Guitar Paddle the S. Fork Payette, Anyone?


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Now that strikes a chord. The sound of running water is music to most paddlers’ ears. But no one has put their signature on that statement better than Connor Herdt, a member of the band Boot Juice who recently took to the waters of Idaho’s Class III-IV South Fork Payette in his kayak using, yes, his guitar as a paddle.

The feat was part of a shoot that took place for a music video the band created on Idaho’s North and South Forks of the Payette, including the run’s Staircase rapid. The band made the video for its hit song, “Mountain Bound,” a single from Boot Juice’s debut album, “Speaking In Tones.” Directed and edited by Jeremy Shoemaker with additional footage by John Webster and Phil Morrow, it was recorded and produced by Scott Gordon and mastered by Brendon Duffy.

The clip has proven so popular that it’s inspired such comments on social media as:”Music and whitewater – two great things that go great together! Kudos to our Feather River College grads especially!” and “Just saw an ad on Instagram and I just fell in love with your sound, fan-fucking-tastic!”

guitar kayak
“Let’s see…was that a C,C, D?” Herdt about to do a solo riff…

Paddling Life took the liberty of catching up with Herdt for his take on the run…and how it sounded afterward.

PL: Wow, a guitar for paddle in Class IV…Have you ever C-1ed or canoed much before?

Connor: No, not really at all. I was still in a seated position paddling with the guitar, like in a regular K1. So there was very little leverage to actually take paddle strokes with.

PL: What was it like using a guitar as a paddle?

Connor: It was interesting. We stuffed the guitar full of closed-cell foam so it was actually quite buoyant. I could lay my entire body weight on the guitar and not flip over. So while I had very little control over where my boat went, I did have relatively good stability. I had to predict which side I would need to brace on and switch back and forth between which side I was holding the guitar on.

PL: How was the offset?

Connor: Haha, the offset was non-existent. At first I was trying to paddle more with the guitar, but pretty quickly realized it was more effective just try to use good edge control and use the guitar just to keep myself upright.

PL: How hard was it to hit that roll?

Connor: Actually, surprisingly easy. The whole time we were shooting I was afraid that I would break the guitar, and we only had one to use for the video. So, I didn’t do any practice rolls in the flat water. I kind of just assumed I would either swim or have to hit a hand roll if I flipped over. The spot in the video where I flipped is called “Birthday Hole.” It’s a feature in the lower part of Staircase Rapid, and at higher flows, it gets to be a big pour-over. I had made it through all of the biggest parts of the rapid and all I had to do was not go into Birthday Hole, but I just flailed with the guitar while trying to avoid it. I went right over the top of it. Fully expecting a beatdown and a swim, I braced myself for it. To my surprise, it let me go and I could feel myself moving downstream upside down. I managed to get the guitar flat on the surface and just rolled right up pretty easily.

PL: Were you able to strum it at all heading downriver?

Connor: I could kind of strum it, but it didn’t make much noise stuffed with foam and soaking wet. Poor thing.

PL: How’d it sound afterward?

Connor: The guitar was originally found floating in an eddy on the Main Payette. Our friends had it and were gracious enough to let us use it. It was waterlogged and in pretty poor shape, so it was a perfect candidate for the Mountain Bound video. Needless to say, its trip down the South Fork didn’t improve its condition. The guitar may not sound great but it still hangs on the wall in our house. But I don’t recommend using musical instruments for paddles. That was actually the most common complaint about the video, people getting genuinely upset at the destruction of a guitar. I get it, I would cringe too. In this case though, the guitar was pretty much trash before we used it for this shoot.

Watch Kayaking with a Guitar Video Here

Visit on Spotify at…

kayak guitar
“Rolling, Rolling, Rolling down the river…”

And here is the link to the Mountain Bound music video, shot with a slightly different band line-up than our its current line-up. These members appear in the video: Connor Herdt – Acoustic Guitar, Vocals; Jess Stoll – Vocals; Evan Daly – Electric Guitar, Vocals; Brett Worley – Bass; David Provost – Drums; Alex Roth – Mandolin.

The current lineup (who played at the North Fork Championships and Feather Fest) adds Brett Worley on Bass; Billy D. Thompson on Drums; Caleb Sanders on Alto/tenor Saxophone; and Micah Marmorstein on Trumpet.

And yes, everyone is a paddler. “All of the Boot Juice band members LOVE the river and rafting, many have even been whitewater kayaking with us,” says Stoll. “Both Connor and I spent about a decade as raft guides on the Payette. We also worked on other various rivers in the West as guides, kayak instructors and teaching river rescue and SRT cources. We also spent a few years doing the endless summer as guides/kayakers in Idaho during the summers and Chile during the Southern Hemisphere summers.”

(Photos courtesy John Webster (Webster Media House))


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