Tag Archives: white water kayaking

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…)

We’re hooked after a week on the Ottawa River!

IMG_4617

The universe was on our side back in June when I got asked to come out to do some work just outside of Ottawa and it was the exact same week as the L’il Shredders trial program at Wilderness Tours that Hunter had been invited to. Obviously it was meant to be!

WT bunkhouse

We spent a week living together in a rustic bunkhouse on site at Wilderness Tours. It wasn’t fancy but it had power to charge devices and was clean. Outhouse just down the way and showers at the main lodge a few minutes walk down the road.

Our first day didn’t get off to an auspicious start… we awoke to light rains which quickly turned into monsoon like showers that lasted off and on all morning.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 6.10.29 PMWe spent the weekend together on an Eric Jackson class which was a lot of fun. He is really knowledgeable, and finds ways to play and teach at the same time. Here are he and Hunter paddling boats full of water in the whirlpools on Butcher’s knife.

hunter nose in at ottawa river beachHunter also learned a new technique for getting out of his boat!

take out drinksThe prize at the end of the day of paddling is a nice sheltered bar at the take out that has beer and juice on tap – a great way to end the day!

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 6.13.55 PMSunday brought EJ’s “Big Water” indoctrination – meant to teach you that things that look scary because they are big are not necessarily so. What it really meant is that everyone had to throw themselves into Phil’s hole, the first rapid on the river. You can see a very small part of my boat with most of me under the water – it wasn’t a great washing machine ride and ended in a swim when my skirt was blown.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 6.15.46 PMHunter had an equally unsuccessful Phil’s experience. If you look hard you can just see a corner of his boat in the centre of the photo (yellow and black) and you can see a small dark item just downstream a few inches. That dark item is his helmet, which should be attached to his head but got pulled off. It was lost to the river gods that day…

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 6.17.44 PM

Luckily EJ was able to grab a helmet for him at Keeners and we carried down the river with Hunter a little shaken from his first big beatdown.

hunter lee ottawa river takeout

We both survived the weekend only a little worse for wear and having learned a lot of new things! I then headed off to work for two days while Hunter joined Seth and Maddie in the L’il Rippers program.

new helmet

A new helmet was purchased after an unplanned detour to Ottawa on my way to work on Monday and Hunter managed to talk EJ into a sticker and Simon into cutting the sticker for him to get it looking cool.

The week went well for Hunter with lots of surfing and skill building delivered by Seth in sneaky ways. He managed to shake off his beatdown and was back to his usual self by Tuesday. When Big Water Thursday rolled around we both made it back into Phil’s fairly unscathed and EJ was right – it builds your confidence!

I went back into an EJ weeklong session on Weds and continued to have a lot of fun. I came down with a major sinus cold which definitely played havoc with my ability to clearly think, and that did correlate with a much lower confidence level most days. I now consider whitewater kayaking in the same category as “operating heavy machinery” in terms of the things you shouldn’t do while on cold medication…

lil shreddersOverall our week was fabulous. We met lots of new fun people, paddled in warm water and warm weather, learned new skills and Hunter came home with a new boat – a RockstarXS that was just released by Jackson in May. It was a great fit for him and really allowed him to have more boat control. Thanks to Jackson and the great folks at Wilderness Tours / Ottawa Kayak School for helping to make that happen.

hunter squirt boatingHe’s already been busy taking it out on flat water and doing mystery moves…

We definitely recommend Wilderness Tours for families and non-families equally. Lots of things to do on and off the water with a really friendly environment. For those that don’t kayak there are a wide assortment of rafting or inflatable kayaking options and a great school to take lessons from.

 

Top results at Alberta Whitewater Provincials

pelly hunter whitehorsestar sept 1 2015

 

This weekend was the successful culmination of a busy summer of kayaking. We participated in the Alberta Provincial Whitewater Canoe/Kayak Championships at Canoe Meadows on the Kananaskis River and were one of two Yukon athletes in attendance.

We have spent close to a month training with the kids from the Alberta Slalom Canoe Kayak team this summer, through various camps and races from early July to late August, and it has been an amazing experience. Full thanks go to coaches Mike, Paul, AJ & Kyle for making training and competing achievable and relatively fun. They were great cheerleaders and stepped in when Hunter had no interest in listening to Tim or I.

The weekend was full of various races and Hunter made the most of the opportunity to participate in multiple events. Hunter was also joined by Pelly Vincent-Braun, another Yukon paddler, for the event.

After two and a half days of events, the boys finished as the top competitors in terms of total points in their respective categories. Pelly was the top Junior paddler and Hunter was the top Cadet paddler. Points were awarded based on results in each event that took place and then tallied at the end.
In addition to being the top paddlers in their classes, the boys also had very strong results over the course of the weekend:
Hunter – Gold, beginner C1 slalom (his first time in a C1 boat)
Hunter – Gold, novice cadet C1 slalom
Hunter – Bronze, advanced cadet K1 slalom
Hunter – Bronze, novice cadet K1 freestyle
Hunter – Silver, C1 downriver (no classes)
Pelly – Bronze, junior freestyle (Pelly competed in a C1 boat against other K1 paddlers)
Pelly – Silver, advanced junior C1 slalom
Pelly – Gold, C1 downriver (no classes)
Hunter & Pelly – Gold, novice junior C2
Hunter & Pelly – Silver, advanced C2

We were really proud of the boys – they sat in a C2 together for the first time about 10 minutes before their first race. Pelly’s power and Hunter’s water awareness enabled them to pull of a strong race in the Advanced event (see photo at the top) and a silver medal. Day two was an even stronger result as they got the hang of it together. Hunter has come away passionate about C1 paddling – his novice Gold was his first ever clean slalom race, which was exciting in itself!

There was great recognition of their results in the local papers, which was also nice to see! These are fun articles to read…

http://www.whitehorsestar.com/Sports/whitewater-paddlers-snag-top-awards-in-alberta

http://www.yukon-news.com/sports/yukon-paddlers-excel-at-alberta-whitewater-championships/

IMG_2044

Mexico Whitewater Adventures

flowers 1For many great reasons, we decided to go to the Huasteca region of NE Mexico with Ben Kvanli of the Olympic Outdoor Centre in San Marcos, Texas. It was a bit of a leap in the sense that this was a no frills trip that kicked off with a 15+ hour drive, along with 5 other people, in a passenger van to get there. It turned out to be a fabulous week and we now have 4 new friends – Kelly, Phil, Nejla & Greg!

van loaded with boatsQuick & dirty Beta: We were in the state of San Luis Potosi, the Huasteca Region (mountains & rivers) and paddled on 3 distinct rivers with 3+ conditions- Rio El Salto (travertine slides & drops), Rio Micos (travertine slides & drops), and Rio Tampaon (flat water, standing waves in canyons, flat water). We also toured around and saw the Cascadas de Tamul on the Rio Santa Maria, the Sola de Goldrinas Tamapa and the city of Valles.

huasteca map 2

lee tim hunter water fallWe left Saturday February 1st at 12:45 am. This was intentional as it enables us to pass through Mexican customs at first light (i.e. 7:00 am) and then drive the remaining time in the light on the Mexican highways (where 2 lanes are actually 3 lanes). We stopped in Victoria for lunch at 11:30 and then carried on to Huasteca Secreta on the Salto River – our home for 2 nights.  We stayed in small yurts with outside bathrooms and showers, surrounded by lush vegetation. The hotel is right on the Salto River – an azul blue warm water river – right at the base of a 160 foot waterfall.

We had a fairly slow and lazy first paddle on the lower Saltos by the time we got going on Sunday. It was a run full of slides and drops that worked their way from smaller to larger… warm water and sunshine helped with all of the comfort zone stretching that was going on! The put in is just up the road from the hotel but a bit of a bush wack and steep climb down the rocky slope to get to the river. The slides and drops are all made of travertine, a type of corral, that builds up in the river and also has lots of green, lush growth that makes the slides slippery.

Hunter did a fabulous job of running his first drops and he loved the bump & grind of the slides. He did his first combat roll at the bottom of a 10 foot drop and there were loud cheers by everyone. My big win of the day was going over the 20 ft salsa drop. It had a 5 foot slide and then the drop. The 5 feet went much faster than I was expecting and over I went, screaming I’m sure! Hunter chose not to do this one and he and Tim portaged around part of the drop and then found a place to throw their boats off and jump 10 feet into the water, which was better than the scratchy bushes.

lee salsa drop on saltosTim joined Ben, Phil, Greg & Nejla for an afternoon run on the Upper Saltos and had a good time. It was a bit rushed as it was getting dark but they powered through everything!

tim upper saltos drop 2Phil made some great videos of our runs on the Saltos:

Hunter
http://youtu.be/6nxttFkuJXE

Tim
http://youtu.be/rPIycTjmCO8

Lee
http://youtu.be/ypxtabrU2cY

Monday saw us driving from El Naranjo down to just north of Ciudad Valles and to the camp on the Rio El Micos. We got in around lunch time, got settled in our palappas and then did an easy run down the lower Micos.

The camp was similar in style to what you see on the Ottawa River with a number of cabins spread out across the property, a couple of washroom/shower buildings and then a main eating hut. The rate was very affordable and the staff were wonderful. This is a tourist location for Mexicans that are looking to raft, zipline and play in the waterfalls.

The lower micas run starts just up the road from the camp in the midst of a local farmers market. There are a number of small drops that converge on the river here so it made a good place to play and warm up. The rest of the run was made up of small surf waves and easy slides and drops.

Tuesday was exploring day and we started off with Hunter and Ben doing a short run down the Santa Maria to the top of the Cascadas de Tamul while the rest of us hiked in. It was quite beautiful and very very high!

A few other stops that day were the Sotano de las Golondrinas, a great big sinkhole, a stop in a small village where we bought Diet Coke from the “American Store” and Hunter’s new favourite – Chile Corn (roasted corn on the cob with butter, chile & lime) on a stick and then dinner at Ricardo’s Taqueria in Valles. On our way home Ben bought some fabulous bar stools dirt cheap (I wonder why…) from a truck in the alley!

Wednesday was a long day of shuttling and paddling as we paddled the Tampoan River, which was an hours drive away from camp. Ben’s local rafting friends decided to join us, which made for a very full van and a fun group on the river. The Tampoan is different from the Salto & Micos as it has a bunch of flat water, a long canyon section with boulders and standing waves and then more flat water down to the take out. It was another great day for Hunter’s paddling – he trailed Ben down the “easy” lines (still lots of pushy water and waves) and managed 2 combat rolls in the midst of the hardest section before ending up swimming after he got pushed into a rock. We were both so impressed with his bravery and choosing to roll vs panicking and swimming right off the bat.

Thursday was our last day of paddling and we were headed to the Upper Micos before starting the drive home. Unfortunately I was visited by Montezuma Wednesday night and spent the night and morning expelling all food that I had taken in, so chose to stay in bed vs paddle. The Upper Micos run starts with a long travertine slide and then moves into a series of drops before coming out at the farmers market where the lower Micos puts in. One neat feature is that you can go behind the Upper Micos falls and get a sense of the power of the falls!

tim & hunter upper micosBy travelling to a non-touristy area of Mexico (by American/Canadian standards) we had the added benefit of really getting to experience the local culture. At no point did we feel unsafe but it did really help to go with someone that spoke Spanish and knew this area inside and out.

This region is powered by the Sugar Cane industry and there were fields and trucks coming and going all day long. We cut some sugar cane directly from the field one day and it was neat to see how it is not nearly as sweet as refined sugar.

Hunter also had a great time hanging out with the local puppies…