Gracing our February cover with three other amazing ladies is DBP Admin Caitlin Richard of Maine, representing the riverboarding discipline of whitewater runners. She’s a stone cold Class V bomber who will truly make you say “WOW!” I got the chance to ask her a few questions while watching her beloved New England Patriots pull off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history!!
“I’m 27 years old and have lived in Maine my whole life. I am also an identical twin. My Masters degree is in Occupational Therapy and I am currently the Assistant Site Director for two Special Purpose Private Day Treatment Schools for students with behavioral needs and all forms of autism. I am also a Tumbling instructor at our local dance studio, as well as teaching private tumbling lessons throughout the week. Although I am passionate about the work that I do, I am a strong believer that it is important to have a balance between work and personal life which in turn, allows you to be more mentally, emotionally, and physically present in whatever it is that you are doing at any given time.”
Here is a link to a video compilation of some of my first trips: Caitlin Richard From Maine to New Zealand
“I currently live in Millinocket, a small mountain town in northern Maine that is frequently referred to as “God’s Country” due to the endless outdoor opportunities, untouched forests, and the beautiful Mt. Katahdin home to the final stretch off the Appalachian Trail. The West branch of the Penobscot river lays at the base of Mt. Katahdin. The West branch is where I got my start and is and will always be my favorite river, the only Class V commercially run river in the state. We are lucky enough to have it run right through our back yard. I am on the river every free chance I get; before work, after work, on the weekends, and on my days off.”
“My goal for the year is to be open for any opportunity that presents itself for river boarding. I would like to continue to travel and experience new rivers and sections of whitewater, but I got my start here and my home river will always hold a special place in my heart. The West Branch has so many features. We have an amazing Class V run where you are submerged in the river surrounded by gorge walls that offer challenging features and test your abilities to read whitewater. We have a few areas on the river for park and play locations. My favorite park and play on the West Branch is a section called “3rd Drop”, a standalone wave that is great for surfing, trying new tricks on your board and having a party wave with your friends. I could hang out here all day, and the majority of the summer, our group of friends does. At any given time, you are bound to find someone at 3rd Drop whether it’s 7am or 9pm, it is a favorite to many of the locals. I even have a tattoo of its coordinates because it is always on my mind and it’s one of my all time favorite places to be.”
“What I love about whitewater is that it has a way of putting life into perspective when you are fully submerged in it. On a riverboard you tend to realize how small you are in comparison to the water that surrounds you. No matter how “comfortable” you can say you are in whitewater, it’s always important to have a healthy respect for it.”
DBP: Riverboarders are a rare sight on most of the rivers of the world, but I’ve seen them shredding it up, mostly on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia. Although they’re usually boys, the girls I’ve seen boarding have been absolutely awesome! Are you usually the only female on the river where you’ve gone?
CAITLIN: We are lucky to have a solid group with a handful of women riverboarders where I am from. I have a couple close friends I would trust running any section of the West Branch with on our riverboards. I always love when new girls stop by camp or see me up river and want to learn how to surf and try out our riverboards (Mike and I have quite a collection of riverboards). When I started riverboarding 6 years or so ago, there were only a couple women riverboarders in the area. As the years have gone, more rad women who also have a passion for whitewater are coming to the area and sharing the love for the West Branch and the surf waves it has to offer.
DBP: I’ve done some riverboarding myself, picking up a Rip Board back in 2007 in Golden, CO after a session on Clear Creek. Describe what it’s like to feel the power of a whitewater river at face level.
CAITLIN: It is a one of a kind experience. Water is so unpredictable and the more technical sections I run, I realize my ability to read features in the water is only one step of the process. The ability to stay calm under pressure, pace yourself, and react with the water is just as important in big water situations. Whitewater has a way of giving me a better understanding of what I am truly capable of while keeping my abilities in perspective. The adrenaline rush each run brings with it is what keeps me going back for more.
DBP: The niche sport of riverboarding, long popular in Australia, France, and Indonesia as a guided adventure much like rafting, is starting to really take off here in America. How did you and boyfriend Mike McVey (a DBP Admin as well, and a world renowned riverboarder) first get started?
CAITLIN: I’ve always joked that Mike is part fish, with a side to him that is willing to try anything new in whitewater. He loves a good challenge. I can’t speak for Mike on how he got his true start into riverboarding and his love for whitewater, as that happened long before I came into the picture. I can say that over the past 7 years he has built up my love for whitewater and my foundation for everything that I know regarding whitewater. In the beginning he started out teaching me about river features and how to read water. Every run, whether in our raft, Duo whitewater kayak, or riverboarding, he would quiz me on what each feature was and what it could possibly do to you if you were to be in the water and come across it. We spent many days walking up the side of the river, jumping in with full gear and swimming down through Class II, III, and IV sections of water and swimming through eddy lines. We started out slow and worked our way up to some longer sections. Mike stressed the importance to me on being able to stay calm in unpredictable situations, how to control your breathing and how to pierce through a strong eddy line, and what angle is needed with your board to be able to pierce through it. Swimming the rapids over and over with him gave me a better understanding of this. One of the most important things that helped me get my start with riverboarding was putting in the time on the water and always being up for another run, no matter what the weather was or what time it was.
DBP: It looks like you have a strong crew of boarders up in Maine. There’s a sweet photo of friends including DBP Admin Asaf Arad out for a play day on the River. What’s it like to party surf and see everyone out there smiling and having fun?
CAITLIN: Having a play day at a surf spot is one of my most favorite things to do on the river. Nothing beats having a solid group of friends surfing and hanging out on the water all day together. It’s always fun to get two or three riverboards out on the wave together and cross over each other back and forth or knee surf and high five mid surf. I love the days where we can stay for the day and see how long we can hold a high knee surf and play around with spin moves or partner tricks.
DBP: Speaking of Maine, what river is the best for a solid riverboarding mission, and why?
CAITLIN: The best river for a solid riverboarding mission in Maine is hands down the West Branch of the Penobscot River. You start out at the Dam, crossing through the discharge and straight into the Ripogenus Gorge to a Class V section. There are plenty of eddies along the way to eddy out and gather up. After the Gorge you have a Class II section, then it brings another section of Class V whitewater through the Crib Works, where you maze your way down to the end to a view of Katahdin. The West Branch has a road that runs alongside of it that allows you to run whichever section you want, while having a shuttle close by. Downriver offers more features such as “The Amberjacks” where 3rd Drop surf wave is located, along with some other fun Class II/III sections of water (also great for whitewater SUPing). Even further downriver is more fun, a Class II/IV section called Abol Falls, Little Pockwockamus and Big Pockwockamus. This section is most fun at high water as it brings big wave trains and that you can get air time on with your riverboard.
DBP: You’ve also traveled to New Zealand with Mike to send those amazing rivers. NZ is full of Dirtbags!! Tell us about this epic adventure and your favorite place to visit over there.
CAITLIN: I tell everyone who asks, if you have the opportunity to travel anywhere, New Zealand needs to be on your list! New Zealand is so diverse in its terrain, climate, and landforms. The rivers over there are beautiful with their jungle like surroundings and glacier blue water. A couple of my favorite places are the area of Hokatika on the South Island where I met some amazing people, and the Rotorua area where I have made lifelong friends and had many river missions. The Kaituna, Rangitikei, and Wairoa rivers are so beautiful and technical in their own way. The Hawea Whitewater Park was also a blast. We hit it with perfect timing when it had good flow coming through. My most favorite memory and adventure of New Zealand is at Tawhai Falls in Whakapapa, New Zealand. This is where I ran my first waterfall on my riverboard. The waterfall is reported at different heights from different geological sources. It ranges from 10-13 meters in height, depending on where you look. This created a new inner drive to push myself to do and try more on my river board and to be open to new whitewater experiences. I will say, I had a great safety crew that day and we spent a good amount of time scouting the lines to run the waterfall successfully. Here is a video of my first waterfall drop on my Anvil:
DBP: Gear time! What does a Riverboarder in Maine wear on a trip?
CAITLIN: For gear I have my pink Sweet Protection helmet, my Down Under life jacket made in New Zealand by Kathy Andrus, my Roxy ¾ wetsuit for cold weather and in warmer weather I wear my Roxy rash guard and Nike Pro spandex shorts. I use Alley fins, Darkfin boarding gloves and rock my Light Pink Fluid Anvil the majority of the time. I swear by my Anvil! A good pair of shin guards is needed for Class V adventures and a neck brace/back brace for waterfall drops. The body armor I use is Level 6 gear.
DBP: We see that the Fluid Anvil is your go-to board. Why is that?
CAITLIN: My Fluid Anvil is my go to board because it helps me feel safer in the water. The Anvil is strong enough to take hits from rocks and not break. I like the fact that when I feel a rock hit the front of my board, I have time to pull myself up onto the board so my legs don’t get hit too. The Anvil is solid. It provides me with a barrier to tuck my head down close to for drops and keeps my arms safe from any obstructions going downriver. The Anvil is so easy for me to straight surf, knee surf, surf on my back, and play around with in the river and on any wave. It is my go-to board choice. I’ve been playing around with the Kern board as well, which are great for bigger tricks.
DBP: WALLACE happens to everyone, whether they’re riding whitewater or taking it on at face level. Have you ever been scared riverboarding?
CAITLIN: I have had my fair share of moments being caught off guard or being scared while riverboarding. It’s all part of the process. I think it’s important to always have a healthy respect for whitewater. I’ve had a couple moment of thinking I am doing good by duck diving through a hole and pop up just to be sucked backwards back into the hole. That will really make you think under pressure! The edges on my Anvil are really great for dropping a side and spinning out of a hole. It has worked for me so far and I pray it will continue to work if I get presented with those situations again.
DBP: Caitlin, thanks so much for your time, and we all look forward to following along as you continue your adventures! Any last words of inspiration for the young ladies around the world who are reading this at home?
CAITLIN: For any lady looking to get into the sport of river boarding, always be open for new opportunities! Remember that everything takes time to learn, so hang in there and have fun! River boarding will open your life to a world of new opportunities and adventure. Always board with a good crew, be safe, know your limits, and have fun!! If anyone finds themselves looking to experience whitewater in Maine, please reach out and I would love to show you around!