Tag: white water kayaking

Grand Rapids White Water Gaining Traction!

Grand Rapids White Water Gaining Traction!

Rapid Growth Article covering GRWW.com

Over a year ago I helped put up a WordPress blog for GRWW.org. Chip and I had a really good conversation about the idea of a White Water Park in downtown Grand Rapids. Chip, since then has been tirelessly campaigning for the idea. Suffice it to say that Chip has been really successful in both listening, and in making the message heard in Grand Rapids for the idea of restoring the natural flow of the river for recreational use.

This article from Rapid Growth does a really nice job of profiling Chip Richards and Chris Muller.

In the early part of the campaign there were a lot of concerns over what removing low head dams would do for recreational fisherman. Chip, an avid sport fisherman himself quickly laid those fears to bed by actively seeking input from the fisherman, and assuring them that the idea is not to remove their prime fishing spots along the Grand, but to redirect flow for use of white water rafting, kayaking and canoeing.

Money is finally being set aside for a feasibility study, and according to Chip:

“But more importantly, the DDA has set aside $25,000 of matching funds that will aid in our ability to hire a consultant who will determine the feasibility and the design for the implementation.”

I am really excited about all of this good news on the local white water front, and thanks to Chip and Chris for all of his hard work and those who have attended meetings, knocked on doors, made phone calls, or e-mails on behalf of the effort. Keep up the good work.

Demystifying the eskimo roll

Demystifying the eskimo roll

A while back I wrote an article based on the Qajaq USA fueled discussion about Mentally Preparing to Eskimo Roll. For the uninitiated. An eskimo roll is the ability to right your kayak without exiting. Essentially it is a finesse maneuver where the paddler floats their body at the surface alongside their kayak and aggressively flicks their inboard hip to right the boat. With a little assistance from a paddle/hand/norsaq for support on the surface, the boat rights itself and the paddler can swing their body back, or forward onto the deck and then sit up.

This video is of me performing a Norsaq assisted forward recovery hand roll in a white water boat. This is one of the more difficult hand rolls to perform due to the need to stay close to the foredeck. Though certainly this is not as hard as an elbow roll, or a straight jacket roll.

Culturally within sea kayaking there has been a long standing misconception about eskimo rolling. As coaches we have created a mystique around a very basic skill. We have made it seem as if learning to roll is a mystical power not unlike Yoda lifting the X-Wing fighter out of the Dagobah swamp.

Yoda Lifting Luke's X Wing out of Dagobah Swamp

Sea Kayaking coaches have made the roll seem like a herculean, obscure, and dangerous power, rather than the necessary simple gateway skill it is. Part of this is due to the dynamic conditions under which ocean paddlers may voyage forth. Some days may be calm and temperate, some days may be tempestuous, windy and downright gnarly. Based on these shifting conditions coaches wisely instruct paddlers to watch conditions, know your limits, dress for immersion, stay close to shore, and never paddle alone. All sound advice. A capsize would be an unlikely event if you were smart enough to avoid big waves, high winds, and strong tides correct?

Before I tackle the bizarre assumption of an unlikely capsize at sea in a boat that is 20 inches wide. Let’s look at what the moving water crowd does.

Good white water instructors teach every paddler that comes through their programs to roll. It is a necessary skill. It is not an unlikely event that one will be capsized while paddling down a Class III or Class IV rapid. It’s going to happen. So you better be prepared for it. The risks of a wet exit in rapids are fairly high. There are strainers, logs or trees fallen across the river to get yourself or your boat wedged within. Falls or nasty retentive features to suck you under and hold you down also come to mind. Reputable white water schools require that before the students leave class; each must do a roll to run the river. Or they go in a raft. Sounds reasonable right?

So my question is: why don’t Sea Kayak instructors approach teaching the student to roll the way white water instructors do? If we are truly preparing paddlers to kayak on the sea in long skinny boats (at any distance from shore) why don’t we approach teaching the student to roll the way white water instructors do? The risks are no less serious than river paddling. If you go in the drink at sea (or Great Lakes) you can be blown far from shore in cold water and drown within a matter of twenty minutes. How is that less risky than white water kayaking?

Is it the truly unlikely event of a capsize? I performed a google search on kayaking deaths for Washington State and found at least three in the top 10 searches within the Seattle and Bellingham area for 2008. There are four for Michigan. So really how unlikely is it?

Press for paddle sports and specifically kayaking is great. We need more press pointing people to the joy of getting out on the water. Especially getting out on the water under human power. There are far too many people who opt for the cheap thrills of gasoline powered endeavors. For me whether it is cycling, paddling, running, or swimming, I enjoying getting there under my own power. There are certain risks associated with this endeavor. The Bellingham Herald wrote an article Entitled, Sea Kayaking and White Water Paddling as different as night and day. The phrase that really got me thinking was this statement from Dave Johnson of Johnson outdoors about Sea Kayaking,

“Ideally, you should be able to re-enter your boat if it flips,”

And then most poignantly this was said by Dirk Fabian in the article about white water paddling:

“Having a good, solid roll is important; having an experienced group to go with is the most important.”

I do not blame the Bellingham Herald for this misconception. I am happy paddling is getting press. I blame us as Sea Kayaking Coaches, we need to take the Yoda out of the roll and get serious about teaching it as an essential skill to all students who will go to sea. Even if the student is struggling with it, we still need to stress it’s importance. We need to stop making it appear that it is an optional, or nice to have skill. You know…if you were maybe thinking about going to sea. We need to stress the risks of going to sea without a roll in the way that white water instructors stress the importance of the roll for moving water on the river.

Let me know your thoughts on the subject.

Grand Rapids White Water.com new Web site

Grand Rapids White Water.com new Web site

Grand Rapids White Water dot com image of web site
Grand Rapids White Water dot com image of web site

I’ve been working on a number of projects that have kept me from blogging recently. Grand Rapids White Water.com for instance. This site is intended to communicate about the movement to get a white water park in downtown Grand Rapids. I’ve been to the white water park in South Bend Indiana. It’s great fun, and an excellent introduction to white water in a safe environment. If you are looking to volunteer or want to stay in touch with the movement. Follow the web site, and friend Chip Richards on Facebook! Also please join the Facebook Group for the cause.

I would love to see a white water park change the local paddling community for the better. It could totally change the landscape of people who paddle. Surfing and moving water could be the norm for people my age, rather than the exception. Availability of a decent white water park to learn to handle standing waves, current, rolling, and playboating maneuvers would be the cat’s meow.

That’s my belief anyway.

In other news:

I got back on the bike today to come to work. It was 10 below but with bright sunshine.

I had this Willie Nelson song in my head:

I never cared for you

The sun is filled with ice and gives no warmth at all
the skies were never blue
the stars are raindrops searching for a place to fall
and I never cared for you
I know you won’t believe these thing I tell you
I know you won’t believe
your heart has been forewarned all men will lie to you
and your mind cannot conceive
now all depends on what I say to you
and on your doubting me
so I’ve prepared these statements far from true
to fuel your disbelief
The sun is filled with ice and gives no warmth at all
the sky was never blue
the stars are raindrops searching for a place to fall
and I never cared for you
The sun is filled with ice and gives no warmth at all
the sky was never blue
the stars are raindrops searching for a place to fall
and I never cared for you
I never cared for you

ACA Surf Kayak Committee Announces IDW for Nov 2009

ACA Surf Kayak Committee Announces IDW for Nov 2009

Surf Kayak ACA Instructor Certification

When I was in Santa Cruz last year, Valley Surf Paddler Sean Morely was undertaking the ACA Surf ICW. It seems that the ACA has created a blog for the Surf Committee. Once I caught wind of my impending visit to the Virginia Beach area I started inquiring about the possibility of doing a Surf ICW.

Michigan native Scott Fairty has already undertaken this ICW and wrote a great post about his experience.

I am thinking of making the trip down to Virginia Beach for the Surf Event this fall, though it would be terrifically convenient if I could squeeze it in this spring when I am in Virginia Beach. We all know that won’t happen.

What is apparent and terrifically convenient is that the ACA is beginning to take Surf Kayaking seriously. I am not one to think that an ACA ICW/IDW…what have you will be a panacea for what ails the paddling word. But it is a signpost on the road that goes in the right direction for surf paddling. This is good for two main reasons.

Accessibility of Surf Specific Equipment

One thing that will continue to plague the development of Surf Kayaking in the US is access to surf specific kayaks. Until this changes there will be a lot of white water boats and sea kayaks being used for surfing. In reality this is a good way to begin, because it gets people in the surf zone and developing skills across disciplines. But in the long run, it short changes the development of really good surf skills. A white water boat really does not surf or carve at all like a surf kayak. They lack sufficient hull speed and are thrown into the white water or pearl out and nose dive on steep take offs. The paddler never really gets the feel for surf specific maneuvers and cannot really surf. Sea kayaks are almost worse in that they can surf anything. But they surf it with complete reckless abandon. They will bongo slide three foot surf anywhere taking out swimmers and boardies like Conan the Barbarian.

Surf kayaking is sort of a new sport. It had a brief run in the late 70s and early 80s and then some dark days. And then it was slowly reborn back into popularity. There are few good surf kayak manufacturers. Valley has launched their surf kayak line with great success. Riot is now stepping into the ring. And there are a few low key west coast providers such as Dick Wold and Vince Shay’s designs at Murky Waters. Also there is the enigma of Mega Surf Kayaks who make a great product, but seem to be unable to land a distributor for their kayaks in the US. Malcolm (bless his heart) I believe has tried but with little success to find the proverbial Great River Outfitters to be his business partner in the US. However unlike Valley and GRO, there is no mass appeal for a sport that holds its greatest lure among those who believe that being cold, wet, and terrified is a good lifestyle choice, (this website is clearly advocating this as a good way to go!). So unless you live either right next to a Valley dealer, or in Northern California, there are few surf specific kayak choices available now. I am hoping Valley and Riot will change all of that. And Riot in particular seems to be making all of the right moves with the launch of their new surf kayak line.

Surf Training & Advocacy

Without those who know the skills to help those who don’t there won’t be new surf paddlers. My first indoctrination into surf specific kayaking was buying a Riot Boogie after hearing about it from a guy on paddling.net. To this date, I know of one other Great Lakes Kayak Surfer. And by this I mean, a guy with a surf kayak that will go out when it is rough out. One other guy in the whole of my west coast. I’ve been trying to get people to try it for almost 4 years now. No takers, except this one guy (Joe Deja). When I went to the west coast, I found I performed adequately, not terrific, but adequately. I managed to catch and ride waves in a surf kayak without shaming myself. But I have to believe that this pursuit of mine could be shared by others.

The complaint that surf paddlers frequently have is based on being treated unfairly, if not with outright hostility in prime surf spots shared with stand up board surfers. And this is mainly due to surf paddlers, who surf like either white water kayakers, or sea kayakers, or nowhere in between. As one of the ACA’s mission statements and goals is to increase advocacy and access for paddlers, this new training and assessment would seem to be a great way to get the message out to paddlers. And this would be especially so for paddlers who frequent areas where multiple use breaks (Stand up surfers and kayak surfers) are prevalent.

I believe that the ACA ICW and ICE could potentially be way to start course correcting on these two issues. If the ACA will teach the rules of the road that surfers are using to paddlers this may go a long way to steering paddlesports back into union with the board surfing community. And if there are more people taking the surf kayaking discipline as an instruction path, then more people may potentially hear about it, and it won’t be me and two other guys in Michigan!

So watch the Surf Committe Blog for when the Surf IDW is finalized. If you are from the Midwest and want to make the trip let me know. I had an e-mail exchange with Ben Lawry who is now the ITE so I may have to make it a date.