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Sun., Aug. 30
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Black River at flood stage elevates playing field for pro kayakers (VIDEO)


WATERTOWN — High flows in the Black River these past few days attracted world-class thrill-seekers to the surf wave in front of Maggie’s on the River, 500 Newell St.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Nick Troutman, 25, of Rock Island, Tenn., said Friday with his back to a roaring river with tree branches, logs and tires rushing downstream.

Kayaking in the 41-degree water poses its own risks and challenges — namely hypothermia. And while dry suits help keep the cold water out, they do little to protect kayakers from floating debris.

But that didn’t stop this group of nomad kayakers from surfing in the “Hole Brothers” for eight hours Thursday.

Mr. Troutman and three other professional whitewater kayakers — Dane Jackson, 20, also of Rock Island; Kalob Grady, 19, LaPasse, Ontario; and Bren Orton, 19, from Liverpool,England — were gearing up Friday morning for a few more runs before hitting the road for Ottawa that afternoon.

The wave was foamier that day than it had been the day before, Mr. Jackson said, making it a little more difficult to pull off tricks.

The Black River was flowing at about 33,000 cubic feet per second, quite a bit slower than the 42,000 cfs on Thursday.

All four kayakers surfing the wave Friday were seasoned kayakers who compete in international whitewater competitions.

Mr. Jackson, who has been kayaking since he was only 2 years old and “got serious” about the sport when he was 17, said he had surfed Hole Brothers in the past, but his last visit was eight years ago.

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Troutman are sponsored by Jackson Kayak, and Mr. Orton by Pyranha Mouldings. Both companies are among the most recognized brands for kayak enthusiasts.

As the National Weather Service predicted Thursday, the Black River was steadily receding and was at 11.5 feet as of Friday afternoon.

But the Ottawa River, the group’s next destination, was flowing at 81,259 cfs at Britannia and 180,634 cfs at the Carillon Canal as of Thursday morning.

Emily Jackson — Mr. Jackson’s sister and Mr. Troutman’s wife — said this is the life of professional kayakers. They spend nine months a year on the road, traveling the world looking for another adventure.

To watch a video of Dane Jackson’s surf Friday, go to:

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