With kayaks on the roof and raft trailer in tow, the team drives 3,000 km to reach Manitoba's Nelson River.
Bren Orton, Louis Phillipe Rivest, and Kalob Grady check that boats are secured while watching the sunset on the road to Cross Lake, Manitoba.
On the second night of driving, the northern lights came out just hours before arriving in the community of Cross Lake. The boys were welcomed to the north with a light show that guided the team through the final kilometres to the Nelson River.
In the town of Cross Lake, Manitoba, Hal Monkman finds a spot to stretch out and sleep after the 40-hour drive north from the Ottawa River.
Joel Kowalski gets his first glimpse of the major rapids on the Nelson River. In the four years since Kowalski spotted the Nelson on Google Earth, he has been planning and investigating to make his dream trip happen.
White Mud Falls on the Nelson River, Manitoba. Using 20 ft. expedition rafts provided by Wilderness Tours, Kowalski expected to find every rapid navigable avoiding the need to portage.
Tom Patterson, Ben Marr, Hal Monkman, Dane Jackson and Louis-Phillip Rivest prepare raft rigging on the banks of the Nelson River in Cross Lake, Manitoba.
Skeptical of the team's mission, locals and elders of Cross Lake poured to the teams launching point as preparations were under way. Alan McLeod informed the team of what great lose the rapids have taken from the community. Photo/David Jackson
With the rafts nearly packed the team prepares to add the finishing touch; eight carbon freestyle kayaks.
Doused in rain, Kalob Grady, Bren Orton, Dane Jackson, Jon Patterson, and Tom Patterson look on at the chaos of White Mud Falls, the only rapid on the Nelson which has not been attempted.
After navigating some high volume rapids the rafts encounters the unrunnable White Mud Falls. Selecting Eve's Falls an alternate channel, the boys work as a team slinging ropes and jostling to keep the raft away from potentially dangerous holes. This the only rapid that the rafts had to be lined around for safety concerns.
After a couple days of steady autumn rain, the team dries sleeping bags in the smoky heat of the fire at Camp 2 on the Nelson River.
A raft guide on the Ottawa River during summers, Kalob Grady navigates a fully loaded boat through a minor rapid on the Nelson River.
After successfully navigating both rafts down Bladder Falls, boats were pulled into 'the garage', as it became known, and the base camp began to materialize.
Ben Marr takes the first surf on what became known as Dream Wave, confirming it really was a perfect as it looked and validating the risk they all took in joining this expedition.
Dream Wave provides. Dane Jackson rotates under a huge airscrew surfing the Nelson River giant.
After work comes play. With the camp set and the sun dropping, Dream Wave was in session as Dane Jackson dashes back to the top of the rapid, while Ben Marr surfs in the evening glow.
The 'dream trip' Kowalski would go on to describe the Nelson River as. "Where else can you run high volume whitewater in rafts, surf the biggest waves in the world, catch your dinner, and camp in total isolation with your best friends?" -Joel Kowalski.
Freestyle kayakers search the planet for perfect standing waves and perfect surf. But the culture of freestyle kayaking is about more than just big air and snappy moves. Louis-Phillip Rivest and Bren Orton share a laugh before dropping in for another surf on Dream Wave.
Camaraderie and camp life at Dream Wave.
Paddling into the flow on the morning of day six, the team leaves behind what was unanimously titled as the finest river wave ever surfed. One last rapid, 30 km of river and two lakes separate the rafts from their takeout on Sipiwesk Lake, Manitoba.
Are we there yet?