Octane 85: Match Made in Big-Water Heaven

I come from the Southeast where rocks are not only expected but essential to hitting good lines in whitewater. So when I drove north to Quebec with the Boof Sisters summer tour, I was more than apprehensive about the big water waiting for us at Gatineau Fest.

Little did I know I was taking the whitewater canoe perfectly designed for big water. The Octane 85 ran not through but over holes and waves, making for super dry lines and extra loud BOOFS that turned the heads of all nearby Quebec paddlers. That or the pink color. The canoe was stable and when the edges are engaged surprisingly agile for the big water. While it stayed dry through most of the rapids, even when I screwed up a line and filled half the boat with water, the Octane made most the lines I wanted it to.

With the Gatineau’s first rapid I became a big-water bug. Thank god the canoe’s lighter than it looks because I wanted to get lap after lap on the Mouth of the Lion on the Gatineau. Considered big-water Class V, it’s a rapid worthy of the mighty Colorado in the Grand Canyon in size. A big river-left V propels your canoe into a right off-side wave, which pushes your canoe straight into this monster wave hole just downstream. The rapid ends with another off-side wave and finishes with super swirly boil water and finally flat water to collect your wits and maybe gear. You eddy river left, hike up to the bridge and then put your canoe back in the water to ferry over and start the rapid all over again. I got two Octane runs, a tandem run with Holly, and even tried a Savage Skeeter, which stays very well on its secondary stability as I low braced the whole way down the rapid.

We got back in the shuttle bus to hit the next section of the Gatineau for more rapids and some epic, epic flat water. Thank god the Octane tracks well because while it wasn’t the most comfortable flat-water paddle, it wasn’t as painful as some of the playboat kayakers who even had two paddle blades. Some of the Gatineau river highlights were as follows:

• Two total dry lines, one on Lucifer (IV) and the other the Wall (IV). By total dry I mean did not even need to get out to dump. Both rapids are regular flip-and-swim rapids for many paddlers.

• Beautiful wave boof at High Tension (IV).

• Decent surf on Le Bonne Rouge (IV). Most people missed the boof, and I was lucky enough to hit it for a moment for a fast downward zoom to the trough and a 180.

• After their initial skepticism, the Canadians expressed generally positive comments of the Octane 85, especially after seeing how well it performed in big water.

Overall, Gat Fest was a huge success. On to more big water!