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!!!!)


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