THROWBACK THURSDAY & DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE PRESENTS: Spotlight on anOriginal Dirtbaggin’ Craft ~ THE CANOE. By Chicago Toughill, TravisOverstreet II, Cornelia Horch, Alex Vargas, Taz Riggs, and WesBreitenbach.

{EDITOR’S NOTE: After months of doing this series as a feature about PEOPLE who helped shape our community, this month we’ve elected to focus on a BOAT, the Canoe. We’ve invited a different guest to write each chapter, each person coming from a vastly different perspective on this boat and it’s history and future. We hope this collage of stories will enhance the understanding of our readers, and get us thinking about community and canoes in general. Cheers!}
“Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing.” Henry David Thoreau 

Part One: The Quintessential American boat ~ Chicago Toughill 
If you’re a paddler in The United States whose first experience on the water came in the last century, chances are your first trip was in a canoe. The only truly American boat, natives paddled these agile crafts all over both continents of our hemisphere before sharing that design with the rest of the world. Back when I was a kid, EVERYONE went canoeing. It was the most popular boat in sporting goods stores. It handled great on open expanses of lakes as well as taking on the simpler rapids that were mostly run in that era. Canoeing is how America paddled.
My first trip was in an old canoe with friends on the Fox River. It ended like any good beginner adventure with a dump and gear rescue. I hadn’t been exposed to true whitewater paddling up close, so this was my absolute introduction to paddling. And it was awesome! My passion for escaping on the water waxed and wained until I discovered rafting and the rest is history. My friends and I would rent or borrow canoes for swift creeks and local rivers, going two or three times a year. Since then, I’ve flirted with adding a canoe to my fleet a few times, sometimes thinking about hooking up an old 16 footer, occasionally sitting in a whitewater boat and daydreaming of affording it. I enjoy watching my friends who paddle them style their lines whenever I get the rare chance to paddle WITH an open boater. I haven’t even thought about those old formative days from 20 years ago in ages. 
The boat itself deserves trumpeting. No boat says America quite like it. To canoe is to style balance. You are connected with centuries of brotherhood. I feel that modern open boating has pushed the frontiers of what is possible as well, with growth and improvement in shapes and materials. I think that the role canoeing plays in building family paddling skills is also very important. What follows are viewpoints from various angles of canoeing to tell a story about our love… Our time spent canoeing. Enjoy! 
{Now we bring you the story of one open boater who crosses the lines between old school and new, and sends gripping East Coast Class V with little fanfare and perfect modesty. Well known in the tight knit hardcore eastern whitewater canoe community, it’s the one and only Krazy C Boater, Travis Overstreet II. Cheers!}

Part Two: From Old School to New School ~ Travis Overstreet II.
Hello, my name is Travis Overstreet II and I’m a whitewater addict.  I have a little tale for you about my life thus far.  I guess I’d have to start with my father, Travis Overstreet Sr., who first began paddling around ’74ish.  Back then we had styrofoam and inner tubes for floatation, hockey helmets, the classic and always sexy ‘ribbed’ PFDs and of course you can’t forget about the always stylish cutoff daisy duke jean shorts, (really caught the ladies’ eye I guess).  My father progressed rather quickly with his paddling ability and then started teaching others his skills in ’78.  My mother, Louise Whitfield, was always there in her fiberglass kayak.  Having parents in the whitewater world was more than I could ever wish for.  I was born in ’76 and this is my life and tale as I was raised an old school open boater.  
I found my calling at age 4 when I rode in my father’s 16 foot Blue Hole OCA for the first time. I knew deep down I was lucky.  Whitewater has filled my soul ever since.  I rode with my father till I was 7; listening, watching, throwing rocks, and being a kid. I was growing up on the river and it was amazing!  I had picked up a few strokes and knew when to make them.  Well, in the middle of Balcony Falls, I decided to make the correct stroke at the right time….my father wasn’t ready for this….and we almost flipped.  So that is when my father decided it was time for me to solo.  
From ages 7 to 9, I enjoyed many weekends on the water, from fishing to whitewater.  At age 8, I ran Nantahala Falls for the first time, and not sure but I believe I still hold the record for the youngest open boater to paddle Nanty Falls.  I tried a little double blading but always came back to my roots, single blading.  
At age 11, the Perception Gyra Max was introduced and my father had to have one.  I remember that summer I tried his for the first time.  Well, he ended up having to get another one because I wouldn’t let him have his back.  C-boating was all the fun of an open boat without dumping.  I thought, “This is great”.  Then at 12, I was wide open running the New River Gorge almost every weekend and life was perfect, or so I thought.  ‘Slalom and Wildwater racing, what is this?’ I thought.  So off I ventured into the realm of professional racing.  Raced here and there, even tried a little bit of Rodeo also, (contests for doing tricks just starting out and were still new to the scene) and did okay I guess.  I learned a massive amount of boat control and reading the currents both on top and below the water.  Two of my instructors before the Jr. Nationals in ’88 were Jon Lugbill and David Hearn, (old school and all around great men), who through their instruction helped me earn 2nd in Wildwater. 
Yep, it was getting better and boating consumed my soul.  I paddled everything from Chattooga Sect IV to Upper and Lower Gauley, and numerous creeks in our local area.  I started instructing through the Boy Scouts in ‘87 with troops and at summer camp.  The only time up until ‘96 that I took a break was in ‘90 when I almost burned out.  I took a year off and got into wrestling and other sports.  I also was a very avid climber, but that’s a whole other story.  From ’96 to 2000 I served active duty in the Marine Corps, so not too much side time for boating.  Once I got out I moved to Richmond, VA which has the James River downtown. Such a classic river, from high water big lines to low water splatting, it has it all.  I would say I kind of made up for my little break, paddling roughly 3 to 4 times a week…..for about 4 years straight.  Oh yeah, I was back and the river and I, well, we missed each other immensely.  In ’05, I married my wife and moved back home.  Then I entered into this amazing other part of whitewater called ‘Creeking’ and this is where I still am today.  
A year ago I was invited to be a team member of Fall Line Canoes with Shawn Alexander at the helm and am enjoying it fully.  Great guys and gals who are firing up some amazing stouts, single blade style.  I also enjoy making paddling videos just for fun and still love to do it today.  I even came up with a name “Local Yocal Productions”.   Ya, I’m cheesy, who cares.  I mostly paddle in the Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland and wherever I can go.   You know we have some good stouts right around Virginia, so life is GREAT.  
Now I’m entering another world of whitewater paddling that has pulled me even deeper into the world of our beloved lifestyle…..FAMILY on the river.  YES life IS GOOD.  My son, now 8, has been paddling a kayak since he was 6.  Both he and my daughter were on the river in a canoe when they were 2 years old.  Through their eyes I have learned that it doesn’t matter what kind of boat you paddle or if you paddle class I or V.  What does matter is that you are having fun and enjoying those sacred moments.  
I have a saying that resonates in my heart, “In the middle of a rapid, nothing else exists”, and it is so true.  For those seconds, life is just about you, the water, and freedom. Share the love with others and bring them into our world but do this in a respectful and safe manner.  Always remember, “When in doubt, Boof it out”.  See you on the river.
The Overstreets gone Paddlin’
{Now let’s introduce you to DBP Admin Cornelia Horch, an openboat aficionado from Germany. Her story mirrors many others around the world, both in how whitewater paddlers find themselves fitting into the exclusive club of canoeing, and the journey from tandem to solo boating that couples go through. As you can see, her whole clan is now taking to the River. Cheers!}

Part Three: Going from Tandem to Solo Open Boating, in the heart of Europe ~ Cornelia Horch
It was a snowy, cold evening sometime in November when Hubby said , “I bought a boat, we will go paddling soon.” Yeah, right… you mean with me? Always freezing, always hating the water?
And that´s when the story started, the story of one out of only a handful of female whitewater paddlers in Germany …
Just like many other couples before, we started out doing a canoe course in our new 17ft Old Town Trip at a local paddling club. It somehow took me awhile to realize that out of 300 members only a single one was actually paddling an open canoe. Of course, he didn´t tell us right away. 🙂 Well, when everybody introduced him or herself at the beginner’s course, I was the one saying, “sorry guys, I actually don´t want to be here. I was dragged here by my husband who bought a freaking boring boat!” How was I to know that my attitude should change so dramatically…
Anyhow, I survived the course and as long as the sun was shining and the weather was hot, I had quite a fun time. We took the boat out several times by ourselves after that, spending some quality family time with 3 kids and the dog on a nice river with easy current nearby and managed somehow to not getting into more serious arguments about who should be in charge when boating tandem…
Next year came and so did the advanced course. It was cold, it was rainy and I got to meet every single fish on the river by name. We had a hard time because we still couldn´t decide how to paddle in the same direction at the same time. When getting on our first “real” whitewater soon after, I almost quit. We swam so often in this freaking ice-cold water in the middle of the Alps that I even got to experience a nice form of hypothermia.
This was when I decided to go solo… – and I haven´t regretted it so far!  🙂
Disappointed as I was, I wanted to get a real short boat, so a Robson Homes found a new home in our garage. I didn´t care at that time that it was one of the tippiest and hardest to handle canoes for a beginner – all I could think of was that it should be possible to stay in a boat while catching an eddie without swimming every single time. It was kind of a shaky relationship but we got aquainted with each other step by step.
Hubby didn´t want to stick back so we expanded the fleet with a Mad River Outrage which was soon to be replaced by an Esquif Nitro for him.
Suddenly, both of us were on speaking terms again on the river – what a joy!
Neither of us would have believed though that from that moment on we would spend our money on boats instead of retirement precaution… And it should get worse! 
Facebook now has its influence all over – for me it was the point when I got to know Jeremy and Blackfly Canoes: believe it or not, he got a boat which was even shorter than my Homes: the Blackfly ION – and I wanted it!
So the first PE Canoe made it to our home and sent me on “harder” rivers, trying out new things and setting me loose!  🙂
Needless to say that only a few months later I “needed” an Octane85 – by far the best boat I’ve ever seen. I still smile when listening to kayakers talk about trying out boats before buying them. It´s funny because I never did that when getting a new boat – I always decided what I wanted first and then learned how to handle it afterwards. #addictedtoambition, I guess…
One thing led to another and soon I found myself attending (unfortunately only the last days of) ALF and meeting some great openboaters I had only known over the internet so far. ALF also let me experience a few interesting rivers in the USA and set the foundation of wonderful friendships (strangely enough, even with an openboater from Germany 🙂 ).
We do have a similar yearly meeting of open boating here in Europe, the ECBA (European C-Boat Armada) – embarrasing to mention that I haven´t been there yet.
But there´s so much else to see and paddle! Living in the middle of Europe has only one disadvantage: it takes at least 2 hours to get to a river with decent whitewater. This might be nothing by American/Canadian standards – for us it´s a long way… 😉
But I found an alternative when work or kids keep me from taking too much time off: I started playboating! And yes, these boats are even smaller…
BTW: the second generation is on its way! #boofkids
So y’all be safe out there – and whenever you find your way over the big pond: let´s go boating together!
Regarding the pictures: yes, there is a Robson Homes in black as well as one in white…
It´s just like with shoes, sometimes you simply need the same boat in different colors! 
{Next we bring you the musings of a dirtbag of humble beginnings who is now on the cutting edge of whitewater canoeing, pushing the envelope above and beyond what was ever envisioned as possible many years ago when our forefathers started paddling modern canoes. This man will send big drops and run Class V with the best. Here’s Alex Vargas of Blackfly Canoes. Cheers!}

Part Four: Looking Back from the Cutting Edge ~ Alex Vargas
Greetings. I’m Alex Vargas. I’m a paddler, traveler and a dreamer.  
I don’t have many childhood paddling stories. My parents didn’t paddle. No one around me knew what whitewater was. I was just another Latino kid growing up in central California.  When I turned 18, I was given the option to move to Tennessee to live with my father.   I knew that I wouldn’t have much of a future in Porterville, the small town I was raised in. So I jumped on a Greyhound and headed east to a new city in a state I’d never even heard of – Lenoir City, TN.  
I was pretty quiet and kept to myself when I first arrived. In my spare time I would hang out at the Mexican restaurant my father worked at. I quickly made friends with the bartender and life seemed normal.  One day while hanging at the restaurant, I met this guy they called Louie. He told me about how he an his friends (Jeff and Dan) would go up to the mountains every weekend. He didn’t hesitate to invite me and I quickly accepted his invitation to ride up there with him. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d just gotten talked into being a shuttle bunny. Anyhow, I started tagging along every weekend. I would run up and down the banks taking pictures of my new friends and running shuttle. These guys were taking canoes down the river. I’d never heard of this before. It was cool and exciting. Before long, I found myself wanting to try this canoe thing for myself. With the help of Louie, Jeff, and Dan, this became possible.  It wasn’t pretty or graceful at first, but I was doing it. I was canoeing. 
Ten years later, and I’m still here. Still jumping in the truck every weekend. Still canoeing down new rivers. Except things have changed a little. I don’t really lean on my old friends to take me down the river anymore.  I got my own truck, my own gear, my own boat. It’s all I need.  
These days I spend my time traveling, teaching, competing, and paddling.  I’m based out of OAR, a raft outpost on the Ocoee. I keep a demo fleet of Blackfly canoes there and I live in a shack down by the river. It’s where you’ll find me when I’m not on the road at some river festival.   
I feel like I’m at the forefront of a whitewater revolution. It’s a very exciting time for Canoeing.  New materials and new designs have paved the way and opened doors for new horizons and a new style of paddling.  The amount of cool stuff that you can do in a canoe these days still amazes me. Big tricks, big drops, boofs, splats, rock spins. It’s too much fun.  I’m constantly trying new things and pushing myself and my gear. Whether it’s on the Nantahala or the Green Narrows, I’m constantly training. Going faster. Going bigger. Being cleaner and more graceful.   
I think Canoeing as a sport will keep growing and evolving. There are enough people out there that are passionate enough about it to never let it die. Not that it is or ever was.  There is enough interest in it that it’s worthwhile for canoe companies to keep investing on new ideas, designs and materials. 
I’ve had the pleasure of growing as a paddler amongst an awesome whitewater community, and 
I enjoy what I do. I enjoy pushing my friends to be better and helping those around me.  The paddling community as a whole is amazing and supportive, regardless of who you are and what you paddle. 
When I’m out running difficult whitewater, I’m in the moment. I’m not thinking about anything else. It’s just me, my boat and the next rapid. I peel out of the eddy, square up on my line, charge and eddy out. Just like that. Give the next rapid some consideration and repeat. 
I do a lot of dumb shit in my boat but I’m still pretty conservative. I don’t have to run every river. Every rapid. Every waterfall. I take my time and savor the moment. There’s no need to chase glory, or give in to peer pressure. I do what I want because it’s fun. Because I enjoy it.
There is something beautiful about being on a river with steep canyon walls, rhododendron, wildflowers, and whitewater. Nothing else in the world has humbled me and taught me to appreciate nature the way whitewater has.
Footy of Alex and friends from this year’s Colorado Kanu Fest

{In this final chapter we deliver to you the musings of DBP Admin and Mag Editor Taz Riggs, a lifelong dirtbag in his 30th season on The River. Enjoy!}

Why Canoe? ~ Taz Riggs 
Why do I canoe versus kayak? 
First, I don’t think it was a conscious choice. It just kinda happened that way. For me, it’s sort of a chicken or the egg kind of story. Or, maybe, the paddle or the boat. In order to address this question, I had to do a little research. This requires moving some dusty cobwebs and untangling a few memories from the recesses of my mind. Ready? Here we go.
I might have been about seven or eight the first time I remember getting into a canoe. My dad took me out on a lake one evening while visiting some family friends. I don’t have a complete memory of it and I probably had no effect on the paddle or boat. I do remember lights flickering off the water and the canopy of stars, thicker than the view from home. I also remember learning about at least one piece of canoe nomenclature; the gunnel. As we pulled up alongside the dock, Dad steadied the boat and said, “Don’t step on the gunnel, when you get out.” Now, I had never heard the word before, but I instantly figured what it might be and decided to test my theory… never mind, maybe that wasn’t the best place to start. Dad never got in a canoe with me again.
A couple years later he did get in a john fisher with me and taught me how to move the boat around without a motor or oars. Yep, using a paddle. First, he taught me how to use a sculling stroke. Pretty soon I could pull the boat around the lake, moving the paddle like a fish tail spreading peanut butter. He also taught me what he called an Indian stroke. A forward stroke with a little bit of correction on the end. I never did it very smoothly; I understood the concept, but continued to drag myself around the lake with a sticky fish tail. Years later, I realized the basic components again as a J-stroke. The two became one.
In my teens my mom was one of the coolest ones around. The things she did for me and my friends would amaze me sometimes. (I won’t mention the keg party at 16, they might dig her up and burn her again.) One summer she bought a 10′ military surplus survival raft and two paddles. Then she says that my best friend and I should go and float a part of the Chattahoochee River just north of Atlanta. It was quite an adventure that lasted till way after dark, when Mom showed up just after us at the meeting place, below the Highway 400 bridge. During that day I discovered that I could make the boat go forward in a more or less straight line by using a combination of the strokes Dad taught me. Thus, without switching my paddle side I could avoid dribbling water into the floor of the boat every time I crossed my paddle from one side to the other. There weren’t any rapids to speak of, just some class II shoals at best, but this was a solid step in a semi-logical progression.
The next step may have been The Great Atlanta Raft Race. For anybody that can remember any part of this record breaker for Guinness Book, it was billed as the largest single participation sporting event at that time. Sporting event? It was a floating party. So much for the competitive edge on the sport.
A few years into the adult workforce I found myself working as a restaurant manager in a racket and health club, a good bit more healthy than a high powered career as a bartender in a Disco Tech. One of the perks of the job was being able to use the facilities as a sort of second class member of the club. I got pretty good at racket-ball and had a pretty good circle of partners to play with or against. One of those guys who was a regular on the court and the bar asked if I might want to do some whitewater with him and some friends. We didn’t discuss details much and it didn’t matter much as I was ready for an adventure to get me out of town for a change. There were seven of us total. The guy who invited me paddled a Blue Hole OC-A. A mutual friend paddled a kayak. The other five of us would crew a raft together. Somehow it was decided that I had the most experience and was summarily elected captain.
The river that had been chosen was the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River. The stretch of water was all of section III, from Earl’s Ford to the Highway 76 bridge. The raft understandably had it’s moments. The water was not high, I remember 1.3′ being the level on the gauge that day. Just the same, and by no means a complaint, it seemed like my two friends in their hard boats had a good time and could go where ever they wanted with no-one else to blame but themselves for any mistakes made.
Getting close to dark, the kayak and the raft opted to portage Bull Sluice rapid. In the twilight we watched our friend in his big old canoe flawlessly run the Double-drops, leaving me with the inspiration to do the same someday.
If I was going to do something, I was going to do it completely. I didn’t want to waste time piddling and dreaming of the day I could do that. I wanted to learn how, how to do it right. My friend recommended a reputable outfitter that could teach me the skills that I needed, and after a couple more rafting adventures I was about ready to leave the raft behind and do it for myself. In mid summer I scheduled a beginner canoe clinic, and by chance I found myself back on the Chattooga again for two of the five days of the course. My instructors allowed me the option to paddle several rapids that they strongly encouraged the others to portage. I didn’t realize what a big deal that was until I became an instructor myself. I even ran Class IV, Bull Sluice that week. The boat was full of water and I was jacked on adrenaline when I came barreling into the eddy below.
One phrase kept going through my head whenever I thought of my instructors, “They’re getting paid to do this.” When I talked to them about getting a job there their response was kind of a matter of fact “sure, why not.” I was never sure if they were just being nice, but like stepping on that gunnel there was one sure way to find out. I applied for a job.
When I arrived I didn’t yet own a boat of my own. I figured I could borrow a boat now and then until I could afford to by one of my own. In the meantime though, I figured I could afford a paddle. I assumed a paddle was a more personal item than a boat and I should have one of my own. So, I bought a finely crafted canoe paddle from a local craftsman, as a sort of commitment to what I wanted to do.
The best buy for a boat was a local product as well. It was a lot of work to lug around an open canoe and to bail or dump after a good rapid, so I thought the best compromise was a decked canoe made by Noah Boats. I had to install my own thigh strap anchors into the fiberglass boat, cut, fit and install foam walls to support the deck and make my own spray skirt from neoprene material, bungee cord and a whole bunch of glue (whoopee!). Now, let’s see if I can roll. Fortunately, two line drawings and a winter of flopping around on the living room floor with my eyes rolled into the back of my head imagining an upside down boat on top of me, paid off. The lake was not a challenge. So, I promptly advanced to the river and began wet exit training. A couple days later my moving water water roll appeared and there was nowhere to go but forward.
I sold that boat to fund my winter that year, with the hope of replacing it in the spring. I kept the paddle. When I was asked the next spring why I didn’t buy a kayak my answer seemed rather economical as much as anything else. “I already own a paddle and a skirt.”
For me the paddle was there first.
The Preschooler
{DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE Co-Editor Wes Breitenbach wraps up this Spotlight with some dirtbag perspective.}

I find the history of things to be critical for advancements to take place. For it is in this knowledge that we are able to learn, from both mistakes and things done well, more often the former. The link between past and future should never be broken. Some may be forgotten but the fact remains that in order to progress we must learn from our previous actions and experiences. 
This is so prevalent in the world of whitewater. Many people have gone before us in crude crafts, exploring the possibilities that no one else dared, seeking out new ways to run rivers while honing their skills in an art that was developing as they progressed. This is no more true than with the canoe. Dating back as far as 5300 BC, and maybe earlier, the canoe has taken humans to places never before accessible. It has provided a base for adventure unlike any other form of transportation. It has secured a place not only in the history of the Americas but in the history of mankind itself. In all the forms it has taken over thousands of years, its basic design has remained the same. Advancements in materials have progressed the canoe from a beast of burden to a beast of whitewater. If you have never paddled with or near one of these crafts you are missing an experience.
I have had the opportunity to paddle a modern day whitewater canoe once and I can best describe it as this; you have to really want to do it! It is unlike anything else. The whitewater canoe is by far the most technical and awkward thing I have every tried paddling. And to roll, let’s just say you have to more than want to do it. You just don’t hop in a boat and think you might stand a chance. You have to be patient, alert, know primary, secondary and I would go as far as tertiary stability before even thinking about running a riffle in one.  
Canoes have been through everything that can be run, with style and fineness. It is not easy to look good in one of these things either. So as I read the stories from contributors around the globe I picture the struggles that must have taken place in order to achieve a level of comfort and confidence in such a boat. I respect their desire to commit to a craft that has such a rich history of tradition so ingrained in our culture, to paddle something not because it is easy, but because it is hard. You can always look to the youth to get a glimpse of what is to come and as far as I see the canoe isn’t going anywhere but to the next stout run!
Thank you to all who shared their stories and who keep this most ancient of traditions alive. Thanks to the ones out there with the intestinal fortitude to push the limits of what others think can be done. For without the drive and determination of the few this humble boat might have slipped into the history books with very little to tell.  

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