Kicking off the kayaking season – build progression into your goals

This post was initially posted at https://www.levelsix.com/blogs/blog/kicking-off-the-kayaking-season-build-progression-into-your-goals

Progression in kayaking is an amazing, terrifying and rewarding activity. It’s HARD sometimes and yet oh so worth it…

 With a fresh paddling season upon us, this is a great time to think about what your goals are for the year. It’s also a great time to be kind and generous to yourself and remember that your season does not have to be full of “go big or go home” moments. First and foremost, kayaking is supposed to be fun. Consider having progression as a goal in itself.

 We’ve learned a few tips for progression that I wanted to share:
1) If at all possible, have a home river that you can use for your progression benchmark. It is great to have a place where you are highly comfortable to measure your improvement against. Is that ferry easier than it was a month ago now that you’ve challenged yourself on some other rivers? Can you run the harder sneak and feel in control the whole time after having consistently run the easier line? What one thing can you do on this run that is different from your normal runs?
2) Find people that you trust to paddle with that will support your efforts to stretch yourself. Will they take the easier lines down a new river section for you to expand your experiences? Will they teach you how to boof that one tricky feature on your home river? They can be your biggest cheerleader and you need that when you are pushing yourself. Progression means growing, and growing often means feeling uncomfortable, which leads to a whole lot of adrenaline running through your system, which can be exhausting and overwhelming. Hence the very valuable external support.
Tim & Hunter Vincent in the Ottawa River
3) Take your time and move at your own pace. Progress doesn’t have to be linear. We have been to Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade Idaho 3 times now. The first time I (Lee) didn’t go in the top hole at all. Looked at it and said, “no thank you”. The second time I went in it, got worked and again said “no thank you” for a repeat adventure. Our third trip was in late June of last year. The weather was warm and I decided that I was going to push myself. My goal was to be comfortably surfing in it by the end of our visit, which was 10 days long. I spent the first five days in “get to know you” mode. The most logical approach to the wave was through a big foamy hole and it terrified me so I practiced dropping in from up top, from entering on the far side and by just paddling into the back of the foamy hole but not actually going into the trough. Five days in and I was starting to get the feel for the foamy stuff so started dropping into the hole and just side surfing. Days 6-9 were works in progress with some big high 5’s and a few topsy-turvy beatings that had me call it a day. Day ten and I closed off my visit with entering through the hole side, front surfing the wave under control, got a spin and back surf and even had an unintended wave loop.

4) Work on the mental side of things as much as the technical and physical. Why is my 14 years old progressing faster than me? He’s more willing to throw himself into a feature and work it out than I am. Case in point is he was surfing the top feature at Kelly’s on our first trip. It was his first time surfing in a hole that big and he got stuck in a side surf, had that terrified look and feeling of fear about how am I going to get out, got worked and swam. But got back in again and carried on. Many of us adults have stronger recall of that uncomfortable feeling and don’t jump up and down to replicate it. Anna Lesveque wrote a great article on paddling resilience that is worth a read for additional tips in this area (https://mindbodypaddle.com/8287/build-emotional-resilience-water/).
5) A day on the water is better than not going out on the water. If you aren’t feeling it or the run your friends are running is just too daunting, take a look for a way to still get out and do something on the water. Can you drive shuttle and then put in from the take out and paddle up to meet them on an easier section of whitewater? Can you find a place where you can go back to basics and spend time finding the joy in jet ferries or zen-like front surfing? Can you find a nice eddy or lake and practice your flatwater skills?

Bonus: embrace the swim. It happens to everyone for one reason or another. Don’t beat yourself up. Shake your head, self-rescue, smile and then get back out there!
Tim Vincent, Columbus Georgia Chattahoochee River
 
Tim & Hunter Vincent
Tim & Hunter Vincent

 

Tips for if (when??) your kid becomes a better kayaker than you…

This post was originally published at: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/04/04/tips-for-if-when-your-kid-becomes-a-better-kayaker-than-you/

Progression in kayaking is an amazing, terrifying and rewarding activity. It’s HARD and yet oh so worth it…

Last fall there was a role swap in our family. I went from 2nd best, and the one looking out for the kid, to comfortably in 3rd place with the 14 year old kid now looking out for me.
I realized this in the late fall when we were paddling a new river and all of a sudden I was the one sandwiched in the middle rather than at the back or the front.
How did we get here was the question running through my mind at that point.
If we rewind 5 years, I had been back into kayaking for a year or two and we were teaching Hunter how to kayak. He was picking things up pretty quickly and, thanks to some creative teaching by Tim, was starting to front surf waves confidently. Watching him I realized that I was not progressing at the same pace and that if I didn’t do anything different I was going to get surpassed by my 10 year old. I was ok with getting surpassed at some point, but not that early on in the game. I picked up my socks and sent myself off to immersion kayak camp at Endless Adventures in Crescent Valley, BC where the weather and the water are warm (cold Yukon water was definitely a barrier for me). It was great to spend a week focused solely on myself and pushing my comfort zone, both mentally and physically.
That was a great jump start for the following year and then two years ago I took another step and attended EJ Week at Wilderness Tours on the Ottawa River. Another warm weather/water destination and the features definitely felt like a HUGE step up for me, especially in my first playboat. I had fabulous moments and sucky moments, with plenty of time spent swimming, but I walked away with a step function increase in my own mental confidence. I went home to our local hole and it looked so small and manageable in comparison. For the first time ever, I threw myself into the hole and was learning to loop by the end of the summer.
Last year we were on the road paddling from mid April through the end of November. We covered a number of new rivers and some old favourites as well. Through all of that, I’ve learned a few tips for progression that I wanted to share:
1) If at all possible, have a home river that you can use for your progression benchmark. It is great to have a place where you are highly comfortable to measure your improvement against. Is that ferry easier than it was a month ago now that you’ve challenged yourself on some other rivers? Can you run the harder sneak and feel in control the whole time after having consistently run the easier line? What one thing can you do on this run that is different from your normal runs?
2) Find people that you trust to paddle with that will support your efforts to stretch yourself. Will they take the easier lines down a new river section for you to expand your experiences? Will they teach you how to boof that one tricky feature on your home river? They can be your biggest cheerleader and you need that when you are pushing yourself. Progression means growing, and growing often means feeling uncomfortable, which leads to a whole lot of adrenaline running through your system, which can be exhausting and overwhelming. Hence the very valuable external support.
3) Take your time and move at your own pace. Progress doesn’t have to be linear. We have been to Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade Idaho 3 times now. The first time I didn’t go in the top hole at all. Looked at it and said “no thank you”. The second time I went in it, got worked and again said “no thank you” for a repeat adventure. Our third trip was in late June of last year. The weather was warm and I decided that I was going to push myself. My goal was to be comfortably surfing in it by the end of our visit, which was 10 days long. I spent the first five days in “get to know you” mode. The most logical approach to the wave was through a big foamy hole and it terrified me so I practiced dropping in from up top, from entering on the far side and from by just paddling into the back of the foamy hole but not actually going into the trough. Five days in and I was starting to get the feel for the foamy stuff so started dropping into the hole and just side surfing. Days 6-9 were works in progress with some big high 5’s and a few topsy turvy beatings that had me call it a day. Day ten and I closed off my visit with entering through the hole side, front surfing the wave under control, got a spin and back surf and even had an unintended wave loop.
4) Work on the mental side of things as much as the technical and physical. Why is my 14 year old progressing faster than me? He’s more willing to throw himself into a feature and work it out than I am. Case in point is he was surfing the top feature at Kelly’s on our first trip. It was his first time surfing in a hole that big and he got stuck in a side surf, had that terrified look and feeling of fear about how am I going to get out, got worked and swam. But got back in again and carried on. Many of us adults have stronger recall of that uncomfortable feeling and don’t jump up and down to replicate it. Anna Lesveque wrote a great article on paddling resilience that is worth a read for additional tips in this area (https://mindbodypaddle.com/8287/build-emotional-resilience-water/).
5) A day on the water is better than not going out on the water. If you aren’t feeling it or the run your friends are running is just too daunting, take a look for a way to still get out and do something on the water. Can you drive shuttle and then put in from the take out and paddle up to meet them on an easier section of whitewater? Can you find a place where you can go back to basics and spend time finding the joy in jet ferries or zen like front surfing?
Bonus: embrace the swim. It happens to everyone for one reason or another. Don’t beat yourself up. Shake your head, self-rescue, smile and then get back out there!
Lee (Kayak Mom who’s not willing to give in yet…)

Kite Boarding in La Ventana, Mexico

Hunter saw some videos of people snow kiting in November and decided that he really really really wanted to learn how to do that. We decided that we would test out learning to kiteboard on water first as it seemed like the crashes would hurt less…

As luck would have it, we had a broader family trip scheduled to Cabo San Lucas in February so we decided to find a way to fit a kiteboarding adventure in. We went to Captain Kirks resort in La Ventana, which is just south of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez. It is about 2.5 hours north east of Cabo San Lucas. The resort was fabulous… the kite school is right on site, the accommodations are fabulous – a set of individual casas and casita’s depending the size of your group, and everything is right off the beach.

La Ventana is a very small coastal town south of La Paz on the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula. It is recognized as a fabulous location to learn to kite board due to the predictable thermal winds, relatively calm tides and the fact that the winds are mostly onshore, which means that you won’t get blown out to the ocean if you make a mistake. The beaches are also fairly wide with lots of room to learn to fly the kites on the sand before committing to getting dragged around the ocean.
 The beginner package is 9 hours, split up over 3 days, and walks you through everything you need to know to get started. It also includes all of the equipment that you will need, including wetsuits.
The first 3 hours is spent learning about the gear, safety and how to fly a trainer kite, which gives you a taste of the power of the wind.

The second 3 hours steps you up into the full sized kites, you learn how to self-rescue in case of any equipment breakage when out in the water and really get comfortable launching the kite and flying it in all sorts of different positions. One of the hardest things is parking the kite straight above you at “noon” – this is basically putting it in neutral where the wind is not driving you in any specific direction. We ended our second lesson doing body dragging with the kite in the ocean, learning how to go upwind and downwind and basically go where you want with the kite.

The third 3 hours puts everything together and you now incorporate the kite board into the equation. You learn how to “surf” just holding the board under your body to get leverage. Once you are comfortable with that, you then work on parking the kite at noon, getting the board on your feet (with one hand still on the kite), staying neutral and stable and then powering up the kite to get enough wind to pull you out of the water. You are looking to generate enough wind power to be similar to when a boat pulls a wakeboarder out of the water (at approx 15-20km/hr). This is all great in concept but super challenging in reality. It involves a lot of crashes – some small and some spectacular – think front edge crashes on a snowboard while being pulled forward at the waist at 15km/hr…
One of the scariest parts was being out in the water, trying to figure out how to get up and going and being surrounded by all these other kiters zipping by. It would be akin to learning to ski on the bunny hill, but having the bunny hill placed in the middle of a fast blue run!
Like any sport, it all looks so easy from the outside…. Sometimes it’s tough to put yourself back in a learners mindset and be patient with the learning curve.
It was great having the ATV shuttle on our last day as you were able to get twice as many downwind runs in without having to march yourself and the kite back up the beach all the time.

Overall we had a fun three days and definitely recommend both Captain Kirk’s and kiting for other adventure seeking families!

 

Never Winter – Family Whitewater Adventures in Columbus, Georgia

Original post can be found at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/01/19/never-winter-family-whitewater-adventures-part-four/

It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and you definitely can’t go with kids! This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Destination #4 is Columbus, Georgia which is located in the southern United States. It’s not what you traditionally think of in terms of warm water paddling but compared to the rest of North America – it is warm and is fairly easily accessible. The water runs all winter long and the temps are rarely below freezing. The average high in the coolest months of December and January is a balmy 59 F (15c)! November and March are great times to either extend your season or kick off your season, with temps almost hitting 70f (20c).

The Chattahoochee River runs right through town and acts as the border between Columbus, GA and Phenix City, Alabama. Columbus has a small airport but flights may be more economical landing in Atlanta, just a few hours away.

We have always travelled there in our RV however there are 2 hotels that are right on the river and within easy walking distance: Columbus Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott (Phenix City). There are also 2 great outfitters in Columbus that can help get any trip organized – Outside World Columbus and Whitewater Express. You can also rent boats/paddles from the outfitters if you don’t want to fly with your gear. If you will be travelling by RV, be sure to message us and we can give you tips and suggestions.

The Chattahoochee River is a 2.5 mile stretch of river that runs from the dam through to the whitewater park. It is anywhere from class II – class IV depending on the level of the river and the feature you are on. It is dam controlled with traditionally lower flows in the morning and higher flows in the late afternoon/evening as the power company needs to make hydro. One of the best parts is that there are lights in the play park at night so you can paddle when it’s dark out – that is an adventure in itself!

The Chattahoochee is big water, which makes things a bit pushy. At the same time, it’s warm and a great place to learn. Lots of room to roll up after every feature. Any rapid on the river run has an easy line and a hard line and the park and play whitewater park right in town allows you to play at the spot that best lines up with your skills. There is a big flatwater pond for smaller kids, trailing small waves off the back of the island to practice your ferrying, small and medium surf waves and then the big bouncy “Good Wave”, which definitely packs a punch at 3 generators! It is considered on par with Garb wave on the Ottawa.

Things to think about when considering Columbus:

  • Consider what your normal temperature threshold is when packing. We are northerners so what is considered “cold” in Columbus was still quite warm for us. On our last visit in late November we were wearing swim tops and shorty dry tops while the locals had switched to full dry tops.
  • Both Outside World and Whitewater Express are amazing ambassadors for kayaking – check in with them before you go to get some beta and drop by when you are in town to see about getting shuttles to the dam so you can run the river
  • There are many affordable restaurants in Uptown Columbus, which is only 2 blocks from the river. Our favourites are the pizza place and the burrito place.
  • Chat with the local paddlers and they will give you lots of great information
  • Take time to check out the fabulous museums and science centres in town – they are amazing resources and lots of fun for kids. The riverwalk runs right along the river and is an easy walk or bike to most sights and locations

The Vincent Family (www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.twitter.com/chasingthesunyt // www.chasingthesun.ca )

More information can be found at:

http://visitcolumbusga.com/visit/outdoors/kayaking/

http://www.whitewaterexpress.com/chattahoochee/

http://www.outsideworldcolumbus.com

Never winter family whitewater adventures (Mexico)

The original article can also be found at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/01/11/never-winter-family-whitewater-adventures-part-three/

It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and you can’t go with kids! This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Destination #3 is Mexico, which is located in the southern most part of North America and is a beautiful country. The majority of the kayaking is on the eastern side in the regions of Valles and Vera Cruz, which are north east and south east, respectively, of Mexico City. The peso is the national currency but you can get away with US $$ in some places.

At the time that we went, this region of Mexico was considered fairly safe but that can change so be sure to check with the local tour operators. The only sketchy part was the drive through the northern region near the Reynosa border crossing as we drove from San Marcos, Texas down to Valles on both of our trips. Being in a van for 16 hours is not the most family friendly experience so we would definitely recommend flying into Mexico City (for trips to Vera Cruz) or Tampico (for trips to Valles).

Mexico is not as clean as Costa Rica of Ecuador and the water should not be assumed to be drinkable. The roads are a work in progress in many regions and armed military guards are the norm as you drive through every town. Don’t be surprised when you get stopped – just stay friendly and in most cases, all is fine.

The rivers in the Valles region are the most family friendly however it is a bit harder to mix and match things here. Neither of the outfitters that we worked with had the ability to provide multiple itineraries within a trip. This is a great region to learn how to do drops and slides, with most being between 5-10 feet. We did this trip the first time when Hunter was ten and anything he (or we) weren’t comfortable with him running, we tossed his boat over and then he and Tim would jump off the drop.

Our second trip was when he was 11 and by then he was more comfortable with the idea of slides and drops and we would allow him to do anything up to around 10 feet. There was only one drop bigger than that (20 ft) and Hunter and I took out before it and hiked around it on the road.

Rivers that we have paddled in the Valles Region:

  • Rio El Salto – an amazingly azul blue river full of pool drops and slides over travertine
  • Rio Micos –  Upper and lower sections – more travertine slides and small drops and super warm water
  • Rio Tampaon – big water wave trains and canyons

We have not yet paddled in the Veracruz region but have heard great things about it. Aventuretec is where most paddlers base out of and there is a range from class II to class V runs all within a few hours.

Things to think about when considering Mexico:

  • Most of the water is warm but you can get cooler days as you are up in the mountains – bringing an assortment of gear allows you to have choices to match the weather as well as a better chance of your gear drying if you can alternate sets each day
  • Long pants and tops are important for both the sun and the bugs – don’t forget socks as the sand flies can get pesky
  • Bring both bug spray and sun screen for on and off the river
  • You can use US $$ in some places but be sure to have small bills. You will get a better exchange rate / price if you are using pesos so consider changing some before you travel
  • Assume that the water is NOT drinkable and always ensure that the water you are drinking has come out of a bottle
  • We have invested in break apart paddles so we can bring our own paddles easily with us on the plane. For those that don’t have them, you can rent paddles in most places, which is often easier than checking full paddles as luggage (no matter how well you pack them)
  • The travertine can scratch up hands, which can turn into infections. We learned and brought gloves for that extra layer of protection on our 2nd trip
  • Experiencing the culture of a new country is half the fun – be sure to check out the fun foods that can be found at the corner stores and the small community restaurants
  • Everyone is quite friendly so be sure to stop and say hi and experiment with your spanish

When we travelled we went with Ben Kvanli of Warm Whitewater. He has been travelling to the region for years and takes a group down once a month from October to March each year. It is a more economical way to go as the group drives down in a van from San Marcos, Texas, and shares travel costs. It is a VERY long drive to be in a small space with kids…On our second trip to Valles we met up with Tom McEwan of Calleva’s Liquid Adventure School. He has also been running trips to both Valles and Veracruz for many years and is well respected in the region. He trailers his boats down there in November and then has guests fly in for the week. We would recommend flying in for your first trip – it is safer and will have everyone in a good mood when you get there rather than grumpy from a 16 hour car ride.

The Vincent Family (www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.twitter.com/chasingthesunyt // www.chasingthesun.ca )

More information is available at:

https://calleva.org/kayakmexico/

https://www.facebook.com/WARMWhitewater/

https://www.aventurec.com