Why do French Canadians have such great whitewater, but such crappy beer?
Josh Geib and friends explore
Our trip started at 6am as Jeremy, Josh, Tom and I loaded the boats and gear into Tom's Shaggin' Wagon (A white safari van with flames and skulls going down the side, a big orange utility light on the roof and a custom futon in the back).
We headed from Portland up I-95 to Gray then took Rte. 26 to Bethel and Rte. 2 through New Hampshire into St Johnsbury, Vermont then up to Canadian border.
As we waited in line at the Canadian border we all wondered what the Canadian border patrol was going to think of our sketchy white van with flames down the side and add to that Tom, the driver, had a Red Mohawk and a spike labret.
We decided to make Tom wear a hat as we went through the border. Luckily making it into Canada was a breeze. We were greeted by a good-looking Border Patrol chick, who asked us all the normal questions, "Where are you going? When are you coming back? Do you have any firearms, drugs, or American beer?" and she sent us on our way.
We had originally planned on going to Montreal and hitting Lachine rapids and Habitat 67 wave, but about an hour outside of Montreal, I got a call from Chris Hull saying the waves a Chambly were going off and that he and Larry Seidl had been there all morning: no lines, no wait and awesome conditions.
Normally the Chambly waves are only in during the spring or fall during times of high water flows, but because of the excessive rain from weeks before, the waves were in!
So we decided to skip Montreal and head to the town of Chambly, Quebec. Chambly is a small town about 30 minutes east of Montreal; alongside the Richelieu River. Chambly is a historic Canadian town and home to Fort Chambly at the foot of the Chambly rapids.
The town of Chambly is awesome! The whole town was super clean, the narrow streets and architecture was really cool, and there were some sweet pubs and restaurants in the town center near the Fort. The best part about Chambly was the people, they were super friendly and they seemed so happy it was funny. We were greeted with smiles, and people would come up to us and asked us questions about kayaking in French and when they realized we didn't speak French they would smile laugh and begin to speak English. After talking to locals we learned that not a lot of Americans came to Chambly because the town doesn't have all the glamour of Montreal. But in my opinion it was a hundred times better.
We met up with Larry and Chris at the local park along the Richelieu River where the waves are. We geared up and walked all of 20 feet from the parking lot to the put in. The first wave from the put in eddy is mint. It's wide and has a big fluffy foam pile. The surfer's-left side gets steep and greens out and gets flushy. And the surfer's-right side is pretty flushy too. The key is to find the sweet spot right in the middle where you can throw down and wait for it to build up for a big bounce. After you flush off the first wave you can catch the pyramid wave, which is a steep green wave that you can do all kinds of moves and you can clean spin o or rip some mean carves across the face of the wave. Chris was getting some nasty rides throwing blunts and backstabs and getting big flip turns and almost dialed in a few nice helixes.
We sessioned the waves until about 4:30. At this point we are beat: it was in the 80s and the water was super warm and we took ride after ride after until our shoulders and arms felt like they were going to fall off.
Jeremy, Josh, Tom and I decided to head into Montreal and check out Habitat 67 wave we thought we'd hit it on Sunday. We drove from Chambly to Montreal it took about 25 minutes on the highway. Habitat 67 is a crazy looking apartment complex right off the exit going into Montreal. It has all these weird looking apartments stacked on one another, it's really quite a site. The wave is on the river right behind these apartments. We pulled in to the parking lot and talked to Emily Jackson and some other Jackson team paddlers who had been boating earlier, they said the wave was sweet but it had been super busy and the wait in line sucked. We figured we'd go have a look and check out the wave.
Sure enough it was pretty busy, even in the evening when we were there. Oddly enough there were more board surfers than kayakers. They looked nasty but the hike back up the hill and down the path seemed like a pain in the ass so we decided to save Habitat 67 Wave for another trip.
We also thought going go check out Big Joe at the Lachine rapids, but we talked to a bunch of people that said it was way too high and Big Joe was no good.
So we headed back to Chambly to meet up with Larry and Chris and score some grub at some Mexican restaurant the Larry had scoped out a few weekends before.
We got some kickass fajitas and drank some shitty Canadian beer. After chowing down at the Mexican place we decided to go on a hunt for beer, Cigarettes, chew, and Tylenol. We stopped at a grocery store and spent an hour wandering around like idiots because everything was in French and arranged all ass-backwards. Finally we found the beer, the butts and chew (no luck on the Tylenol). I grabbed a 12 pack of Budweiser (good ol' American beer), the cashier, who barely spoke English, giggled at me and said "you come to Canada on vacation and drink American beer" I smiled and laughed and thought to myself: ya, cause Canadian beer sucks. Once we were done in our grocery store expedition we headed to the pub. We parked the vans in the corner of a parking lot about 2 blocks away from the pub where we pounded beers, and practiced some French.
The pub was awesome: a bunch of Canadian girls tried to teach us French and all the people were cool. The one funny thing was the bartenders and some of the locals were so proud of their local Canadian beer, which was good, yes … at getting you hammered (but tasted like shit …kind of like a cross between Schlitz Bull Ice and Carrabassett White). After a few pints of the Chambly local crap we swapped over to whiskey gingers and shots of Jagermeister to get the night rollin.
Josh and I end up going to this Club with this dude and two chicks we were talking to at the pub. The club was pretty sweet: we got in for free, because one of the girls knew the guys running the show. Josh and I both kind of felt out of place …2 tall goofy dudes in flip-flops, tee-shirts and board shorts in a dance club. Once we had spent all $10 we came with and had our fill of the wet T-shirt contest, we bid farewell to our Canadian friends and took the two foot taxi back to the parking lot to meet up with our boating comrades.
Little did we know the club we had been driven to was like 5 miles from the parking lot. We finally made to it the van…only to find everyone else curled up in the fetal position passed out in the van. Our only option was to pass out in the grass behind the van…which we did. Luckily it was super warm out and there weren't any bugs so it wasn't that bad.
We woke up the next the morning slightly hung over, had a quick safety meeting and headed back to the waves. We had an awesome session until about 1:30 when we decided to call it a day and head back to the homeland.
We pulled up the border tired, sore and a little nervous. Of course, the American boarder patrol was dick and interrogated us with stupid questions and finally said "Do you guys feel lucky or unlucky today" with a stupid smirk on his face. "We feel lucky, I guess" Tom said. Then the border patrol guy was like "I'm going to need you guys to pull off to the side for a random search and go inside."
Turns out, we go inside they ask bunch of stupid questions and send us on our way 10 minutes later. Relieved, we head back towards Maine. We made it back in about 6 hours including all pit stops, piss breaks and safety meetings.
The trip was sick and pretty cheap too. Big Waves, blunts, beers and boating buddies.
Josh Geib is a 21-year old kayaker who paddles a Pryanha four-twenty. He teaches Kayaking for the city of Biddeford, and has been working on the river pushing rubber since 2003. He lives in Portland and is studying marketing at the University of Southern Maine.
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