Saturday, November 26, 2011

From Class III to Creeking / Winter Hibernation

A subject that's been coming up a lot lately is how to make the transition from a class III boater to a creeker. I know when I was learning initially, I found it difficult to find out how to progress beyond a certain point, the only things that allowed me to make the transition smoothly were my desire to run big stuff combined with strong support offered by people I boat with. Living in Chilliwack beside the river helps as well, as once I was good enough I was able to transition into the weekday canyon crew in time for the spring melt high water to quickly build my skills and prepare for class IV and up gnar on the weekends.

First step is to get a creekboat. If you really want to creek, you need a boat for it. It is great to learn and develop and hone your skills in a playboat for creeking, and chances are you learned up until now in one of those or a river runner, but ultimately you want a creekboat for creeking, and you want to be comfortable making the moves you'll have to make in that boat before you HAVE to make those moves. Buy a creekboat, and get used to it.

The most important thing to be able to do before you get into creeking is catching eddies, the second most important is boofing, these skills along with being able to read water will make things easier for you. These are beyond your basic skills, stability and roll, which should already be developed to a certain point if you're wanting to attempt creeking. Creeks involve scouting, horizon lines, wood and blind corners which require that you catch eddies to find out what you're getting in for. Creeks are often cramped, narrow canyons with not much water...meaning all the water might be going over a large pourover or waterfall that you have no choice but to boof in order to run successfully.

You might also have to leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Get a good support crew to show you how and keep an eye on you and get out there on your favorite run and have fun...but this time instead of looking for the easy lines through the rapids, hit that scary boof and think about your stroke and form while you hit it, make that ferry using a hole or wave, catch the single boat eddy, string moves together, challenge yourself while you have people around to offer pointers to make you better...and once you get comfortable, start doing it at higher water levels and see how the run changes and 'funny' water starts developing all over the place. Spend lots of time in your boat. These are the things that will improve your boating and get you ready for that next step.

I've also been astounded at the amount of people looking for good paddling videos (paddleporn) who don't know where to find them, so here's my quick list of my favorite paddleporn sites to get you going in the morning before that sub-zero paddle, especially now that winter has set in and limited most of our paddling to just weekends!:

Five2Nine Productions do the best videos, they are smart and artistic, on top of promoting river conservation and stewardship as their goals. If you want a thinker and basically the opposite of Bomb Flow check out their 'Currents' series. These have got to be the best boating based conservation documentaries out there.

Bombflow offers some amazing videos, in addition to their regular series, they also showcase various other videos from other sources and get lots of help. Their main series is more 'sit back and enjoy', without much thinking involved, they are just having fun and doing some great filming. Not necessarily child appropriate. They also offer a magazine you can find in many book stores, taking from the snowriding mag 'Bomb Snow'.

For local classics look no further than Fraser Valley Whitewater, of course their is their regular site, but if you want simply to see their videos, they do have a Vimeo feed.

Fred Norquist had some good stuff prior to Bombflow.

Including probably my all time favorite.

Brian Ward (B-real) Banks Mag.

Also...not to be forgotten is Fluid's 'Whitebox' series of videos, these feature some of the awesome and some of the more accessible creeks in BC as well, which keeps me a bit more interested.

Enjoy! ...and don't take the winter off!

Klade about to jump into some low water, sub-zero desperation boating, courtesy Marvin Moedt
Edit (this is a later post I made which makes a lot more sense in here):

For those who think creeking is 'crazy', this is an amazing, safety oriented video of what is a grueling and awesome class V multi-day creeking run (Upper Cherry in Cali).

It demonstrates how the pros mitigate risk by bringing the safety, which combined with skill and good decision making, will determine the difference between a good or bad time on the river in many cases.

Most of the time when I go out on the river in my creekboat, especially anywhere gorged in, or where access in or out isn't easy or possible, I follow these basic satefy guidelines and expect the people I'm boating with to as well,  besides having the required knowledge to apply them when necessary. I will be the first to admit I haven't always done the safest things in hindsight at times, but in order to progress as a boater, I have taken the time to learn and become more responsible, safety is everybody's responsibility!

Beyond that, it will just give you some amazing boating tips in general that will make you a better, more confident boater, paying attention to how people lean, position their bodies, and paddle through difficult whitewater will teach you a lot and I don't care who or how experienced a paddler you are, we can all learn something all the time!

When you cover all your bases, you can concentrate on having fun!

Set aside 40 minutes to watch this amazing video that many people put some hard work into, grab a creeker at Western, along with a breakdown paddle, throwbag(s), first aid kit, put together a basic pin kit and get out there and have fun learning to make your way down something more than just a 'run', but an adventure! (don't start with Upper Cherry!!!!)


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seymour Canyon

When I first started kayaking I bought Claudia Shwab's guide to whitewater in Southwest BC and briefly scanned through each run reading lots of the captions under the pretty pictures. One particular phrase that stood out was 'this is probably the most difficult run in this book', of course you can imagine what that referred to, Seymour River Canyon, class V as she described it in her conservative way (not a bad thing!), and I'm sure it quickly gets there with some water added.

Imagine you live in downtown Vancouver and you're a kayaker, trapped on the island that is a big city, you wouldn't think there is much in the way of runnable whitewater normally, but Vancouver is different, it has 2 almost downtown dammed rivers, and a third rainfed creek, these are the Capilano, Seymour and Lynn. Seymour river actually has 3 distinct sections (Upper class III, middle or canyon class IV-V, and lower class II with some surf) in addition to an pipeline wave before it enters the straight and out to the Pacific Ocean.

At the end of riverside road among all it's houses is a path that leads up the Seymour river, starting beside a bridge over a particularly gnarly you walk this path you'll notice you can't so much see the river except for one part until you arrive at the twin bridges about 2 km up, well the rapid under the first bridge is Final Exam, the part you can see from the path is 'the bony drop' I think it's called, and the twin bridges is the putin and possibly takeout for the upper run.

As you can probably tell from the hike along the well maintained and oft used path, it's a deep canyon, difficult to scout or portage in places and from what I understand very difficult to get out once you're in it, like many canyons. You actually hike your boat this entire way to the putin, which makes this run, as described in I think, like going to the gym...but better!

The run itself is amazing. The level was a great introductory just under 2 on the rock. I took a look at the entrance to mosh pit, which didn't look that inviting with the lowish water level. Tim and Geoff ran it on the right with moderate success, Annie ran a better left line. In the end I split the difference and boofed onto the middle nugget and ended up catching the small eddy immediately to the right of the entrance. Coming down the rest of the run was no problem following Annies or Tims lines most of the time. Before I knew it we were at Final Exam as I recognized the bridge...barely having taken time to enjoy the scenery up to that point. You can tell the pools in between the rapids could get very short very quick with some water on this one..

I got out at final exam to watch everyones lines, which were all about the same, then got in to run it, probably my worst run rapid of the jaunt besides the lower part of moshpit, but it turned out fine in the end.

All in all it's hard to say whether it's better as a kayaker to live in Chilliwack or Vancouver. Chilliwack has the Chilliwack canyon, which is much easier, but has an easy shuttle and is a longer run that can be had no matter the water level. Seymour canyon is a better workout with the hike, a shorter run, more challenging, and isn't always runnable with water levels. Though I'm told Norrish Creek runs more often, I'm yet to get on that one...I know if I'd run Seymour canyon with the frequency I've been running Chilliwack canyon at, I'd probably be a more proficient kayaker...but who knows!

Being in Chilliwack now, the thing that's kept me from running the Seymour is the traffic, Vancouver traffic sucks! ..and we've got so many runs around here on our own drainage as well as the Nooksack and in the Fraser's often a tough call!

For a great description and amazing pictures check out .

The four of us peeling out, Tim boofing, courtesy Denny Lunge

Me heading into the rapid before final, courtesy Denny Lunge

Me watching as Annie runs final, courtesy Denny Lunge...notice the beauty of the canyon and the sun coming in

Tim and Geoff get ready in North Vancouver 'burbs to do a sweet canyon run, courtesy Geoff Dunbrack

Tim enjoying the hike in, courtesy Geoff Dunbrack

Me enjoying the scenery before the canyon encroaches, courtesy Geoff Dunbrack