoee Race 2017 Recap

The 2017 Ocoee River Race, sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club, had over 130 racers this year.  This is a challenging downriver race, requiring  hundreds of small moves to stay in the fast water to make it down the 4+ mile Class III course. Team Bellyak represented with our own category and five racers this year.

How to Race the Ocoee

To post a fast time, it’s not so much about being fast in the rapids, as much as it is about having the smoothest line between the end of one rapid and the beginning of the next. Each rapid has multiple ways to run, with a fast ‘race line’ through every feature. Racers are released in one minute intervals to race against the clock.

Adam Masters getting ready to bellyak in the 2017 Ocoee Race

Men’s Hand Paddle Race

Adam Masters – creator of Bellyak – raced twice: first in the men’s kayak hand paddle division (racing on the bellyak Frequency), and then in the bellyak category (racing on a Play 35). Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

“Every year I’ve raced in men’s hand paddle (as that is the closest category to bellyak), and I like to pretend to hurt people’s feelings, or at least make them realize we aren’t messing around. I’m wearing webbed gloves, and they are using large plastic hand paddles. I won the category in 2012, and since then we’ve created our own category. For the past three years I’ve come in right behind the hand paddle master of the southeast, Keith Sprinkle. Plus, I just want to race bellyak in as many categories  as possible.

The Frequency is the fastest boat in the bellyak lineup, at 8’7″. The flip up skeg is designed to work in whitewater, and the Ocoee is a rocky, shallow river – a perfect place to put it to the test. The skeg allows the boat to stay on course in the squirrelly water between rapids, thus making it much more efficient to paddle quickly during the transitions.  After racing back-to-back with and without the skeg, I’m convinced of it’s effectiveness for going fast in whitewater.

My first run was clean with only a few mistakes, I spun out in the middle of Broken Nose by overshooting the race line, and then got stuck between a big raft trip in Double Suck that I didn’t get past until half a mile later at Double Trouble. The next part of the race are the doldrums – a half mile of flatwater where dreams are crushed, reasons for living are questioned, and you come face to face with the truth of how much you did or did not train for this type of output. For whitewater paddlers, flatwater is akin to uphill paddling. For the past year I have been swimming, mountain unicycling, running and paddling more regularly than any year prior, and I felt as strong as I ever have during the race.  I stayed fast all the way through to the end, and nailed the finish move at Powerhouse, which is deceptively tricky if you’re not prepared for where the finish line raft is.”

Adam finished in third place for Men’s Hand Paddle Kayak, with a time of 39:15.

The rest of Team Bellyak had start times  50 minutes after Adam (since he was the only one racing two categories). As soon as he was done with race lap number one and partially recovered from the lactic acid overdose and weird tracers he was seeing around everything, he jumped in the van and headed back to the top.

“I had strategically placed an ice cold Dr. Pepper in a glass bottle, along with some more traditional recovery foods like Skittles. Strategic soda and Skittles intake can be performance enhancing. There happened to be a car wreck on the two lane road back to the top, so I sat for nearly an hour blasting Rihanna on the half of a radio station that one gets in Copperhill, TN and cheering on the rest of Team Bellyak as they paddled by.”

Bellyak Category Race

There were five competitors in the bellyak category race – Adam Masters, Jamie MacLeod, Bill Wunderlich, Corey Topping and Sarah Neal. Adam and Jamie races on Play 35s, and the rest chose Play 45s. The race according to Adam:

“My second run was clean. I made no mistakes and stayed steady throughout the run. However, the absence of the skeg was very noticeable as I had to put substantially more energy to keep the boat on course. I was mildly delirious as the end of the run and grateful for all of Team Bellyak standing on the bridge above the finish line cheering for me!

For 2017, we decided to recognize ourselves and make our category as awesome as possible. Our prizemaster this year was Bill Wunderlich, who had assembled the best assortment of prizes for the Bellyak category.”

Results

First Place: Adam MastersPrize: Webbed belt, Aquaseal, two pound bag of ‘America’ Skittles, 24 Ounce engraved beer stein.

Time: 41:42

Second: Jamie MacLeod Prize: $50 PF Changs gift card, resealable bag of original Skittles

Time: 43:44

Third: Corey Topping Prize: Large spray bottle of Rain X, two pound bag of ‘America’ Skittles

Time: 49:01 (missed takeout raft, had to paddle back upstream)

Fourth: Sarah Neal Prize: $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card, two 12′ NRS Straps

Time: 49:02 (missed takeout raft, had to paddle back upstream)

Fifth: Bill Wunderlich Prize: ENO Twilights, 1986 Pro Tec Helmet, open bag of used skittles

Time: 51:02 (only his sixth trip ever down the Ocoee, and he will be in the medals next year)

 

Jamie MacLeod celebrating the Ocoee race

This sums up how we feel about racing the Ocoee, and shows Bill’s awesome helmet prize.

Team Bellyak at the Ocoee Race

We had the most fun! Especially that guy in the back.

H20 Dreams

Bellyak Rental Locations

So you’ve heard about bellyaking and want to give it a go? You can rent one for a day! North, South, East or West – there is a location for you. Even if you’re across the pond with our Fish and Chip loving friends. Perfect for trying out new rivers, treating family and friends visiting, or just trying it out before you walk away with your very own Frequency bellyak. You can find a full list of Bellyak Rental Locations HERE, and below are a couple of our new friends. Happy prone paddling!

Lake Junaluska

Lake Junaluska Rec Hut

Where the mountains meet the lake. If you’re in Western North Carolina, you literally can’t leave without paying a visit to Lake Junaluska. Not only are there amazing views, but a beautiful lake to hone your bellyaking skills on. For more info:

91 N Lakeshore Dr, Waynesville, NC 28785
(800) 222-4930

 

H20 Dreams

H20 Dreams

Enjoy a 5 hour beginner course on bellyaking (3 hours on the water). Are you new to moving water and want a fun, safe and exciting way to to get on the water and learn? Then Bellyak can take you there. Seasoned expert bored of the same old river? Bellyak will show you an entirely new perspective and challenge in a brand new way. Ages 6 and up! For more info:

435 E Main St, Saluda, NC 28773

(828) 767-7109

http://www.whitewaterdreams.com/product/fundamentals-of-river-running-for-bellyak/

Mike's Marine Supply

Mike’s Marine

For our Michigan friends, Mike’s Marine Supply is family owned and operated store offering great discounts on quality marine accessories and fun rentals on Lake St. Clair.

24910 Jefferson Ave, St Clair Shores, MI 48080
+1 586-778-3200

 

Saluda Outfitters

Saluda Outfitters

A local fave, Saluda Outfitters is super easy to find at 435 Main in Saluda at the intersection of Ozone Drive and Highway 176. Just look UP on the hill and you will find this treasure of a store at the top.

435 Main Street, Saluda, NC 28773
(828)848-4060
http://saludaoutfitters.com/

 

For a map of our bellyak rental locations, please explore below!

Bellyak racers at the finish

Bellyak World Championships – Race Recap

On May 27th Bellyak hosted the first annual “Race for a Cause” as part of the Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville NC. Race day brought water levels on the high side of perfect! The Class 1 river felt like it was moving faster than it was had it been lower.  After an ambiguous mass start, 13 racers completed the 1.5 mile sprint from French Broad Outfitters at Hominy Creek to Carrier Park.

Bellyak world championships

Race Recap

William Blakely represented the adaptive side of Team Bellyak, winning the adaptive category and coming in 9th overall. Eli Masters (nephew of the founder) won the kids division, and Dominic *surname unknown* took the overall win. Genuine plastic trophies were given, webbed high fives were shared all around, and $72 was raised for Our Voice. Our Voice is a local nonprofit in pursuit of a community free of sexual violence.
Bellyak crew
All in all, the best inaugural Bellyak World Championships we could have imagined!

Future Races!

ACA Lesson Series: Mastering Bellyak Basics

Bellyak 101: Mastering the Basics!

This blog lesson will focus on the very foundation of proper bellyaking: Proper body position and posture, forward and combination strokes, and learning to trust your secondary stability.

In the picture below, Jamie is demonstrating the proper posture for paddling: head up and engaging the core to form a powerful prone position. Many people ask…what about my face?? As you can see, there is quite a bit of bow in front of you, and your head position is far enough above the water to easily see where you are going and what is coming up ahead.

Proper Trim is when you are centered on the Bellyak, neither too far forward or too far back. We see a lot of first timers get too far forward on the Bellyak. This makes it very difficult to control, as you will just go in circles.

Too far Forward: Stern is too far out of water.

Too Far Back for Paddling…this is the position for surfing river waves.

We often see folks paddling too far back on the Bellyak who think that you have to kick…remember the Bellyak is ‘front wheel drive’ and made to glide through the water, therefore proper trim is crucial.

*In the more advanced skills, surfing river waves requires the rider shift their weight towards the back of the bellyak to be in a position as shown in the picture above. This will raise the bow and make it easier to surf. For general paddling, the neutral position, centered in the boat, is most effective.

*The handles are used to reposition  and are not for hanging on while going downstream.

The Forward Stroke:

The Forward stroke is the main driver for the Bellyak. The majority of the time you will be using an alternating, thumb down sweep stroke. Imagine if you were doing the breast stroke, and alternating arms. It’s more effective to paddle this way, as it reduces shoulder fatigue over doing a deeper, more crawl style stroke.

Reach forward, Thumb Down for the catch phase of the forward stroke

Alternating Thumb Down Sweep Stroke

 

Combination Strokes:

The unique thing about not having a paddle is that you can use two hands in the water at any given time, allowing maximum mobility. Most of the time you’ll be using a combination of strokes while paddling your bellyak. The most common one to practice is spinning in place using a combination of a forward stroke on one side and a reverse stroke on the other.

Left Hand Reverse, Right Hand Forward, Spin Left

Always remember to smile!

Secondary Stability: Learning to Trust your Edges

The bellyak was designed to have excellent secondary stability. What does that mean? It means when you lean left or right the boat will support you ‘on edge.’ This is a crucial skill for moving water, as your success will depend on how well you can ‘edge’ your boat in current.

 

Superwoman position: Learn to trust your edges

Front and Rear Rudder:

Now that you have the basic body position, the forward and combination strokes along with right/left lean you can start adding in rudder strokes to help keep you on course as you move forward.

Static Front Rudder

As you are moving forward, if the bellyak starts to drift off course, you can use your opposite hand to help it correct back to center. You place your hand forward just as if you were reaching to do a forward stroke but instead of being ‘thumb down’ it will be ‘thumb up’ as the picture shows. Practice this in flat water by generating some speed and as the boat glides practice combining the lean you learned above with a static rudder.

Always LOOK where you WANT to GO, not at what you want to avoid. True for life as well.

A great way to practice these skills is by playing games: racing your friends, playing bellyak ultimate frisbee, or just using natural features to create a slalom style course. The better your boat control in flatwater, the easier it will be to feel comfortable in moving water. If you’re having trouble, try SLOWING DOWN and really focusing on the GLIDE between strokes. We’ve seen too many people think they can muscle the bellyak around…but let’s face it, water always wins! Of the hundreds of people we’ve taught, women have HANDS DOWN mastered bellyaking quicker than men. Why is this? Perhaps the stereotype is true…women are just better listeners! So listen to what your boat is telling you, and pretty soon you’ll achieve what we all strive for: effortless mastery! (But first you have to put in the effort)

Is there a skill you would like to learn that you’ve seen us do on the Bellyak? Send us a message and we’ll create a blog to answer your questions!

Thank you to the American Canoe Association for providing the photos and supporting the development of the prone paddling curriculum. If you are not a member of the ACA, join today!