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Backpacker Magazine – May 2011

The Manual: Learn How To Paddle Whitewater

Learn how to ride rapids, and you'll open up a new way to explore the outdoors.

by: Michael Lanza

Master the low brace whitewater kayaking move. (Supercorn)
Master the low brace whitewater kayaking move. (Supercorn)

5. RUN THE RAPIDS
Follow the “tongue” created by the main channel. From boater’s vantage, it looks like an inverted V and is often obvious in easy-to-moderate rapids; it will push you in the desired direction. When in doubt, paddle hard to move faster than the current, which will help you maintain control.
6. STAY SAFE
>> Practice self-rescue, such as escaping a flipped boat and righting it. Also rehearse group-rescue skills, like using ropes to reach a trapped victim.
>> When swiming, keep near the boat.  It makes you visible. But stay upstream of it, lest it slam you.
>> If you get tossed, float on your back— feet up and pointing downstream with legs bent, ready to absorb impact and push off objects. Swim ashore.
>> If you can’t avoid  a strainer, crawl-stroke aggressively to it and launch over it.
>> Signal for help with three long whistle blasts.



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READERS COMMENTS

PFlo
Jul 01, 2011

Suss - figure out. In this context it means "scout", or look at to determine where the hazards are and what your line will be prior to entering the rapid.

Recirculating hydraulic - A strong water current that is folding back over on itself. Because the water is flowing back into the same position (because of some kind of a void, behind a large rock for example) it can take you and/your boat back into the same position. These are extremely difficult to escape and can kill people.

I agree with Lucky. Get experience from experienced folks, don't just read about it.

Lucky
Jul 01, 2011

If you're really interested in running rapids, take a course. It's actually very easy to have a major accident. Proper training will teach you how to handle yourself in the river. Also, there are great swiftwater rescue classes out there that teach invaluable skills!

newbie
Jul 01, 2011

Can someone give a bit more instruction for us newbies? Need definition of few words: suss? recirculating hydraulic?

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