Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Once again, it's often the little things that make classes new and fun. I was teaching on the river over the weekend and had a common situation come up. We had a group of students in a mid-rapid eddy (class I). My partner went down to the next eddy to show how to do it and I started to send the students down. A couple students were nervous because the current was quite fast. The first student flipped on the eddy line and I followed him out to provide a bow rescue. But he got his hands backwards and in the confusion pulled out. No big deal - I just towed him into the goal eddy and he was fine.

But now the rest of the class was upstream by themselves. It was a short distance and we could make eye contact and communicate. We could have just told them to come on down, but I knew they would be nervous. So I decided to attain up to talk to them and be there for them. The river was medium high (2,500cfs on the SF American for those that know it). I've never had to attain in this spot before at this level and wasn't sure I could do it. But a little eddy hopping and one long, hard ferry got me up there. It was a great little challenge that allowed me to push myself while teaching on class I.

I reassured the students it was all good, and they just needed to hold their edge throughout the turn. The first student made it look easy. The next flipped and swam - I chased her down and got her to the eddy. We still had a couple left in the upper eddy, but this time I just waved them down. The attainment was fun but too much work to repeat.

In fact, the attainment was so fun that after we finished up for the day I grabbed the shop's demo slalom boat and walked down to the bridge. No shuttle, no problem. I paddled upstream, trying to see how far I could get. I made it up the first set of riffles rather easily, surfing one little wave forward after another. Nice to have a fast boat. But then there was the island. I tried the main channel but the eddy didn't get me close enough and the current was too fast. I tried the side channel - there was a fair bit of water so the rocks were covered and I made it up the bottom drop. But the top tier was just too shallow - I couldn't get a full blade in the water to generate any speed. So I went back to the other side and walked from the top of the bottom eddy to the bottom of the middle eddy. I refused to walk the whole way up - I got back in the boat and after what seemed like five minutes of hard paddling straight into the current I was able to get up to the flat below 'Old Scary'.

Old Scary is a class II rapid with another island in the middle. The left channel is straight and fast and shallow - no chance of getting up there. But I attained up to the middle eddy by the island, then over to the river right eddy. That got me within about twenty feet of the top. If I could make it up this rapid it would give me another half mile of upriver paddling before the next rapid. But it was rocky and fast - I tried to surf my way up but couldn't quite make it. I think it might be possible at a lower flow when the current is slower. So I turned around and floated back down to the bridge.

1 comment:

  1. I love paddling up class 1 rivers but it is a lot easier with an 18 foot boat. I still have a lot of trouble with the shallow rocky stuff where I cannot bury my paddle blade; that's when I wish I have my canoe with a pole.