I was lucky in my initial whitewater experience, I had a great support ensemble starting out. I had people that were always willing to hit up the beginner run on the Chilliwack (Hans, Tracy and Bob). People that were willing to take me on my first runs down things like Raft Ranch and Slesse (Curtis, Rob, Dave, Ryan, Wes). These people were all instrumental in my development, and I'm sure enjoyed watching me swim while pushing my limits as far as I deemed necessary and they deemed sane.
7 Days a week I was out on the river in The Medievil, honing my skills, developing technique on the beginner run, these runs were instrumental in my development from inexperienced beginner to confident beginner willing to take on things more difficult than at the time I could imagine. I would spend each day on that run and/or surfing the wave at Osborne, trying to hang on to the wave or working on my roll in the river. I was never a person with the priviledge of learning in the pool until later on, but I think this benefited me, as I got to enjoy the splendor of Cultus Lake and the experience that comes with it, not that the comfy pool is a bad thing!
My first run down Raft Ranch (the step up from the beginner run) came in late July following Curtis' line through the mess wide eyed and at a decent water level as I remember it (could be wrong :). I remember being separated from the group at one point, with Curtis staring at me and saying as I got back, thankfully not flipping as I had no roll at the time, 'stay on my tail Adam, and lean forward, be aggressive!'...I would hear these words echoed to this day everytime I paddle with him, and the only time I need to hear them it seems, is with him!
It was one week later, in early August, I did my first run with Curtis and Rob from Slesse Creek down to Allison Pools..at a decent water level again, this would be my first experience with decent class 3 drops, headwalls, whirlpools, big holes and their evasion. I went in wide eyed that day, it was bad weather, my first time using a dry top and horrible...but I had a great time, swam twice but didn't even care...
I learned in those couple months from late July to mid September to become comfortable on the water in my old school boat, start to push my limits, and that if you didn't swim, you were way too within your comfort zone. Of course that last statement could always be argued with, as some people prefer never to swim (I can't disagree!)...but it happens, and you'll have a much better time if you can just take it, swallow your pride and move on instead of dwell on it!
Wilson Road rapid became my bane, my swimmin' hole...I must've swam there 10+ times, and I still rolled there after getting my combat roll down! Every time we came to that rapid (the hardest one on the run unless you hit The Hallucinator hole)...I tensed up and had a bad feeling, I knew once I conquered that I'd be ready for the next level.
I used the message boards to my advantage, started finding other paddlers, and making my non-paddling time into paddling time! This has to be the best resource beginner paddlers fail to use, there are always people out there willing to teach!
I also learned the basics of what I needed to move to the next level, beyond the basics...into a world of class 3 and up, with the right gear, my river rescue training, and the right people, the sky became the limit....
Fraser Valley White Water
Vancouver Kayak Club