Gifts of the Potlatch
All great towns have a local river or play
spot, where occasionally after work and on the weekends, local
inhabitants can be found enjoying what they love. In the case
of Moscow, Idaho, the hometown of NRS, we have the Potlatch River,
otherwise know as the “mighty Potlatch creek.”
The Potlatch is dependent on snow and rain, with peak
flow times in the spring and early summer. This year’s snow pack
has been sparse in the Inland Northwest and thus so has the water in the
Potlatch River. In late March, it began to rain. Rain fell for three days
straight, almost non-stop. The Potlatch went from 150 cfs to almost 7000
cfs in the blink of an eye. Spring had finally arrived and it was time
The word “potlatch” originates from the Native
American term used by inhabitants of the Northwest to describe a feast
or gathering to celebrate special occasions and important events in tribal
life. The potlatch allows the host or host family the opportunity to give
away food, gifts, and hospitality in order to “establish or uphold”
his place in society . On this day, our Potlatch was quite similar to
those in days of old. The river held its stature with a fast, cold fury
and we each received its gifts of humility and memories.
It was time to test out the new NRS Bandit and the Potlatch
was a perfect venue. After a quick morning prep and a gear roundup, we
were at the put-in and struggling into our drysuits. The sun was shining,
but the wind put a chill in the air that each of us knew would make for
a cold swim.
After a safety rundown, some quick throw
bag instruction, and a self-rescue overview, it was time to launch.
All told, there were seven NRS associates floating the Potlatch
in three new NRS Bandits, two NRS MaverIKs, an AIRE Force inflatable
kayak, and a new DragoRossi Mafia creek boat. For two of our associates,
this was their first (and likely their most memorable!) inflatable
After a bit of practicing in the put-in eddy, it was
time to float. I paddled out to the top of the eddy, turned downstream
and let the mighty Potlatch take me away. The water was moving and my
new NRS Bandit was alive underneath me. Being the lightest inflatable
kayak on the market, the Bandit provides a sure feeling in the white,
slices through waves, and turns with speed and style. After a few moments
of enjoying my new boat, I remembered that there were others hopefully
feeling the same enjoyment. Everyone was heading downstream and we were
approaching the first significant rapid. As the flow narrowed and gained
speed, I charged a set of small rollers. My Bandit grew wings and soared
through the rapid. “What an incredible boat!” I yelled aloud,
as if the Potlatch wanted to know. I was almost through the rapid when
again I remembered that I wasn’t the only one out there today. I
took a giant backstroke and turned my Bandit upstream in a surprisingly
fast motion just in time to see the flashing colors of boats, paddles,
and people dotting the river.
“Swimmer!” I heard my safety boater yell
from his creek boat. “Three swimmers!” was the updated yell
moments later. From there, fast water and fast rescues ensued. After arriving
safely on shore and gathering our yard sale of equipment, the decision
was made to pull off the river. It was pushing the limits of an NRS desk
As we gathered for a recap on our whitewater experience,
I was surprised to see that every NRS face was smiling in the glow of
the mid-afternoon sun. The biggest smile by far was on the face of the
man who took the longest swim… he was grinning from ear to ear and
laughing out loud! We were all excited to be outside, enjoying the activities
that have become such a large part of our lives.
Despite the abrupt ending of our trip, it was a good
day. Experience was gained by all, and the stories have floated around
the office faster than the mighty Potlatch rose and fell for the season.
Until next year…
NRS Customer Service
Peabody Museum online.
Encyclopedia of North American Indians Online. “Potlatch”
It was another “on-the-water-trip” for
NRS associates on a cool March day on the Potlatch River. We like to take
these day and weekend trips to familiarize ourselves with different kinds
of paddling as well as the equipment we sell. I have been on many of these
trips before but was excited about this one for two reasons. First, it
was my first boating trip of the 2005 season, and second I was going to
be able to try out our new Bandit IKs. I have done quite a bit of inflatable
kayaking with our MaverIK and was excited to “feel” the difference
between the two. We all suited up in our NRS Extreme Drysuits
, PFDs and
helmets and after talking about safety and some IK instruction, we hit
the water! After paddling around in an eddy for a bit, I felt my paddling
cobwebs clear out and I was ready to face the Potlatch.
We began in some shallower waters and I first noticed the lightness of
this boat and how it glided on the surface of the water. I paddled around
some rock gardens and was impressed with the Bandit’s speed and
agility. I don’t have a lot of experience surfing in hard shell
kayaks, but this boat definitely has the potential of catching and riding
Shortly after we began, the water became too rough for the experience
level of some of our newer paddlers and the swimming began. The
Bandit stood up to the test in retrieving the carnage of boats
and paddles. (I left the swimmers to our hard shell safety boater.)
I was very impressed with the Bandit’s overall stability, speed
and lightness. After struggling in a hole for about 5-10 seconds and not
flipping – I was sold! My enthusiasm for the Bandit continued when
I carried it up a steep bank and over some low barbwire to the car. This
boat was so light that my 7-year-old niece could have carried it for me!
Another new item that I tried was the Head Trip Daffy Helmet
. I prefer
a helmet with a visor and the Daffy has a great one.
It was an exciting training trip to open the whitewater season. Staying
dry in my Extreme, keeping the sun off my face with my Daffy, and staying
afloat in the Bandit. Gosh, I love to boat with good gear!
NRS E-Commerce Manager
I wasn’t given much time to psych myself up
for my first whitewater IK trip. (The Potlatch was running, I was informed
and my comfortable day of answering phone calls and replying to e-mails
would be replaced by a few harrowing hours on the mighty class-two river. )
Entering the water somewhat confident, thanks to the
competent put-in safety instruction of my fellow CSR, Brian, I turned
out of the eddy and into my doom. Evidently, previous instruction on how
to “read the river” had fallen on deaf ears as far as I was
concerned, and I proceeded to deliberately paddle my NRS MaverIK into
more than one of the dreaded, "Smiling Waves". I managed to put off the inevitable
for a good ten minutes until one of my “questionable” maneuvers
sent me out of my boat and into the icy water.
After my extremities had come out on the
losing end of a few confrontations with submerged rocks, I managed
to swim into an eddy and get to shore. While catching my breath
and clutching onto the blessed land, I realized that I had managed
to miss out on an important part of the whitewater swim experience
– the “being freezing cold” part. Thanks to
my NRS Wavelite
, HydroSkin Socks
, and Extreme Drysuit, I was able
to have the wits to swim to safety, and I never felt cold.
The trip was definitely a success for all involved. My
more experienced co-workers had a great time away from the office, the
other newbie paddlers now have someone to compare favorably to and I survived
with a new respect for moving water and the knowledge that I better come
to work ready for anything.
NRS Customer Service
My NRS MaverIK served me well as we descended down
a short stretch of the Potlatch River near Kendrick, ID. While 50% of
our group experienced the adventure of swimming in the frigid water, I
was not part of that statistic. However, had I swam, I would have been
well prepared for the water temperatures.
I outfitted myself with an NRS Women’s WaveLite Top
and WaveLite pants as a base layer. Over the top of these, I had on an
>NRS Pungo Shirt for extra warmth. We all wore NRS Extreme Drysuits, not
only to maintain warmth, but also as a safety precaution. A wetsuit would
not have been sufficient for that particular 40-degree day with about
30 to 40-degree water.
Like a lot of women, I have no interest in boating unless I can stay warm.
For this trip, I was well prepared with clothing and a great boat, making
it all thoroughly enjoyable!
NRS Customer Service
NRS firmly believes in having a sales staff that
can speak from experience when we talk to customers about the products
we sell. So, periodically we go out, on the clock of course, on day training
trips. Boating on our own time is encouraged by employee purchase discounts
and a large stock of company use gear.
An inflatable kayak trip on a local stream, the Potlatch,
had been planned but our miserable snow pack (congratulations to those
of you in the regions that got our moisture this year!) had been keeping
it too low to run. Well, at the end of March we started getting rain.
A couple of folks went out, and hard shelled it and came in to work saying
it was runnable for the training trip.
Laura, our Retail Sales Manager said, “Let’s
do it today. If we wait, we may miss the opportunity.” Some of the
people who were scheduled for the trip were off that day, so pretty soon
Laura came to me and said, “Clyde, we’ve got room, do you
want to go?”
Now I’m a rafter, used to having a lot of rubber
underneath me. It had been many years since I was in whitewater in an
IK, and I can recall a couple of long and memorable swims as a result.
However, my motto is “A Bad Day On The Water Is Better Than A Good
Day At The Office”. Now I love working at NRS and I really enjoy
talking to you folks on the phone and answering your e-mails, but given
the option to go boating instead, the answer was, “Yeah, sure.”
My boating gear was at home, 30 miles away, so I got
outfitted from the sample room and company use, head to toe. ProTec Ace
Helmet, NRS Mystery Sea Hood, Extreme Drysuit, Wavelite Union Suit, Pungo Shirt, NRS Tread-3 Zippered Wetshoe and a pair of 3-mm neoprene gloves we no longer make. I added
a synthetic fill vest that I had with me because I knew the water was
going to be cold.
Brian, the trip leader, did a great job of
putting the gear together on such short notice, so by 12:15 we
were rolling toward the river. Sharing in the IK adventure were Brian, Keli,
Will, Stacy and Karl. Todd was also along in a DragoRossi Mafia
as a safety boater.
It didn’t take long at the put in to gear up and
inflate the boats. We had three NRS Bandit I, two NRS MaverIK I and an
AIRE Force. Brian gave a fine safety talk, since he’s been a river
guide and has the “customer spiel” nailed. Then out and into
the flow, Brian in the lead and Todd bringing up the rear. I was glad
I drew a Bandit; I’d paddled a prototype Bandit II down in the flatwater
with my grandkids and was looking forward to trying the smaller version.
The first couple of sets of rapids went fine and other than getting hung
up on a rock and having to scoot myself free, I’m thinking I’m
cool. Then I looked ahead and saw a swimmer. Bam – I hit a rock,
then another one, then I go into a wave sideways and I’m swimming
too. Actually there were three of us swimming at the same time; a bit
of chaos, what down in Texas we’d have called a “goat ropin’
rodeo” or “goat rope,”, for short.
Lost hold of the boat, but still have the paddle. All
the pre-trip safety talks – the one Brian just gave and the many
others I’ve listened to and given –, come automatically to
mind. Keep your feet up, float on your back with your feet downstream.
Try to catch an eddy. Rescue yourself when you can. Don’t panic.
||Breathe in the wave troughs. Oops – a face full, spit, breathe,
keep your mouth shut. Bam – took that rock on the hip (that
one bruised). Try to grab some vegetation at the bank, too swift,
can’t reach. Breathe. Keep your feet up. “Grab my boat!”
Got my hand on the IK but didn’t find anything to hold on
to, slipped away.
Wham – another rock. Swift, no eddies. Breathe.
“Grab my boat,”, as Todd’s Mafia slips into my vision.
Grab the back handle. “Kick, Clyde, help me out!” Kick, kick,
kick, then there’s the bank, then I’m looking up into an unfamiliar
face. Another group of boaters heading for the put in had stopped to help.
They took my paddle and steadied me while I got my bearings. They’d
planned to canoe but after they saw our “rodeo,” they decided
to use the IKs they’d brought along. The only guy’s name I
got was George, but thanks to both of you if you’re reading this.
And thanks to Todd and all the others who helped rescue me and my boat!
We took a breather, and then loaded up the boats to drive
a ways downstream to a less intense stretch. We found a parking pullout,
road scouted for a ways, then decided to put in upstream of the pullout.
Todd decided to run with us in a Bandit.
I picked up my Bandit and started up the road. They are
so light; they’re a joy to carry. Todd says, “Don’t
carry it, drag it up the road.” I said, “Yeah, sure”
and kept on walking. “I’m serious”, he says. “This
is a product test, drag it up the road!” Now this country road doesn’t
get a lot of traffic and the sharp aggregate sticking out of the asphalt
isn’t worn down. So here I go dragging this perfectly good boat
up the road for about a hundred yards, feeling foolish. We got to our
put in spot and looked at the bottom of my boat – scuffed but no
damage! Tough stuff.
We put in and ran down through a couple of sets, no problems.
Then it’s deflate the boats, strip out of the drywear and head back.
Snacks, water, laughter. I won the booby prize for the longest swim, so
What did we learn? As a group we agreed we’d tackled
a stretch a bit above the skill level of some of us. Me personally? The
gear worked perfectly; the water was cold and I was in it quite a while
but stayed dry and didn’t get cold. The Bandit was great, very responsive,
I just didn’t stay in it – but there were swimmers out of
the MaverIK and Force too. All in all, a good day on the water.
Homeward bound. Tired but energized. Happy and humble.
More fully alive.
NRS Customer Service