December 30, 2013
Complacency is not an enemy that stages a dawn raid on your home, sirens blaring, knocking down your door, blazing in with maximum violence. Complacency is something that approaches silently and slowly over time, waiting for you to turn your back, and then pushes you down the stairs. We all have a comfort zone. In order to keep things interesting for myself this year, I did my damnedest to not paddle flat water all year. It wasn’t an overt resolution I made to myself. But, I wanted to keep things interesting. Some might think that in the midwest we have very little opportunity to keep our skills up in waves and current. So I decided to make a year of it and see how often I could paddle both. It turns out if you are creative, the answer is quite a bit.
In order to achieve this, I wanted to paddle more days on the Kalamazoo River in either a canoe, or in a white water kayak. I did this by using a beautiful section of the Kalamazoo that has three class II sections of white water under the correct conditions. I did a lot of boat spotting, with a shuttle run, sometimes even with Indy the beagle (when Dan would loan me his canoe) to run these three sections.
The first one is the plainwell spillway dam here:
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I spent a lot of time here when there were no waves on Lake Michigan this summer with a number of people including Dan, Rebecca, and Pat. And a fair number of quick 1-hr sessions just paddling upstream from the put in. This spot works in a variety of water levels, and is a great way to keep skills sharp. I worked a lot on edge to edge transitions, ferrying, eddy turns, and obviously surfing white water waves.
Just a short trip downstream is this spot at Fannie Pell Park:
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This spot has all sorts of challenges. The first is actually getting on the wave as it is quite shallow. The second is the challenge of rolling up quickly if you wash off as there are some nasty rocks right after the wave. This spot definitely works better at high water. But it sharpens the skills on reading the water, and getting your boat positioning just right, as well as bracing and rolling in conditions.
The last spot is a mellow fun spot downriver here:
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This spot definitely teaches you how to position your boat to stay on the wave and how to find the front part of a white water wave. As with the spot at fannie pell park, it works better in high water.
I really felt that these spots made for a much more interesting paddling year than if I had decided to just go to Lake Michigan and paddle distance on flat water, though I did do that as well a few times.
We did have a great year for Lake Michigan surf as well as you can tell from these images below:
It was a full year of paddling for sure. I was quite lucky to be able to do a number of training, and assessments. A BCU Coach Level 1 program, An ACA Surf Kayak Assessment. While I wouldn’t say I was complacent, my goal for next year is to push myself even further and to try and do some tidal paddling, as well as some further assessments and training.