On Board with WASSUP

Courtesy of Enjoy Magazine, Story by Jim Dyar, Photos by Brett Faulknor

Phil Keester feels like a pioneer of sorts.That’s because in addition to the sport of stand up paddleboarding being fairly new, the idea of standing on a board while navigating the Sacramento River is definitely uncharted territory for most.

Keester, who began his WASSUP Board Sports business last summer, believes there’s a whole segment of recreation that’s yet to be fully explored in the North State.

“I think there’s a lot more fun to be had out here,” says Keester. “I love paddling on flat water, but for me it’s more fun being on a river. It’s got something for everyone.”

Although stand up paddleboarders are already tackling class 4 and 5 whitewater rapids (aggressive water), Keester sees a big market for easier trips like the Sacramento River through Redding, Anderson and beyond. He took about 200 people on guided trips last year and expects an even more robust season for stand up paddleboarding this summer.

Expect to see people standing and gliding down the river near the Sundial Bridge as the community celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the iconic footbridge in June and July.

“One thing I really like about operating on the river is we’re in front of everybody,” Keester says. “This summer is exciting with the Sundial Bridge anniversary. We’ll have a presence out there every day.”

When people see Keester and his friends on the river, the common refrain has been, “That looks like fun.” The boards are stable enough for most anyone to balance on and not go plunging into the river (unless they choose to), he says. The company also does trips and instruction on Whiskeytown and Shasta lakes.

Although the water temperature of the Sacramento is indeed brisk, Keester doesn’t consider it unbearable. He did several trips this winter in board shorts and light clothing. In the blazing summer heat, a dip in the river can be a refreshing way to stay comfortable.

“People have a healthy respect for this river and that’s good,” he says. “I respect any body of water.”

Growing up around the surf culture of Southern California, Keester loved being in the water but never fully mastered the difficult sport of surfing. Stand up paddleboarding is different, however. About 70 percent of the people he took out last year were first-timers.

“The first time I was on a board was 15 months ago,” Keester says. “I’ve always liked the surf culture and this is similar to that, although it’s actually a lot easier.”

Keester’s company is operating within Redding’s Boardmart, where paddleboards will be sold and rental trips coordinated. Teaming up with Boardmart, which has been in business in Redding since 1995, forms a bond that should help both businesses. The store sells and rents skateboard, wakeboard and snowboard gear as well as selling swimwear and casual clothing.

“It’s a whole different demographic for us and hopefully it will help expand our store,” says Denise Craig, co-owner of Boardmart. “We’re not just for teens.”

Keester says people have responded well to the company’s name (“wassup” was a popular catch phrase from a Budweiser commercial) and its colorful graphics. Rental trips range from $20 to $150. The hope is that some people get hooked by the sport and consider buying boards and other equipment through WASSUP.

The company is a dealer for Glide paddleboards of Salt Lake City and NRS paddling outfitters from Moscow, Idaho. Boards range from 9 to 14 feet and prices go from $800 to $1,900.

Although paddleboards are new for Keester, the business of being on the water is something he’s done for much of his life. He began sailing in the Caribbean in the late 1970s, and has worked as a commercial captain and in boat yards and sailing venues for the better part of 25 years, including sailing in the Mediterranean.

From 1992 to 2003, he has participated in four America’s Cup events (the World Series of yacht racing) as a member of the U.S. teams America3, AmericaOne and Oracle/BMW Racing. Keester worked as procurement and logistics manager for most of those teams.

“To participate at the highest level of any sport is a thrill,” he said. “I grew up reading and dreaming about sailing. Those years were definitely a highlight of my life. But I’ve found my passion again (with stand up paddleboarding). I’m on moving water again, although this time it’s on fresh water.”

Book your tour today at www.wassupboardsports.com or by calling (530) 945-4945.

Whiskeytown: Summer Outdoor Fun at its Best

Whiskeytown offers a variety of free, family friendly ranger-led activities throughout the summer. From kayaking to stargazing, there is something for everyone! Programs begin June 14 and run through Labor Day weekend. Reservations are required for the park kayak programs and can be made up to two weeks in advance by calling (530) 242-3462. The park will begin taking reservations for the season on Monday, June 9. While programs are free, visitors must display a valid day use pass or other park pass on all vehicles in the park. For the most current program information visit our website at www.nps.gov/whis, or call the park visitor center at 530-246-1225.

Kayak Program
Daily tours at 9:30 am and 5:30 pm are offered on Sunday through Saturday except Friday (2 ½ hours)
Hop on a tandem kayak with a friend and explore the quiet coves around Whiskeytown Lake while you learn more about the natural and cultural values of the park. Children must be at least six years old and must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations are up to two weeks in advance, call (530) 242-3462.

Moonlight Kayak Program
July 7-11 at 8:00 pm, August 5-9 at 7:30 pm, and September 3-7 at 7:00 pm (2 ½ hours)
Experience dramatic changes in the landscape as you explore Whiskeytown Lake under the light of the moon. Reservations slots fill up fast for this program, calling (530) 242-3462 in the morning two weeks in advance will give the best opportunity of securing a slot.

Special Access Kayak Program
Friday evenings during July and August (2 hours)
This program has been developed for individuals with special needs so they can enjoy a kayaking adventure. Visitors who have limited mobility, disabilities, developmental issues, or restrictions due to age or illness are encouraged to give kayaking a try. Visitors with special needs are paired with an experienced kayak volunteer. Please call (530) 242-3421 for more information.

Junior Ranger Kayak Program
Mondays and Thursdays at 1:30 pm (1.5 hours)
Join us for a special program that pairs parents and their children in kayaks so they can discover and share the joy of nature with each other as they paddle and play. The Monday program is geared for children three to six years of age and the Thursday program is geared toward children seven to twelve years of age. Please call (530) 242-3462 to make a reservation.

Junior Ranger
Saturdays at 10:00 am (1 hour)
Children along with their parents can learn about preserving and protecting park resources while making new friends during a special one-hour activity that explores the wonders of Whiskeytown. Meet at the Oak Bottom Amphitheater. Ask the ranger about earning your Whiskeytown Junior Ranger badge and patch.

Junior Firefighter
Saturdays at 11:00 am (1 hour)
Join Whiskeytown NPS firefighters to learn how they manage fire to promote forest health and protect lives and property. Children will learn about the important role that fire plays in the ecosystems of our national parks during this hands-on activity. Children who complete the program will earn a Junior Firefighter Badge. Meet at the Oak Bottom Amphitheater.

Walk In Time
Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3:00 pm (2 hours)
Discover how pioneers/prospectors Charles Camden and Levi Tower reshaped the landscape to create a home for their families and an “oasis” for many travelers during and after the California Gold Rush. Visit the historic orchard and find apple trees over 150 years old that still bear fruit! After a tour of the Camden house, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the area, then try your hand at finding gold the old-fashioned way—with a gold pan in the creek! Meet the ranger at the Tower House Historic District parking lot bulletin board.

Evening Astronomy Program
Friday evenings at 9 pm. During August and September, start time is at 8:30 pm (1 hour)
Spend the evening with a Sky Ranger and discover the stories of how ancient cultures used the sky to navigate and mark important seasonal changes. Learn about the challenges we face today as urban light pollution threatens the dark night sky and find out what you can do to help. After a 20 minute presentation, the Shasta Astronomy Club will share their powerful telescopes to assist visitors with their celestial gazing. Meet at the Oak Bottom Amphitheater for the first half of the program and the second half at the Oak Bottom Beach parking lot.
Contact Ranger Matt Switzer for more information about park astronomy programs at (530) 242-3454

Lake Shasta: It’s not what you think

Have you heard? California is in the midst of a drought!! Drying out, shriveling up, and blowing away. Ocean front casinos in Las Vegas before you know it! There are cacti where our lakes were, tumbleweeds rolling down the riverbeds, and the salmon all grew legs and walked away to Oregon. Not even the Sundial Bridge can tell time any more- it’s just. too. thirsty.

We’re joking of course. Yes, there’s a drought, but there’s a difference between low water levels and a hole in the ground! Here are some facts to help you cut through the rumors and plan your best Lake Shasta summer yet:

  • Fishing is at its best in over a decade. But you didn’t need us to tell you that, right? That’s just science. Less water makes it easier to find the fish. Sturgeon fishing is expected to be phenomenal this year. Redding is home to The Fly Shop, a premier fly fishing outfitter, where the staff can walk you through the best options for taking advantage of different waterways.
  • Lake Shasta is huge. It could drop another 10 feet and still have more shoreline than any other man made lake in California, when those other lakes are FULL. It currently has about 260 miles of shoreline.
  • There are hundreds of coves and bays within the shoreline of Lake Shasta. Wooded flats, steep, rocky hillsides, secluded creeks, and thousands of acres of mountainous country surround the lake.
  • Interstate 5 runs right through it, so it’s one of the most accessible lakes around, and Redding has all the amenities you need to stock your boat and outfit your crew.
  • Facilities from the all-natural to the luxurious are available to host varied recreational opportunities. There are marinas, resorts, rental cabins, and RV parks, and they’re going to continue to run all summer and work harder to ensure you enjoy your visit.
  • Lake Shasta is still “The Houseboating Capital of the World.”
  • Lower levels have exposed areas of the lakes previously impossible to get to. Come explore before they’re underwater for another 20+ years!

So the next time someone says, “Redding? But the lake is low!” you can give them the real story. Or just throw them in the back of your boat head out on the water so they can see for themselves. Come on over- the water is fine!

CBS News Touts Redding As A Beautiful Summer Roadtrip Destination

“It’s usually overlooked, but what a beautiful place it is.” You wouldn’t believe how often we hear that!

CBS News Travel Editor (and all-around smart guy) Peter Greenberg told his cohosts on national TV that Redding was a great destination for affordable summer road trip. While that’s a glowing review already, he went on to describe Redding as beautiful, mentioned the wonderful hiking in June and July and said it was “a great place to live.” WE AGREE. There’s so much here that makes Redding a fantastic summer vacation destination- obviously the lakes and river offer countless fun ways to keep cool- but there are caves to explores, water slides to conquer, mountains to hike, waterfalls to discover, and trails, trails, trails. Redding is truly an all-ages getaway, which is great for family vacations. Interstate 5 runs right through Redding, making it very accessible, and ours is the last In-N-Out burger before the Pacific Northwest, so even if you’re headed to Canada you might as well stay a night or two in Redding! Thanks again, Peter Greenberg, for telling it like it is.

Celebrate 10, part 2

Start here if you’re new to Celebrate 10 details. 

If Celebrate 10 has caught your eye, it’s probably because you’ve seen pictures or videos of people hanging from and leaping off the 200+ foot gnomon of Redding’s world-famous Sundial Bridge. These aren’t just people who like to play with ropes: it’s BANDALOOP.  A pioneer in vertical dance performance, BANDALOOP seamlessly weaves dynamic physicality, intricate choreography and the art of climbing to turn the dance floor on its side. Founded by choreographer and artistic director Amelia Rudolph, BANDALOOP’s work has been presented in theaters and museums, on skyscrapers, bridges, billboards and historical sites, in atriums and convention halls, in nature on cliffs, and on screen. BANDALOOP honors nature, community and the human spirit by bringing dance to new audiences, activating public and natural spaces, and re-imagining what dance can be.

When BANDALOOP last came to Redding to rehearse for their Celebrate 10 performances (June 20 & 21), Amelia explained that she was a dancer and then a climber, and on the side of a mountain one day wished she could dance there, even if the only ones to see would be the mountain’s lizards and falcons. The idea for vertical dance was born, and BANDALOOP has been anxious to dance on Sundial Bridge since it was built in 2004.

It really is amazing to watch them climb up the bridge, jump off, and fly around in their rehearsals– and that’s without lighting, costumes and music! The costumes will involve 30 ft of fabric…on ONE dancer alone. Their performances at Celebrate 10 will honor bridge architect Santiago Calatrava’s inspiration for the design- a bird in flight- and will be accompanied by the music of the North State Symphony. Thousands will come watch from the plaza, banks of the river, and even the water itself (there are raft rental companies ready for your call!), and the two evening performances promise to have something for everyone.

Learn more about the dancers of BANDALOOP, based in the Bay Area, and watch videos of their stunning performances. Check out the complete schedule of Celebrate 10 festivities, and of course: book your stay now before all the rooms are taken!