Freestyle Kayaking at “Dead Dog” Hole

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Story and photos by David Humphreys, Co-founder of MTN Talk

Just when you think you’ve seen everything… A few weeks ago, my buddy and colleague invited me out kayaking. In January. After realizing he wasn’t joking, I respectfully declined going on the water, but said I’d love to watch him from the shore.

Editor’s note: I will eventually join Drew on the water, but he’d like me to get down the basics before joining him in the frigid conditions.

So without further ado, here’s a series of shots I captured on a snowy February morning with Drew Stephens and his kayaking crew.

The Coeur d’Alene resident picked up freestyle kayaking two years ago, and he’s been hooked ever since.

Drew wore a dry suit with a hood, gloves and a helmet. This equipment kept him warm in the 38 degree water. For Stephens, kayaking in 20 degree weather is feels just fine.
The group of freestyle kayakers climbed onto a rock near “Dead Dog” hole, which is a water feature located under the State Line Bridge in Idaho. Sometimes passing motorists call law enforcement when they see the kayakers flipping upside-down in the water; they assume the paddlers are in distress, so they call up the local PD! 
The group of kayakers waited in line for a chance to ride the “Dead Dog” water feature, which is a “hole” where skilled kayakers can perform freestyle tricks.


Darren Kellogg paddles hard while maneuvering his “play boat” on the water feature. Play boats are specially designed for freestyle kayaking. They’re light and built with aggressive edges.


As the snow came down, the tight-knit group of kayakers drifted on the eddy line just below the rapid. They crew swapped stories and tips between throwing freestyle tricks.
Darren Kellogg got some serious air on Dead Dog. Here you can see him performing a cartwheel. Stephens described half a dozen freestyle kayaking tricks including the Phoenix Monkey, Split wheel, which is half a cartwheel one direction, then back the other direction. There’s also a trick called a stern squirt where you tip back and stall vertically. 
Drew Stephens is feeling more confident about his skills as a freestyle kayaker. According to the father of three, the sport is safe as long as you have the right equipment and take the proper precautions. He plans to introduce his children to kayaking soon.
The local engineer occasionally kayaks before work and during his lunch break. What a boss! 
With over 15 years of experience, Steve Bailey feels confident on the water. The Spokane area resident paddles more than 140 days per year (even in sub-zero temperatures).
Darren Kellogg dips low into the hole at the “Dead Dog” water feature in State Line, Idaho. The freestyle kayakers utilize their kayak’s aggressive edges and the fast flowing water to maneuver through the water with fast, cutting moves.
This dude is completely upside-down! When water levels are an optimal level (between 13,000 and 18,000 cubic feet per second), the water features along the Spokane River are perfect for playing on. The kayakers avoid going out in some areas if the CFS dips below a certain level.
Although Stephens sustained minor injuries during a kayaking event last year, the father of three chose to get back in his boat and build onto his skills as a freestyle kayaker. Today, he feels more confident about his abilities and plans to stick with it.

For those looking to connect with the local freestyle kayaking community, you can reach out to “Spokane Whitewater” and “North Idaho Whitewater Boating” on Facebook. These groups share river information, kayaking meet-ups and exchange paddling stories. 

Have you ever tried kayaking in the winter? Let us know in the comments below!

Thank you so much for reading. We appreciate your support more than you know!


2 thoughts on “Freestyle Kayaking at “Dead Dog” Hole

  1. Spring kayaking in Minnesota is almost like winter kayaking… I think these guys are crazy passionate to be kayaking in January. My hat is off to them and to you for capturing their adventures that day.


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