Tag Archives: whitewater kayaking

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

 

Columbus for the win yet again!

Our first experience in Columbus, Georgia was two years ago. We spent a week in late November and were so impressed with everything that the city had to offer – both on the water and off. It was definitely a “must do” for our travels this fall in the south east. Lucky for us, it is an incredible paddler friendly town with a secret parking lot that is steps from the river. Urban camping at its best…

The main features are located on the Chattahoochee River, which runs right down the Alabama / Georgia border and through the main business area of Columbus (aka Uptown Columbus). There is a 2.5 mile stretch of whitewater that ranges from class II to III+ depending on the water level. There is also park and play off the island with a number of different waves that come and go at different water levels.

Water levels range from 1-4 generators and can be checked here. Predictions can be found at the Georgia Power website (select Bib Mill Pond) but they are often wrong… (to translate 1000 cfs = 1 generator, 5000 cfs = 2 generators, 10,000 cfs = 3 generators). As you can see from the chart, the water levels move around a lot. The positive note is there is something fun at every level.

 

One of the best parts of our year this year has been meeting so many other great kayakers. It was fun to get to connect with people in Columbus that we originally met back in May at Buena Vista at CKS Paddlefest.

At the top part of the island is a small wave hole and a set of rocks that is super fun to practice pogo flips off of.

Next up comes Waveshaper wave (what you can see through the boys).

Then you get to Oli wave, which shows up at 2 generators and above – super smooth surf wave with a nice pocket.

Good Wave is next in the line up (photo of Matt Hargrove styling it!) – it shows up at 2 generators and really picks up at 3 generators. Considered comparable to Garborator Wave at the Ottawa.

This is Good Wave at 1 generator – definitely a different feature… great for beginners to build up their surfing skills.

Just after Good Wave is Micro Wave, which comes in between 1 and 2 generators, and is a great beginner surf wave and a fun place to play King of the Wave, which Tim was pleased to be crowned winner…

At 2 generators and above, Great Wave is also in, which is the last wave in the line up and can be a first experience at a wave that you drop into and it stops you before zipping you down the face of the wave, ala baby face on the Ottawa.

It was pretty fabulous to spend 4 days with the Hargrove Family during our recent visit. Nothing better than having like minded friends to hang out with, on and off the river, especially for travelling families…

Once again we have to say a HUGE thanks to Outside World Columbus for their amazing hospitality. Be sure to check out their store when you are in town!

We also strongly recommend both Barberitos and Your Pie pizza shop for yummy affordable lunches and dinner. They are both located in Uptown Columbus, which is only a few blocks from the river.

Wilson Creek – a little bit of California in North Carolina

Wilson Creek, designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, is a beautiful place tucked away in central North Carolina within the Pisgah National Forest. We had a great time running this with friends in mid-October after rains brought the levels up.

The run is about 2 miles long and people often do at least 2 laps in a day. Assume your first lap will take 1.5+ hours and your second will be close to an hour since you now have a better sense of the lines. The road parallels the entire river so you can scout everything and shuttle is quite easy – could be done by biking or running if need be.

The entire run is in a granite canyon, which makes it feel more like California than eastern USA. It was a full face helmet and elbow pads kind of day due to all of the drops, slides and rock boofs. Although the guidebook says that this is good up to “2” on the gauge, local intel suggests not doing it at anything greater than “1”. We did it at 0.5 and it was a great first time level. There are a few sticky holes placed throughout the river so be sure to read the guidebook or find a local for a guided tour down on your first run.

Downriver racing – a great family activity!

The below is a post we wrote for Jackson Kayak: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2017/11/08/downriver-racing-a-great-family-activity/
This is our first year being exposed to downriver races and we have to say… they are a great family activity! If you pick the right ones they are a family bonding experience with high fun factors.

Hunter Vincent – GoPro Games

We dipped our toe into the world of Downriver racing at CKS Paddlefest (Buena Vista, Colorado) in May by participating in the Race to the Grill. This is a super family friendly race that is held on a 4 mile long class II+ section of the Arkansas River referred to as the “Milk Run”. There is a group practice run on Sunday afternoon for those that are interested and then the race is held late morning on Monday of the long weekend.  It is a very laid back event with people in kayaks, canoes, tandem kayaks, rafts and SUP’s. Free shuttles are provided by River Runners so you want to a) drop your boat off at the put in to get it in line, b) drive your car down to River Runners at the finish line and c) sign up for the race / pay your $10 and then catch a ride back up to the top. Start order is based on the order that you line up in so you can choose to paddle in front of, behind or with friends and family. It was fairly low water this spring so it took us 33 minutes to do 4 miles. The race ends at “The Riverside Grill” at River Runners, one of the local rafting companies. Awards (prizes!) to follow the race and yummy food and drinks from the Grill while you are waiting.

Hunter Vincent – GoPro Games

Next up was the GoPro Games in Vail, Colorado. This was a bit more of a structured event and you need to sign up online ahead of time as many of the events at GoPro Games reach capacity. There is the famed Steep Creek Race and then there is the DownRiver Kayak Sprint race. You want the Downriver Kayak Sprint Race! It is a mixture of young kids through to seasoned pros and everything in between. This is also where you see a lot of old school long boats being pulled out of garages as people work to improve upon their times from prior years. Consider it low key competitive…This race is also 4 miles long on a class II+ section of Gore Creek, where the water is COLD as it’s fresh from the snowpack. It is faster moving than the Arkansas River so times are more in the 20 minute range. Shuttles are a bit tricky as the start location is in a residential neighbourhood and it’s an 8:30 am race start, which makes for an early start to the day. We paired up with another family so one vehicle did the paddler drop off while the other did the cheering squad and pick up at the end of the race, which is right in the village. All athletes that register for GoPro Games get a SWAG bag full of goodies (T-shirt, Hat, socks, snacks, stickers etc.), which makes just showing up a win for everyone! There is no formal awards ceremony so we chose to head off for ice-cream in the village to celebrate with friends.

Lee Vincent – Ocoee River Race

Our third race was the Ocoee River Race in eastern Tennessee. It is an 8 mile race on class III that runs from the put-in through to the last rapid on the Middle Ocoee. It is organized by the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club as a fundraiser for the Team River Runner chapter in Chattanooga. You have to be a member of TVCC to race – family memberships are only $20 and then the race itself is free. It will fill up so be sure to sign up online ahead of time. Your starting number is based on when you sign up, so earlier is better. Everyone is out for a fun time with a mixture of competitive focus – some people are out for the win and have been doing training laps for the last few weeks, others have bets in place with friends to see who can be fastest and the majority of people are here for a fun time with friends and to challenge themselves. The race is very well organized and this year they had 130 racers and 190 starting slots as over half of the people race multiple categories (long boat, short boat, duo, handpaddle, raft etc.). Depending on when your number is called there is a fair amount of stand around and wait as people are sent off in one minute intervals. The shuttle is an easy one as the road runs alongside the river and there are always people coming and going. If everyone in your group is racing try to set shuttle ahead of time so you will have your vehicle at the bottom when you are done. Race times range from 30-40 minutes, which makes it a manageable challenge for newbie racers. The hardest part of this race is dodging the commercial rafters – there is rubber everywhere! There is a family friendly awards banquet and party at Adventures Unlimited, a local rafting company, however the fun does start to wind up the longer people have been there and enjoying the free beer, so time your stay wisely.

Hunter & Lee – South East DownRiver Race at NOC

Our last race of the year was the South Eastern Downriver Race held on the 8 mile class II+ section of the Lower Nantahala River in western North Carolina. It is run by the Georgia Canoe Association and feels more like a local community race. Sign up online to help them know how many people are coming and it’s a bargain $5 per person to participate. This is a mixture of serious paddlers (they are the ones in the actual carbon downriver and slalom boats) and recreational paddlers (in long boats, short boats, duos and canoes) but the overall vibe is one of FUN. This is a lower volume river so run times are between 60 and 70 minutes, which makes for a LONG race. It was a good one to finish with as it allowed us to use all of the mental and physical skills we have developed through the other races. The Nantahala Outdoor Centre provides free shuttles after the race and there was a simple awards ceremony with medals for every class and some long standing trophy awards as well. If you still have energy left after the race then grab your play boat and spend some time throwing freestyle tricks in the hole!

Hunter being dwarfed by KarmaUL at South East DownRiver Race at NOC

The five biggest things we learned in our first year of downriver racing are:
  • Don’t be shy – give it a try and use what ever boat you have on hand (we paddled in Zen’s, Nirvana’s & KarmaUL borrowed from a friend)
  • Ask lots of questions – everyone is happy to share information on the race and their race lines
  • Be sure you know where the finish line is so you can gauge your effort (which specific bridge or turn does it end at…)
  • Just paddle… you may not be the fastest but sometimes the one that can just keep paddling wins the race
  • Challenge each other and have fun – that’s why you are out there
Check out your local paddling club and sign up for your first DownRiver Race as a family – you’ll love it!

Group photo before Race to the Grill

The Vincent family are currently  travelling throughout North America in their RV in search of great family friendly outdoor adventures and can be found on a river somewhere most days. Find more information at www.chasingthesun.ca // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt
– The Vincent Family

South East Downriver Race – Nantahala River

The South East DownRiver Race is run by the Georgia Canoe Association on the 8 mile class II+ section of the Lower Nantahala River. It was our 4th downriver race of the season and the longest as well, thanks to the combination of low volume and physical distance.

This is the first race we’ve entered where there was a strong presence of downriver and slalom boats in addition to the regular short and long plastic boats. Downriver boats are fast and tippy – they are super light thanks to their carbonfiber construction, very narrow and don’t actually have a flat bottom.

Hunter opted to paddle a borrowed Jackson Karma UL, which was almost twice as big as him, and his first time in a long boat. I borrowed a Jackson Nirvana, which at 8ft 11 inches just makes the cut to stay as a short boat. They were big boats to wrestle down a shallow river but the length sure helped with our overall times.

The starting line is at the put in eddy at the top of the Lower Nantahala Run. It’s a pretty low key race, with the starter calling out the time and then people releasing at one minute intervals. Short boats went out first, with me in the #1 position, and my only goal for the entire race was to not get passed. SUCCESS on that one… I was the first one across the finish line, with the next boat being one of the long boats showing up about 25 seconds later (he started 6 minutes behind me…).

The race runs through the falls and then finishes at the founders bridge right at the Nantahala Outdoor Centre.

There were medals for every category and some long standing historic trophies for fastest canoe and kayak. It was tough being in the first position as I was not able to do my standard of chasing Hunter down the river. I won gold in K1 Women’s short boat (I was the only one). I was really proud that I came 2nd in K1 short boat overall at 66 minutes. Hunter worked hard, successfully wrestled the long boat, and came in with a time of 63 minutes so he took the family win.

It has been fun racing together this year – it pushes both of us and we have a fun shared experience as well.