Kayaking Technique Forum

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Whitewater X-training for sea kayaking (long)

Anyone else do this?

A while back, I had the second day of a kayak-surfing class(thanks Murray!) get blown out so I had a credit for another class. I've been seakayaking a for a while but hadn't been on a river since rafting the Chattahoochee as a boyscout about 20 years ago. So I said what the hell and signed up for an intensive WW class for people who already had paddling experience, a decent roll, etc.

As luck would have it, I was the only one in the class. We spent a couple hours on Lake Washington, my first time in a WW boat, practicing rolls and basic strokes. After lunch we got on the river, the Powerhouse run on the main Snoqualmie (Class II). Since I was the only student, I pretty much had to work my ass off. Lap after lap in every eddy we crossed, forward, backward, ferrying, rolling... As I'm already a surfing addict, getting on the standing waves was a blast (once I managed to get on). Fast forward to the next weekend and more of the same, this time from 9 to 5 on the same Class II river (ran it twice). The final day of the class was on a slightly longer run on a very pretty stretch of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie. The run was II+ since we skipped the III at the takeout. Just below the takeout, I wore myself out on a surfing wave. All in all, a fantastic day.

Before taking the class, I thought I had pretty good feel/control of my boat. Getting on a river in a whitewater boat was a rude awakening. As soon as I started hitting some decent eddylines, I realized my edge control was extremely lacking. Peeling into eddies behind rocks while moving at speed was a challenge. Sure, I could lift appropriate edge without leaning and skim across the eddy but with the ensuing spin and change in speed, holding that edge steady was tough. Often, once I hit the calm water of the eddy, I would drop the edge for a microsecond - the stern (I'm now moving backwards, having spun) would catch water and want to flip me. Actually, any time you drop the required edge for a microsecond, it would grap and want to flip me. Many of these capsizes were almost instantaneous giving no chance to take a breath...

If you've ever thought about it, I would definitely recommend WW X-training. Modern planing hull WW boats aren't particularly easy to roll, and you'll probably be doing quite a bit of rolling... I did so many rolls, toward the end of the class, when surfing or playing in a hole, if I got too far off balance, instead of a strenous brace, I'd just tuck and roll without much thought. I really started being patient under the water, getting a better feel for using the movement of the water to help with the roll and being able to roll on either side instinctively. The weekend after the class, on my first practice roll with my 20" wide sea kayak, I hip snapped so hard I window-shaded and went completely back over (right off a beach crowded with people) how embarrassing.

All of this was put to use this weekend where I was absolutely pounded at Westport, rolling when I was supposed to be surfing. Now my only problem is finding room in the garage for one more boat...