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I'm back..

Post by carter1 » Mon Oct 09, 2006 10:01 pm

with another day on the water under (mostly) my boat!

Boy, I'm learning. First all, just because there's too much water on the trails to ride mt bikes, does NOT mean that there's enough water in the rivers to paddle.

My friends that are helping me get started (they get good laughs every time) found that the Flat River in Durham was running at a level managable by a beginner, so we met north of Durham, set the shuttle, and off we went. So, now for a couple of questions.

1) How do I keep my dam hands off the gunwales when things get squirelly. Its an instant reaction, and although I finally "felt" my low brace for the first couple of times yesterday, I still had to let go of the gunwales on numerous occassions. Is there a drill for this, or does it just take time.

2) Why does everyone say to clip my throw bag to the boat? Why wouldn't I clip it to my PFD?

3) Why do I suddenly go sideways when paddling in a straight line? I am working on keepin the boat (Esquif Nitro) on an edge while paddling straight, but sometimes it just decides it wants me to see where I've been!

4) Is it rude to show up at a roll session and ask how to do it? I have Kent Ford's video on playboating and he touches on rolling, but I've not tried it yet and would like some help.

Thanks for helping this old guy out folks. I'm sure that you'll all be getting a laugh at some of my stupid questions.


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Post by jscottl67 » Mon Oct 09, 2006 10:33 pm

Days on the water are the best way to get there...glad to see you made it out onto the water this weekend...more than I managed :(

1) I'd say the best thing is to know that your paddle is your best friend...sleep with it in your bed if you need to;) but learn to not let it go :) I guess the main thing is confidence in the paddle being your saving grace...it's what you control your destiny with on the water.

OK...get on some flat water...somewhere you don't mind falling out. Now...take your paddle out of the water and rock the boat back and forth with your knees...get a feel for it...how far you can lean before you swim. Now, get back in the boat and put your paddle in the water..a little bit away from the boat and start rocking...you'll find that if you have pretty good balance, you can dip the gunnels all the way down until water comes in and rock it back up...that is a high brace...get used to it (low brace takes a little longer to get comfortable with (imho)). It won't take you long to figure out that if you don't give up on it and go for the gunnels, you can pull yourself back up from a very, very ugly position ;)

Hint...cold water on the Nanty, etc. and a desire to someday sire offspring can be very inspiring.

2) A throwbag is more for rescuing others than rescuing yourself. Remember how much I said you need to love that paddle...well you're gonna have to put it down for a sec. to unclip the throw bag and throw it to your buddy. Easier done with it on your boat. Probably the correct answer is this though....you're going down a rocky river, hit something and you are swimming...your throw rope gets hung in a crack between rocks and you are attached....not a good situation. I'm sure there is some exception somewhere that I'm not aware of, but can't think of a time when you want a rope attached to you in a way that you can't get out of in a heartbeat.

3) Not all of the water is moving in the same direction or at the same speed. Your boat reacts to that. When your boat is moving faster or slower than the current, there can be a reaction to that. The faster I go, the more frequently I end up looking upstream. As you get more experienced, you'll find more enjoyment in being in control of your boat than in hauling a downstream.

4) I've never been to one, but if it's a paid event or club event, and you've paid or are a member of said club, then ask away. Videos and books are great...nothing like a little one on one time with somebody more experienced. Most C1ers or OCers are more than happy to teach you. Most will also swap boats with you for a few minutes in an opportune spot so you can get a feel for different boats and how they handle.

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Post by noobopenboater » Tue Oct 10, 2006 12:13 am

I am a beginner myself, I found it extremely helpful to get on some flat water like jscott said above. I kept rocking my boat until I couldnt low brace out of it, I got used to going into the water holding my paddle (I cant roll yet)Ive spent alot of time carving circles in flat water also, especially off side did wonders for me controling my boat in moving water. The Tom Foster video "solo whitewater conoeing" is excellent.

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Post by msims » Tue Oct 10, 2006 1:34 am

1) "Putting your hands on the gunnels is like closing the lid to your own coffin" ... something I heard once, I've always liked it. grabbing the gunnels NEVER helps you. It's not a grumman... even if you were in a grumman it wouldnt help you.... if you grab the gunnels you're going over. If you don't go over you're lucky. So why not accept that, and go over with your hands on the paddle? You'll feel much more manly for it ;-)

OR - get a C1 - they don't have gunnels to grab! ;-) JJ.

3) Paddling straight, go sideways? squirelly current most likely culprit... practice is the other big one... keeping your paddle in the water making micro-adjustments help too... Flat water paddling helps master the stroke. and more practice helps feel sooner when the boat is about to go offline enabling you to correct it before it goes beyond the Point of no return...

4) Show up at a pool session... sounds like you have paddling friends, make sure they're with you as well... most people are more than happy to show you a few quick pointers... but if you have a couple friends they can help you a lot more...
Last edited by msims on Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by dafriend » Tue Oct 10, 2006 4:55 am

Yet Another Gunwale Grabbing Simile

Grabbing the gunwales is like a driver grabbing the dashboard when something bad happens on the road immediately ahead. This goes hand-in-hand with the phrase, taking your paddle out of the water is like taking your hands off the steering wheel. (I heard that a lot, usually from an instructor, while getting back in the boat after a swim.)

It takes a while to get familiar with the kinds of motions C boats make on the water. Eventually you will get more comfortable as you get desensitized by being exposed to whitewater and all the associated currents, waves and other squirrelly stuff.

Regarding rocking the boat back and forth with your knees. Don't just rock the boat quickly. Instead, work on a steady and controlled movement. Practice holding any given tilt and work toward steeper, more extreme angles. Roll from one extreme to the other smoothly with control the whole time. Practice slowly rolling it as far as you can and then snapping in back to straight up as quickly as you can and with as little bobble as possible at the end. Do all of the above on flat water while the boat is not moving.

There are throw bags that a designed like a fanny pack. These generally are not too bothersome but tend to hold shorter ropes.

Clipping your generic bag-o-rope to the front or side of your PDF is likely to make you crazy before too long. It's bound to get in the way or bounce around as you try to work the paddle. BTW, throwing a bag of rope while you are sitting is the boat is not a good idea. It's almost certainly going to add another swimmer to the situation. Get out of the boat before trying to use a rescue rope. (Unless you're on a pontoon boat or something.)

I bet that most folk would be happy to help with learning to roll. If you run into someone who thinks it rude for you to ask then take that person of your list of potential paddling buddies. If they aren't willing to help you out with basic skills are they going to help (rescue) you when you're in trouble on the river?

C boaters tend to be a pretty friendly lot - in my experience anyway. Besides, most of us want to see this sport grow and are very happy to answer questions from anybody, but especially from new boaters. The only stupid question is the one not asked.


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Post by John Coraor » Tue Oct 10, 2006 6:16 pm

You've already gotten a number of good answers to your questions. I'll just add a few additional points:

Holding onto your paddle: As noted previously, when you're feeling unstable, your paddle is the only thing you can hold onto that might keep you from flipping (if you use it properly to brace). (The bracing exercises described previously are great training.) In addition, if you DO flip, you want to have hold of your paddle as that is one of the first steps in getting yourself rescued. A loose paddle is much harder for rescuers to spot than either you or your canoe, so if there is only one item of your equipment you can hold onto it should probably be your paddle. (Of course, holding onto your paddle and then grabbing the upstream end of your canoe makes rescue even easier!)

Paddling straight: Paddling straight is actually one of the harder skills to learn because canoes are "directionally unstable" (i.e. if left alone they will turn; you have to make them go straight). The shorter your canoe and the more rocker that it has, the more this trait will be in evidence. Changing current speeds and directions add even more factors influencing your boat to turn, but trust me, it will naturally turn in flatwater without any other inducements. Novice paddlers typically wait too long to correct minor course deviations, allowing them to quickly become major ones. Another common tendency is to overcorrect when starting to go off course, leading to deviation to the opposite side and resulting fish tailing back and forth. Try frequent small corrections (e.g. J-stroke, rudder, pry, or cross-forward "perk") to keep the boat from straying off-course. You mentioned edging the boat, which is another helpful approach as edging the boat on your off-side will typically compensate, in part, for the tendency for your forward stoke to push the bow to your off-side.


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Post by carter1 » Tue Oct 10, 2006 6:24 pm

Thanks guys. I really do appreciate your thoughtful answers. I guess I've got some homework to do, huh?!
This really IS a lot like cycling with regards to the learning curve. It can be steep at times, but you get to have fun while you still aren't very good.
Thanks everyone,

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Post by jscottl67 » Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:12 pm

It's really not that hard to learn, at least not the basic stuff. You will get a feel for your balance and get confident in the blade in no time on the water. Often at the put in, you will see boaters rocking back and forth, getting a feel for their boat (sometimes paddle out of the water). Once tiy get confident

It is like mtb, in the escalation of what you can do...certainly need to learn technique and brush up on your skills before you take off somewhere too advanced, but you can paddle easy water anywhere (like riding a bike around the neighborhood). You definitely won't get it all down in your first season. Just take your time and don't rush into something that gives you a bad experience and ruins it for you. :wink:

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Post by Walsh » Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:11 pm

Safety Nazi here:

This hits the nail on the head.
jscottl67 wrote:Probably the correct answer is this though....you're going down a rocky river, hit something and you are swimming...your throw rope gets hung in a crack between rocks and you are attached....not a good situation. I'm sure there is some exception somewhere that I'm not aware of, but can't think of a time when you want a rope attached to you in a way that you can't get out of in a heartbeat.
There is only one such exception (where a rope may be tied to someone without a quick-release mechanism), and that exception is body recovery. NEVER EVER fasten a line to yourself or any other live person which cannot be released quickly and reliably while the line is under tension. This has created countless additional victims.

For easy throw-bag access, hollow out a space on the front of your saddle, punch a piece of small-diameter tubing through behind it, and install a bungee loop. Tuck your bag in here, and you can grab it whenever you hop out of the boat to scout or set safety. If you must have the bag on your person, consider a waist belt tow tether/throwbag system with a quick release.

- Jon

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Post by carter1 » Tue Oct 10, 2006 11:21 pm

I currently have my throw bag clipped on to the front floatation bag webbing-I'll leave it there. Thanks again.

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Post by Mike W. » Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:42 am

Whatever you clip into the boat (rope, bailer, Gatorade, etc.) tie it in tightly. You do not want to get tangled in the line while trying to roll or exit the boat.

This summer I had a bailer tied in with enough line to bail the boat w/o untying it. While rolling the line wrapped around my arm & nearly caused me to swim. It could have been MUCH worse :o

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Post by carter1 » Wed Oct 11, 2006 1:28 am

I'm using Black Diamond carabiners.
Mike W, I think you know my mentors-Bill and Christine Camp.

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Post by yarnellboat » Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:09 am


I have nothing to add to the response you've got here.

I just wanted to say I'm lovin' your questions and enthusiasm. When I get the time, I'm going to read through your initial post and I'm sure to learn some stuff myself.

Good luck & have fun!


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Some thoughts

Post by NZMatt » Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:41 pm


General: I agree with some of the previous - best way to learn bracing and boat control is flatwater paddling. You're not stressed out, so you cna concentrate on the technique and don't forget it takes thousands of repetitions (so I've been told) before things become automatic. I spent 6 months an hour or two a week on flatwater before my first whitewater in a canoe (I was a kayaker at the time so could still get my fix that way).

1. Your paddle is your friend - the only way I'm letting go of mine of the river is an extreme rescue situation (even then I might think twice) or if it is ripped out of my hand (this has definitely happened) or of course if I'm in an eddy or easy water and have to put it under a strap to bail the last rapid out of my boat :oops: .

2. A couple of things to add to the rope point. A non-buoyant object attached to a line will generally plane to the bottom of the river, not the top. Not a pretty thought. If, however, it is clipped to your bow, it can be very useful rescuing your boat if you swim, especially in big rivers, continuous rivers or in small groups. It can be kind of like a super long painter, although I'd rather not use it unless really necessary - too much rope to get tangled.

3. John hit it on the hit. Going straight is actually a hard skill in a small OC1 - nothing but time and practise (and a few tips from friendly c-boaters).

4. If there are no other c-boaters at the pool session, it'll be really hard to get decent feedback. Most kayakers do not know the C1/OC1 roll. Many kayakers don't know you can roll an OC1! you try using a kayak (high-brace) roll, you are really putting your shoulder at risk, especially in an OC1.

Good luck!


Hmmm....new country, new rivers...-
Still not enough c-boaters....

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Post by Tie Dye Surfin Guy » Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:19 pm

I think you got awesome answers to all of your questions. I just wanted to add one thing that may or may not help you on paddling a straight line, and it's on one of these Ken Ford videos if you can find it. Paddling an inside circle really helped me out w/ my boat lean and boat control, which in turn translated into more effective and efficient power strokes. I think the video is called "Drill Time" which has lots of useful things on it. Happy boating!! 8)
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