It is late January and we have just had a decent amount of rain on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. It is projected to be mid to high 50's on Sunday and there are a number of rivers running. We chat about what would be fun that we haven't paddled before and settle on Daddy's Creek. There are 2 kayakers and myself in this little expedition. It is going to be a tough paddle and being cold is not an option. For this run I am thankful for the extremely durable Devil's Club dry suit from IR.
Daddy's Creek is a mostly class III, with some class IV, creek in the eastern part of central Tennessee. This is a typical southeastern creek with constricted, shallow, rock filled lines. Since it is on the Plateau is cuts through a cliff lined gorge with some scenic views overhead.
I had planned to break a few fins because of the water level, 1.3 ft. on the stick at the put-in. This is considered lower runnable but even with good flows I knew it would be tight in many places, so today was going to be tricky. There is a bit of flatwater at the beginning and I wanted fins to help get through the longer pools on the short board. I gave up on this pretty quickly after breaking a few fins.
After being on the river for about an hour things started to pick up and get more vertical, more rocky, and much more difficult. Many of the lines were over and through very tight, technical areas that were difficult to get an SUP over or through; not to mention the undercuts. I was having a good day, but this was one tough run. I was definitely coming off of my board and doing so in some shallow spots.
When choosing gear for whitewater SUP, there is not a lot of it out there that is made just for you. The market is too small for anyone to have a line of gear or even pieces of gear. So we are often left to choose from gear that can be used for whitewater SUP, but it is really designed for whitewater kayaking. Paddling in the winter, the choice between wet suit and dry suit is highly contested among whitewater SUP enthusiasts. Many people elect to go with a 4mm-5mm wet suit because the want some impact protection and are worried about a very expensive dry suit being damaged by the nature of the falls and swims inherent in whitewater SUP. Others like the dryness and warmth of a dry suit. Sparing you the physics lesson, a dry suit has the potential to be much warmer than a wet suit.
I am a dry suit guy. Part of the reason for this is that I trust my dry suit and the manufacturer to build a product I can rely on in the harshest conditions. I have worn several of the Immersion Research dry suits over the years from the Arch Rival, to the 7 Figure, and now the Devil's Club. I was a big fan of the 7 Figure. It was affordable for a high end suit, extremely comfortable (felt like normal clothes), and was extremely dry. When IR came out with the Devil's Club, I talked to several other paddlers who had tested the suit and did some research on textile fibers. I opted to go with the Devil's Club.
This thing is tough. I put it through some good swims in shallow water with pretty abrasive rocks on Daddy's Creek. This was the first real test I had put the suit through on shallow technical runs in the southeast. It held up perfectly and I never once worried about a tear in the suit knowing it had been tested in the harshest environments.
There are a lot of options out there for staying warm and dry on the river. You can't go wrong with the IR Devil's Club. It has a true to size fit, back zip, nylon feet, solid gaskets, no 4-ways seam intersection, breathes, is extremely dry, and super durable.
Check out more info about the Devils' Club at www.immersionresearch.com/store/outerwear/dry-suits/devils-club-dry-suit/