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arnobarno
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  Quote arnobarno Replybullet Topic: Beginner Guide
    Posted: 13 Apr 2007 at 8:52pm
Hey,
Deborah and I spent a little time trying to put together a "Newbie" Guide to getting started with WW kayaking in Seattle.  We know that this is the season when lots of new paddlers are taking classes (WKC, NWOC, others) and wanted to try to provide some information that we needed to discover for ourselves.  We don't profess to have any secret sauce - rather, having been at this for close to a year, we wanted to document what we learned and pass that on to others.

We'd be interested in feedback on this document and would like to find an appropriate home for it here on PP if people think it is worthwhile.

Thanks,
Arn

------------------------------------- Beginner Guide --------------------------

Arn & Deborah’s Newbie Guide to Paddling in Seattle

We started whitewater paddling in May 2006 with a class at Northwest Outdoor Center (NWOC). We like to say that we started to paddle “by accident” – in the sense that neither of us had any intention of actually enjoying whitewater paddling. We took the class because we had an extended sea kayaking trip planned and friends suggested that the best way to improve your sea kayaking skills was to take a whitewater class. Well, after taking the class we were hooked. But, we were a bit confused as to what to do next. How do we get started? What rivers should we try to run? How do we meet other people to hook up with to paddle? Etc.


So, after close to a year of finding our own path through the wilderness, we thought it might be useful to other newbies to document what has worked for us and what we’ve observed has worked for others. I don’t think we have any secret sauce and our goal is not to be class V boaters – we don’t have the aptitude or risk acceptance profile. We simply want to be competent on class III and easy class IV water.


This guide is divided into two parts – the first is a set of “steps” to get started. The second section is our observation of a reasonable order in which to run the rivers here in the Seattle area. The second section is also very opinionated – even more so than the first section. If we dissed your favorite run, we’re sorry, it is just our opinion – your mileage may vary.
Getting Started

Step#1: Get a roll – We were lucky in the sense that we both had “pool” rolls before we ever took a whitewater class. We decided in the fall of 2005/winter of 2006 to go to the pool sessions to learn how to roll our sea kayaks. We took a lesson locally but that didn’t work so well for us though I’m sure that there are classes here that are great. We got “The Kayak Roll” video and must have watched it 50 times – at least 2x before every pool session – and almost learned entirely to roll from the video. We would go to the pool sessions with a video camera and record each other’s failures (there were many) and try to debug what was going on wrong with the aid of the videos above. We also received lots of helpful coaching from random kayakers at the WKC pool sessions, and, in general, we’ve found that people are over the top helpful when they know you are learning. Sometimes the advice is not particularly actionable (“keep your head down”) when the real problem is resistance on the paddle. But, it is always done in a positive spirit. Our observed rule of thumb is that if you are 100% successful in the pool with your roll, you’ll be successful 90+% in the river. If you are successful 90% in the pool, you’ll be successful 50% or less on the river. This is one skill that you absolutely have to get to 100% success in the pool. On your first roll. Seriously. Special note to guys teaching wives, girlfriends, etc. to boat – Deborah would say that one of the only reasons she is comfortable on the river is because she invested in getting a solid roll before ever getting on the river. And, since Arn wrote most of this but asked for my input, I’ll throw in my two cents about getting the girl in your life to boat with you. As Arn said, having a solid roll has made a huge difference in my confidence. In the pool, I got Arn to stand at the stern of my boat. His job was to whip the boat in any direction and my job was to practice bracing and rolling. This was very helpful and he seemed to enjoy this opportunity immensely. It is a big investment in time and energy, and, let’s face it, the river is more fun than the pool. But swimming sucks, and at the risk of sounding sexist, the prospect is even scarier for women than men.


Step#1a: If you are swimming every trip, go back to step #1 and/or go back to easier rivers. We are both constantly amazed to see people on the river that don’t seem bothered swimming and never seem to have time for pool sessions. What’s up with that?? In your mind you need to believe in your roll and believe that swimming is not an option. There are lots of exercises you can try in the pool to simulate the river. Like getting someone to flip you over. Or try hanging out underwater for 15 seconds before rolling up. How about trying to pass your paddle from one side of the boat to the other while you are under water?  Try rolling over with the paddle behind your back.  How about with the paddle in one hand and upside down?  Bottom line: get comfortable spending time underwater.


Step#2
: Take a class – Friends don’t teach friends how to boat. The reason we say this is that our observation is that most people want to run the river and/or play in the river. Instead, to get started, what you really need are lots of drills – peeling out, eddying out, ferrying, over and over and over again. And, let’s face it, most of the time, your friends want to run the river, not ferry the same stretch of river 100x or catch every eddy in the river. We took our classes with NWOC and thought that Herbie and John did a great job. I’m sure the other shops in Seattle are great as well as is the yearly WKC class.


Step #2A: Arn did a great job of finding classes for us. While I (Deborah) did sign up for the classes, I declared the right to put my boat off the river at any moment and to quit. I was both terrified and excited on our first river day. A big breakthrough happened for me on our 3rd river day. I decided the only way to have confidence in my roll was to start using it in current. So, while in class with the support of instructors, I started “peeling, dumping and rolling”. I didn’t care which side I flipped over on and I didn’t care which side was the upstream-side. Frankly, I didn’t know the difference. It was a huge gain to know I was going over and being ready to get my head upside-down and ready to roll. I looked for big waves and pushy water to me (i.e. about the force of you spitting watermelon seeds) to test it out. I believe the “peel, dump and roll” practice has been the key to my not pulling my boat out of the water and calling it quits. This was the confidence builder that let me have fun while my stomach was nervous.


Step#3: Invest in a drysuit and preferably get one that has sewn-in socks. Of course this is a big expense but you can always find used suits on craigslist and/or ebay and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. One of the guys we regularly boat with found a used one for $100. Another friend found a brand new 2005 Kokatat suit for just over $500. The difference in comfort and safety especially if you are boating in the winter is like the difference between night and day. Special note to guys teaching wives, girlfriends, etc. to boat – this is another area where we think that you can really improve your WAF (wife acceptance factor) score here by investing in the dry stuff (or renting a drysuit if you aren’t sure that they are going to like it). And, speaking as the WAF (or wife), I would not have made it without my drysuit. While Arn has done stuff in a wet suit in cold water, I have not. My drysuit has kept me warmer than any day I ever went downhill skiing (and that is a fair number of days). I would also recommend a pair of Glacier Gloves (fleece-lined) for your girl’s hands. They are the best I’ve found. And girls, if you get the gloves, I highly recommend practicing with them in the pool. I didn’t and it made for my worst day of paddling ever. I lost all feeling for the paddle. And let’s just say, on that day, I went kayaking on the Olympic Peninsula and my roll went for vacation elsewhere.


Step#4: Get active on Professor Paddle and with the Washington Kayak Club. Find some suitable trips for your skill level and talk to the trip organizer about where you are at. Under sell and over deliver on your ability level – everyone will be happier this way.


Step#5: Take a swift water rescue class; preferably with your boating buddies. We took our class with a group called Sierra Rescue on the Cedar River (with great instructors, Abigail Polsby and local Will Robens). A swift water rescue class will teach you how to be a good rescuer; but, even more importantly, how to be a good victim. You will get opportunities to practice swimming and breathing in rapids the correct way (breathe in the troughs of the waves). Yeah, we know what we said about swimming above but we are all between swims. Deborah hates swimming even more than Arn but she would say that after taking this class, it added another level of comfort to her boating. You’ll learn about simple (and more complicated) systems for rescuing boaters in trouble. And, that boater could be you - so understanding what your rescuers are going to do to try to save you will help you if you ever are in that situation.
Rivers

A much more detailed description for all of these rivers is on Professor Paddle and/or American Whitewater site.
First steps

Snoqualmie (Powerhouse), Yo Yo section of the Green – Both of these runs are short with places to practice all of the essential moves. Your class was probably on one of these rivers. Go back here. Practice.


Cedar – Other than the slalom course section (which is not for beginners), this run, IMHO, is boring and often full of wood. Go down the Cedar to see the Salmon in the October. Otherwise, skip it.


Upper Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie –This is a beautiful stretch of river and the vistas are so beautiful that it will remind you once again how lucky we all are to live in the Pacific Northwest. If you have II+/III skills, put-in as high as you can at a put-in known as “Bridge View.” The American Whitewater site has details of this new access point. None of the rapids are particularly difficult on this run but wood can be a problem. We’d argue it provides a great wilderness experience practically in our backyard and should not be missed even by much more experienced kayakers. And, if you have the skills, you can continue on the Middle-Middle section of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie and put together an 18 mile run. Unfortunately, the road is being repaired right now (May 2009) so you may need to wait a bit before gaining access to this run again.


Club Section of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie – We’ve never run this put it is a fairly popular run for new boaters.
Next steps

Railroad Bridge to Big Eddy section of the Skykomish – This is a great run though has the unfortunate feature of having the hardest rapids first. There are two choices here. The first choice and easiest put-in is above the Railroad Bridge at Split Rock. Unfortunately, that means you run a solid class 3 rapid as soon as you get started. And, to make matters worse, the easiest line is river right so you have to ferry across the river to be on the correct line for this rapid. The other alternative is to put in below the Railroad Bridge. This avoids most of the class 3 rapid to get started but there is still some more difficult water here. The second rapid you come to is the other hard rapid on this run – Fisherman’s. So, great run, lots of places to practice, and almost always flowing. But, it starts with the hardest water first.


SF Snoqualmie – This is our favorite beginner run close to Seattle. IMHO, this run has everything – beautiful scenery and lots of variety. It starts off with a short rapid, followed by lots of flat water building up to a great canyon, a weir and some surf waves. At low flows, the canyon is technical and provides lots of opportunities to practice everything you learned in class. At high flows, the canyon becomes class III and is an explosion of big fun waves (and hard to catch eddies – be careful). You can also drag your boat up ˝ mile above the normal put-in and run a fun class III “boogie water” section. There is one problem with this run – that is water. It is not reliable so catch it when you can.


Headworks Section of the Green – We’re sure many will disagree with us on this but we really don’t like this run. The scenery is boring and the river does not contain many interesting features or play spots. Yes, there are a couple of great surf waves, for sure. And, the one class 3 rapid (another weir) is fun. But the rest of the river is void of features and the nature of the river (dam controlled) means that there is lots of vegetation on the sides and there are not a great number of eddys. This means that swims can be long here. And, to make matters worse, the level is totally unreliable because the people that control the flows like to mess with the kayakers. Skip it.


Lower Green Gorge – This is a beautiful section of river that is close to Seattle and has an altogether different feel than the other rivers listed in this document. The beginning of this section (put-in at Paradise) feels very much like an Olympic Peninsula river. Steep canyon, lush vegetation, undercut walls. The put-in is a bit treacherous and the shuttle is a bit on the long side. Still, it is a beautiful river and contains more class 3 rapids than any of the other rivers in this section of the document. Unfortunately, the run starts out with the most difficult rapid first. So, be prepared and try this after feeling confident on some of the other rivers listed above.


Wenatchee – Everyone’s favorite play run in eastern Washington. Okay, everyone except Arn. No really, Arn likes it too but it really is for play. If you don’t want to do a great deal of playing, make sure you choose your paddling buddies carefully when heading to the Wenatchee. Runs from Rodeo Hole to Cashmere (the best play section) can last 25 minutes or all day depending on how much play you are doing.
Moving On

Skykomish (Cable Drop to Split Rock or Index to Split Rock) – This is a great run with reliable flows. Try running it below 2000cfs to get started and plan on walking Boulder Drop for a while. You can combine this with the Split Rock to Big Eddy run for a nice relaxing wind down after the excitement of the upper section. When you decide it is time to run Boulder Drop, a good first time level is around 1500-1750 cfs. The section above the pickets isn’t too pushy at this level and the lower section (after airplane turn) isn’t too technical. With more water (say 2200), the entry rapid is harder but the lower section is a little easier. Choose your poison! Our best advice is not to be in a big hurry to run Boulder Drop. It is significantly harder than every other rapid on the Sky and harder than any other rapid in this Newbie guide. Many in Seattle will tell you about their swims in Boulder Drop and how the rapid has been swam every such way and it isn’t a big deal. But, people have had very scary swims here – even at low water – and had some close calls as well as serious injuries.


Sauk – This run does not seem to be run by Seattle area boaters very much and we’re not entirely sure why. Perhaps because it is similar in nature to the Middle Middle and a lot further away (about 1.5 hours to the take-out). But, it is fun and there are a number of boaters active on Professor Paddle that live north of Everett and boat the Sauk regularly. More technical than the Sky and less of a pool drop nature to the river. The gauge on the Sauk is rather interesting in that it is located downstream of the confluence with another river. And, since the two rivers have drainages at different elevation levels, readings in the winter aren’t comparable to the spring. 4000 cfs feels too low to us in the winter but fine in the spring. 7500 cfs is a crankin’ good time in the summer once you know the lines.


Middle section of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie (Middle Middle) – This is our favorite intermediate run close to Seattle. Beautiful scenery, lots of fun rapids and technical rock gardens. If you liked the SF of the Snoqualmie, you’ll love the Middle Middle. Look for something under 2000 cfs, preferably under 1500 cfs to get started. The website lists 1000 cfs as a minimum but we’ve run this at 900 and know others that have run this at 800. Personally, we feel that the easiest level for this river is around 1250-1300 cfs. Below this level, there are more rocks and strangely, House Rocks, to us, seems harder at water levels lower than this. The holes aren’t as big but the current doesn’t guide you as well through the crux section at low water levels. As a simple rule of thumb, House Rocks at 1500 cfs is class III+; at 2500 cfs, consider it IV- and at 3500 cfs consider it a class IV. Most local boaters put-in below 1st Island Drop and do not run the section between Concrete Bridge and 1st Island Drop. But, that section is fun too and if you want to extend your trip, consider putting in at Concrete Bridge. Also, there are some other take-out or put-in options to create either a class III only trip (no House Rocks) or a “Best-of Middle Middle” to run (or avoid) the section below A-Frame rapid. Talk to someone that knows.


SF Stilly (Middle) – This is a fun class III (III+) run around 6.0 feet on the gauge and ˝ step easier than the upper section of the Sky (without Boulder Drop). At 7.5 feet, it is mostly class II and class III “boogie water”, a couple of class IV rapids, and one very dangerous wood obstacle just above the take-out. Be careful.


Upper Green Gorge –The Upper Gorge is even more beautiful than the Lower Gorge but it is significantly harder. The Middle Middle should feel rather boring at 2500 cfs before jumping on the Upper Gorge. It isn’t that the Upper Gorge is so much harder than the Middle Middle – rather, it just feels much more remote and committing than the Middle Middle. There is no easy road access once you are in the Gorge and your buddies could have trouble reaching you if you get yourself stuck in a bad place. The only big minus about this run is the take-out – that is, the climb out from Paradise (or the hot springs) is a real grunt for weaklings like Arn! In fact, our current mode of running the Gorge is to run both the Upper and Lower together for a beautiful 11 mile paddle.


Tieton – This is a unique run in that the river comes to life in September when everything else is dry. We have mixed feelings about this run – it doesn’t have a great deal of rapids on it to keep an intermediate boater interested and it is continuous enough with likely wood obstacles that could really get a beginner in trouble. Be careful.


Toutle – This is another unique run as it features lots of tangled debris from the Mount St. Helens eruption of almost 30 years ago. This run has two really fun sections and lots of flat water in the middle. Try it mid-winter when nothing else is running and you are tired of another Sky run @ 1500 cfs. The crux rapid is an easy class IV rapid @ 2500 cfs and there are a couple of other fun class III+ rapids on this run as well.


Beckler – The Beckler is difficult to classify.  It is mostly class II and class III boogie water without many defined rapids.  The first mile drops about 100 feet per mile and is in a beautiful setting but after that, the setting isn't as great and the boogie water steps down a notch.  Still, this is not a river to take lightly - especially at high water - because of the ever present wood danger.  When we ran this river in 2008, there were three or four required wood portages and the wood can come up quickly due to the nature of the river (lots of boogie water, limited eddies).  We'd say skip it as it has the same issues as the Tieton - limited interest for the intermediate boater and lots of potential problems for a beginner.


Multi-Day and International

Rogue – The Rogue is a fantastic 3 or 4 day kayak trip in Southern Oregon.  The scenery is great and it is a perfect first multi-day trip in a kayak.  In fact, we did this trip as our 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th day ever in a whitewater kayak.  We went with DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking and can't say enough great things about Phil & Mary.  The Rogue is a perfect place to work on your roll and improve your river skills.  If you are comfortable on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie, you'll probably enjoy the Rogue.  And, if you go on a raft supported trip and you are unsure about any of the rapids or Mule Creek Canyon, you can always throw your boat on the raft.


Middle Fork of the Salmon – Another great multi-day kayaking trip, this one in Idaho.  Getting a permit is difficult - especially if you want to try to get a permit when there is good water and good weather.  Joining a commercial trip is easy (but expensive).  If you are comfortable on the Middle Middle at 2500, you'll love the Middle Fork of the Salmon at 3.5 feet.  100 miles of III-IV water (mostly class III) and fantastic scenery.  What more could you ask for.


Grand Canyon - For many, paddling the Grand Canyon is the ultimate kayak trip.  Unique scenery, spectacular hikes and big waves.  For us, unlike the MF Salmon trip, the Grand Canyon is literally (and figuratively) a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We loved seeing it and especially enjoyed all of the fantastic hikes up the side canyons.  But the flat water, sand and incredible heat won't have us going back anytime soon.  We suspect this is a minority opinion among paddlers.  Anyway, if you are solid in class III and have a bombproof roll, you'll be fine on virtually all the rapids on the Grand Canyon.  Most rapids are one move wonders with huge pools of flat water at the bottom.  Keep paddling until you are totally past the boil zone at the bottom of rapids; stay out of the scariest of eddies and have fun!


Costa Rica – We aren't class V kayakers so if Costa Rica is your favorite place, well, ignore the rest of this.  Costa Rica is relatively close and the water is warm.  You can drink the water and eat the food.  And the country is relatively safe.  If you enjoy running away from walls while kayaking, Costa Rica is for you!  Seriously though, even though the Pacuare River is truly beautiful, the quality and variety of the whitewater isn't as good as Ecuador or Chile (see below).


Ecuador – Ecuador is a poor country.  There are health concerns (food and water) as well as safety concerns (in the large cities).  But the people - especially in the countryside - are friendly and the scenery is beautiful.  And, the variety of rivers is outstanding.  Finally, your $$$ go a long way in Ecuador.  If you are comfortable on the Upper Green Gorge, you'll enjoy a III+ or IV- trip in Ecuador.  We've gone twice with the DeRiemers but others in Seattle have gone with Small World Adventures and have really enjoyed their trips as well.  One of the nicest things about Ecuador for paddling is the accessibility.  You can get a full week of paddling in while only missing a full week of work (leave on Saturday, return the following Sunday).  The only bad thing about paddling there in January is that it is practically impossible to get back in your drysuit and face the cold water and snowy Pacific NW put-ins after paddling in a shorty.


Chile – Chile is our favorite place to visit in South America.  The food and water is safe practically everywhere and there are very few safety concerns - even in the large cities, even at night.  We use our "women and children" test when we travel and if women are walking alone or with small children, it is usually safe.    We haven't paddled in Pucon though there is supposed to be great creeking there.  We have paddled on the Futaleufu and it is fantastic.  You don't need to be a class V boater to enjoy the Fu, but you probably want class IV skills so you can run the vast majority of the river.  We did our trip with Bio Bio Expeditions and were over-the-top elated with their camp and the overall experience.  Great location, beautiful setting, fantastic food and amenities.  Even if you just want to hang out, cycle, run, or raft, this is a great place.  The only big negative is that it takes an awfully long time to get here.  There is no option for the quick one week pop-in, pop-out experience like in Ecuador.  Have fun!


---------------------------------- End Guide -------------------------


Edited by James - 09 Jan 2010 at 1:58pm
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master
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  Quote master Replybullet Posted: 04 Feb 2008 at 4:36am
Hey,
Deborah and I spent a little time trying to put together a "Newbie" Guide to getting started with WW kayaking in Seattle.  We know that this is the season when lots of new paddlers are taking classes (WKC, NWOC, others) and wanted to try to provide some information that we needed to discover for ourselves.  We don't profess to have any secret sauce - rather, having been at this for close to a year, we wanted to document what we learned and pass that on to others.

We'd be interested in feedback on this document and would like to find an appropriate home for it here on PP if people think it is worthwhile.

Thanks,


Edited by James - 09 Jan 2010 at 1:55pm
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  Quote justin Replybullet Posted: 04 Feb 2008 at 9:22am
Arn and Deborah,
That was a great article you wrote here.  I can't believe just how in depth you made it.  You could add the Skagit River to the begginer rivers. 
Justin


Edited by justin - 04 Feb 2008 at 10:14am
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  Quote arnobarno Replybullet Posted: 04 Feb 2008 at 1:19pm
Thanks for the feedback.  It is funny to see this thread "resurrected" this morning - because I wrote this about nine months ago and there was virtually no feedback initially - except about adding a section about swiftwater rescue classes.  I added that to the guide though didn't repost it here.  I will take any feedback this go around; integrate it and repost it.


Edited by arnobarno - 04 Feb 2008 at 1:19pm
arn9schaeffer@gmail.com (remove 9 for my real email address)
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  Quote Tobin Replybullet Posted: 05 Feb 2008 at 1:03pm
 Arn and Deb,
  Thanks for your work on this! I like that you emphasize choosing partners, and always having a good time. This is something I struggled with my first winter, and it is a difficult hurdle to pass. If your not having fun, why do it? This to a point includes staying within your comfort level, and pushing your abilities when you feel the time is right.
  The emphasis on PP is also very true, the vast majority of members are incredibly possitive people, very rarely do you see people degrading others in a serious way. Mostly it about lifting people up and helping where we can.
  There is a notable exception to the rule, and maybe he will see the light someday? As a community you get out, exactly what you put in. 
  Thanks again for the hard work, I am printing it out so Ambre and a few others can read it.
  Tobin
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 05 Feb 2008 at 8:14pm
Arn,

I would say this is a great sticky thread for the beginning boater. Thanks for posting this Arn. I will get it stuck on top here.
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  Quote Norpac Replybullet Posted: 04 May 2008 at 4:59pm

I'm another "newbie" looking for a pool to practice rolling in.  Can anyone suggest one that has an open session in May?

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  Quote Heather Replybullet Posted: 04 May 2008 at 7:43pm
Norpac, the Arne Hanna aquatic center in Bellingham is open for roll practice from 8-9pm on tuesdays and thursdays and on sundays from 11a-1:30p.  There is usually someone there who can give you pointers.
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  Quote tmatlack Replybullet Posted: 26 Jul 2010 at 10:22am
Arn and Deb,
 
My 1st post to PP.  I am a hardshell newbie but have taken a beginner course with NWOC in Seattle and an additional roll class in the Shoreline pool. 
 
Nada.  Nothing.  At just the crucial moment I an diving my paddle down and that locks out the roll up.  Very very frustrating.  I am half-way coordinated, love water, ok underwater, good paddler of other craft, and nada, nothing on my roll. 
 
Any suggestions?  I paddle open canoes and a molded, self-bailing sit-on-top all the time...Big Eddy to Sultan yesterday....Westport waves....and lots of commercial rafting...should I go with a duckie and give up on hardshell?  private lessons?  Stick with my sit-on-top and just deal with the death stares from the hardcores in thier rodeo boats?   
 
Any advice?
 
Tom 
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  Quote H2Ohta Replybullet Posted: 26 Jul 2010 at 10:36am
Tom,
Lets go paddle. I would be more than willing to help you with your roll. If you are "half-way coordinated" we can fix the problem. I live in Wenatchee and if you want to come over here for a day I would be stoked to stand in the water, it's hot over here, and we can diagnose and fix the problems you are having. Lets do a roll session and get you stoked on hardshells.
All the best,
Chris Ohta
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  Quote irenen Replybullet Posted: 26 Jul 2010 at 10:46am
I agree, stick with it!  Don't know if this will help but Herbie (from NWOC) helped fix my roll after I learned it but didn't paddle for years and then realized I had lost it, I was diving the paddle down and he told me to adjust my elbow angle on the non-power hand as I was doing the sweep to keep the elbow closer to my body.
 
So if you're doing a sweep with the right hand as the power hand, if you look at where the end of the blade ends up if you stick your left (non-power) elbow out from your body you can see that it will point the end of the paddle down into the water, but if you keep that elbow tucked closer to your side and kind of push out towards the end of the blade instead of down as you sweep  (which means not poking your elbow away from your body as much, which is a natural tendency) you can see that the blade stays much more towards the surface of the water. It sounds like a little thing but for me that was the difference between rolling and not rolling at that time.  And I'm sure this is all crystal clear in text format, right?
 
Another thing that might be helpful if you haven't seen it yet is the EJ Rolling and Bracing DVD, I think it's an awesome DVD and some people I've lent it to agree - way better than the rolling part in the Strokes and Techniques DVD - it's on back order at AquaSports but here it is on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eric-Jacksons-Rolling-Bracing-Kayak/dp/B000GGO4XC
 
Anyway, good luck, stick with it!
It's all fun and games until someone loses a paddle.
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  Quote Scott_H Replybullet Posted: 26 Jul 2010 at 12:13pm
I'll second the EJ video.  He breaks it down into a few steps\drills that made my roll finally come together. 
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
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  Quote tmatlack Replybullet Posted: 26 Jul 2010 at 2:29pm
 
 
Irene,
 
Herbie was my teacher both times too.  I think I wore the old scoundrel out. 
 
I am encouraged by the responses.
 
 I got some ideas.  Will be in touch.  Tom
 
 
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  Quote scottrichardson Replybullet Posted: 26 Jul 2010 at 3:55pm
Hey Tom,

It's powerhouse season now and i'll be out there as well as others who wouldn't mind helping out. Just have to deal with a little island crawling as the PSE project has the Tokul creek bridge blocked off with a security guard. You'll see the boaters at the wave upstream from where the river takes a big bend to the left (where all the tubers are hanging out).

Scott
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  Quote irenen Replybullet Posted: 26 Jul 2010 at 10:08pm
That is funny about Herbie, Tom!  Don't blame yourself. :)  I'd be really interested to hear how things work out if you feel like posting back someday.  And the two guys who offered to take you on the river are both really good boaters, in case you don't know them.  (I personally will pick 90 degrees on the Wenatchee River anytime. ;)
It's all fun and games until someone loses a paddle.
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  Quote huckin harms Replybullet Posted: 27 Jul 2010 at 8:41am
Wow, way to go on the Guide for Beginners... now over three years old!  Well done Arn and Deb.  Sorry for the 'delayed' feedback - the Skykomish rio from Skykomish to Money creek is a great short section of easy class II when the water is up elsewhere.  I'd say look for levels above 3k on goldbar guage in the summer time.
 
As far as learning the roll...   Tom it took me a long time to learn to roll so don't give up.  It's somewhat counter intuitive and will take patience but with some more effort you will be able to get it, esp with help from some others who know.   keep after it! 
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  Quote arnobarno Replybullet Posted: 03 Aug 2010 at 3:29pm
The beginner guide has some minor updates and is located here (click me)
arn9schaeffer@gmail.com (remove 9 for my real email address)
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  Quote JoesKayak Replybullet Posted: 03 Aug 2010 at 4:06pm
Nice work on the guide! It's looking good! One bit of input I have is for the Green Headworks... One cool thing about the Headworks is the lower takeout in the park. When your group of up and coming paddlers get to Kanaskat, if they are feeling good and ready for a little step up from the 2+, they can have a little bonus round by running the "park rapids" which includes Ledge Drop 1 and the two rapids downstream for a nice little taste of class 3.
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  Quote tmatlack Replybullet Posted: 03 Oct 2010 at 2:38pm
All,
 
Never count an old fat man out.  After I posted my Eskimo roll difficulties above I decided I was the only one who was gonna fix the problem, so after about 30 solo, wet exits in a very chilly Lake Stevens, I finally have a "cheater" roll with my sea kayak paddle and facemask, and next weekend will work on my ww paddle roll.  Then off to the Stilly to get some river rolls.  Maybe. 
 
I was doing all sorts of things wrong, and probably still am, but it sure is a sweet feeling to roll up instead of yanking the blasted skirt. 
 
I have a dry suit so will probably practice on warm sunny days through the fall, then take the NWOC course again in the spring. 
 
Tom
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  Quote irenen Replybullet Posted: 04 Oct 2010 at 4:13pm
Good for you Tom, that is awesome - way to hang in there!  Hey, there are pool sessions starting up soon too, are you familiar with them?  Not roll classes but nice warm water to thrash around in - sounds like you're a bit far north but there's one in Shoreline every other weekend, and you don't have to be a WKC member: http://www.washingtonkayakclub.org/index.php?Itemid=27&option=com_events
It's all fun and games until someone loses a paddle.
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  Quote tmatlack Replybullet Posted: 05 Oct 2010 at 3:52am
 
 
Irene,
 
I'll check the Shoreline pool times, but I think they are later in the evening???  I'm ok with cold water in my wet or drysuit and I like the solitude of Lake Stevens early in the am.  It's just me and the mallards and draining my boat on the beach. 
 
Herbie taught me the recovery position has you looking at your paddle in a power side high brace.  My huge head comes out looking at the sky....something else to work on...
 
Worst of all, part of the "cheater" paddle is a blade grip on the off hand, instead of a paddling grip on the shaft.  What do I do with all that blade on the off side getting caught in my pfd and huge gut?  I foresee more wet exits on this problem. 
 
 
Tom
 
 
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  Quote irenen Replybullet Posted: 05 Oct 2010 at 12:17pm
The Shoreline sessions are 9 am to 11 am Sunday mornings - enough time to soak up a Starbucks before dipping your toes into the pool. :)
 
RE the cheater paddle grip with a hand on the blade, don't feel bad, I know a lot of people knock that approach to learning the roll but that is how I learned and now I never have to use it and I'm known for having a really good combat roll - partly because for the first year I didn't know how to brace. ;)
 
In my opinion anything that helps you to develop and learn muscle memory for good form is a helping tool - just think of how ballet dancers have their hands on a rail when they are learning how to stand up on their toes, etc.  It's so they can learn the correct form before they go prancing out there trying to keep their balance and have good form with all their weight on their toes at the same time.  The same goes with having a hand on the paddle blade if it gives you enough leverage to make it easier to roll up and be confident enough that you're not getting freaked out, pulling your head, whatever.  I know you said you were pulling your head but at least you were rolling up.  Little by little you can improve your form, develop the muscle memory, and then little by little move your hands to where you want them.  When I was practicing rolling and could feel myself 'losing it' in the beginning I would move my hand back to the blade so it was way easier to roll up and I could focus on remembering what correct (non-freaking out) form felt like.  That may not work for everyone, but it really worked for me.
 
Not to blab on about the roll (although there I just went) but it's such an important thing for fun and safety, I think it's awesome that you stuck to it through 30 wet exits with your mallard friends  - I hope you post back and let us know how it's going.
It's all fun and games until someone loses a paddle.
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  Quote mokelumnekid Replybullet Posted: 05 Oct 2010 at 3:16pm
Arn et al.:

As someone who has almost finished their first year of boating with about 30 river days total, most of the Beginners Guide rings true to me. I might add the following: encourage newbies to keep a river log. At least until they get up to 50-100 river days. They might record water levels, swims/rolls, points about access, names of boaters, what worked and didn't work (for that next pool session) and anything else that allows one to look back and extract more from the experience.

Maybe I'm over the top (being a geologist) but I print google earth images of the run afterwords, calling out the named rapids, thoughts about what to maybe do next time, trying to better internalize the run and integrate the boat-level and bird's eye view.  It has also helped me become better at read-and-run when I post-process my impressions and re-live the experience.

Just my 2 bits.





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  Quote tmatlack Replybullet Posted: 17 Nov 2010 at 4:57pm
 
Hey Everyone,
 
Little set back on my Eskimo roll practice.  Something sorta serious blew out in my right should from all that above and behind the head torque.  Ibuprofen makes it better, but my fastball and weightlifting flys are sorta dead. 
 
Oh well, we'll wait it out. 
 
Tom 
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  Quote thad2000 Replybullet Posted: 24 Oct 2011 at 4:52am
My roll was going nowhere until I quit trying the c to c and experimented with other types I'd seen on you tube.  I also noticed trying to do the c to c (incorrectly) was putting strain on my shoulder.  I tried the back deck roll and got it the first try. 
Rolled again and again in a lake.  Went to the sea and the second trip I was out deep enough to roll.  Bragged about having a roll in rough water...  went out with some kids on the green and swam twice looking like a fish that had no idea how to roll (only got scratches on my helmet for the effort.)    But, the next two rivers, despite being flipped three times, I didn't have to swim once.  I also tried the c to c with my new perspective and did it as my kayak buddy described as "text book."
 I got two lessons from the experience.  One, if something is putting an undue strain on you stop!  Your probably doing it wrong.  Also, there are many techniques for a reason...  find the one that works for you, then go back and see if it sheds light on the other stuff.
My roll now uses more core muscles (like your suppose to use when paddling.)
I have yet to get into a class.  When I find one that fits my schedule I'll leap at the chance.
p.s.  Going to westport or some place where you can take your kayak in surf is a great way to practice safely.  No rocks, and you, and your gear, are usually returned to the shore.  Water is also warmer than glacial run off. 
why not!
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