Arriving at the tail end of this past summer, Tales from the Cripps, sponsored by Paddling Life, is a new whitewater storytelling podcast hosted by longtime Front Range kayaker Kevin Cripps. And it’s sure to help you pass your shuttle time. The series kicks off with an epic Potomac river flood story from one of Colorado’s legends, Forest Noble. Episode two, “Bailey Fest and the Liberation of First Falls,” dives into how Bailey Fest all got started, from the father of the festival himself. Later comes an epic from Honduras (paddling blind into a cave), space blankets and bonding with legend Scott Young and more. And there’s plenty more in store as well, so get that water out of your ears and start listening. While availability on Google and Apple podcast platforms is pending, in the meantime find them all at https://paddlinglife.com/category/podcast/
We caught up Kevin for his take on starting his Tales from the Cripps podcast, his paddling background and other words of wisdom.
Age: 46, but I’m willing to be younger.
How long have you been paddling? Something like 17 or 18 years, depending how you count it.
How’d you get started? I saw people paddling down Boulder Creek when I was in grad school in Boulder and it looked cool. But it wasn’t until I started working and a coworker was saying he always wanted to learn to kayak, but never had anyone to start with, that I got involved. We made a pact to buy all the equipment and we took a pool class. My first time in moving water was at the Golden whitewater park. I had no clue what I was doing, but I saw people paddling back into the holes, so I tried doing the same. I immediately got windowshaded, smacked my face on the upstream rock and swam.
The two coworkers I started with promptly gave up the first year, but I was too stubborn. I fell in with what I call my permanent Class II crew, that I met through the pool class. They had been paddling for years, and I initially thought they were going to be my mentors until we did our first Class III run and the entire crew yardsaled within the first 15 minutes. I almost gave up for lack of partners, but I made a concerted effort and joined a few Colorado Whitewater Association (CWWA) river cruises. I love that organization and am still a member, but oh man, I learned the meaning of “club boater” on those trips. It would take us three hours to cover two miles of Class II/III.
But, after one of those trips I ended up getting invited on a trip down Lower Clear Creek above Golden. That run included my first Class IV rapids and lots of continuous Class III. After that I was completely hooked. I started paddling with a group of likeminded boaters who told me all kinds of stories about being helicoptered into remote runs in New Zealand, paddling off 30-foot waterfalls into moss-covered gorges in Washington, and almost daily stories of unbelievable feats and near death experiences from one of their former college buddies—someone that will be featured in one of my upcoming episodes!
What boats do you use? I can’t seem to put down my Pyranha Ripper for most runs. It’s so capable and so much fun. They claim version 2 is better, but I’m not sure it’s possible. I’ve been paddling a Jackson Nirvana as my creekboat for a number of years because fast is fun, but I’m curious about all the new super-rockered creekboats. I haven’t playboated enough in recent years, but when I do, I paddle a v4 Jackson Rockstar. I’ll dust off my Dagger Greenboat for the annual Gore Race.
What are a few of your favorite runs? Several years ago I visited the Rio Futaleufu in Chile and despite all the hype, it still exceeded my expectations. Everything about the area was amazing. If I had to be locked down to one river for my entire life, I’d be pretty content with the Futa. I had a chance to do a quick trip to Peru a number of years ago and ran the Rio Puacartambo. It was an amazing multi-day adventure deep in the Andes with lots of whitewater. Just about every multi-day I’ve paddled in the California Sierras goes on my favorites list.
What made you start the podcast? Truth be told, I remember talking to Forrest, who is the guest in my first episode, and I was shocked that his amazing Potomac flood story was never written down or recorded anywhere. It made me realize there was this huge gap in the whitewater community for capturing many of the amazing characters and stories floating around. I love The Hammer Factor podcast, and actually suggested they bring Forrest onto the show to tell his story, but they blew me off. The more I thought about it, the more I saw a lot of potential for building a podcast based on all the great stories out there that you will never hear unless you’re sitting around a campfire with the right person at the right time. When I went out kayaking this year, I did some informal focus group research while paddling between rapids and always received a positive response to the podcast idea.
What do you like about it? I honestly have no qualifications as an interviewer, podcaster, or storyteller. But I saw a gap in the podcast space and I figured it’s healthy as a human to try new things and grow. It’s a method towards my life goal to not reach my angle of repose until I’m dead. My hope is that the interviews will be about the guest and I can fade into the background. I also hope to cut out the hackneyed paddler chatter about paddling gear, shuttle rigs, class ratings, etc., and focus on the people, places and stories (although ironically, gear has already come up in several podcasts because it was so integral to the stories and evolution of kayaking). For me personally, it’s an opportunity to connect with people and listen and learn from them. Since I’ve just started, I’m leveraging my personal connections, but as the podcast grows I’m hoping that I’ll be able to connect with people in different regions, from different backgrounds, and outside of my paddling circles.
What makes paddlers so unique? My upbringing was pretty traditional. The expected trajectory was safe: good grades, good college, good job, home, family, retire, die. Maybe because what we do obsessively is so inconvenient and nonsensical, it attracts an eclectic group of people who often tend to think and live outside of societal norms. Paddlers, more than most people, aren’t afraid to put it on the line, whether on the river or in life. They’ve also taught me a lot about how to have fun and just enjoy life. Why do I like a particular song? I’m not sure, I just do. Why do I like paddlers? I’m not sure, I just do.
Think you’ll become the next Joe Rogan? If my podcast can instigate a mob to start a campaign to kick me off of Spotify, I’ll know that I’ve made it in the podcasting world. But if they do, I’m not going to issue an apology.
Listen to them all at podcast