Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

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Bruce Farrenkopf
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Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by Bruce Farrenkopf » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:09 am

A recent off-topic discussion on the difficulty of the Upper Yough has brought to light continuing problems with the whitewater rating system :x . The Upper Yough has been rated anything from class III to V! We can't make the rating system perfect...... but can we make it better and keep it relatively simple?

The purpose of this discussion is to find out if the C-boating community is satisfied with the current system OR not. What say you?

If enough boaters think the system can be improved we could try and propose some simple solutions.

SYOTRiver,
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by Pierre LaPaddelle » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:55 am

Bruce Farrenkopf wrote: . . . we could try and propose some simple solutions.
Interesting question, Bruce. I, too, would like clearer criteria.

But the issue is: To WHOM would we propose 'simple solutions.'

I agree the current grading system is imperfect, but it's pretty much accepted internationally. It's a common language, even though the nouns and verbs aren't always clear.

Is there a world-governing-body that accepts or rejects revisions, and than widely distributes and announces them for all to hear?

Worth more discussion, though. Le's hear from y'all. . . :o

Rick
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by ezwater » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:25 am

The criteria for rating rapids as class 2 are very clear, but often ignored. Often low class 3 rapids get shoved down into class 2 just because familiarity breeds contempt.

I think that people capable of running class 4 and 5 can live with a somewhat subjective system, but less experienced or less capable paddlers need a more objective system at the lower end, so they don't arrive from Iowa and swim.

But I have raised this issue with AWA reps before, and they declare themselves content.

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Bruce Farrenkopf
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by Bruce Farrenkopf » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:51 am

The AWA seems content but the system remains in need of refinement. Altering the system is a daunting task - there is no authority to approach (outside the AWA or ACA perhaps). The task is not impossible however, and small, common-sense steps can be taken. The first step is to recognize there is room for improvement. The second step would be to propose a simple solution. The third step would be to gradually implement the changes - perhaps starting in the C-boating community.

We don't have to get overly serious at this point. Let's have some fun with the topic.

First step: Do we have a problem with the rating system or don't we?

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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by KevinAmirault » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:54 am

A rating system that can be objective and applied universally to all rapids (of differing volumes, temperature, steepness, and with beds of different kinds of rock) and that will be useful by all paddlers (open boaters, kayakers and C1ers, rafters...) is impossible. What we have is imperfect, but it is the best we will be able to get.

When a boater approaches whitewater they have to evaluate it for themselves (or those they are leading) based on their own scale of what they are comfortable with. The class 1-5 system gives me an idea of whether a section of river would be worth visiting, but not whether I can run it or not. I don't think we can devise a system that would change this.

My answer: I have no problem with the current rating system, because I recognize that rating systems for whitewater will be inherently problematic.

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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by Pierre LaPaddelle » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:02 am

Bruce Farrenkopf wrote:there is no authority to approach (outside the AWA or ACA perhaps). . .
. . .er, um, beg to differ, Bruce. Not all of us live in the U. S. There are parallel Canoe or WhiteWater organizations all over the world.

And, as many sports have found, as difficult as it is to reach agreement in one's own country, it's a HUGE challenge when you try to achieve change in the world at large.

(Not sayin' we shouldn't have fun with the topic, though!) :wink:

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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by hazardharry » Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:02 am

maybe a sliding scale you could apply as your experience and confidence grow. say a newbie classV is an expert II+/III. i find myself playing in places i would have portaged years ago.
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by ohioboater » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:50 pm

I can't speak for the class 5 end of this spectrum, or for the rapids I haven't run personally, but all of the ones in these lists that I have run align quite well with the standard class descriptions. They aren't very well publicized, however. I don't think you can get to them by using AW's menus - you have to know they exist and then do a Google search to get the links.

http://www.americanwhitewater.org/conte ... markrapids
http://www.americanwhitewater.org/conte ... markrapids
http://www.americanwhitewater.org/conte ... markrapids

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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by Bruce Farrenkopf » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:00 pm

Ohioboater,

Those links were helpful. I was glad to see an open-ended scale for class 5 (5.0, 5.1, 5.2). I thought that idea had been abandoned.

So far (and it is early yet) it looks like C-boaters are OK or reluctantly content with the current system.

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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by Bob P » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:14 pm

You can rate drops, rapids and entire runs. A single drop may only be Class 3, but a close series of Class 3 drops might push a rapid into being Class 4. The same additive process might work with an entire run. A difficulty rating must tell a paddler whether he/she is going to get in over their head at some point in a run, and that's a sum of paddling skill, river-reading skill and endurance. I remember a particular "fun" run where we ran the Top Yough first, then immediately continued on the Upper Yough (2.6'). There were times when fatigue became a factor in the second half's "difficulty rating".
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by milkman » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:27 pm

Soggy Sneakers, one of the Oregon whitewater guide books, rates the run and then includes the class of the hardest rapid you'll encounter. Thus, if a run is generally class III but has a couple class IVs, it will be notated as class III (IV). The description will then describe the harder rapids and whether they can be portaged.

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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by the great gonzo » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:43 pm

I like (in theory at least), the Addison scale, where you separate difficulty, consequence and exposure.
Difficulty is rated either as per the AWA scale with an open scale (5.x), or on an open scale that adds numbers above 5.
Consequence is rated 1-6. 1 being no consequence, 6 being fatal.
Exposure is rated in 3 stages from a being in civilization to C being remote (or so I think),

One of the biggest problems with the ratings are also regional differences. Pretty apparent between BC and Washington State. In BC a rapid of similar difficulty is usually rated between 1/2 and 1 class low than in WA, i.e. what would be a class 4+ rapid in WA is rated may be rated as a 3+ or 4 in BC. This can lead to unpleasant surprises.

TGG!
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by valhallalongboats » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:14 pm

Its funny this should be posted. I've been busy working on a non-fiction novel about my many years spent as a whitewater canoe guide. The novel is primarily humorous, and designed to appeal to as broad a spectrum of humans as possible, but I do talk about the ratings system and the issues it has in a chapter of the book. Although the ratings system isn't perfect, I think the real problem lies with the humans who use it. The ratings scale seems to vary a bit from state to state, California, for example, tends to downgrade a lot of its runs (not all of them), when I did paddle in the southeast I was paddling some rivers with class IV's that in California would have been called III's: and Idaho is worse. Idaho class II is about Tennessee class IV. Aside from that, rafting companies 'upgrade' rapids, and kayakers 'downgrade' them. The WIDE margin of class III's seem to get plenty of newbies in trouble. Some class III runs may only have a half a dozen rapids of that moniker in them, all with plenty of recovery time below them. Some class III runs are just non-stop whitewater from the put-in to the take-out. We love runs like that, but a new paddler who goes there may well spend most of his day in the water. If we attempt to simplify the system, or even add new brackets to it, (a 1 to 10 scale like the Grand Canyon comes to mind) then everything becomes too subjective. There will be disagreements on whether a rapid is a 5,6, or 7, or an 8, 9, or 10, and most of the people who would benefit the most from a 'wide-base' scale wouldn't get any benefits at all. Common sense, proper gear, and solid preparation is the only thing that will keep you out of trouble while trying a new run...a newfangled rapid classification system won't cut it.
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by the great gonzo » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:41 pm

My favorite rating system is still the World Renowned Craig Smerda Rating System:

class 1: Not a problem :)
class 2: I am nervous, where are my brown pants :o ?!?
class 3: I hope my buddies don't see that I am walking this one... :roll: ...

or something like that... :lol:


I think ratings will always be subjective, due to the big difference in types of rapids and rivers. And as long as the rating system factors everything like technical difficulty, hazard or consequence and exposure in one number, there will always be disagreements and inaccuracies. For instance, I am more used to paddling bigger volume pool and drop rivers. So to me, from a pure technical difficulty point of view, disregarding everything else, they UY is a harder river than the UG. But throw in the hazzards and consequences, and it all changes...

TGG!
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Re: Whitewater Rating System - Is It OK As Is?

Post by Paddle Power » Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:46 pm

A real challenging topic.

There is good information at: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/conte ... difficulty" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Bob P stated a good point, You can rate drops, rapids and entire runs.

The other main issue has been raised: there is difference in rate something and determining if you can paddle safely. the great gonzo mentioned the Addison scale, where you separate difficulty, consequence and exposure. This starts to bridge from rating to paddling.
Brian
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