I remember the first time I heard someone say its name. It sounded both powerful and mysterious. I wanted to see it immediately.

My first experience with the canyon was a day trip. As the only capable oarsman in the boat who had never run it, I was given the opportunity to row it. I fell in love with the gorgeous red rock walls and found the whitewater to be straightforward enough to read and run, but challenging and exciting. I have had the wonderful privilege of experiencing Westwater many times over the years, getting to know its side hikes, its history, its geology, and its whitewater. I began to feel like Westwater was an old friend. I enjoyed the familiarity of the run; the gentle float in amongst the impressive walls of the Wingate sandstone sitting atop the crumbling Chinle formation, the committing inner gorge filled with Vishnu schist and invigorating whitewater. From the eyes of a rafter, it was a perfect overnighter. A beautiful and mellow day of floating, followed by some solid whitewater.

One day I was lucky enough to have my perspective changed.

After years of floating whitewater on all types of craft, I became a stand-up paddler. I was excited about the opportunity to see Westwater with a new set of eyes. My first trip through Westwater as a stand-up paddler had 18 people on SUPs. There were people playing on river features everywhere. There were so many waves, eddies, and currents. There were lines in the whitewater I had never considered before. We surfed, peeled out, eddy turned, crushed whitewater, and swam to our heart’s content. We took a lunch break at Little D and I spent the better part of that break running the hole over and over. I had more fun in the whitewater than ever before. There were eddies I had never seen or considered catching. I had so much fun getting pummeled in Sockittome, that I hiked up and ran it again. Westwater is an incredible playground for a SUP. I’ve been given the chance to run it several times since then and it’s different every time. I was given a new relationship with this old friend.

Running any stretch of river is a wonderful privilege. Each has its own character, its own set of tendencies that you understand more deeply the further downstream you get. Every river I’ve ever paddled has taught me something. Westwater is a playground, it is a teacher, it is a classroom, it is a friend. I’m glad to know it in a way I never did before.

-Matt Buckley

VP of Operations, Adrift Dinosaur

Hala Gear Team Rider