How to push yourself safely
Progression is a key aspect in all realms of whitewater kayaking. A playboater looks to stick the newest
moves, just as a creekboater looks to run a new river or drop. Doing so safely is the key to being able to
continue this progression in the long run.
Everyday things you can do to push yourself safely:
Class II-III moves made Class V
I cannot stress enough the importance of honing every move, every eddy, and every attainment can
feasibly do on a class II, III, or IV stretch of river. Micro moves are what makes macro moves easy and
safe. With a little bit of creativity, you can find just about any variation of challenging moves on your
local “flat-ish” stretch of river. While attending college in Atlanta, GA, I made a point to capitalize on
the 10-20 feet per mile gradient on the Metro Hooch section of the Chattahoochee River. By doing
attainments, tempo sprints, and slot moves, I not only got into great shape for racing, but I also taught
myself micro-control moves that come in handy when I need them on creeks.
Class 2 attainment moves can be harder than class 5 downriver moves. With this being said, the
consequences are obviously lesser doing the class 2 attainments. Point being: one can hone difficult-
level skills in a safe environment. Moreover, these safer environments are easier to find and routinely
visit for the majority of the US metro and suburban population. I am not suggesting that you stay in
town over the weekend to do attainments. Rather, attainments are a great way to get out mid-week
before and after work.
Just as other athletes weight-lift and train, to experience your full potential as a whitewater kayaker
you must boat often and with intensity towards honing skills. This does not mean to go huck yourself off
of the most difficult rapids you can safely run all of the time. It can be daunting and quite inefficient to
hone skills on very difficult whitewater. Whether it be a local class 2 stretch close to where you live or a
semi-local class 2-3 (4) stretch where you can take routine weekend reprieves from daunting steep creek
sections, do consider utilizing these stretches as training grounds. Training can be really fun!
The Chattooga River is my backyard training ground. Here are a few moves I will share with you:
New Rivers and Rapids
While stars may align for a certain river to be run on a day you may not be working, this does not mean
that the river has to be run on that given day. The river is not going anywhere. You may consider taking
a step back to consider a few things that can help good decisions to be made before and during your
paddle down a new river / tougher stretch.
A few things to consider…
1. Who’s on your team?
a. Creek boating is a team sport. We may make our own direct decisions on the water, but
b. Does everyone have at least a throw rope?
c. What are the strengths a weaknesses of your group?
having a symbiotic support crew to watch your back is essential.
d. Be honest with your crew about your skills and weaknesses. In return, expect honesty from
i. Will the weaknesses be safe on the river / in the wilderness?
ii.At the very least, will the strengths be able to take care of the weaknesses in a
your crew. Otherwise be blunt about any safety concerns. Issues come when someone
overstates their abilities.
2. Beta: Information is essential
a. Maps: finding the take out and put in can be half the trouble of getting down a creek. Make
b. River Info: knowing where the point of no return on that 200 foot un-runnable waterfall is
c. Scout often if you are not sure. Whether it be a new alien run or a familiar section, make
3. What is ego? What is reward?
sure to do your research by the day before you plan to run a creek so that valuable daylight
is not wasted driving back and forth on dirt roads.
the most important information you can know before putting on a run. Do your homework.
sure to scout if you have any questions about a drop or section. It may take an extra 5-30
minutes, but it could save your life. Nothing makes my gut churn more than reminiscing
on a few scenarios similar to this process: on the fence about scouting, decided to scout,
found a massive tree across the river at the bottom. Decisions made on creeks are very
important. Never let ego or time get in the way of making good decisions.
At some point most seasoned kayakers will come to know the meaning of this question.
While whitewater kayaking is very fun and creates many social benefits to those who
participate in this great sport, it can be rather dangerous. In my opinion, the more honest
a kayaker is on his/her skills, goals, and motives, the more likely that kayaker will enjoy this
great sport for many years to come. Three points I consider in this statement:
a. Rivers/rapids rarely change and will almost always be there another day.
b. No matter how good of a kayaker, safety expert, or swimmer a human can be,
that person can only hold their breath for a short amount of time. (accidents
may not be controllable, but decisions are almost always controllable)
c. What is the risk/reward? This is a personal decision for each individual kayaker.
i. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” –Socrates
ii. Counter-Question: Why do we as human beings feel the need
to potentially risk life and limb for something with such little
iii. Counter-counter: There is utility in examining life thoroughly.
Therefore there is a solid means to saying there is a reward for
risk. (This is the personal decision part)
d. -When considering the act of taking on risk: Kayak for yourself. Not for how cool
of a video or photo it may make.
-When considering why you are taking on such said risks: consider those who
love you and what they would have to say.
Most importantly: have fun and be safe, but do weigh those important factors. What is fun and safe is