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WHEN YOU THINK OF UTAH, you don’t usually think of water. There’s the Great Salt Lake, for sure, but otherwise, Utah is usually associated with its striking desert scenery in the Great Basin and on the Colorado Plateau. During the summer months, it’s one of the driest states in the country. So if you’re a watersports enthusiast, you might not consider Utah a viable travel option.

As it turns out, you’d be dead wrong. All that dryness and desert doesn’t change the fact that Utah ranks among the top ten states in terms of boatable surface-acres of water. There are literally hundreds of places to partake in the state’s excellent watersports culture, stretching from Lake Powell in the south to Bear Lake up north. Here are some of the things you probably didn’t know you could do on the water in Utah.

1. Jet skiing

Jet skis make for some of the most fun you can have off of dry land. Rentals are available at and around virtually all of the major lakes and reservoirs, such as Deer Creek, Rockport, Echo, and Pineview.

2. Whitewater rafting

Whitewater rafting in Utah

Some of the West’s most hallowed rivers cut a path through Utah, providing for all levels of whitewater rafting, from Class I to Class V. The big names are the Colorado, which enters the state at the midpoint of its eastern border and runs southwest to eventually form Lake Powell; the San Juan (pictured above), located in the southeast corner of the state and also feeding into Powell; and the Green, which flows from the northeast of the state to meet the Colorado.

3. Kayaking

With the Colorado River running through some of the country’s most scenic landscapes — Arches, Canyonlands, Glen Canyon — the best way to experience it is by kayak or canoe. Moab makes for a good base camp to organize a paddle trip, with plenty of guided tours and rentals available. 

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9 reasons to give SUPing a try

I CAME ABOUT stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding the same way I came about the majority of my college drug experiences: I’d never done it before, but I had heard good reviews. So I just bought one because I was pretty confident that I’d be a happy customer. This method hasn’t always worked for me. But it did work with SUPing.

1. You’re probably not going to fall.

If you have a basic grasp of walking and you’ve conquered a few hopscotch games in your day, there’s a good chance you will not hurt yourself on a SUP board.

Sometimes you come up against sudden winds or whitecap conditions. Seeing as you are basically acting as a giant mast, this can be terrifying. When I’m terrified, as a rule, I just sit down. An expert paddler once told me this was a pussy-move. She can shut it. Let’s move on.

2. You’ll get toned arms.

I’m no fitness expert, but I’m pretty sure SUPing is good exercise. I often get into the water feeling very Bridget Jones-y. But I usually leave feeling pretty 1982 Jane Fonda, genetic mutation that she is.

3. You can surf on them!

SUP boards are generally longer than a standard surfboard, but you can take them into surf and either stand-up paddle or paddle with your arms. If you’re going to bring your SUP board into surf, I’ve found it’s good etiquette to stay in your own area and away from actual surfers. Your paddle can become a huge Gandalf staff in no time at all. And that is a dangerous weapon.

I’ve also found that many areas with surf breaks offer SUP surfing clinics, which are usually hosted by local surf shops. And those are sweet. Sometimes they’re free.

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Surviving a shark attack and coming back stronger than ever

Experiencing the kind of loss that Mike Coots has might keep anyone else sidelined for life, riding the proverbial pine. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Mike turned every surfer’s nightmare into a life-changing personal gain. In fact, since having his right leg taken off by a tiger shark at his home break on Kauai, he flipped the situation 180 degrees. Instead of fearing, resenting, and avoiding sharks, Coots lobbies for their conservation, dives with them, and continues to surf the same spot he was attacked at the tender age of 18. Additionally, he helps lifelong friend and ‘sister’ Bethany Hamilton with her foundation and provides counsel to amputees and victims of shark attacks. He also picked up surfing after his leg was removed and now tows into huge waves while wearing a prosthetic.

To say that Mike made the best of a bad situation is an understatement at the very least. He considers the accident a blessing and is ready to do whatever he can to protect the animals that nearly took his life. I spoke with him earlier this year.

* * *

RL: Can you recount the shark attack?

MC: I was on this bodyboarding team and right after high school we were all together. I was 18 at the time and it was early October. We went surfing on the west side of Kauai. There’s a military base out there and a pretty good surf spot we all went to.

I remember we all got to the beach. It was early in the morning and we all paddled out. I was on my bodyboard and it was about four feet or so. A nice set came through and all my friends caught waves. I think it was a five-wave set. Soon enough, it was myself and another guy out there. When the last wave came in, I remember looking at him and we looked at each other wondering who’s going to catch the wave, and I got on my board and started paddling, and as soon as I made a motion the shark came up and grabbed onto me. I didn’t see it coming from far away or anything, and it wasn’t a scary fin coming towards me. It was a blind-sided attack. Kinda like a submarine but vertical. It latched onto my leg and it started shaking me back and forth — I guess kinda like a pit bull would do with a doll.

During the back-and-forth motion, I remember feeling a lot of pressure on my legs, like a big guy was sitting on me. I didn’t feel any pain or anything. After it swung me back and forth a couple times, I, with my left hand, punched it in its nose pretty hard. It let go of me instantly and went back underwater. I got back on my board and I looked at my index finger and it was all bloody and I could see the bone and stuff sticking out. It looked like a split-open potato. I was kinda freaked out. I was like, “Oh boy, I’m hurt.” After I looked at my finger, I looked up at the guy that I’d been jockeying with the wave for, and his face had gone completely white. I yelled, “Shark! Go in!” and he started paddling in and I paddled in behind him.

As I was paddling, my right leg started doing this shaking, like a total spasm. I distinctly remember thinking, “This is it. The shark’s getting me again and I’m toast.” I looked over my shoulder, and I didn’t see the shark, but I saw my leg just severed off completely. I had no idea I was even hurt, but my leg was just gone. You couldn’t have done a better amputation with a scalpel. It was just perfectly cut off. I remember seeing blood shoot out the middle every time my heart beat.

At that point, another wave came and I caught it and rode it right up to the sand and I tried standing up on the beach. Y’know, you’re used to standing on two feet your whole life and I remember falling over in the sand with blood everywhere. My friend Kyle saw this and ran up to me, dragged me up a little higher, took my leash off my boogie board and made a tourniquet instantly and he just started saying a prayer. I closed my eyes and I just remember praying with him and as soon as he finished the prayer, I opened my eyes and there was this pick-up truck right there. This guy Keith had seen it from far away. He had seen me in the sand and he threw me in the bed of the pick-up truck and we took off to the ER.

I remember going in and out of shock, real hot and cold, going in and out of consciousness. As soon as we got to the ER, these surgeons started running up to the truck and my body gave out. I woke up the next day and I was at our main hospital, post-surgery and everything. My family and friends were all there.

After that, I spent about a month out of the water because of the stitches and staples. I guess there’s a high risk of infections, so I had to wait until all that healed up and then I was back in the water just over a month later.

What went through your head as the shark was shaking you back and forth?

It wasn’t an out-of-body experience or anything. I was looking right at the shark. Your whole life in the ocean, you’re basically preparing yourself for that moment. I knew it was a shark attacking me. The punching (the shark in the nose) was totally instinct, that fight-or-flight instinct.

In Hawaii, we have centipedes. When you see one, you kind of get chicken skin. I remember having that exact feeling. The get-away-from-me feeling where you feel that creepy sensation. I knew I just had to get away from the situation. Whatever I had to do — punch, kick, whatever. And it worked. As soon as I hit the shark, it released its grip on me and left me alone.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Barney Miller is different from most other Australian surfers: He’s quadriplegic. Miller’s got a severe spinal cord injury that paralyzes him from the waist down. Spinal cord injuries affect 3 million people around the world, so Miller is raising awareness for an upcoming race called the Wings for Life World Run, taking place all over the world to raise money and awareness for spinal cord injury research. You can see if there’s a race near you.

For those noticing that he has some use of his arms (which would make him a paraplegic and not a quadriplegic), he was initially diagnosed as a quadriplegic and has since gained some of the use of his arms back. Which makes this even more incredible.

(via Just because you’re paralyzed doesn’t mean you can’t surf)

30 signs you’re a Brazilian jiu-jitsu addict

Your joints are sore and your ears are mangled, yet you still spend the entire day looking forward to training. Are you worried that you’re addicted to Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Take a long look at this list and judge for yourself.

1. You hip escape in bed to get out from under the covers.

2. You’re uncomfortable hugging your own mother without double underhooks.

3. Your closet is filled with more jiu-jitsu gis than t-shirts and jeans.

4. You find yourself debating whether or not to pass the guard during missionary sex.

5. You pronounce names beginning in “R” with an “H” sound.

6. Laundering your dirty gis has resulted in several destroyed washing machines.

7. You delete your web history so your significant other doesn’t see your jiu-jitsu watching habits.

8. You find your jiu-jitsu skills improve the more you train, yet your English gets worse.

9. All the t-shirts you do own are emblazoned with jiu-jitsu tournament graphics.

10. You’re on a first-name basis with your local seamstress.

11. You’ve been accused of having an affair as a result of hickey-like bruises on your neck.

12. When someone extends their hand, you don’t think “handshake,” you think “armdrag.”

13. Acaí, picanha, and caipirinhas are staples of your diet.

14. You can pronounce açaí, picanha, and caipirinha with ease.

15. You’ve unintentionally learned to speak Portuguese despite living in middle-America.

Read the full list here.

Amazing shot by @mattiasfredrikssonphotography from Cinque Torri, Italy. #mountains #dolomites #italy #cortina #snow #skiing #sports #winter travel #travelstoke #nature

Mountain biking in Moab, Utah. Photo by Zach Dischner. #travelstoke #reflection #moab #utah #mountainbiking #biking #nature #sports #action #travel #usa

11 sports we wish were in the Winter Olympics Skijoring

Okay, perhaps it’s just me, but there seems to be a certain lack of animals at the Olympics. I like the idea of man and beast training together, forming partnerships and giving it their all…but then again, I (an adult male) still cry when watching Balto. The animated one. For those of you unfamiliar with the painfully obscure sport, skijoring is essentially skiing while being pulled by dog or horse. I dare you to tell me you wouldn’t watch that.

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