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The San Juan/Lake Powell 260 Expedition

the crew

Part 1 – Why and How?

Adventure, it’s at the heart of every paddler no matter what discipline. It’s the reason that most of us got into the sport in the first place. The feeling of pure and utter bliss where all thoughts melt away and we feel most alive. No pressure, no rules, no judgment. Simply you, your equipment, and the task at hand. It’s what draws us to the water time and time again and it deepens our love of the sport and our natural surroundings.

Back in 2014 Zack Hughes (co-owner and shaper of Badfish SUP) and I set out to paddle across lake Powell fully self supported. No plans, no time frame, no agenda except to paddle with all of our gear on our boards and have fun. It was the first time in years both of us had done a completely selfish trip(and self support) to satisfy our sense of adventure. We completed 150 miles in 6 days and came out the trip with a renewed sense of adventure, a deeper love of paddling, and a dozen more ideas for trips in the future.

Lake Powell 2014

Flash forward almost 2 years exactly and we were back at it again, only with a twist. First off, we recruited a third paddler, Bradley Hilton, to suffer through the endless miles of beautiful pain with us. We had all new self support custom shaped boards, and we added 100 miles of whitewater and moving current on the San Juan into the equation. The trip would total 260 miles, a mixture of somewhat natural riverbed containing over 50 rapids and riffles, followed by roughly 160 miles of flat water on lake Powell.

The idea

Typical San Juan Camp

Lake Powell is no secret to most Americans or the world for that matter. Its stunning landscape and endless water filled canyons is both a mecca for the gas guzzling motor heads that flock to the lake by the millions and a controversial environmental disaster that flooded one of the most pristine Canyons in the US without anyone knowing it, to fuel the countries need for water, power, and control. Whatever your thoughts are on lake Powell, one thing remains the same. The lake is there to stay, the water and paddling conditions are epic, and almost no one travels the lake in its entirety on boards, kayaks, or self propelled devices…..I repeat no one! It’s a perfect place to paddle, camp, soak in epic views, and pound out hundreds of miles with nothing in your way! Since Zack and I had paddled the Lake from tip to tip back in 2014 we needed something else to add to the adventure and quench our river running and whitewater junkie needs. Enter the San Juan.

San Juan Goosenecks Section

One of the largest and most sediment filled tributaries to the Colorado, the San Juan enters Lake Powell forming the largest Navigable arm of the lake and meets the Colorado River at mile marker 57.5. The Upper stretches of the San Juan from Bluff to Mexican Hat and down to Clay Hills Crossing are no secret to river runners and is a commercial and private boater haven most of the year, requiring a permit to launch and is heavily regulated by the BLM. This almost pristine river system is filled with countless class 2 and 3 rapids, wilderness style camping, remnants of ancient civilization, mining history, and rich sediment filled water. However, The lower stretch below Clay Hills down to Lake Powell has somewhat been shrouded in mystery for many reason. First off, the next take out for boaters requires around 100 more miles of flat water, the heavy sediment of the San Juan drops as it enters the reservoir over a number of miles creating horrible shallow mud flats that makes navigation difficult at best, and lastly, as lake levels started receding in the 90’s, it created a surreal environment left to fend for itself trapped in-between a thriving eco-system up stream and a man made dead zone below. These are just a few of the reasons why people choose not to paddle downstream of mile marker 84 on the San Juan. We also were educated by a senior river ranger at the put in that very, I mean very few people have been down there in the past few years. She thought we would be the first in the past 2 years as far as she could remember, which added to the excitement and interest of our trip!

Combing these two very different water habitats described above would fill our fix of whitewater/river running needs, as well as provide a place to paddle endless flat-water with ease and no obstructions. The trip was slated for September of 2015, but after the Gold King Mine disaster on the Animas River, pumping toxic mine drainage down the animas, into the san juan and lake Powell, leaving us no clean water for drinking (even after filtering), we chose to postpone the trip for the fall of 2016, giving us time to plan, prepare, and salivate over the trip for another year.

The Boards

The Selfies!

Take one look at the Badfish Sup line up and you will see nothing that resembles a traditional SUP shape. The shapes are the brainchild of Zach Hughes, who performs as well in the shaping room as he does on the water. Whitewater requires different lines, volumes, and outlines, in order to perform and excel in chaotic water environments where traditional shapes are literally swallowed whole. After taking note from our Powell adventure in 2014, we needed a board that would carry around 40-50 pounds of gear and perform well in both whitewater and flat water scenarios…..the Selfie 16 was born! Combining our insight and knowledge of whitewater and flat-water, we melted the two together in a perfect balance in this 16 ft SUP.

Board Design Notes –

  • Fast low draft hull – taken from our whitewater racing boards – The Holeshot and MVP designs

  • Smooth rounded edges and lines – taken from our river running and river surf boards – MVP and River Surfers

  • Volume profile to keep the board on the surface and cut through chop

  • Integrated gear storage areas on the front and back

  • 16ft – for optimal speed and comfort while fully loaded with gear and accessories

The Selfie 16 was born and is a one of a kind creation for this unique trip combining whitewater and flat water. Sure, this kind of trip has been done before, but this board was the perfect combination made to increase performance, speed, user ability, and gear storage. Take one look at the Selfie 16 and it screams adventure!


Zack creating the rigging system

Selfie in the shaping bay